Distance: 298km / 185mi
A wonderful place to begin your journey is France, and more specifically Toulouse. Located just shy of a thousand kilometers (~600 miles) from the Cathedral, this is the farthest starting point of our three. But it’s well worth the added distance. Toulouse is a city of ancient buildings with red tile roofs. Throughout the city, you’ll walk over well-work cobblestones and through medieval gates. Here is an itinerary suggestion:
- After a sumptuously crunchy chocolatine (yes, that’s what they call them down there!) and a rich café crème, head to the Canal du Midi, a jewel of French engineering and UNESCO World Heritage Site that links Toulouse by waterway to the Mediterranean. Though not used much for commerce these days, it’s perfect for riparian biking and picnics and kayak trips.
- With the warmth of the sun on your back, step out of the light and into the cool hall of Saint Etienne Cathedral.
- Then, after a lunch of famous Toulouse sausage, explore the gallery of arches the Jacobins, the Quai de la Garonne, and the Hotel Dieu.
- In the evening, explore the Raymond VI Park and Gardens, and then prepare for your departure to Conques.
- At Conques, eat at the Pilgrim’s Welcome Center of the Abbey of Conques.
- Enjoy the gorgeous medieval town that is Conques. Here are some key things to experience: The roman bridge over the Dourou, which is on the pilgrimage route, a 30-minute walk through the Sainte-Foy chapel, and seeing the view at Bancarel.
- After lunch, visit the town hall, take a coffee, and stroll around the square. End the day with a cocktail at one of many local cafes.
- Once the sun sets, take your dinner at the Ecoasis and stay at one of the official accommodations that welcome pilgrims.
- On your last morning touring France, make the 1-hour drive to Cahors, possibly through the Célé Valley, and stop at Saint-Cirq Lapopie along the way. Once in Cahors, make sure to check out the Valentré Bridge, the Saint Etienne Cathedral, and the Chartreux Fountain. Have lunch in Cahors and then return to Toulouse at around 1:30.
- Once back in Toulouse, take your dinner and prepare yourself for the flight to Spain from Blagnac Airport.
You can have a virtual tour of this itinerary with MashAya on her YouTube channel. In her videos from the trip to Santiago de Compostela, you can see the places suggested above, and additionally, find out about MashAya’s impressions of travelling to the Holy Land of Santiago, the reasons why people make pilgrimage there, and watch an interview with piligrims.
Distance: 84km / 52mi
Porto is another wonderful place to begin your pilgrimage. It’s substantially closer to the Cathedral—just 216 kilometers or 134 miles—and has much to explore before you set off on the trail. Here’s an itinerary we suggest:
- After coffee and breakfast, go straight into the city to see what you discover. A great place to start is the WOW district, an area packed full of experiences, bars, cafes, restaurants, and artisan shops to explore.
- For lunch, try some of Portugal’s famous seafood, like langoustines, these cousins of the lobster with sweet flesh that is delicious when grilled.
- Depart for the 12th century Benedictine monastery located in Rates. This gorgeous set of buildings will make feel like you can touch the past.
- Then depart for Ponte de Lima, the oldest villa (or chartered town) in the whole country! This is a great place to spend the night.
- The next day, explore Ponte de Lima once more then prepare for your departure for Valença, where your pilgrimage will begin.
Have an in-depth look at this experience through the eyes of Risa on her YouTube channel. Don’t forget to check out her Instagram posts and stories as well to see the highlights of her trip from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela.
Distance: 318km / 197mi
Though Spain is the home of main route of the Santiago de Compostela and, therefore, the Cathedral we’ve been speaking about, it’s not a foreign feeder country like France and Portugal. Nevertheless, it is still a great place to begin your journey. We suggest starting in the city of Leon and following this itinerary:
- Take your breakfast at the hotel, and then spend half the day with a tour guide of the city. Visit the breathtaking San Isidoro Cathedral as well as the Parador and Museo Contemporaneo.
- Once the guided tour is complete, spend the afternoon exploring. Walk down small streets, pop into stores, take a glass of cold juice at a local café.
- In the evening, prepare for your departure to the town of Santiago de Compostela. Take the train, which will put you in the town at around 22h at night.
- Get some rest so that you have lots of energy or the activities of the next day.
- Start your day right with a Spanish breakfast of eggs, bread and juice. Then hop into a taxi to Monte de Gozo. First step, take pictures. Second step, explore the beautiful hill where Christian pilgrims get their first views of the spires of the Cathedral.
- Return to the town, and in the afternoon, relax or explore.
- Join a guided tour of the Old Quarter of Santiago. Make sure to visit the Plaza Obradoiro, a majestic square with beautiful buildings on each side. Spend the morning walking around the Old Quarter and perusing the Abastos Market, a place where you’ll find some of the freshest, vine or tree-ripened produce you’ll ever encounter.
- After lunch, visit the pilgrim office to get your official certificate and then spend the evening basking in the feelings of journey and discovery, in this unforgettable town.