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’ hostels–Albergues||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.|