Looking for a Camino de Santiago route planner? Look no further! Walking the Camino is the dream of many travellers from all over the world who want to explore in a different way. I’ve been dreaming about the Camino since I was 13, when I read ‘The Pilgrimage’ by Paulo Coelho. This year, I turned 28 and decided to stop postponing. I was going!
On September 6th 2019 I took a train from Paris to Saint-Jean-Pier-De-Port in the south of France and started my 800 kilometre journey along the French Way, one of the several Camino de Santiago routes. In 33 days I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, before extending my route to Finisterre, a place known as the End of the World in Roman times. Altogether it was an intense 38 days, with incredible and also difficult moments, often surrounded by people from all over the world but sometimes alone for days. I’ve put together everything you need to know before you head out on this journey. Enjoy this guide and Buen Camino!
What is the Camino de Santiago?
The Camino started with the discovery in the 9th century of the tomb of the apostle Santiago, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Today the tomb is housed in the crypt of the Cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela, capital of the Spanish state of Galicia. Every year, thousands of people make the journey here via the oldest pilgrimage route in Europe, crossing Spain from east to west, to reach Santiago de Compostela.
Whether you make the journey on foot or cycling, you don’t have to be religious to follow the same path as the apostle Santiago. No matter which route you choose, the idea is the same. I did it for spiritual reasons, as a way of getting to know myself and reflecting on life and my choices. In fact, even if your only goal is adventure, this process within yourself will be present in your journey. Get ready for one of the most transformative trips – you will never be the same person again.
When is the best time to walk the Camino de Santiago?
The best months to start your Camino are April-May or September-October. April and May are when the temperature starts to rise and the weather becomes more pleasant for walking. September and October, the end of summer, also have ideal temperatures. June, July and August are very hot months, and as they’re summer holidays for most people everything is very crowded and your experience will be a bit disrupted. It is not recommended to walk during winter, because in addition to the cold many hostels and restaurants are closed.
How much does the Camino de Santiago cost?
The currency used along the route is the Euro. ATMs are easily found if you need to withdraw some cash. Some places do accept cards, but it isn’t so common.
• Daily overall: between €20 (saving mode) and €40 (comfortable mode).
• Accommodation: from €5-20 per night, depending on what you’re looking for.
• Food: €15-20 per day.
• Laundry: €3-4 – share with other travellers to save some money.
Breakfast costs around €3 and usually includes toast with butter and jam and coffee. Most restaurants serve a three-course Pilgrim’s menu for lunch or dinner with bread and wine – as much as you can drink! The first course is a starter like salad, pasta or risotto, and for the main you can choose between fish, pork, lamb, chicken, meat or a veggie option. This tends to cost between €9-13, depending on the location.
You can fill your bottle with filtered water on almost any tap. There are signs indicating when the water is filtered, but if you have any doubts, just ask!
To save money, you can go to a shop and prepare your meals at the hostel. I confess that I did it only a few times because I was always too tired to cook and wash dishes, but it’s an incredible way to interact with other pilgrims. Why not have a community supper?
And of course, there are always unexpected things along the way, so always have a bit of extra money.
What to pack for the Camino de Santiago?
Two items are crucial for your Camino to be a beautiful experience. I advise you to choose them with care and be aware that they are ESSENTIAL for you to avoid injuries during your journey.
1. Hiking boots/sneakers
Buy at least two months in advance. Go to a specialist store and try on various trekking boots and sneakers. Test everything – high, medium, low… they don’t have to be a super heavy, professional pair of shoes, because there is no climbing, but they need to be sturdy to avoid ankle sprains and friction on the soles of the feet. Try different kinds and walk around the store a lot to feel if you’re really comfortable. Once purchased, start using your shoes every day to break them in. Make walks of all kinds, with uphill, downhill and long distances. Keep in mind that you will walk between 20 to 30km daily and your feet are probably not used to making so much effort.
The backpack is the second most important item. I almost bought mine online and I would have made a serious mistake. At the store I was able to test it with the help of a specialist and I chose a model that perfectly suited my body. It is important that the backpack is adjustable to distribute the weight evenly over the hips and back, with clips on the hips and shoulders.
A tip from someone who had a blister free trip: BUY AMAZING SOCKS. Almost as important as your shoes are your choice of socks. The good news is that there is no secret here. Avoid cotton fabrics, which retain moisture. The best socks have CoolMax technology and no seams, as the fibres carry all the moisture to the outer surface of the fabric. Result: your foot perspires freely but remains dry. Having this in mind will help you to not have any blisters during your journey! A golden tip is to change socks every 2 hours or whenever your feet feel wet.
To keep you from getting hurt and to keep your feet healthy (after all, they support your entire body), your bag shouldn’t carry more than 10% of your bodyweight.
I am a small woman and for me, it was impossible to take the basics in a suitcase with only 5kg. I managed to leave with 7kg, including a full bottle of water that I always took with me and a snack or fruit, just in case I got hungry. It worked well, but the lighter your backpack, the better for you. Learning how to live without material things is one of the first lessons that every pilgrim develops. Believe me!
3. Clothes & Essential items
– 2 pairs of trousers that turn into shorts (quick drying)
– 1 pair of leggings (I bought them there and left behind a pair of trousers I took with me)
– 1 pair of light shorts to wear after a shower and have a walk around town, rest and sleep
– 2 short-sleeved t-shirts in dri-fit fabric
– 1 dri-fit fabric long sleeved t-shirt
– 1 fleece jumper
– 1 waterproof windbreaker coat
– 3 pairs of underwear
– 2 regular tops
– 3 pairs of socks
– 1 pair of boots
– 1 pair of sandals (I didn’t use them because I didn’t have any problems with my boots, but I strongly suggest that you take one with you just in case)
– 1 pair of slippers (used in the shower, inside the hostel and for walking. It is very good to give your feet some time to rest
– 1 raincoat (poncho style, which covered the backpack)
– 1 headlamp (super practical for walking hands free)
– 1 hat
– 1 pair of sunglasses
– 1 pocketknife (scissors, knife, wine opener)
– 1 microfibre towel
– 5 clothes pins. Some hostels don’t have them and you can also hang whatever is still wet on your backpack to dry while you walk. This is very common and you will see many pilgrims with a backpack full of clothes hanging!
– 1 pair of walking sticks (yes, they make all the difference)
– Your phone, of course
– Power bank
– Bum bag (I kept my passport, money and card inside and it was always with me)
– Shampoo / conditioner / hairbrush
– Toothpaste / toothbrush / dental floss / mouthwash
– Nail clipper
– Liquid soap
– Soap for washing clothes
– If you take any medicine for continuous use, don’t forget to take enough for the entire journey. Take some common medicines such as ibuprofen and paracetamol as well, but don’t worry – you can find them easily if you forget. I was lucky that I didn’t get sick and just had to buy a natural anti-inflammatory ointment.
How long does the Camino de Santiago take?
Did you know that there are several official Camino de Santiago routes? Depending on the route you choose, it can take from 5 days up to 37 to complete it. You can choose your route according to the time you have for your trip, the level of difficulty and which country you want to start in.
The good news is that if you travel the last 100km on foot, or 200km cycling (it takes 5-6 days) you will be entitled to Compostela, a document issued by the Church to prove that you’ve completed the Camino.
Best Camino de Santiago Routes
1. The French Way
This is what I chose to do. It’s the most famous and structured Camino de Santiago route, with restaurants, hostels and cafes along the way. It has inspired the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho to write The Pilgrimage and it stretches for almost 800km. It starts in St.Jean-Pied-De-Port in France, traversing the Pyrenees, going to La Rioja and finishing, of course, in Santiago de Compostela. It’s very well signposted and is also the most crowded route. It’s usually done between 30 and 35 days.
2. The Portuguese Way
Leaving Porto or Lisbon and heading through the north of Spain. This route is a little shorter, 240km (Porto), taking around 14 days to complete, and 640km (Lisbon), taking around 30 days. It’s perfect for backpackers looking for a more rural experience and it’s full of historical monuments. This route crosses Portugal from south to north and the journey ‘s scenery is absolutely beautiful!
3. The Northern Way
The longest, covering almost 900km and taking up to 37 days to finish. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful Camino de Santiago Routes, despite having loads of challenges as it runs along the coast. It takes pilgrims from the Northern Coast from the Basque Country, across Cantabria, Asturias and finally arriving at Santiago de Compostela. Because it’s a coastal route, you’re going to find many fishing villages and beaches on the way, so be ready for amazing seafood.
4. Primitive Way
One of the shortest at only 320km (taking about 14 days), but very challenging due to the lack of structure, long periods without water, access to food and many ups and downs. However, it is BEAUTIFUL. The beginning is in the city of Oviedo, Asturias. This is the first recorded pilgrimage and it’s the route that King Alfonso II followed in the 9th century to visit the newly discovered tomb. The route still follows the original layout and, if you choose this one, you are going to see some beautiful landscapes in the border between Asturias and Galicia.
Along all of them you’ll find signs with the famous yellow arrow and the shell pointing in the right direction to follow. The average is to walk between 20 and 30 kilometers a day, following the recommended Camino de Santiago route suggestions, but you are the one who makes your own route.
How to get ready for your trip
I heard stories about people who prepared for months and still had injuries and I also met people who said they had done absolutely nothing to prepare and finished the route with no troubles. This is quite relative, but what I advise is: if you’re not used to walking much, add this to your routine so your body has time to get used to it.
Walking between 10 and 20km a day can be good preparation for your feet and legs. Don’t forget to take your backpack with something inside so you can feel the weight and strengthen your shoulders, back and hips.
I go to the gym every day and I also run twice a week. I think my level of fitness was good enough, so I didn’t have any complications. After your daily walk, you can arrive at your hostel and have a long stretching session and drink loads of water.
How to avoid blisters
- Many people use Vaseline on their entire foot to avoid friction. It seems to work and I suggest you try it in your workouts before doing it on the walk.
- Pre-walk, wear your boots every day. NEVER start your walk with new boots.
- Keep your toenails very short. I saw dozens of pilgrims with purple toes and black nails because of the friction with the boot.
- Change your socks. ALL THE TIME! At least every two hours. Use this moment for a break.
- The main tip to avoid blisters and any other injury or complication is to listen to your body. If you feel something different, even if it is just a slight annoyance, stop, drink some water and check if there is something that can be done at that very moment to prevent your discomfort from becoming worse.
- Follow your pace. The Camino is not a race or a competition but a journey.
Where to stay along the Camino Route
Along your Camino route you’re going to find accommodation options for every kind of backpacker. The cheapest option are Municipal or parish hostels which do not accept reservations and can be booked only at the time you arrive. Beds cost between €5 – 7 euros per night.
Then there are private hostels which are a great option if you don’t want to walk in such a hurry and want the guarantee of a peaceful place to sleep that you can book in advance. These cost between €8 – 17 for a shared dorm and €25 for a private room. Normally hostels do not allow you to stay for more than one night and require you to check out before 8am, so get ready to wake up early.
One of the most incredible parts of the journey is meeting people from all over the world. This cultural exchange is priceless. Take advantage of these moments to socialise and learn more about the pilgrims’ history. You will be surprised!
Best hostels in the Camino de Santiago
Pamplona – Xarma Hostel – Aterpea
Located a 10-minute walk from Pamplona Cathedral, Xarma Hostel offers a well-equipped kitchen, a living room for you to rest and socialise and a garden terrace to relax after a long day of walking. They have shared rooms with 4-6 beds and also private rooms if you want your own space.
Logrono – Albergue Albas
This small and cosy hostel is very well located in the center of Logrono, surrounded by shops and restaurants. The rooms are for 2, 4 and 8 people, all with shared bathrooms. The kitchen has a microwave, refrigerator and coffee machine.
Burgos – Hotel Rey Arturo
Located in a quiet region of Burgos, surrounded by gardens, the Hotel Rey Arturo has 52 rooms, all with a bathroom, heating, hairdryers and satellite TV. A great option to rest after days of walking.
León – LeonHostel
Located in a historic building, this hostel is just 50 metres from the Cathedral. You can stay in a private or a shared room, all of which have an amazing street view. Enjoy the balcony to relax and meet other backpackers.
Sarria – Hostel Andaina
In the heart of the Camino de Santiago, this hostel is close to shops, pharmacies and restaurants. They have 26 capsule rooms, a living room, a shared kitchen and facilities for laundry. Take the op-portunity to recover and get full of energy for the final stretch – it’s only 100km from Santiago de Compostela!
Santiago de Compostela – Roots and Boots Hostel
First of all, congratulations! You’ve done it! After this long journey, the best gift you can give your-self is a good time to rest. Located in the old town, this hostel has a beautiful view of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, a huge garden with centenary trees where you can have a barbecue and awesome staff ready to give you all the information about the city.
If you want silence, reflection and alone time, this is the perfect trip for you. If you want to meet people, it’s perfect as well! The Camino is like just like life – sometimes you’ll socialise and sometimes you’ll have more introspective moments. Respect all your moods and feel them intensely. It is a unique experience in which your only concern will be to walk and enjoy the present moment.
There is a saying among pilgrims that says: “The Way is made by Walking.” It’s the truth – you may want to plan your entire journey, prepare a script with everything outlined and predict each step, but you will soon realise that the best thing to do is to get into the flow and let the way show itself to you. It is surreal and magical to let things just happen and be as they have to be, not as you want them to be.
It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had and I know that it will also be unforgettable for you. Buen Camino!
📚 About the Author 📚
Leticia Mueller is a journalist and in August 2019 left home for a journey around the world with no date to return. The goal? Make all her travel dreams come true. She doesn’t count how many countries she has been or collect stamps in her passport, but lives every moment fully. Follow her adventures on Instagram.