I often get asked what is the difference between the Camino Francés and the Camino del Norte. They are both the Camino de Santiago, right? Yes, and while they both have the exciting aspects of walking the pilgrimage, as for much of the routes, it’s like night and day. Often, on the Camino del Norte, there are long stretches without seeing another pilgrim, long stretches without a water fountain or source, longs stretches without an albergue or pilgrim hostel, and relentless climbing and descending on many days.
There is much more actual hiking than on the Camino Francés. It’s definitely more challenging, especially if you actually walk the Camino del Norte and not take some of the easier “modern” routes. In summary, the Camino Francés is more like a walk in the park compared to the Camino del Norte (please don’t take offence).
I left my last post, On the Camino Del Norte in Spain, Irún Albergue to Guadalupe, here at the Santuario de Guadalupe, just as the skies began to clear. Now let’s continue and I will show you what I mean about the difference in tracks between the Camino Francés and the Camino del Norte.
Not far from Guadalupe, this is one of those stretches that more resembles hiking. Since I wore hiking shoes instead of boots, I had to be extra careful, especially when it was wet.
Looking back to Hondarribia. Hendaye is across the inlet and Irún would be toward the right.
In the hills between Guadalupe and Pasajes de San Juan, the track was often along this dirt road.
I wish I would have seen this on a clear day. I’m sure the view was amazing.
One of my more memorable experiences on the first day was walking through this stretch by myself in complete silence, struggling because I was so out of shape. Out of the blue, a regiment of the military or Guardia Civil ran toward me in formation with rifles in hand….
I was a little startled but managed to get this photo just as they passed. I wish I had my camera ready earlier because it was quite the sight.
Typical forest of young pine mixed with deciduous species of trees and shrubs. You can see some of the heather blooming on the right.
I came across this horse who looked a little scrawny. She was more interested in eating than in me. You can see she has a cowbell, or, in this case, a horsebell. When I mentioned complete silence, it always wasn’t in the hills. The sounds of the cowbells ringing and echoing was quite enchanting.
We shall go right here.
In both of my walks in Spain, I really enjoyed seeing heather covering hillsides.
A pleasant path!
The Camino del Norte was usually well marked in Basque Country, but this was one of the confusing spots. The Camino symbol showed to go to Lezo but the yellow arrow that we followed showed to take a different route. If I was unsure, I would look ahead to find another yellow arrow or marker. In this case, walking to Lezo was unnecessary as a ferry awaits to shuttle you across the inlet.
Another interesting, and sometimes startling, aspect of the Camino del Norte would be experienced on the first day. Here, we arrive to the highway for a short stretch. It starts off with a little shoulder on the left but soon…
we were walking on a windy road without really anywhere to walk except on the road. It was very dangerous at times and nothing like you would experience on the Camino Francés. Just imagine a car, or even worse, a large truck heading toward you here.
Cattle relaxing above Lezo.
Looking toward the town of Lezo. I took the route which was more scenic as you will soon tell.
However, I will leave my post here, just above Pasajes de San Juan.
I hope you enjoyed this post as I continued to struggle from being so out of shape. My climbing wasn’t over though as soon, I would walk through one of the more scenic stretches of the Camino de Santiago to San Sebastian. On my next post, On the Camino Del Norte in Pasajes de San Juan & Pasajes de San Pedro, Spain, we will visit the the two very scenic seaside villages of Pasajes de San Juan and Pasajes de San Pedro. Please join me.
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