Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino del Norte in Northern Spain

El Camino del Norte, sometimes called the Northern Way, is a long hike along the northern coast of Spain and is a popular pilgrimage route for thousands of pilgrims every year. 

It has been an important pilgrimage across Northern Spain for many years and was indeed a landing point for pilgrims travelling from Northern Europe, the UK and Scandinavia. 

From here Pilgrims would make their way to Santiago, traditionally on foot stopping. along the way. In fact you can veer off the trail in Oviedo and walk the Camino Primitivo  with both routes meeting the Camino Frances a few days away from Santiago.

I have walked the Camino Frances (twice), Camino Ingles and Camino Finisterre and I loved walking the Camino del Norte. It’s one of my favourite routes.

This post will walk you through the itineraries for each walking stage of El Camino del Norte to Santiago with some Albergue recommendations and fun things to do in each town and village.

Camino Del Norte Table of Contents

panoramic view of the camino del Norte

Where does the Camino del Norte start ?

It starts in Irun, bordering the Cantabrian Sea from East to West, finishing in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Some say this Spanish Camino is the hardest of them all.

The traditional starting point is from the train station in the centre of Irun.

Once you leave the train station check to see where the yellow arrows, or yellow shells, begin. From here follow Lope de Irigoyen for 400 metres then turn left on Calle Lucas de Berroa.

Here you will find the Albergue de Peregrinos de Irun also called the Jakobi Pilgrim Hostel, where you can get your Pilgrim passport for your journey on el Camino del Norte

This route with the Camino Primitivo and the Camino Frances, are the oldest routes of the Camino de Santiago.

If you like the Camino Frances and the camaraderie of being around lots of Pilgrims this route to Santiago is a bit less walked and you can sometimes go a day seeing only a few pilgrims. The breathtaking scenery is worth it though.
 
Irun starting point of the Camino del Norte
Irun starting point of the Camino del Norte

I used the Camino de Santiago forum extensively as part of my research and was a great aid in my planning regime. I have added some further resources to help Pilgrims prepare for their journey.

Camino Del Norte Map

camino del norte map
camino del norte map by the Village to Village guidebook

How long is the Camino del Norte to Santiago

The Camino Del Norte is an 865 km walk and is the second longest of the routes that cross Spain to reach the capital of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The route is split into approximately 34 stages. 

This is all dependant on which guidebook you decide to follow or the pace that you walk at. The number of days it takes is completely down to you. My recommendation is take as long as you want and enjoy every minute.

FACT: The El Camino del Norte route is mainly across beaches, cliffs and coastal towns for almost 80% of the route until it reaches Ribadeo in the province of Lugo.

The Camino Del Norte Terrain

Most days walking the Camino del Norte have some ascents and descents mainly as the path skirts the northern coast of Spain.

The elevation gain can be pretty high when walking up and back down to sea level a lot of times in a day. I have walked numerous Camino and I believe this camino requires some significant training before starting.

The first 4 days are tough so be prepared for them.

The up side is the scenery and landscapes are magnificent. The views of the Bay of Biscay from some of the high points of the camino are to die for and a photographer’s dream.

You will encounter traditional hamlets and small fishing villages along the way as well as a few gorgeous beaches that appear at turns in the walk. I had an amazing swim on the beach in Playa de Arena shortly after walking from Bilbao.

Pilgrim on the beach in playa de arena

Weather on the Camino Del Norte

Preparing for a journey on the Camino del Norte is an exciting experience, but it’s important to be aware of the weather conditions along the route. The coastal area of Northern Spain, where the del Norte takes place, has a temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers. The climate is temperate oceanic. 

The weather along the Camino Del Norte can vary greatly, depending on the time of year and location. In the spring, temperatures average between 8-18 degrees Celsius during the day but can drop at night.

In summer, temperatures reach up to 24-26 degrees Celsius during the day and 10-12 degrees Celsius at night. During the winter months, temperatures typically range from 6-8 degrees Celsius.

Rainfall is common throughout the year in Galicia, but especially in the fall and winter months. Rain can intermittent in these months.

Pilgrims should prepare for periods of rain and misty conditions during their journey. It’s also important to pack layers to ensure you’re comfortable in all temperatures.

No matter when you decide to walk the del Norte, it’s important to be prepared for any kind of weather. Pack wisely and make sure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store!

Camino del Norte average temperature

When is the best time to walk The Camino Del Norte

I walked The Camino del Norte in late August and early September and the weather was pretty hot for me and it only rained once for a short period.

Once you get towards the end of the route. Galicia is a lush part of Spain and it can rain quite a lot as well as being warm for the most part. In my experience walking the route in May through September would be the best time to enjoy this amazing camino experience.

Waymarking on the Camino Del Norte

Like the Camino Frances waymarking on the Camino del Norte is really good. I always walk with a guidebook but after my first Camino I use them mainly for planning my daily routes and accommodation choices.

As long as you follow the yellow shell or the distance markers you can’t go wrong.

The infrastructure between towns and villages isn’t like the Camino Frances so make sure that you make sure you have enough water and supplies.  Planning is important.

camino distance marker

Accommodation on the Camino Del Norte

When you set out to walk the Camino del Norte, accommodation is an important consideration. The route is known for its varied terrain, so you’ll need to find comfortable and secure lodging to rest your weary feet and plan your daily walking schedule.

There are a variety of options along the the northern way route, including traditional albergues and hotels. These range from basic and budget-friendly establishments to some really nice hotels in places like San Sebastian and Bilbao.

Be sure to research the different accommodation types available on this Spanish Northern route before you set out. Depending on your budget and personal preferences, you may want to make advanced bookings for some of the more popular cities.

I would recommend this for busy seaside resorts like San Sebastián and Zarautz. These towns get really busy especially in summer season.

This will help ensure that you have a comfortable place to rest each night on your journey.

Do I need a Camino Del Norte Guidebook ?

I have walked numerous Camino’s and always take a guidebook on the walk with me. After days walking I always like to plan out my route and destination for the next day as well as choosing my accommodation. 

Top Tip: I find the best advise is by talking with other pilgrims. They will also help with any planning information you may need.

If you are struggling with your planning every Albergue has a Hospitalero 

I have found the information they provide to be fantastic and really helpful. 

On El Camino del Norte I used the ‘Village to Village’ guidebook. Its a lightweight guidebook that gives you just the information you need and is easy to carry in your pack or back pocket.

I have also written an article on the Best Camino Frances guidebook that is really useful should you be walking that route after the Camino del Norte.

TOP CHOICE
Camino del Norte: Irún to Santiago along Spain's Northern Coast (Village to Village Map Guide)
9.7/10Our Score

Camino del Norte: Irún to Santiago along Spain's Northern Coast 

  • Author - Matthew Harms, Anna Dintaman & David Landis
  • Village to Village Map Guidebook
  • 96 pages
  • 3.5 ounces
  • 143 detailed stage, city and town maps and elevation profiles including town amenities

Is there a backpack transfer service on the Camino Del Norte ?

Whilst a lot of pilgrims carry their backpacks the whole way to Santiago de Compostela there are services to help walkers who need some help getting their backpack or luggage from town to town. Its a simple service and works effortlessly. 

All you need to do when leaving your Albergue or Hotel is fill out a form letting the delivery service know which Albergue or Hotel you are heading for and then tag your bags with the fee as well.  

The delivery service will pick up the bags and deliver to your destination leaving you to walk at your leisure. 

There are a couple of backpack transfer services on the del Norte but the best organisation I have heard of for this route is the Spanish Post office, Correos. Their  service is highly rated for anyone walking the Norte and wanting an easier journey.

Camino del Norte Walking Stage Itinerary

I’ve detailed day by day walking stages of el Camino del Norte from my experience and you can read about each stage, distances, elevation gain and accommodation recommendations on route from Irun to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino Del Norte Stages

My stage profile walking this Camino is as follows: 

Completion Certificate 'Credencial'

Once you have completed the Camino Del Norte you can obtain your official certificate of completion, which is known as the credencial

As long as you have walked at least 100km and got stamps for every day on the Camino you are eligible for your credencial. These stamps can be found in cafes, bars, albergues, churches and just about anywhere pilgrims stop. 

The rule of thumb is to get at least 2 stamps per day.

The passport office in Santiago is the place all finishing Pilgrims go to get their documentation and this can be found at the following address:

Pilgrim’s Reception Office

 

Rúa Carretas, nº33 (accessed from García Sabell)
15705 Santiago de Compostela
A Coruña – ESPAÑA

Tel.: +34 981 568 846

The office is open from 10am to 6pm with the exception of Christmas Day & New Years Day when your credencial can be obtained in the cathedral.

Fiestas on the Camino del Norte

Every Pilgrim loves a fiesta and being able to immerse yourself in local culture is fantastic. Like most other Camino, the del Norte has its fair share of Fiestas. Some of the Fiestas along the el Camino del Norte are amazing.

If you are walking and your planned arrival day in a fiesta town is one of these days my recommendation is to book your albergue or hotel ahead of time. One of the best Fiesta along the Norte is:

Semana Grande - Bilbao

It’s said this is the largest fiesta in Northern Spain and the street parties can be amazing. I spent an evening in Bilbao and the old town is really good with small bars and standing tables outside letting you enjoy the electric atmosphere.

It usually starts the Saturday after the 15th August and can last for quite a few days.

There are also lots of other small fiestas as you walk from town to village and will probably just come across one. If you do, enjoy the spectacle and even get involved and have some fun.

Things to see and do on the Camino del Norte

Once you have enjoyed Fiestas in Bilbao, there are lots of really interesting things to do and while away a few hours and immerse yourself in local culture. The Guggenheim is a must see Museum on your tour of Northern Spain and the San Sebastián market is a real experience you cannot miss.

FAQ

Can a beginner walk the Camino Del Norte

Absolutely, with training. The Camino del Norte has a tough start and you have to be prepared some steep climbs and descents. With training is a great Camino to walk.

Is the Camino del Norte difficult ?

Yes in parts, especially the beginning few stages. Keeping the stages and daily distance to an achievable target is essential.

Is the Camino del Norte well marked ?

Yes. The infrastructure and albergues are not the same as the Camino Frances but with some planning its relatively easy to walk.

Where is the Camino del Norte starting point

Traditionally pilgrims start the Camino del Norte in Irun, just over the Spanish border near France.

Want to walk The Camino Del Norte

I’d like to hear from you and let me know when and which route/section you are going to walk.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below. Any questions drop me a line.

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