Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela, a last look while leaving for Muxia

Described as either the final reward for a walk done well or Disneyland for Catholics, Santiago de Compostela is for many pilgrims the end of their journey. Those who move on to Muxia and Fisterra will stop, get their Compostela, sleep a night, and continue on, others will head to the trains and planes to go back home.

The cathedral is, where the famed “Botafumero” is swung, the massive incense dispenser that was originally intended to sanitize the flea and bedbug ridden clothes of pilgrims. It is also where, for a fee of course, you can touch the statue of St. James or, for another fee, confess your Camino and other sins.

Below, in a chamber, lie the remains of the man thought to be St. James. Which, given the fact that the cathedral is built on top of a Roman necropolis, a burial ground, and that the sarcophagus looks precisely like the ones used for Roman commanding officers around it, is more an article of faith and historical probability.

Should you spend extra time in Santiago de Compostela?

Honestly, it depends. SdC is a nice city, no doubt about it, but its non-pilgrim entertainment value is somewhat limited. Instead of a week in Santiago, why not spend three days walking to Muxia and (maybe) doing something for your soul instead of the tourist commerce in Santiago?

I know if this is your first planning for the Camino, it might not feel like it, but the city is closure and joyful abundance for very few pilgrims. Most feel somewhat lost after mass and getting their Compostela. It is, essentially, a small religious center with Cathedral, pilgrim’s office, and some nice streets surrounded by a typical Spanish city. The images you are shown are all of that one plaza, maybe one of the few streets around it. Enough to keep you captivated for two, three, hours. Not enough to fill a weekend or week.

Ending your Camino in Muxia is much more personal instead of the commercialized religious services and big city vibes. Consider it.