According to a medieval Spanish legend, the Milky Way (whose Spanish nickname is the Camino de Santiago) was formed from the dust raised by traveling pilgrims on the ancient route of the Camino long ago.
Traversing the varied landscapes and countless medieval towns of northern Spain on the way to Santiago de Compostela in the extreme northwest corner of Spain, the Camino has been walked by pilgrims and other wanderers for 1200 years.
The path has a decidedly unique history. It was born out of religious purposes and grew to attract 500,000 travelers a year in the Middle Ages. By the standards of the day, that was enormous.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the Camino. Walking the Camino was the equal of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Rome.
One of the world’s first travel guides was about the Camino, first published 900 years ago. The Spanish language (Castilian) was written for the first time in the monasteries of Yuso and Suso, along the Camino.
Villages sprung up to nurture the pilgrims’ bodies and chapels to nurture their souls. UNESCO counts 1,800 buildings along the Camino as “great historic interest.”
Back in those days, people did not endure the hardships and danger of a journey for the reasons we travel today. Merchants and sailors sought wealth. Soldiers traveled to conquer (and gain wealth as well). Pilgrims traveled for redemption and blessing. A trip like this (don’t forget it was a round-trip) was something you did once in your life.
Travelers would meet people from far away; the Camino played a fundamental role in fostering cultural exchange in Medieval Europe.
For us, it is all about its symbol – the scallop, the ubiquitous marker of the way. This scallop embodies this sense of many different people and paths (there were five lesser Caminos as well) all converging on one place.
The essence of today’s Camino, despite its fame, is largely unchanged (not that we were there 1200 years ago). You will share the Camino with people from every continent, of every age and circumstance.
Clients do the Camino for every reason – to bond with loved ones, to experience the tranquility of its landscape, for spiritual purposes, for adventure, and for the sense of accomplishment.
Others use the Camino as a springboard to explore the Basque Country or nearby Portugal.
For whatever reasons, you experience Spain in a different way. You may choose a supported walk (its not arduous) – either longer stretches or smaller bites that we choreograph for you. You may choose to bike, or perhaps an air-conditioned Mercedes is more your style.
Regardless of your mode of transport, your time allocated, your pace, your journey will end in Santiago de Compostela. You will enter through a small gate into Praza do Obradoiro, the main square facing the cathedral (and one of the finest paradors in all of Spain as well). Some travelers kiss the ground, or one another, weep, jump in the air, or just calmly soak in sense of being in Santiago.
After 1200 years since this all started, there is still an Office of the Pilgrimage in Santiago. Twenty-first century travelers queue here to receive the official stamp that connects them to travelers of centuries ago.
The center of this large square, Praza de Obradoiro, is kilometer “zero” of the Camino. Your path to this square is up to you.
As you rest your legs outside the Parador on Santiago’s main square, you’ll watch pilgrims from all walks of life finish their journey. Some will break down in tears, others will react more subtly, but the sense of accomplishment and community is inarguably moving.
By walking the Camino, you become a living part of history. And it’s easier than Everest base camp.