There are many paths that have taken pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for centuries, but the real known as Santiago Way (Iter Sancti Iacobi) is the French Way. More than 60 per cent of the pilgrims who arrive to Santiago do so after traveling by this route, which runs almost 1000 km in the Spanish territory throughout Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja, Castile-León and Galicia. Of the 1,000 km, 400 km run through Castile-León region. Today, Santiago Way is a complex resource, one of the most important and antique spiritual pilgrimage experiences in Europa and, at the same time, a combination of leisure, adventure, cultural and touristic possibilities.
The Castile-León territory is unique as it represents more than 60 per cent of all Spanish heritage (architectural, artistic and cultural). Furthermore, two UNESCO World Heritage sites (Burgos cathedral and Las Médulas gold mine) and one archaeological site (Atapuerca) near to the Way are located here. It crosses two of the most historically important cities and, from a cultural and artistic point of view, the richest ones, such as Burgos and León. This one has recently suffered an important setback due to the decline of the coal mining industry.
Apart from these two cities, which have around 150,000 inhabitants, the route passes through smaller villages that are traditional regional sites, with small population size, but among which Ponferrada stands out due to its industrial fabric with 60,000 inhabitants. The rest are tiny villages that barely reach a few hundred inhabitants in a purely rural area characterized by low economic activity. Especially in the rural areas, you can truly experience the very different and varied landscapes of forests and mountains, fields and plains and vineyards.
Twenty years ago, some hamlets had being depopulated, but more recently, they were reoccupied, precisely thanks to the family business possibilities offered by the Santiago Way with the launching of initiatives linked to the pilgrims. All this mitigates the decline of rural areas.
Highlights and Key facts
Rural Heritage Hub
The Camino de Santiago Rural Heritage Hub will be located in San Zoilo Monastery, in Carrión de los Condes (Province of Palencia). The Monastery was built before 948 on the ‘Camino de Santiago’, and it is a mixture of cultures for a millennium, a place of prayer and monastic activities, as well as for studying, with Jesuits and Diocesans seminaries for more than two centuries. It does not fit into a single style, but has elements of four different styles: Romanesque, Renaissance Gothic and Baroque. Nowadays the monastery functions as a four star hotel, the headquarters of the ‘Friends of the Camino de Santiago de Palencia Association’ and as the Camino de Santiago Center of Studies and Documentation, also known as Jacobea Library.