A pilgrimage need not be limited to religious devotees. While technically referring to a spiritual journey, anyone can set out on their own to find a place where they feel most at peace and fulfilled. In several books by international best-selling author Paulo Coelho, a journey called “Road to Santiago” is often mentioned. While this journey entails a romantic experience unique to every individual and at the same time real, where exactly is this road? And where exactly does it lead?
The road is actually known as El Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James. It is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. This road has existed for thousands of years, paving the way for a lot of stories to be born (Legends say that the remains of St. James are buried on the site where the city Santiago de Compostela sits). During the middle ages, The Road to Santiago was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages. In fact, it was considered one of three pilgrimages on which all sins could be forgiven, ranking high alongside Jerusalem.
There are various routes to Santiago (The common ones are lined with yellow arrows to guide travelers). One of the most popular starting points is the French Way or Camino Francés. To gain entrance to hospices along the way, travelers must present proof that they are indeed bikers or hikers. This document is called the credencial and can be bought for a few euros through a Spanish tourist agency or their local church, depending on the starting location. It is also known as the Pilgrim’s Passport and can be very helpful throughout the whole journey.
Of course, the stops along the way are just as significant as the destination itself. Travelers are advised to take their time and let things fall into place naturally. Besides, rushing to get to Santiago itself will only drain enthusiasm for the actual adventure and make the whole pilgrimage pointless.