The title question seems to be interesting because there is no answer. Or rather, there are many of them. You probably know that ‘camino’ in spanish means ‘road’. The so-called ‘Road’, despite where it starts, leads to the one place – Santiago de Compostela. There is also a tomb of Saint James in the city’s cathedral. According to the ancient tradition, the journey starts where you leave your house. To be more precise: where one should hit the road in order to be finally and clearly on the ‘Camino’ way?
In the Middle Ages, one of the most crowded pilgrimages with a huge importance was The Way of Saint James, especially its shrine which was perceived as a kind of ‘heart to conquer’. The oldest visits were in the 9th century, to give you an overall glance at the history of such expeditions. Enough to say it was the time of the Kingdom of Austrias. Then, another historical milestone, the first handmade guide prepared for travelers, dates back to 12th century. It offered a practical support and useful advices for people heading towards Santiago. It was said to be created by Pope Callixtus II, but history shows it’s a work of the French scholar – AymericPicaud. This illustrated manuscript was called Codex Calixtinus. However, why are we actually mentioning that? Because the fact that some of the routes were described carefully in guidebooks and some weren’t is a reason why pilgrims would choose one road and dismiss other. That’s why some of the routes grew stronger while others were too dangerous to manage without such help and gradually creeped into oblivion. The most popular one nowadays is called French Way – the Camino Francés. It starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France. Worth noticing, when describing an enormous will of pilgrims, it’s placed about 800 kilometres away from Santiago.
Let’s go back to the present. Which points a voyager should hit to start? It ends, as mentioned, at the town of Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. As also said pilgrims start wherever they live. Main way which is the proper beginning, the most popular one is the city called Le PuyenVelay in France’s Massif Central. An overall time needed to execute the road is two months, but some pilgrims use to shorten the distance to do it faster. From April to June, as well as in September roads are most crowded, so in order not to unhappily meet a scarce accommodation, avoid this timing or just provide yourself with a reservation before setting off. If you want to cut the time of the trip, choose other starting points like Sarria or Vilalba.This way you are going to spend only a week as a pilgrim. If you have a month to spare however, you better decide on St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Other top starting bases
Enumerated and not mentioned before: León, O Cebreiro, Roncesvalles, Tui (Portuguese Way), Ponferrada, Porto (Portuguese Way), Astorga and Pamplona. The first one happens to be chosen by 5 percent of pilgrims, so generally it’s for those who prefer solitude on the road. O Cebreiro starts in the mountains in Galicia. Roncesvalles is in Pyrenees, it’s even less common (gathers about 4 percent of pilgrims). Tui on the Portuguese Way, similarily amount of people, next to Portugal with its border appointed by the River Miño. Ponferrada, which is the capital of El Bierzo, provides you with amazing scenery, but it’s more demanding, cause you need to climb some mountains. Happily you are going to pass the remarkable ‘cruz de ferro’ (iron cross). Then, Porto, known broadly for its Porto wine, but also, what is probably less obvious, for being the UNESCO world heritage municipality. Astorga and Pamplonaare most unpopularroutes, but thereisanmagnificentattraction not to dismiss. Pamplonaisknown for its run bull. They are also traditionally held in other places such as towns and villages across Spain, Portugal, in some cities in Mexico and southern France during the summer.