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 caminosdelnorte.com for more details, videos, photos and information about El Camino de Santiago del Norte.

Camino del Norte Camino Frances
Trail markings (yellow
arrows
 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.
Gastro-
nomy
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.

35 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.

        Thanks

        1. 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.

  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

    Regards

    Liam

    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 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.
    THANK YOU!
    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 caminosantiago.org 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!
    Cath

    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…….
    James

  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.
      Paul

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The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela