30/11/2023

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7 Lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

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7 Lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

The increasing popularity of the Camino de Santiago results in thousands of people walking the main Camino routes between May and September. Meeting other pilgrims is nice but it can become too much, especially if you want to have more of a spiritual experience and spend some time away from crowds. It might be a good idea to walk one of the lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes.

7 Lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes
A Camino de Santiago sign with a yellow shell on one of the lesser-known Camino routes

If you want to have fewer people on the Camino you have two options. To walk one of the routes during the off-season, between November and March which is not the best time for walking the Camino. Or to choose one of the least-traveled Camino de Santiago routes so you can enjoy the walk without rushing and worrying about finding a place to sleep. It’s a perfect option if you want to walk the Camino during the summer season and don’t want to book your accommodation in advance. 

The following 7 lesser-known routes have some infrastructure for pilgrims (less than the popular routes) and are marked. Out of the 7 off-beaten-track Camino routes we’ve walked one – the Camino de Gran Canaria. We’re planning to walk the Camino de Invierno later this year.

A map of the lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes in Spain

Camino de Santiago lesser-known routes
A map of the lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes: Camino de Madrid, Camino Catalan, Camino Mozarabe, Camino de Levante, Camino de Invierno, and Camino de Gran Canaria. Plus Camino Frances and Via de la Plata.

Camino de Le Puy (Via Podiensis), France

  • Distance – 730 km/453 mi
  • Days required – 28-32
  • Starting point – Le Puy, France
  • Finishing point – St.Jean Pied de Port from there the route continues to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Frances.

The best guidebook for the Camino Le Puy

Main cities and towns

To be honest I’m not a big expert on France. Unlike Spain where I’ve traveled extensively in France, I’ve been only to Paris. It’s difficult to judge which towns on this route are important but I’ll try. The Camino goes through Le Puy, Figeac, Moissac Conques, Cahors, and of course St.Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Best walking months

Summer months, June to August is the best time for walking this Camino though it can get busy it’s better to book accommodation in advance. May and September are good months for walking; the weather is nice and there are fewer people on the route.

The Camino Le Puy is the most popular pilgrimage route in France and yet it’s by far not as busy as some of the routes in Spain. The route is well-marked from Le Puy to St.Jean Pied de Port. From what I’ve heard from other pilgrims there are fewer public albergues. Accommodation and food are more expensive in France than in Spain. Overall the cost of the Camino is higher.

The beginning and the end of the route offer beautiful mountainous scenery. The middle part is through the fields and hills. Most of the pilgrims who walk this route are French-speaking. It’ll help a lot if you can speak basic French. The language barrier is one of the reasons I haven’t walked in France that much. 

Le Puy is a town in France where the Via Podiensis start
The beautiful town of Le Puy in France is the starting point of one of the lesser-known Camino routes

Camino de Madrid

  • Distance – 685 km/425 mi. From Madrid to Sahagún (where it joins with the Camino Francés) – 321 km/200 mi and from Sahagún to Santiago de Compostela (on the French Camino) – 364 km/226 mi.
  • Days required – 26-30 days. 12-14 days from Madrid to Sahagún and 14-16 days from Sahagún to Santiago de Compostela.
  • Starting point – Madrid
  • Regions – Comunidad Madrid, Castilla y León, Galicia

Camino de Madrid guidebooks

Main cities and towns

Madrid, Segovia, Valladolid (short detour from the Camino), León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months

The second half of April – beginning of June and September-October, though in September it can be still quite hot around Madrid. Summer months July and August are not the best time to walk this Camino, it gets hot, between 35C° and 40C°.

The Camino de Madrid is a relatively new Camino route, it starts in Madrid and goes up north to Sahagún where it joins with the French Camino. According to the guidebooks and websites on this route, there is very little walking on the road or on the asphalt, mostly walking trails. Very few pilgrims walk this Camino, on the part Madrid – Sahagún you won’t see many people but from Sahagún where it joins with the French Way there will be many pilgrims. Despite the small number of pilgrims on this route, there are several municipal and private albergues and hostels on the way, the route is well-marked. 

Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain
The Camino de Madrid starts at a small chapel next to Almudena Cathedral

Camino Catalán

  • Distance – about 1147 km/712 mi (there are several route options from Montserrat, all more or less the same distance). 471 km/292 mi from Montserrat to Puente la Reina (joins with Camino Frances), from Puente la Reina to Santiago de Compostela (on the French Way) – 676 km/420 mi.
  • Days required – 45-47 days. 17-20 days from Montserrat to Puente la Reina, 26-29 days from Puente la Reina to Santiago de Compostela. 
  • Starting point – Montserrat monastery (one of the starting points), Barcelona
  • Regions – Catalonia, Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Galicia.

The best Camino Catalan guidebook

Camino Catalan. The Tranquil Route towards Santiago de Compostela. Paperback, 2021

Main cities and towns

Barcelona, Zaragoza (Camino del Ebro), Huesca, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melide, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months

The second half of April – June, and September-October – warm but not too hot, with not much rain.

The Camino Catalán like the Camino de Madrid joins the French Camino after about two weeks and continues to Santiago de Compostela following the most popular Camino route. On the part from Barcelona, you will see very few people but once you are on the Camino Frances there will be many pilgrims.

This Camino route has several options, the main split is at Tarrega (before Lleida); one route goes through Huesca to Santa Cilia de Jaca where it joins the Camino Aragonés – an alternative route of the French Camino which goes to Puente la Reina where it merges with the main Camino Francés route. Another route goes past Lleida to Fuentes de Ebro where it joins the Camino del Ebro, the route continues past Zaragoza to Logroño where it joins the French Way. Both routes have markers, there are no/very few traditional albergues on the Camino Catalán part of the route but there are several accommodation options on the way that offer discounts for pilgrims. 

Montserrat monastery is the starting point of the Camino Catalán in Barcelona
Montserrat monastery is the beginning of the Camino Catalán, off the beaten route of Camino de Santiago

Camino Mozárabe

  • Distance – 1200 km/745 mi from Granada to Santiago, 1400 km/870 mi from Almería to Santiago. 406 km/252 mi from Granada to Mérida (where it merges with the Via de la Plata), 600 km/372 mi from Almería to Mérida, and 800 km/497 mi from Mérida to Santiago de Compostela.
  • Days required – between 45 and 55 days depending on the starting point. From Granada or Malaga to Mérida – 15-17 days + 30-33 days from Merida to Santiago. From Almería to Mérida – 23-25 days + 30-33 days from Merida to Santiago.
  • Starting point – Almería, Granada, or Malaga
  • Regions – Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns

Malaga/Granada/Almería (depending on where you start the walk), Córdoba, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months

The spring months between mid-March to May and November are the best time for walking this off-the-beaten-track Camino route. It’s not recommended to walk the Camino Mozárabe between June and September because it gets extremely hot.

The Camino Mozarabe route was established (marked) as an official Camino route only in 1999. It’s one of the newest lesser-known Camino routes with almost no infrastructure for pilgrims, no albergues, only pensions, and hotels. Pilgrims can overnight in sports complexes, schools, churches, etc. like in the old times. It’s not an easy route with long stretches between towns, very few people, and sleeping arrangement varies from day to day from a hotel room to a mattress in a sports hall. The route is well-marked. Camino Mozárabe is not recommended to walk for a first-time pilgrim.

Roman ruins in Merida, Spain
Roman ruins in Merida, the city where the lesser-known Camino Mozárabe merges with the Via de la Plata

Camino de Gran Canaria

  • Distance – 73 km/45 mi
  • Days required – 3-4 days
  • Starting point – Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria
  • Finishing point – Galar, Gran Canaria
  • Regions – the Canary Islands

Main towns

Maspalomas and Gáldar, the starting and the finishing point of the Camino.

Best walking months

the climate of the Canary Islands is very mild, even in winter it’s not cold and it doesn’t rain a lot, this route can be walked all year round but the best months are April-June and September-October, during peak season July and August some parts of the route might be quite busy. We walked the Camino Gran Canaria in October and it was great; good weather and not many people.

The Camino de Santiago de Gran Canaria is the only Camino route outside mainland Europe. In 1965 Pope John XXIII gave the city of Galdar (the end of the route) a papal bull to celebrate the Jacobean Holy Year. The bull gives Galdar the same privileges as Santiago de Compostela for this reason despite the Camino de Gran Canaria doesn’t end in Santiago it’s considered to be one of the Camino de Santiago routes. It runs across the island and connects two island’s major churches dedicated to Saint James. The Camino on Gran Canaria is a great way to combine a beach holiday on the Canary Islands with hiking. This route is the closest to a real hiking trail out of the 9 Camino routes that we’ve done. 

One of the towns on the Camino de Gran Canaria route in Spain
Spectacular scenery on the Camino Gran Canaria, one of the lesser-known Camino routes

Camino de Levante

  • Distance – 1300 km/807 mi from Valencia to Santiago. 900 km/560 mi from Valencia to Zamora (where it joins with Via de la Plata) and 400 km/248 mi from Zamora to Santiago.
  • Days required – 50-55 days. 35-38 days from Valencia to Zamora, 15-17 days from Zamora to Santiago.
  • Starting point – Valencia or Alicante
  • Regions – Comunidad Valencia, Castilla La Mancha, Comunidad Madrid, Castilla y León, Galicia

Main cities and towns

Valencia, Albacete, Toledo, Ávila, Zamora, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months

Like with most lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes spring between mid-March and May is the best time for walking the Camino de Levante.

The Camino de Levante is another very off-the-beaten-path Camino route with a handful of pilgrims every year, long solitary stretches through nothing, little infrastructure, and no albergues, only pensions and hostels. It’s marked but as not as good as the other Caminos but the route is indicated most of the time. Not recommended to walk as a first Camino. For this Camino, it’s quite important to speak and understand some Spanish most of the route goes through non-touristy parts of Spain.

The City of Arts and Science, Valencia, Spain
City of Arts and Science in Valencia, one of the cities from where you can walk the lesser-known Camino de Levante route

Camino de Invierno (the Winter Way)

  • Distance – 275 km/170 mi
  • Days required – 10-13
  • Starting point – Ponferrada
  • Regions – Galicia

The best Camino de Invierno guidebook

Main cities and towns

Ponferrada and Santiago de Compostela.

Best walking months

Initially, the Camino de Invierno was established as an alternative winter route for pilgrims walking the French Camino de Santiago. It doesn’t mean that winter is the best time. The route can be walked all year round. May to September is a good time for walking the route it doesn’t get very hot in that part of Spain and the Camino is never busy.

The Camino de Invierno was used by pilgrims who walked the French Way in winter to escape snow areas near O Cebreiro. The route was recognized as the official Camino route only in 2015 it’s the newest out of the 6 lesser-known Camino routes. Now it’s possible to get the Compostela certificate after completing this route like any other Camino.

The route is marked but not as good as more popular Camino routes. There are many accommodation options like hostels and hotels but no albergues (only a few private albergue). This Camino can be walked as a separate route or combined with the Camino Francés as an alternative and less-known route to Santiago. This way you skip the busiest part of the French Camino from Sarria.

The walls of Templars Castle in Ponferrada, Spain
Templars Castle in Ponferrada, the Camino de Invierno

Other lesser-known Camino de Santiago routes

Camino Aragonés (the Aragonese Way) – starts at the pass of Somport in the Pyrenees, at the Spanish-French border, and goes through Aragón for 170 km/105 mi till where it joins Camino Francés at Puente la Reina. The total distance to Santiago is 853 km/530 mi.

Camino del Ébro – starts in Tortosa, Catalonia, 15 km away from the Mediterranean coast, and goes for 338 km/210 mi past Zaragoza and several other towns till Logroño where it joins the French Way. The route is similar to Camino Catalán.

Camino de la Lana (the Wool Route). It starts in Alicante and goes through Central Spain for 700 km/434 mi till Burgos where it joins the French Route. Total distance to Santiago – 1200 km/745 mi. After the first 100km, the route intersects with Camino de Levante.

Spectacular mountainous scenery on one of the lesser-known Camino
Mountainous scenery on the Camino del Salvador, one of the lesser-known Camino routes in Spain

Camino del Salvador. Technically it’s not one of the Camino de Santiago routes but it’s often referred to as one of them. The Camino del Salvador is an independent trail that is often used as a connection route between the Camino Frances and the Camino Primitivo. The total distance of the route is 120 km/74,5 mi.

There are more routes from different places in Spain, France, and other European countries but they have little to no infrastructure. Spanish routes usually after a couple of days or weeks merge with one of the well-established Camino routes. There are several Camino de Santiago routes in France; the Paris and Tours Way, the Vézelay Route, the Le Puy Route, and the Arles Way. 

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