One place to start the Camino de Santiage is along “The French Way,” the branch of the Camino that unites various routes through France and across Spain. It is one of the oldest and most-walked trails in the world, dating back by most estimates to the 9th Century.
The Camino de Santiago is said to have begun when the bones of the apostle St. James were discovered by a farmer on a starry night in Galicia, Spain. People from all across Europe came to see the remains, dragging their feet through the same dirt that you can today.
As you walk, you pass small villages where you can refill your water, buy fruit and bread, and collect a stamp in your “pilgrim’s passports.” Walkers are required to receive a stamp in these booklets in two different locations each day to receive the coveted compostela upon reaching the Pilgrim’s office at the end of the walk.
If the office finds that you have walked at least 100 km, which many people accomplish by starting in Sarria and completing the last three days of the journey, you earn the compostela — a scroll covered in Latin, congratulating you on your pilgrimage.
The Camino is full of treasures, and it brings walkers through landscapes that feel ancient and untarnished, but the concrete sprawl and neon-glow of Santiago are creeping back along the route at an alarming rate.