An in-depth look at Terrain

Camino Frances

The Camino Frances or the French Way is the classic Camino and stretches approximately 780 km across northern Spain.  It begins with a strenuous hike over the foothills of the Pyrenees.  From there it follows hilly, woodland paths and winds through the fields, villages, and towns of Navarra and Rioja.  The route then climbs to the high plateau of the Meseta in Castille and Leon.  Here the exposed, treeless route consists of long stretches of nearly flat dirt or gravel paths through sparsely populated agricultural land.  This area also contains long walks through the beautiful cities of Burgos and Leon.  After leaving the Meseta, the route crosses the Montes de Leon into Galicia.  The path through Galicia includes steep, rocky ascents and descents, open upland, wooded paths, and small rural roads through pastures and villages.  Rural tranquility yields to excitement with a sweeping descent by road into Santiago.

Camino Norte 

The Camino Norte or the Northern Way is a 465 km world of extremes.  The first section extends from San Sebastian to Bilbao in the Basque Country.  It takes in many types of terrain including grassy fields, rolling hills, country lanes, coastlines, forests, villages, and jagged mountains.  After leaving the city and suburbs of Bilbao the terrain becomes less strenuous but still dramatic.  The paths wind along coastal cliffs, occasional steep hills, and flat walks along marshland and beaches before reaching Santander.  After Santander the route meanders through meadows and villages and along the wild Cantabrian and Asturian coast.  The route then heads inland to Oviedo and the start of the Camino Primitivo.

Camino Primitivo

The approximately 330 km Camino Primitivo or Original Way begins in hilly farmland and villages before crossing the Cantabrian Mountains.  This challenging section is wild, wooded, and sparsely populated with long ascents and descents on roads and paths.  As the route descends from Asturias into Galicia, walking becomes easier with a return to farmland, villages, towns, and forests.  The Primitivo joins the Camino Frances in Melide, about 40 km from Santiago.  From there it consists of forest tracks, villages, and quiet country roads before entering the more developed environs of Santiago.