In order to walk somewhere you need a route or at least some directions. When trying to figure out how I was going to reach Spain, I initially got a little lost in the vast network of European pilgrim routes – there are just so many of them! In addition, most Dutch pilgrims depart in France, so the majority of the information online only provided half of the route to Santiago. Then, I discovered a website that made me do a little dance. Santiago Routes made planning your camino route into something super exciting! Using this website I have been able to (partially) plan my way to Santiago, let’s have a look shall we?
from Amsterdam via ‘s Hertogenbosch to Visé/Wezet
Since I live in Amsterdam, I will start my journey from there. As far as I could find, you can take five different routes when kicking off your pilgrimage in the Netherlands. In order to arrive in Belgium, I will commence my journey on the pilgrim path (Pelgrimspad). Why? Firstly, because it starts in Amsterdam. Second, it is an established long distance walking route marked with blazes, thus, easy to follow. This last point is very vital as, in the early stages of my walk, I do not want to get too lost ; )
from Belgium to France
My choice to walk to Visé limits my route options when proceeding to France. When walking to Visé you have already found your way to the Via Limburgia; a pilgrim route that will take you through Belgium to Rocroi in France. Just so we are clear, at this stage the total amount of kilometres will be about 616. When walking on 20 km on average, I will probably arrive in France after roughly a month of walking.
from France to Spain
France has so many walking options, you might experience some stress when picking. My decision was motivated by me really wanting to say hi to Jeanne d’Arc in Reims (her statue that is), one of the most inspiring historical figures. Likewise, I did not want to walk through Paris. You go on romantic weekend trips to Paris, walking through it sounds horrid. Consequently, I have decided to travel from Rocroi to Vėzelay – a commune where lots of pilgrims begin their camino. There are several options after Vėzelay: You can either walk to St. Jean- Pied-de-Port via Périgueux or Rocamadour, the latter of which appears to be slightly more physically demanding. As I am not sure in what kind of mindset I will be at that stage, I will decide when I get there.
routes in Spain
About 1705 kilometres later you have arrived in Spain. In Spain there are eight main routes, however, coming from St. Jean- Pied-de-Port you can either choose to walk the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte or El Camino Primitivo. The Camino Frances is the most popular route to Santiago and tends to get pretty busy during the summer months. The Camino del Norte is dubbed the coastal route and seems to be quieter and more difficult. To spice things up a bit you can always divert from the previous two routes to the El Camino Primitivo. This route is the first of the routes to Santiago and is known to be rather challenging. Although many advice the Camino Frances as the preferred route for first timers, this choice too, will largely depend on what way I feel like going at that stage of my journey and, not unimportant, how my bank account is feeling about that particular way ; )
Due to the uncertainty of the weather in March, as well as in preparation of the imagined challenge that this first month will bring, I will predetermine my route from Amsterdam to France. When arriving there and – hopefully – having acquired a daily walking routine, I would like to let the Way unfold more naturally. As you have seen here, there are many roads that lead to Santiago; the route I am describing here is just one option. Choose the route that you would like to walk, it’s your journey after all!
image credit: wikipedia.org