2021 and 2022: Holy Years on el Camino

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Santiago Cathedral renovated

2021 and 2022 Holy Years

Here at Hike the Way, we’re excited to share the news that the Pope approved the extension of Holy Year 2021 on the Camino de Santiago to 2022. Given the special circumstances of the pandemic that caused many pilgrims to delay their trips, the Church decided to consider 2022 a Holy Year as well, so that's another reason to make your way to the Camino in 2022!

What is a Holy Year on the Camino?

The Holy Year, also called Jacobean Year (Xacobeo 2021), happens when the feast day of St. James, July 25th, falls on a Sunday. This happens every 5, 6 or 11 years. The last Holy Year was 11 years ago in 2010 and after the 2021 holy year (and 2022 by extension), the next Holy years will be: 2027, 2032, 2038, 2049. Walking during the Holy Year has a special meaning for pilgrims, so if that is the case for you, you may want to take advantage of the extension instead of waiting for the next one to come around.

What happens during a Holy Year?

To begin the Holy Year, the Archbishop of Santiago opened a special door to the Cathedral on the afternoon of December 31st, 2020. This special Jubilee door is covered with a slab that the archbishop strikes 3 times using a silver hammer.

This symbolizes the difficult journey walking the Camino. Then the Archbishop cleans the door’s perimeters with an olive branch dipped in Holy water and he walks through the passageway. The door remains open for the rest of the year, closing once again at the end of the Holy Year, this time on December 31st. 2022.

2010, the last Holy Year, was a busy and vibrant time on the Camino. The number of pilgrims walking the Camino and receiving a Compostela more than doubled from previous years. Here’s a short video showing some footage from that year. The Pope even visited the Cathedral and gave the pilgrim’s a special blessing.

What do you get for walking during a Holy Year?

The Catholic Church offers a plenary indulgence during this time. Pilgrims who visit the Apostle’s tomb in the Cathedral, participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and say a prayer receive this grace. You can walk anytime during the year 2021 or 2022, it doesn’t have to be on the feast day of St. James.

What to expect when walking during a Holy Year?

Holy Years are typically busier and livelier on the Camino. During the last Holy Year, more than double the average travelers walked the Camino, putting a strain on the limited accommodations. Luckily, the Camino has had 11 years to prepare for this special year, and many more hotels and places have opened to accommodate travelers. With that being said, reservations are going fast as with the coronavirus pandemic many travelers have pushed their 2020 trip back.

The cathedral in Santiago was renovated from 2018 to 2020 to get ready for this exciting event. The renovation increased capacity, allowing for more pilgrims to enter the cathedral and directing the flow of visitors more efficiently. The Portico de Gloria has reopened and visits to this famous restored Cathedral door can be reserved as well. It will definitely be difficult to get tickets for this spectacular sigh depending on the time of your trip, but we highly recommend visiting if possible.

Advice when walking in 2022

If you’re planning on walking in 2022, the best advice is to book soon. 2022 will not be the year to just pack a bag and walk from town to town with no accommodations reserved. Before the coronavirus pandemic, we advised people to book about a year in advance but with many travelers pushing their trips back, reservations are getting tight. This past summer in 2021, public albergues had to operate at reduced capacity because of covid, so lodging was limited to hotels and rural houses only which created problems for many unprepared travelers.

There are plenty of Camino routes to choose from. The last 100 km of the French or Portuguese route are the most popular and will be the busiest. If you’re looking for a quieter Camino you could choose some of the other routes like the Camino del Norte or the Portuguese Coastal Camino. Whichever you choose in the end, make sure to book early. Holy Years tend to be particularly busy as the activity on the Camino gets back to previous levels. More than 1500 pilgrims a day were reaching the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago during the last days in August so it pays to plan ahead.

Here's to a great Holy Year 2022 on the Camino!

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