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El Camino del Norte vs El Camino Frances

Abs

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (June 2018)
#1
Hello!

My dad and I are going to walk three weeks of the Camino in June, we just cannot decide which route to walk. We are deciding between El Camino del Norte and El Camino Frances. It will be our first Camino, so we are leaning toward El Camino Frances. However we are both in excellent shape and like the idea of walking along the seaside so we are attracted to El Camino del Norte. I have read that for your first Camino it is much better to do the Frances because it is easier, is this necessarily true given our fitness level?
Some other questions:
-Which Camino has more unpaved paths? We would prefer more unpaved than paved.
-Is it harder to find an albuerque to stay in on del Norte?
-Which Camino goes through the mountains more?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
#3
@Abs I've walked both, and loved both, but I always advise people to walk the Camino Francés first. Not because it is easier (which is a myth - nothing on the Norte is as hard as the walk between SJPDP and Roncesvalles, and the same for the walk up to O Cebreiro). But because, imo, it is the essence of the "Camino" experience - quite unlike any other. If you are looking for a good hike, with nice landscapes - then the Norte is lovely. But if you are looking for a unique experience, then the Camino Frances. Apart from the Norte I've walked a few other caminos and found wonder in them all, but still regard the Francés as special. I realise this is a very personal thing, and others may disagree.

As to your other questions, the Norte has more paved roads than the Camino Frances, and yes it is harder to find albergues on the Norte (they are further apart) although there is plenty of alternative more expensive accommodation. As to which goes through the mountains more - the Norte is generally up and down over headlands and if you take the Primitivo turnoff from the Norte that is through the mountains. But the Camino Frances crosses four mountain ranges - do not think it is flat - it is not. Even the fabled "flat" meseta is actually a high plateau, and for many of us the most inspiring part of the walk. Mule Killer Hill is anything but flat!
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
#4
Agree with Kanga. I am personally a big fan of the Norte, it is my 'go to' Camino whenever I have time off because I love the sea, but there is something very unique about the Frances. I think it's because everything along the route is geared around the Camino, you pass through all of these wonderful medieval towns which are profoundly connected to the Camino so there are signs of St James everywhere, and you have that iconic landscape with the winding path stretching out in front of you for miles. It also reminds me of the Canterbury Tales, with pilgrims of all shapes and sizes together on a crazy adventure; in the morning you could be walking with a Korean nun, and in the afternoon with a French special forces soldier (true story). The Norte is physically beautiful, but you're walking through cities and towns that are famous but for reasons other than the camino, albergues are much fewer and farther between, and there are fewer pilgrims. But maybe that's what you'd prefer? Whichever you choose I'm sure it will be amazing!
 

Trude

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais 2013 Finnestere, Muxia 2013, 2017
Norte 2014, Francais, 2015, 2016, VDLP 2017
#6
I agree with Kanga. The Norte is my favourite Camino especially Irun to Bilbao, it used to be harder but with stairs and walkways it is quite a bit easier now. Like Kanga said the Frances
is very beautiful and unique. You will meet a lot of first time walkers and experience a good comradeship with fellow walkers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte April 2018
#7
Hi everyone,

I leave for Europe in 5 weeks from Australia. Originally I was planning to walk the Camino Norhe but I have decided I would like to do half the Norte and half the Frances, leaving most likely from Irun as I want to experience both and as I'm from Australia it's unlikely I will be doing it again, at least not for many,many years. Is this realistic ? I would greatly appreciate any assistance from experienced walk peregrino's and any tips of the best route to take ?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
#8
@Gypsyqueen my advice remains the same - the Camino Francés from St Jean Pied de Port all the way to Santiago de Compostela. I don't think you will get all the benefits of "the Camino" if you chop and change the route. Although you may well get a great holiday, and have a terrific time.

From my perspective the Norte is lovely, but it is no more lovely than many, many coastal walks in Australia. And the Le Puy route is equally lovely. As are many other walks in Europe. You can't tackle them all at once.

I can say as an Australia who also thought she would walk one camino and that would be it - if the Camino experience "grabs" you - it is amazing how easy it is to go back. Perhaps not immediately (life interferes) but eventually you will. And will be able to walk many of the different routes.

For me the Camino is about starting and continuing to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela. IMO.

It is about letting the Camino itself make decisions for me, rather than me "managing" how it will be. It is about a community of people who form around me as the journey progresses and who share the journey with me and with whom I form friendships. It is about letting go of cares and worries and choices and decisions and just being. It is a precious time with a simple daily routine of getting up and walking, finding something to eat, finding a bed, talking to people around me. Nothing more complicated than that. It is about having the distant goal of Santiago in the back of my mind while living fully focussed on the present. It is about being at one with the sky and the soil and the landscape. It is about getting hot and getting cold, getting wet and getting dry, being hungry and being fed. It is all about simplicity.

We spoil ourselves by trying constantly to find the "best" and being scared of missing out somehow.

Let your Camino begin -as soon as you buy your tickets!
 

RJH

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2018
#9
@Gypsyqueen my advice remains the same - the Camino Francés from St Jean Pied de Port all the way to Santiago de Compostela. I don't think you will get all the benefits of "the Camino" if you chop and change the route. Although you may well get a great holiday, and have a terrific time.

From my perspective the Norte is lovely, but it is no more lovely than many, many coastal walks in Australia. And the Le Puy route is equally lovely. As are many other walks in Europe. You can't tackle them all at once.

I can say as an Australia who also thought she would walk one camino and that would be it - if the Camino experience "grabs" you - it is amazing how easy it is to go back. Perhaps not immediately (life interferes) but eventually you will. And will be able to walk many of the different routes.

For me the Camino is about starting and continuing to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela. IMO.

It is about letting the Camino itself make decisions for me, rather than me "managing" how it will be. It is about a community of people who form around me as the journey progresses and who share the journey with me and with whom I form friendships. It is about letting go of cares and worries and choices and decisions and just being. It is a precious time with a simple daily routine of getting up and walking, finding something to eat, finding a bed, talking to people around me. Nothing more complicated than that. It is about having the distant goal of Santiago in the back of my mind while living fully focussed on the present. It is about being at one with the sky and the soil and the landscape. It is about getting hot and getting cold, getting wet and getting dry, being hungry and being fed. It is all about simplicity.

We spoil ourselves by trying constantly to find the "best" and being scared of missing out somehow.

Let your Camino begin -as soon as you buy your tickets!
Very beautifully stated.
 
D

Deleted member 12253

Guest
#10
Hello!

My dad and I are going to walk three weeks of the Camino in June, we just cannot decide which route to walk. We are deciding between El Camino del Norte and El Camino Frances. It will be our first Camino, so we are leaning toward El Camino Frances. However we are both in excellent shape and like the idea of walking along the seaside so we are attracted to El Camino del Norte. I have read that for your first Camino it is much better to do the Frances because it is easier, is this necessarily true given our fitness level?
Some other questions:
-Which Camino has more unpaved paths? We would prefer more unpaved than paved.
-Is it harder to find an albuerque to stay in on del Norte?
-Which Camino goes through the mountains more?
Toss a coin both awesome
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#11
@Abs I've walked both, and loved both, but I always advise people to walk the Camino Francés first. Not because it is easier (which is a myth - nothing on the Norte is as hard as the walk between SJPDP and Roncesvalles, and the same for the walk up to O Cebreiro). But because, imo, it is the essence of the "Camino" experience - quite unlike any other. If you are looking for a good hike, with nice landscapes - then the Norte is lovely. But if you are looking for a unique experience, then the Camino Frances. Apart from the Norte I've walked a few other caminos and found wonder in them all, but still regard the Francés as special. I realise this is a very personal thing, and others may disagree.

As to your other questions, the Norte has more paved roads than the Camino Frances, and yes it is harder to find albergues on the Norte (they are further apart) although there is plenty of alternative more expensive accommodation. As to which goes through the mountains more - the Norte is generally up and down over headlands and if you take the Primitivo turnoff from the Norte that is through the mountains. But the Camino Frances crosses four mountain ranges - do not think it is flat - it is not. Even the fabled "flat" meseta is actually a high plateau, and for many of us the most inspiring part of the walk. Mule Killer Hill is anything but flat!
And... a three week walk would probably leave out the last 150 ish kilometers. While the entire experience is well worth it, I found the last bit from Sarria, to be of a different nature
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), Primitivo(13), Norte(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18)
#12
Hello!

My dad and I are going to walk three weeks of the Camino in June, we just cannot decide which route to walk. We are deciding between El Camino del Norte and El Camino Frances. It will be our first Camino, so we are leaning toward El Camino Frances. However we are both in excellent shape and like the idea of walking along the seaside so we are attracted to El Camino del Norte. I have read that for your first Camino it is much better to do the Frances because it is easier, is this necessarily true given our fitness level?
Some other questions:
-Which Camino has more unpaved paths? We would prefer more unpaved than paved.
-Is it harder to find an albuerque to stay in on del Norte?
-Which Camino goes through the mountains more?
ABS:

I have walked both of these Camino's.

Most people suggest the Frances as a first Camino because it has much more infrastructure and more people walk the route, imo. Therefore, you have more options on the length of your daily walk and more support from other walkers.

The Norte is more difficult day in and out. There are no 1900 meter climbs like the Frances on the first day but there are lots of 500 meter climbs.

There is more road walking on the Norte but a lot of that is rural and therefore not a lot of traffic.

The Albergues are spread farther apart so not as many daily options on walking distance.

There is more mountain walking on the Frances.

Three weeks is not enough time to finish either Camino, imo.

There are lots of great sea views on the Norte and the food, imo, is much better if you like fish.

Whichever path you choose will be the right one.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), Primitivo(13), Norte(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18)
#13
Hi everyone,

I leave for Europe in 5 weeks from Australia. Originally I was planning to walk the Camino Norhe but I have decided I would like to do half the Norte and half the Frances, leaving most likely from Irun as I want to experience both and as I'm from Australia it's unlikely I will be doing it again, at least not for many,many years. Is this realistic ? I would greatly appreciate any assistance from experienced walk peregrino's and any tips of the best route to take ?
Gypsyqueen:

You can walk the Norte to Oviedo and then take a train or bus to Leon and walk the Frances from there.

There is an option to walk the San Salvador from Oviedo to Leon but you would be walking the opposite direction of the markings.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

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