What is the Camino?

The Camino de Santiago, otherwise known as the Way of St James, is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes from across Europe to the tomb of St James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, located in the northwest of Spain.

Brief History

The Camino de Santiago dates back over 1,200 years to the 9th Century when the remains of St James, the apostle, were discovered in northern Spain. St James was beheaded in the year 44 in the Holy Land under the orders of the King of Judea, Herod Agrippa. According to historical records, his body was taken by his disciples on a boat from Palestine to Spain where he was buried and remained, in secret, for 800 years.

His remains were discovered in 814 by a Galician hermit called Pelayo who followed a shining star through the fields to the burial place of St James. The local bishop declared the remains were those of St James the Apostle. This was verified by King Alfonso II of Asturias who ordered a church to be built on the site to house the remains.

Thousands of people began walking to Santiago from their homes. They came from all over Europe, and turned the city of Santiago into a major reference point, on a par with other holy places for Christianity around the world, including Rome and Jerusalem.

Its popularity declined in the 14th Century due to wars and the Black Death. In the 16th Century, it declined further due to the Protestant Reformation, which banned pilgrimage in many countries. In 1589, the remains of St James were moved and hidden to prevent them being stolen – and were forgotten for almost 300 years.

Since the late 1970s, there has been a resurgence of the Camino thanks to a local priest named Don Elias Valina Sampedro, who devoted over thirty years of his life to marking the trail and establishing “refugios” along the Way for pilgrims to stay. Local governments and pilgrim associations in Europe also contributed to its resurrection. In 1985, the Camino was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Camino Today

The popularity of the Camino has exploded in the last decade with 327,342 pilgrims walking to Santiago in 2018, representing a 160% increase compared to 2008. Today, less people walk the Camino for religious reasons with growing numbers walking for cultural, health and spiritual reasons. Check out Magic Hill Holiday trips for a list of our best Camino de Santiago Tours.

Check out Pilgrim Stats for the latest pilgrim numbers and Camino Trends to find out who was coming to the Camino with Magic Hill in 2019.

Why should I walk the Camino?

Now you might ask, why do all these people want to walk 100km on their holidays? Here are 11 Reasons to walk the Camino!
  • Time Out
  • Live Slower and Free from “Stuff”
  • Exercise
  • Beautiful Scenery
  • Bonding Time
  • Personal Challenge
  • Make New Friends
  • Relatively Easy Walking
  • History and Culture
  • Amazing Food
  • Improve your Language Skills

Walking the Camino is about going back to basics and enjoying the simpler things in life – walking, nature  and conversation! It offers time to reflect and opportunities to talk, not the usual small talk encounters in every day life but in-depth conversations about life and the future. Plus it is great fun and you get to opportunity to meet people from all over the world, which will open your mind to different languages, cultures and ways of thinking.

These encounters, together with the huge sense of achievement when you complete your Camino challenge and collect your Certificate of Completion (the ‘Compostela’), help you realise that anything can be achieved in life – if you persist. It will encourage you to push through your comfort zone – physically and mentally on the Camino – and in real life at home. Some people say the Camino is their therapy, but ask any person who has walked the Camino and they will all tell you “the Camino gives back to you what you give to it”.

For further information about walking the Camino, email us at info@magichillholidays.com for our free Camino Guide.