The most popular Camino de Santiago route is 500 miles long. It starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, and travels westwards across Spain to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
The above is one of the most common questions I am asked when I speak about the Camino de Santiago. Usually, I just answer by saying 780 kilometers – though if the person is very interested I will get into explaining that there are many different routes in Spain and lots of other Camino routes throughout Europe leading to and joining the main routes in France and Spain, so the distance is relevant to each Camino de Santiago route.
There are many hiking alternatives like Camino de Santiago that have very similar distances and are definitely worth walking.
Below is a list of the main routes that are walked and cycled in Spain with some information about each and of course how long each is. Most pilgrims take between 30 and 35 days for walking the Camino.
All statistics are from the pilgrim’s office in Santiago, they keep a record of Compostelas issued- so the numbers that complete the route are higher as many do not collect a Compostela, and others who complete their Camino are walking only one week a year over a few years.
How Long is the Camino Frances?
The Camino Frances is 780 km, about 500 Miles. It is also known as the French Way and is the most popular Camino de Santiago route. Traditionally the Camino Frances starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port and passes through four major cities, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and Ponferrada.
Like all the pilgrimage routes you can start and stop anywhere – though most people prefer to finish in Santiago de Compostela. For that reason, Sarria, which is 112 km from Santiago is the most popular starting point – in 2015 67,419 pilgrims started there.
In 2015 there were 172,243 pilgrims on this way; this is a huge increase compared to the first time I walked in 2004 when there were 138,646. 2004 was a Holy Year; during Holy Years the number of pilgrims increases dramatically – for example in 2005 only 79,393 collected a Compostela.
Camino Portuguese 600 km or 370 Miles
There are three routes in Portugal, so starting the Camino Portuguese as 600 km is slightly misleading. The route that is becoming the most popular is the coastal route which is approximately 620 km, the other option is the central way.
Both the above routes start in Lisbon and follow the same path to Porto. There is an extension along this route diverting to Fatima. Between Lisbon and Porto there can be long distances between albergues, after Lisbon the route has a good infrastructure of accommodations.
The third and least popular route is the Portugues Interior which starts in Farminhao and ends in Santiago after 420 km.
The pilgrim’s office grouped all these routes under Camino Portuguese, showing 43,151 pilgrims completed the route. The two most popular start points are Tui, (110 km and 13,800 pilgrims), just inside Spain and Porto, (230 km and 13,201 pilgrims).
Camino del Norte – The Northern Route 830 km or 515 Miles
The Camino del Norte starts in Irun in Northern Spain and keeps to the coast for approximately 620 km. The route then turns inland toward Arzua on the Camino Frances where the two routes meet, about 40 km before Santiago. The Norte is one of the tougher routes with many climbs to the tops of hills and then back down to the coast again. The views and scenery are exceptional.
In 2015 there were 15,828 pilgrims recorded having walked the Northern Way, of this 4,175 walked the whole route starting from Irun, other popular start points are Bilbao, (704 km, 1,230 pilgrims), Santander, (580 km, 1,154 pilgrims), Vilalba, (120 km, 1,061 pilgrims), and Gijon, (345 km, 938 pilgrims)
Camino Primitivo – 260km or 160 Miles
The 260 km refers to only the Original Way, another name for the Primitivo. This route starts at Oviedo, though many walk along the Northern Route and then follow the waymarked route from Villavicioas which makes the route approximately 300 km until it joins the Camino Frances at Melide, where there is another 50 km to Santiago.
During 2015 11,473 pilgrims walked this route to Santiago; the largest majority started at Oviedo, (6,412 pilgrims), the traditional start.
Camino Ingles – The English Way – 110 km or 68 Miles
Once again the 110 km is slightly misleading. It is 110 km from Ferrol to Santiago – the Camino Ingles can also be started at A Coruna and it is 75 km from there to Santiago – not long enough for a Compostela.
In 2015 there were 9,247 pilgrims who completed this route, 8,685 started in Ferrol.
Via de la Plata – Silver Way 1,000 km or 621 Miles
This route is also referred to as Ruta Via de la Plata and Silver Way is the longest Camino de Santiago route. The trail starts in Seville, although there is an extension from Cadiz, however, it is said this is not well marked. On occasions I now see this route being referred to as the Camino Mozarabe, however, I still see that as a separate and distinct route – more below.
The pilgrim’s office in Santiago still refers to this as the Via de la Plata, so I will stick with that.
In 2015 there were 9,221 pilgrims awarded a Compostela after walking or cycling this route. At Zamora there is a choice of routes; continue heading north and join the Camino Frances at Astorga or head west where there is again a choice of two routes – a northern and southern – both meet at Ourense.
Amazingly in 2015 2,290 pilgrims traveled all the way from Sevilla.
Camino Mozarabe 400 km or 248 Miles
Once again stating the Camino Mozarabe as 400 km is slightly misleading. This Camino can be started in Granada which is 400 km – or in Malaga or Almeria, both of which are on the southern coast of Spain.
The Camino Mozarabe joins the Via de la Plata at Merida which is another 790 km to Santiago. The pilgrim’s office in Santiago does not have statistics for pilgrims walking this route, however, they have recorded 94 hardy pilgrims who traveled all the way from Granada.
Camino de Finisterre & Camino Muxia – 90 km & 29 km
Many after walking all the way to Santiago de Compostela keep walking to the coast at Finisterre, another 90 km, to what was once known as the end of the world.
There is the choice after Hospital on this Camino to follow the trail to Muxia and then walk south back to Finisterre or after Finisterre walk north to Muxia. (See the Camino Finisterre route overview)
This is not a recognized Camino route by the church in Santiago and they have only registered 758 pilgrims on this route, far less than actuality.
Camino del Salvador 120 km or 75 Miles
The Camino del Salvador is the only Camino trail that ends further away from Santiago de Compostela. Officially the route starts in Leon and finishes further north in Oviedo.
While in Santiago last year I met someone from the local tourist office who informed me they are marketing this route for pilgrims starting in Oviedo and joining the Frances to walk to Santiago. The route does not yet have many albergues and there are no statistics for this route at the pilgrim’s office.
Camino Aragones – 160 km or 100 Miles
This is a great alternative to starting in St Jean Pied de Port. I walked part of this route in 2004 and it was a welcome change to enjoy the silence and fewer pilgrims after having just walked the Camino Frances.
The trail starts in Somport, France, and joins the Camino Frances just before Puente la Reina. The route is the connection between the Via Tolosana in France and the French Way in Spain.
Camino de Madrid 320 km or 199 Miles
This route has become well marked only in recent years by the Amigos de los Caminos de Santiago de Madrid. The Camino Madrid joins the Camino Frances at Sahagun near Carrion, where there is another 370 km to Santiago. There are no statistics for the total numbers walking this route, but 516 pilgrims were given Compostelas after walking from Madrid.
Camino de Levante 900km or 560 Miles
The Camino de Levante starts in officially Valencia, but can also be started in Alicante and joining the main route at Albacete. The route joins the Via de la Plata at Zamora, leaving approximately another 300 km to Santiago. There is little data on this route, but still 134 pilgrims were recorded in 2015 as having completed the journey from Valencia.
Whew, that was harder work than I expected when I started. But now if someone asks me or you how long is the Camino de Santiago there is somewhere you can point them to.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.