If you live far away from Spain and you have dreamt of taking on a famous Camino walk, now may be the right time. With travel taking a back seat, the pilgrimage routes offer a natural setting with even fewer visitors.
When heading off on a Camino walk for as long as five weeks, it is important to find affordable accommodation and international flight specials to keep costs down. Long haul flights, like those flying from South Africa to Spain, can take a toll on your budget, so keep an eye out for deals.
We take you through a guide of this bucket list travel route below.
What Is the Camino Trail?
The Camino de Santiago is more than just one trail. It refers to various routes leading to the city in Galicia (Spain) called Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage is complete upon reaching the cathedral of Santiago, where it is believed the body of the apostle Saint James is buried.
Which Are the Best Camino Walks in Spain?
The best place to start the Camino walk depends on the route you would like to take. The starting point can technically be from anywhere, so long as your end destination is the cathedral of Santiago. The popular routes offer 150 miles, 500 miles, and even 620 miles long pilgrimages.
Once you arrive in Santiago De Compostela, explore the cathedral and museum on your own or join a guided tour.
Camino Frances is the most popular route, and it gets very busy, especially in the last 60 miles of the impressive 510 mile pilgrimage. If you walk an average of 16 miles per day, it’ll take you 32 days to complete. Starting from the French town of St Jean Pied de Port, you’ll walk inland from the coast across the Basque Country and Galicia before reaching Santiago De Compostela.
The French route may be the trail for you. It lets you visit Pamplona, Leon, and other incredible Spanish towns. You’ll also walk through the majestic Pyrenees Mountains.
Camino Portuguese is an ideal route for a first Camino walk. Starting from Lisbon, the route is relatively flat and covers 385 miles with incredible scenery along the way. Passing through Porto and Pontevedra, it is filled with spectacular scenery. However, you’ll be spending more time on motorways than on the other routes.
With affordable flights into Portugal, consider Lisbon as the starting point of your Camino walk.
If you are fit, you are likely going to enjoy the many ups and downs on this route. It is the most direct route from Oviedo to Santiago. It is 180 miles long and shares the same route as the Camino Francis for the last 40 miles approaching Santiago.
You’ll feel more comfortable wearing hiking boots for this route, so pack a pair of comfortable sandals to let your feet breathe after walking.
Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte follows the northern coast of Spain, starting from Irún on the border with France. It covers 513 miles of spectacular scenery, passing through Bilbao, Santander, and Oviedo. While the daily distances are reasonable over 35 days, the sparse accommodation on this route requires planning.
If you are fascinated by the Basque Country and love the idea of walking near the coast, the Camino del Norte may be the walk for you.
Via de la Plata
This route is more challenging due to the long distances between amenities catering to Camino walkers. Leaving Seville, you’ll travel north for 596 miles following an old Roman road, passing through Merida, Salamanca, and other notable cities. It is a spectacular way to experience the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Casilla y Leon, and Galicia from South to North.
As the shortest route still entitled to a Compostela certificate, the Camino Ingles is a great option to get the taste of the Camino over 71 miles. Follow the route most British and Irish pilgrims who arrived by sea at Ferrol would have taken. You’ll enjoy coastal views for the first two days followed by hours of walking through the green countryside.
As a trail you can complete in five days, the Camino Ingles may be the route for you if you can only travel for one week.
This route is typically completed following a successful pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It starts from the cathedral and trails from Santiago to Finisterre. You can add a further 18 mile walk to Muxia where you’ll find ocean-themed murals adorning the coastal town.
Having completed a Camino walk, you may feel like tackling this journey to the most north-western towns on the Galician coast.
Best Months for the Camino Walk
The best months to take on the Camino depend on the route you choose. The Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo are pleasant in summer. The Via de la Plata and Portuguese Camino are too hot during this time. Consider tackling these routes earlier in May and June.
While July and August were previously the busiest periods for most of the routes, the decrease in travel means fewer people will be walking at this time. The Camino Frances is a great option if you visit during the off-season from November through February. So consider packing your bags and heading off for warmer weather during your cold winter months.
Safety on the Camino de Santiago Routes
Other than the occasional theft of items left unattended, walking the Camino is safe. While any person of relative fitness can walk these routes, there are some things to keep in mind. The first week will be challenging, with long distances of walking and hiking.
The Camino routes differ, but sometimes you will walk along roads. While these are secondary roads and not highways, it is still important to be alert. Make sure you walk at a comfortable pace as injuries and over-exertion are frequent occurrences.
Ready for Your Camino Walk
Now that you have a brief understanding of the Camino de Santiago and the popular trails, you can start to plan your trip. In the months before your travels, train with your full bag on your back to prepare. During the trail, take your time, stay hydrated, and have a memorable Camino walk!