Read my ever-expanding guide to the Camino here: Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrims carry a 'credencial' or 'pilgrim's passport' which is stamped at each hostel or town that they pass through on the way to Santiago. Upon arrival at the Santiago cathedral, the credencial is exchanged for a certificate to honor the achievement. Read more about the Credencial.
Apart from those essential facts, the Camino de Santiago can be whatever you want it to be.
- You can do the Camino for religious or secular reasons.
- You can start from anywhere you like.
- You don't even have to finish in Santiago (some go on to Fisterra, the 'end of the world' in Roman times).
- You can do it at any time of year.
- You can walk the Camino de Santiago as fast or as slow as you like.
- The Camino de Santiago can be done in one go or break it up into stages to fit your annual vacation time.
- You can walk on your own, in a group, or as part of an organized tour.
Having said that, there are established ways in which people tend to do the Camino de Santiago:
- Most people walk the Camino Frances (the French route). This is generally seen to be the easiest route, with the most places to stay and the highest likelihood of meeting other travelers. However, some say this route has become overcrowded and urge pilgrims to try a different route. Read more about the Camino de Santiago Routes.
- The majority of pilgrims walk in spring and autumn, when the weather is at its most bearable. Some walk in the intense heat of the summer; even fewer walk in the harsh, often dangerous, conditions in winter. Read more about When to Do the Camino de Santiago.