From Irún to Santiago de Compostela. 35 stages. 820 kilometers. It links the last two stages with the French Way.
The Camino del Norte is the Jacobean route that runs along the Cantabrian coast to reach Santiago de Compostela. As old as the French Way, the Northern Way was the route used by the European kings of the Middle Ages to reach the tomb of the Apostle.
Unique landscapes, nature in its purest form and a rich cultural heritage make the Camino del Norte one of the most attractive itineraries for the current pilgrim. Also called Camino de la Costa, the route starts in Irún and crosses the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias to enter Galicia through Ribadeo. However, not all stages run close to the coast. The mountainous sections of the Basque Country are combined with paved roads and tracks when crossing Cantabria and Asturias.
With more than 800 kilometers of route, it is the second longest route to Santiago de Compostela after the Vía de la Plata. The rise of walkers that it has experienced in recent years has led to the Camino del Norte enjoying excellent signage, especially as it passes through the Basque Country, and an important network of hostels and accommodation.
The Camino de Santiago del Norte is one of the historical routes used by European pilgrims to reach Compostela. This itinerary crosses the whole of northern Spain, following the Cantabrian coast from France to Galicia. This circumstance made it a very popular Way before the Reconquest took place, since it crossed safe territory for pilgrims and the nobility of Europe who came to visit the tomb of the Apostle Santiago.
Among the characters that contributed to popularize this Route we find Saint Francis of Assisi, who made a pilgrimage to Santiago in 1214.
When the Peninsula was again under the control of Christian rulers, the French Way took center stage over the other routes, including the Northern Way. In the last decades the Camino del Norte recovered its peak and today it is one of the favorite options, due to the beauty of its surroundings and the absolute prominence of the Cantabrian Sea.
Combination of beach and mountains
Also called Camino de la Costa, the Route starts in Irún and crosses the communities of the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias, to enter Galicia through the beautiful town of Ribadeo. The diversity of the territory and the landscape is one of the attractions of this itinerary, which encounters the hardest stages throughout the stages of Euskadi.
Cantabria will be a rest for the pilgrim who, however, will circulate on roads and tracks. Asturias and Galicia will return the walker to rural and mountainous terrain, with the last stages already far from the sea.
Some sections of this coastal route are literally attached to the coastline, offering great views of beaches and cliffs. From the surfer beach of Zarautz to the stately beach of El Sardinero in Santander or the famous inland beach of Gulpiyuri in the Asturian town of Naves.
Others pass through the interior, combining the mountains, valleys and forests. The itinerary always runs close to towns, medium-sized towns and cities such as San Sebastián or Bilbao, Castro Urdiales already in Cantabria, the beautiful Santillana del Mar or Comillas with Gaudí's Capricho.
Upon arriving in Asturias, the pilgrim will be able to enjoy Llanes and its Indian houses; Villaviciosa, famous for its cider; or Mondoñedo, one of the old seven capitals of Galicia.
Continuation with the Primitive and French Way
As it passes through Asturias, the Camino del Norte connects with the Camino Primitivo at the height of Sebrayo. The pilgrim must choose at this point between continuing to Oviedo and completing the 14 stages of the Camino Primitivo or continuing the Route along the Cantabrian coast to Gijón.
In Arzúa, where more than 780 kilometers have been traveled from Irún, the Northern Route joins the French Way to reach Santiago de Compostela. It is the second longest route to the Galician capital, after the Vía de la Plata, very intense and attractive.
The Camino de Santiago del Norte is a well-marked route, especially as it passes through the Basque Country. The increase in pilgrims registered in recent years has led this itinerary to reinforce its network of hostels and accommodations, so far enough to cover the demand for walkers and bicigrinos.
The Northern Way under sail
The Camino del Norte is one of the few Jacobean routes that can also be done by sea. Under the name 'Sail the way' or Navigate the Way, pilgrims will be able to travel the Cantabrian coast in sailing boats.
The ports of Ferrol, A Coruña or Finisterre will be the first stop on this journey, which must continue on foot to Santiago.Whoever does the Camino de Santiago by sailing will be able to get the Compostela as long as they complete a hundred miles of sailing and travel the last section on foot, from Monte do Gozo to the Cathedral, to receive the Compostela.
How to get to the starting point
How to get to Irún by train: There are long-distance trains to Irún from Madrid and Barcelona, with a transfer in Zaragoza, and service from other Spanish cities, such as Pamplona, Segovia, Burgos, Valladolid or Lleida, among others, with schedules to consult in Renfe (+34 943 61 67 08). For older people there is continuous service from Donosti-San Sebastián, in Euskotren (+34 943 450 131). To check the trains from France to Irún, it can be done through the SNCF (+33 0892 353 535).
How to get to Irún by bus: The Alsa company connects Irún with Madrid, as well as other parts of the peninsula such as Oviedo, Santander, Burgos or Vitoria. For those who want to go from Valencia, Murcia or Teruel, they have lines in the Bilmanbus company. From Barcelona, the company Vibasa - Monbús makes the tour.
How to get to Irún by car: Some 470 kilometers separate Madrid from Irún, in a journey that lasts a minimum of 4 and a half hours, along the A-1 highway and the AP1 highway, although there are free alternatives by highway and highway, although increase the distance and duration of the journey.
How to get to Irún by plane: The closest airport to Irún is San Sebastián (+34 943 668 500). It has few destinations, but it does have daily flights to Madrid and Barcelona, as well as a network of intercity buses that can transport passengers to Irún for an affordable price.
Credits: The Camino de Santiago with Correos