In former days it was the only way: a pilgrim to Santiago departed from home and went - usually on foot - back and forth.
In these days most pilgrims do not have or 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 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 so 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.
If you choose not to walk or bike from your doorstep, or if that is practically impossible, then where do you start? More information: choose your way.