What is Camino de Santiago?

El Camino de Santiago (translation: the Way of Saint James), a religious pilgrimage that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. According to Americans on the Camino, the Way of Saint James has been calling pilgrims for more than 1000 years. Depending on where you choose to begin your Camino, the journey can be between 100km to 2000km.

In the early 20th century, walking the Camino de Santiago fell out of fashion, but a resurgence in the practice has arrived in the 21st. This seems due to three things:

  1. Shirley MacLaine's book, "Out on a Limb," where she details her walk along the Frances Way (one of the major Camino routes);
  2. UNESCO designating the Frances Way a World Heritage Site; and,
  3. Emilio Estevez's movie, "The Way," starring Martin Sheen.

In fact, based on figures kept by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Caminos, which saw a decline down to just 1000 or so trekkers a year in the '70s, now welcomes more than 100,000 pilgrims annually on the various Caminos.


What is a Pilgrimage?

Throughout much of history there have been major journeys that devout individuals have taken to prove their loyalty, answer the request of their leaders, or improve their spiritual status, or have their sins absolved. Just a few of the famous pilgrimages include:

  • Walking or riding the Camino de Santiago, Spain;
  • Walking to Mecca, Saudi Arabia;
  • Riding to Canterbury, England'
  • Climbing to Machu Picchu, Peru and,
  • Visiting the 88 temples of The Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan.

People who embark on a pilgrimage aren't only religious or spiritual. Many walk for joy, fun, health, or as a vacation. (See "11 Reasons Why to Walk the Camino de Santiago".)