So, you’re thinking of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain? Maybe you’ve watched the movie, The Way, or have heard some friends talking about it. But the idea is in your head and it’s on your bucket list, so where do you even begin? It can be overwhelming reading message boards and articles about gear, places to stay, and figuring out all the logistics, but in this 3-part series, we want to help you plan the most successful Camino trip possible.
Part One will cover the basics: Travel days, time of year, Route
Part Two: Accommodations, Guided vs Self-Guided, Fitness level
Part Three:Gear, Compostela, Training
The first part in planning your Camino all depends on the time you have to walk. The complete French Camino takes around 35 days. But to receive the official Camino certificate you only have to walk the last 100km of any Camino route, which can take as little as 5 days. So the first step is seeing how many walking days you actually have. This is different than travel time, so keep that in mind.
When we help pilgrims plan their trip, we usually advise them to arrive in Madrid at least 2 days prior to starting their Camino. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is about 7 hours by train to Galicia, where most Caminos begin. So, arriving in Madrid, spending the day there, then leaving for the Camino the next day or the day after (either by train, plane or bus), would be ideal.
Many times, flights are delayed or travelers experience jet lag, so it’s nice to give yourself a few days to acclimate to time and country change.
At the end of the Camino you need to add a day on too. If you end your Camino in Santiago, then you could fly out that evening, but your international flight probably wouldn’t leave until the next day.
Or would you like to explore the city, maybe add a day trip on to the coast? The time you have to dedicate to the trip will determine the rest of your planning.
Once you have the number of days you’ll be walking, the next step is to determine the time of year. Do you prefer walking when it’s cooler or when it’s hot? Do you like crowds and a lively atmosphere or do you prefer a quieter spiritual Camino? If you want a noisy and warm Camino, summertime is for you. Anytime between June 15th and September 10th, there will be lots of people on the Camino, all the restaurants and bars will be open and crowded and you’ll meet many people from all over. It’s really a fun time and excellent experience for those that don’t mind a lot of people or are looking for a livelier walk.
If you’d prefer a simpler Camino with more alone time, walking in Spring, mid-March to early May, or walking after September 15th, would be better for you.
The weather is cooler, some places will be closed, but all the necessities are still available and there will still be people, just not as many.
Next you need to determine your route, or more importantly, where you want to finish. If you’d like to receive the Compostela, the official certificate for walking, you must end in Santiago. If you just want the experience of walking the Camino, you can choose to end wherever you’d like. Ending in Santiago can be accomplished through many different routes, it just depends on the length of time you have to walk.