The pilgrimage route called Camino di Santiago (Way of St. James) stretches across Europe into northern Spain and down to Santiago di Compostela. This sacred path has been followed since medieval times by faithful Christians who seek to worship at the tomb of St. James, as well as other hikers who are inspired by the spiritual “way.”
Hiking the entire Camino de Santiago can take up to a month, but day-trippers can also enjoy shorter hikes and walks along parts of the trail. One of the most scenic sections runs along the Basque coastline between San Sebastian and Oviedo, and is known as the Camino del Norte (Northern Way).
A half-day stroll along the Camino del Norte from San Sebastian takes in panoramic views across the city’s crescent-shaped bay and the foothills of the Monte Ulia range. A popular tour itinerary includes lunch in Pasaia San Pedro, before returning to San Sebastian by motorboat.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Good hiking shoes, comfortable layered clothing, sunscreen, and plenty of water are essential for hikers, even for short treks.
- Although many sections of the trail are marked, it’s best to carry a map or guidebook unless you’re hiking with a guide.
- Accommodation along the Way of St. James can get booked up quickly during peak hiking seasons, so reserve everything in advance.
How to Get There
There are many different starting points for hiking the Way of St. James, so it’s best to plan your route and arrange transport in advance. For a day hike, opting to join a guided tour can take the hassle out of organizing transfers.
When to Get There
The best time to hike the Way of St. James is between April and June or during September, avoiding the wet and cold winter months, as well as the sweltering summer heat. Visiting offseason means that many accommodation options and facilities may be closed or operating limited hours, so it’s important to confirm in advance. For day hikes in summer, get an early start to avoid walking during the hottest part of the day.
Hiking the Camino de Santiago
Of the several routes that lead to Santiago di Compostela, the longest starts in France and travels 650 miles (900 kilometers) across northern Spain; others begin in central Portugal at Sintra, and southern Spain in Seville and Barcelona. The full route along the Way of St. James can take up to a month, and thousands of believers still make the pilgrimage each year. The end point is the ornate Roman Catholic cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, which houses the remains of St. James in the crypt.