Camino de Santiago: Trail Markings

A Wide Variety of Trail Markings

Part of the fun of the Camino is finding your way. Our guidebook was fond of saying “the trail is very well marked.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Well, it means lots of different things. Since the Camino has been around for so long, there are a wide variety of markings, from the ubiquitous yellow arrows to solid concrete pillars.

Yellow Arrows

Mostly what you see along the trail are arrows, usually done with yellow spray paint. These can be anywhere:

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on walls
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on streets
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on rocks
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on trees
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on poles

or anything that doesn’t move.

Pillars and Tiles

Next most common are concrete pillars (several different types) and blue and yellow ceramic tiles with the stylized scallop shell design:

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Standard pillar with ceramic tile. The longer center spine points the way (in this instance, to the left).

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Another pillar, this time nicely painted by the locals.

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Tiles can be anywhere, including on fences,
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on telephone poles,
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and on buildings.
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Another pillar, this time showing the distance to Santiago in kilometers.

Navigation Through Cities

Finding your way on the Camino which runs through a city is especially challenging, and many pilgrims get lost in cities. Several times, my sister and I had to backtrack to locate yellow arrows while walking through a city. Because there are so many possible places to put an arrow in an urban environment, they are easy to miss. Hint: Check on poles.

In addition, cities will place markers in other, more subtle and creative ways:

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Beautiful carved stone marker (found in Palas De Rei)

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Scallop shell markings on manhole covers

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Sometimes the Camino is identified by special stone paving

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Santiago has special signs above the walkway (easily missed by the typical hiker, who usually looks down at the ground in front of them)

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Another example of a stylized scallop shell carved into stone on the walkway.

Signs

Sometimes there are actual signs that point the way:

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Thank you to the local town council for putting up this nice sign.

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Typical hiker’s sign, found frequently along the trail.

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This strange multi-colored abstract character is the “mascot” for the trail which you will see occasionally, especially on signs for albergues. This particular sign tells bicyclists which way to go.

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Linda with a life-sized version of the mascot, who is both a sign and a fountain!

When all else fails

Even when there are no official markings, you can usually ‘divine’ the correct direction:

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Sometimes helpful pilgrims will draw an arrow in the dirt!

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Look for footprints in the dirt. If they look like hiking boots, then you are probably on the right track.

 

Special or Unusual Markings

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Special cement plaque, I only saw one of these on the trail.

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I thought these arrows down the plaza of Monte de Gozo were kinda cool.

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If you have a knife handy, cut away the foliage so later pilgrims can more easily spot the trail marker.

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My favorite marking: rows of yellow scallop shells cemented into the wall. Kudos!

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Which way? Left, or straight?

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Turns out, left was the correct answer. Straight was for bicyclists.

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Perhaps the most photographed marking of all: The marker 100 km before Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims must hike at least 100 km in order to receive their compostela.

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The third most photographed marking: The place where the trail splits (left to Finisterre and right to Muxia – we went left)

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The last marking: The end of the trail in Finisterre