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How is Camino del Norte Different from Camino Frances

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
This is one peregrino’s perspective so admittedly biased but I also talked with other pilgrims who have done both to confirm these points.
--------
1. MORE BEAUTIFUL NATURE ON DEL NORTE:

You walk in the mountains and near or on the coast so the combined views are spectacular especially near the sea. Particularly so during the first week or so in Basque Country. That said the landscapes on Frances are more varied.

2. LESS INFRASTRUCTURE:

Not as bad as the Camino VIA DE LA PLATA, but certainly less than Camino Frances. You can walk sometimes 15K or more with no Albergue’s or bars open. I walked in Sept. and Oct. so I imagine July and August would be better.

3. LESS FLEXIBILITY REQUIRING MORE PLANNING:

On Frances you can just wake up and pack your gear and start walking. You are never far from a cafe or albergue. On Del Norte because of Point 2. you really need to do some planning before you start each day.
But in truth I did not plan much and rarely carried food and never went too hungry.

4. MORE INTIMATE:

If you find Frances too crowded you will like Del Norte as you can walk 30k and see as little as 4-5 people but rarely more than 10-12 in a day. Of course this will depend on the time of year you go and your speed. You usually know most of the people at the Albergue each night. I began Sept. 21 and entered Santiago Oct. 21. 31 days.

5. MORE MOUNTAINOUS MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT:

This seems to be the view of many. I think it is relative. A bit harder than Frances but I don’t think that much so. Although I seem to be in the minority preferring hilly trails versus level walking. Also, it is certainly easier than walking in mountains such as the Alps, Rockies, Himalayas, etc.

6: MORE OF A RACE FOR BEDS:

While there are a lot less pilgrims on del Norte, I believe the race for beds is more intense because the supply is low. Also especially during the summer months when pilgrims compete with beach tourists who make reservations. This situation is most intense in the Basque Country but not an issue after Gijon when many pilgrims have veered onto Primitivo making Del Norte very quiet. If you are an early starter it is rarely a problem finding a bed but if you start late and or are a slow walker reservations might make sense.

7. THE PILGRIMS ARE A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT MIX:

On Frances you meet more unusual people; blind, one arm, in wheelchairs, in their 80’s or 90’s, terminally ill, families, etc.. On Del Norte you get more typical hikers seeking nature. Or seeking more solitude. Not saying either is better, just different. But it does change the vibes.

8. MORE OF A WALK VERSUS A PILGRIMAGE:

Del Norte does not have all the history the Camino Frances has. The vast majority of pilgrims in medieval times would use Frances as there was more infrastructure, with churches, hospitals, and even protection by knights. So there are no stories like the chickens of Santo Domingo, or the Don Quinones bridge in Hospital Orbego, or the story of the priest and devout shepherd of O Cebriero. This plus 5. makes it feel like a bit less of a pilgrimage and more of a long walk at times.

9. LESS CAMINO SPIRIT ON DEL NORTE:

Del Norte is along the beautiful coast of Northern Spain the first few weeks and you will find that there are tourists mixed in with pilgrims. I talked with 3 Del Norte albergue owners about this who all agreed and one told me that they had to bar pilgrims that sent their bags ahead or did not walk more than 10k because many tourists come for cheap beach holidays and walk a bit from albergue to albergue just for the inexpensive bed while they are otherwise at the beach and partying. That said, I had some very special moments so the Spirit is there just not as intense.

10. DIFFERENT VIBES FROM THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES:

This is especially so for the beginning in Basque Country. The local communities are tourist oriented and sometimes pilgrims are not so well received. For example a few of us weary pilgrims tried to stop at an upscale restaurant in the hills above Bilbao to eat and were made to feel unwelcome. It was early and they told us all the tables outside were reserved when not one of them was even occupied. Unlike the Camino Frances where local businesses are dependent upon pilgrims, on Del Norte the local businesses have many tourists spending more than pilgrims so they don’t really need pilgrims. This started to change though as I received some incredible hospitality at a string of albergues including; La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Reposo del Andayon in Cuerres, Tu Casa in Vega, La Ferreira in Amandi, and the Municipal in Tapia de Casariego. Another point made by my editor, the Virtual Hospitalero, Terri, is that the towns on del Norte were more spread out and there wasn’t usually a central place like a Plaza Mayor where the pilgrims would congregate.

11. SOLITUDE FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS:

Wow the difference is huge here. As anyone who has walked most of Camino Frances knows the last stretch from Sarria can be a struggle as the Camino is inundated with short term pilgrims and tourists. While the last few days on del Norte is incredibly quiet. Also, many of the pilgrims veer southwest on The Primitivo which made for an excellent last few days of relative solitude and reflection before entering Santiago. FYI, the official Camino takes you into Arzua so you have 40K on busy Frances, but now there is an alternative route that takes you to Lavacolla, just 10K from Santiago bypassing the crowds.

12. STAY ON DEL NORTE OR VEER OFF TO PRIMITIVO:

My recommendation would be to take Primitivo as my preference is mountains. That said, I loved them both so either is great. I believe the last part of Norte was quieter which was perfect for me after walking 3800 kilometers on the Camino this year. And on Primitivo you merge onto Frances in Melide which means you have 52K of crowds which may or may not be a positive.

In closing, the Del Norte was a wonderful Camino and ideal for a pilgrim/hiker primarily seeking beautiful nature and less fellow pilgrims. However, after walking; Frances, Del Norte, Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Chemin du Puy in France, Portuguese, and a Camino from my ancestral home in Ireland to Santiago, Finisterre, and Muxia I have a final thought. IF YOU ONLY WILL WALK ONE CAMINO THE FRANCES IS MOST SPECIAL. The combination of the unusual mix of fellow pilgrims, history, respect and kindness from local people, and ability to walk with almost no planning makes it perfect. And the most significant positive is the intangible ‘spirit of The Camino’ on Frances. It is there on all the Camino’s and up to you to find it but it’s power and intensity on Frances can be life changing.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Great post thank you!

What was your route from Ireland to Santiago?
IITS A LONG WAY FROM TIPPERARY TO SANTIAGO. I posted some but I walked around my home County (Clare) for 2 weeks before heading south to Killarney and picking up the E8 long distance trail to Dublin. Then ferried to Cherbourg. Walked to Mt. St. Michel and then south to St. Jean de Angely where I picked up the Camino Tours through Bordeaux to SJPP. Then I hung a right to Santiago vía Camino Francés. I then made my way to Irun and walked del Norte.
 

Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Hi Kevin, What an excellent comparison of the two routes! I've walked them both and I agree 100% with your well thought out post. I'm sure many who are contemplating which of these routes to choose will greatly benefit from your experience. Well said!
 

PK Smit

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(015)Irun to Santiago
(017)Lisboa to S
2018Caminha to Santiago
(2018) Camino English Ferrol Santiago
This is one peregrino’s perspective so admittedly biased but I also talked with other pilgrims who have done both to confirm these points.
--------
1. MORE BEAUTIFUL NATURE ON DEL NORTE:

You walk in the mountains and near or on the coast so the combined views are spectacular especially near the sea. Particularly so during the first week or so in Basque Country. That said the landscapes on Frances are more varied.

2. LESS INFRASTRUCTURE:

Not as bad as the Camino VIA DE LA PLATA, but certainly less than Camino Frances. You can walk sometimes 15K or more with no Albergue’s or bars open. I walked in Sept. and Oct. so I imagine July and August would be better.

3. LESS FLEXIBILITY REQUIRING MORE PLANNING:

On Frances you can just wake up and pack your gear and start walking. You are never far from a cafe or albergue. On Del Norte because of Point 2. you really need to do some planning before you start each day.
But in truth I did not plan much and rarely carried food and never went too hungry.

4. MORE INTIMATE:

If you find Frances too crowded you will like Del Norte as you can walk 30k and see as little as 4-5 people but rarely more than 10-12 in a day. Of course this will depend on the time of year you go and your speed. You usually know most of the people at the Albergue each night. I began Sept. 21 and entered Santiago Oct. 21. 31 days.

5. MORE MOUNTAINOUS MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT:

This seems to be the view of many. I think it is relative. A bit harder than Frances but I don’t think that much so. Although I seem to be in the minority preferring hilly trails versus level walking. Also, it is certainly easier than walking in mountains such as the Alps, Rockies, Himalayas, etc.

6: MORE OF A RACE FOR BEDS:

While there are a lot less pilgrims on del Norte, I believe the race for beds is more intense because the supply is low. Also especially during the summer months when pilgrims compete with beach tourists who make reservations. This situation is most intense in the Basque Country but not an issue after Gijon when many pilgrims have veered onto Primitivo making Del Norte very quiet. If you are an early starter it is rarely a problem finding a bed but if you start late and or are a slow walker reservations might make sense.

6. THE PILGRIMS ARE A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT MIX:

On Frances you meet more unusual people; blind, one arm, in wheelchairs, in their 80’s or 90’s, terminally ill, families, etc.. On Del Norte you get more typical hikers seeking nature. Or seeking more solitude. Not saying either is better, just different. But it does change the vibes.

7. MORE OF A WALK VERSUS A PILGRIMAGE:

Del Norte does not have all the history the Camino Frances has. The vast majority of pilgrims in medieval times would use Frances as there was more infrastructure, with churches, hospitals, and even protection by knights. So there are no stories like the chickens of Santo Domingo, or the Don Quinones bridge in Hospital Orbego, or the story of the priest and devout shepherd of O Cebriero. This plus 5. makes it feel like a bit less of a pilgrimage and more of a long walk at times.

8. LESS CAMINO SPIRIT ON DEL NORTE:

Del Norte is along the beautiful coast of Northern Spain the first few weeks and you will find that there are tourists mixed in with pilgrims. I talked with 3 Del Norte albergue owners about this who all agreed and one told me that they had to bar pilgrims that sent their bags ahead or did not walk more than 10k because many tourists come for cheap beach holidays and walk a bit from albergue to albergue just for the inexpensive bed while they are otherwise at the beach and partying. That said, I had some very special moments so the Spirit is there just not as intense.

9. DIFFERENT VIBES FROM THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES:

This is especially so for the beginning in Basque Country. The local communities are tourist oriented and sometimes pilgrims are not so well received. For example a few of us weary pilgrims tried to stop at an upscale restaurant in the hills above Bilbao to eat and were made to feel unwelcome. It was early and they told us all the tables outside were reserved when not one of them was even occupied. Unlike the Camino Frances where local businesses are dependent upon pilgrims, on Del Norte the local businesses have many tourists spending more than pilgrims so they don’t really need pilgrims. This started to change though as I received some incredible hospitality at a string of albergues including; La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Reposo del Andayon in Cuerres, Tu Casa in Vega, La Ferreira in Amandi, and the Municipal in Tapia de Casariego. Another point made by my editor, the Virtual Hospitalero, Terri, is that the towns on del Norte were more spread out and there wasn’t usually a central place like a Plaza Mayor where the pilgrims would congregate.

10. SOLITUDE FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS:

Wow the difference is huge here. As anyone who has walked most of Camino Frances knows the last stretch from Sarria can be a struggle as the Camino is inundated with short term pilgrims and tourists. While the last few days on del Norte is incredibly quiet. Also, many of the pilgrims veer southwest on The Primitivo which made for an excellent last few days of relative solitude and reflection before entering Santiago. FYI, the official Camino takes you into Arzua so you have 40K on busy Frances, but now there is an alternative route that takes you to Lavacolla, just 10K from Santiago bypassing the crowds.

11. STAY ON DEL NORTE OR VEER OFF TO PRIMITIVO:

My recommendation would be to take Primitivo as my preference is mountains. That said, I loved them both so either is great. I believe the last part of Norte was quieter which was perfect for me after walking 3800 kilometers on the Camino this year. And on Primitivo you merge onto Frances in Melide which means you have 52K of crowds which may or may not be a positive.

In closing, the Del Norte was a wonderful Camino and ideal for a pilgrim/hiker primarily seeking beautiful nature and less fellow pilgrims. However, after walking; Frances, Del Norte, Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Chemin du Puy in France, Portuguese, and a Camino from my ancestral home in Ireland to Santiago, Finisterre, and Muxia I have a final thought. IF YOU ONLY WILL WALK ONE CAMINO THE FRANCES IS MOST SPECIAL. The combination of the unusual mix of fellow pilgrims, history, respect and kindness from local people, and ability to walk with almost no planning makes it perfect. And the most significant positive is the intangible ‘spirit of The Camino’ on Frances. It is there on all the Camino’s and up to you to find it but it’s power and intensity on Frances can be life changing.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!
I would like to difer on point 7, "more of a walk than a pilgrimage". To me it was more than a pilgrimage than a commercial mix of paid tourist and bus and taxigrinos. During the two times on the Del Norte, we never saw any pilgrim making use of laggage transfers and taxis. We also never had to run for a bed. In my honest opinion, one can not compare the two caminos.
 

Phil W

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances to Melide, May-early July 2016,
Zamora Dec 2017 as Hospitalero
Thank you @Kevin considine. I am in the process of selecting another Camino. Your excellent post will be put into the mix as my partner in life, Janet, try to make a decision.
Phil
 

Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Hi PK, For me, the Norte was more of a hike and all points the OP made I felt the same things as I walked and had formed the same comparisons/conclusions before reading his.
The towns on the water were very touristy, there were far fewer churches and it had a far less religious vibe.
However, if pilgrimage means solitude and time for personal introspection to some folks, it definately still qualifies as we saw few walkers during the day. That said, I walked the Norte starting in mid April and still often felt pressure to get a bed.
Edit: In a nutshell, I absolutely loved every route I have walked, but each one was so different from the next.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Woaaaah. I would really, really love to start walking from my front door one day and I love to hear about people who’ve done just that.
I think there is something quite special with walking from your home. In my case my ancestral home but a very good alternative for an Irish American.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
This is one peregrino’s perspective so admittedly biased but I also talked with other pilgrims who have done both to confirm these points.
--------
1. MORE BEAUTIFUL NATURE ON DEL NORTE:

You walk in the mountains and near or on the coast so the combined views are spectacular especially near the sea. Particularly so during the first week or so in Basque Country. That said the landscapes on Frances are more varied.

2. LESS INFRASTRUCTURE:

Not as bad as the Camino VIA DE LA PLATA, but certainly less than Camino Frances. You can walk sometimes 15K or more with no Albergue’s or bars open. I walked in Sept. and Oct. so I imagine July and August would be better.

3. LESS FLEXIBILITY REQUIRING MORE PLANNING:

On Frances you can just wake up and pack your gear and start walking. You are never far from a cafe or albergue. On Del Norte because of Point 2. you really need to do some planning before you start each day.
But in truth I did not plan much and rarely carried food and never went too hungry.

4. MORE INTIMATE:

If you find Frances too crowded you will like Del Norte as you can walk 30k and see as little as 4-5 people but rarely more than 10-12 in a day. Of course this will depend on the time of year you go and your speed. You usually know most of the people at the Albergue each night. I began Sept. 21 and entered Santiago Oct. 21. 31 days.

5. MORE MOUNTAINOUS MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT:

This seems to be the view of many. I think it is relative. A bit harder than Frances but I don’t think that much so. Although I seem to be in the minority preferring hilly trails versus level walking. Also, it is certainly easier than walking in mountains such as the Alps, Rockies, Himalayas, etc.

6: MORE OF A RACE FOR BEDS:

While there are a lot less pilgrims on del Norte, I believe the race for beds is more intense because the supply is low. Also especially during the summer months when pilgrims compete with beach tourists who make reservations. This situation is most intense in the Basque Country but not an issue after Gijon when many pilgrims have veered onto Primitivo making Del Norte very quiet. If you are an early starter it is rarely a problem finding a bed but if you start late and or are a slow walker reservations might make sense.

7. THE PILGRIMS ARE A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT MIX:

On Frances you meet more unusual people; blind, one arm, in wheelchairs, in their 80’s or 90’s, terminally ill, families, etc.. On Del Norte you get more typical hikers seeking nature. Or seeking more solitude. Not saying either is better, just different. But it does change the vibes.

8. MORE OF A WALK VERSUS A PILGRIMAGE:

Del Norte does not have all the history the Camino Frances has. The vast majority of pilgrims in medieval times would use Frances as there was more infrastructure, with churches, hospitals, and even protection by knights. So there are no stories like the chickens of Santo Domingo, or the Don Quinones bridge in Hospital Orbego, or the story of the priest and devout shepherd of O Cebriero. This plus 5. makes it feel like a bit less of a pilgrimage and more of a long walk at times.

9. LESS CAMINO SPIRIT ON DEL NORTE:

Del Norte is along the beautiful coast of Northern Spain the first few weeks and you will find that there are tourists mixed in with pilgrims. I talked with 3 Del Norte albergue owners about this who all agreed and one told me that they had to bar pilgrims that sent their bags ahead or did not walk more than 10k because many tourists come for cheap beach holidays and walk a bit from albergue to albergue just for the inexpensive bed while they are otherwise at the beach and partying. That said, I had some very special moments so the Spirit is there just not as intense.

10. DIFFERENT VIBES FROM THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES:

This is especially so for the beginning in Basque Country. The local communities are tourist oriented and sometimes pilgrims are not so well received. For example a few of us weary pilgrims tried to stop at an upscale restaurant in the hills above Bilbao to eat and were made to feel unwelcome. It was early and they told us all the tables outside were reserved when not one of them was even occupied. Unlike the Camino Frances where local businesses are dependent upon pilgrims, on Del Norte the local businesses have many tourists spending more than pilgrims so they don’t really need pilgrims. This started to change though as I received some incredible hospitality at a string of albergues including; La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Reposo del Andayon in Cuerres, Tu Casa in Vega, La Ferreira in Amandi, and the Municipal in Tapia de Casariego. Another point made by my editor, the Virtual Hospitalero, Terri, is that the towns on del Norte were more spread out and there wasn’t usually a central place like a Plaza Mayor where the pilgrims would congregate.

11. SOLITUDE FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS:

Wow the difference is huge here. As anyone who has walked most of Camino Frances knows the last stretch from Sarria can be a struggle as the Camino is inundated with short term pilgrims and tourists. While the last few days on del Norte is incredibly quiet. Also, many of the pilgrims veer southwest on The Primitivo which made for an excellent last few days of relative solitude and reflection before entering Santiago. FYI, the official Camino takes you into Arzua so you have 40K on busy Frances, but now there is an alternative route that takes you to Lavacolla, just 10K from Santiago bypassing the crowds.

12. STAY ON DEL NORTE OR VEER OFF TO PRIMITIVO:

My recommendation would be to take Primitivo as my preference is mountains. That said, I loved them both so either is great. I believe the last part of Norte was quieter which was perfect for me after walking 3800 kilometers on the Camino this year. And on Primitivo you merge onto Frances in Melide which means you have 52K of crowds which may or may not be a positive.

In closing, the Del Norte was a wonderful Camino and ideal for a pilgrim/hiker primarily seeking beautiful nature and less fellow pilgrims. However, after walking; Frances, Del Norte, Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Chemin du Puy in France, Portuguese, and a Camino from my ancestral home in Ireland to Santiago, Finisterre, and Muxia I have a final thought. IF YOU ONLY WILL WALK ONE CAMINO THE FRANCES IS MOST SPECIAL. The combination of the unusual mix of fellow pilgrims, history, respect and kindness from local people, and ability to walk with almost no planning makes it perfect. And the most significant positive is the intangible ‘spirit of The Camino’ on Frances. It is there on all the Camino’s and up to you to find it but it’s power and intensity on Frances can be life changing.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!

We are planning to do the Norte next Sept and October. can you recommend any particularly beautiful coastal paths?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
We are planning to do the Norte next Sept and October. can you recommend any particularly beautiful coastal paths?
I think just follow the Camino. There are various alternate routes but easy to talk with people at albergues and just make decision that best suits you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
I think you should just follow the Camino. There are various alternate routes and you can talk to people at the albergues for suggestions as to which most suits you. 😊
 
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Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
We are planning to do the Norte next Sept and October. can you recommend any particularly beautiful coastal paths?
@peregrina2000 has walked the Norte approx a year ago and provided some excellent advise on how to occasionally veer off onto some of the coastal paths not always shown in the guidebooks. Not sure how to locate her info, but it's in here somewhere and someone else will be able to quickly help you!
 

Dtlibra

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
All Camino Frances from St Jean to Santiago done in 3 years 2012-2014, except Burgos to Leon
I'd love to try the Norte some day............
I've done the C Frances

David from Clare
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
I
I'd love to try the Norte some day............
I've done the C Frances

David from Clare
started my Caminos this year from Clare, David. Killaloe to Ennis on east Clare way then I picked up the mid Clare way north to Corofin where I walked the entire Burren Way. Then I walked south to my ancestral homes in Cree and Carrigaholt.
 
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carolhayes

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
none yet
Woaaaah. I would really, really love to start walking from my front door one day and I love to hear about people who’ve done just that.
Woaaaah. I would really, really love to start walking from my front door one day and I love to hear about people who’ve done just that.
Hi Leibniz, have you read The Great Westward walk: From the Front Door to the End of the Earth by Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain? An EXCELLENT book by a Basque writer who had done the Camino many times and in various ways and routes. This time he writes about walking right out his front door and beginning his actual journey from there! Lucky to have been living already in Spain. BTW, this writer passed away at a young age only a few days after completing this book. Highly recommend this book. Seems that many people walk the Camino just to write a book about their trip, but this one is (IMHO) well worth reading and thinking about. Best wishes on accomplishing your dream!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
Thank you so much! No I have not heard of it, it sounds very much like a book I would enjoy. Thank you for the recommendation, I will look for it. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
One point I missed was more asphalt on the Norte. Trail runners are my suggestion to combat the hard surfaces, especially in Cantabria.
You and others have said that but the fact that there are more mountains balanced it out for me. I think all the Caminos have substantially more asphalt than any typical forest or mountain walk. So IMO the difference between the two was insignificant on that point. 😊
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Hi Leibniz, have you read The Great Westward walk: From the Front Door to the End of the Earth by Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain? An EXCELLENT book by a Basque writer who had done the Camino many times and in various ways and routes. This time he writes about walking right out his front door and beginning his actual journey from there! Lucky to have been living already in Spain. BTW, this writer passed away at a young age only a few days after completing this book. Highly recommend this book. Seems that many people walk the Camino just to write a book about their trip, but this one is (IMHO) well worth reading and thinking about. Best wishes on accomplishing your dream!
I started reading this book in France during this year’s Camino from Ireland. I agree with you and thought it was one of the best of the nonfiction accounts of a personal Camino. The other one I’d recommend is by Father Kevin Codd, “To The Field of Stars”. I am not religious but I liked his book because it was so honest and humble.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
I’m reading To the Field of Stars at the moment! I love it. I just read that he has written a “sequel” recently, in which he describes walking from his (now former) home in Leuven all the way to SJPP, ten years after his first Camino.
 
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Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
You and others have said that but the fact that there are more mountains balanced it out for me. I think all the Caminos have substantially more asphalt than any typical forest or mountain walk. So IMO the difference between the two was insignificant on that point. 😊
I do not struggle with walking on asphalt so although others sometimes mention quite a bit of road walking on the Norte, I actually don't remember much about it. Must be cuz I was always enjoying the scenery. ☺
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
@peregrina2000 has walked the Norte approx a year ago and provided some excellent advise on how to occasionally veer off onto some of the coastal paths not always shown in the guidebooks. Not sure how to locate her info, but it's in here somewhere and someone else will be able to quickly help you!
Thanks Chris, I have been in touch with Lori and have also been able to locate the info you mentioned. It is posted under the Camino del Norte forum.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
have you read The Great Westward walk: From the Front Door to the End of the Earth by Antxon Gonzalez Gabarain?
By the way, this book is available on the Forum Store, here. It is an excellent book, eloquently translated into English by forum member @Rebekah Scott .
 

carolhayes

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
none yet
I started reading this book in France during this year’s Camino from Ireland. I agree with you and thought it was one of the best of the nonfiction accounts of a personal Camino. The other one I’d recommend is by Father Kevin Codd, “To The Field of Stars”. I am not religious but I liked his book because it was so honest and humble.
Yes, I really like Father Kevin's book. It was the first one I read when my sister started her first Camino about 3 years ago. I had of course heard about the Camino for a long time and when she started her camino on her own, I searched for a book to read as she was walking and came across To the Field of Stars and it seemed to be the one to start with. I loved it. Neither my sister nor myself are religious but we enjoyed Father Kevin's book and got a feel for what my sister was experiencing. I have since read about 15 or so books about someone's trip on the camino, some I have enjoyed and thought the books were worthwhile and interesting. A few others I have had a more negative response to. I have a stockpile of a few left to read (I bought a whole bunch of books within a short period of time), but for now I am taking a break from reading about the Camino. Maybe I should just go ahead and walk it myself instead of just reading! smile!
 

Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Yes, just do it!
My son had walked 1000 miles of the Appalachian trail in 2014. I, like you, read books and blogs, and watched videos on the Appalachian Trail while he was away. I was very excited, yet knew I would not be able to carry all the weight of everything needed for outdoor eating and sleeping....Then several months later, I saw the movie "The Way" and thought with excitement that maybe I could do that. As soon as I retired the following year I went, loved it, and have been choosing a different camino each year since then!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Yes, I really like Father Kevin's book. It was the first one I read when my sister started her first Camino about 3 years ago. I had of course heard about the Camino for a long time and when she started her camino on her own, I searched for a book to read as she was walking and came across To the Field of Stars and it seemed to be the one to start with. I loved it. Neither my sister nor myself are religious but we enjoyed Father Kevin's book and got a feel for what my sister was experiencing. I have since read about 15 or so books about someone's trip on the camino, some I have enjoyed and thought the books were worthwhile and interesting. A few others I have had a more negative response to. I have a stockpile of a few left to read (I bought a whole bunch of books within a short period of time), but for now I am taking a break from reading about the Camino. Maybe I should just go ahead and walk it myself instead of just reading! smile!
Haha. Carol I started reading your post and got confused thinking it was something I wrote until the end. It was the first of 15 books or so I have read on walking the Camino. My favorite as well. I think it was his humility that made his book special to me. And yes perhaps it is time for you to walk.🙏😊👍👣
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
This is one peregrino’s perspective so admittedly biased but I also talked with other pilgrims who have done both to confirm these points.
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1. MORE BEAUTIFUL NATURE ON DEL NORTE:

You walk in the mountains and near or on the coast so the combined views are spectacular especially near the sea. Particularly so during the first week or so in Basque Country. That said the landscapes on Frances are more varied.

2. LESS INFRASTRUCTURE:

Not as bad as the Camino VIA DE LA PLATA, but certainly less than Camino Frances. You can walk sometimes 15K or more with no Albergue’s or bars open. I walked in Sept. and Oct. so I imagine July and August would be better.

3. LESS FLEXIBILITY REQUIRING MORE PLANNING:

On Frances you can just wake up and pack your gear and start walking. You are never far from a cafe or albergue. On Del Norte because of Point 2. you really need to do some planning before you start each day.
But in truth I did not plan much and rarely carried food and never went too hungry.

4. MORE INTIMATE:

If you find Frances too crowded you will like Del Norte as you can walk 30k and see as little as 4-5 people but rarely more than 10-12 in a day. Of course this will depend on the time of year you go and your speed. You usually know most of the people at the Albergue each night. I began Sept. 21 and entered Santiago Oct. 21. 31 days.

5. MORE MOUNTAINOUS MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT:

This seems to be the view of many. I think it is relative. A bit harder than Frances but I don’t think that much so. Although I seem to be in the minority preferring hilly trails versus level walking. Also, it is certainly easier than walking in mountains such as the Alps, Rockies, Himalayas, etc.

6: MORE OF A RACE FOR BEDS:

While there are a lot less pilgrims on del Norte, I believe the race for beds is more intense because the supply is low. Also especially during the summer months when pilgrims compete with beach tourists who make reservations. This situation is most intense in the Basque Country but not an issue after Gijon when many pilgrims have veered onto Primitivo making Del Norte very quiet. If you are an early starter it is rarely a problem finding a bed but if you start late and or are a slow walker reservations might make sense.

7. THE PILGRIMS ARE A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT MIX:

On Frances you meet more unusual people; blind, one arm, in wheelchairs, in their 80’s or 90’s, terminally ill, families, etc.. On Del Norte you get more typical hikers seeking nature. Or seeking more solitude. Not saying either is better, just different. But it does change the vibes.

8. MORE OF A WALK VERSUS A PILGRIMAGE:

Del Norte does not have all the history the Camino Frances has. The vast majority of pilgrims in medieval times would use Frances as there was more infrastructure, with churches, hospitals, and even protection by knights. So there are no stories like the chickens of Santo Domingo, or the Don Quinones bridge in Hospital Orbego, or the story of the priest and devout shepherd of O Cebriero. This plus 5. makes it feel like a bit less of a pilgrimage and more of a long walk at times.

9. LESS CAMINO SPIRIT ON DEL NORTE:

Del Norte is along the beautiful coast of Northern Spain the first few weeks and you will find that there are tourists mixed in with pilgrims. I talked with 3 Del Norte albergue owners about this who all agreed and one told me that they had to bar pilgrims that sent their bags ahead or did not walk more than 10k because many tourists come for cheap beach holidays and walk a bit from albergue to albergue just for the inexpensive bed while they are otherwise at the beach and partying. That said, I had some very special moments so the Spirit is there just not as intense.

10. DIFFERENT VIBES FROM THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES:

This is especially so for the beginning in Basque Country. The local communities are tourist oriented and sometimes pilgrims are not so well received. For example a few of us weary pilgrims tried to stop at an upscale restaurant in the hills above Bilbao to eat and were made to feel unwelcome. It was early and they told us all the tables outside were reserved when not one of them was even occupied. Unlike the Camino Frances where local businesses are dependent upon pilgrims, on Del Norte the local businesses have many tourists spending more than pilgrims so they don’t really need pilgrims. This started to change though as I received some incredible hospitality at a string of albergues including; La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto in Güemes, Reposo del Andayon in Cuerres, Tu Casa in Vega, La Ferreira in Amandi, and the Municipal in Tapia de Casariego. Another point made by my editor, the Virtual Hospitalero, Terri, is that the towns on del Norte were more spread out and there wasn’t usually a central place like a Plaza Mayor where the pilgrims would congregate.

11. SOLITUDE FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS:

Wow the difference is huge here. As anyone who has walked most of Camino Frances knows the last stretch from Sarria can be a struggle as the Camino is inundated with short term pilgrims and tourists. While the last few days on del Norte is incredibly quiet. Also, many of the pilgrims veer southwest on The Primitivo which made for an excellent last few days of relative solitude and reflection before entering Santiago. FYI, the official Camino takes you into Arzua so you have 40K on busy Frances, but now there is an alternative route that takes you to Lavacolla, just 10K from Santiago bypassing the crowds.

12. STAY ON DEL NORTE OR VEER OFF TO PRIMITIVO:

My recommendation would be to take Primitivo as my preference is mountains. That said, I loved them both so either is great. I believe the last part of Norte was quieter which was perfect for me after walking 3800 kilometers on the Camino this year. And on Primitivo you merge onto Frances in Melide which means you have 52K of crowds which may or may not be a positive.

In closing, the Del Norte was a wonderful Camino and ideal for a pilgrim/hiker primarily seeking beautiful nature and less fellow pilgrims. However, after walking; Frances, Del Norte, Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Chemin du Puy in France, Portuguese, and a Camino from my ancestral home in Ireland to Santiago, Finisterre, and Muxia I have a final thought. IF YOU ONLY WILL WALK ONE CAMINO THE FRANCES IS MOST SPECIAL. The combination of the unusual mix of fellow pilgrims, history, respect and kindness from local people, and ability to walk with almost no planning makes it perfect. And the most significant positive is the intangible ‘spirit of The Camino’ on Frances. It is there on all the Camino’s and up to you to find it but it’s power and intensity on Frances can be life changing.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!

Kevin what info did you use for locating the way on the Norde? I am particularly interested in Maps. We do not have GPS...and we will go off the regular routes at times? I suppose I can print out sections on google maps if all else fails?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Kevin what info did you use for locating the way on the Norde? I am particularly interested in Maps. We do not have GPS...and we will go off the regular routes at times? I suppose I can print out sections on google maps if all else fails?
I had a guidebook but disposed of it as I went along and I didn’t think much of it. I used a gps map I downloaded from Santiago.nl That also was soso as there seemed to be several alternative routes that were better. I had already walked 3000k so I pretty much just followed the shells and yellow arrows and took advice from local hospitaleros as to which way to go.
 

Judy's Way

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Autumn (2015) and Spring (2019)
.

In closing, the Del Norte was a wonderful Camino and ideal for a pilgrim/hiker primarily seeking beautiful nature and less fellow pilgrims. However, after walking; Frances, Del Norte, Primitivo, Via de la Plata, Chemin du Puy in France, Portuguese, and a Camino from my ancestral home in Ireland to Santiago, Finisterre, and Muxia I have a final thought. IF YOU ONLY WILL WALK ONE CAMINO THE FRANCES IS MOST SPECIAL. The combination of the unusual mix of fellow pilgrims, history, respect and kindness from local people, and ability to walk with almost no planning makes it perfect. And the most significant positive is the intangible ‘spirit of The Camino’ on Frances. It is there on all the Camino’s and up to you to find it but it’s power and intensity on Frances can be life changing.

Buen Camino! Ultreia!
Thank you for writing this, Kevin. You helped me decided which Camino to walk in the spring of 2019. My husband and I were going to walk the Camino del Norte in the spring but he is unable to go so I am going alone. Because of that, I plan to walk the CF for the second time rather than the northern route for reasons that you brought up: race for beds due to lack of infrastructure; more of the pilgrim spirit. Being alone, I would feel more comfortable being on a busier route. That being said, I also like the mountains and some solitude and not so much the crowds on the CF close to Santiago. How easy would it be to get to Oviedo to walk the Primitivo from some point along the CF? I will be in Spain a total of 51 days.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2), Chemin du Puy, Portuguese, Via de la Plata
Thank you for writing this, Kevin. You helped me decided which Camino to walk in the spring of 2019. My husband and I were going to walk the Camino del Norte in the spring but he is unable to go so I am going alone. Because of that, I plan to walk the CF for the second time rather than the northern route for reasons that you brought up: race for beds due to lack of infrastructure; more of the pilgrim spirit. Being alone, I would feel more comfortable being on a busier route. That being said, I also like the mountains and some solitude and not so much the crowds on the CF close to Santiago. How easy would it be to get to Oviedo to walk the Primitivo from some point along the CF? I will be in Spain a total of 51 days.
You are welcome Judy. There is a Camino from Leon that takes you north to Oviedo. Camino Salvador. Supposed to be very nice and Primitivo is great as well.
 

sp01326

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
The past: the whole French Way (in 2 ys)
The future: the English Way
Great analysis! Thanks for your thoughts, carefully collected and well written. I fully agree (after walking French, English, Primitivo, Portuguese, first half of Northern way).
 

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