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Camino de Santiago Trail in Galicia Independently Walking with baggage transfers - Walk the Camino de Santiago! This version of our Camino de Santiago is designed for independent travelers who would like to walk the last 100kms/62 mi of the Pilgrimage trail..Read more.....Tours in Galicia

Galicia, Spain Travel & Accommodation Guide

Camino de Santiago   by Mike McDougall

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El Camino de Santiago, or as it is known in English, the Way of St James, is one of any number of pilgrimage routes to the cathedral set in the town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia - situated in the north-western most part of Spain. One of the apostles, St James the Great, is said to be buried there. Legend has it that St James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were discovered in Compostela. This pilgrimage is renowned to be one of the most important in Christianity since medieval times, along with those to Rome and Jerusalem . The route has existed for over 1000 years and recently, has been attracting more and more visitors.

Each year thousands of people set out to walk along the route from a variety of starting points scattered across Europe , the most popular being at St Albain. People walk, cycle or even go by horseback for weeks and months. The route has now become so popular, it is no longer used exclusively by Christians - non-Christians are using the route to have hiking and cycling holidays.
Of all the routes on El Camino de Santiago, the most popular is the Camino Francés which runs from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, across the mountains and through to Santiago de Compostela. This route was originally the path taken from one oasis to another one on the other side of the mountains. There are three routes on the pilgrimage that originate in different parts of France (Paris, Vézelay and Le Puy) and converge on Saint-Jean.

El Camino de Santiago was declared as the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Records of people visiting the cathedral containing St James' remains date back to the 8th century. Even then it was one of the most renowned pilgrimage routes and those who completed it would return from Galicia with scallop shells to prove to others that they had done the journey.

Once the Catholic Church had established its rules of penance for those seeking absolution after confession, pilgrimages were decided upon as an adequate punishment for certain crimes, and El Camino de Santiago became busier. The Catholic Encyclopedia at the time stated:

Pilgrims, Santiago De Compostela, Galicia, Spain
Pilgrims, Santiago De Compostela, Galicia
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"In the registers of the Inquisition at Carcassone... we find the four following places noted as being the centres of the greater pilgrimages to be imposed as penances for the graver crimes, the tomb of the Apostles at Rome, the shrine of St. James at Compostela, St. Thomas's body at Canterbury, and the relics of the Three Kings at Cologne."

Before the route became a popular Catholic pilgrimage, the route also had significance with the Romans and the Celts that lived in the northern areas of Spain . It is thought that the site was that of a Roman shrine. Even today, many people on the pilgrim route continue to follow it to the coast of Galicia and Cape Finisterre, which is the most westerly point of Europe . In Roman times, Finisterra represented a sacred location as they thought it marked the end of the world. These pagan influences can still be seen along the way and amongst the pilgrims themselves. 


Camino de Santiago Tour from Bilbao by Self Drive and Independently Walking with some guides and meals

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About the Author - Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. This article has been commissioned by Babylon Idiomas, a Spanish language school that offers courses to learn Spanish in Spain, Argentina and Costa Rica

Latest update: September 27, 2012