The times are busy. Many of us dream about taking a break, to escape for a while to get back in touch with ourselves. This is one of the reasons why pilgrimages have become more significant again in the second half of 20th century, after being forgotten and even frowned upon in its first half. Many people today, religious or not, find taking these ancient routes to holy places to be liberating, joyous and even healing.
However, there is a catch. Completing the entire Camino Frances, the best known and the most popular road to Camino de Santiago takes about a month. Not many of us can spare a whole month and dedicate it to going on the road.
You don’t have to complete an entire route to be a pilgrim, or to enjoy The Way. To be eligible for the official pilgrim certificate of the Camino de Santiago called the Compostela, you have to walk at least 100 km. This can be done in 5 or so days.
Two weeks is a fairly average time a person can make available for a modern-day pilgrimage. Fortunately, there are numerous starting points along all major and minor Camino routes that can take you to Camino de Santiago in that time. The one you will choose will depend on your preferences for a certain scenery, and your walking abilities – not all people can walk at the same pace.
I’ve had the amazing good fortune to walk two weeks of the Camino Frances through Follow the Camino last year – I happened to be on France on business anyway, and a group of colleagues convinced me to join them on their adventure. Even though I was very reluctant at first, the walk turned out to be the best holiday, if I can call it that, I have ever taken.
Here is a short guide to your own two possible weeks on the Camino.
The Camino Frances
Leon is one of the popular starting points for people that have more than a couple of weeks on their hands. If you’re planning to do two weeks from Leon, you will have to cover around 22 kilometers per day, which is not a joke. However, we managed to do walk about 25-28 each day, so we had plenty of time to spare.
Further along is Astorga, a nice mountain town. Choosing it as a starting point means you skip the Leon-Astorga 50-kilometer section which tends to get really hot in the summer, and start surrounded by the scenic mountain view. If you are a slow walker, this might be just right to get you to Santiago in two weeks. If you are quicker, you might use the extra time for a relaxed sightseeing in Santiago.
From Astorga, the path climbs to O Cerebro, but O Cerebro itself can be a starting point, cutting the distance you need to cover to just 150 km. Driving to the top of O Cerebro is an option if it’s too difficult for you to climb it (though climbing is a rewarding experience if you’re able to do it), and still enables you to enjoy the mountain landscape.
The Camino Primitivo
Oviedo is a hidden treasure of Camino de Santiago, since it is not as popular a route, despite all its beauty. As the only way to Santiago which is completely true to the original one, it stays on asphalt roads, so you can enjoy the natural scenery. It meets the Camino Frances after Lugo and makes for a total length of 300 km. This means you will have to cover 20 km a day, almost like in the case of Leon.
The Via de la Plata
Puebla de Sanabria
The Via de la Plata starts at the south of Spain and is the longest pilgrimage of all. Many pilgrims walking Via de la Plata cut it shorter by choosing Puebla de Sanabria as a starting point. The so-called Camino Sanabrés bypasses the Camino Francés and leads straight to Santiago de Compostela. The route is not as easy, since at the beginning you will have to go uphill across the train tracks, but becomes easier after that. And it is peaceful and scenic, leading you through beautiful Galicia.
These are just some of the options for completing the Camino in two weeks. There are even more ways and starting points you can discover. As you can see, having only two weeks for this uplifting experience doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it; on the contrary, it might shed a completely new and unexpected light on it.