With record numbers this year on the Camino, pilgrims are seeking alternatives to the Camino Frances. Be aware the headcount rises dramatically upon reaching Sarria. The good news is there are plenty of alternatives. In fact, 8 other Caminos with each offering a great Camino experience. Starting your Camino from Sarria can still be a rewarding pilgrimage but it is certainly the most crowded by far. It is not uncommon to see 50 or more other pilgrims ahead of you at times during the busy season. On the other extreme if you walk the Camino Invierno from Monforte de Lemos you may only see a dozen other pilgrims. I have walked all of the nine 100K+ Caminos to Santiago over the past 7 years. While I prefer starting from as far away as possible many pilgrims have time restrictions, health issues, and other reasons to walk just the 100k minimum to earn a Compostela or Certificate of Completion. So no judgement. A 100-150K Camino is better than no Camino. So let’s take a look at the 9 100K+ Caminos.
1. Camino Frances starting in Sarria (117K). This is the most popular and most historical but also the most crowded. Particularly in the summertime when there are large groups of Spanish school kids. Don’t let that deter you. There are ways to ease the crowding. Starting out in Sarria around mid-week avoiding weekends. Staying in smaller towns and not in the suggested guidebook towns like Sarria, Portomarin, Palas de Rei, Arzua, and O Pedrouzo. Stopping in Barbadelo, Ligonde, Ribadiso, and Lavacolla or other small towns should make for a quieter pilgrimage. Leaving before 7AM could at least give you some periods of silence. Or walking in the late afternoon and evening though this will require you to book your accommodations. Also, this walk is doable all year long. This past November/December I walked from Pamplona to Santiago and it was quiet and intimate and pleasantly cool. So if you want to do Frances do it but be aware. If the crowds scare you there are plenty of other Caminos. You can take a train to Sarria from Madrid or there are buses from Santiago and Santiago Airport to Sarria.
2. Camino del Norte starting from Vilalba (122K) which allows for some quiet walking before connecting with the Camino Frances at Arzua (39K remaining on Frances). Also there is now an alternate route from Boimorto to Lavacolla which limits the walking on Frances to the last 10K. Alternatively to Vilalba one could start in Baamonde but it is not as accessible via public transportation. A good option if you like the idea of some quiet before connecting with the Frances on your final day(s) before Santiago.
3. Camino Primitivo starting in Lugo(104k) provides a start in a beautiful city and like del Norte allows for some quiet reflection time before connecting with Frances at Melide (55K remaining to Santiago). Really this is half on the relatively quiet Primitivo and half on the busier Frances. A good alternative for those who are not sure if they want to walk from Sarria. This option mixes it up evenly, allowing for half quiet time before the exhilarating last half on Frances into Santiago.
4. Camino Ingles/Irish starting in Ferrol (118K) is a great alternative to Frances if you are going to do one short Camino to get a single certificate. You could optionally start in La Coruña but then it is only about 74K so does not qualify for a Compostela. I think the Ferrol route is more beautiful, has better towns to stop in as well. This Camino is understandably getting more crowded but quieter than Frances and allows for stops in pleasant towns. Pontedeume is a picturesque coastal town and Betanzos is a nice stop. This walk does not connect with Frances until just a 100 meters or so from the Cathedral. Ideal also for those of UK or Irish heritage. And this is the only one where you actually begin walking at the starting point of the entire Camino. Ferrol is on the sea. So there is no competition or talk with fellow pilgrims of how far they have walked. You are all doing the same 118K.
5. Camino Invierno starting in Monforte de Lemos (133K). If you are seeking solitude this is the ideal option. I walked this in August, 2019 and saw only 1 other pilgrim until A Laxe where you will connect with Camino Sanabres where you might run into a few more pilgrims for the final 50K. Walked it again in 2021 and saw maybe 10 other pilgrims. Monforte de Lemos is a wonderful town with a mountain top Castle and Parador. There is also some beautiful nature. Also Monforte is accessible by train from Santiago or Madrid.
6. Camino Sanabres starting from Ourense (116K) provides an easy access point and one of the more quiet of these 8 Caminos. If you like a quieter Camino but would like to have some connection with other pilgrims this would be a good alternative. Ourense is another great place to start as they have a beautiful Cathedral and is easily accessible from Santiago or Madrid by train. And there are some nearby hot springs.
7. Camino Portuguese Central starting from Tui (110K) is an excellent option. This walk is getting more and more popular but certainly less crowded than the Frances. Tui is a pleasant town and starting point and is accessible from Santiago by train. If beginning in another country is appealing one needs only to add another 2K by crossing the River Minho to Valenca, Portugal. Valenca is accessible via train from Porto.
8. Camino Portuguese Coastal starts in Vigo (100K) though you have missed alot of the coast unless you start in Porto or A Guarda right over the River Minho on the coast. If you start in A Guarda you can visit Oia and spend a night at the Luxury Albergue La Cala Pilgrims Inn, which offers a Bodega, great wine, comfortable beds with real sheets, and a spectacular view of the sea, the Monastery of Santa Maria de Oia and the mountains behind. If you do start in Vigo you can take the Spiritual Variant about 2.5K after crossing the River Lerez in Pontevedra, which will take you along more of the beautiful Galician coast. There is also a river ferry crossing. Or after Pontevedra you just finish up on the Portuguese Central.
9. Camino Finisterre with a starting point in either Finisterre or Muxia (117K). Most people with extra time after a Camino will add a walk on to the edge of the world in either of these 2 beautiful but different coastal towns on the Atlantic. So you will mostly be passing other pilgrims coming from the other direction but why not if you are a contrarian. If you have some extra time you might consider starting in Malpica and walking the spectacularly beautiful coastal Camino de Faros (lighthouses). Find out more at
In case you are wondering, I have walked all of these Caminos so while this overview reflects my personal opinions all have been enjoyable. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, on the Camino. It is the Camino and your Camino is YOUR Camino. Do what feels best for you. If you are like me and prefer a longer Camino there are also many options to consider; Which Camino Should I Walk? There are 5 Caminos in Spain and Portugal that range from 790K to 1100K; Camino Frances, del Norte, Portuguese, Via de la Plata (VDLP), and Levante. There are also some fantastic Global Pilgrimages in other parts of the world.
Buen Camino and feel free to ask questions on which Camino may be best for you.