The Camino de Santiago begins from the front door of your house. This is not intended in some kind of metaphysical way (though some take it in that sense). Rather, before tourists adopted the Camino as the physical challenge it is today, pilgrims took the easiest route possible to Santiago. If you happened to live 50km away, that was all you walked. If you didn't live on one of the prescribed routes, you didn't walk all the way to the 'beginning' of one of them. You just did your best and joined the route when you could.
Of course, if you live in London or New York, walking from your doorstep would take a long time. But, in fact, plenty of people in Europe do begin from their homes, a few weeks at a time over a number of years. But that takes a huge commitment.
So where should you begin if you don't conveniently live on or near the Camino? Well, it depends on how long you have, and if you plan on reaching Santiago (not everyone does!), and if you want to do 'the whole thing'. Assuming you are doing the Camino Frances, the most common start points are St Jean Pied de Port in France and Roncesvalles in Spain.
How to Choose a Starting Point
A lot of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago make the mistake of thinking there's an official starting point. But there isn't.
There are several places that you can consider to be the starting point of the Camino de Santiago:
- The doorstep of your own home
- The 100km point
- The beginning of each Camino de Santiago route
- Wherever you like!
The Doorstep of Your Own Home
The original pilgrims didn't have the luxury of flying into Spain to pick up the Camino de Santiago from their chosen point. So, to be a genuine pilgrim, your Camino de Santiago starting point should be the doorstep of your own home. Not so hard if you live in the South of France, more difficult if you're from New Zealand.
The 100km Point
If you wish to get your certificate from the Camino office in Santiago, you need to have at least walked 100km. The most convenient point to begin from to do this is Sarria in Galicia.
The Beginning of Each Camino de Santiago Route
There are numerous routes to Santiago. For convenience, these have been named. Out of necessity, these routes need starting points. But they are no more 'official' starting points than the beginning and end of your home street being the official starting point in your walk to work!
Wherever You Like!
Assuming walking from your home is too far and just walking 100km is too little, you'll need to pick another starting point for your Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
You have two ways of tackling the Camino de Santiago:
- Over a number of years. Many pilgrims do, say, a week a year, carrying on where they left off each year.
- As a one-off trip. This means that you must reach Santiago at the end of your walk.
The first option is the easiest when it comes to picking your starting point. You can start anywhere you, please! Sarria, Leon, Burgos, Pamplona, the Pyrenees or even Paris!
But if you have to reach Santiago this time, you'll have more calculations to do. These include:
- How long you have to spend on the Camino.
- The pace you expect to walk. Most pilgrims, whatever their fitness level, manage to cover 20km to 25km a day, providing they have invested in a good pair of walking shoes. (Less fit people just walk for longer each day).
- Public transport. The easiest points to reach by public transport are Ponferrada, Leon, Burgos, Logroño or Pamplona.
Best Starting Cities
If you don't plan on doing quite such a long trek, you should start at one of the bigger towns or cities on the way. These are:
If you're not doing the Camino Frances, the other routes begin at these places:
- Camino del Norte: Irun
- Camino Aragones: Soport
- Via de la Plata: Seville
- Camino Ingles: A Coruña
- Camino Portugues: Porto
- Camino Primitivo: Oviedo