The Camino de Santiago map: a post-pilgrimage product par excellence – Part 1

Which Camino de Santiago map are we talking about?

To be published and printed in March, 2012, the overview map commencing in southwest France, the western part of the Pyrenees to Spain’s Land’s End (Finisterre in Spanish) including the fabulously enticing Santiago de Compostela, in portrait format (i.e., in graphic design it is a format in which the height of an illustration or image is greater than the width).

In an earlier blog, Who attends the Camino de Santiago classes and workshops?  And why? the writer indicated that participants who attend the classes are an invaluable source in understanding what prospective pilgrims need; what they want; what are their motivations and feedback on what they wish to have in order to “celebrate” and “acknowledge” their truly great, personal achievement after arriving in Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgerausweis, Credencial del Peregrino França...

Credencial - the required pilgrim's pass

Then, what is the post pilgrim/walker seeking?  Are they satisfied with their A4 latin Compostela certificate?  Their precious credencial? – the verification of their actual walk day in and day out – their very own “Pilgrim’s Progress” in real-time?  Their beloved photos and films which they took during their long march?

Do they buy for themselves a meaningful piece of pilgrimage jewellery or a trinket/souvenir once they reach Santiago de Compostela, such as a representation of the cockle shell: now the quintessential modern symbol of the Camino de Santiago?  Yes: many do.  However, having a pilgrimage symbol doesn’t really communicate much about the actual walk – the hundreds of thousands of ‘hard yards walked, day in and day out’.

So what is a quintessential product which visually and coherently communicates all that hard work?  A map not for dummies, but a map allowing

Español: De camino a Roncesvalles, mojón indic...

The ubiquitous scallop shell

anyone to soar like a mountain bird, but always remaining close to the terrain.

What many post pilgrims continue to seek is a visually dominant, one piece graphic representation of their long walk through a varied landscape where culture, heritage, art, architecture and nature are ever-present, with its longest ‘museum crawl‘ measuring in the hundreds of kilometres.  They are seeking a product which can and does COMMUNICATE to their families,  friends and colleagues in such a way which makes it comprehensible to others what that real achievement means.

In response to this previously unmet need, CAMINO DOWNUNDER is producing and publishing a product which will soon be available for purchase on its website and which is being formally launched at Sydney’s 2012 Holiday & Travel Show expo in the second half of March.

During Camino Downunder classes, one of the resources used is a Basque map showing Northern Spain from the Pyrenees to Galicia: it is used as an effective training tool for class participants to help visualize the terrain and topography to figuratively “walk the walk” over a seven hour period and to familiarize them with the geography of where exactly the Camino Francés traverses this much varied Spanish territory.  This map is in landscape format (i.e. a format in which the width of an illustration is greater that the height).

In 2010 Camino Downunder published a practical “one stop-shop map-guide” incorporating a practical guide-book and consistent with the principle that less is more.  One page being a full length map featuring 28 kilometres of the Camino pilgrimage track and on the other page about accommodation, food, local festivities and strategic geographical information:  Camino de Santiago: 30 all-weather walking maps (subtitled: Walking the Camino Francés from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela).  These maps are completely impervious and indestructible to any water, mud or slush if it is dropped or exposed to all-weather elements.

These maps were produced and published with the sole aim that the independent pilgrim can confidently take that only resource with him or her and be able to use it on a daily basis without needing to carry other resources.

And these 30 maps are all in «portrait format» and for very good reasons: when you walk, irrespective of what direction you are going (north, south, east or west), you are anatomically putting one foot forward and the other foot following closely behind on the heel of the first foot and repeating this walking act, for so long as it takes to get to your destination.  Even if you are walking in circles, you are nonetheless walking anatomically forward and in a forward up direction, albeit for a fraction of a second.  The terminology used by cartographers for specific walking maps with this portrait orientation is forward up.

The writer in the second half of 2011, contracted once again the bold and innovative digital mapping company from Wellington, New Zealand: Geographx ( and one of their creative and visionary mapmakers, Tim Baigent took on this project under his wing and nurtured it from conception to birth and beyond.

Tim Baigent, cartographer from Geographx, New Zealand

Beginning with a dialogue between Marc Grossman and himself, Tim conceptualized, visualized and converted his vision into what it would be like from a bird’s-eye perspective, close to the ground, whilst seeing the 800 km from the pilgrim’s viewpoint.  Once completed, critical comments on the various drafts and versions have unhesitatingly said it is mission accomplished.

When the bigger, longer map is first rolled out, it must be said that it is dramatic: this geographically accurate map allows the pilgrim-walker who has walked the Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés) to realistically recreate in their mind their walk.  In other words, the person who has actually walked the pilgrimage route by ‘experiencing‘ this map, will open a flood gate of memories and emotions: all accurately located.  This is the map maker’s triumph.

Looking at the Camino route with this map, the pilgrim will better understand the geographical context.  They will better understand why this route became the dominant route over the last thousand years and why it seems so straight when viewed from the Pyrenees all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and why it goes where it goes between  mountain chains and mountain passes.

It is important to understand that when the first pilgrims in the late 9th and early 10th centuries started arriving into Spain from France and elsewhere, the common route was ill-defined; it was constantly being changed for political, commercial and religious reasons; to support the huge numbers in the 11th and 12th centuries, merchants and settlers followed, establishing infrastructure all along the Camino route.  Cities, towns, villages and hamlets had been created or had grown bigger precisely because of the pilgrimage route.  However, predating the original pilgrimage routes were sections of the Roman road system (Calzada Romana) which in turn, were known as the Celtic tracks, long before the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago made its presence felt in western Europe, including Spain.

In the next blog, Part 2 this map: THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO and subtitled From the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela will be revealed and shown including its features and benefits.

Calzada romana y puente de Cirauqui

Calzada Romana - the Roman Road as part of the Camino



  1. Thanks a ton for applying free time to compose “The Camino de Santiago map: a post-pilgrimage
    product par excellence – Part 1 – caminodownunder”. Thanks a ton for
    a second time -Sanford

  2. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this
    content together. I once again find myself personally spending
    way too much time both reading and posting
    comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


  1. […] The Camino de Santiago map: a post-pilgrimage product par excellence – Part 1 ( […]

  2. […] The Camino de Santiago map: a post-pilgrimage product par excellence – Part 1 ( […]

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