For as long as I can remember I’ve loved Spain and much of what comes with it. Today I want to share a glimpse of what I consider to be one of the most rustic and beautiful ways to truly experience Spain and the Spanish culture: The Camino de Santiago.
Traditionally a Christian pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Camino de Santiago requires travellers to walk at least 100km from any point on the paths, ending at Catedral Santiago de Compostela (the resting place of St James). These days, though, it’s not just a religious journey. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino every year – whether they be in search of God, architecture, art, solitude, sunshine or a million other things. Not to be mistaken with a simple “walking holiday” – the Camino de Santiago, to me, represents a wonderful tradition and exciting prospect for adventurous travellers who want to experience a deeper connection to places they visit.
What I love most about the Camino de Santiago is the simplicity of it all. Take your bag and walk. Today you might reach the next town – or not. Strolling through the Spanish landscapes with a river (sometimes a trickle) of other pilgrims is beautifully therapeutic, and gives many opportunities for bonding, soul-searching and self reflection.
It also gives you the opportunity to see the real Spain – farming town, sleepy village Spain where English isn’t widely spoken. The Spain where you can’t find an open shop on Sundays, and where locals will peek out of shuttered houses to point you back in the right direction, and where honesty boxes are still a very popular way to sell eggs on the roadside.
You might eat a simple meal of bread and cheeses one day, but be offered a local fisherman’s catch of the day the next. One evening you could drink heartily from the local fountain which still runs with (free) red wine – and the next you might struggle to buy a bottle of water.
You’ll reset yourself to the simplest, most satisfying pleasures of a tired body and the promise of deep sleep – and I’d challenge you not to have a new perspective when you get home.