„The Way of Saint James” or “The Ways of Saint James”?
Surprise: there is no such thing as “The” Way of Saint James.
Instead there are plenty Ways of Saint James stretching through Europe and the rest of the world. And they keep on multiplying.
According to Wikipedia there is an expert commission who decided that only the Camino Francés, also known as the “Camino de Santiago” should be labelled a Way of Saint James and all the other ones should therefore be called “Ways of Jacob pilgrims”. All of this is just about the discussion of labels which does not influence if it is or is not a pilgrimage route.
Image Source: Wikipedia. Author: Manfred Zentgraf
What makes a Way (of Saint James) a Pilgrimage route?
First of all the fact that it leads to Santiago de Compostela.
And secondly, pilgrims are on their way to Santiago, which they obviously do not have to do in one go.
Ways of Saint James are usually marked very well due to the corporation with James‘ Societies. This allows pilgrims to wander more independently without having to, or rarely using external maps.
You can tell that you are on a Way of Saint James by the signposts marked with the typical yellow shell on a blue background. Sometimes they are also simply marked with plain yellow arrows.
Where are the differences between the Pilgrimage routes?
The numerous Ways of Saint James differentiate in the number of pilgrims wandering them, their beauty, and their opportunities of accommodation and supply of food and beverages.
The most popular Way of Saint James by far is the Camino Francés followed by the Camino Portugues which is becoming more popular for its suitability for beginners – since there are no Pyrenees in your way that you’ll have to climb :D.
On the more unknown and shorter Ways of Saint James (none of them are short really, because they lead to Santiago but the description changes when they are crossed with other pilgrimage routes) it can happen that you will meet a handful to no other pilgrims on your several weeklong route. In the summer on the other hand, you are most likely to be squeezed by your fellow pilgrims on the last 100km of the French path of Saint James, since that is where you will receive your certificate.
Specific accommodation and the opportunity to rest somewhere cheap or for a small donation in a pilgrim hostel (usually in a hall with others or on planks and mats in the Church vestibule) is very likely on the bigger and more popular routes.
Which Pilgrimage Route suits who?
This strongly depends on the intention and adventurousness.
For those who don’t do it for the purpose of self-discovery but more so for the contact to people from all over the world and a more affordable trip, the Camino Francés is the way to go. Those who are less athletic or have less time for their trip should consider the Camino Portugues and its domestic variant.
For Pilgrims who are athletic and want to see the beautiful nature, I recommend the Camino del Norte in Spain.
If you like the peace and quiet and want to be alone, there are many options which usually are not even far from your doorstep – although some people find the south European sun and the international audience are an important part of the experience. So, it is worth the trip to the south.
To try out if Long-distance hiking is your cup of tea you should look into German Ways of Saint James, since they are easy to get to as well as the easy communication. Those who are looking for a mixture of all the previously mentioned types of paths should try the Camino Portugues and its coastal variant or the section Lisbon-Porto.
How do I find the right Pilgrimage?
That is easy: have me as your consultant.
That is the purpose of this website.
Just message me and I will find the route suited for you and your needs and wishes, the way there and back, the sections you would enjoy and if needed possibilities of transportation between sections. I will find the right accommodation and create your individual Pilgrim guide for your pilgrimage. The best thing about this is that I will be there for you digitally as well if there are any worries or needs.
All in all: I will advise you honestly and as much as you want – for you to be able to focus on your hike.