Northern Way or El Camino del Norte – Explained

Written by Gail Delahunt

The Camino del Norte or Northern Way is a route of the Camino de Santiago which starts in Irun, Northern Spain. The route finishes in Santiago de Compostela (the final stage of this walk is along The Original Way). It travels along the coast of the north of Spain for almost 500 kilometers. It passes through the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia.

The Origin of El Camino del Norte

Camino del NorteThe origin of the El Camino del Norte pilgrimage dates back to the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Saint James the Great around 820. The original routes from the old Kingdom of Asturias were the first to take pilgrims to Santiago.

Long before the Spanish monarchs proclaimed the French Way to be the ideal route. The Camino del Norte was as busy as older pilgrimage routes. It provided a link for the Christian kingdoms in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The endorsement of the French Way did not, however, bring about the decline of the Asturian and Galician pilgrimage routes. In fact, the route from Leon to Oviedo enjoyed even greater popularity from the late 11th century onwards.

Northern WayPilgrims walking the Northern way came by land from France. They also came by sea from Atlantic nations such as England, Flanders, Germany,  Ireland, and Scandinavia. These nations reached the ports of the Basque Country and Cantabria.

Pilgrims would then set out towards the sanctuary of San Salvador of Oviedo and the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

You can read a more detailed history of the Camino del Norte here.

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What can you expect on the Northern Way

If you are looking for a walking holiday destination, you will enjoy El Camino del Norte. You will pass through delightful towns and villages such as Gernika, Portugalete, Laredo, and Santillana del Mar. Northern Europeans tend to find this route easier to walk in Summer, due to the cooler weather systems. Fresh coastal winds help to ensure you’re kept cool and fresh during long summer days.

The food along this route is second to none. Portions are generally large, food is hearty and cider is a way of life! Expect a lot of seafood, comforting stews, and local ham.

The scenery is dramatic when you are out on the coast. Further inland, you should expect emerald greens of the like you’d expect to see in Ireland. The north of Spain is very picturesque so trust us, you’ll never be bored by – just walking.

Take a look at our article on the Camino del Norte which is now part of UNESCO World Heritage list here.

Contact us at for any questions on this route or other Camino de Santiago tours.

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Originally published on 27th June 2015

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