The Camino del Norte is an ocean and mountain lover’s pilgrimage. Webs of footpaths have for millennia interwoven along this sublime Atlantic coastline of steep cliffs, blue Atlantic, and green-gray Cantabrian mountains. With the ocean to the north and the mountains to the south, the Camino del Norte makes its way west through a natural corridor distinct from the rest of Spain, a green land of bagpipes, Celts, and cider.
That the coast is sandwiched between ocean and mountains makes for a deeply fulfilling, if more challenging, pilgrimage trek than the more popular route, the Camino Francé , just south and inland from here. But all roads, here as there, lead to Santiago de Compostela.
You can strike out on the Camino del Norte from any coastal starting point in southwestern France or across northern Spain.
Many people begin in Basque Country, at Biarritz, Bidart, Hendaye, Irún, San Sebastian, or Bilbao. This encompasses the steepest and most challenging physical terrain of the whole route.
All the starting and ending points will include stunning views of ocean and mountains as well as engaging local cultures.
Wherever you begin, you will encounter rich social life, gorgeous medieval stone villages, beautiful and wild landscapes, and exquisitely fresh and delicious food and drink.
On the Camino del Norte pilgrims and trekkers also find a green and intimate world of fisherman, farmers, and rugged mountain people whose life and culture are quite diverse, even their languages—from Basque Country (euskera) to Asturias (asturiano) to Galicia (gallego).
Throughout you will in lush forest and beautiful coastline defined by an old matriarchal culture rife with ancient nature spirits. This is best expressed through the many shrines dedicated to a seafaring Mary. She is this corridor’s protectress of people, coast, land., and boats.
The Camino del Norte is in many ways a more challenging trek than the Camino Francés. Each day may demand covering longer distances because of more spartan accommodations.
There are also more inclines and declines and more remote settings. But then, the rewards can be greater because of the greater effort.
Stay tuned as our destination expert, Beebe Bahrami, gets itineraries and recommendations up and running. In the meantime, see her top fifteen must-see sites on the Camino del Norte on Fodors.com.
Check out these practical considerations for walking the Camino Francés. They also apply to the Camino del Norte. These are links noted in the yellow bar at the top of the page (When to Go, How Much it Will Cost, and Transportation).