The final destination of these routes is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the remains of the apostle James are buried. Before his death Saint James evangelized the Iberian Peninsula which at that time was a Roman province. The Saint has been venerated since the IX century and his worship spread during the Middle Ages, giving rise to numerous pilgrimages of devotees from all over Europe.
In Portugal there are several routes according to the pilgrims’ point of departure; however it’s possible to single out three major routes. Along the various routes there were pilgrim's hostels providing accommodation and hospitality in general, built by order of the Portuguese kings who where themselves devotees of Santiago.
The North Way path, the most ancient, starts in Porto or in Braga and is very fascinating since it passes through the places where Santiago was, like Rates (where he ordained Peter as the first bishop of Braga, who then gave his name to the Romanesque church), Guimarães and Braga, this last a contender with Compostela for the title of the Center of Christianity in the peninsula. This route split into two, one along the coast, the original path which cut through the region in a straight line, the other in the east: the Route of Geira Romana (the ancient Roman road), which crosses Gerês up to Portela do Homem.
The Inland route links Viseu to Chaves, and is increasingly taken on account of the new signs marking the way and the opening of pilgrim’s hostels. Passing through Lamego and Vila Real, it converges on Via da Prata, the ancient Roman commercial road which crosses the west of Spain from North to South and was used by pilgrims coming to reach Santiago from Seville.
Further south, the Tejo Way was also known as the Central Portuguese Route. It starts in Lisbon and there are two traditional routes from here, one along the coast which passes through Sintra, Alcobaça and Batalha, and the other one along the banks of the river Tejo with a stop in Tomar, the Knights Templars’ headquarters.
Nowadays this route which crosses Coimbra, is also the crossroads with pilgrimages to Fatima, and is one of the most frequently-used pilgrim paths.
Whether inspired by the faith of the Pilgrim or simply out of love of adventure and contact with nature, all lovers of hiking and trekking will respond to the Routes of Santiago.