People have explored the world for as long as we can remember. Some people go to uncharted waters, of which there are few left at this point, unless we are talking deep oceans, while others prefer walking on land.
Making a journey for very personal reasons, sometimes religious, on foot, one that ends at an object of importance to the person, is called a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are not uncommon and with the recent rise of technology, people can safely navigate the world, on foot or with any vehicle.
Europe is known for its many sacred sites and roads which traverse the continent, often going through multiple countries. Consider the following routes if you want to go on a pilgrimage in Europe, as well as a couple of tips.
Camino de Santiago – France and Spain
This is a very old and iconic route that many travelers embark on. One starts in southern France and moves west, towards Spain, to end their journey in a town called the Santiago de Compostela. This town holds the relics of St. James. It is not a long journey and should take most travelers about three weeks to complete. Given the location of the pilgrimage, one should consider going in autumn or spring, to avoid the summer heat.
Once one prepares, there should be a lot of great sights to see, from France, to the Pyrenees, to the Basque country. There should be plenty of accommodation along the way.
Via Francigena – (England), France and Italy
This route is translated as the one that comes from France, meaning that it should start in France. However, the traditional route for this pilgrimage starts in Canterbury, in England. The problem with this, for most people, is the sheer amount of time that one needs to cross the majority of France, to move across the Swiss Alps, to Italy, to reach the city of Rome.
One could start the pilgrimage in France, near the Swiss border, which is the more common option nowadays. Consider the season before embarking on this pilgrimage, particularly if you plan on starting from England. Summer and Winter are most likely out of the question.
The Pilgrim’s Way – England
This is an iconic route in England, tied to Henry II and his at the time, recently departed friend, Archbishop Thomas Becket. After Becket was killed, Henry II out of guilt, walked around 120 miles (193 kilometers), from Winchester to Canterbury, barefoot.
Today’s pilgrims do not walk barefoot, luckily. These 120 miles will take a pilgrim through some of the most beautiful sights in England. The destination, Canterbury, is as iconic as it comes for a city.
The world is full of surprises and for the religious, philosophical and those who love walking, a pilgrimage through Europe might just be the next adventure they need.