If you have walked the Camino Frances and dream of a repeat, it is certainly a viable option to walk Frances again. Why it is the best of the Caminos is explained at Why Frances Is The Best Camino. That said, if you are feeling a desire for something different, there are 17 alternative Caminos in Spain and Portugal and 37 other global pilgrimages discussed here with links to more information.
If you want to walk another Camino or global pilgrimage perhaps it is best to focus by a country of interest to you. Below are pilgrimage alternatives for your consideration around the globe.
Spain and Portugal: As 446,000 walked Frances in 2023, pilgrims may be seeking quieter alternatives. Fortunately there are many options:
- The 620 km. Portuguese Way offers 2 countries and cultures and includes a central and coastal option from Porto. Starting in Lisbon allows for a long stretch of quiet until reaching the busier section after Porto. Veering to Fatima adds to the magic of this Camino. How The Portuguese Way Is Different From Camino Frances.
- The 825 km. Del Norte is less crowded and offers more beautiful nature including spectacular coastal vistas. One also has the option of veering to Oviedo to finish on the Primitivo. How Camino Del Norte Is Different From The Camino Frances.
- The 320 km. mountainous Primitivo is more scenic and challenging than most other Caminos.
- The 1,000 km. Via de la Plata(VDLP) offers a walk through Roman History and a quieter and more intimate experience. It can be quite hot, temperatures soaring over 40C in July and August so best to do this Camino in Spring or Fall. How The VDLP is Different From The Camino Frances.
- The 120 km. The English (Irish) Way from Ferrol offers an excellent short Camino de Santiago. Alternatively, one can start in La Coruña which makes it under 100 km. I did both and recommend starting from Ferrol. For the Irish and English it can be combined with a walk starting in your home country. I did the Kerry Camino from Tralee to Dingle before this which made it quite special. They even have a Credential and stamps available along the way.
- The 1,100 km. Levante and Sureste offer the ultimate in quiet with less than 300 pilgrims walking it annually. Like VDLP best to do these Caminos in Spring or Fall. This walk takes you through La Mancha and Don Quixote country which makes it quite special for fans of Cervantes. It also passes through the beautiful cities of Toledo and Avila before connecting with the Via de la Plata in Zamora for Levante pilgrims and farther north for Sureste walkers.
- The 267 km. Camino Invierno offers a very quiet diverse pilgrimage with beautiful scenery. Excellent option for those on Frances wanting to avoid crowds from Sarria to Santiago. Originates in Ponferrada. The infrastructure is not quite as developed as other Caminos so staying in hotels and inns as well as albergues is required.
- The 200 km. Camino de Faros is a spectacular Galicia coastal walk starting in Malpica and ending in Finisterre. While not an official Camino de Santiago it makes for a fantastic pilgrimag of 279 km. if you continue on to the Santiago. This 7 day walk offers the best scenery of any 7 day stretch on any Camino in Spain. Walking The Camino de Faros And How It Is Different From The Camino Frances.
- For those who only want to walk the minimum 100 km. to earn a Certificate there are 8 Alternative 100+ km. Caminos to Santiago to the sometimes crowded Sarria to Santiago Camino.
- For those who want more after reaching Santiago The Camino de Finisterre and Muxia offer a quiet, reflective final 90-117 km. to the sea.
- The 70 km. Camino de Gran Canaria offers an excellent alternative Camino during the entire year but especially so in the winter. It has two Churches of Santiago including one at the end that even has a Holy Door offering the same papal indulgences as Santiago Cathedral. The walk starts in Maspalomas on the southern coast and ends in Gáldar on the northern coast. Credentials are available. There are no albergues but there are a few hostels. You might not run into other pilgrims but there are some hikers on the trails. It even has a Parador in Tejeda for those who like luxury at times.
- The 60 km. Camino de Mallorca offers another grand Winter pilgrimage. Starting at the Sanctuary of Lluc and ending in Palma where you catch a ferry for Alicante and Camino Sureste or Barcelona for Camino Catalan. That said Lluc is also on the GR221 which traverses the Tramuntana Mountains which is a much more scenic and rugged route and takes you within bus range of Palma.
- There are also several wonderful Caminos that branch into the Camino Frances; Aragones, Madrid, del Vasco, Catalan and San Salvador. Mozarábe connects with the VDLP.
- Last is walking a Camino from your home. Great for Europeans but what about Americans, Canadians, Australians, and others? Why not walk from the country or home of your ancestors. I did so walking from my ancestral home in Clare, Ireland and it was the most special of all my Caminos and other global pilgrimages. It’s A Long Way From Tipperary to Santiago includes many experiences from that 3,000 km. pilgrimage.
After doing the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port an intriguing option is to opt for one of the several routes in France known as the Chemin de San Jacques;
- The 736 km. Via Podiensis or Chemin duPuy is widely considered the most diverse and beautiful of the French Caminos with some challenging mountainous days early on. How The Via Podiensis Is Different From The Camino Frances.
- The 900 km. Chemin de Vezelay is a diverse route originating in Burgundy.
- The 913 km. Chemin de Tours begins in Paris and takes you through Tours and Bordeaux. The first few weeks out of Paris includes lots of crop fields.
- The 800 km. Chemin de Arles begins in Provence and takes you through Toulouse to Oloron-Saint Marie where you can veer west to SJPP or continue south to Somport to connect in Spain with the Camino Aragones.
There are also several other excellent options on the European Continent:
- The 2,000 km. Via Francigena traverse from Canterbury, UK through France and Switzerland before crossing into Italy on the St. Bernard Pass continuing on to Rome. There is a southern route continuing on from Rome 929 km. to Santa Maria di Leuca on the Mediterranean Coast. Here medieval pilgrims would catch a boat for The Holy Land. How The Via Francigena Is Different From The Camino Frances.
- The 550 km. Via Francesco, Way of St. Francis follows the footsteps of St. Francis from Florence to La Verna to Assisi to Rome. It is mountainous in parts and offers a diverse and beautiful pilgrimage. How The Way of St. Francis Is Different From The Camino Frances.
- The 640 km. St. Olav’s Way, through Norway to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
Ireland offers some spectacular pilgrimages and walks. There are several holy pilgrimages of one or a few days; Croagh Patrick, St. Kevin’s Way, St. Declan’s Way. There are some fantastic 7-10 day walks as well:
- The Kerry Way originates in Killarney and circles the Kerry Peninsula. Spectacular walk in the Irish countryside and coast.
- The Beara Way originates in Killarney or Kenmare and loops around the Beara Peninsula. Spectacular and more quiet than Kerry Way.
- The Dingle Way originates in Tralee and takes one around the Dingle Peninsula. The first 3 days is also a Camino de Santiago ending at St. James Church in Dingle Town. This walk also allows for peaking Mt. Brandon which is the spot where St. Brendan was inspired to sail to America. Another fantastic walk.
- The Wicklow Way is a beautiful 7 day walk over the Wicklow Mountains. Good for those with limited time as it originates or ends in Marlay Park, Dublin.
- For those pilgrims seeking a longer walk, the Coast to Coast walk allows for a Dublin to Dursey Island on the Beara Peninsula pilgrimage or an end at Skellig Michael on Kerry Way. This is also part of the E8 trail from Dursey Island to Istanbul.
- It is also possible to walk to Santiago de Compostela starting in Ireland. I did so from my ancestral home in Clare taking 111 days spanning 3,000 kms. to reach Santiago and then Muxia. It’s A Long Way From Tipperary to Santiago.
Which Is The Best Long Walk In Ireland for a comparison of the Kerry, Dingle, and Beara Ways.
In the UK, a favorite of many is the 7 day West Highland Way in Scotland. Spectacular mountain scenery including rugged stretch. Hadrian’s Wall, St. Cuthbert’s Way, St. Oswald’s Way, and The London to Walsingham Camino. Also an extension of the Via Francigena can be walked from London to Canterbury for fans of Canterbury Tales.
Israel has a walk that is most special. 65 kilometers on The Jesus Trail taking pilgrims from his boyhood home of Nazareth to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee where he and his Disciples spent much time during the years of his ministry. One passes through several biblical sites including; Cana, Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes, Peter’s place and crosses beautiful but rugged Mt. Arbel. Also, the Via Dolorosa is a short 1 kilometer pilgrimage in Jerusalem that follows the path of Jesus carrying his cross to the site of his Crucifixion and Tomb in Holy Sepulchre Church. Powerful. Walking The Jesus Trail And How It Is Different From The Camino.
- Kumano Kodo is actually 5 short 3-10 day trails taking you to various Shinto Shrines in the Wakayama Prefecture. The most popular is the Nakahechi and is relatively easy, while the Kohechi is a rugged mountain trail and passes through Mt. Koyasan and Okunuin Cemetery which is a very special place. The Kuman Kodo is also a sister pilgrimage to the Camino as they are the only 2 World Heritage Pilgrimages on the planet. A Dual Certificate is possible so bring proof of your Camino if that is of interest.
- The 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage is a 1,200 kilometer walk around the island of Shikoku. Magnificent mountain and coastal scenery. A very special journey that allows for many encounters with beautiful Japanese culture and people. Pilgrims or “henros” if they choose can wear white outfits unique to this pilgrimage.
Nepal offers multiple short and long treks through the spectacular Himalayan Mountains allowing for many encounters with monks on the trail and at the many Buddhist Temples. While they are called “treks’ here, I have experienced the same kind of magical spiritual moments that pilgrims find on Caminos and other global pilgrimages. To me every walk is a pilgrimage whether it’s called that or a trek or any other name.
- Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek: Of course this trek to the highest mountain on the planet is a top bucket list item. Most people fly into Lukla today and can limit their time to 12-14 days. It includes magnificent mountain scenery, some interesting Buddhist Temples, and a 2 day stop in Namche Bazaar for acclimatization. Be aware that EBC is not a place of particularly special scenery and does not provide a particularly good view of Mt. Everest. It is a bunch of tents on a valley floor at 5,364 meters/17,594 feet. An alternative or perhaps an addition to your journey is to walk up and summit Kala Patthar, which at 5,644 meters/18,519 feet offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including Everest.
- 3 Passes: If you have the time, the strength and energy, this is a magnificent and challenging trek. Not only can you optionally add to your bucket list with a visit to EBC, but you will experience 3 high passes away from the crowds of the EBC. This is the ultimate high altitude trek crossing the EBC Trek taking you over 3 5,000 meter plus passes; Renjo Lo, Cho La, and Kongma La.
- Annapurna Circuit: This is the trek opted for by most budget trekkers. No plane is required. Hence it is the most popular trek in Nepal, though I would say it doesn’t feel as crowded as EBC because most everyone walks it counterclockwise from the Besi Sahar side. You can take an all day bus from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar to begin this highly popular trek. It is one of the most diverse and beautiful walks, taking you through Alpine forests, Tibetan areas, high plains, high lakes, and the soaring white capped Annapurnas.
- Annapurna Base Camp (Sanctuary): This trek takes you to the foot of Annapurna South inside the Annapurna Circuit. A bit less crowded than the Annapurna Circuit. Hikers are rewarded with magnificent views of the Annapurnas as well as Machapuchare. For those concerned about high altitudes, this only takes you to 4,130 meters/13,550 feet.
- Manaslu and Tsum Valley: I have to say this is a fabulous trek. Primarily because it lacks the crowds of EBC or Annapurna making it quieter and there are less roads. And the views are every bit as spectacular. This trek reaches an elevation of 5,106 meters/16,752 feet. There are wonderful temples and villages along the way. The optional, highly recommended, Tsum Valley segment makes this special. Many of us would like to trek in Tibet. But Tibet is not what it once was and the Temples have been desecrated there and the people are not free. When you enter Tsum Valley, you experience a Tibetan Region, though in Nepal, it feels like Tibet.
- Langtang: A wonderful 7 day trek in the narrow Langtang Valley, north of Kathmandu, reaching a maximum elevation of 3,800 meters.
- Gosaikunda Lake: Instead of a mountain peak, the goal here is the sacred lake of Gosaikunda at 4,300 meters. Another nice shorter option with smaller crowds. And the views when you reach the lake are stunning.
- Helambu: A beautiful shorter trek with views of the Langtang mountains. This may be the best option for someone with a short one week to 10 day trip to Nepal as Helambu is a short distance north of Kathmandu. Also, you only go as high as 3,600 meters so altitude sickness is less likely to be an issue.
- Langtang/Gosaikunda/Helambu: Yes, the three short treks can be combined into one longer trek. This is one of my favorites and can be very inexpensive as it is doable without a guide. By starting at Langtang and finishing via Helambu, it allows for walkers to catch a cab and be back in your hotel in Thamel within an hour. 12-13 Days.
- Poon Hill: This is a short 3-5 Day Trek highlighted by the spectacular sunrise views at Poon Hill at 3,210 meters/10,530 feet. Though be aware it can be a bit crowded. It’s a perfect trek for people with limited time or unsure how they will like a longer trek.
For more information: How A Nepal Trek Is Different From The Camino de Santiago. Also: Which Nepal Trek is Best.
There are also some excellent multi-day jungle and cultural walks in Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
In South America, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is of course very popular and a wonderful experience walking through the Andes to this magical place. Unfortunately it usually requires a reservation months ahead of time. Salkantay Trail is a less expensive and easier to reserve alternative trail to Machu Picchu. For a quieter pilgrimage, the 4 day journey to Choquequirao Inca Mountain ruins is special as well. Colombia’s Lost City Trail is also a wonderful 4-5 mountainous jungle walk to an ancient village. It can be organized from Santa Marta on the Caribbean Coast.
In summary, all of these pilgrimages are special in their own way. Hopefully one or more call to you and you can broaden your pilgrimage experience to include more cultures and peoples of the world. Of course this list is limited to my own experiences and dreams and there are certainly other pilgrimages and walks that may appeal to you.
It is best to do these pilgrimages with as light a pack as possible. Camino Packing List offers advice and tips including what ATM cards are best.
For more information there are a series of ten articles on How Other Caminos and Global Pilgrimages Compare to Camino Frances:
- How The Camino del Norte Compares to Camino Frances.
- How The Camino Portuguese Compares to Camino Frances.
- How The Camino Via de la Plata Compares to Frances.
- How The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome Pilgrimage Compares to Frances.
- How The Via Francesco/Way of St. Francis Florence to Assisi to Rome Compares to Frances.
- How The Chemin duPuy/Via Podiensis Compares to Frances.
- How The Japan 88 Temple and Kumano Kodo Compare to Frances.
- How A Nepal Trek Compares to Camino Frances.
- How The Jesus Trail Compares to Camino Frances.
- How The Galicia Camino de Faros Compares to Frances.
Buen Camino and let us know if you have any questions. If this post was of interest you are welcome to join our Facebook Group; Camino de Santiago & Other Global Pilgrimages