In former days it was the only way: a pilgrim to Santiago departed from home and went - usually on foot - back and forth.
Departing from home, on foot ... most pilgrims now do not have or do not take the time for that. And for many English-speaking pilgrims, it is practically impossible. They come from distant lands, which in the earlier heyday of the Camino were still completely unknown to Europeans.
Therefore nowadays most pilgrims depart from well known pilgrim’s towns in France, such as Vézelay, Le Puy-en-Velay or Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, or even further on the route, somewhere in Spain:
- 75% of the pilgrims who visit the pilgrim’s office in Saint-Jean, start there
- 35% of the pilgrims who visit the pilgrim's office in Santiago, cover the minimum distance to obtain a Compostela (100 km on foot, 200 km on bike).
Those who depart from home often walk in stages: several weeks a year. A small minority walks the entire way in one go. And very few walk to Santiago and back. For cyclists it is different. The journey is much faster and therefore many depart from home, and bike to Santiago in one go.
Once you have crossed the Channel, you can walk all the way to Santiago with the help of guidebooks and road markings. Cyclists usually have to map out their own route, but can use the walking guides.
There is good information available for this route:
- from Cherbourg (ferry Portsmouth), via Mont Saint-Michel, to Saint-Jean-d’Angély > connection to the route from Paris,
- from there to Saint-Jean-de-Port (Camino Francés) or to Hendaye/Irun (Camino del Norte),
- alternative: from Saint-Jean-d’Angély to Royan, on the Gironde. Cross there to Soulac and continue along the Voie Littoral (see > alongside).
In France? The Codex Calixtinus (12th century) already describes four main routes:
- the road from Paris (via Tours and Bordeaux)
- the road from Vézelay (via Bourges or Nevers)
- the road from Le Puy (via Conques and Moissac)
- the road from Arles (via Toulouse)
Read more > choose your way