There are only two rules you need to remember when planning your pilgrimage:
- To qualify for a Compostela (for those declaring a religious or spiritual motivation) or certificado (for those declaring a non-religious motivation) you must have walked at the very minimum the last 100km to Santiago (200km for cyclists).
- You must carry a pilgrim record or credencial and get it stamped on a daily basis in order to gain access to the pilgrim hostels, and as evidence of your journey for the Cathedral Pilgrim Office.
Beyond these two essentials, you are free to organise your pilgrimage as you wish. There is no set route or starting point, all routes are equally valid and authentic.
Some people choose to begin at their own front door, while others, more constrained by family and work commitments, may choose to walk a shorter route , or a longer one broken up into stages that are walked over a period of years. It is not unknown for people to take up to 10 years to complete a pilgrimage from Le Puy to Santiago, walking for 2 weeks per year.
It is entirely up to you to decide when you wish to begin your pilgrimage, whether you wish to walk or cycle and how much time you will have. Based on these decisions you can then pick a route and a starting point, taking into account transport availability to and from your home and likely weather conditions.
Many first-time pilgrims walk the Camino Francés because it is the best-known and most traditional route and has the most developed infrastructure. However, this route is becoming increasingly crowded and we suggest that you give consideration to quieter routes like the Camino del Norte, Vía de la Plata, Vézelay or Arles. All of these are reasonably well-waymarked and have an increasing amount of accommodation available.
Once this stage of your planning is complete, you should move on to the Preparing for Your Pilgrimage page.