Camino Santiago del Norte | Northern Way

El Camino de Santiago del Norte is a very quiet and nice route of special natural beauty. Its topography is very different to El Camino de Santiago Frances which makes it a different experience. El Camino del Norte follows the North coast of Spain, from the French border in Irun, along the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and finally Galicia region where the town of Santiago de Compostela is.

El Camino del Norte is a very hilly and sometimes mountainous way with impressive scenarios such as the Picos de Europa in Asturias which the pilgrim can see on his left as he walks along the cliffs in the coast. In El Camino del Norte there are many opportunities to have a bath or to relax in small solitary beaches of clean turquoise water or simply enjoy the view of the sea and the waves hitting the rocks in the cliffs.

For the lovers of nature, forests and green landscapes El Camino del Norte is the perfect track but they should keep in mind that El Camino del Norte represents a greater physical challenge than El Camino Frances due to the constant going up and down of the way and also due to its humid Atlantic weather which makes rain quite likely even in summer months.

Map of the Camino de Santiago del Norte:

Following you can see a table with a brief overview of El Camino de Santiago del Norte giving some information of, in my opinion, its pros and cons in order to help to those who are still doubful about what Camino to walk. You can also visit for more details, videos, photos and information about El Camino de Santiago del Norte.

Camino del Norte Camino Frances
Trail markings (yellow
 or scallop shell)
Enough in overall although sometimes there may be a lack of markings for a while which makes it easy to get lost if you don’t pay attention. In the region of Galicia (last 200 km) the signaling is excellent. Excellent signaling all the way.
Path Sometimes you are walking on paved roads which may be useful to avoid the mud but it harms and burn the feet and joints much more than the natural paths. No paved roads in Galicia. Most of the times you are walking on non-paved roads and natural paths.
Pilgrims’ hostelsAlbergues Most of them are very basic and small (around 20 beds) and sometimes they are very distant between each others (sometimes more than 30 km).
Good quality in Galicia.
In general, they have better quality although you may find some too big (i.e. 150 – 200 beds). Normally, there is an albergue or more in every village  (every 10 km aprox.).
Number of pilgrims. Rarely more that 30 starting a day during summer which is the busiest period. Although lately it is becoming more and more popular very quickly. This is a good choice if you want to walk alone. In summertime, there may be far more than 200 pilgrims starting everyday which makes it very busy but also you get to know many interesting people.
Weather Very changeable and wet (Atlantic weather)
In summer, warm but not hot in the days and cool in the nights. You may get some clouds and rain but in overall the temperature is perfec for walking and the weather is lovely.
The rest of the year, very rainy and cool.
If you don’t like to walk under a burning sun in summer, this may be your best choice.
Best time of the year: July and August.
From May to October, very dry and hot during daytime (it often reaches more than 40 degrees celsius at noon in July and August) although it may be chilly during the nights.
In winter time, very cold (bellow 0 Celsius is very common).
With the exception of Galicia (last 150km) which has a Atlantic weather similar to El Camino del Norte.
If you don’t like a cloudy sky but prefer a bright blue one with a big sun above you, this may be your best choice.
Best time of the year: From May to October, especially May, June and September.
Nature and landscape. High snowed mountains on one side and the sea on the other side. Very green and full of forests. Many nice beaches that have escaped the civilization and tourism where you can have a pleasant bath. It is really a natural paradise. Very varied. Firstly, you have to cross the high mountains range – Pyrenees – which is full of forests and green prairies.
Then, in Navara and Rioja regions, the landscape is hilly and full of vineyards (people usually says it is very similar to Tuscany landscape).
Afterwards, in the region of Castilla, the landscape becomes completely flat (it is a high plateau around 900 metres above sea level). It is full of cereal and sunflower fields. It is very desertic and isolated but very charming.
Then, in Leon province it becomes hilly and green again with more vineyards and forests.
And finally in Galicia, it is full of forests and green prairies again.
Art Many interesting beautiful cities and towns very rich in art. San Sebastian, Bilbao, Castrourdiales, Santander, Santillana del Mar, Comillas, San Vicente de la Barquera, Llanes, Rivadesella, Villaviciosa, Gijon, Luarca, Mondonedo. Unique cities, cathedrals and castles all along the way. Just to mention some of them: Pamplona, Estella, Logrono, Najera, Sto. Domingo de la Calzada, Burgos, Fromista, Carrion de los Condes, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada. It is a museum as a whole with the best romanic art in Europe. You can find unbelieable pieces of art in every little village.
Very varied and excellent. Very varied and excellent.
Wines Not so rich in wines as El Camino Frances but cyder in Asturias is nearly a religion and there I have drunk the best natural cyder ever. Excellent wines all allong the way. La Rioja, Navarra, Bierzo, Ribeiro and Albarino are the most famous. You can find unbelievable cheap wines of the best quality.
Cost Around 30-35 euro a day. A budget of around 25-30 euro a day.

55 thoughts on “Camino Santiago del Norte | Northern Way”

  1. I have completed Camino Frances. In May I have 11 days to walk some of the Northern parts. What is the best part of this Camino

    1. Hi Greg, a response to your query . . .
      For me, undoubtedly the best section is in Galicia. Starting from Luarca (or Navia) you have a delightful coastal section followed by superb countryside as you turn inland from Ribadeo. Under normal circumstances you should be able to complete this within your time constraints. Do check this section out, however, for services – to avoid being “stranded” at a refuge for the night with no access to food! As you have already completed the Camino Frances you may want to give the last stage into Santiago a miss. A reliable bus service operates from Arzua to CdeS. Getting to the start is fairly straightforward with, again, bus services (from Oviedo). Incidentally, there is a good newish refuge in Luarca (centre – not out of town). Good luck! I’m hoping to be on the Camino Primitivo next month taking it relatively steady as a 70+ years plodder! Paul

      1. I completely agree with Paul. If when you get to Arzua you still have time you may choose to skip the last part since you have already done it and walk from Santiago to Finisterre instead.
        Buen Camino!

      2. Hi Paul and Greg

        I have just seen your messages and thought i’d leave a note.

        I plan on spending 6 or seven days (including transfers from UK) completing part of the norte. I like the sound of your above description and was hoping you might be able to offer me some help.

        I would love the scenery to be as dramatic as possible (I love the coast and mountains) and I would like it to be relatively isolated and as far from highways as possible. I don’t feel the need to end my journey in Santiago de Compostela.

        I am in my mid 30’s and very fit and active.

        I am planning to travel in March of 2015.


      3. Hi Gareth,
        You don’t give yourself a lot of time! However, depending upon where you are proposing to access the Camino, there are various possibilities. But, to be away from highways (as you put it), you really need to look to Galicia. However, if you fly in/out Santander, and then bus to San Vincente de la Barquera, the route passes through some very pleasant countryside and you have delightful views of the coast on one hand and, on the other, the Picos. If you stride out you could make it to Pola de Siero (then local bus to Oviedo to avoid road walking) – excellent alberge in Pola (with superb sideria restaurant opposite!) and from Oviedo Alsa bus back to Santander. This is just a suggestion but, whatever, I wish you well!
        Buen Camino! as they say.

      4. Hi Paul, I ended walking the Le Puy Camino in France this May, being Spring it was absolutely stunning. I have left the Northern Camino
        till September next year where I will have 3 to 4 weeks available. So this should enable me to complete most of this walk. I just could not justify only doing a small section and wish to commence in the Basque region from Irun. I was going to leave out the section Bilbao to Santander, do this by bus. What are your thoughts, a Regards Greg

      5. Hi Greg,
        What you decide is, of course, up to you but, I must admit, that the section you mention is, for me, the least attractive – in terms of natural scenery. There are, though, some splendid coastal sections between these two towns and, strange as it may sound, urban sections, for me, can also prove very interesting.
        Incidentally, Alsa bus do some good deals – with advance bookings – I have found.
        Buen camino,
        Paul W

  2. We walked from Irune to Portugalete last year in June , it was very pleasant weather but it was very difficult to find the way at times due to poor markings . It was more expensive than the French route overall so you would need to budget for an extra 20 euro per day ( my opinion ) . It seemed to me that this route is not geared up as well as the French Camino especially in early Basque country section… BUT Im going back again this year as I really enjoyed it.

  3. Regarding cycling the Northern Route, I cannot remember any bicycles last year and personally , I would not like to cycle it as it is a more difficult terrain than French way. I’m speaking about the early stages through the Basque country ..That’s if the cyclists take the same route as the walkers

  4. Hello fello camino travelers,

    I am arriving March 12, 2015 to start my camino. I am trying to decide between Frances and del Norte. I understand the northern route has more rain. Does anyone have any wisdom to offer. Also, I want to have wifi along the way.

    Thank you for your input and wisdom



    1. I think both routes are nice for cycling, each on its way. As a general route you will always get more rain in the Norte route, that’s a fact. But it has many pros as well, the landscape and nature being one of them. I know at the begining in the Basque country the roads are not so good, but after that they improve, I haven’t cycled the Norte route myself but my friend has and he was very happy. Another thing to take in to account is that it’ll be a bit more expensive, and regarding the wifi you shouldn’t have any problem.
      Buen Camino!

    2. Hi Liam,
      For me, the Frances route has become far too commercialised and does tend to get very busy. The Norte route is quieter but has fewer alberges. Incidentally, when it comes to accommodation, always haggle over price at a hostal/hotel – invariably they will knock a few euros off for pilgrims. Both routes can be wet – especially as you get further west. Regarding wi-fi, I cannot comment. I tend to be something of a minimalist, carry very little (less than 12kg) and seek out a shop/market for incidentals en route.
      That’s my input, although possibly low on the wisdom scale!
      Buen camino!

      1. Hi Paul, were you able to make it to sheltered accommodation each night or do y recommend packing a tent?

      2. Hi vicki. I’d only suggest taking a tent if you want to camp. “Sheltered accommodation” is readily available but you do need to plan ahead – making use of a reliable guide, such as published by the CSJ. Always have some basic provisions with you, I recommend, should you arrive at a centre where there is no/little food available or in case of an emergency. I’ve just spent ten days on the Camino Primitivo (hence my delay in responding) where many shops/bars have now closed but, at the end of each day, I had no problem finding food available. You’ll find the same on the Camino Norte but, as I say, do plan ahead!

  5. Hey, first of all- thank you for all the information! Great website.
    I want to know if you have any tips for my plan: starting at the camino frances till Burgos. from there I would like to go to picos del europa and to get back on camino del norte some how.
    Lihi Cohen

  6. Hi!
    I’m starting the Camino Del Norte at the beginning of May and I am worried about the hostel/refugios/aubergios in which I can sleep. I looked at the website and there is not that amount of places to sleep that are referred there. Can you reassure me about the way to find them? Is there another website or is it “on the spot” kinda thing?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Cath, did you find out anymore helpful information? I am leaving in the next couple days and considering doing the Norte instead of the Frances path.

  7. we fly to san sabastian on april 30 and want to go sw to the comino de frances. is there a connecting route ?
    grace and peace
    don swnson

  8. I have a question about a northern trip I will be taking May 2015. It loooks as if the northern route does not go through the Pyrenees. Is it possible to do some hiking in the Pyrenees before I begin the actual trail?

  9. Hi, I’m considering doing the ‘northern way’ from 21st September to October… Should I rather do the more common route at that time as I am concerned about the weather?

  10. Hi Fellow Pilgrims, Can I respond to the four above questions by saying that a little research (typically online) will provide the answers to your queries.
    Don: yes there is a connecting route (sometimes referred to as the “tunnel” route).
    Edy: no need to buy a special map – download maps of stages from the internet (I’ve given a helpful address above) or purchase a guide (as published by the CSJ).
    Susan: a walking holiday in the Pyrenees is very different to undertaking a pilgrimage; suggest you simply do one or the other.
    Kendyll: whenever you go and whichever route you take you must prepared for all types of weather! Also, do work on the basis that additional clothing items can (usually) quite easily be purchased en route.
    Buen camino to all!

  11. Thank you Paul. I appreciate your advice. I will be in Spain for 90 days and I think I will have extra time. Maybe I will visit the Pyrenees after I finish the trek.

  12. Hello All, my 13 year old son and I will walk a piece of del Norte in the last two weeks of August, and hope to walk at least six days of the Camino del Norte – ideally 4 days one week, a break in Poo de Llanes with a good friend there and then three more days west of Poo. Do you have recommendations as to where we w/could start – walk for three or four days, get to Poo and then walk for three or four more days? It is NOT important (though dramatic I’m sure I would love it!) to end in Santiago, though we will spend the second weekend there. Gracias and Buen Camino! Teresa y Luke y Jose

  13. Hello.
    Lovely site!
    A question:
    For first time pilgrims to the Camino, what is the best route for 14-15 days? We are planning next June (2016).
    We would like to walk some of the Basque country, but the full Norte will take too long for us. Any suggestions?
    Thanks so much!

  14. Hi Alicia,
    The key to a successful (and enjoyable) pilgrimage is preparation. And you have plenty of time for that! Do your research on the route you want to take, where you want to stop (and maybe stay for a day), what you need to wear and carry, and so on. There are plenty of good sources – online and hardcopy. Having said that, given the number of days you state, you might want to look at the Camino del Norte section from Irun to Santander. But, a couple of tips, don’t be too ambitious in terms of how far you want to walk overall, and, be prepared to adjust your schedule as you go along.
    Good luck!

  15. Hi, in reply to all the apprehensive first timers I would recommend doing part of the Frances to gain Camino experience. Also buy the John Brierly guide as this is invaluable. I speak from experience of doing the whole Camino from St Jean (France ) to Muxia out beyond Finistere. Be warned you will fall in love with this walk and return and return…….

  16. Dear all,

    This July I am planning to do a 10- 14day hike along the Camino .
    Since I have heard that July is a busy month, it seems a good idea to do the Camino del Norte. Now I was wondering; do I have to prepare my steps. The reason I ask this, is that I love to go somewhere unprepared and see how far I will walk, but only if it is safe and pleasant ofcourse. I will carry my own luggage. However, do I need to book the auberges in advance (to be sure to have a place to stay), or plan ahead how many km I will walk per day, or bring enough food for 2/3 days. Do I need to bring a sleeping bag, or will a thin sheet for hygiene be enough? And how many kms is doable per day?

    Any suggestions?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Merel,
      You really should do some research, although, it seems, you do not much time before you set off. In terms of km/day – that’s for you to determine (according to fitness and intent) but around 25km/day is usually doable. Apart from snacks / emergency rations, you do not need to carry food; but do have liquid (very important). Re accommodation, I have never booked ahead in many years of walking the various pilgrimage routes (which has allowed for flexibility as I go along) but, if you want peace of mind, go for it. Yes, take a proper sleeping bag but one that is compact. In the spirit of the Camino (as a pilgrim and not a tourist) you will want to carry your own “baggage”, but think light.
      Again, I encourage you to research thoroughy beforehand. Being well prepared you will thoroughly enjoy the experience.
      I wish you well, Merel.

  17. Great web site. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to
    some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your sweat!

  18. hi there, I am planning to start Camino Norte soon. Is there any list of auberges or hostels on the route?
    also, as we will start in Santander, do you know how to get the pilgrim’s pass there?
    many thanks,

  19. Hey, Got a question, I would like to do parts of the coastal route and the primitivo with various means of transportation, next to walking (like hitchhiking). I am reading a book on the Northern route, but just cannot get an idea what the type of roads are like which I will encounter. Is the majority both suitable for both walking and cycling (normal bike)? As this is the impression I get from the books descirption. I would like to purchase a simple bike somewehere in San Sebastian or Bilbao and cycle for a while. The primitivo I will walk or hitchhike (long and dready road tracks). I am an experienced biker, but just have no idea if the tracks are suitable for it.
    And can leave the bike behind at the start of the primitivo.

    Love, Katja

    1. Hi Katya,
      I hope, by now, you have completed what you set out to do on the Camino del Norte. I’d be interested to know how you got on – cycling, on even by canoe, yes?! I found my experience of walking on the del Norte route last month (particularly in the area of ISLARES) very rewarding with some excellent company and fine weather. Love, Paul

      1. Hi Paul,
        I am still on the Camino. Went from
        Del Norte onto The Primitivo and am 4 days away from Santiago. I have been foremost walking and an occasional hitchhike. It has so far been an incredible journey, as I walked with the Camino inside me. A
        clear purpose in mind what I wanted to absorb and leave behind. With this open mind I attracted the right people and experiences. Has been a great learning curve and not yet ended. It is a Camino we all create together along the way and feel ams have felt very much part of the Camino of others. We are all in it together and helping each other with what we would like to change in life. The nature, the vistas, the landscapes, villages, coast along the way and the constant change of environment and meeting fellow pilgrims through the walking are to me a medium of accellerating realizations and changes in life. The Camino is like a microcosmos.
        Something anybody should do when they are in a need of change.

        I must say I met in Islares a wonderful Paul from UK, whom I walked and talked with for a while. Was that you?

        All the best to you. I have one week left to complete the physical trail and the one inside.
        But I am nearing the end, that is how it feels like.

        Keep up the wonderful work you are
        doing and I do hope many more people will take on this Camino. Regardless of what route to take it
        is best walked with a Camino inside.

        Love, Katja

      2. Hi Katya,

        You are too kind! You were great company for that short while but what really delights me is to hear that you have just about reached SdC. Brilliant! Taking the Primitive route I hope you found very beautiful and inspiring – it’s certainly one of my favourite sections (Oviedo – Lugo) of any of the routes I have taken.
        Just a couple of things: firstly, and very sadly, some (admittedly only a very few) pilgrims in the past have found, on arriving at SdC, that fellow pilgrims (who are soon to “disappear”) cannot be trusted and items have “walked”; and, secondly, be prepared for PCN (post Camino syndrome) whereby after that initial elation you feel somewhat low. I am sure in your case you will take due care of yourself and your belongings and, importantly, return home the wiser and better equipped to face those personal challenges, which we all have to confront at some stage.
        As I said, it was good to have met you. Let me know if you’re returning to Spain!
        Best wishes!
        Love, Paul

      3. Dear Paul,
        I cannot believe that that has been really you in Islares! Was sad for not meeting you again after departing. And regretted not exchanging addresses. I did however meet up with Ivan, the american guy you walked up with, and walked for 4 days with him.
        I am really happy we meet again! You just never stop to amaze me.
        The ways of the Camino have been wonderous to me.

        And I agree, the Primitivo from Oviedo to Lugo is something of a kind. The weather could not have been better. Had not been looking forward though to the last stages to Santiago after Lugo, but decided to change my mind on that and to just experience it and to admire the sheer contrast between the spirit and beauty of the beginning of the Camino from Irun to the total lack of it from Melide onwards. But every journey has its extremes. And am grateful to both.

        Thanks for your pieces of advice. Luckily I am a very spiritual but also a very down to earth person. I made this journey to absorb life, friendships and nature and to leave hindering mental debris behind, and deciding where I want my life to go to. And with a very open attitude I feel I accomplished a lot in that respect.
        The last stages from Lugo I have walked quite a bit alone and have given me the change in the face of arriving t the end of my journey in Santiago to also ty all knots together and look at what I need to do at home upon return. So I have already taken some action on this during the last few days. Planting some seeds at home and with people concerned for a new beginning I decided upon. Felt like fasing over to life because of and after The Camino. So I did and do keep that at heart. Thanks.
        Concerning fellow pilgrims, I think I know what you mean and I think I can deal with that. I know for sure I will meet once more some people who touched my heart and I theirs. These are a few. And for the others I see it all in the light of having for a short time been in it together and sharing what needed to get shared. Most likely no follow up from contact, but that is totally okay by me.

        I have actually decided to go and live in Spain for a year or two. But this will be within a few years.
        I will definitely let you know when I will return to Spain beforehand to do a new Camino. But I only want to do a new Camino when there is a new purpose in mind for me to start on one. I am first letting all positive experiences within me have its effect and create a renewed beginning at home because of this Camino.

        I am only 18 km away from Santiago. So today is arrival day. And it will be a surprise whom I will meet else. I have 2,5 days after that to wrap up my Camino and say goodbye to friends made and to put myself in a state of mind to return home. I am happy for those days. No time to walk to Fisterra, but will walk at least from fisterra to Muxia. One last time admiring the coastline I so much love and one last dive in the sea.

        Take care Paul and it will be a pleasure seeing you again.

        Love, Katja

  20. Seriously considering walking the Norte instead of the Frances when I do my Way, but wondering if there is any fall exposure on the route, particularly in the Picos de Europa? Do you cross over the Picos or walk alongside them? In other words, is it dangerous hiking or just strenuous?

  21. Hi Patty,
    Above, in response to Alicia, I encouraged thorough preparation before embarking on a pilgrimage. I would encourage you, Patty, to do just the same. You will then know, at least, the routes and not need to ask the sort of question you pose. Again, I state that (for me, at least) hiking in an area such as the Picos is quite different to undertaking a pilgrimage.
    Good luck with your preparations, Patty.
    Paul W

    1. Hi, Paul. Yes, I will most assuredly do as much reading as I can before embarking on the full Camino, regardless of which route I choose. I have read everything I can get my hands on regarding the Camino Frances and have walked a very short portion from SJPDP. I had fully intended to walk the Frances until recent news events have dampened my spirits in terms of personal safety. Doing a full pilgrimage on the Camino is a life dream for me and one I do not take lightly. Unfortunately, other than this forum, I have not been able to find that much information on the Norte, unlike the Frances. In asking, I was looking for assistance. From some of the comments it seems as though the north route could be dangerous in terms of rough terrain. I wouldn’t want to even begin to contemplate walking it (or even continuing my research) if that is the case and will instead walk the Frances.
      In the Spirit of the Camino,

  22. Hi, again, Patty,
    Of course, the matter of (personal) safety is paramount and all reasonable precautions should be taken. Having said that the Norte route cannot be described as dangerous “in terms of rough terrain”. The route as far as Ribadeo, essentially following the coast, is never far from habitation and is generally on clear, well-defined tracks or lanes. Turning inland, from Ribadeo, there are sections which are more remote but the going, although undulating, is easy. It is the necessary stage distances here of which you need to be aware. Good guides are provided by the CSJ and the website (which I referred to previously, above), although in Spanish, I have found really very helpful. Next month I am (again) walking out a section of the Norte route so I’ll look out for a “Patty”!
    Buen camino,
    Paul W

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The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela