What is the Camino?
The Camino, or “The Way”, is a network of medieval paths across Spain and Europe that all lead to one final destination – the city of Santiago De Compostela. Situated in the Celtic region of Galicia in north-western Spain, Santiago has attracted countless walkers and pilgrims for over a thousand years.
People walk (or cycle, or even go on horseback!) to Santiago for many different reasons. The Camino is rooted in Christian history where pilgrims walked to the final resting place of St. James the apostle. Nowadays, walkers are drawn for a variety of reasons. While 95% of people presenting themselves for a certificate in Santiago at the end of their journey cite religious reasons as one of their motives, many walk for the physical challenge, for spiritual reasons or simply for fun.
At Camino Groups, we specialise in bringing groups to walk on the Camino Francés, “The French Way”, a 775 km path stretching from the Pyrenees across the north of Spain to Santiago. Pilgrims can attempt all of this in one go, or more commonly, walk a stage of this Camino. At Camino Groups, we put a particular emphasis on the stages between Sarria and Santiago, a walk that typically takes 5 days. Of the 215,000 certified pilgrims in 2013, 70% of them walked on the Camino Francés.
Other popular Camino routes include the Camino Portugués, Camino del Norte, Via de la Plata, Camino Primitivo and Camino Inglés.
In order to obtain a certificate to mark your achievement in reaching Santiago, known as the “Compostela”, you must walk at least 100km to reach the holy city. As a result, Camino Groups recommends that first-time walkers, whether in groups or walking as individuals, should consider starting their journey in Sarria, a town lying 110km from Santiago, and walking for 5-6 days to get to their destination.
At each stopping point on the way, pilgrims get a stamp in their Pilgrim’s Passport, then presenting this evidence of achievement at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago to obtain their Compostela. The number of pilgrims is growing annually, from 94,000 in 2005 to 215,000 in 2013. These numbers also spike in a Holy Year (When the feast of St. James, the 25th of July, falls on a Sunday). The next Holy Year falls in 2021.