There is no correct or incorrect route on the Camino de Santiago so long as the end destination is the shrine of Saint James the Great at the Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. While the above statement is true, there are two common routes that are popular with pilgrim from around the world and they are detailed for you below.
The French Way is that important that it is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This route is also the most popular undertaken on the Camino de Santiago. One of the reasons for the popularity of the French Way is the Codex Calixtius, the main witness for the 12th century Book of Saint James.
This book is one of the main reasons the majority of early pilgrims came from France, with the most popular cities being Arles, Le Puy, Paris and Vezelay. Another important rallying and meeting point is the medieval abbey in Cluncy, which was officially integrated into the European pilgrimage route in 2002.
A typical French Way route spans 769 kilometres from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Pilgrims cross the border of France and Spain in the western Pyrenees. There are 29 notable points on the French Way, with the 26th point in Sarria being the last point a pilgrim can start the journey on foot or horseback and still complete the 100 kilometres required to claim the compostela. The Portuguese Way begins in Porto or Lisbon and sees pilgrims follow the Way of Saint James. Pilgrims cross five main rivers on their journey before they enter Spain. After travelling along the Douro River, Portuguese Way pilgrims cross the Ave, Cavado, Neiva, Lim and Minho rivers on their way toSantiago de Compostela.
With 4.41 percent of pilgrims choosing this route, compared to the 19.9 percent opting for the French Way, the Portuguese Way is the second most popular route taken on the Camino de Santiago. If pilgrims on the Portuguese Way start their journey from Porto, the route is 227 kilometres long (140 miles). Those beginning their pilgrimage in Lisbon have 610 kilometres (380 miles) to travel.
Portuguese Way pilgrims get to travel through Rates, which is considered to be a central site of the route and where pilgrims flock from in droves. This particular way has been used since the Middle Ages and the monastery of Rates is highly regarded. Legend has it that Saint James ordained Saint Peter ad the first bishop of Braga in AD 44. Peter later died as a martyr as he tried to bring Christianity to local pagans. The temple was said to have held the remains Saint Peter of Rates, but the cadaver was transfered to Braga Cathedral in 1552.
One of the reasons the French Way is preferred to the Portuguese Way, especially with older pilgrims or those who are infirm, is the latter has a section that is difficult to cross. After crossing the river Lima, pilgrims can take an inland route over the Ponte de Lima bridge. Taking this route, however, means they have to climb the Lubruja hills in Ponte de Lime which can be difficult to cross even for fit and able pilgrims.