The following are some of the routes that I've either had the pleasure to walk or are on my wish list. Here you can find overview, brief history, and route information + links for further reading.

Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Pyrenees Mountains to Santiago de Compostela, Spain | 472.6 mi

The Camino Francés (more commonly known as the Camino de Santiago) originates on one side or the other of the French-Spanish border in the Pyrenees Mountains and passes on a northerly route through Pamplona, Burgos, and León to Santiago de Compostela. It was a Roman trade route before it became the Way of St. James. During the medieval times it was one of the most important pilgrimages, together with Rome and Jerusalem.

It stirred my interest in the mid-1990s, tempting me to try it for the first time in 2004, when I also became a member of the Association of American Pilgrims on the Camino. Read on for more information, including a detailed route and links for further reading.

Via Regia

Eastern Europe to Santiago de Compostela, Spain | 2,796 mi

The Via Regia has existed for more than 2.000 years and connects 8 European countries through a length of 4.500 km. The road had a large economic significance for interregional trade and bartering. And pilgrims, who took part in the Aachen Cathedral shrine pilgrimage used the road in large numbers.

Read on to learn more about the history, the route, and resources for further reading.

Via de la Plata

Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela, Spain | 620 mi

Like so many before me, I was seduced by the history of this Roman Road where Roman millarios (their mile markers) still stand. It was built to move troops and supplies north through the untamed province of Extremadura and to bring south tin, silver, and other treasures from the north to the south of the Mediterrranean. At its height, this route was traveled by soldiers, traders, citizens, and by the Arab invaders while they were in Spain, as well as by re-conquering armies trying to drive them out, and by pilgrims on their way to Santiago. Mérida, by the way, is purported to be home to more Roman ruins than any other city outside of Italy.

Read on for more information about the history, route, and resources for further reading.

California Missions Trail

Pacific Coast from San Diego to Sonoma, California | 837 mi

The California Missions Trail is a scenic 837 mile trail along the Pacific coast extending from San Diego to Sonoma, passing through each of California's historic 21 missions. The trail roughly traces El Camino Real (The Royal Road) named in honor of the Spanish monarchy which financed the expeditions into California in the quest for empire. From San Diego to Los Angeles, the historic highway is now Interstate 5; from Santa Clara to San Francisco, State Highway 82; and north of San Francisco, Highway 101 again picks up the trail to the mission at San Rafael. From there, State Highway 37 leads to the last mission at Sonoma. 

While not as traveled as some of the more popular Caminos found in Spain and elsewhere — and thus a bit less accommodating and harder to navigate — it is none-the-less breathtaking. Truly an experience, and a lifelong dream of mine. Please read on to learn more, including a history of each of the 21 missions, detailed route information, and links to further reading. And be sure to check out my 2012 California Missions Trail journal to follow my day-by-day adventure.