Walking the Camino de Santiago: A Spiritual Adventure
If the Camino de Santiago trail is on your bucket-list it is important to learn about the main routes, the culture and what to expect along the way.
Pilgrims have been walking to Santiago de Compostela for over a thousand years. In the 11th and 12th century over half a million people made the journey to Santiago from all over Europe.
WHAT IS A PILGRIMAGE
A pilgrimage is a journey with a purpose to a sacred place in search of moral or spiritual significance. The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain contains the relics of Saint James who traveled there to evangelize the pagans of that land. It became the habit of pilgrims walking the route and finally arriving at their destination months later to take home with them the scallop shell, taken from the waters off the coast of Finisterre (the end of the world) as proof that they had in fact completed the journey.
Nowadays people are embarking on this unique journey for many different reasons; spiritual or religious, for a new challenge, for a new adventure, to escape the screens, to find a purpose, in respect of someone they lost or to get back to nature.
WHEN TO GO ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
People choose to walk the Camino throughout the year but the months of April, May and September are the most popular.
THE MOST POPULAR STARTING POINTS
These days not everyone has the time to complete the full Camino frances route but you can get a taste of what the Camino is all about if you choose to walk the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago. This route will take you just under one week to complete and you will feel the true spirit of the Camino, bumping into many pilgrims along the way.
The full French Way is the most popular Camino to complete over your lifetime. The full walk takes 35 days to complete and it is the walk that you might have seen in the famous movie ‘The Way’ with Martin Sheen.
The Coastal Way
Enjoy walking alongside the Atlantic coast from Porto to Santiago on this stunning trail. This walk takes approximately 13 days to complete and you will finish in Santiago where you can collect your pilgrim certificate.
Traditionally preferred by pilgrims from the British Isles this route starts in the coastal town of Ferrol which is famous for it’s Easter parades. You can walk this way in 6 days, passing Romanesque churches along the way.
Famous for it’s delicious cuisine, this route is full of tapas, scenery and culture. Walking the full Northern Way would take up to 35 days but you can break it down section by section.
You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a fitness expert to walk any of the Camino routes. This is what is so great about walking, anybody can do it at any age. To ensure that you are comfortable and don’t cramp up on the route it is always a good idea to have a fitness plan before your trip. Practice by walking at least 10kms per week for three months coming up to the big trip. On average you will walk between 16 to 25 kms per day and depending on the elevation of the route you may need to bring walking poles for support.
Packing is another issue for walkers who are planning their Camino journey. Most companies, like CaminoWays.com offer luggage transfers so that all you need to bring with you each day is your backpack with the essentials (walking notes, water, snacks, pilgrim passport and suncream). Be sure to pack a few good pairs of socks and a good pair of walking shoes from a reputable outdoor gear store. Remember to break your shoes in by walking in them before you go.
When you are in the smaller villages in Northern Spain don’t expect all of the locals to speak fluent English. They may have a few words but it is a good idea to bring a local phrasebook for your journey.
We hope that you find this article with some travel tips and information useful. The Camino de Santiago is a truly magical experience. Buen Camino!