Camino de Santiago is a series of pilgrim’s trails that all lead to Northwest Spain, and they all supposedly lead to the tomb of the Apostle St. James. The roads also lead to the gorgeous, yet chaotic, Cape Finisterre that was at one time believed to be the end of the Earth. Travelers of all walks of life would make their way to the northwest reaches of the European power to worship at the remains of St. James and look out into the void that they believed to be the end of the known world. The Camino is the stuff of legends. It goes beyond the realm of “tourist attraction” and becomes a spiritual quest for enlightenment. To walk in the footsteps of thousands, if not millions, of holy wanderers seeking enlightenment at the altar of myth, and to peer unafraid into the unknown with love and faith in their hearts.
The Camino stretches more than 870 kilometers from start to finish, and while your body will certainly feel the workout, your soul will also be enriched. Since the year 1500, people have been walking this storied path. While the popularity of the trip has died down and flowed throughout the centuries, all those who have taken the trek agree that there is something divine at play along the route. Whether you are traversing the storied path as a spiritual pilgrim, or just a hiking or biking enthusiast in need of gorgeous scenery, Camino de Santiago is truly one of the world’s great splendors.
Before the days of St. James, Camino de Santiago was a well known Roman trade route, and even back then, well before the days of Christ, Cape Finisterre was seen as the end of the known world. Then, according to catholic lore, Camino de Santiago would play a major role in the story of St. James and the Virgin Mary. The pair apparently met to discuss James’s role as an Apostle on a nearby mountain summit. The locations mythic status continued into the American revolutionary period when John Adams was forced to disembark his ship to France at Cape Finisterre and walk the reverse of St. James’ path all the way to Paris to beg King Louis XVI for the support of the French people.
In modern times
Camino de Santiago’s ending point, Santiago de Compostela, continues to be one of the most well-liked tourist attractions in all of Spain. More than 300,000 pilgrims walked the path to the legendary location in 2017, and it continues to attract wayward souls looking for an understanding of something that is just a little more beautiful. At the westernmost tip of Spain, sitting at the end of the road, is a pair of small bronze hiking boots. A modest marker to be found at the end of an epic adventure. The Pilgrim’s Mass is still read daily for those successful wanderers who make it to the end at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Proud travelers gather at noon to be recognized by name, and by starting point, for their heavenly accomplishment.
Years where July 25 falls on a Sunday are considered to be Holy Compostela years and the amount of Pilgrims who walk the famed path tends to spike. The next Holy Compostela will happen in 2021, and more than 300,000 travelers are expected to walk the holy path to St. James’ final resting place. Even the local government, Xunta de Galicia, got in on promoting the unique attraction during the Holy Compostela years. The first time the local government got involved with promoting the holy pilgrimage was 1993 and the popularity has been steadily growing since.