Some people may have watched the movie ‘The Way” and thought to themselves I want to know more about the Camino de Santiago!
There’s something very unique about walking the Camino. Even if you hike it solo, you are never alone. Whether you do it for religious reasons or not, the sense of community on the trail is like no other walk on earth. The overwhelming feeling of acceptance by everyone you meet along the trail makes it very hard not to tap into some sort of spiritual guidance.
While the roots of the Camino lie in religious beginnings, today the vast majority of those who undertake a section of “The Way” do it for non-religious reasons. One can certainly say that it is a fitness tour unlike any other!
What is the Camino de Santiago walk?
Camino de Santiago, The Way of St James. The Compostela Trail. What does it all mean?
Camino: This Spanish word simply means a path of travel or route. When written as ‘el camino’ it translates to ‘the way’.
Santiago: The name Santiago is linked to the apostle James (Saint James meaning Santiago). He travelled to the most north-western part of Spain to preach and convert people to Christianity.
The Way of St James: The origins of the Camino began in the 9th century when the tomb of the apostle St James was unearthed in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Early Christian pilgrims to Sanitago began their ‘Camino de Santiago’ (Spanish name), or ‘Way of St James (English name), from their front door.
Santiago de Compostela: Also known as Saint James of Compostela. It’s the capital of the region of Galicia in Spain and home to the famous cathedral where the relics of St James were said to have been unearthed.
The Compostela: The official accreditation proving one’s pilgrimage to the tomb of St James in the 9th & 10th centuries. It was originally provided in the form of a scallop shell badge that was easy to forge but was eventually replaced by the Compostela certificates.
Compostela certificates: A document one receives from the Pilgrims Reception Office in Santiago. To receive the certificate you must make the pilgrimage for pious reasons (or at least have an attitude of search), walk (or ride on horseback) the last 100km or cycle the last 200km, and collect stamps in the Credencial del Peregrino from places you pass through.
Certificate of distance: Document on parchment paper certifying the number of kilometres walked. A small payment is required to receive this certificate.
The Credencial del Peregrino: In the Middle Ages the document was provided as a safeguard. Also referred to as the Camino passport, today the document can be collected from various authorised places and is used to collect stamps along the way so one can prove their journey when collection their Compostela certificate.
Why walk Camino de Santiago?
The answer to this question can be extremely personal. Many pilgrims, who travel the Camino, do it for religious reasons. Travelling to the tomb of Saint James allows walkers ample opportunities to visit the vast number of churches and famous towns. Such as Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Leon, plus spectacular views of the Pyrenees.
For some it is about escaping the world and taking a breath from the mundane; to recharge of their spirit and help clear their mind. Some travellers have even quit their highly successful careers to pursue a lifetime ambition of conquering the entire Camino de Santiago in a single trip.
As for the rest of us; we’re just up for a new an interesting challenge. Some people just don’t have the flexibility or annual leave accumulated to tackle the walk over 90+ days. So we must choose the most appropriate section to complete when possible; obviously with the goal of getting all stamps required to obtain our Compostela certificate.
Where does the Camino de Santiago walk start and end?
For many pilgrims the true Camino starts in the quaint South France town of Le Puy-en-Velay, which is the start of the French leg. Pilgrims travel southwest to the border, covering just over 740 km. However many pilgrims start this journey on the Spanish side in the lovely town of St Jean Pied de Port.
The walk continues as you pass between France and Spain, across the Pyrenees mountain range on your way to lovely Pamplona. From here the journey takes you west across Spain’s beautiful countryside for another 790km, with the final destination, of course, being the capital Sanitago de Compostela.
Which Camino should I walk?
With 7 different routes to choose from it’s easy to see why deciding which walk to tackle isn’t a clear choice.
- French way of St James – Le Puy-en-Velay to St Jean Pied de Port
- Camino Frances – St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago
- Camino Portuguese – Lisbon to Santiago via Porto
- Camino Primitivo – Oviedo to Santiago via Lugo & Melide
- Camino del Norte – San Sebastian to Santiago
- The English Way – Ferrol to Santiago
- Camino Finisterre – Santiago loop through Finisterre & Muxia
The most popular Camino walk is the Camino Frances across northern Spain. This is made abundantly clear when you look at the activity tracked by Strava.
Many of us may need to take into account the amount of time we have available for our holiday. Most of the routes are broken up into smaller portions, and some of these smaller sections are broken up into tour packages that range from 5 to 15 days long.
How far is Camino de Santiago?
This is an age-old question which can only be answered once you decide which route is best for you. Those eager to fulfil the complete pilgrimage will start in Le Puy-en-Velay and finish in Santiago. The entire lengths of these two routes are roughly 1,530km.
- French way of St James – 740km
- Camino Frances – 790km
- Camino Portuguese – 613km
- Camino Primitivo – 320km
- Camino del Norte – 804km
- The English Way – 110km
- Camino Finisterre – 114km
How long does it take to walk the Camino de Santiago?
There are a number of answers to this question. We have a series of packages that all have set time frames in which parts of the Camino can be completed. However if you were to go off book, to allow additional time to take in all the breathe taking scenery available or to rest you can probably add in 1-2 days extra on these suggested time frames. Plus if you are extremely keen on completing the Camino de Santiago in succession then a maximum time period to allow for this would be 76 to 80 days.
Estimated Time Frames
- French way of St James – 40 days
- Camino Frances – 36 days
- Camino Portuguese – 35 days
- Camino Primitivo – 13 days
- Camino del Norte – 42 days
- The English Way – 8 days
- Camino Finisterre – 6 days
When to walk Camino de Santiago?
This is the question people ask most. What is the most suitable season to be outside hiking for 5-8 hours a day? Regardless which part of the Camino you walk it is always wisest to walk in France & Spain outside of the winter months.
During winter it is quite common for many services along the portions of the tail, such as hotels and restaurants to be closed. But word to the wise; during the summer months it can be considerably hot. It is for this reason, some pilgrims, take the northern coastal routes which provide spectacular walking conditions.
How much does it cost to do the Camino walk?
The cost of this adventure depends on a few conditions. Will you tackle the Camino guided package, self guided package or self guide DIY?
Here is the rough costs for the self guided DIY option. It should be noted that these figures will have a tendency to changes depending on the high and low tourist seasons.
- Air Fares – $1,200 ex Perth
- Train Fares – $300 from airport to starting town
- Insurance – $300 for full coverage over a 14 days period
- Accomodation – $125 – $150 per night
Accomodation costs and quality can vary but these are a good indication to go upon. Now if you want it even cheaper you can go down the path of hostels, which is vastly cheaper but it really is shared accomodation so it may take some time getting used to.
There is a small difference in pricing between the France and Spain, with Spain pricing being approx. 25% cheaper in some instances.
- Meals – $30 – $50 per day
Again this is somewhat dependant upon if you eat out or kick back with a self made spanish tapas spread.
In this scenario, if we were looking at walking the Camino Frances, the approximate cost will be $8,000. This is a fairly good price when you consider this holiday would last about 35-40 days.
How fit do I need to be?
Generally, the fitter and better prepared you are the easier it will be. Not only will it be less taxing on your body, you will also enjoy the trip much more. If you exercise regularly participate in fitness training, and are in good health you should be fine to walk the Camino. Every walk presents a different physical challenge based upon the distance and terrain walked, and partaking in some stair climbing would be beneficial. All Camino walking and cycling tours are graded from 1 to 5. The grading system makes it easier to match your physical capabilities against walks offered.
It is encouraged that you talk with experienced people and your own trainer or physician should you have any concerns.