The Northern Camino

El Camino de Santiago del Norte or Ruta de la Costa is a less travelled (but older than El Camino Frances) route to Santiago de Compostela. El Camino del Norte -as it’s best known- follows the Spanish Northern coast from the border with France and it goes along the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias to finally enter Galicia and reach its destination Santiago de Compostela with its impressive cathedral where the tomb of apostle St. James is.

El Camino del Norte was one of the first pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela when most of the Iberian Peninsula was still under the dominance of the Muslim. El Camino del Norte was already travelled in the 9th century thanks to the protection that high mountain ranges (Cordillera Cantabrica and Picos de Europa) provided for the Christian pilgrims since the Muslim couldn’t dominate that part of the Iberian Peninsula between the mountains and the North coast.

Therefore, the pilgrims walk between the snowed mountains and the beautiful coast, enjoying an impressive view of the mountains on one side and in touch with the sea on the other side which makes it very easy to find breathtaking cliffs or amazing solitary beaches to have a bath (if it’s summer). The landscape is very green, full of forests and prairies, and the way also goes through beautiful coastal villages with the best food and cider that you could imagine.

El Camino del Norte is much less travelled than the most popular route El Camino Frances but lately the number of pilgrims is increasing very quickly precisely because of its natural beauty. Summer is the busiest period and in the summer 2009 there were aproximately from 20 to 30 pilgrims walking the same stage I was walking.

52 thoughts on “The Northern Camino”

  1. Hello,
    Robert and I are walking the camino Norte starting on May 10. We then take a bus to Leon and then walk on to SAntiago.
    My question to you is:
    We are in the mid to late seventies. This will be my fourth trip to Santiago(from (Roncesvalles) on the French route, and my first on the Norte Route.
    Will it be a lot more difficult on the Norte route for our age. And what is the Albergue situation on this route.
    We do plan on taking the occasional bus along the way as we only have 3 weeks. Any info and advice will be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Maureen Chernick

    1. Hello Maureen,
      I think the Camino del Norte is indeed harder than the Camino Frances, and there are less hostels and sometimes they are more separated. Having said that, I walked it some years ago, and I know many new hostels have opened since.
      But you shouldn’t have problems if you’re getting the support of occasional buses and taxis, just plan very well the stages and measure your strengths, and if some stage is too long for you just take a lift or stay in a ‘normal’ hostel or hotel. 🙂
      I hope you enjoy it, it’s a beautiful one.
      Buen Camino

  2. Hi,
    I will be walking the Camino del Norte this summer starting from Irun. I would love to take my dog with me but I am a little bit worried about stray and aggressive dogs on the way. I am also a little worried about accommodation. I have no problem sleeping in a tent but I would still like to have a wash in the evenings.
    I would love to hear your advice or thoughts on this.
    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi
      Having walked the Camino Frances alone, and the Camino Ingles together with my wife in 2014, we plan to start the Camino del Norte this year together and with our dog. We will also start in Irun. We will have to do it in stages (there is only so much annual leave I can take in one piece). We also decide to take our dog with us.
      Having walked two and a half Caminos (Frances, Ingles, Finisterre-Muxia) I am not really worried about stray dogs – only a single encounter, fended off easily with pretending to pick up and throw a stone.
      As dogs are a tricky business in Spain, we had to plan in advance and tried to find places which welcome dogs. (Problems with public transport – not completely forbidden, size dependend, but difficult, sleeping in a tent was not our preferred option, as the northern coast of Spain is lush and green (for frequent rain),
      The Spaniards themselves are 50/50 about dogs (Marmite-like) love them or hate them.

      1. Hi,
        I am starting the Norte next week with my dog.

        Have you identified places to stay with you dog in Sam Sebastian? I am getting a little nervous of finding a place there.


    2. Valerie. Did you walk the Camino del Norte. Did you find it difficult to find a place to stay along the route. Did you get a guide book? Were there many people for company. Sorry for all the questions but I intend to walk it this summer and find it difficult to find information on it.

        1. Hi Anna and Linda
          I am looking into it too this summer. Maybe July or August. I know the area well. I am just worried about the sleepiness of the climbs as my lung capacity isn’t great. I am just slow going up. Fine on the flat and decent.

  3. I am also planning on hiking the El Camino del Norte this summer. I guess as I get closer to booking my flight, I am getting a little bit nervous as I will be doing this alone. For those of you who have hiked it, will there be people for me to meet along the way and perhaps hike with? I am a fairly strong hiker as I hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I just don’t want to have a summer where I am primarily alone in beautiful places. Can someone let me know if I am misguided in worrying about this? I didn’t want to the do the Camino Frances because it seems like that would just be a roving party across Spain. And while I like parties, I also like a more intimate experience than anonymous fun. 🙂

  4. Hi,
    A friend of mine an I are planning to cycle El Camino this coming September and we were thinking of either El Camino Frances or El Norte. We’re in good shape and 49-53yrs. old. I’m sure I can do the Frances by bike, but I know nothing of the terrain on the Camino El Norte and would like to know if it can be cycled, is it really hilly and would there be lots of automobile traffic if we were to choose El Camino Norte? I like the idea of playa, costa y cidra Asturiana. Love to hear your knowledge and opinion. Gracias.

    1. I have never cycled el camino del norte, but some friend did and he was very pleased, he didn’t complain about cars since normally road are back roads. About the terrain I think is very doable, you don’t have to go up any mountain, it’s just that it’ll be always hilly….

  5. My question is regarding to roads? How much % of the road are paved? I read that more than at the Frances Route.
    Im asking bec i had joint problems, so i prefer unpaved road for walking.

    1. Just guessing I’d say there might be 50% of paved roads, whereas in the French route maybe 33% of paved roads 🙂

  6. Hi,
    I am considering this route, having walked the Camino Frances 14 years ago – one of the best and most profound experiences of my life. Where would one begin? Thank you for any information you might provide.

  7. I have just starting planning, and hope to do the camino with my daughter next summer. I am leaning towards taking the Northern route, but am a bit intimidated by the long stretches between accommodation spots. How easy is it to find good spots to camp? Would there be lots of places to hang a hammock tent, like the Tensile Tree Tents (

    1. watch this 😀 i think this has giving me my answer …some slight reinforcement with some extra sticks and id say you could get it off the ground quite small so this is perfect for me …also you can buy foldable hammock stands.also if youre willing to spend theres another link …same idea if i had the cash i definatley would …it would save the heartache!!!!!

  8. We are thinking of walking San Sebastion to Bilbao in late October… will there weather be too cool and rainy by then?

    1. mmm, it could be quite good yet but also it can be rainy already, most probably you’ll get a mixture of rainy and sunny spells (beautiful), but the temperatures should be still pleasant 🙂

  9. I am very interested in walking the northern route, mainly because I hear that the Camino Frances has become very busy. People describe the northern route as peaceful and scenic – but when I look at the map it seems to follow closely the route of all the major roads along the coast. What is the northern route really like day to day – is it calm and peaceful?! Is it scenic? Or will I spend a lot of time walking with the sound of the motorway?
    I would really value the opinions of people who have been this way.

    1. Hi David,
      Did you go? If so, were your questions answered as I am wondering the same thing. If you did go, you may still be walking! I am planning a trip starting 1st week in September, solo. From what I’ve read, it’s a good month to do this route. Thank you-victoria

  10. Hi
    I have walked the Camino Frances a few times and this year I am going to walk the Camino Del Norte.Can anybody tell me if I can pre book any accommodation in Markina-Xemein ,I’m wondering if the Albergue de Peregrinos in the Convento de Los Padres has this facility
    Really looking forward to this walk!

  11. I want to walk the El Camino Norte to Primitivo and on to Santiago. My problem is time. I believe, this would take 30 days at the least. Am I correct? Also, I wanted to start on the French side and it seems ( from my research) that one only crosses the Pyrenees going on the Camino Frances. How can I do this and take the Norte route? And how many more days would that be? Thanks!

  12. I will be leaving from Gijon on the 16th of September by bicycle. If anyone wants to ride along let me know. I plan on 9 to 10 days to Santiago.

  13. I did Camino del Norte in Year 2014. It took 24 days from San Sebastian. Do it turns out my average was 40 km per day. I suggest to hold to a certain plan (distance per day). It is possible to get accommodation for each night, I slept some nights outside in a sleeping bag, but the reason was the lack of finances.

  14. Hi I am planning to walk the Camino Northe with my husband in early September and finding it difficult to source information. Can anyone recommend a good guide book in English. Also what should the weather be like this time of year.

  15. My husband and I begin Camino del Norte June 23. We have the guide book Caminos Norte and will follow it. Having finished Camino Frances we know the hikes are steeper. We like hotels and hope for the best! Buen Camino.

  16. My sister just finished Camino Frances in 36 days. She said they had to make reservations for future villages about 20 days in because there were waves of over 400 people starting each day. We never had to do that last summer 2015. So beware of summer travel.

  17. I plan to be walking the Camino del Norte next year on my 80th birthday. Si Dios quere! I have walked several Caminos but never
    El Norte. How difficult would it be to find a place to stay about every 20 miles or so???

    I would start at Gijon mid September and arrive at Santiago on or around the 12th. At my age, is that possible?
    Thanks for your info.

    1. Hi Margaret,
      Wow, that’s an awesome plan for an 80th birthday. From Gijon onwards the albergues are much more frequent than until Gijon, I made this Camino 5 years ago and I only found one stretch too long (about 30-35km) without albergue, but most probably today there must be already several options there.
      Good luck and buen Camino!!

    2. It should not be difficult to find places if you can walk 20 miles. We walked the route in 2015-2016 and averaged more like 10-12. If the distance is too far, you can easily get a taxi to take you a few miles out, and then you can continue on on foot (easier than trying to find a taxi when 5 miles from your destination). I am 75, my husband is 80. This is a beautiful trail (maybe my favorite of all.)

  18. Hi Ferdiaca,
    Thanks for the quick response! I’m hoping that after five years,
    there might new albergues on that long stretch.(30-35kms wow!)
    I read that most of the Camino del Norte has mostly paved roads.
    Did you find that to be true?
    Again, thanks for the info.

    1. Hey there,
      Well yes if compared with Camino Frances, it is not saying that all routes are paved but more than in el Frances. It makes sense since being a much rainier and wetter area, it’s more practical to have the paths paved, but they are normally very quiet, maybe some tractor from time to time. Nevertheless, I found that once I entered Galicia there was more abundance of dirt routes again.
      Buen Camino!

  19. Hi has anyone completed the Camino Northe this year 2016. Are there many hostels along the way from Sansebastian to Santander. Also are there options to get a bag transferred daily. I plan to walk beginning of September and can’t wait

    1. Anna1,

      I am planning to start in Luarca in September and looking for hostels that I could reserve in advance. Did you get any information?

    2. There are accommodations between San Sebastian and Santander — some albergues and some small hotels. We usually did 20 or fewer kilometers. There seem to be bag transfers options all over the place. Have a great hike!

  20. I’m 61 in good shape doing a fair bit of running but not much hiking so the feet are not conditioned. I will be spending 5-7 weeks on the Del Norte August to Oct and plan to start slow to work them in. Any suggestions on where to spend the first few nights..(someplace between Irun and San Sebastian) and then again midway between stages 2 and 3 and 3 and 4?
    Also some conclusive advice on bringing a one person tent to avoid the most over-crowded alberges?

  21. Hi! I plan to walk the Northern Route September and October, solo. I have walked the French Way 3 years ago. Am wondering if there is much wildlife along this route?


    1. Hello Renee, I did most of this route a couple of years ago over five weeks and didn’t come across much wildlife at all. The odd dead snake, but that was it really. The views on El Norte make up for it though, stunning! And some beaches are idyllic! ¡Buen Camino!

  22. Hello fellow Pilgrims. I’m struggling on finding the distances between towns, especially La Caridad onwards. Can anyone recommend a book, or shall I carry on as before? From Biarritz, France to La Caridad two years ago, without a map! Many Germans on this route (I understand that one of their famous comedians wrote a book about El Camino, so it’s a really popular walk for them and very well known). They are very well organised, helpful and fun to be with! I made some great friends along the way! Now I plan to finish my Camino……….

  23. Hi there

    What a useful forum. My father and his dog will be walking the Camino del Norte (Santander to Ribadeo) and Ingles (all the way from Ferrol) this autumn as part of his 80th birthday celebrations (he’s been celebrating all year so he is rather nearer 81 now!).

    I wonder if any of you have any ideas that might help in the rest of our planning? Ideally we are looking at a number of bases so he can leave his luggage / dog stuff rather than carry it, have a decent nights sleep without having to worry about where he might sleep the next night as well as wash and generally recover (especially if he needs some time out).

    The plan is he will come and go from each base for about 3 or 4 days. We have found a great sounding place between Santiago and Ribadesella but does anyone know of another place between Ribadesella and Ribadeo and anything south of Ferrol, preferably about half way along the Ingles? We will need two rooms and somewhere happy to take a dog.

    Fingers crossed some of you lovely sounding people (so many of you seem to have been traveling along this beautiful Camino over the last couple of years and taking your dogs, so I live in hope!) may have some ideas.


  24. We will be walking the Northern way In September/October next year (2017). Do you recommend we wear high, mid or ankle footwear. Greatfull for any advice. First time hikers.
    Leanne and Morgan

    1. We are on the Camino del Norte at the moment. Started in Biarritz Sep 7 and reached Colunga today 27 sep. My husband and I both wear ankle shoes as we were recommended to take shoes as light as possible. Frankly on a few days between Itun and Gernica it would have been nice to have hiking boots, but after that, definitely not. it does get hot during the day, so we are hapy with our choice. Waterproof for sure because it rains often.

  25. Hello Pilgrims

    I am planning to do th walk from st jean pied de port starting from next week. As this is my first walk and im doing it alone, i really would appreciate if i can talk to any pilgrim to know more details about the walk, the stay and how to return after finishing the walk. As it’s the month of october, i assume the weather would be quite cold and rainy. As well would like to know if anyone else is planning to do the walk during this period.

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