Pilgrimage to Santiago
The Cathedral of Santiago: The goal of the pilgrimage
The Camino de Santiago (The way of St James) is the pilgrimage to the cathedral ´Santiago de Compostela´ which is built in Galicia, north-western Spain.
This Camino has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages since it exists for over a thousand years. It is considered one of three pilgrimages on which all sins can be forgiven.
Santiago is a such an important pilgrimage destination because it is said to be the place where the apostle Saint James the Great is laid to rest. St. James’ remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.
In the middle ages the route was highly travelled by pilgrims for religious reasons; these pilgrims gave up the comfort of their homes and set out on what could be a dangerous journey. They suffered theft, beatings, and possible death. Now since the late 1980s the way has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from all around the globe. Camino de Santiago was declared the first European Cultural Pilgrimage Route.
The modern-day pilgrimage
Modern Pilgrimages seems to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in life, a time to think, and for some a challenge. Each year thousands of Christian pilgrims and non-Christian pilgrims set out from their homes, or from popular starting points across Europe.
There is a large number of routes how to get to Santiago de Compostela. Not any of the walks is indicated as better than the other, however a few of the routes are considered main ones.
The most popular route is the French Way or Camino Francés. It traditionally starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and runs for 780km west to Santiago de Compostela. It has the best supported infrastructure for pilgrims. A highly recommend route for all first time pilgrims.
This route goes through the beautiful cities Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León, before entering Galicia and you will finish your journey in the stunning Santiago de Compostela. Each of these town are stages where you can discover local culture and history.
The Camino Francés is very safe to walk, many will start on their own, with the purpose to meet and talk to others on their journey.
These modern-day pilgrims walk for weeks or months to visit the city. Some pilgrims travel on horseback or by donkey and many also come by bicycle. In addition to people on a religious pilgrimage there are many travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons such as for enjoyment, travel, sport or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign country.
Where to go from here
Bayonne, Dax and Biarritz are the easiest places to get to in France to walk the Camino Frances, starting in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. St Jean does not have an airport and it is not very easy to get to. Bayonne and Dax are the nearest main train stations and Biarritz the nearest airport.
You can get to Bayonne and Dax by train from anywhere in Europe and there are lots of international flights to Biarrtiz. From here it´s just a short transfer to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Bayonne train station: 1 hour
Dax train station: 1h30min.
Biarritz airport: 1 hour