The Camino de Santiago draws thousands of people every year to make the legendary pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Most do it on foot, some do it on bicycle, and still others do it on horseback. Whatever your chosen mode, there are many spectacular, quaint, or delightful places to enjoy along the way. Here are a few must-see sites on the Camino.
This fantastic masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and art in Vézelay, France, was originally a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery. One of its most unique and stunning features is its alignment with the sun. The internal structure was designed to accommodate sunlight with precise illumination. Every year, on the summer solstice, the light streaming in through the south windows lands directly in the middle of the nave. The Abbey is about 1,000 miles (or 1,600 kilometers) from Santiago de Compostela so it is best for pilgrims who want to travel a long distance.
After miles of walking, a field of sunflowers is a welcome sight. If you walk the Camino de Santiago sometime during July or August, you’ll be more likely to see sunflower fields in full bloom. Farmers rotate their crops so the fields won’t necessarily be in the same spot every year, but they will be prolific.
The Town of Fisterra
This quaint little fishing town sits on the Atlantic coast of Galicia, about 100 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela. Its name, which was bestowed on it by the Romans, means Land’s Ends or The End of the World. The Romans named it so because they considered this town to be the furthest point of their massive empire and pilgrims traveled to it in order to see “The End of the World.” Fisterra has some of the most spectacular beaches and captivating sunsets–not too bad for a town that’s on the edge of civilization.
The Pyrenees Mountains
This part of the journey is not for the faint of heart. The rigorous climb is towards the start of the Camino, for those who choose to include it in their trek. Hikers must climb up and down 4,200 feet for a span of 15 miles to cross from France into Spain. Once they’ve crossed over, they still have 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela. Unpredictable weather can make the hike more difficult and even treacherous in the winter months. A redeeming factor are the cute little towns nestled on each side of the hike–St Jean Pied de Port on the French side and Roncesvalles on the Spanish side.
The Camino de Santiago can be started from many different locations and this list is only the beginning of the many points of interest that can be enjoyed along the trails. Regardless of the route you take, you will be sure to encounter the beauty of nature, the charm of small towns and villages, and the stunning artistry of millenniums-old architecture.