Pilgrimages have been customary practices for religious groups around the world throughout history. Today, many people regardless of their religious affiliation decide to follow historical treks for personal achievements, fitness goals, or just for the experience. Here are five of the most famous long-distance walking trails around the world.
One of the most well known pilgrimage walks, Camino de Santiago, is also referred to as the Way of St. James. Established in medieval times, it was a trek meant to end at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain’s northwest city of Galicia. In this cathedral lies the tomb of St. James, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. However, this route is populated not just by believers but by adventure and thrill seekers, athletes, and those wishing to find themselves outside of religion.
You can start the walk from seven different routes depending on the type of scenery and length of trek you’re seeking. Some of the most popular routes are the Northern Way, Portuguese Way, Silver Way and French Way. These routes range from 71 to over 200 miles long, and the furthest one starts in Paris. This walk has become so big, there are pilgrimage agencies that will help you plan your journey down to every last detail. If you’re hoping to carve your own path, there are plenty of hostels and hotels along the way that are used to putting up walkers with sore feet.
Each year, thousands of experienced hikers attempt to thru-hike the 2,190 mile-long Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine. Though it takes you through some of the United States’ most beautiful scenery, this walk is not for the faint-hearted. It can take up to six months to complete, so many hikers just opt to complete part of it. The accommodations along this route usually consists of camping, but as it crosses through many small American towns, you’ll likely be able to find lodging and restaurants to refuel before you continue the journey.
Another historical pilgrimage takes you from Canterbury, England to Rome, Italy, and stretches almost 2000 miles. Those who wish to complete this journey may do it by foot or by cycling, but either way, it’s a mighty long one. You’ll start in England and make your way through France, Switzerland and finally Italy. Via Francigena was the first road that connected Rome to the rest of Europe On average it takes over 90 days to complete. In 2022, 50,000 people completed this pilgrimage, could you be one of the next?
This ancient pilgrimage starts in Winchester, England and ends at the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in the Canterbury Cathedral. Along the way you may not find accommodation like hostels, but you will find plenty of bed and breakfasts and inns along with pubs that can provide you a much needed night’s rest and a chance to get your energy back up. The trail also goes through London, and will give you a chance to see a city full of culture, amazing food and vibrant social life along the way. It’s about 150 miles long and usually takes around 15 days.
Along the coast of sunny California are ancient footpaths that make up this 600 mile trail also known as El Camino Real (The Royal Road). The trail connects 21 Spanish religious communities or “missions” throughout the state, all of which are located on or near Highway 101. The path was first walked by historical figures including General Gaspar de Portola, who walked the path to find Monterey Bay. Today, it stretches from San Diego to Sonoma and is considered one of the oldest and longest historical trail in the Western Hemisphere.