5 things to know before deciding to walk el Camino

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pilgrim walking on a camino trail

Know before you go

Signs along the camino pointing to albergues
Saint Peter Church in Portomarin

Is the Camino just for Catholics?

Absolutely not. While the tradition is originally Catholic, nowadays most people walk the Camino for other reasons than a spiritual pilgrimage. Some walk for the challenge, to experience another culture, to partake in an historical tradition or personal reasons. When you reach Santiago you will have the choice to get the Compostela if you walked more than 100Km and did the pilgrimage for religious reasons, or a certificate of distance that shows how much you walked on the Camino and the place where you started. Both are personalized with your name and done beautifully on official paper with illustrations.

Do I need prior hiking or climbing experience to walk the Camino?

The last 100km of the French Camino are done walking at your own pace. No special gear or training is needed. There are hills but no mountains to climb and you can walk in tennis shoes or trail runners. Some people like to use walking poles or a stick, but it’s your preference. The only recommendation is to be 100% comfortable with your shoes and break them in for a month before starting the journey.

Do I need to speak Spanish?

Most locals are accustomed to foreigners not being fluent in Spanish, so don’t worry. Everyone is patient and helpful. That being said, we will give you a guide with some basic words (cerveza- beer, cafe con leche - coffee) that will help you along the way.

Also, if you learned Spanish in the US, Spain speaks Castellano or on the Camino, people speak Galician. Castellano is a very distinct form of Spanish with different vocabulary from what is taught in the US.

What if I can’t make it?

On paper, the Camino can seem daunting. 20 miles in one day?! But really, you have the whole day to walk it. You can take breaks, switch out shoes, stop for lunch, sit in silence or just take your time on the path. This is your Camino and there is no rush.

The way our guided tours are set up, we have a guide in the back and a van that meets pilgrims at certain checkpoints. If at anytime you feel like you can’t walk anymore or don’t want to finish a stage, we can take you to your next hotel.

How far in advance should I book the Camino?

We recommend booking your Camino at least 3 months in advance, and maybe more if you’re going during the summer. The Camino gets very busy, and we book accommodations for our groups up to a year in advance to guarantee we are able to provide nice places to stay.

As you’ll see, the Camino itself is very very rural, and the stages end in towns where there aren’t many beds. There are no chain hotels, no chain restaurants and mostly basic facilities. Often during the summer the towns open up school gyms and people sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. In our tours we always provide double private rooms, with all linens and in-suite bathrooms.

Have a specific question in your mind about el Camino? Ask your question here or leave your comments below.

Buen camino!