The Pilgrim Office in Santiago just released their annual report on the Camino for last year and the results are in: 2019 has seen a record number of pilgrims, a total of 347,578. Keep in mind that these are the ones who stop by the pilgrim's office in Santiago, so the total number of walkers is even higher.
While the pilgrim's office does not collect exhaustive information on its visitors, the information that they publish in the report gives a good glimpse about Camino walkers and throws in some curious facts and figures about the Camino that you might not be aware of.
The first takeaway from the report is that the Camino gains in popularity each year and has become the destination of choice for people all over the world.
People from 189 different countries walked el Camino in 2019
Not surprisingly, the country with most walkers is Spain, and out of the Top 5 countries that contribute the most pilgrims, 4 are in Europe. But did you know that the US made this select group and is fourth overall?
20,562 pilgrims from the U.S. walked el Camino in 2019
In the figure below we show a breakdown of the Top 15 countries where camino pilgrims came from.
So did all these people actually walk the Camino? Well, essentially yes. Most of the pilgrims made it to Santiago on foot (94%) and almost all of the rest rode a bike (5.5%) but would you have guessed that 406 people rode a horse, 243 sailed and 85 were in a wheelchair?
Another interesting fact is that both men and women are avid camino walkers. In 2019 there were slightly more men (177,801) than women (169,777) that completed the journey, or
51% of Camino walkers in 2019 were men and 49% women
The report also breaks pilgrims into age groups, however the groups are too wide to give a lot of insights. It has just three age groups: pilgrims below 30, between 30 and 60, and over 60 years old. As you would expect, the most numerous group is the 30-60 range with 55% of the people but it is remarkable that
19% of pilgrims were over 60 years old
So does the report provide any information that can help you plan the next Camino? Yes, for example, the report breaks down the most popular routes in 2019 as we show in the figure below. The French Camino was still the most popular with the Portuguese Central coming in second. Other ones are less populated but still with healthy numbers of around 20,000 pilgrims each for the Portuguese Coastal and Camino del Norte. So these can be good options if you happen to be traveling during the busy months or you are looking for a new route to try.
Perhaps you have chosen your route but you're not sure where to start? Not to worry, the report also shows the most popular starting points for pilgrims in 2019. For those of you Camino veterans, you will not be surprised that
Sarria was the favorite starting point for over 33% of all Camino walkers
But what if you've already tried Sarria or you'd like to check out some other options? Well, for those brave enough to tackle the whole French Camino, St. Jean Pied the Port is the favorite starting point with over 11% of walkers. If you're not up for the 500 mile journey, Porto is next on the list. In fact, if you add those that take the Portuguese coastal and central route together, Porto is second overall behind Sarria. So that's certainly a good option too. The figure below shows the top ten starting cities based on the number of pilgrims that walked in 2019.
The report also publishes some miscellaneous information that is of less interest to walkers but may be appealing to those more curious about pilgrims, such as religious affiliation or the occupations of people that walk el Camino. For those of you who would like to look at it, you can download the report here. It's in Spanish, but the figures and numbers can be interpreted fairly easily. There are also interactive historical charts on that same page if you want to compare.
So is there any information missing in the report? Well, I for one, would have liked to know how many pilgrims walked the Camino for the first time in 2019, and how may came back to walk more than once. Is there anything else that you'd like to know about pilgrims and think should be in the report? Feel free to leave your comments below.
Let's make it another record year in 2020!