• Camino de Santiago, Spain
    Church of Santiago, Roncesvalles

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago — the "Way of St. James" — is Europe's ultimate pilgrimage route. Since the Middle Ages, humble pilgrims have trod hundreds of miles across the north of Spain to pay homage to the remains of St. James in his namesake city, Santiago de Compostela. There were many ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe to Santiago, but the most popular one across Spain has always been the so-called "French Road" (Camino Francés), which covers nearly 500 miles across northern Spain from the French border to Santiago. Whether undertaken for spiritual edification or sightseeing pleasure, the Camino de Santiago ties together some of Spain's most appealing landscape, history, architecture, and people.

At a Glance

These spots are listed in the order you'd reach them as you traversed the Camino de Santiago from east to west, toward Santiago de Compostela.

▲ St-Jean-Pied-de-Port Tranquil French mountain village clustered along a babbling stream — the perfect springboard for the Camino.

Roncesvalles Middle-of-nowhere spot where Camino walkers catch their collective breath after the exhausting first leg over the Pyrenees.

▲▲ Pamplona Thriving Basque town (a.k.a. Iruña) with atmospheric narrow lanes, fine churches, and world-famous Running of the Bulls.

▲ Puente la Reina Classic Camino pilgrim town with a perfectly picturesque bridge.

Irache Monastery Legendary “wine fountain” lifting pilgrims' spirits in the middle of nowhere.

▲ La Rioja A detour from the Camino (near the skippable city of Logroño) into pastoral wine country, worthwhile for oenophiles and those intrigued by charming wine towns (Laguardia) and contemporary architecture (with wineries by Gehry and Calatrava).

Santo Domingo de la Calzada Dusty village with fun legends and pilgrim amenities.

▲ Burgos Sprawling but walkable city centered on its glorious Gothic cathedral, with loads of quirky touches.

▲▲ León Bustling city with grand Gothic cathedral (crammed with Spain's best stained glass), fresco-slathered Romanesque chapel (in the San Isidro Museum), and lively tapas-bar scene.

Astorga Pleasant town graced with Antoni Gaudí's visit-worthy Bishop's Palace.

Villafranca del Bierzo Sleepy pilgrim town perched on rugged hills at the edge of Galicia.

▲▲ O Cebreiro Quintessential Galician mountain village, with stone palloza hobbit houses, a pre-Romanesque church, and oodles of pilgrim ambience.

▲ Lugo Atmospheric Galician city just off the Camino, lassoed by stout, mossy walls.

▲▲ Santiago de Compostela Destination of all those pilgrims, with an invigorating cityscape and a dramatic cathedral that's not a letdown, even after a 500-mile walk.