Camino del Norte (Camino de Santiago alternative route)
Key information: Camino del Norte (Camino de Santiago alternative route)
- The toughest, but arguably the most beautiful, of the many branches of the Camino de Santiago pilgrim route culminating at Santiago de Compostela.
- Stunning maritime-mountain scenery is the main feature of this 825km route, which hugs the Bay of Biscay, passing beneath the Picos de Europa before turning inland to Galicia.
- This is an occasionally tough walk, often in remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient or supported, as pilgrim accommodation can be sparse in places. The whole of this beautiful coast is prone to fog and heavy rain, which can last for days at a time.
- Walkopedia rating92
- Natural interest15
- Human interest15
- Negative points2
- Total rating92
- Note: Neg: often wet
- Length: 825km (5-6 weeks)
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Of the many routes used by pilgrims to the reputed burial-place of St James at Santiago de Compostela, the Camino del Norte is one of the less heavily-populated but arguably, at least in its western reaches, the most beautiful. Stunning coastal and mountain scenery carry this route some 825km along Spains north coast, starting at Irun, near the French border and passing through the western Basque, Guernica, Bilbao, Santander, Llanes, skirting the foothills of one of Europes great mountain wildernesses, the heavily-protected Picos de Europa and on along the coast before it swings inland through the hills of Galicia.
This is definitely a route for the more hardy walker, being both prone to rain, fog and generally harsh weather conditions dictated by its situation on the Bay of Biscay, and involving some steep climbs. It rewards with breathtaking vistas and uncrowded architectural gems at pretty much every corner, while on many stretches one can go the best part of a day without being troubled by other people.
The really hardy can take the inland trail, the Camino Primitivo, as it splits off at Villaviciosa and cuts through the high Galician mountain range. This is the original, ancient, pilgrim trail, but the church long since decided that a plenary indulgence could be qualified for by less energetic struggles. Supplies and accommodation along the route are occasionally sparse as a consequence, and care needs to be taken to make sure you come prepared; a tent is recommended.
This is rainy country and views can be lost in fog; you probably need to carry camping equipment if doing the whole route.
See Route below for extensive further information.
See our Camino de Santiago overview page to put the del Norte and other caminos into context.
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Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
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COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Posted on: 06/10/2015
Greetings Please edit your info regarding the Camino Primitivo in respect of carrying a tent: not necessary. I have just completed it. Regarding remoteness and being self-sufficient there is only one day that required you carry lunch and water over the Hospitales route from Borres. The rest of the route there are sufficient albergues and bar/cafes along the way for lodgings and meals. I do agree that the Primitivo is the toughest of them all, but not difficult for experience hikers.
Name: Roger Andout
Posted on: 24/01/2016
Hi Jovita, I hope to walk the Primitivo in April this year (2016) and would be glad of any tips/suggestions. Thanks.
Posted on: 17/02/2016
Hello everyone my brother and I are planning on walking El Camino del Norte this summer starting around mid June. I would love some feedback from you that have done it. How long did it take you to walk it? How many KM's a day? We have all the time we need to complete it; I read it takes anywhere from 4-8 weeks. We are thinking 7 to give us time to explore, visit some friends, and not need to be pressed for time. Say we walk for 40 of the 50 days, this would require about 21 KM a day. Does this sound reasonable? Thanks Henry
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