There are five main Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Spain: the Camino Frances, the Via de la Plata, the Northern Route, the English Road, and the Camino Portugues, (finishes in Santiago de Compostela but starts in Portugal). There are many more than this in Spain, but these are currently the most travelled.
The longest route marked in red is the Camino Frances.
Camino Frances / The French Way
The Camino Frances is the most popular of all the Camino Routes. It traditional starts in St Jean Pied de Port and runs for 780km west to Santiago de Compostela. It has the best supported infrastructure for pilgrims; I highly recommend this route for all first time pilgrims. Read more on the Camino Frances.
Via de la Plata / Silver Route
The Via de la Plata runs south to north starting in Seville, although it is possible to start the route in Granada. The Silver Route is about 1000km and normally takes 6/7 weeks walking. This route is becoming more popular as the infrastructure improves and as the Camino Frances becomes increasingly busy.
The Via de la Plata follows an old Roman Road all the way from Seville to Astorga where the route joins the Camino Frances. There is an option after Montamarta to go west through Galicia towards Santiago de Compostela, however currently there are few hostels on this route.
Northern Route / Road
The Northern Route has the advantage of travelling along the coast where there are opportunities to swim sometimes at the end of a days walking. However this would be considered the most challenging of the routes listed here due to the rough terrain and continuous climbs and descents.
The Northern Route is also considered more dangerous due to the unclear sign-posting and stretches along winding roads with little visibility. However it is said the level of satisfaction increases with the level of difficulty.
The Northern Route begins by crossing the Santiago Bridge into Irun, the start of this route has few pilgrims hostels. The route is about 825km.
Portuguese Route / Road
The main Portuguese Route starts in Porto although there are many other Camino Routes in Portugal. From Porto it is sign posted all the way to Santiago. This is one of the shorter Camino Routes at about 230km.
This route is well signposted and there are enough pilgrim hostels along the way.
Camino Ingles / The English Road
The Camino Ingles has two possible starting points; both are ports in Northern Spain: A Coruna and Ferrol. From Ferrol to Santiago it is about 110km and from A Coruna only 75km – not enough to claim a Compostela in Santiago. Both of these routes meet up near a village called Hospital de Bruma.
There are few pilgrims’ hostels on this short route and there has been much road building during the last few years. This is not a route “to get away from it all” – if you want a short route perhaps consider the Camino Portuguese or just walk part of the Camino Frances as you can start and stop anywhere you wish.
The above are the main Camino routes in Spain. However the Camino de Madrid is starting to become popular, the extension from Santiago to Finisterre has always been popular with those who have the time and the Camino Aragones is an quieter alternitive to starting at St Jean.