1 - Pick The Best Route For You
While the Camino Frances is the best known route of the Camino de Santiago, featured in movies such as The Way and many books, there are many more Camino routes and thousands of kilometres of trails across Europe. Which one will you take?
When picking the best route for you, there are a few factors you should take into account such as:
- The type of experience you expect: Are you looking to meet other pilgrims or would you rather walk a quieter route?
- The challenge you are prepared to undertake: Will you be walking for a few days, a week or a whole month?
- The terrain type: Are you experienced and into mountain walking or would you prefer an easier trail? Maybe you’d like to be near the coast?
At JWT Camino we can help you find the best route for you, here’s an overview of all the routes and what makes each of them special: Camino de Santiago routes.
2 - Plan In Advance
Once you have decided which route you’d like to take, time of the year and the number of days available, book your accommodation ahead if possible, whether you are organising your trip independently or with a specialist travel company such as JWT.
This will be particularly important if you are travelling in 2021 which is a Xacobeo, or Holy Year, which means the trails to Santiago will be likely to be busier than usual and accommodation might be difficult to find at the last minute.
Planning your stages and stops ahead will mean you can enjoy the journey without having to worry about where you will be spending the night. If you are walking the full Camino Frances or any other long trail, we recommend taking a ‘rest day’ after each 5-7 days of walking to give your body a welcome break.
3 - Preparation And Fitness
Next on our Camino de Santiago travel tips list we have preparation and fitness.
Some level of physical preparation and training is highly recommended ahead of your Camino trip. The Camino is manageable and doable for most of us but the better prepared you are physically, the more you will enjoy it. The key is building up stamina, so you are prepared for a week (or a month) of daily walking.
Depending on the distance you are walking daily, you will need to adapt your training and preparation accordingly. Ideally, the earlier you start the better but start taking long walks regularly at least six weeks before your trip.
It is important that you use the walking shoes you’ll take on your trip and, a couple of weeks prior to your trip, start walking with the backpack you will be taking with you on the Camino.
4 - Weather travel tips
The weather will vary greatly depending on the route you choose or even the region and, of course, the time of the year. Checking the forecast before travelling is always recommended for any trip abroad. If you are walking the Camino de Santiago this is more important than ever, as you will be out in the open air for most of the day.
Which takes us to the next point on our Camino de Santiago travel tips checklist…
5 - Packing for the Camino de Santiago
When packing for a day out hiking or a full week or month on the Camino de Santiago, we recommend taking the ‘onion’ approach, which means layering clothing so you can easily take them off when you are warm and put them back on if you cool down.
When packing for your Camino de Santiago trip, you must consider your personal circumstances also, are you carrying all your belongings during your walk or are you availing of luggage transfers like the ones included in our Camino packages at JWT.
In any case, if you are walking a long distance, remember it is not recommended to carry more than 10% of your body weight.
When picking your backpack, make sure you have support at the waist to distribute the weight and avoid putting pressure only on your shoulders.
These are some of the essential items you should always carry in your day pack, some of them will be relevant depending on the season:
- Plenty of water
- Food and snacks
- Hat and sunblock, particularly in Spring/Summer
- Plasters (just in case!)
- A warm layer of clothes
- Waterproof and windproof coat
6 - Boots Made For Walking
Should you take hiking boots, walking shoes, trainers, walking sandals…? This is another very important point on our essential Camino de Santiago travel tips.
Your walking shoes will be your best allies and most important piece of equipment on the Camino so pick them carefully.
Your walking shoes must be comfortable and you should be well used to walking on them, this is the most important piece of advice for any walking holiday. A common mistake is taking brand new hiking shoes without ‘breaking them in’ first, which can result in blisters.
If you are buying new walking shoes, make sure you get used to them before travelling and that they are comfortable for a whole day walking.
If you are walking a very mountainous section of the trail or there is a risk of wet weather, hiking boots offer more ankle support and warmth. However they will be too heavy and hot if you are walking in the Summer months, when good hiking shoes are a better alternative. Just make sure your feet and ankles get enough support to avoid sprains; and that they are waterproof.
7 - Walk At Least 100kms
We mentioned there are many thousands of miles of ‘Camino’ across Europe so you could actually walk for three full months if you wanted.
One important thing to consider if you are a Camino beginner is the fact that you will need to walk at least the last 100kms into Santiago de Compostela (on any of the Camino routes) if you would like to receive the pilgrim certificate known as ‘Compostela’ or the Certificate of Distance at the Pilgrims Office.
8 - At Your Own Pace
It is important that you travel the Camino at your own pace to fully enjoy it. Many Camino novices have a mental image of raising before dawn to walk in darkness with other pilgrims.
There is an element of truth in that, as public hostels operate on a first come first served basis, and during busy periods arriving later will mean no beds might be available. However if you are travelling with prearranged accommodation, there is no need to worry about this.
The Camino is not a race, it is a journey of reflection where every step should be enjoyed. Of all Camino de Santiago travel tips, this is probably the single most important piece of advice so you can make the journey your own.
9 - Stamp Your Pilgrim Passport
Another important factor to consider is that in order to obtain your Compostela certificate you will need to show proof that you have walked the required distance of 100kms.
For that purpose, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and the various international Saint James societies across the globe issue a ‘pilgrim passport’ also known as ‘Credencial’ which you will have to date stamp daily along the way, in churches, cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels…
Our Camino de Santiago packages include the pilgrim passport so you will be ready to go.
10 - Where To Sleep
There are many different types of accommodation options on the Camino de Santiago routes, particularly on the popular Camino Frances.
Accommodation ranges from the public hostels and private hostels (albergues) with dorms, small family-run guesthouses known as pensiones, boutique country hotels or casas rurales, hotels of various categories and even luxury hotels and historic Paradores.
For our Camino packages at JWT Camino we have selected accommodation in lovely hotels and boutique properties on the different routes, ranging from 3 to 5 stars, as well as Paradores and Pousadas, in Portugal.
Accommodation in the smaller villages might be limited, in which case we will find the best alternative available or organise a transfer to the nearest town or village.
11 - Eat Like A Local, Or A Pilgrim
One of the greatest joys of travel is discovering a new world of flavours. Each country and each region on the Camino de Santiago will have its own specialities to delight you, try as many as you can whether it’s in the shape of bite sized tapas or pintxos, served with your pilgrim menu, a la carte or sprinkled with paprika like a good octopus Galician style.
This is the tastiest of our Camino de Santiago travel tips and one of our favourites too!
12 - Explore Santiago De Compostela
Once you achieve your goal: reaching Santiago de Compostela, take some time to explore this wonderful little city, full of history, enchanting nooks and crannies and delicious food.
Wander the stunning Old Town, visit the Abastos Food Market, go for a stroll in the Alameda Park or Bonaval and watch the world go by in its many cafes and terraces.
If your feet are still longing for more miles… Why not keep walking? You can continue all the way to the Ocean, to Cape Finisterre and Muxia. Otherwise, there is always next year!
We hope you find our Camino de Santiago travel tips useful, we would love to hear your thoughts! You can find more interesting articles on our Camino Blog.
For more Camino de Santiago travel tips, advice and to book your Camino trip with JWT contact our travel experts.
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