5 BEST PILGRIMAGE ROUTES IN EUROPE TO WALK RIGHT NOW.
Are you looking for a life changing experience? Many people choose to walk a pilgrimage at some point in their lives. Whether this is for religious or spiritual reasons, to meet people, as a personal challenge or just for fun. But not all pilgrimage routes in Europe are created equally.
Here’s our guide to the 5 best pilgrimage routes in Europe to walk right now.
What is a pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage is a long distance journey, which is made for a spiritual reason. For the purpose of this post, we are talking about pilgrimages undertaken on foot.
The routes featured here are all historic pilgrimage routes, often walked in the past for religious reasons. Today, many people walk these pilgrimages for a number of reasons, which may not be spiritual.
Is a pilgrimage different to a long-distance hike?
A long-distance hike could also be a pilgrimage, and a pilgrimage could be a long distance hike, but not all long-distance hikes are pilgrimages!
If you want to know more about some of the best long-distance hiking paths in Europe, check out our article here.
5 best pilgrimage routes in Europe
Camino de Santiago Portuguese Route, Spain
The Camino Santiago is probably the most famous pilgrimage route in Europe. But many people walk the French route, instead, why not try the Portuguese route? For delicious food, wine and wonderful scenery.
What makes this one of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe: Walking through two countries and experiencing Portuguese and Spanish culture. Excellent food and wine.
Distance: There are a few options for start points and different routes, either along the coast or inland.
- Lisbon – Coastal Route 630km
- Lisbon – Central Route 650km
- Porto – Costal Route 280km
- Porto – Central Route 260km
Where to stay: Along the Camino de Santiago Portuguese route, you can stay in either albergues, private pensions or hotels. You can find our guide to the best albergues on the Camino Portuguese here.
💡Albergues are hostels specifically for pilgrims on the Camino. You can find out more about albergues on the Camino, how to book and how to check in, here in our guide.
What to pack: You will want to pack as lightly as possible to walk the Camino Portuguese – you can find our packing list here.
When to walk: The best time to walk this route is April to June or September to October. Where possible, avoid July and August when the high temperatures make walking difficult.
Camino de Santiago North Route, Spain
The Camino Norte route (Camino del Norte) is a pilgrimage route which winds along the rugged coast of Norther Spain, from the Basque Country, through Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.
What makes this one of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe: Coastal walking. Visiting the wonderful cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santander.
Start and End Point: The Camino North route starts in Irun, in Norther Spain and ends in Santiago de Compostela. Many people choose to walk just a section, for example the last 100km into Santiago, or from San Sebastian to Bilbao.
Distance: The Camino del Norte (the Camino North Route) is 835km. Find our guide to the daily stages for the Camino North route here.
Where to stay: Along the Camino de Santiago North route, you can stay in either albergues, private pensions or hotels. You can find our guide to the best albergues on the Camino del Norte.
What to pack: You will want to pack as lightly as possible to walk the Camino North route, don’t forget your swimsuit – you can find our packing list here.
When to walk: The best time to walk this route is June or September. Where possible, avoid July and August when the high temperatures make walking difficult. That said, the temperatures in the North of Spain can be cooler than elsewhere in Spain. We walked this route in July and it was very manageable.
Camino de Santiago Primitivo, Spain
The Primitivo is thought to be the oldest of the Camino routes ending in Santiago de Compostela. It is also the most challenging, as it weaves through the dizzy heights of the Picos de Europa.
What makes this one of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe: A challenging hike and the original Camino route. Perhaps a quieter and more authentic experience than the other Camino routes.
Distance: The Camino Primitivo is 321km long.
Where to stay: Along the Camino de Santiago Primitivo route, you can stay in either albergues, private pensions or hotels.
What to pack: You will want to pack as lightly as possible to walk the Camino Primitivo – you can find our packing list here.
When to walk: In theory, you could walk any time from April to October. However, you may want to avoid peak summer, when the temperatures are higher. April and October may see some cooler and wet weather too.
Via Francigena Toscana, Italy
The Via Francigena is a pilgrimage route in Europe that stats in the UK, goes through France, Switzerland and Italy. We recommend the section from Lucca to Rome, which is the most beautiful and takes you into Rome.
What makes this one of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe: It ends in Rome and takes in beautiful countryside along the route. And of course, don’t forget the Italian food!
Start and End Point: We recommend starting this route in Lucca and walking to Vatican City, in Rome.
Distance: The section from Lucca to Rome is 419 km. You can find our guide to the daily walking stages here.
Where to stay: Along the Via Francigena, there are hotels, B&Bs and hostels for walkers. It is also possible to camp along the way too. You can find our guide to accommodation on the Via Francigena here.
What to pack: You will want to pack as lightly as possible to walk the Via Francigena – but don’t forget your sleeping bag. Find our packing list fo the Via Francigena Toscana here.
When to walk: You can walk as early as March and as late as October, but it’s best to avoid the peak summer months of July and August. Aside from he heat, accommodation is also difficult co come by in Tuscany during this time.
St Olavs Way (Gudbrandsdalsleden), Norway
There are a number of St Olav’s routes in Norway, we recommend the route from Oslo to Trondheim which is called Gudbrandsdalsleden. Imagine fjords, lush forests and oodles of peaceful countryside.
What makes this one of the best pilgrimage routes in Europe: Norwegian countryside and hospitality. Being able to wild camp, whcih gives a total sense of fredom.
Distance: The walk is a 643km from Oslo to Trondheim.
Where to stay: Along this route, you can stay in B&Bs, farms and special pilgrim hostels. You can also camp and wild camp too. Find out more about accommodation on St Olav’s Way here.
What to pack: You will want to pack lightly for St Olav’s Way, but you may want to consider packing camping gear. You can find our St Olav’s packing list here.
When to walk: Really the best months to walk this route are June, July and August. During this time you have a good chance of warm weather and lots of daylight.
Other pilgrimage routes in Europe to consider:
In the UK, there are a few pilgrimage routes that you could try. The first, is a new route from Reading to Southampton which is officially part of the Camino Ingles. There is also a wonderful pilgrimage walk along Hadrians Wall in the North of England – find out more here.
In Europe, there is the Romedius Pilgrimage Trail, which goes through Austria and Italy. We haven’t tried this one yet, so have not included it in our list of best pilgrimages. But, it sounds wonderful and we love both Italy and Austria, so intend to walk it one day!
Written by Emma
Wine Lover. Yogi. Hiker. Writer.
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