The Camino Francés is the most popular Camino route, and is commonly referred to simply as the “Camino de Santiago.” This is route popularized in the 2011 Martin Sheen film, The Way. The Camino Francés is the most developed route, with extensive trail marking, and many affordable pilgrim hostels (albergues).

The route traditionally begins in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, though many start just over the Pyrenees in Spanish Roncesvalles. The first day of the trail from St Jean to Roncesvalles passes over the rugged and beautiful Pyrenees Mountains, where Emilo Estevez’s character in The Way dies in a storm (the route is safe but not recommended in foul weather).

The route passes through several autonomous regions of Spain, allowing pilgrims to sample a variety of local customs, foods, and landscapes. Cities along the route include Pamplona, of running-of-the-bulls and Hemingway fame; Burgos, bursting with historical architecture; León, with its stunning Gothic cathedral; Ponferrada, home to a mysterious Templar Castle; and finally Santiago de Compostela, with its famed cathedral and grave of Saint James.