What is the Compostela and how do I get one?

History of the Camino

What is the Compostela and how do I get one?


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What is the Compostela? Is it the same as the Credential? And what’s a Compostelana? There are many questions pilgrims ask themselves when they embark on the Camino de Santiago for the first time. And one of the most common has to do with the Compostela: what is it? What is the meaning behind it? Where can I get one, and what do I do with it? Today we will try to answer some of these questions so that you can enjoy the Camino with all the information you need.

What is the Compostela?

The Compostela (sometimes incorrectly called a “Compostelana”) is the document that certifies that a pilgrim has completed the Camino de Santiago. The Compostela is awarded by the Church authorities, and can be collected at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This accreditation was created in the 9th and 10th centuries when the pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James the Apostle was given official status. At first, insignias such as the venera or scallop shell were used to certify the pilgrimage. But these were easy to falsify, and in the 13th century the Church decided to replace them with the so-called cartas probatorias or evidentiary letters, which are the direct predecessor of today’s Compostela.

So what is a Compostelana?

There is no such thing as a Compostelana! When people refer to the Compostelana, they really mean the Compostela. This incorrect name of unknown origins has become widespread in popular Camino culture. But as good pilgrims we should call things by their proper name and, as we have said, the document that certifies our pilgrimage is called the Compostela.

What do I have to do to get a Compostela?

In order to get a Compostela, a pilgrim must fulfil three basic requirements: they must have taken the Camino for spiritual or religious reasons; they must have completed at least 100 km by foot or on horseback, or 200 km by bicycle, on any of the routes that make up the Camino. And they must be able to accredit the distance covered.

La Credencial del peregrino es el documento necesario para conseguir la Compostela

To fulfil these requirements, pilgrims must carry with them a document that many get mixed up with the Compostela: the Pilgrim’s Credential (or Passport). As we explained in a previous blog, the Credential is the document that accredits our status as pilgrims. The Credential is an individual, non-transferable document that can be obtained from the various Friends of the Camino de Santiago associations, hostels, parish churches, and religious guilds of the Apostle Saint James (Cofradías del Apóstol Santiago).

Pilgrims must get their Credential stamped in the towns they pass through to show that they have completed the minimum kilometres required. These stamps can be obtained in hostels, Friends of the Camino associations, churches and other places such as town halls, cafes or Correos post offices. Your Credential can have as many stamps as you like, but to receive the Compostela, Santiago Cathedral requires a minimum of two stamps per day during the last 100 km for pilgrims on foot or horseback, and during the last 200 km in the case of cyclists. 

Where should I start the Camino de Santiago if I want to get the Compostela?

Before they start walking, many pilgrims wonder where they should begin their Camino de Santiago to get the Compostela. We can help you with that! If you’re going to walk the Camino, as a minimum, you will need to start in Sarria if you’re on the Camino Francés (French Route); in Tui on the Camino Portugués (Portuguese Route); in Ferrol or Neda on the Camino Inglés (English Route); Vilalba on the Camino del Norte (Northern Route); Lugo on the Camino Primitivo (Primitive or Original Route) or Ourense for the Camino Sanabrés or Vía de la Plata (Silver or Mozarabic Route). Even those taking the Camino to Finisterre and Muxía in the reverse direction (towards Santiago) can get the Compostela if they take the coastal stage of the Camino between Muxía and Finisterre and complete the rest of the route to the Galician capital.

For pilgrims travelling by bike, the minimum distance is set at 200 km. That means that cyclists who decide to take the French Route should start, as a minimum, in Ponferrada; in Póvoa do Varzim on the Portuguese Route; in Tapia de Casariego on the Northern Route; Grandas de Salime on the Primitive Route, and A Gudiña on the Sanabrés or Via de la Plata routes.

How to collect the Compostela?

The International Pilgrim Reception Centre, the place in Carretas Street where the Compostela (commonly and erroneously called Compostelana) is handed out, has the following opening hours: from 9:00 am. to 7:00 pm (closing time can be brought forward up to 60 minutes earlier depending on the number of pilgrims). We remind you that the Pilgrims' Reception Office is closed on 25 December, Christmas Day, and 1 January, New Year's Day.

During these hours you can visit the centre and request the Compostela after certifying that you have completed the Camino by showing the Pilgrim's Credential. Here are the steps to follow to collect it:

  1. Pre-registration. Before going to the Pilgrim's Office, you must pre-register on the website indicating all the information required to certify the pilgrimage to Santiago (name, Camino completed, starting point...).
  2. Collect the digital ticket. Once at the Pilgrim's Office you must collect the digital ticket with your turn.
  3. Check the queue. Check the QR code on your ticket, which will tell you the approximate time you can collect your Compostela. This way you will know at what time you have to show up, which will allow you to avoid long waits and crowds at the Office.
  4. Collect the Compostela. Go to the Pilgrim's Office at the indicated time and pick up your Compostela. We recommend that you go to the Pilgrim's Office when you are 30 or 40 numbers short of your appointment.

How to collect the Compostela

Can children be awarded the Compostela?

Of course they can! According to the Cathedral’s rules, children that take the Camino de Santiago and have taken Communion or are old enough to understand the spiritual nature of pilgrimage can receive the Compostela. If they are too small, the Santiago Cathedral will give them a special certificate bearing their name. Babies are included on the Compostela of their parents or accompanying adult.

Apart from the Compostela, are there any other Camino de Santiago certificates?

There are other certificates apart from the Compostela available to people who have completed the Camino de Santiago. Here’s a quick summary of those certificates:

Certificado de distancia del Camino de SantiagoDistance Certificate. Apart from the Compostela, the Pilgrim’s Reception Office gives all pilgrims that request one a Distance Certificate, a document accrediting the number of km covered, wherever your pilgrimage began. It shows the date and point you started, the km covered, the date you arrived in Santiago and the route taken. Pilgrims that have undertaken a pilgrimage in the past can also request one by writing to:


Fisterrana y MuxianaFisterrana and Muxiana. Pilgrims that decide to extend their route to Finisterre or Muxía – or simply choose that route in the first place – can obtain a certificate for their pilgrimage. To do this, they should continue to get their Credential stamped up to their destination – if there’s space – or get a new Credential. It works in the same way as the Compostela: you need to get two stamps per day as evidence of your journey along each stage. Then the Finisterre Hostel or Muxía Tourist Office can issue you with this certificate.


Traslatio XacobeaTraslatio Xacobea. This is the document that proves that you have undertaken the Traslatio, a sea/river route which follows the original route taken by the boat carrying the remains of the Apostle when it reached the Galician coast. The Traslatio Xacobea certificate is issued by the Fundación Xacobea and Town Council of Padrón to all boats and their passengers that can demonstrate that they have taken this route, which goes from the Port of San Vicente do Mar (in O Grove) or Ribeira to Padrón.


Pedronía del Camino de SantiagoPedronía. According to legend, the town of Padrón is the spot where the remains of the Apostle arrived in Galicia, and it has its own certificate: the Pedronía. To get this certificate, pilgrims must travel a minimum of 18 km to Padrón from Santiago or any other location on the Ría de Arousa following the sea/river route. They must also have visited the most important places linked to the Apostle in that town: the Parish Church of Santa María de Iria Flavia, a former Episcopal See; the Fuente del Carmen, decorated with depictions of the Traslatio and the baptism of Queen Lupa; Santiaguiño do Monte, where the Apostle gave a sermon; and the Pedrón, the stone where the boat bringing the Saint’s remains from Palestine was moored, housed in the Parish Church of Santiago de Padrón. 

Hi, we will be walking Camino Portuguese starting in Vigo. I only see Tui as the starting point in this post. Does Vigo qualify?

Hi my daughter and I plan to arrive in Santiago on 31/12 and leaving 1/1/24. What is the best suggestion to collect a Compostela? We are looking at flights out so are not sure how much time we need. Tks - very excited and nervous for our first Camino! Maxine

María B. Zuckman
Hi Greg, I go by Beatriz, and I’m starting the Camino in Pamplona on the 14th of Oct. and ending on Oct 30th. My intention is to complete the last 100 km in Compostela. This means that I’d be skipping some parts of the Camino. Is this allowed? Thanks M. Beatriz

Hello, my daughter and I will be hiking the Camino del Norte in July. We are starting in Irun and heading toward Santiago. However, she has cancer and is taking a type of chemo that can cause painful sores in her feet from time to time. As a result there may be days when we are unable to go far if at all. We would like to start in Irun to walk along the coast and go as far as we can in 30 days then take a transport to Santiago. If we hike at least 100km (with validation) is it possible to still receive a compostela? Or must one do at least the final 100 km into Santiago?

El camino con correos
Hi Greg! The rules of the Cathedral to award the Compostela is to do, at least, the last 100km. However, ask at the Pilgrim's Office if there are any exceptions to the situation of the pilgrim. The mail is and the phone number: +34 981 568 846. Buen Camino!

Irene Cumiskey
Hi, my husband is a wheelchair user, paralysed from the waist down, and I am his carer/companion. He is 65 years old and I am 62. We have been doing the Camino Frances since 2017. My husband pushes himself in a manual chair, and I help him on difficult surfaces and steep hills. However, it is not possible for us to do a lot of mountainous or rocky stretches of the Camino. We started in 2017 and walked from San Juan de Ortega to Castor Jeriz. He had a heart attack in 2018 so we took a year off. In 2019 we continued from Castro Jeriz and walked to Leon, leaving our a few inaccessible pieces. Obviously the Pandemic interrupted things. This year we started in Leon and walked to Astorga, then jumped to Ponferrada and walked to Villafranca. As the terrain is mostly inaccessible we jumped to Ligonde. It will only be possible for us to do some short stretches between here and Santiago, so we cannot do the last 100km. My question is can we apply for a Compostella? Many thanks.

El camino con correos
Hi Irene! As it is a special case, the most appropriate thing is that you consult the Cathedral. This is the email: And this is the phone number: +34 981 568 846 Greetings and Buen Camino!

Robert Templin
I'm on the final days of my Camino. I'm using a modified bicycle because I have a fused spine from a broken neck accident (blessed not to be in a wheelchair). I've been using the traditional passport and was wondering if there are any options for getting the certificate in Santiago without having to wait in a long line (a challenge for those of us with mobility problems.)? I'm an American journalist doing a series of articles on bicycling in Spain for several American publications. Rob Templin Features Editor Recumbent and Tandem Rider Magazine

El camino con correos
Hello Robert. The Compostela must be collected in person. However, you can write to and telling them about your situation. I'm sure they can make an exception. Anyway, right now you don't have to queue very long. When you arrive at the Pilgrim's Office, you scan a QR and they give you your number for pick up the Compostela. You can check what time you have to pick it up again. Buen Camino!

Seán Mackel
Hello, what is the procedure for this year for, collecting the Compostela? In previous years I queued up at the Compostela Office. I had heard that I might now need to pre-book an appointment because of the pandemic? Is this true?

El camino con correos
Hello, Seam. Yes. To collect the Compostela you have to register previously here: And when you arrive at the Pilgrim's Office, you must scan a QR at the entrance that will give you a number (with approximate time) to collect the Compostela. Buen Camino!

Karin Eksteen
Can you apply for and receive the Compostela in one day?

El camino con correos
Hi Karin. Yes, of course. When you arrive at the Pilgrim's office, you take a number for that same day and pick up your Compostela at the time you have. Buen Camino!

Manuel Santiago Soto
I did the Camino de Santiago on 2014 (04/24-05/03) starting on Tui (Camino Portugués), unfortunately I lost the Compostela on a recent move and would like to know if I am able to get a new one. I still have the credencial del peregrino if you need confirmation of it. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

El camino con correos
Hi Manuel! Yes, you could reapply but it has to be in person at the Pilgrim's Office. Buen Camino!

James Nolan
I have walked a couple of caminos (Frances 2011 and Norte 2013) and I enjoyed them both. Personally one aspect I really enjoyed was disconnecting from normal life. Sadly smartphones have proliferated every aspect of our lives and I fear the Camino experience and the modern desire for Wifi wherever we go may spoil the experience. In 2011 I saw a man using a laptop in an albergue, the hospitalero told him he must stop using it or leave the hostel as people were on the Camino to get away from the pressure of modern life. If you do go, take your phone but put it on silent and when you check it, do it away from other people. The Camino is a beautiful experience and you could miss so much of it if you're on Instagram or Facebook. Dont worry about getting lost, if you can find your kitchen from your dining room then you have all the navigation skills you need to get to Santiago. My only other tip, prepare your bag the night before you leave if you're leaving very early, no one will thank you for waking them up at 5am. Get a head torch with a red light for use in the dormitories. Buenos Camino! James x

El camino con correos
Thanks for sharing your experience, James. Buen Camino!

Mary Anne Polson
Hi. I'm still trying to figure out the difference between the Compostela and a Pilgrims Passport? Also, I had a friend who recently completed her second Camino and she said the line at the Certilficate office was now on a numbering system. Can you please tell me more about this? Finally, I'm going in Mid-October from Sarria to Santiago. At this time of the year, should we expect rain every day? This is a great blog. Thank you.

El camino con correos
Hello Mary Anne! The pilgrim's credential (or Passport) is a document that you carry with you during the Camino, in which you collect and accumulate stamps (at least two for each stage) to prove that you have done the last 100km walking. The Compostela is the document they give you at the end of the Camino at the Pilgrim's Office and certifies that you have done the Camino de Santiago (minimum 100km walking). Right now with the COVID situation, to pick up the Compostela you have to scan a QR code, with which they give you a number and when they call you with the number you can enter and pick your Compostela. The weather in October is more unstable, but it doesn't have to rain every day. Buen Camino!

Jim Knol
I know it’s not essential, but do places on secondary routes; notably the Ruta Do Mar, the Camino Naturale del Cantabrico, and the Camino dos Faros, provide stamps for a credencial? And should I take an “unofficial” route such as these, will those miles be counted toward my Compostela?

El camino con correos
Hi Jim! As they are not unofficial routes, the stamps do not count towards obtaining the compostela. Alternative accreditation only has the Ruta do Mar. The Ruta Xacobea do mar de Arousa e Ulla Foundation grants, together with the collaborating councils, the Traslatio Xacobea accrediting diploma to all vessels that complete this itinerary. Buen Camino!

Manea Cosmina
Hello! I am interested in whether you can enter the holy door only after receiving a compostela or if anyone can enter it. I will be in Santiago de Compostela for two months this summer for a PhD research activity and I would like to visit the cathedral.

El camino con correos
Hello! No, everyone can enter through the Holy Door of the Cathedral. La Compostela is just a document that certifies having completed the Camino de Santiago. But you don't need it to visit the Cathedral. Regards!

Hello! My question now is, can you get the Compostela this year for the Xacobean year without walking the 100km? I am asking this because I have health problems and I am thinking just making the pilgrimage directly to Santiago as a promised to the Apostle.

El camino con correos
Hi Katia! We are sorry but it is not possible. To get the Compostela it is necessary to have walked or cycled at least the last 100km. La Compostela is a pilgrimage certificate and therefore it is necessary to show that you have walked or cycled that Way. However, to visit the Apostle it is not necessary to make a pilgrimage or get the Compostela. Buen Camino!

Buenos dias, I don't know if you can help with this question. We completed our pilgrimmage in 2005 and received our Compostela from the Cathedral office. It is in Latin, and while we have a reasonable comprehension of the meaning of the text, we would like a more precise translation than trying to remember our school lessons from 60 years ago. Do you know of a source for translating this document? Thank you for your very helpful and interesting website, we have referred many friends interested in becoming Peregrinos to your resource. ps we have tried half a dozen of the on-line translators, and they all produce gobbeldy-de-gook.

El camino con correos
Hi Mike! We try to translate it ;-) «The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Compostela Cathedral Church, custodian of the seal of the Altar of Santiago Apóstol, to all the worshipers and pilgrims who arrive from any part of the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or by reason of vow or promise to The Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron and Protector of Spain, accredits all those who observe this document that: NAME has devotedly visited this most sacred Temple with a Christian meaning (pietatis causa). In faith of which I give you this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church. Given in Santiago de Compostela on the X day Y month and the year of the Lord ZZZZ The Deputy Canon for Pilgrims. » «El Cabildo de esta Santa Apostólica y Metropolitana Iglesia Catedral Compostelana custodio del sello del Altar de Santiago Apóstol, a todos los Fieles y peregrinos que llegan desde cualquier parte del Orbe de la Tierra con actitud de devoción o por causa de voto o promesa peregrinen hasta la Tumba del Apóstol, Nuestro Patrón y Protector de las Españas, acredita ante todos los que observen este documento que: NOMBRE ha visitado devotamente este sacratísimo Templo con sentido cristiano (pietatis causa). En fe de lo cual le entrego el presente documento refrendado con el sello de esta misma Santa Iglesia. Dado en Santiago de Compostela el día X mes Y año del Señor ZZZZ. El Canónigo Diputado para los Peregrinos.»

Do the last 100 km have to be on subsequent days, or can you stop and spend a few days in various locations within that 100 days? If so, do you keep getting 2 stamps a day at a single location to prove you stayed there until you move on or...? We want to do it with healthy 70-year olds, but want to give them break days along the way and enjoy ourselves.

El camino con correos
Hi Siana! You can stop and spend a few days in various places within those 100 days. There is no need to collect stamps, only two are needed per stage. ¡Buen Camino!

Rotcel Caballero
see ya !????

kasia piech
Just a question any 100 km on any route can get you a certificate Compostela

El camino con correos
Hi Kasia. Yes, but they have to be the last 100 kilometers of any Route. To get the Compostela you have to get to Santiago. Buen Camino!

Hello, Raj. We recommended 5 days for this Camino. You have more info here: Buen Camino!

Hello, I would like to do the last part of Camino, Sarria to Santiago, in June 2020. I could walk 25-30km a many days are required/recommended for this walk? Could I do it on my own or need to register with a guide? Thanks for your help, Raj Thanks, Raj

I walked Sarria to Arzua in sept 2019. A family death required me to return home before I completed 100km and arriving in Santiago. I want to go back and complete and get my Compestela. The stamps in my passport now are dated September 2019. Will they still be considered “valid” if I return in summer 2020? Basically, how recent do the stamps need to be in my passport to be considered valid for Compestela issuance?

El camino con correos
Hi Gabrielle! Your stamps are valid. You can come back in 2020 and continue the Camino from the last city you were. Buen Camino!

Hilary Wilmott
How much does it cost to get your Compastella?

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