Said to be the oldest Camino route, the Camino del Norte, also known as the Northern Route or the Coastal Camino, is an obvious choice for those pilgrims looking for a more scenic and solitary experience.
Rich in history, the Camino del Norte was once the safest passage for pilgrims, but slowly lost its popularity to the favour of the Camino Frances, the less challenging route to Santiago de Compostela. The Northern Route leads into lush green hills and mountains along Picos de Europa in Asturias, and along the sea with its breathtaking views and unspoilt beaches, for those who want to take a swim in the ocean! The distance from Irún to Santiago is 825km in total and can be conquered comfortably in 31 stages. Or, you can opt to walk via the Cornella Monastery – the Camino Primitivo, the original way, for 318 km.
There is a lot to experience walking the Camino del Norte, so to help you plan your journey and make it as memorable as possible, we spent some time putting together some ‘take away’ notes for you!
History Of The Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte is an ancient route to Santiago de Compostela. During the 9th century, King Alfonso of Asturias made this pilgrimage to the relics of St James. The Middle Ages saw the Moorish armies work their way North, and that made the French Way more dangerous. Providing safe passage through Kingdoms of Faith, the Camino del Norte became the popular way for pilgrims to reach Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino de la Costa became known as a much easier route than trying to conquer the Cantabrian Mountains, but with the dawn of the 11th century and the reconquest of Spain the Camino Frances became less dangerous and quickly took preference for pilgrims traveling from France. Political unrest, the black death and European reformation from the 14th to the 16th Century forced fewer pilgrims to make their way to Santiago, and the Camino del Norte grew quieter. With green hillside, landscapes and secret coves, The Northern way is fast growing in popularity with the modern Pilgrim.
Camino del Norte Stages
Day 1. Irún to San Sebastián
Day 2. San Sebastián to Getaria
Day 3. Getaria to Deba
Day 4. Deba to Markina-Xemein
Day 5. Markina-Xemein to Guernica
Day 6. Guernica to Bilbao
Day 7. Bilbao to Pobeña
Day 8. Pobeña to Castro Urdiales (Cantabria)
Day 9. Castro Urdiales to Laredo
Day 10. Laredo to Güemes
Day 11. Güemes to Santa Cruz de Bezana
Day 12. Santa Cruz de Bezana to Santillana del Mar
Day 13. Santillana del Mar to Comillas
Day 14. Comillas to Colombres (Asturias)
Day 15. Colombres to Llanes
Day 16. Llanes to San Esteban de Leces
Day 17. San Esteban de Leces to Villaviciosa
Day 18. Villaviciosa to Gijón, 29km/18 miles
Days 18-19. The optional route to Oviedo to continue on the Camino Primitivo.
Day 19. Gijón to San Martin de Laspra
Day 20. San Martín de Laspra to Soto de Luiña
Day 21. Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo
Day 22. Cadavedo to Piñera
Days 23. Piñera to Tapia de Casariego to Vilela
Day 24. Tapia de Casariego to Vilela
Day 25. Vilela to Mondoñedo
Day 26. Mondoñedo to Castromaior
Day 27. Castromaior to Baamonde
Day 28. Baamonde to Sobrado dos Monxes
Day 29. Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzua
Day 30. Arzua to O Pedrouzo
Day 31. O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela
Camino del Norte Maps
The Camino del Norte stretches along the Peninsula coast, hugging the Cantabrian Sea along the hubs of northern Spain. Starting from Irún in the direction to Compostela, it leaves behind a trail full of history, and winds through cities such as Getaria, Bilbao, Santander and Galicia. It offers options of taking a connection that guides you along the Primitive Way to Oviedo or, continuing on the Northern Way through Arzura and Pedrouzo to your journey’s end in Santiago.
How Long is Camino del Norte?
The Camino del Norte offers a great scenic walking experience through Northern Spain. Starting in Irún, at the French border, the route runs along the coast and passes through the stunning town of San-Sebastián; the Basque city of Bilbao; and the flamboyant city of Santander. The route of the Camino del Norte is 825km long. If you are less adventurous, opt for the Camino Primitivo making it 867km from Irún to Santiago de Compostela.
When is the Best Time to Walk Camino del Norte?
With the Camino Del Norte being so close to the coast, the weather is always unpredictable – scorchingly hot one day, and pouring with rain the next. As the coastal routes are not as hot as the inland routes, and with a steady chance of rain on one or more days of your pilgrimage, the warmer months of June, July, August and September are generally considered the best times to walk the del Norte. We advise any Pilgrim to come prepared for whatever the weather may hold.
Accomodation on Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte runs for more than 800 km through beautiful, serene and wonderful places and is a more solitary alternative to the more popular and busy French Way. Due to its landscaped scenery along the coast and mountains, there are less pilgrim albergues along this way. To help you so you can better plan your rest stops, we have included a list of Camino del Norte albergues.
Best Guide Book for Camino del Norte
If you’d like a guide book to aid your Northern pilgrimage, Camino del Norte: Irun to Santiago along Spain’s Northern Coast has your back.
It covers everything you need including practical information on what to pack, how to travel, where to stay, and much more. Don’t forget to check out our review of the best Camino de Santiago guide books as well.
Camino del Norte: Irun to Santiago – Matthew Harms
The Northern Camino a comprehensive guide