The Way of St James, or St James' Way, quite often known by its Spanish name the Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in north-westernmost Spain where the apostle Saint James the Great is said to be laid to rest. There is no one route - the Way can be one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela - but there are a number of main ones.
The Way of St James has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages since medieval times - the others being the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem - and it has been in existence for over 1000 years. The legend is that St. James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Since the late 1980's it has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from all around the globe.
The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.
The French Way or Camino Francés
The most popular of the routes is the French Way, the Camino Francés, which runs from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees through to Santiago de Compostela, passing through the major cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and Léon.
Before getting to Spain three major arms of this pilgrimage route across France meet before coming to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. These routes come from Paris, Vézelay and Le Puy.
The Arles Way and the Aragonese Way
The route from Italy, the Via Tolosana, becomes the Arles Way (in French the La voie d'Arles or Chemin d'Arles) in southern France, named after that principal cathedral city. It goes through Montpellier and Toulouse and Oloron-Sainte-Marie before reaching the Spanish border at Col du Somport in the high Pyrenees.
After the Spanish border this route is renamed the Aragonese Way, the Camino Aragonés. This makes its way down from Somport through the old kingdom of Aragon following the River Aragón passing through towns such as Jaca. It then crosses into the province of Navarre to Puente La Reina where it joins the Camino Francés.
The Northern Way or Camino del Norte
Part of the the Coastal Route or Ruta de la Costa. It runs from France at Irún and follows the northern coastline of Spain to Galicia and then heads inland towards Santiago. It joins the Camino Francés at Arzua.
This route follows the old Roman road, the Via Agrippa, some of its way.
The English Way or Camino Inglés
Pilgrims who were travelling to Spain by sea often disembarked in Ferrol or A Coruña and then made there way to Santiago overland. It is so called because many of these pilgrims were English.
The Portuguese Way or Camino Portugués
The Portuguese Way begins at Porto in north-west Portugal. Pilgrims travel north crossing the Lima and Minho rivers before entering Spain and then on to Padron before arriving at Santiago
The Camino Mozárabe and the Via de la Plata
The Camino Mozárabe route from Granada meets the Via de la Plata (an earlier Roman causeway joining Italica and Asturica Augusta) route in Seville. This route continues north towards to Astorga from where pilgrims can continue along the Camino Francés to Santiago.