Northern Caminos – Too many choices

Can one have too many choices in life? Can I be overworking and overplanning next year’s Camino pilgrimage?

Yes and yes.

Last evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the American Pilgrims on the Camino – Western North Carolina Chapter at REI-Asheville. We meet on the first Monday of each month. The subject of the meeting was on other Northern Camino routes, beyond the Camino Norte. Mark Cobb, who is one of the lynch pins of the group, showed beautiful slides.


Mark did an amazing zigzag of several routes to get to Santiago, once again. First he walked the conventional Norte.

Since when has the Norte become conventional? It’s still much less popular – read crowded – than the Camino Frances.

But at San Vincente, he dropped down on the Camino Liebaniego, a mountaineous area, where the path might go up as high as 8,000 feet.  The highlight is the Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liebana, where a piece of the original cross is said to reside.

Soon Mark, with nine other pilgrims, went to Potes, the gateway to Picos de Europa, a national park and the Alps of Spain. Some of his companions never got any further, choosing to hike in the park. But with one other person, Mark walked the Camino Vadiniense, a very isolated route, down to the Frances.

At Leon, he went back north on the Camino San Salvador. Are you confused? Are you still with me? See the map above.

This Camino is also deserted. One enthusiastic local is keeping it blazed and on the map. There are no guidebooks for this trail, but it’s well marked. And it has its own saying:

He who travels to Santiago and not to  El Salvador honors the servant and ignores the master.


At Oviedo, Mark took the Camino Primitivo, down to the Camino Frances. The name refers not to the primitive conditions but to the belief that it was (yet) another original route. Lots of mud, since you are in the hills, but you don’t have to fight for a bed until … Arzua on the main route.

Once he arrived on the Camino Frances, Mark said that the trickle of pilgrims turned into a raging river. But by then, it’s only two days to Santiago.

I’m not interested in the very isolated Camino routes at this stage in my pilgrim status, but the Primitivo is worth a look.

Too many choices!

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