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.