There are five main Camino pilgrimage trails leading to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. They are the Camino Francés (French Way), Inglés (English Way), Portugués (Portuguese Way), Camino del Norte (North Way) and the Vía de la Plata (Silver Way).
Just over half of hikers (as of 2018) elect to trek along the Francés, as it is the most traditional route. It spools across northern Spain from the Pyrenees in France. Walkers also appreciate the fact that hiking this route makes it easy to stop off for a Rioja wine tour. Or tour Pamplona, famed for being the site of the running of the bulls. The city was also a favorite haunt of author Ernest Hemingway.
Next in popularity is the Portugués, which lures about 20 percent of pilgrims. The rest of the paths each receive less than 6 percent of all hikers, with the Vía de la Plata (VDLP) pulling up the rear.
Which Camino to Hike?
When I first heard of this ancient pilgrimage trail, I decided to hike along the VDLP. Why? Well, it’s the longest of the routes, at 600+ miles. And it’s an especially historic path. Once an old Roman road, it features spectacular Roman ruins. I also wanted an experience that was quiet and contemplative. And I’d heard that the more popular routes were getting overcrowded.
You can read about my experience along the VDLP in the article above. Since that inaugural hike, I returned several more times to re-hike this path because I fell in love with the trail, Spain and the entire experience.
A Few Hiking Tips
If you’re thinking of hiking the VDLP, here are a few main tips.
- Fly into Madrid (MAD). From Madrid, you can take another flight or a train to Sevilla, your starting point. If you prefer to hike this trail in sections, it’s easy to go back and forth from the VDLP’s main cities to Madrid’s Barajas airport via bus or train.
- Make sure to use trekking poles. They’ll help you get up and down the hills and can be used for other things, such as gauging the depth of puddles and rivers.
- If you don’t like the idea of staying in hostels, check out Spain’s inexpensive and beautiful B&B-type lodging.
- If you’re an American, grab a credential from the American Pilgrims on the Camino. A credential is a passport-type booklet you’ll need to get stamped every day. If you do this, you’ll earn a coveted Compostela certificate when you reach Santiago.
- Be prepared to have the time of your life!
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