It is less populated, lesser known and generally more difficult hiking
The Northern Way (Camino Norte) runs from France at Irún and follows the northern coastline of Spain to Galicia where it heads inland towards Santiago de Compostela joining the Camino Frances at Arzúa. This route follows the old Roman road, the Via Agrippa, for some of its way and is part of the Coastal Route (Ruta de la Costa). Alternatively you can continue to Oviedo and join the Original Way or Camino Primitivo. Shelters are 20 to 35 kilometers apart, rather than there being hostels (albergues or refugios) or monasteries every four to ten kilometers as on the Camino Frances.
The Camino del Norte starts in the Basque Country, in the chic sea-side city of San Sebastián, a real paradise for foodies: it is in fact in the top 10 cities with highest number of Michelin stars in Europe. The Northern Way follows the coast line for most of the way so you can discover charming fishing villages, swim in beautiful sandy beaches and taste delicious seafood. Feel inspired at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao; stroll by the elegant royal palace in Santander; sample Asturias famous cider; stay in lively seaside towns and admire the natural beauty of the Northern coast of ‘Green Spain’.
The topography is very different to El Camino de Santiago Frances which makes it a different experience, it is a very quiet and nice route of special natural beauty. 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.
While most of the route is fairly gentle with only a few long ascents, some days can be challenging. Over the past 20 years a great deal of effort has gone into improving the walkers’ route, and most of the route is now well marked, reasonably well surfaced, and separated from the increasingly heavy traffic on Spanish highways.
One needs to be in reasonably good condition and to have good hiking boots. If you wish to camp, you need to carry clothing and a sleeping bag in a comfortable backpack. But you can stay in hostels for low cost. Unless one plans to camp in the most crowded months of the summer season, it is unnecessary to carry camping and cooking gear.
You can also visit caminosdelnorte.com for more details, videos, photos and information about El Camino de Santiago del Norte.
Camino de Santiago • Locations & Activities