Camino de Santiago - 15 practical tips

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Camino de Santiago - 15 practical tips

Camino de Santiago - 15 practical tips

Camino de Santiago, Way of St. James or simply camino is a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The first pilgrims walked to Santiago as early as the 10th century. There is no one right path - you can start at your home or do only the Spanish part of the pilgrimage. Why do people give up their 'normal' lives and go backpacking into the unknown? Discover 15 practical tips for the Camino de Santiago.

Camino de Santiago - 15 practical tips

1. Why make camino?

If you're looking for God but can't find Him, walk the camino.

If you're looking for yourself, walk the camino.

If you don't know what to do with your life, walk the camino.

Camino in its simplicity will help you get to know yourself better, test your own endurance, think about the right way of life for you, meet other seekers and maybe also find God. In addition, you'll be able to see many beautiful corners of Spain.

When at the turn of June and July 2018 I set off on my camino (I chose the northern route) I was surprised that not only Catholics were my fellow pilgrims. I met many atheists, protestants and followers of other religions. We had the way and the search in common. The diversity was beautiful. I had many amazing conversations thanks to it.

2. Routes of Camino de Santiago

There are many camino routes. Most pilgrims choose Spanish part of the pilgrimage. Few daredevils walk from their home countries.

Ways_of_St._James_in_Europe

Currently, the most popular is Camino Francés - the one inland. I chose Camino del Norte. It is a route along the northern coast of Spain. Why del Norte? Because I didn't want to go in the crowd and otherwise I love sea. Water calms me down.

Camino can also be done by bike. This is definitely faster version ?.

Check https://www.pilgrim.es/en/routes/ - you will find here informations about routes. Don't buy any tours! You can make it on your own!

3. How long takes to walk camino

Time depends on the route and your physical fitness. By default, Camino Francés has 33 stages (764 km in total) and Camino del Norte 34 (824 km in total). If you are very athletic, you can go faster. If you do not want to hurry, you can walk for 2 months. Stages vary in length. Some are 12 km, others 40.

A lot of people can't afford a month-long vacation, that's why they walk for a part of the route, and the next year they continue their camino.

4. Alone or in company?

You have to decide for yourself. Anyway, starting a pilgrimage alone does not mean that you must go alone - you'll meet lots of wonderful people and if you want company, you'll find it easily. During my camino, apart from 2 days, I walked alone. If you walk camino with other people, you will most likely make friends for the rest of your life. If you walk alone, you'll be able to focus on your interior. I tried to meditate on the way. I repeated the Ma-ra-na-tha mantra to the beat of the trekking poles. Why did I meditate? Read about the benefits of meditation in my post East and Christian meditation

5. Fisterra

Camino ends at Santiago de Compostela. If you want to reach the edge of the world, gather the last of your strength and go through the next 76 km (or take bus ? to the town of Fisterra. Traditionally pilgrims would throw off their penitential clothes on the cliffs and burn them as a symbol of the end of old life, after which they put on new clothing as a sign of the beginning of new one. It's a beautiful tradition. Although most pilgrims no longer burn down their clothes, it's worth going to Fisterry.

I stayed at Fisterra in Albergue La Espiral. And I experienced one of the most emotionally strong experiences during camino. My body was exhausted after reaching Santiago, so to the enge of the world I went by bus. When I arrived at the hostel, one of the volunteers greeted me with a warm hug and the words "Welcome home". I almost fell into tears.

6. How to walk the camino as painless as possible

  • Pack as light as possible. Optimally, your backpack should weigh no more than 7 kg. After adding water and food for the whole day, it will weight 9-10 kg. Your body will feel every extra kilo.
  • Shoes - one of the most important choices during camino. Appearance does not count. Everyone had their own way: some of them walked in mountain boots, others in running shoes or in sandals and socks. For me (after 3 unsuccessful attempts and a dozen or so blisters at once), Keen trekking sandals worked well. Every 10 kilometers I had put some (even on very muddy feet) Vaseline to prevent rubbing and the formation of blisters.
  • You only need 3 sets of clothes. 1 set you are wearing, 1 clean is in the backpack, 1 is drying up on the backpack. You don't need pajamas - after a shower and changing into clean clothes, you can also sleep in them.
  • In the place where you start your camino, go to the information point and ask where you can get a credential that confirms your pilgrim status and entitles you to accommodation in albergue.
  • Follow the yellow arrows or route mapping shells.
  • You can ignore 'stages'! Most pilgrims follow recommended instructions from guidbooks about stages of the camino. Who said they are the best? In the final town of a given stage, sometimes you may have a problem finding accommodation in albergue (the place with the cheapest accommodation for pilgrims - it is usually 6 euros), if you don't hurry up. Because of this, many people get up very early and hurry all the way to save money. In the meantime, they pass by almost empty albergues. Halfway through my camino I started to stop for the night between stages. It happened that there were 3-5 people in total in a dozen or several dozen beds hostels.
  • Download the Buen Camino app and pay a few euros for access to a specific route. Is it worth it? You will see how many kilometers you have left to your destination, where the albergues are situated and learn about alternative routes. Camino del Norte leads along the coast but does not always turn to the beach. By only following the arrows you will miss some beautiful places. The Buen Camino app uses GPS, so you'll be able to track how far the sea is located.
  • Consider taking a tent with you. You would save money, but you will definitely carry more weight with you every day. Besides, camping out of camping sites, is not entirely legal, although many people still do it.
  • After reaching Santiago de Compostela, go to the Pilgrim Center near the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to get Compostela (diploma in Latin confirming your camino).

7. How do you pack for a camino?

Pack lightly. Take with you:

  • a comfortable backpack with a rain cover - 30 liters should do it
  • 1 raincoat that your backpack can fit under
  • 1 jumper (if you go in summer)
  • 1 pair of leggings / long pants
  • 3 T-shirts
  • 3 pairs of shorts (preferably quick-drying)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of panties
  • for women - 1 bra
  • for women - 1 two-piece swimsuit (top of the bikini could become a bra when this one is drying)
  • 3 in 1 utensil
  • a little bit of salt and your favorite spice (often there are no dpots, cutlery or spices in the albergue)
  • 3 pieces of string (useful for tying drying laundry on a backpack and hanging up your own laundry line when all others are already taken)
  • eco bag or compact backpack - for shopping after reaching the place where you will stay for the night
  • eye mask, earplugs
  • fast drying towel - my favorite is Tramp Light Fjord Nansen towel
  • head torch
  • 1 reflective band
  • water bottle
  • mydło, szampon, szczoteczkę i pastę do zębów, dezodorant, szczotkę do włosów, krem z  filtrem, ewentualnie trochę proszku/płynu do prania (możesz też prać ręcznie w najzwyklejszym mydle)
  • THE SHOES - this is one of the most important elements. KEEN trekking sandals and vaseline on the feet every 10 km worked well for me
  • comfortable flip-flops - for a shower, you'll also want to change shoes after a day of hiking
  • a hat
  • smartphone with downloaded Buen Camino app (and chosen route)
  • a piece of a mat with insulation (just enouth for you to be able to sit on it during a break in the journey)
  • medicine for diarrhea, painkiller/anti-inflammatory, plasters for corns
  • sleeping bag (nights can be cool even during the summer)
  • a hand watch with alarm clock and backlight (do not count on the fact that you will have a socket by the bed)
  • a small diary and something to write
  • a hip sack for phone and documents (you can hide it under the pillow for the night - usually there are no lockers in albergue)
  • small padlock
  • optional: trekking sticks - they help maintain the rhythm of the trek (perfect for walking meditation), help balancing in wet and slippery conditions,
  • optional: ebook reader

8. Sample schedule of the pilgrim's day

5:30 am - wake up, breakfast

6:00 am- start to walk (not only for the purpose of reaching next albergue before other pilgrims, but also to avoid marching in the heat)

11:00 am - lunch break

1:00 pm - reaching of the albergue (if you are too early, wait patiently - take your place in the queue!, If you are too late, you may find out there is no bed for you). Some albergues open later - sometimes even at 4 pm.

After registering, paying and receiving a credential stamp, chose the bed and take a shower. After showering and putting on a fresh set of clothes, wash clothes from the current day and hang them up. Go sightseeing, shopping and if you have money and fancy a restaurant. Spend time with other pilgrims. Go to bed early.

9. Accommodation during camino

On the camino route you will find many shelters for pilgrims called albergue. The cost of such accommodation is donativo (donation) or 6 euros (most often), but it can also be 18 euros in a private albergue. The conditions are very basic - you sleep on a bunk bed in mixed rooms full of sweaty backpacks and stinky shoes, sometimes there is no kitchen, sometimes it is, but usually there are no pots, cutlery or spices.

10. When is the best time for camino?

Most pilgrims start their journey in July or August. At that time virtually all albergues are open (in June some of them will be still closed). Some pilgrims set off earlier to make it to St. James the Apostle's celebration in Santiago. The most boisterous part of the ceremony (the so-called "Apostle's fires") takes place on the night of July 24/25, when at Obradoiro Square you can enjoy many performances, multimedia shows and fireworks. That day in the cathedral enormous Botafumeiro (the world's largest censor) is also put into motion.

The most of the people do their camino In July and August. At the time there is the biggest stress with getting accommodation in albergues but at the same time thanks to albergues you can find the cheapest accommodation. You can make a pilgrimage at any time of the year. Check the availability of accommodation in advance - you will probably pay more.

11. Beeing vegan and camino

Spain is not very friendly to vegans. Of course, in larger cities like Barcelona, you'll find vegan restaurants. However, don't count on it on the camino route. You can find in many restaurants on the way 'pilgrim dinner' which costs about 10 euros, but is not friendly to herbivores. Only once I decided to go to a restaurant with friends. I got fries and the simliestd salad, for which I paid too much. The basis of my diet were nuts, fruit, olives, a baguette with banana and dark chocolate, I got hummus several times. Dia - the supermarkets - were a godsend - I could buy canned lentil soup with vegetables there.

on the route of camino del norte camino de santiago spain road

12. How much will you spend on camino?

Na nocleg wydasz od 5 do 20 euro, na jedzenie (bez korzystania z restauracji) około 10 euro na dzień (potrzebujesz energii do marszu). Obiad pielgrzyma (najczęściej z kieliszkiem lokalnego wina) to również koszt około 10 euro.

13. The most beautiful places on the Camino del Norte route

If you decide to go on Camino del Norte, stop for a moment in these places:

  • Noja beach - get off the official camino route earlier and go across the hills to the beach
on the route of camino del norte camino de santiago spain
  • Llanes - a beautiful town by the sea, surrounded by mountains
on the route of camino del norte camino de santiago spain
  • Cudillero - an extremely picturesque small town on the hills, here I felt like trapped among the rocks
Cudillero - camino del norte camino de santiago spain
Cudillero - camino del norte camino de santiago spain
  • Tapia de Cesariego - a town not yet spoiled by tourists, I could live here
on the route of camino del norte camino de santiago spain road - Tapia de Cesariego
  • Playa de las Catedrales (near Ribadeo)
Playa de las Catedrales (near Ribadeo) camino de santiago spain
Playa de las Catedrales (near Ribadeo) camino de santiago spain
  • Cistercian monastery in Sobrado - for me it's a Catholic Angkor Wat, abandoned for 130 years, covered with moss, magical
Cistercian monastery in Sobrado. Camino del Norte. Camino de Santiago. Spain
Cistercian monastery in Sobrado. Camino del Norte. Camino de Santiago. Spain

14. My camino

If you want to know the history of my camino, check out the entry My Camino - painfully honest story

15. Useful:

  • On Monte de Gozo there is a Polish albergue at the Center of John Paul II. It's just 4.5 km from the cathedral in Santiago. Stop here if you don't have more strength.
  • The Buen Camino app with GPS, route and surrounding maps and information about albegues is very useful.
  • Check out https://www.pilgrim.es/en/routes/ - you'll find lots of great tips here. Don't buy any tours! You can make it on your own!

I hope your el Camino (means the way) will show you the way ?.


You may also be interested in my other posts:

Maria Inspires
Maria Inspires
My name is Maria Durczyk. I love traveling, illustrating, people. I travel to near and distant countries and towards health and inner peace.

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