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How to get to Camino de Santiago

Getting to your starting point on the Camino de Santiago will likely include a flight into a major airport followed by some combination of local flight, bus or train for arriving to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Oviedo and other cities where the trails begins. Discover here which are the best starting points for reaching Santiago de Compostela and how to get there.

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Closest airports to Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, is a network of trails that all converge in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. These trails start in different parts of western Europe—Camino Frances, for example, starts in the commune of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port while Camino Portugués starts in Lisbon—so getting to Camino de Santiago really depends on which trail you’d like to walk.

If you’re coming from countries like Australia and the United States, flying into the major city closest to the town or city where your trailhead starts is best. Unless of course, you plan to visit other places first before your hike. From countries like the UK, several options are on hand including travelling by bus, rail or plane.

Though Camino de Santiago has many trails, it’s only got several major ones that prove the most popular. We shall focus on those and talk about how to get to their trailhead towns individually.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Located next to the France-Spain border, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the starting point to Camino Francés. It is best accessed from either Biarritz on the coast of France or Pamplona in northern Spain if you’re coming in from the UK and other countries in Europe. Both the Biarritz Pays Basque and  Pamplona airports services many major cities in Europe including London, Vienna, Oslo and Prague. If you’re coming in from Australia and the United States, it’s ideal to fly into Biarritz, which services cities like Sydney and New York City.

From Biarritz, simply catch a bus to nearby Bayonne where you may travel by rail to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. And from Pamplona, you can jump on a bus.

Lisbon

Camino Portugués starts in Lisbon, and might just be the easiest to get to. Travelling to the Portuguese capital, after all, is practically a no-brainer as it is a major travel destination. The Humberto Delgado Airport also called the Lisbon Airport, is the main international hub for Portugal and therefore receives flights from all over the world. These include cities like New York City and Sydney. From the London and other European cities, train and car travel are options as well.

How to get to Camino de Santiago
How to get to Camino de Santiago

Irún

The 827-kilometre Camino del Norte or the Northern Way officially starts in the town of Irún, also located right near Spain’s border with France. If you’ve got nine hours to a day to spare, you may get there from major European cities like London, Paris and Berlin by rail and buses. If you’re in a bit of a hurry, however, or if you’re coming in from Sydney or New York City, it’s best to fly to Biarritz in southern France then travel by bus to Irún. If you’re coming in from major cities in Spain like Madrid or Barcelona, flying into the San Sebastián Airport is ideal.

Ferrol

The bustling port city of Ferrol in Spain’s northwestern point is the main starting point for the English Way or the Camino Inglés, the shortest of the major routes. It used to be that pilgrims arrived here by boat from places like the UK and Scandinavia, but these days, hikers from other European countries or from other places in Spain arrive here either by bus or by plane via A Coruña Airport, which also services cities like Sydney and NYC. You may take the bus to Ferrol from A Coruña Airport.

Oviedo

The starting point to Camino Primitivo is in the city of Oviedo halfway between Bilbao and A Coruña. It’s easily accessed by train from Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona. If you’ve got 13 to 24 hours to spare, consider a leisurely meander by bus and rail from European cities like Paris, London and Berlin. If you don’t, best fly into Asturias Airport, most likely via Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport if you’re flying from far-off places like NYC and Sydney.

Walking the Camino
Walking the Camino

Useful Spanish phrases and words

Hello
Hola
Good morning
Buenos dias
Good afternoon
Buenas tardes
Good evening
Buenas noches
Bye/See you
Adiós
Please
Por favor
Thank you
Gracias
You’re welcome
De nada
Sorry/Excuse me
Perdone
What's your name?
Como te llamas?

Camino de Santiago starting cities

Here which trails start in the city mentioned above and how far they are from Santiago de Compostela.

DepartureTrailKm from Santiago
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-PortCamino Frances728
LisbonCamino Portugues610
IrúnCamino del Norte691
FerrolCamino Inglés119
OviedoCamino Primitivo321

Camino de Santiago tours & reviews

Camino de Santiago Information

  • Can I walk the Camino during Christmas time?

    While most pilgrims prefer to walk the Camino de Santiago from Spring to Autumn, the number of pilgrims who walk during winter time is increasing. But be aware there will be less pilgrims on the way around those dates so you might miss out on the social aspect of the Camino.
  • When should I walk the Camino de Santiago?

    The absence of extreme weather changes in the area makes Camino de Santiago’s routes walkable year-round. Though June through September may be its busiest months, more than one thousand people still make the hike during the cold winter months of December, January and February. Learn more.
  • What permits, visas, vaccinations and insurance do I need?

    Though a permit isn’t necessary, you must obtain your Credencial del Peregrino or Pilgrim Passport at the start of your trip and get it stamped along the way. The stamps are proof that you walked the 100 kms necessary to obtain the completion certificate in Santiago de Compostela. Learn more.
  • Do I need a guide to walk the Camino?

    While you don’t need a guide to hike any of the Camino de Santiago routes, having one will reduce the burden of planning. Going on a guided hike would give you the benefits of having experienced trip planners arrange things like accommodation, food, luggage transport and airport transfers. Learn more.
  • What should I pack and what equipment do I need?

    Along the way, you'll be able to stop in towns to refuel. Carrying a day pack of your personal essentials, change of clothes, a two-litre water bottle, a first aid kit, and your passport and Pilgrim Passport will suffice. Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes and walking poles. Learn more.
  • How do I prepare for Camino de Santiago?

    Do your research to choose the best route for your skill level and study the rules and etiquette on the trail. Purchase and read a guidebook for your chosen route. Finally, train for several months prior and push yourself to hike farther every day until you’re fit to do 26- to 29-kilometre days. Learn more.

Camino de Santiago Trails & Routes

  • Camino Portugues

    The Portuguese Way, the second most popular route, starts in either Lisbon or Porto and takes hikers from Portugal to Spain. Considerably longer, the Lisbon hike starts at the Lisbon Cathedral and passes through Caldas da Rainha, the Alcobaca Monastery and Porto before crossing several rivers on its way north to Spain.

    Distance: 610 km (380 mi)
    Average duration: 21-30 days 
    Average difficulty/success rate: The Portuguese Way is relatively moderate. Minor elevation gains work to your advantage, though concrete and cobblestone roads, which it has its fair share of, can put a strain on the walk. The success rate is high.
     
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  • Camino Primitivo

    A few ups and downs, rocky or muddy sections and the frequency of the paved roads make Camino Primitivo one of Camino de Santiago’s most challenging routes. It is, however, worth tackling, if only for the challenge and for the fact that it’s the oldest one. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views.

    Distance: 321 km (199 mi)
    Average duration: 12-15 days
    Average difficulty/success rate: Camino Primitivo has its fair share of challenging climbs and descents as well as paved sections, making it a difficult route. Still, if you take your time, the success rate is high.
     
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  • Camino de Finisterre

    Once you’ve reached Camino de Santiago, you might continue on to the “end of the world”. Cape Finisterrae is one of Europe’s westernmost points, thus the name. Adding 90 kilometres to the trip along an ancient route, perhaps even another 29 to Muxia, might just be an epic way to wrap up the journey.

    Distance: 90 km (55 mi), 117 km (73 mi) to Muxia
    Average duration: 2-4 days
    Average difficulty/success rate: Because it’s a shorter hike and offers spectacular views, the road to Finisterrae is a moderate route to take on. The success rate is certainly high, even if fewer people traverse it, choosing to end their trip at the cathedral.
     
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  • Camino Frances

    Is it a wonder why the French Way is favoured by most Camino de Santiago pilgrims? It’s not just the most traditional route, with a lot of history surrounding it. It also boasts lush landscapes, charming towns and great infrastructure along the way, taking travellers through the beautiful Iberian Peninsula for a month. 

    Distance: 772 km (480 mi)
    Average duration: 4 weeks
    Average difficulty/success rate: Due to the excellent infrastructure and facilities along the way, not only is Camino Frances an enjoyable hike, it’s also a fairly moderate hike. So long as you take a couple of days to rest along the way, you are guaranteed to make it to the end.
    Read more
  • Camino del Norte

    For 827 kilometres, Camino del Norte stretches from the town of Irun in Basque Country to Santiago de Compostela, following Spain’s northern coastline. It’s not only the longest route in the network, it is also the least travelled and has fewer facilities, making it ideal for thru-hikers who prefer solitude and a challenge.

    Distance: 827 km (514 mi)
    Average duration: 36 nights
    Average difficulty/success rate: A little more than a month and a more rigid schedule could be challenging for less experienced hikers. The success rate is generally good, so long as you train beforehand and can tackle more than 21 miles a day.
  • Camino Inglés

    A favourite among hikers arriving from the British Isles and northern Europe, the English Way starts from the City of Ferrol and runs straight south to Camino de Santiago. Though short, it does boast longer sections and major elevation changes, making it a challenge for the more casual walkers.

    Distance: 119 km (74 mi)
    Average duration: 6 nights
    Average difficulty/success rate: This ranks as medium to high in difficulty, though chances of completing are very good because of its short distance.
     

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