Before walking the Camino, we had never considered that children could walk the Way of St. James. When we walked the Camino, we were pleasantly surprised to see children of all ages walking the Camino: a baby (likely around one year old) being pushed on a stroller by his parents, a little girl on a cart attached to her dad’s bicycle, older children walking with their families, and teenagers walking with parents or as part of a group of other teenagers. Truly, the Camino is a place for pilgrims of all ages!
If you are considering walking the Camino with children, it can be done. Below, we share what we have learned, both based on our research and based on what we saw when we walked the Camino.
Can you walk the Camino with children (babies, toddlers, older children, teenagers)? You can walk the Camino with children of all ages. How you prepare and what you do will depend on whether your children are able to walk comfortably on their own (typically the case for older children and teenagers), or whether you will need to carry them yourself (typically the case for babies and toddlers). Below, we provide more information on the considerations of walking the Way of St. James with children.
Before You Leave for the Camino
Take the Time to Train. Whether your children are able to walk on their own or not, you all need to train before embarking on your pilgrimage. If you are curious about how to do this, we have a post on how you should train physically for the Camino.
If you have a baby or toddler, you will be carrying your child most or all of the way. This means that you should think about how you intend to carry your child. Most people might choose to bring a stroller, but you can also consider a wagon, cart, or carrier that you wear on your body (similar to a backpack).
Whichever option you choose to carry your child, make sure you practice walking with your child and all your gear. Taking the time to train will prepare you for the extra weight of pushing or carrying, and will prepare your child to be in that position for a long length of time.
Taking the time to train will also let you know whether your child is comfortable as well as if they do well with the mode of transportation you decided upon. If your child is uncomfortable, you will need to consider another mode of transportation, or will need to postpone your pilgrimage.
When walking the Camino with babies or toddlers, because you are dealing with the extra burden of carrying or pushing your child, you might need to rely on luggage transport services so that you do not have to also worry about the weight of your own backpack.
Older children and teenagers will need to train, like you and as we recommended in our post, using the shoes/socks and gear that they will be carrying.
For children who are old enough to walk but still somewhat young, you will need to assess how long they can comfortably walk. Will it be necessary for you to bring a stroller for them, in case they get tired?
For these children, also determine how much weight they can carry. It might be that you need to either carry the weight they can’t carry themselves, or that you will have to rely on luggage transport services to carry their bags from town to town.
Take the Time to Mentally and Spiritually Prepare. If you are bringing older children or teenagers with you on the Camino, many have recommended that you encourage them to prepare mentally and spiritually in addition to physically.
For example, some suggest encouraging them to learn about what the Camino is and who St. James is. If they are old enough, they can think about what they want to accomplish or learn about themselves by walking the Camino.
Some have suggested that involving older kids in the travel preparations and planning can also be beneficial. Being involved in the planning might get them more excited to take the time to train, and might result in them being more engaged and less bored while they walk the Camino.
Visit the Pediatrician/Doctor before Walking the Camino. It might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about what you plan to do with your child, especially if your child is a baby or toddler.
Let your doctor know that you are planning on walking the Camino, and how many miles (or kilometers) that you plan to walk each day. For a regular pace on the Camino, you will cover about 16 miles per day (or 25 kilometers per day). If you decided to go at half pace, you can expect to walk about 8 miles per day (or about 13 kilometers per day).
It would also be a good idea to talk to your doctor if your child has any conditions such as asthma, severe allergies, or any other chronic condition. Your doctor will let you know the implications of walking the Camino with those medical conditions, and will have information on how to deal with any complications.
To be on the safe side, you can also research pediatricians and hospitals along your Camino route, especially if you have a baby or toddler, and/or a child with medical conditions, and bring that list with you. Of course, if you have an emergency along the way, any local will be able to help you and inform you where the nearest hospital is.
Create Your Child’s Packing List. If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, you will have to carry your child’s belongings with you. It is advisable that you find a backpack that will hold both of your belongings, and also be comfortable for you to carry the extra weight.
Your child’s packing list will be very similar to yours in the sense that you will both need clothing and toiletries. Additional items that you will need to pack for your baby or toddler for the Camino de Santiago include:
If you end up having too many things to carry, luggage transport services are always an option, though it would mean an extra expense (usually 3 to 5 euros per day/transport).
For older children and teenagers, their packing list will likely be very similar to yours. They will need clothes, toiletries, and appropriate shoes, as well as a backpack that is comfortable for them to carry. For ideas on what to pack and what to avoid packing, you can see our post to keep your backpack under 10 lbs and our post on how to travel lightly on the Camino.
Pick the Best Route and Time for Your Children. You know your children best, and different Camino routes might be better for different personalities and temperaments.
If your children would do better without the crowds, you can pick a less popular route or choose to go at a less popular time of year. You can also pick the shortest route you can, so that the journey is more doable for you and your children. For example, you might consider the Camino Ingles (see our post for more information) or the Camino Frances starting from Sarria.
Pilgrims have reported that children (babies, toddlers, and younger children) on the Camino tend to be popular among the other peregrinos, and you might have strangers asking to take pictures with your little pilgrim(s). If this is not something you are comfortable with, then a less popular route would be a good option.
Know, however, that pilgrims have also reported that peregrinos will usually be very generous in offering help with your children, such as helping you carry your stroller up the stairs that you encounter along the Way, or pointing out harder sections of the Camino and the best routes to take with a stroller.
As You Walk the Camino
Think About How to Incorporate Rest Breaks. Whether your children are walking or being pushed/carried by you, you will all need to take breaks. Some suggestions for rest breaks are:
Bring Snacks and Water, or Plan to Buy Snacks on the Way. Older children and teenagers can bring their own water bottles, but you will need to carry water for younger children. Make sure you remind them to drink their water, so as to avoid dehydration.
Because of the increase in exercise (if your child is walking), extra snacks will be needed. You can consider packing snacks in your backpacks, or you can plan your rest breaks to stop at a cafe or albergue along the way to buy a snack.
Bring Entertainment. Children might be entertained for a while by looking at other pilgrims and animals on the way, but this will only last for a while. For children that will be in a stroller or cart, you can bring books, coloring books, toys, or a tablet with games or movies.
If you have a younger child who can from time to time walk alongside you, you can bring a pull toy or other toy that they can play with while walking.
Older children and teenagers who are walking might benefit from having a game you all play together as you walk. They can also listen to music or an audiobook as they walk.
Get Them a Compostela Certificate When You Arrive at Santiago...Maybe. We have a post that provides more information about the Compostela. According to the Pilgrim’s Office, babies and toddlers will not receive a Compostela. Instead, their names will be included in their parent’s Compostela.
According to the Pilgrim’s Office, older children and teenagers can receive a Compostela if they are mature enough to understand the spiritual component of the pilgrimage, or have already received the sacrament of Communion. If neither of these are the case, they do not receive a Compostela, but receive another certificate instead.
Do Your Research on Accommodations. Pilgrims have reported that not all albergues will accept younger children. If you have younger children and are sleeping in the dorm-style accommodations, their sleep might be disrupted by other pilgrims. Similarly, they might disrupt other pilgrims’ sleep if they wake up or cry during the night.
So, do your research online to find appropriate accommodations. Many albergues will offer private rooms with their own bathrooms. If several of you (say, mom, dad, and child) are sharing that room, it will many times be more affordable to stay in a private room, because you will be paying for a room rather than paying per bed/person. Plus, you get the benefit of more privacy and your own bathroom.
You can also look at private hotels, private apartments, or AirBNB. These may or may not be close to the Camino route, so you may have to do some extra walking to get there.
During our Camino, we stayed in private rooms at albergues, private hotels, or private apartments. Prices ranged from about 25-45 euros per night.
In addition, because some albergues do not accept children, and because you might sometimes be desiring special accommodations like a private room, it might be a good idea to plan your route and reserve your rooms ahead of time.
You Will Be Able to Find Diapers, Food, and Other Supplies. There will be many grocery stores as well as pharmacies and clothing stores along the Camino. You will find most, if not all, of the things you will need for your children, so don’t worry about packing things “just in case” or packing extras.
Have a Back-Up Plan. Think about what to do if you realize the walk is simply too much for your or your children. We have not come across stories of pilgrims who have had to cut their pilgrimage short due to walking with kids, but it is a possibility, especially if you are walking with younger children and/or children with a medical condition. It is good to have a back-up plan in mind, in case you realize that getting to St. James is no longer the best option for you and your children.
Some People Will be Judgmental. Pilgrims who walk with children, especially those walking with younger children, have encountered others who have demonstrated a negative attitude towards their decision to bring a child on the Camino. Be prepared to just smile and keep going on your way. If you have taken the appropriate precautions, your child will be fine. And while some might be judgmental, you will mostly find other pilgrims who will be helpful, supportive, and kind to the little pilgrims.
Based on the research we conducted as well as seeing other families walk the way, it is possible to walk the Camino with children. Older children and teenagers, who are able to walk for themselves and even carry a backpack, can for the most part follow all recommendations provided for adults. Younger children, babies, and toddlers will need to be pushed or carried either always or from time to time, and their belongings will also need to be carried.
Walking the Camino with your children will take time to train, require extra entertainment options, possibly extra time on the Camino to account for breaks and resting, and possibly more financial resources to pay for luggage transport services or special accommodations.
But, it can be done and can prove to be a fun and meaningful experience for your family.
When you decide to walk the Camino de Santiago, one of the first things you will be researching for is what to pack for your walk. You should keep in mind that when you are looking for opinions, that if you were to ask 20 fellow pilgrims what to pack, you most likely will get 20 different answers.
While you will find wildly different suggestions on what TO bring, those same 20 pilgrims will most likely agree on one thing: remove as much as possible to reduce the weight you carry while walking the Camino.
While you may already know the many benefits of traveling light, you may still want to know exactly what to bring and what NOT to bring (and why).
When we were preparing for our Camino, we came across several detailed packing lists offered by other blogs, but it was sometimes difficult for us to know if these blogs were making genuine recommendations.
What we appreciated more was when people told us what NOT to bring.
We walked the Camino in 2018 and found that we were happy with many of the choices we made about what to bring and what we left behind. Thanks to the research that we did beforehand as well as taking time to consider what our true needs would be on the Camino, we were able to decide what gear would (and would not) make us happy while walking.
After walking the Camino, we wanted to share our list of the top 22 things that you do NOT need for walking the Camino de Santiago. The purpose of this list is to help you save weight on the gear that you bring so you reduce the physical demands on your body. We also found by carrying less stuff, we had more time to focus on the journey we were making on the Camino.
As mentioned earlier, every pilgrim has unique needs and desires for what they choose to bring with them on the Camino. If one or several of the items on this list brings you immense joy, then by all means bring it with you. The main motivation for our suggestions is how much freedom (and clarity) we found by traveling light and we wanted to encourage you while you are preparing to walk your Camino.
Top 22 Things NOT to pack for your Camino
There are several reasons that we support you leaving your laptop at home. The first is the weight that you will save (laptops weigh a couple of pounds at minimum, and bringing the power charger will add another pound). The other reason is the time you will free up. By not bringing your laptop, you will not have as many distractions (although your phone could still be a distraction, more on that later).
We found the Camino to be one of those experiences where you want to be fully present while living it.
The many forms of entertainment we gain through our laptops (and phones) tend to be an escape mechanism, a way to stay entertained. We loved being free of the distractions of the laptop and would encourage you to consider what it would mean for you not to bring your computer.
For those that have no choice and need to bring a laptop for your Camino for work (or other reasons), we recommend purchasing the smallest netbook that still fits your needs (to save on weight). Even better would be to use a small tablet (7” or 8” screen) because they will be lighter and most likely will use the same charger as your cell phone.
Taking the time to transfer your files over to a lighter laptop (or onto cloud storage) will make your legs, feet and shoulders happy with the weight savings.
While you will most likely want to remember your Camino walk with a couple (or more than a couple) of pictures, unless you are an influencer on Instagram who needs to capture flawless high quality photos documenting every beautiful moment of the Camino, then you won’t need to bring a camera.
Most smartphones these days have more than adequate camera features that will work just fine on the Camino for taking pictures.
If you plan on using your smartphone as a camera, you will want to look into carrying a dry bag (a bag that will keep your electronics dry) for when it rains.
If you plan on bringing your camera, it may be wise to do some practice walks with all of your gear (backpack and all) before leaving for the Camino. This way you will build up more endurance for carrying the extra weight.
3. Heavy Rain Jacket
There are plenty of lightweight options for protecting against the rain that do not involve the extra weight of a heavy rain jacket. Even though you will leave the heavy rain jacket at home, you will want to pack something for when it rains.
We brought this lightweight (but durable) poncho for our Camino. It worked perfectly for us because it was big enough to cover us (and our backpacks) in the event of rain, and it was small enough to easily store in our backpacks when it was not raining. The total weight was about 1 ounce for the poncho.
4. More Than 3 Pairs of Clothess
In a recent post about packing lightweight on the Camino, we mentioned how we only brought three pairs of clothes along for our Camino pilgrimage in 2018. We realized that two would have been enough for us, but we also realize that some may want that one extra pair of clothes for a variety of reasons. We could see the case for 3 pairs of clothes, but anything over that will most likely be unnecessary weight.
Another note about clothes: do your best to find the lightest clothes you have available to you. Start with what you wear regularly, most of the time these will work just fine.
We read in a couple of places online that cotton was a bad choice (for several reasons but mainly because it takes longer to dry), but Kyle wore cotton shirts the entire Camino and never had a problem with them.
The only exception to the 3 pairs of clothes rule would be underwear and socks. We found that 4 pairs worked well for us.
This does not mean that you will be wearing your birthday suit when you sleep (your fellow peregrinos most likely would not appreciate this :) ). What we mean to say is that you do not need to bring a set of traditional pajamas.
Instead, find a pair of comfortable shorts that can double up as a pair of shorts for walking the Camino as well as the pajamas you wear each night.
Also, the comfortable shorts will most likely be lighter than traditional pajamas would have been.
6. Mosquito Net
This tip is for those who plan on camping on their Camino. You have probably read that there are some bugs (flies, bed bugs, ants, butterflies) on the Camino. However, most pilgrims agree that mosquitoes are not a problem and therefore would not warrant bringing a mosquito net.
We agree with this, because we walked the Camino in the summer on some pretty humid days and did not see a mosquito the entire time. It seems like a good idea to us to leave the mosquito net at home.
7. Swiss Army Knife
It depends on what kind of Camino experience you are planning on having, but for 99% of the people who walk the Camino, you will not have any use for a Swiss army knife.
Most of the functions of a swiss army knife will not be needed on your daily walking routine. There are wine openers available at most albergues or restaurants near the albergue. Same goes for can openers (there are so many food options on the Camino that it would be extremely rare if you would have to resort to eating canned goods). Most pilgrims do not need a knife or pair of scissors for cutting things. And finally a screwdriver would just be added weight.
Another note on the Swiss army knife (or multi-tool) is that if you are flying and plan on only bringing your backpack as a carry on, you will not be able to get it past airport security.
The case could be made for bringing a Swiss army knife (or similar multi-tool) if you are camping, but even then it is hard to think of times when you would need it.
8. Water Filter
We have seen it recommended in several blog posts that you should bring a water bottle with a water filter. We believe it is not necessary to bring a water filter.
The main reason is that if you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, you will have abundant access to bottled water at every turn of the Camino. Every shop will carry it. Grocery stores carry larger versions of bottled water. You can walk the entire Camino without having to drink from the tap.
Speaking of tap water along the Camino, most find it good quality water. We have not seen anyone commenting on a blog or forum that they got sick from the water on the Camino. We are sure it can happen, as everyone’s stomach is used to different kinds of bacteria depending on what country you live in.
We drank tap water while we walked the Camino and had no problems.
9. Regular-Size Towel
You may have already found out that most albergues will not provide towels during your Camino walk. It may be tempting to bring your comfy, regular-sized towel to do the job.
While regular-sized towels are great for drying you off quickly, the biggest downside is how bulky (and many times heavy) they can be (every ounce of extra gear matters when walking the Camino). Some full-size towels also take a while to dry.
Micro-fiber towels can be a wonderful solution so that you do not need to bring a full-size towel.
We brought this set, and were very happy with these towels. We purchased a size that was big enough for a quick use after a shower, and also light enough that they dried quickly when wet. We never felt like we were simply drying off with a wet hand towel. And we were happy with the weight (and space) we saved!
10. Heavy Duty Backpack
What we mean when we say a heavy duty backpack is simply a heavy backpack. The Camino is not a hike in the traditional sense (ie. in the middle of the forest or on the top of a mountain), so your backpack needs are not the same as if you were trekking it in the wilderness.
The best recommendations we have seen is to bring the smallest backpack possible. There are plenty of high quality backpacks available that will fit the bill.
We went to many stores searching for the right fit for us, and eventually found this backpack sold at Target. The backpack we purchased was small, with plenty of compartments to separate everything, with a bottle holder, secret zippers for personal items like passports, extremely affordable and durable. We knew it was a right fit for us when we saw “weekend getaway” listed as a use of the backpack. It was specifically designed to hold only a couple of pairs of clothes.
11. Camping Stove
This again is only for those who are planning on camping on the Camino. We wanted to point out that the modern-day Camino is designed with pilgrims in mind. This means that you will have every opportunity to find food, lodging, clothing, and medications almost every day that you walk the Camino.
With every variety of food available (many on-the-go food choices, grocery stores, convenience shops as well as restaurants), you will not need to bring a camping stove.
If you do feel like going to the grocery store and doing some cooking while you are walking the Camino, keep an eye out for albergues, hotels, apartments and pensions that have kitchens available for guest use.
Besides your passport (and any other supporting travel documents), wallet, phone and e-reader, there is little need for any additional valuables as you walk the way of St James.
Keep any valuables that you bring with you safe (possibly in a secret pouch you wear around your waist, leg or ankle). If something is lost while you walk the Way, ask around, and many times it will turn up (as most pilgrims are good about reporting something they found that was most likely lost).
13. Noise Cancelling Headphones
As a music lover who enjoys hearing things in surround sound (Kyle), it pains me to recommend leaving your amazing headphones at home. While I love listening to good music (with good quality headphones), I realized that the benefit of bringing a large pair of headphones did not outweigh the space they took up in our backpacks.
Any set of small earbuds will do the job for your Camino pilgrimage.
You may find that you don’t listen to as much music as you meant to because you are enjoying being in nature or find yourself talking at length to complete strangers from around the world, or taking in the silence you find while walking.
14. Regular-Sized Flashlight
As with many things on this list, smaller is better. You most likely will never need the extra light that a large flashlight produces.
Most of the time a larger flashlight will be a hindrance, especially if you are staying at municipal albergues in the dorm-style rooms. You will find very quickly that too much light will bother your fellow peregrinos. Do their eyes a favor and bring a small (not-too-bright) LED flashlight.
15. An Extra Pair of Hiking Shoes
We highly recommend bringing a second pair of walking wear with you to the Camino, just don’t make them another pair of shoes.
We brought flip flops with us on our Camino as our second set of footwear and they were perfect for the job. You will see this recommendation mentioned in other blogs and forums and we couldn’t agree more.
Don’t skip on the flip flops to save weight.
We would not recommend only bringing one pair of footwear. After a full day of walking in your shoes, you will want a shower, a change of clothes, and a change of footwear.
Flip flops work perfectly because you can wear them to walk around town after a long day of walking. Flip flops also work great if you get a blister while walking the Camino. This happened to Kyle a couple of days in. After discovering the blister, Kyle switched to flip flops and this helped the blister to heal faster.
16. Portable Phone Battery
This is another item that you will see listed on several packing list blogs. We did not bring one, and we don’t think you will need one either.
There are places to plug in your phone every day on the Camino. Even if you are using an app that drains the battery on your phone, you can still do other things to help your battery life last longer.
We found that if our battery life was low, we would dim our screens and this helped them last a lot longer. You can also check to see what apps are running in the background and turn these off.
Lastly, remember that you can always turn your phone off and follow the arrows (and other pilgrims) successfully to Santiago de Compostela. There are plenty of waymarkers to point you in the right direction.
17. Large Containers of Shampoo
You are probably noticing a theme, with any item that is a necessity, do your best to find the smallest version available.
We realize that the smaller containers of shampoo may cost about the same as the large containers. We found more benefit in packing lightly and simply repurchasing small containers of toiletries as we needed them along the walk.
18. Water Bottles Larger Than One (1) Liter
You may be wondering how big of a water bottle to bring on the Camino. We decided on a 1 liter bottle which ended up being the perfect size.
Some recommend backpack water bladders or large 1.5 liter water bottles. We don’t think either of these sizes are necessary because of how frequently you will come into contact with water sources (either local tap or water bottles sold along the way).
If you agreed with our previous comment about not bringing many valuables along for your walk, then you will not need the use of a padlock.
20. Bug Repellent
As mentioned earlier, we did not see a mosquito the entire time we walked the Camino. We were glad that we left the mosquito repellent at home and would recommend that you leave your mosquito repellent at home as well.
There is one exception to this rule. If you are sleeping in municipal albergue dorm-style rooms, then you will want to make sure to treat your sleeping bag for bed bugs. Make sure to treat the liner, sleeping bag (and backpack, while you are at it) before leaving.
You can also pick up bed bug repellent while you walk the Camino.
21. Multiple Chargers for Electronics
When considering what electronics you will bring along on your Camino, do your best to bring gadgets that share the same kind of charger.
For example, between the two of us, we brought our cell phones, Kindles and a tablet. All of these used the same wall charger.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can find something that has dual uses, these tend to be the better option when compared to two single-use items.
Books are one of the heaviest items you may choose to take with you on the Camino. Even though we love physical books, we found that replacing them with an e-reader while we walked the Camino worked just as well.
Choosing to read your books on a Nook, Kindle or tablet will save you a lot of space and allow you to read more than one book during your Camino. If you look into any of these options, you will most likely find some good promotions to save on the cost of the ebooks.
Another great option for ebooks is to check with your local library. Many libraries offer their members free access to thousands of ebooks. You can check with your library to see what they offer and how to check out the ebooks on your e-reader.
Sometimes it is easier figuring out what to pack by knowing what NOT to pack and why. We hope that you enjoyed our top 22 items not to bring on your Camino de Santiago. We will be implementing all of the tips on this list the next time we walk the Camino and hope you try them out too.
The Camino de Santiago is a memorable, and for many, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many find that sharing the pilgrimage with loved ones only makes it more memorable, and that certainly was the case for us. This desire to share the pilgrimage with a loved one motivates many pilgrims to bring their own best friends: their dogs.
We were interested in learning about whether walking the Camino de Santiago with a dog was possible, and if so, what a pilgrim would need to do to successfully complete their pilgrimage with their canine best friend.
Can you walk the Camino de Santiago with a dog? You can walk the Camino de Santiago with a dog, as long as you do the necessary training and preparation, take the time to research accommodations, plan your walks with breaks in mind, and are willing to pay extra when needed. Below, we provide more information on the implications of walking the Way of St. James with a dog.
Before You Leave for the Camino
Take the Time to Train. We have a post on how you should train physically for the Camino. Just like you need training, your dog also needs to train beforehand in order to prepare its body for the continuous exercise and avoid injuries.
It is recommended that you should train while carrying your backpack and using the shoes and other gear you plan to use. It would be to your benefit to train with your dog and figure out the best way to walk together. For example, will you be holding your dog’s leash with your hand? Will you be tying the leash around your waist? However you hold your dog’s leash (yes, your dog should be on a leash - see below) will affect how you walk, and your body needs to adjust to leading your dog while also dealing with the gear you are carrying.
Research How to Get to Your Camino Starting Point. How do you plan to get to your starting point? Does that mode of transportation allow animals? If so, do they transport animals in a way that both you and your canine companion will be comfortable? For example, you might be required to have your dog be transported in a crate, in a location separate from you and all other passengers. Assuming you are comfortable with the way they transport pets, what is the price and does it fall within your budget?
It has been suggested by other pilgrims that the best way to get to your starting Camino location is through a private mode of transportation, such as a car, rather than a train or bus. That way, you can take breaks when needed, and you and your pet will travel more comfortably.
Of course, depending on where you live, you might need to take a plane. In that case, you must abide by their transportation rules.
If you are traveling from a different country, you need to find out the rules and required paperwork for bringing in pets. You might need to hire help to assist with the paperwork, if it is not in your native language.
Visit the Vet before walking the Camino. Make sure you take your furry friend to the vet. During this visit, let the vet know that you plan to walk the Camino (approximately 10-20 miles of walking per day), and get an assessment from the vet regarding whether your dog has the appropriate physical fitness, age, temperament, and health to be able to complete the pilgrimage.
If the vet gives you the thumbs up, then ask the vet to make sure your dog has all the required shots, and ask him/her to provide you with the necessary documentation that you will need to prove that your dog’s shots are all up to date.
Finally, ask your vet for advice on what to do to prevent your dog from getting injured, and what to do in case of injuries. Your vet might have additional tips to help you prepare for and complete the Camino.
Create Your Dog’s Packing List. Bringing a dog means that you are no longer just responsible for yourself. So, in addition to bringing the items and clothes you need, you need to bring the items your dog will need.
Walking the Camino with a dog means that your backpack will necessarily have more weight, since you are carrying both your things and your dog’s things. It would be a good idea to walk with your filled-up backpack so that you can determine if you are okay with the weight.
If the backpack is too heavy, luggage transport services are always an option, though it would mean an extra expense (usually 3 to 5 euros per day/transport)
Items that you will need to pack for your dog for the Camino de Santiago include:
Pick the Best Route and Time for Your Dog. You know your dog best, and different Camino routes might be better for different dogs. For example, if your dog is comfortable interacting with strangers, you will be okay on the more popular routes and during the more popular times of the year.
If your dog would do better without the crowds, you can pick a less popular route or choose to go at a less popular time of year. Some pilgrims have recommended just picking the shortest route you can, so that the journey is more doable for your dog. For example, you might consider the Camino Ingles (see our post for more information) or the Camino Frances starting from Sarria.
As You Walk the Camino
Be Aware of the Terrain. Many parts of the Camino will be great for a dog to walk in. But, many other parts of the Camino will be somewhat uncomfortable for your dog, and might possibly injure your dog. For example:
Be on the Lookout for Other Threats. Throughout the Camino, as we went through the different small towns, we encountered many animals. Dogs were many times roaming around unleashed. While they did not hurt or attack any pilgrims (that we are aware of), they might cause a problem for your dog.
Other pilgrims have reported witnessing local dogs and pilgrims’ dogs barking at each other and about to attack each other. This is one of the reasons your dog should be on a leash - it will be much easier to control and protect your dog in a situation where an attack might be possible.
Similarly, local cats are seen very frequently, roaming around on the Camino. If your dog is prone to chasing after cats, this might be a problem, and yet another reason why your dog should be on a leash.
You will also encounter different types of farm animals (cows, sheep, goats, horses), and should think about whether your dog will be okay encountering these (possibly unfamiliar, if your dog is used to the city) animals.
In addition, pilgrims report that dogs walking the Camino are very popular among pilgrims: pilgrims want to go pet their fellow traveler. Many dogs will love the attention and will love playing with and being touched by strangers, but many dogs won’t.
So, while pilgrims on the Camino are not a threat in the sense that they do not intend to hurt your dog, they will be lavishing extra attention on your dog, and you need to determine if your dog will be able to deal with it without getting stressed or over stimulated.
Finally, because you will be walking in the countryside, among grass and bushes, fleas are another threat to think about. You might have to bring things to prevent and treat fleas with you. Talk to your vet about how to best deal with the possible threat of fleas.
Think About How to Incorporate Rest Breaks for Your Dog. Your dog will need to rest. Of course, you need to rest as well, but your dog will likely need more rest breaks than you do. Some suggestions for rest breaks are:
Don’t Forget Poop Bags, Snacks, and Water. As you walk the Camino, your dog will need to take breaks. During these breaks, you should have water available for your dog. This means that you must have a water bowl and extra water with you at all times during your walk. Depending on your dog’s habits, you might also need to have a small snack or treat available with you. This means that you will be carrying extra weight as you walk.
You will also need to bring poop bags with you to pick up after your dog. If you don’t find a trash can nearby, you will have to carry the poop with you until you are able to appropriately dispose of it. Just something to think about.
Think About What to Do in Emergencies. What will you do if your dog gets hurt or injured? If it is a small injury, like a cut, you will be able to deal with it yourself if you have the necessary first aid materials. This means you should carry what you might need with you, likely adding extra weight to your bag.
If it is a big injury, you will need to see a vet. You should be able to get vet information from the locals, or even better, do your research before you travel so that you have a list of all the vets along the Camino route.
But, the injury might occur at a point in time where you are in between towns along the Camino, basically in the middle of nowhere. How will you get your dog to the vet? Will you be able to carry your dog, if needed? This won’t be a problem if you are planning on bringing a stroller or wagon. You might have a phone that you can use to call the vet, but being in the middle of nowhere might mean you don’t get good phone signal.
Also, think about what to do if you realize the walk is simply too much for your dog. Pilgrims have reported knowing other pilgrims who had to go back home and complete the Camino at another time (without the dog), or pilgrims who had to ask family members to come get their dog and take it back home so that they could complete the Camino. It is good to have a back-up plan in mind, in case you realize your dog is unable to walk to St. James.
Food and Lodging
Do Your Research on Pet-Friendly Accommodations. Not all albergues will accept pets. Also, some places will allow a pet, but only if the pet sleeps outside. So, first decide what you and your dog are comfortable with (is sleeping outside okay?), then do your research online to find pet-friendly albergues.
Pilgrims have reported that although there are albergues that are pet friendly, and more and more are appearing to accommodate pets, you may have to rely on private hotels, private apartments, or AirBNB. These may or may not be close to the Camino route, so you may have to do some extra walking to get there. Some of these may also end up costing more than if you were staying at an albergue as a pet-free pilgrim.
In addition, because not all places accept pets, it might be a good idea to plan your route and reserve your rooms ahead of time. Unlike pilgrims without pets, you will not be able to just show up at any albergue.
Learn About the Rules for Camping. Many pilgrims who have walked the Camino with their dogs have avoided issues of accommodations by simply sleeping outside. They bring their tents and set them up when they need to, and don’t have to worry about finding albergues that will accept their dogs.
But, be careful! We have a post with information on camping along the Camino, and what we have learned is that there are laws and regulations for camping. You cannot just set up a tent anywhere! Please be sure to learn about the laws on camping along the Camino. It is important that pilgrims obey these laws.
You Will Be Able to Find Dog Food. There will be many, many grocery stores along the Camino, so you don’t have to bring all the food your dog will be eating. But, it might be a good idea to bring a couple of days’ worth of food for the day you travel and to allow you an extra day or so to get settled and find your first grocery store.
Although you will be able to find dog food, your dog may or may not like it. Plus, your dog may react negatively to the food. Pilgrims have reported seeing dogs get sick due to not being used to the new food.
When buying dog food, you will need to think about what to do with your dog, since grocery stores will likely not allow a dog in. If you and your dog are okay with having the dog wait outside while you go buy food, then that’s not a problem. If you are traveling with others, that won’t be a problem either, since your companion(s) can watch the dog while you go into the store.
Pilgrims have recommended that you make sure you give your dog more food than usual, due to the increase in exercise.
Finally, think about your own food. Many restaurants and cafes will not allow a dog to come in. You can do an internet search to find dog-friendly places to eat. Or, as mentioned above, if you travel with others, then you and your companions can take turns watching the dog while the others go eat or go get food for everyone.
Some additional things to think about are:
Based on the research we conducted, it is possible to walk the Camino with your dog. Successfully walking the Camino with your dog will take time to train and research the dog-friendliness of the route, possibly extra time on the Camino to account for breaks and resting, and possibly more financial resources to pay for luggage transport services or special accommodations.
Although you will find examples of pilgrims who have walked the Camino with their dogs, pilgrims mostly suggest not taking your dog with you due to the different points described above and due to the fact that you would be unnecessarily putting your dog at risk.
Ultimately, this is your Camino and you decide what will help make this a more meaningful pilgrimage. If bringing your dog will contribute to a meaningful pilgrimage, then Buen Camino to you both!
Before leaving to walk the Camino, we were determined to travel as lightly as possible. We searched online for different tricks and tips to lighten up our backpack weight. We were able to keep our total gear weight, including backpack, to around 10 pounds (per person) for walking the Way of St. James.
How do you pack lightly to walk the Camino? The best way to pack lightly on the Camino is to pack simply and only bring what is absolutely necessary for your walk. Eliminate as much as possible when preparing your backpack. Pack items that have dual uses, and purchase the lightweight version of each item as you prepare.
The following list of tips will give you the overall framework for packing lightly for your Camino. Before listing what worked for us, we wanted to start with the most obvious (and most overlooked) tip for packing your backpack for the Camino:
Pack only what is necessary, eliminate as much as possible.
If you are walking the Camino Frances (total of 790km or over 500 miles), and are planning to walk for 30 days or more, you may be tempted to pack as if you were going on a vacation for a month. This will be a much different trip, the main difference being that you will physically carry all of your belongings for the entire 30 days.
One of the main reasons that you can afford to eliminate as much as possible is because you will be able to find everything you need while walking the Camino. There is a popular saying that goes “The Camino provides”, and when it comes to catering to the needs of a weary traveler, the Camino has ample resources to offer its pilgrims.
With the most obvious tip out of the way, let’s dig in to the packing recommendations for your Camino.
One further note, this list is geared towards those who are walking the Camino in the warmer months of April through October (more than 92% of pilgrims choose to walk the Camino during these months each year). If you are walking the Camino during the late fall and winter, then you will have different needs than what may be listed.
Adjust accordingly to the needs of the weather that you will be encountering.
Top 10 (and a half) Tips for packing light on the Camino
1) Bring only two pairs of clothing to walk, plus something you can wear in the evenings.
We brought three pairs of clothing when we walked the Camino, but after walking the Camino, we realized we would have been okay with just two pairs. We were worried about what might happen if one of our pieces of clothing would get ruined or what if we didn’t pack enough, but that was not a problem.
After walking the Camino, we found that having only two pairs of walking clothes is more than enough (we would wear one outfit, and have one outfit in our backpack). We did have an additional change of clothes for when we arrived at an albergue and showered in the evenings. This is what we wore while we washed the outfit we walked with that day.
Because you pass through many towns on the Camino that carry men’s and women’s clothing, there is no need to worry about what would happen if a piece of clothing gets ruined. Bring a little extra money just in case this happens, and pick up a replacement when you walk through the next town.
Another major concern with only one spare set of walking clothes was washing (and drying) our clothes along the Camino. Our routine was to wash our dirty set of clothes when we arrived at our albergue. We used washing machines most of the time (only costs 2 or 3 euros per load), and either sun dried our clothes, or used a drying machine.
We were surprised at how many washing machines and dryers were available during our walk. Most albergues have them, and if you find yourself in an albergue that doesn’t have one, walk next door to the neighboring albergue and ask if you can use theirs. You can also hand wash your clothes.
If you plan on attending Mass during your Camino walk, you might be wondering about dress etiquette. On the Camino, churches didn’t expect you to dress up. Because almost everyone attending Mass is a pilgrim, they understand and expect you to be dressed as a traveling pilgrim.
2) Bring things that have dual uses.
If one item can take the place of two, then one is typically better. This was our thinking when packing for the Camino. It served us well and saved us a lot of weight.
Here are a couple of examples of items that you can bring that will serve at least two purposes:
A bar of soap that can also double as your shampoo and as your laundry detergent if you hand wash your clothes.
Handkerchiefs or cloth napkins can serve as a napkin or towel to wipe off sweat while you walk, and can also be used to wrap up sandwiches or other treats.
The shorts you wear in the evenings can also serve as pajamas, meaning you won’t have to pack a pajama (Kyle did this).
An all-in-one universal adapter for your chargers.
A charger that can charge all of your electronic devices.
We wanted to make a special note of an item that is recommended in other lists, but we found was NOT necessary: a Swiss Army knife. We did not find any time during our Camino where it would have been useful (plus you won’t be able to get it through airport security if you are carrying on your bags).
3) Bring an e-reader (Kindle, Nook, tablet, etc.) instead of all your books.
This tip is similar to #2 because you achieve the same result of having your books with you, but in a format that allows you to bring more books without the extra weight.
For most, the best option for an e-reader would be a small 7” or 8” tablet. While tablets might not be as easy to read as another e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, the tablet will be able to serve more purposes, at about the same weight.
One of us brought a tablet, while the other brought a Kindle.
If you are looking to save on costs (ie. you would rather not purchase a ton of books for your e-reader) a great option is the Amazon Kindle Unlimited plan. For those familiar with the plan, it costs $9.99 per month and you can have up to 10 books checked out at a time on your Kindle (or tablet). We were able to find a special promotion for first-time users at $.99 for a three-month trial. Do a quick internet search to see if there are other similar promotions available.
You can also check your public library. Many libraries allow you to borrow books on an e-reader.
4) Pack a microfiber towel.
Besides our e-reader, this is one of our favorite items to recommend for your Camino. Even if you are staying in private rooms with access to towels during the entire Camino, you may still worry of how to dry yourself in the event that a towel is not available. This can be a problem because you don’t want to bring a full-size towel due to how heavy they are and how much space they take up in your backpack.
A great solution for this is quick-drying microfiber towels. We loved traveling with these because they are lightweight, take up very little space in our backpack and we found a size that was big enough to not feel like we were drying off with a hand towel.
The microfiber towel we used dried off very quickly after using it, and its total weight came in at 2 ounces.
Weight of a regular full size shower towel - 1 pound 1 ounce.
Weight of a x by x Micro Towel - 4 ounces.
Weight savings: 13 ounces.
5) Pack four (4) sets of socks and underwear.
We found the right amount of underwear and socks for us was 4 pairs of each. This way you will ensure you always have a clean, dry set ready to use.
When walking the Camino, you will sweat. Most eventually get used to it. It can become a problem, though, if you don’t have a dry pair of socks or underwear for when you arrive at your ending point for the day.
With four pairs, you will be able to wear one for walking, change into a 2nd pair when you are finished walking, and wash the dirty two pairs from yesterday.
Another good reason to have this many pairs is that if you walk during a rainy day, you will be able to change into a dry pair of socks halfway through your walk.
6) Pack lightweight versions of items.
You may be surprised with how many items have a lightweight version available that is just as durable and works just as well. Many of these items have been developed with backpackers in mind. Here is a short list of several items we packed instead of their heavier counterparts.
7) Don’t bring stuff “just in case”.
If in the process of packing your backpack for the Camino, you find yourself thinking “I should bring this just in case…”, remember, 99% of the time you won’t need it! You can purchase almost anything you need while walking the Camino (including clothing, food, toiletries, and medications).
8) Do not bring a laptop.
You most likely won’t be able to get your backpack under 10 pounds if you bring your laptop. Even a lightweight notebook will weigh in at a couple of pounds.
Not bringing a laptop has many benefits while walking the Camino. It helps you focus on the journey you are taking by removing the distractions of the laptop. You will be carrying less, which will make your legs and feet happy. You will most likely be more open to exploring (since you don’t have the distraction) and you will be more open to meeting your fellow peregrinos.
If you absolutely must bring your laptop for work reasons, then take the time to transfer your files over to a lightweight notebook. Purchase a notebook with the smallest screen possible and bring a lightweight mouse. You will be glad you did!
9) Or a camera.
Unless you are a professional photographer or plan on taking professional pictures for your online content, you will not need to bring your camera (or gear). Instead, use the camera on your smartphone for your pictures.
10) Bring a pair of flip flops instead of an extra pair of shoes.
If you have read our previous post about preparing physically for the Camino, you will know that we encourage training in your shoes (that you will be wearing to walk the Camino) beforehand. If you have done this, then you will know ahead of time whether your shoes will work or not for walking long distances.
After a long day of walking, it is good to be able to take your shoes off and not put them on until the next day. Flip flops work well for this because you can still walk around town in them and use them after a shower. They weigh substantially less than bringing another pair of shoes.
And lastly, tip number 10.5, don’t buy souvenirs until the end of your Camino. You will most likely want some souvenirs to remember your Camino. As you walk the Camino, you will see plenty of souvenir shops. Most (if not all) of these souvenirs can be found at the end of your Camino when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela (the only exception here is if you wanted a lightweight souvenir from a certain town, with the town’s name on it).
We hope you enjoyed our 10 (and a half) tips for keeping your backpack under 10 pounds when walking the Camino. We plan on posting a complete packing list soon (an ultra lightweight packing guide), you can find it here when it is complete. Best wishes on your Camino!
When walking the Camino, you will be walking through and staying in towns where Spanish is spoken (of course, which Camino route you pick will determine how much time you spend in Spanish-speaking towns). If you are not a Spanish speaker, learning some helpful words and phrases will allow you to better communicate with the locals. Below, we provide vocabulary and phrases that will help you as you walk the Camino. These words and phrases fall under the following categories: related specifically to the Camino, related to ordering food, getting somewhere, lodging, and socializing.
A Note about Spanish Pronunciation
Spanish pronunciation is overall very straightforward. An “A” is pronounced like the “A” in Apple, an “E” sounds similar to the first “E” in Elephant, an “I” is pronounced like the “ee” in Need, an “O” sounds similar to Oh, and a “U” is pronounced like the “ou” in Lou. Vowels will always be pronounced in this way. One exception is that when a “GU” or a “QU” are followed by an “I” or “E”, the “U” then becomes silent. This is why in the word albergue, the “U” is not pronounced.
Consonants will be pronounced as in English. One exception is that when there is a “LL”, it sounds more like a “Y” than an “L”. Another exception is that a “C” followed by an “I” or an “E” sounds like an “S”.
General Camino Vocabulary
Some helpful words that will likely come up, and which are pretty specific to the Camino include those in the table below.
Words and Phrases Related to Ordering Food
Besides walking, eating will likely be one of your main tasks each day. You will start with breakfast (desayuno, pronounced deh-sah-YOO-noh). Along the way, you might stop for lunch (comida, pronounced coh-MEE-dah, also referred to as almuerzo, pronounced ahl-moo-EHR-zoh). You will end the day with dinner (cena, pronounced SEH-nah).
The simplest way to order something would be to point to the item you see (for example, a granola bar), and say uno, por favor (pronounced OO-noh, por-fah-VOR), which means “one, please”. You can do the same when ordering from a menu by taking the menu and pointing to the meal you would like. Menus very often include English translations of the menu items, so reading through the menu and identifying what you would like should not be a problem. But if that is not the case, to ask if they have an English menu, you say Tiene un menú en inglés? (pronounced tee-EH-neh oon meh-NOO ehn een-GLES?).
If you are vegetarian, you can say Soy vegetariano (pronounced soy ve-heh-tah-ree-AH-noh). To indicate that you do not eat something, you can say No como [insert food of choice] (pronounced no COH-moh [food of choice], which translates to “I don’t eat [food]”), and to request a meal that excludes something, you can say Sin [insert food of choice], por favor (pronounced seen [food of choice], por fah-VOR), which translates to “Without [food], please”. As a vegan or vegetarian, you might have to indicate that you do not eat certain items, or request that certain items not be included in your meal. Some of these food items are summarized in the table below.
Some additional words that might come up as you purchase food include:
*A pilgrim’s menu is a two- or three-course meal offered to pilgrims at an affordable price.
Once you have eaten your meal, you might say La cuenta, por favor (pronounced lah coo-EN-tah por fah-VOR), which means “the check, please”, or you might say Cuánto es, por favor? (pronounced coo-AHN-toh es por fah-VOR), which translates to “how much is it, please?”.
If you are getting your food at a grocery store (supermercado, pronounced soo-pehr-mehr-CAH-doh), it’s fairly straightforward, as you will bring your items to the cash register and then pay the amount on the screen. One thing some cashiers might ask you (especially in the larger cities) is whether you want your items placed in a plastic bag (bolsa, pronounced BOL-sah). Some stores will charge extra for providing a plastic bag. We had a reusable bag that we always brought with us.
When ordering and paying, numbers will come in handy. Numbers from 1-10 are in the table below.
Words and Phrases Related to Getting Somewhere
You will spend most of your day walking, and there might be times when you will need help or directions. The words and phrases below will help.
The days of the week might be useful, especially when trying to book a taxi, train, or bus. These are listed below
Words and Phrases Related to Lodging
Depending on when you arrive at your albergue, you might not need to interact much with the warden or employees there, other than to pay for your accommodations. You might arrive at a time after having had dinner, and just plan to go straight to bed. But, there will be other times when you will have questions about laundry, food, or other necessities. See below for words and phrases you might need.
When paying for your accommodations, you might have to ask “How much do I owe?” (Cuánto debo?, pronounced coo-AHN-toh DEH-boh), or “How much is it?” (Cuánto es?, pronounced coo-AHN-toh es?). For paying cash or credit card, you can use the same words and phrases used when paying for food.
Words and Phrases Related to Socializing
At some point, you might be interacting with other pilgrims when you cross paths either as you walk or at the albergues. The following words and phrases will help you navigate these social interactions.
We hope the words and phrases provided here will be helpful to you as you walk the Camino. Do not be discouraged if you do not speak Spanish - you will still be able to enjoy your time walking the Camino! Also, it is very likely that you will find other pilgrims who speak both English and Spanish and will be able to help you should you encounter any problems.
Having walked the Camino in 2018, we have first-hand experience in seeing people of every age walk the Camino de Santiago, the way of St. James. We personally travelled with two peregrinos (pilgrims) who were over 60. They taught us a lot of what it takes to endure long days of walking and we wanted to share this information to help others who are advanced in years (but not mind or heart!) and who are considering the pilgrimage.
Before we dig into all of the nuts and bolts of walking the Camino at over 60 years old, we recommend that if you are over 60 and are considering walking the Camino, that you consult with your doctor first to make sure you are healthy enough for the physical demands that will be placed on you.
We don’t want this to discourage you from planning your Camino pilgrimage, but also realize that everyone’s physical health is different and your doctor will be able to best assess whether you can withstand long days of walking hilly terrain with a backpack. The Camino Frances is 790km long (approximately 500miles), so it is no walk in the park!
Don’t let your age determine whether you do the Camino or not. If you are feeling called to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, than go for it!
Can you walk the Camino de Santiago if you are over 60? You can walk the Camino if you are over 60 and in good health. In 2018, over 18% of the people who walked the Camino were over the age of 60. Senior citizens continue to prove each year that walking the Camino can be done at any age.
This blog post is going to focus on walking the Camino if you are over 60. We are assuming that if you are reading this, then you are already familiar with the Camino de Santiago. For those that may not be familiar with the Camino, we provided a quick overview. Feel free to skip the overview if you already have a sense of what the Camino is.
Overview of the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago (translated “Way of St. James”) is a pilgrimage that people have been making to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for almost 1,000 years. This pilgrimage originated as a Catholic practice undertaken by devout medieval pilgrims. It is believed that the remains of St. James (the Apostle of Jesus) are located in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. People would begin their pilgrimage from their front door and walk the entire way to St. James.
Because the pilgrims each originated from different locations, several routes to Santiago de Compostela emerged. Several of the most well-known routes are the Camino Frances (French Way), Camino Portugues (Portuguese Way), Camino Ingles (English Way), and the Camino del Norte (Northern Way).
The most well-known and most common route to Santiago de Compostela is the Camino Frances. This route was featured in the well-known movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The route begins in St. Jean de Pied de Port in southern France, and covers 790km (approximately 500 miles) to Santiago de Compostela.
In modern times, the pilgrimage has turned into a path that people walk for many different reasons. While many still walk the Camino de Santiago as Catholics or Christians on a pilgrimage, people of every faith are represented on the road to Santiago. People choose to walk it to deepen their own faith, improve their overall health and well being, get more in tune with their thoughts, and for a cultural or sight-seeing purpose.
If you are feeling like knowing as much as you can about the Camino, check out our complete Camino guide post here.
Now that you know where to find information about the Camino as a whole, let’s dive in to considerations you will want to make if you are walking the Camino as a senior citizen.
Some of these suggestions may seem like common sense, but sometimes we don’t always act on common sense.
Preparations for Walking the Camino de Santiago for Those Over 60
Prepare your mindset for walking the Camino.
The first thing you will want to consider before walking the Camino is your mindset going into your pilgrimage. From reading what other senior citizens say about their experience walking the Camino, many had to overcome limiting beliefs about walking such a long distance.
Take some time to reflect if you have any limiting beliefs holding you back from walking the Camino.
The #1 limiting belief we found for senior citizens was how old they were. For example, if you are 62 years old, you may think to yourself that someone your age can’t walk the Camino because they’re too old, out of shape, not as young as they used to be, won’t be able to carry all of their gear… you get the idea. When contemplating a journey like the Camino, we tend to create way more reasons NOT to do something than to actually do it.
The best way to overcome this limiting belief of age, is to read a story of someone older than you that actually walked the Camino and got along just fine. We can attest to seeing people over 60 walking the Camino. Just knowing that people over 60 have walked the Camino will hopefully give you extra confidence that it can be done.
Part of your mental preparation should involve thinking about why you are walking the Camino in the first place. Many of the older pilgrims say that they found much more enjoyment out of the Camino than their younger peers. Your perspective on life is much richer than someone half your age, so a pilgrimage like the Camino may be even more intensely personal for you.
Most of these pilgrims over 60 who completed the Camino agree that your age is only a number, and that you are as young (or old) as you think.
That being said, simply thinking you are 30 years old (when you are actually 68), would be to disregard your physical body and how it has changed over time. This brings us to the next main consideration for most who walk the Camino over 60.
Prepare physically for walking the Camin0.
Besides seeing a doctor beforehand, this is the most important part of preparing to walk the Camino over 60.
If you are considering walking the entire Camino Frances (about 500 miles) within a 30-40 day time period, then you will be walking at a pace of 12-18 miles per day. Some days may shoot up to over 20 miles, while others will be less than 10 miles. It will depend on what towns you start and stop in each day.
The terrain of the Camino Frances includes a mountain range (you begin in the Pyrenees), many hills and periods of flat land. Most of the Camino does have some slope to it.
You will be walking on varied terrain as well. You will be on dirt paths, narrow portions through the woods, and gravel, as well as paved portions through towns.
Training physically before walking the Camino will greatly diminish the chances of injury when you make your pilgrimage. People of all ages struggle physically with walking the Camino, and some have problems completing it due to health.
Don’t take chances with your Camino experience; physical preparation is a must for someone over 60 due to the physical demands (it is not a mountain hike, but it is not a walk in the park, either).
Below are some recommendations to prepare physically for the Camino.
You don’t know how your body will handle the long distance walking until you do it first. Two months out, begin your physical training.
By beginning to practice well before your Camino pilgrimage, you will help your body become accustomed to the physical demands being placed on it. Many senior citizens will start practicing without any gear, and for shorter distances. Start with 1 mile a day, and then gradually work your way up to 5 miles a day a couple of times per week, and finally 10 miles a day.
When you are one month away from your Camino, it has been recommended that you aim to walk 3 days per week and a minimum of 10 miles per walk with your gear on.
About one month before walking the Camino, you will want to begin adding weight to your walk. You can start with just your backpack, but then start adding heavy objects (we used books) to fill it up to approximately 10-20 pounds.
If you plan on using walking sticks, you can start training with them as well.
We just mentioned how you want to begin walking with your gear while you train for your Camino. This option is just for those who intend to carry their backpack the entire Camino. You can choose to use luggage transfer services if you do not wish to walk with a backpack. These services are readily available, easy to schedule, and relatively affordable (about 3-5 euros per day/transfer).
At the same time that you start adding gear to your walk (about one month before your Camino), you will want to also practice walking on hills. The reason is because most of the Camino is hills. We live in a mostly flat neighborhood, and practiced walking longer distances before leaving, but we never practiced on any hills. When we arrived at our Camino, we were surprised at the increased difficulty and it took us a while to get used to it.
If you live in a flat city and have no access to hills, another great option is to work out on a slanted treadmill. This will increase the difficulty of your training and better prepare you for the hills of northern Spain. If you do not have access to a slanted treadmill, then you can also train on stairs.
Lastly, other forms of cardio and endurance training (like swimming, cycling, power walking, etc.) can help prepare you to walk the Camino de Santiago.
See a doctor before walking the Camino.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you are over 60 and are considering walking the Camino de Santiago, please see your doctor for a regular check-up and to discuss the walking that you are planning to do.
Some who are over 60 will skip this step of seeing the doctor. If you have walked similar long-distance paths or are involved in other forms of athletics regularly, you may feel it is okay to forego the doctor visit. We would still recommend seeing your doctor even if you feel that you are physically fit.
For those over 60 who are beginners or new to walking long distances carrying extra weight, then consulting your doctor is a must.
Depending on your overall physical health, you may not be able to handle the demands of the Camino. Without knowing your overall health from a checkup, you might arrive at the Camino only to find out that your body is unable to walk the distances required. Or you may find out that you are unable to carry your gear while you walk.
We do not want this to happen to you. A doctor’s visit prior to buying your plane tickets will give you the peace of mind, and knowledge you need about your body, before undertaking this pilgrimage.
Prepare spiritually to walk the Camino.
For those walking the Camino for spiritual reasons, it is a good idea to begin preparing spiritually before walking the Camino. Take time to be with your thoughts and spend extra time in religious activities.
Depending on your faith tradition, spending extra time in prayer, meditation, almsgiving, attending a religious service, and reading spiritual books can all help prepare you for your Camino. Doing these will also help clarify what you are searching for spiritually on your Camino.
Recommendations While Walking the Camino.
Now that you are prepared mentally, physically and spiritually to walk the Camino de Santiago, here is a highlight reel of what fellow senior pilgrims have recommended for when you arrive at your Camino starting point.
Finally, here are a few additional frequently asked questions about walking the Camino de Santiago over 60.
What if I get injured on the Camino? Physical injuries are common for people of all ages walking the Camino. The good news is that the Camino route is built for caring for the needs of pilgrims.
This means that there is transportation (taxis) that is readily available if you can no longer walk. There are many pharmacies along the way for ordering and picking up prescriptions. Lastly, ambulances are close by in the case of an emergency.
Will I have problems with bringing my medication on the flight? No, you will not have problems with transporting your medications with you. If they are over-the-counter you will be fine. If they are prescriptions, you will want to make sure you have your prescription with you if searched.
How comfortable are the beds along the Camino? We found the beds to be comfortable overall, although we stayed in private rooms and apartments during our Camino. If you find that you are not getting a good night’s sleep in the albergues, consider upgrading to hotels or apartments which will have a better selection of quality beds.
Hopefully this gives you a taste of this wonderful journey that people make. Remember, according to the Pilgrim’s Office, over 18% of those who walked the Camino in 2018 were over the age of 60. So this can be done!
For inspirational stories from other senior pilgrims, check out the forum entry here.
For those that are over 60, we hope this information helps give you the confidence and assurance to set out on your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. By preparing physically, taking your time while walking the Camino, and enjoying the moments along the way, you will have a successful Camino.
I (Irene) was very excited when we decided to walk the Camino, but I had one concern: would I be able to do it with plantar fasciitis? At the time we decided to walk to the Camino, I had been dealing with plantar fasciitis for about 10 years. Though I had learned to manage it with stretches and shoe inserts, I knew it could come back with all its initial severity (it had happened before) if I overworked my feet or neglected my stretches. I did some research on it and used that, as well as my personal experience, to come up with the tips below.
Can you walk the Camino with plantar fasciitis? You can walk the Camino with plantar fasciitis by incorporating stretching and resting throughout your day, using inserts, and massaging your feet. Additional tips to help you walk the Camino with plantar fasciitis are below.
But first, what is plantar fasciitis? If you are reading this article, you likely have it and know what it is. Therefore, I won’t spend time explaining what it is, and instead will dive right in to the helpful tips on what to do and how to prepare so that you can walk your Camino without it flaring up. If you would like more information about what plantar fasciitis is, a quick internet search will yield many results.
Now, on to the tips!
1. Train your body (and your feet) for what is coming.
Before your Camino (at least several weeks before), spend time preparing physically. We have a post that provides more information about preparing physically.
In a nutshell, take the time to walk daily. Use the shoes and socks you plan to bring, and use a backpack that you fill with things until it weighs approximately what your backpack will weigh on the Camino.
Depending on your fitness level, you might want to do this incrementally: maybe start by walking 20 minutes, then walk 30 minutes, then an hour. First walk without your backpack, then start using your backpack once your body is comfortable with the walk.
2) Stretch, stretch, stretch!
Do your stretches first thing in the morning, before putting weight on your feet. You can start doing these stretches as soon as possible, and definitely while you are walking the Camino. In addition to stretching first thing in the morning, go ahead and do your stretches after walking for a while as well, or if your feet start to hurt.
Many people recommend doing calf stretches for plantar fasciitis, or stretching your foot by sitting down, grabbing your foot, and pulling your toes back. These stretches certainly help, but I started to experience healing when I started stretching the whole leg and not just the foot and calf, and doing this every morning. My favorite stretches are:
Figure 1: Sit on the floor, extend one leg, and try to reach your foot with your hands. Hold it for several seconds, then switch legs. The back of your legs will get a nice stretch.
Figure 2: Get in a kneeling position on the floor, with the bottom of your toes touching the floor and curled under your feet. Your feet will feel that stretch.
Figure 3: Standing up, with straight legs close together, try to touch your feet while keeping a straight back.
Figure 4: Standing up, with straight legs open wide, try to touch the floor while keeping a straight back.
Figure 5: Standing up, with straight legs open wide, try to touch your left foot while keeping a straight back. Hold that for a few seconds, then try to touch your right foot.
Figure 6: Bend your right knee and extend your left leg, trying to keep the back heel on the ground. Hold that for a few seconds, then switch legs.
I have been doing these stretches every morning for years now. I’ve found that holding those stretches for a little longer than usual can be helpful when feet/legs are especially tired or overused. Doing these every morning helped prepare me for walking the Camino.
3) Use inserts in your shoes.
Everyone’s feet are different - some have flat feet, some have high arches, for instance - so an insert that works for one person might not work for another. You might want to visit a podiatrist to learn more about your feet and the type of insert that would be best for your plantar fasciitis. I have tried many inserts, and my favorite ones are Footminders. They have provided the best support for my plantar fasciitis.
If you decide to use inserts, start wearing them as soon as possible, and be sure to wear them when you go on your training walks and then as you walk the Camino de Santiago.
4) Incorporate the necessary breaks throughout the day.
Rest and staying off your feet is recommended when trying to heal plantar fasciitis. While walking the Camino, make sure you have scheduled breaks throughout the day. Also, listen to your body as you walk. If you need an extra break besides the scheduled ones, take that extra break!
5) Take a rest day/afternoon.
As mentioned above, listen to your body. While walking the Camino, you might need to take an afternoon off, or even an entire day off, so that your feet can get a more extended break. If you are worried about falling behind, remember that you can always take a taxi to the next town, and in that way keep up your schedule. You only need to have walked 100km total to get your Compostela, so taking a taxi a couple of times should not prevent you from getting a Compostela, but the extra resting time might make a big difference to your feet and their ability to carry you to Santiago.
6) Pack lightly, or use a luggage transport service to send your backpack to the next town.
Plantar fasciitis is directly affected by how much weight you carry. Carrying too much weight can worsen your pain. So, consider packing as lightly as you can. On days when you have longer distances to walk (or every day if you need it), don’t be afraid to send your backpack to the next town using one of the luggage transport services. These services are available everywhere, are easy-to-use and only cost between 3-5 euros per bag. You just contact an albergue employee, pay them for the service, leave your bag with them, and then the luggage transport company would pick up your bags at the albergue and deliver them to the albergue you will be staying at in the next town.
On our longest scheduled walking day, I had my backpack delivered and it made a very big difference - I am definitely glad I did that!
7) Massage your feet.
If you are walking with the way to St. James with a partner, you can consider giving each other foot massages. But, you can always give yourself a foot massage. This is something you can do as you prepare to walk the Camino, and also after a long day of walking on the Camino. While on the Camino, keep in mind that you might have to be more gentle when massaging your feet, as your feet might be swollen and in pain.
Other than massaging your feet (or having someone else massage your feet) using hands, you can consider rolling your feet over a ball, such as a tennis ball or golf ball, or rolling your feet over a can, such as a soup can, or other cylinder-type object.
8) Pack some anti-inflammatory pain medication.
Many people suggest taking an anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as Ibuprofen, when you experience plantar fasciitis pain. You can consider bringing some with you in case you need to take some while walking The Way.
9) Talk to your doctor.
As mentioned above, everyone’s feet are different. It is a good idea to see a podiatrist and in this way learn more about how plantar fasciitis it is affecting you personally. Your podiatrist will also let you know if you need any additional, special treatment depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis, and will provide recommendations about whether you should be walking the Camino in your condition.
Additional tips mentioned by others to help you walk the Camino with plantar fasciitis include putting an ice pack on your feet, soaking your feet in cold water, walking slower (the Camino is not a race!), and getting cortisone shots on your feet.
I have been able to successfully treat my (very severe) plantar fasciitis by committing to stretching in the morning, by wearing inserts, and by occasionally massaging my feet. I was able to walk the Camino by continuing these practices, training before the Camino, taking breaks, and sending my backpack with a luggage transport service on our longest walking day.
I did not need to resort to medication, cortisone shots, or even ice packs.
If you have plantar fasciitis and are walking the Camino, talk to your doctor, listen to your body, and know that it is possible.
***NOTE: We are not physicians. If you are experiencing plantar fasciitis or other health issues, please consult your doctor.
After we walked the Camino in 2018, we became curious about what would be involved in camping along the Camino de Santiago. We recently wrote a blog post (Complete Guide to Camping on the Camino de Santiago), and wanted to follow it up with a highlight reel of what we learned.
Whether you are planning on setting up a tent along the Camino, or sleeping under the stars in your sleeping bag, here is the list of 21 things you need to know before camping on your Camino.
1) There are a lot of laws concerning camping along the Camino.
You will be passing through 4 autonomous regions of Spain as you walk the Camino. Each region has its own set of laws regarding “wild camping” (setting up a tent or sleeping bag on someone else’s property). Some of the rules include only staying for one night (sunset to sunrise), no campfires, and no camping in natural parks.
You will want to ask the locals as well as the law enforcement officials where you are allowed to camp. Each town (or municipality) has its own laws as well, so be sure to check those before leaving. Here is a good source for an overview of the laws along the Camino regarding camping.
The laws concerning camping on the Camino do not apply if you choose to stay in a tourist camping site.
2) You must ask for permission from the landowner before setting up your tent or sleeping bag.
As mentioned in #1, there are many laws associated with camping the Camino. One of these is that you will need to ask for the landowner’s permission before staying on their land. This applies whether you are setting up your tent in a field or next to a church.
This will require some Spanish-speaking skills on your part as most of the Camino runs through rural Spain and many locals do not speak English.
3) It is more expensive to camp than it is to stay at a municipal albergue.
Most who are drawn to camping the Camino may choose to do so because they think they will save money. Due to the extremely inexpensive cost of staying at municipal albergues (starting around 4 euros per night), you most likely will not save any money by choosing to camp the Camino.
If the total lodging cost for walking for 30 days at albergues comes to 120 euros (30 days times 4 euros per night at municipal albergues), your camping gear alone (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, flashlight, etc) will cost more than simply staying at the albergues.
Even if you already own your own camping gear, you will need to buy extra water for bathing/washing up/brushing your teeth (a couple of euros per bottle), as well as choose to eat at a restaurant in order to charge your batteries. You may also want to use the facilities at an albergue, which will cost you several euros if you are not staying the night there. If you choose to stay at a tourist camp site, you will need to add additional expenses of about 5 euros per person per night.
4) Yes, there are bears on the Camino.
Although the odds of seeing a bear on the Camino are extremely low (there are only 150 bears or so in the entire country of Spain), they do live there. Several pilgrims have reported seeing signs of bears as they walked the Camino, but did not actually see any bears.
5) And snakes too.
Snakes are much more common on the Camino than bears. There are 13 species of snakes on the Camino, 5 of which are venomous. Snakes are more of a problem if you choose to sleep without a tent. You most likely don’t want to wake up with a snake smiling at you in the morning.
6) Every sound from the woods may freak you out.
Think back to the last time you went camping. Unless you are an experienced backpacker who is used to wild camping, you most likely slept in a campground. If you choose to wild camp on the Camino (not in a camping site), be aware that pilgrims claim to feel more exposed when camping in the dark with no one around in a country they have never been in. Every rustle of the leaves and snapping twig in the dark may make you paranoid as you try to fall asleep.
To ease your nerves, it may be a wise choice to choose to only camp in campgrounds while you walk the Camino. One thing to remember though is that campgrounds are spread far apart on the Camino, so there will be nights you will need to stay in an albergue or hotel.
7) Campfires are NOT allowed in Spain.
Let go of the images of roasting marshmallows over a campfire and making s’mores while camping the Camino because campfires are not allowed throughout Spain. This is because most regions of Spain take wildfires very seriously and have put laws in place to protect their forests. While walking the Camino, we saw evidence of one large wildfire, the devastation was heartbreaking.
8) Without a sleeping mat, you will wake up wet.
If you are in a tent, you will be fine, but if you choose to sleep outside on the Camino in just your sleeping bag, make sure to bring a sleeping mat with you. The sleeping mat will protect your sleeping bag from the condensation from the ground as you sleep.
9) You may be asked to leave by local law enforcement.
Because of the many laws in place concerning camping the Camino de Santiago, if a police officer spots you camping outside on someone else’s property (either a field, church or albergue garden), you may be asked to leave. Please respect the law enforcement and find another place to stay for the night.
10) Churches are a popular place to camp on the Camino.
Due to all of the risks associated with sleeping under the stars in a field, many who camp along the Camino choose to do so on Church property. Make sure to ask permission before setting up your tent. Pilgrims who have camped at Churches say that most nights were quiet and they felt safer than if they had camped next to the Camino trail.
11) For showering, ask to use an albergue’s facilities the next day as you walk.
While it is possible to find a local source of water near the place you set up your tent or sleeping bag, most nights you will not have access to water (unless you stay at a campground). A good solution to this is to drop in to an albergue that you pass while walking the following day, and ask if you can use their shower or bathroom.
Some albergues will say no, but others will allow you to use their facilities. Some may charge a small fee for this (usually a couple of euros), or ask for a small donation to the albergue for their hospitality.
12) You need reservations for campgrounds.
If you are planning on staying at campgrounds while you walk the Camino, you are going to need reservations at each place you stay. Because there are few campgrounds along each of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, they tend to fill up fast. Don’t expect to show up and find available space; call or book online before staying at a campground on the Camino.
13) Bugs are not as big of a problem as we thought, while camping on the Camino.
Bugs would be one of our concerns about camping on the Camino, but after walking the Camino and reading others’ experiences camping, bugs seemed not to be as big of a problem. You will not run into many mosquitoes, but do be prepared for flies.
14) Camping is not allowed in towns.
Unless you are staying at a tourist camping site next to a town, you will not be able to wild camp while staying in towns. This is the case in all of the autonomous regions in Spain that you pass through while walking the Camino de Santiago. Because of the presence of law enforcement in most of these towns, if they see you camping in town, they will ask you to leave and you may be fined.
15) Look before you set up your tent!
This should have been #1 on this list. We cannot stress this one enough because the most common toilet area on the Camino de Santiago is either side of the Camino trail as you walk. So if you choose to brave it and camp next to the Camino trail, check your area thoroughly (while it is still light) before setting up!
16) You can only camp on someone else’s land for one (1) night.
Commonly referred to as the “overnight stay rule”, pilgrims who are granted permission from the landowner to camp can only stay for a maximum of one (1) night. After that it is considered trespassing. One night is defined as sunset to sunrise. You will want to start looking for a spot to camp about an hour or two before it gets dark and you will want to leave your camping site first thing in the morning, shortly after sunrise.
17) Free-standing tents are best.
While free-standing tents tend to be heavier than staked (non free-standing tents), they are better suited for the camping conditions of the Camino de Santiago. They will be able to handle the gravel and rocky surfaces you will encounter.
18) Where will I charge my batteries?
Some who camp the Camino choose not to bring any electronics with them to better experience the pilgrimage journey. If you choose to bring your phone, computer or camera with you, you will want to make sure they stay charged during your Camino. The best option for charging your batteries is to eat at a restaurant and use one of their receptacles for charging your electronics while you eat.
19) You probably won’t sleep well.
As mentioned previously, many pilgrims who choose to sleep outside report not sleeping very well. Even with a sleeping mat and sleeping bag, you may not be as comfortable as if you were sleeping in a bed. The sounds outside of your tent may also keep you awake. If you are in a campground, people may be talking in the spot next to you.
Not getting adequate sleep can be a problem on the Camino as you are asking your body to walk the 25km each day that the route planners suggest. Bringing a set of ear plugs could be a wise move if you plan on camping while you walk the Camino.
20) It is easy to have your Pilgrim Passport stamped along the way.
Just because you are not staying in albergues along the Camino doesn’t mean you can’t get your Pilgrim Passport (Credencial) stamped along the way. As you walk during the day, stop by a cafe, restaurant, albergue, church or gift shop to have your Pilgrim Passport stamped.
21) The price for a night at an albergue is money well spent.
The final tip of this list is more of a realization that most pilgrims make when weighing the decision of whether to camp on the Camino or not. For the price of 4 euros, a municipal albergue will give you a roof over your head, a warm bed, a hot shower, water for shaving, and a bathroom. You also get a room full of pilgrims tossing and turning (and snoring) in their beds, but these sounds may still be preferable to the animal sounds you hear at night while camping the Camino!
And tip #21 and a half, if you plan on only staying at a camping site for one or two nights on your Camino, don’t bring your tent or camping gear. The number one regret of many who plan on camping the Camino for a couple of nights is that the couple of nights of camping was not worth carrying all of their extra gear for the 790 kilometers or so of the Camino de Santiago. Many end up giving away most of their camping gear as they walk in order to shed the weight.
Camping can be a wonderful way to experience the Camino de Santiago. Do your research before leaving, be gracious to your hosts for their hospitality, and practice common sense while walking the way. Happy camping!
One of our first inspirations for walking the Camino de Santiago came from watching the movie “The Way” featuring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The movie portrays a huge rockpile that seemed to have spiritual and emotional significance. We wanted to share more information on this peculiar sight on the Camino de Santiago.
What is the Camino de Santiago rockpile? The rockpile is known as the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) because the pile surrounds a tall wooden pole holding an iron cross at its peak. The Camino de Santiago rockpile is located on the highest point along the Camino Frances, near the town of Astorga.
The unique landmark of Cruz de Ferro holds deep spiritual significance to many pilgrims who walk the way to St. James on the Camino de Santiago. The reason that the pile of rocks continues to grow in size is because pilgrims will place their rock at the foot of the Cruz de Ferro as they pass by.
The tradition of laying a stone at the foot of the Iron Cross dates back hundreds of years. There are many legends (none with satisfactory proof) concerning the rockpile’s origins, some believe that the rockpile was formed before the Iron Cross was placed there. Others say that the rockpile was formed so that pilgrims found their way in the winter through the snow.
Regardless of how the Cruz de Ferro (sometimes called the Cruz de Hierro) came to be, it has evolved into one of the most profound places on the Camino de Santiago.
What makes the Cruz de Ferro so special?
As with many places along the Camino de Santiago, the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. A place can be as significant or commonplace as the pilgrim sees fit.
One main reason that the Cruz de Ferro is meaningful to many who walk the way is because this is the location on the Camino that they choose to place their stone. The stone they place there will have a deeply intimate and different meaning for each pilgrim.
Why do pilgrims carry a stone while walking the Way to St. James?
Some carry stones (traditionally that they brought from home) along the Camino as a symbol of the burdens they bear in life. Others carry the stone as an act of penance for the sins they have committed (by making their backpack heavier and therefore making the walk to St. James more difficult). Still others will carry a stone in remembrance of a deceased loved one. Some choose to never reveal why they are carrying their stone, because of the deep emotional significance it holds.
As pilgrims carry their stone, they are reminded of the reason that they chose to walk the Camino.
The most important part of the journey of the stone is the moment when they choose to let go of it. The Cruz de Ferro is the most popular place along the Camino to let go of your stone.
When you approach to lay down your rock at the foot of the Iron Cross (just a note, the wooden pole and cross is a replica, the original is at the Museo de los Caminos in Astorga), you will see the many objects that pilgrims have left behind. The first thing you may notice is the sheer size of the stone pile. Many are moved by the site of literally thousands of rocks left by previous pilgrims. Some of the rocks will have writing on them, such as meaningful words of remembrance.
You will also see other objects as well, including written notes left at the base, or attached to rocks. Some notes are on the wooden pile holding the cross. You will see random objects of significance, like pieces of clothing, as well as pictures of deceased loved ones.
There is also a large sundial located at the base of the Iron Cross, to help pilgrims tell time.
If you take a moment to read several of the notes left, or reflect on the images you see there, you may feel a deep connection to these people and to the journey you are undertaking. You will not have time to read every note, but do take a couple of minutes to read a few so that you can better remember this moment. You can also choose not to read anyone else’s notes, thereby respecting the privacy of each person’s Camino.
We would recommend journaling the experience at some point during the day, either while at the Cruz de Ferro or shortly after visiting it. Be open with how the moment struck you and what it means for your pilgrimage.
Can I leave a different object (not a stone) at the Cruz de Ferro?
Yes, there is no rule stating you can only leave a stone. As we mentioned earlier, you will see many different objects at the Cruz de Ferro. If you are leaving a note, it is a good idea to fix the note to a heavier object (like a stone) so that it doesn’t blow away. The same goes with pictures or other light objects like pieces of clothing.
Leave something at the Cruz de Ferro that has the most significance to you. If you are walking in remembrance of someone else, leave something meaningful that reminds you of them. If you are walking for spiritual reasons, leave a prayer or religious symbol.
The movie “The Way” has also inspired some pilgrims to spread ashes at the Cruz de Ferro.
Do I have to leave a stone at the Cruz de Ferro?
No, many pilgrims choose not to carry a stone with them on their pilgrimage. Every pilgrim walks the Camino for a different reason, and some of those reasons do not involve carrying a rock with them.
When is the best time to arrive at the Cruz de Ferro?
You will want to plan to arrive at the Cruz de Ferro early in the morning, preferably before 8:00am, before the tourist buses arrive. If you are following the Brierley route planner for the Camino Frances, you will find the Cruz de Ferro in Stage 24 (Rabenal del Camino to Molineseca). If you follow the guide, then you will most likely be staying in Rabanal del Camino or Foncebadon the night before.
If you plan to arrive before 8:00am at La Cruz de Ferro, you will want to leave early in the morning. If you are setting off from Rabanal del Camino, then you will want to leave by 6:00am. If you are setting off from Foncebadon, it is only a short walk of 2km to the Iron Cross, so you can leave at 7:30am and still beat the crowds.
Tip: It may be wise to stay in Foncebadon the night before to ensure you arrive at La Cruz de Ferro before the tourists. To plan for this, the previous Brierley route (stage 23) is 21.4km, so you will need to walk an extra 5.8km to Foncebadon, bringing your stage 23 daily walk to 27.2km of walking.
The reason we are stressing the importance of arriving at La Cruz de Ferro before the tourist buses start pouring in, is because the moment is so personal. You will want to have some privacy to yourself, without the crowds swarming around. A lot of these tourists (and fellow pilgrims) will be taking pictures. If you do find yourself arriving at La Cruz de Ferro while there is a large crowd, you may find it helpful to take in the moment by stepping into the Chapel or finding a spot away from the Camino route to reflect on your thoughts.
Other locations to place your stone on the Camino
There are many locations along the Camino that you can place your stone. You can choose to leave your stone at any point along the Camino. If you choose not to leave your stone at Cruz de Ferro, select another spot that seems appropriate to you. You will know it when you see it.
One of the top reasons for leaving your stone somewhere other than La Cruz de Ferro is the extra privacy you will have.
Here are some other common places that pilgrims choose to leave their stone:
As you walk along the Camino, the trail is marked with large waymarker posts that tell you how many kilometers are left to walk to Santiago de Compostela. Many of these markers will have rocks placed on top of them. Some important markers (like 200km or 100km) are popular places to leave your rock.
There are many other cross statues along the Camino. Each of these crosses provide an opportunity to leave your stone. Some of them have so many stones at their base, that people can easily confuse them for the Cruz de Ferro.
As you approach Santiago de Compostela while walking the Camino Frances, you will come across the Monte de Gozo (Hill of Joy) Monument. This monument features Pope John Paul II. Many people choose to leave their rocks at this location, since it marks the last day of their pilgrimage.
We chose to leave our rocks at the Monte de Gozo Monument. It seemed a fitting time and place to let go of them. This is a very good option for those that begin their Camino at Sarria. Like the Cruz de Ferro, there is a small chapel by the monument for prayer and meditation.
Wherever you choose to let go of your stone while walking the Camino de Santiago, take extra time to reflect and soak in the moment. Another great way to remember this part of your Camino journey is to write it down in a journal.
The Cruz de Ferro is one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Camino de Santiago. While you may have to explain to airport security why you are carrying a rock in your backpack, it is worth the extra weight to experience the moment of letting it go.
As you explore the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago, you may have wondered if it is possible to camp in a tent as you walk. Having walked the Camino in 2018, we walked by several campgrounds and wanted to see if camping was a viable way to walk the Camino. Here is what we found.
There are a lot of things to cover when it comes to camping along the Camino de Santiago. We spent time digging into many of the specifics of "roughing it" on your pilgrimage. From gear weight considerations and where to shower, to the biggest regret possible camp goers have, as well as how to have your Pilgrim Passport stamped along the way, we did our best to find you the answers you are looking for.
Can you camp on the Camino de Santiago? It is possible to camp while you walk the Camino de Santiago. Prepare to spend most nights setting up a tent in privately run camping sites, because "wild camping" is illegal in most of Spain unless you have explicit consent of the landowner. Campgrounds are spread far apart on most Camino routes.
We broke this topic down into the main choices people have when considering to set up a tent during their Camino. Here are the main ways that people choose to camp along the Camino:
Before digging into the most common ways to camp the Camino, we wanted to start with what we found to be the most important, and most misunderstood question when considering to camp on the Camino.
Where is it legal to camp along the Camino de Santiago? What we found is that campgrounds are the best legal place to camp along the Camino. If you choose to "wild camp" (set up a tent on private property), you will need to get consent of the landowner before doing so and even then you may be asked by the local law enforcement to leave (due to the fact that most law enforcement believe that you are doing something illegal).
There is a common misconception that camping along the Camino is illegal, but this is not true. What most of these sources are referring to is camping along the Camino on private property without the consent of the landowner. They may also be referring to camping in places that are not allowed (covered later).
The reason campgrounds are the most legal place to camp along the Camino is because most of Spain has laws in place regarding camping. Don’t let these laws discourage you from choosing to camp the Camino, as many pilgrims have successfully camped each of the Camino routes in the past. Whether you decide to camp on the Camino Frances, Camino del Norte, or any of the other Camino routes, know that it can be done. We will dive into the laws later, but let’s start with details for those who plan to camp in campgrounds during their Camino.
1) Setting Up a Tent in a Campground (Tourist Camp Site) along the Camino
This is the best option for most who would like to have the experience of camping in a tent while walking the Camino. You may want to camp the Camino for a variety of reasons: to get more in touch with nature, or to simply avoid another crowded albergue. Here are some things to keep in mind:
One of the benefits to staying in campgrounds is not having to worry about making it to albergues in time before they fill up. This can add some peace of mind as you walk.
After reading many testimonials of people who have walked the Camino and considered camping, their biggest regret was bringing the extra gear along (that they thought they would use). Most who wanted to both camp and stay at albergues realized too late how big of a challenge it was to carry all of their extra gear for the daily 25km or so of walking recommended by most route planners.
Many agreed that if you are planning on only staying in a campsite for a night or two on the Camino, leave your camping gear at home. Only bring the gear if you are planning on camping for most of the days of your Camino.
2) Setting Up a Tent on Private Property on the Camino
Referred to as "wild camping" (also known as "free camping"), most people who are considering camping the Camino want to know if it is possible to set up a tent next to the path as they walk.
This may be because many have been inspired by the popular Camino movie “The Way”, envisioning themselves camping along the Camino much like Martin Sheen’s character did in the emotional scene where Sheen accidentally drops his backpack in the river, causing him to dive in, get soaking wet, and ultimately force him to sleep alongside the Camino.
The answer to whether wild camping is allowed is a complicated one, but many people have successfully wild camped on the Camino in the past. To do so, you must keep a lot in mind when choosing to set up a tent on privately-owned land throughout Spain.
First, if you undertake wild camping while walking the Camino, you will want to do so with a spirit of respect and graciousness. As pilgrims, we strive to appreciate the hospitality extended to us during our stay on the Camino. Most of the Camino path falls on privately-owned land or municipalities, so it is best practice to follow the laws of each as you pass through.
Next, you will want to know the various laws and rules concerning wild camping on the Camino de Santiago. According to this source, the Spanish Civil Code and the Spanish Penal Code each grant rights to landowners throughout Spain. Also, there are 17 autonomous regions throughout Spain, with the Camino de Santiago passing through 4 of these regions: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, and Galicia. Each region has its own set of laws regarding wild camping. Lastly, each local town or municipality has its own set of rules.
You will need to wild camp according to the laws of each autonomous region as well as the laws of each municipality.
Those who support wild camping along the Camino inaccurately point to the 1966 (overnight stay) article in the Spanish Constitution, stating this article makes free camping legal throughout Spain. This is not the case, because in 1978 the Spanish Constitution was rewritten, giving full authority to the 17 autonomous regions in Spain in regards to free camping.
You will want to check the rules of each region, an overview can be found here.
Looking at the autonomous regions as a whole, wild camping along the Camino de Santiago is not permitted in the following areas:
So where can you wild camp along the Camino? With the most common forbidden camping sites out of the way, here is a list of the most reliable places that you are allowed to wild camp along the Camino, as long as you have the owner’s permission:
A note about asking to camp next to an albergue. Not all albergues will agree to letting you camp on their premises. If they do agree, they may charge you a small fee (a couple of euros) or ask for a donation. In exchange for this fee, you will typically be able to use their facilities.
In addition to albergues, churches are often cited as the most likely place to setting up a tent along the Camino.
Another tip on locating wild camping spots along the Camino: As you arrive near the area that you plan to wild camp, you will want to ask around about where the best places to put your tent would be. This brings us to the biggest challenge for most pilgrims when it comes to wild camping on the Camino:
You will need to know how to speak some Spanish before deciding to camp the Camino.
Because you are walking the Camino de Santiago, much of which runs through rural Spain, most of the locals do not speak English, or they have very few English speaking skills. This means that you will want to know Spanish before embarking on your wild camping adventure. You will need to communicate with landowners to ask permission to stay on their land, and you will want to talk to locals to find out where the best places in town to camp are. Part of this communication will be asking for directions as well.
Other various rules about camping along the Camino:
What if the police show up while I am wild camping and ask me to leave? Due to the fact that many law enforcement officials along the Camino will believe that you are camping illegally (even if you have spoken to the landowner), you may be asked to move on. Please respect the local authorities and find other lodgings for the night.
If indeed you decide to camp along the Camino illegally (either by trespassing, having an open fire, or breaking another rule) you may be fined.
If you are ever concerned about the rules of the area you are walking through, talk to the local authorities when you arrive before setting up your tent (you are going to need some Spanish skills for this as well).
FAQs about wild camping on the Camino
Where do I shower when camping on the Camino? There are two main places to bathe while camping the Camino: near a local source of water, or at an albergue. Because you may not always be next to a source of water, albergues are the best option for finding a shower. As you walk, you will pass many albergues, you will want to walk in and ask the owner or attendant if you can use their facilities. Not all will agree, and some will charge a small fee or donation.
Are there bears on the Camino de Santiago? Yes, there are brown bears in Spain, but the odds of seeing one is extremely rare. It is reported that there is a total bear population of 150 in all of Spain (80 Cantabrian Brown Bears and 70 Pyrenean Brown Bears).
Should I bring a free-standing tent or non free-standing (staked) tent when walking the Camino? For most, a free-standing tent will be a better option for walking the Camino. Despite being heavier, free-standing tents are more versatile and will be easier to move if you discover you are on rocky terrain. Non free-standing (staked) tents will not work on gravel or rocky surfaces.
Lastly, make sure you pack a flashlight if you plan on camping the Camino.
3) No Tent, Sleeping Outside on Private Property on the Camino
If you are considering sleeping outside on private property without a tent on the Camino, then you will want to first read the previous section on sleeping with a tent on private property.
The same laws and rules that apply to those who set up a tent to camp will apply to those who set up their sleeping bag on the grass without a tent.
As stated in the previous section, please be respectful of the people whose hospitality you are relying on. Obey the local laws and ordinances. When you are getting close to the place where you want to set up a sleeping bag under the stars, check with the local authorities first if it is okay to sleep there.
Other than the laws previously stated, here are some other considerations specific to those who want to camp without a tent along the Camino:
Where do I charge my batteries if I am sleeping outside on the Camino? As you walk the Camino the next day, the best place to charge your batteries will be at the restaurant that you decide to eat at.
As mentioned previously, many people have walked the Camino and slept outside under the stars. There are some pilgrims who claim that they did this every night during their pilgrimage. To do so, you need to be very aware of your surroundings and know the local laws of the area you are sleeping in. When sleeping on someone else’s property, always ask for permission first and clean up after yourself. You are also accepting the risks of sleeping outside, including exposure to the elements and animals. For most, paying the 4 euros or so for a night at a municipal albergue is worth the money, as it gets you a roof over your head, a warm bed, hot shower, and receptacles to charge your electronics.
Additional questions about tents and camping along the Camino
Is a tent needed for the Camino de Santiago as a backup to albergues filling up? What happens if the albergues are full, should I bring a tent to walk the Camino? No, you will not need to bring a tent on the Camino. Unless you are planning on camping for most of the Camino, a tent is not required.
In the event that you arrive to a town where the albergues are full, you will have other (better) options than being forced to camp. Just by asking around town, you will most likely find a spare room or bed to sleep for the night. If those options are exhausted, many report sleeping in a church when no rooms could be found. If all else fails, you can call ahead (or behind) to a neighboring town to see where the closest available bed is.
Can you get your Credencial (Pilgrim Passport) stamped if you camp along the Camino? Yes, even if you are not staying at a campground or albergue, you can get your pilgrim passport stamped as you walk the following day. Most cafes, restaurants, bars, and tourist shops will stamp your Credencial to prove you walked the Camino.
If I plan to camp the Camino, what additional camping gear should I bring? If you plan on sleeping in a tent along the Camino, you will want to bring this additional gear:
Can I use luggage transport services for my tent and gear on the Camino? Yes, but this will only be an option if you are staying at tourist camping sites (campgrounds). If you plan on sleeping in other areas (churches, albergue gardens, etc.), you will not be able to transport your gear using the van transport services.
Whether you are considering wild camping on the Camino on private property, staying at a campsite or sleeping under the stars in your sleeping bag, we hope you found this complete guide to camping the Camino de Santiago helpful.
***NOTE: As mentioned above, camping along the Camino involves legal considerations that depend on regions and municipalities. We are not lawyers. If you intend to camp along the Camino, please consult an attorney who can provide you with the necessary legal information.
You may be considering walking the Camino, and may have heard that the main route of Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances) is over 780km long (485 miles). This distance can discourage people from undertaking the Camino because of the time commitment, cost and endurance involved for such a pilgrimage. There are other routes, however, that are much shorter than the Camino Frances and offer many of the benefits of walking the Camino as walking the longer route.
What is the shortest Camino route to walk? The shortest complete Camino route is the Camino Ingles also known as the English Way, which begins in Ferrol, Spain and ends in Santiago de Compostela. This route is 118km long and can be completed within one week of walking, and will qualify you to receive a Compostela Certificate.
You may be wondering what the Camino Ingles is and why it is considered the shortest Camino route. In short, there are several ancient Camino routes that have survived to modern times. One of these routes is the Camino Ingles, which dates back to the 13th Century when English and Nordic seafarers would land on the coast Spain and embark on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Compared to other Camino routes, the Camino Ingles is considered by most to be a complete route. The Camino Ingles has two traditional starting points, one in Ferrol, Spain, and the other in A Coruna, Spain. These two starting points gained their origins from pilgrims who would arrive on the coast and trek inward. You can choose to start walking in A Coruna but the total distance to Santiago de Compostela is 74km, so you would not qualify for a Compostela or any of the other Certificates upon completion. If you can prove that you walked an additional 26km before arriving in A Coruna, you can qualify for the Compostela.
However, if you begin your Camino Ingles pilgrimage in Ferrol, Spain, you will cover 118km, which will qualify you for a Compostela, if you are walking.
When looking at walking the Camino in a spiritual sense, most who walk this pilgrimage believe that the true starting point of your Camino is when you leave your front door. In this case, it is difficult to pin down the longest or shortest Camino journeys.
How many people walk the Camino Ingles?
The official statistics from the Pilgrim's Office state that 14,150 people walked the Camino Ingles in 2018 or 4.32% of the total amount of Pilgrims for 2018. When compared to the Camino Frances which had a total of 186,199 people walk in 2018, it is clear that the Camino Ingles receives less foot traffic than other Camino routes. It was ranked #5 in terms of total Pilgrims for 2018.
When is the best time of year to walk the Camino Ingles?
The best times of the year to walk the Camino Ingles are Spring, Summer and Fall in terms of weather. The Camino Ingles route begins on the coastal region of Galicia, and offers cooler summers and milder winters than other Camino routes. This part of Galicia tends to get more rain than other parts of the country.
Since there are less pilgrims on the path, you will find that it provides a more introspective experience than the Camino Frances. As with other routes, most pilgrims choose to walk during the Summer between June and August. For more detailed information on best times to walk Camino routes, we wrote another post which covers more information.
Benefits of Walking the Camino Ingles
The main benefit of walking the Camino Ingles is that it can be completed within a week. Due to the short distance, you may not need as much physical training before leaving. It is easier to carry light gear on a shorter Camino, and you have the option to go at a slower pace.
The Camino Ingles offers coastal views as you begin your pilgrimage.
The Camino Ingles offers more time to be alone than other Camino routes. The reason we listed this as a benefit is that many pilgrims report that the time spent alone was one of the best experiences of walking the Camino.
Disadvantages of Walking the Camino Ingles
One of the disadvantages of the Camino Ingles is that some of the path is alongside major highways which can add some noise to your walk. You will be rewarded, though, once you are about halfway along the route: beginning at the Hospital de Bruma (Bruma Hospital), you will experience some smaller, secluded villages that are away from the traffic.
There are not as many pilgrim’s hostels along the way compared to other routes.
Another disadvantage is that the Camino Ingles is more difficult to navigate (in terms of waymarking) than other Camino routes. Typically the Camino routes are marked with arrows to point you in the right direction, but the Camino Ingles offers fewer of these. You will want to make sure that you have a reliable route planner, keep it with you, and be prepared to ask for directions.
Other Short Camino Routes
If you are on a tight schedule and are looking for a Camino route that you can walk within a week, the Camino Ingles is a great option and qualifies you for a Compostela. If you are looking for other possibilities for short Camino routes, here are some additional suggestions.
There are also several alternative Camino walks that are short, each of which can be completed within one week or two of walking.
Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela
If you are looking for a short route that is part of a complete route (in regards to the ancient routes), the most popular short Camino route is the portion of the Camino Frances that begins in Sarria, Spain. This route covers the last 111km (which is shorter than the Camino Ingles) of the 780km total distance of the Camino Frances. Because you will walk over 100km to Santiago de Compostela, this short walk will also qualify for a Compostela Certificate.
Another shorter Camino route is the Camino Portugues (Portuguese Route) from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela. This route covers 230km, so it is twice as long as the Camino Ingles. At an average pace of 24km walked per day, you could complete the Portuguese Camino within 10 days of walking.
Create your own short Camino walk
You can always open up a Camino Route planner and organize your own Camino route based on the amount of days you have available and what you would like to see. You can create a route as short as you would like to be, just keep in mind that you might not be able to receive a Compostela if you walk less than the required kilometers to receive a Compostela.
Many people choose to walk the Camino in a shorter time frame than the full 35 days or so that it takes to complete the Camino Frances. The Camino Ingles is a great option for those who have time constraints but would still like to walk a full Camino route.
We’re all familiar with symbols, those visuals or images that are recognized by others as representing something else. When you see an image of a cross or fish, you think Christianity. When you see three circular arrows, you think recycling. When you see two golden arches, you think McDonald’s. With one image, symbols convey a meaning or experience understood by others.
So, what is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago? The symbol that is used to represent the Camino is a scallop shell. The shell is used on mile markers along the Camino to confirm you are on the right path, they are worn by those walking the Camino to indicate they are pilgrims, and they are used in any Camino-related document (such as your Pilgrim Passport or Compostela) or location (such as albergues).
Is Having a Shell Required to Walk the Camino?
Having a shell is not a requirement to walking the Camino. While having a Pilgrim Passport is a requirement if you would like to make use of certain resources on the Camino, whether or not you have a shell will not make a difference in this regard.
A shell is usually worn or attached to the pilgrim’s backpack. Because it is visible to others, a shell is useful in that it helps pilgrims identify each other. If you have a question at some point, it’s nice to easily identify other pilgrims through their shells. Likewise, when you wear one, you indicate to others that you are a pilgrim.
Many pilgrims nowadays get their shells at the start of their Camino or along the way, but it seems that some time ago, the shell was obtained only after having arrived in Santiago, and served to indicate that a pilgrim completed the Camino. This is no longer the purpose of the shell, and it is the Compostela that now indicates completion of the Camino.
While having a shell is not a requirement, we felt that it was part of the Camino experience and so we did each purchase a shell and attached them to our backpacks. Once you are done with your Camino, it then becomes a nice reminder of your journey!
Where Do You Get a Camino Shell?
The best place to get your shell would be at your starting town. When you get your Pilgrim Passport, you can ask about getting your shell. The same place that provides passports might have shells for sale, or they might point you to a place in town where you can get one. Shells for sale will often come with a small hole with a string, which will make it easy to wear or tie to your backpack.
If you don’t have time to buy a shell on your first day, don’t worry. You can purchase your shell pretty much at any point on the Camino. You will find many stores along the way selling Camino souvenirs and Camino items such as walking sticks. These stores will have shells of multiple sizes. Some shells will have an image of the St. James cross painted on them. Whether or not yours has that image won’t matter - the shell on its own is a sufficient indicator that you are a pilgrim.
We bought our shell at a souvenir shop the first day of our Camino, for two euros each, and attached them to our backpacks. Irene still wears hers on her backpack as a reminder of the pilgrimage.
You don’t necessarily have to wait until you get to the Camino to purchase a shell. You can bring one with you from home!
Why is the Shell Used as the Symbol for the Camino?
There are several legends that connect the shell with the Camino, but there are also practical purposes associating the shell with the pilgrimage.
Legends we are aware of are all a variation of someone being rescued from drowning, through the intercession of St. James, and then emerging from the water all covered with shells. There is also another legend describing how after St. James was martyred in Jerusalem, his body was taken to Spain, and it showed up on a boat, covered with shells. Finally, some say that the lines of the shell represent the different Camino routes; those lines converge in the same spot, just like the different routes converge in the St. James Cathedral.
But, it seems that there were also practical uses of the shell while on pilgrimage. For example, it is said that the shells were used by pilgrims to collect and drink water or wine as they walked, or as a plate when being served food. This no longer seems to be a use for the shells.
Currently, other than identifying pilgrims, its main use is to be pictured next to the yellow arrow in mile markers to help pilgrims confirm that they are on the right path.
What Can You Do with the Shell After Your Camino?
As mentioned above, the shell (along with your Pilgrim Passport and Compostela) will be great keepsakes from the Camino, and will remind you of the successes and lessons from the journey. Just like some people choose to frame their Compostelas upon their return and place them in a place of honor, the shell can be kept in an honorary location, such as hanging on a door, hanging on your backpack/bag, sitting on your desk, or any other location that you will see often, and so be reminded of the Camino. As mentioned above, Irene still keeps her shell on her backpack.
Instead of keeping their shells, some people choose to give their shells to friends or family members, to encourage them to walk the Camino. We chose to keep our own shells as mementos from the Camino, but we did buy a few shells to give to family members. In giving them this symbol characteristic of Camino pilgrims, we hoped that they would begin to think of themselves as pilgrims, and prepare to embark on this great journey.
One of our favorite experiences during our Camino was attending Pilgrim’s Masses along the way. We looked into Pilgrim Masses some more and this is what we found.
What is a Pilgrim’s Mass? A Pilgrim’s Mass is a Roman Catholic mass celebrated along the various routes of the Camino de Santiago. The main difference between a Pilgrim’s Mass and a regular mass is that there is a special Pilgrim’s Blessing offered by the priest at the end of the mass for those walking the Camino.
Where are Pilgrim’s Masses held?
The Pilgrim’s Mass that most people associate with the Camino is the Pilgrim’s Mass held each day at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela to welcome the pilgrims arriving into the city. While this is the most well-known Pilgrim’s Mass, it is important to note that Pilgrim’s Masses are celebrated along the entire Camino de Santiago routes. Most of the small towns in Spain that have a church or chapel will offer a Pilgrim’s Mass daily (as long as there are priests available), typically in the evening around 6:00pm or 8:00pm. Many of the mass times for these churches are posted, but sometimes you will need to ask around town to find out what time mass is held for that particular day. You will also find that many “impromptu” masses will be offered by priests who are walking along the Camino. Before we left for the Camino, we researched the mass times in each town we would be staying at, and then when we arrived, we would ask around town to make sure the time hadn’t changed.
What makes the Pilgrim’s Mass special?
For most, the Pilgrim’s Mass offered at the Cathedral at the end of their pilgrimage will be the most memorable one. The Pilgrim’s Mass is typically well attended, and many stand for the entire mass. The most iconic part of the Mass is the use of the Botafumeiro, a giant thurible that is used for incensing the congregation. Many people who walk the Camino point to the experience of watching the thurible swinging back and forth (with speeds of up to 40 mph) as the most moving moment of their Camino pilgrimage. After walking for the past weeks and months, the Pilgrim’s Mass is a pinnacle experience, marking the end of your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Many are filled with joy, peace and a sense of gratitude at the completion of their Camino, while others find the experience bittersweet and unsure of what the future holds now that the journey is over.
What time is the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela?
The Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral at Santiago is held at 12:00noon every day. At this mass, you will see the Botafumeiro in action, as well as the names of the countries of pilgrims arriving to Santiago that day. The best place to find a current and complete mass schedule for the Cathedral is their website. If you are a priest who would like to concelebrate the Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral, please arrive 15-20 minutes early in the Sacristy.
Update June 2019: Due to restoration being done in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, there will be no masses held at the Cathedral until further notice. Daily masses will be held at other churches throughout the city. The daily mass schedule at the other churches is as follows (from the Official Cathedral website):
Iglesia de San Francisco: Daily Pilgrim’s Mass 12:00noon
Iglesia de San Fiz de Solovio: Daily Pilgrim’s Mass 7:00pm, with Pilgrim Prayer (Monday to Saturday)
Iglesia de Santa Maria Salome:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 7:00pm
Saturdays: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 6:00pm, 7:00pm
Sundays: 7:30am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 1:00pm, 6:00pm, 7:00pm
What language is spoken in a Pilgrim’s Mass?
Most Pilgrim’s Masses will be celebrated in Spanish. The main reason for this is that most of the primary Camino route is in Spain, and many of the people walking the Camino speak Spanish. We attended a couple of Pilgrim’s Masses that were offered in Spanish and English. One of the masses we went to was in Spanish but the priest who celebrated it offered the final Pilgrim’s Blessing in four different languages.
If you do not speak Spanish, do not let that discourage you from attending mass while walking the Camino. You have several options. Before leaving, you can print out a copy of the spoken mass parts in Spanish and bring it with you to mass. In this case, do not worry about pronunciation, rather focus on the spirit in which the words are said. Kyle did this during several masses. Another way to participate more fully in mass is to simply speak the mass parts in your own language. This can be a bit confusing at first because no one else is speaking the same language. You may want to do the same thing and print out a copy of the spoken mass parts in your language to better participate.
What are the words of the Pilgrim’s Blessing?
There are various forms of the Pilgrim’s Blessing offered at mass, and priests are free to use any form of the blessing that they choose. The following is one form of the Pilgrim’s Blessing that several other pilgrims have mentioned hearing on a regular basis.
you always show mercy toward those who you love
and you are never far away for those who seek you.
Be with your servants on this pilgrimage
and guide their way in accord with your will.
Be a companion for them along their journey,
a guide at crossroads, strength in their weariness,
defence before dangers, shelter on the way,
shade against the heat, light in the darkness,
a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their intentions,
in order that, through your guidance,
they might arrive unscathed at the end of their journey,
and enriched with graces and virtues,
they might return safely home;
Through Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
forever and ever. Amen”
Can I attend a Pilgrim’s Mass if I don’t walk the Camino for religious reasons?
Yes, the Pilgrim’s Mass is offered for the general public and all are welcome to attend. Even if you are not walking the Camino for spiritual reasons (or are not Catholic), you may still want to choose to attend due to the significance of the experience in the history of the Camino. The Camino de Santiago is one of the few places in the world that offers Pilgrim’s Masses. We noticed that many priests would acknowledge, bless, and offer prayers for all that were undertaking the Camino.
The Pilgrim’s Mass is one of the experiences that make the Camino de Santiago unique. It is a part of the daily rhythm of the Camino de Santiago and provides a wonderful opportunity for introspection. We hope you find this information useful as you plan your Camino pilgrimage!
One of our most prized keepsakes from walking the Camino de Santiago is our official Compostela. We experienced great satisfaction upon receiving our Compostelas. We looked into this certificate some more and this is what we found.
What is the Compostela Pilgrim Certificate? The Compostela is a certificate of completion of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. You receive the Compostela by presenting your stamped Credencial to the Pilgrim’s Office when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela. To qualify to receive your Compostela, you must have walked (for religious reasons) at least 100km or cycled at least 200km of the Camino de Santiago.
Where do you get your Compostela Certificate?
The Compostela Certificate is only received in the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. When you arrive in Santiago de Compostela after walking the Camino, you will want to head to the Pilgrim’s Office (also known as the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, or Oficina de Acogida Al Pergrino, in Spanish). Their address is Rúa das Carretas, 33, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain. You will want to arrive when their office is open, and you can find the official hours as well as closures here: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/.
The Pilgrim’s Reception Office is currently open from 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m. during the summer hours of 2019. During the Winter the hours change to 8:00a.m. to 7:00p.m.
If you arrive during the Spring, Summer, or Fall, plan for time that you will stand in line, waiting for your Compostela. If you arrive in the Winter months, you most likely will not have to worry about lines at the Pilgrim’s Office. We arrived in the Summer of 2018 and spent about 45 minutes waiting in line. The lines can vary at different times of the year, and different times of the day.
When is the best time of the day to pick up your Compostela?
After reading other pilgrims’ experiences on the Camino, most agree that the best time of day to get your Compostela is early in the morning, as soon as the Pilgrim’s Office opens (currently 8:00a.m.). This is because most pilgrims arrive in Santiago de Compostela in the afternoon after walking in the morning. Arriving to the Pilgrim’s Office in the morning will mean a shorter wait time in line, most pilgrims have reported waiting 15 minutes or less in the morning. This means that the worst time of day to receive your Compostela is in the afternoon when most other pilgrims are flooding into Santiago de Compostela. If you choose to arrive in the afternoon (1:00pm to 5:00pm), you may have a long wait in line, some pilgrims have reported waiting in line up to 3 hours. A great option is to arrive in the city in the afternoon, and the following morning to head to the Pilgrim’s Office for your Compostela. Fellow pilgrims report that the line can start as early as 7:30am.
What does it cost for a Compostela?
The Compostela Certificate is free to those who have met the requirements for receiving the Compostela. We find it refreshing that the Pilgrim’s Office does not charge for the Compostela certificate, opting rather to provide the service for free. While the Compostela has no cost, you will want to consider purchasing a protective case (small cylinder) for a couple of euros to transport the Certificate safely back home. The protective tube can be purchased at the Pilgrim’s Office, the one we bought had a scallop shell pattern, which made it nice for displaying.
What are the requirements to qualify for the Compostela?
To qualify to receive your Compostela Certificate, you will need to complete the following requirements:
The requirement of undertaking the Camino de Santiago for religious reasons is one that the Pilgrim’s Office takes seriously. But don’t worry, there is no exam or scrutiny by the Pilgrim’s Office. When you walk up to receive your Compostela, you will be asked why did you walk the Camino (either verbally or on a piece of paper). You can choose to walk the Camino for non-religious reasons (cultural reasons, tourist sight-seeing, health, etc), but if one of these reasons is your primary purpose, you should inform the Pilgrim’s Office. In these cases, you will not receive the Compostela Certificate, however, you will receive a Certificate of Welcome or a Certificate of Distance if you choose. While there is no way of proving that you walked with religious intent, you will want to tell them truthfully if you walked primarily for another purpose so they can issue you the appropriate Certificate.
Another requirement is the completion of the Pilgrim Passport (also known as the Credencial). You will want to pick up a Credencial at the beginning of your pilgrimage, and have it stamped along the way. You will want to have your Credencial stamped once per day, until you are within 100km of Santiago de Compostela, then you will want your Credencial stamped two times per day. For more information on the Credencial, check out our recent blog post covering it in detail.
Can I still get a Compostela if I do not walk the Camino for religious reasons?
No, if your primary motive for walking the Camino is for non-religious reasons, you will not qualify for a Compostela Certificate. You will however qualify for a Certificate of Welcome or a Certificate of Distance, which certifies that you walked the Camino de Santiago at least 100km. It is best practice to be truthful with the Pilgrim’s Office so that you can be issued the appropriate certificate. If you attempt to apply for a Compostela without having walked the Camino with religious intent, the staff may question you further to gauge whether you are telling the truth or not. Again, honesty is the best policy. We found that each certificate will serve as a great keepsake for remembering your pilgrimage.
What is the size of the Compostela?
The Compostela Certificate measures 8.27” x 11.69” (210mm x 297mm). This is the standard international A4 paper size. If you plan on framing your Certificate when returning home, then you will want to purchase a frame that can display this size.
What is written on the Compostela Certificate?
The Compostela Certificate is written in Latin. It includes blank spaces for your name and the date that the Certificate was issued. When you arrive at the Pilgrim’s Office, you will give them your name. They will then use a computer to generate a “Latin” version of your name. Irene was able to have a beautiful translation of her name placed on the certificate. However, some names (like the name Kyle) do not translate well into Latin, so they instead put your (non-Latin) full name on the Compostela. You may be able to ask to have your original name placed on the Compostela if you like.
For those who would like to know what the English translation of the Compostela is, we found a good translation on the Pilgrim’s Office Website:
“The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).
In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.
Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ……… of …………… year of our Lord ……….
Deputy Canon for Pilgrims.”
How did the Compostela originate?
We found some great info about the origins of the Compostela Certificate on the Pilgrim’s Office Website. In short, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage came about in the Middle Ages, roughly dated around the 9th or 10th centuries. Originally the pilgrimage was undertaken for religious purposes, and it was necessary to acknowledge its completion. The first ‘Compostela’ accreditation was a scallop shell that was obtained in Santiago de Compostela. Due to easy counterfeiting (the shells began to be sold at the city gates rather than be obtained through pilgrimage), the Pope enforced penalties for duplicators. Letters of completion were issued as early as the 13th century as a way to counteract this counterfeiting, and these letters paved the way for the Compostela in its current form.
We both treasure our Compostela Certificates from when we walked the Camino in 2018. They were something we greatly looked forward to receiving upon completing our pilgrimage. While the Compostela served as physical proof of our journey, our most prized possessions are the memories we made along the way.
Before we walked the Camino de Santiago, we had heard that we would need a Pilgrim Passport. We wanted to know more about what it was, where to find it and where to get it stamped along the way of St. James. We dug into the details and here is what we found.
What is a Pilgrim Passport? The Pilgrim Passport or “Credencial” is a document that keeps record of where you walked on the Camino de Santiago. In order to receive your Compostela (certificate of completion) when arriving in Santiago de Compostela, you will need the Pilgrim Passport stamped along the way to prove that you walked at least 100km of the Camino, or cycled at least 200km of the Camino.
The traditional Credencial has 16 pages (when folded), creating a mini booklet (much like a map). The first page offers information on the pilgrim and issuing organization, with the remaining pages left blank for collecting stamps along the way. The last page offers a special space for the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela to issue their final stamp. If you plan on receiving your Compostela in Santiago, be sure to keep your Credencial safe as you travel.
You will need a Pilgrim Passport to stay in a municipal albergue (pilgrim hostel). Most will stamp your Passport after your night’s stay. If you are staying at a private albergue or hotel, you will not need a Pilgrim Passport as a condition of your stay. We spent most of our nights at private albergues, hotels and apartments during our Camino, so we were rarely asked to present a Pilgrim Passport. The practice of presenting your Credencial for a place to sleep dates back many centuries, mainly to identify you as a pilgrim so that those providing you with shelter or food do so out of a spirit of hospitality.
Where can I buy a Pilgrim Passport?
The best way to obtain your Pilgrim Passport is to purchase it once you arrive at your starting point of your Camino route. The official Pilgrim Passport made available by the Cathedral is called the “Credencial del Peregrino”. It is widely available at albergues, hotels, parishes and stores in France, Spain and Portugal. For those arriving in St. Jean Pied de Port, you can find them at the Pilgrim Office. We picked up our Pilgrim Passport at our hotel in Sarria when we arrived to check in. If you are unsure if you will find a Pilgrim Passport at your arrival, do a quick Google search of your arrival town’s name and Pilgrim Passport. You can confirm who sells the Credenciales in that town. Check out your albergue’s website as well, as they may have it listed in the services they offer.
You can also buy a Pilgrim Passport before leaving on your trip. There are many associations and confraternities who sell the Credencial. Two great places to find them for sale are the Confraternity of St. James in London and the online Camino Forum store. These are good options for those who want to be fully packed before they leave on their pilgrimage. If you decide to purchase the Credencial before leaving, keep in mind that the price may be inflated. You will want to make sure that the cost falls in line with the normal price of a Pilgrim Passport.
How much does the Pilgrim Passport cost?
The most common price for the Pilgrim Passport (Credencial) is 2 euros. Depending on the albergue or pilgrim office that you purchase it from, the price could be as high as 5 euros. When we walked the Camino in July 2018, we paid 2 euros for a Pilgrim Passport. After checking the forums recently, 2 euros still seems to be the going rate for a Credencial in 2019.
A little-known fact for those who do not want to spend money on a Pilgrim Passport: Consider making your own Credencial. Because the Credencial basically serves as proof that you walked at least 100km of the Camino, then this means the most important part of the document are the impressions of the stamps (sello, in Spanish) earned along the way. To make your own Credencial, take a normal piece of paper, write the word “Pilgrim Passport” or “Credencial” at the top, be sure to include your name, and have it stamped with appropriate dates along your pilgrimage. The Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago de Compostela will be more than happy to accept your hand-made Passport as proof of your journey.
How often do I need my Pilgrim Passport stamped?
From the start of your pilgrimage you will need to have your Passport stamped one (1) time per day until you are 100km from Santiago de Compostela. Once you are 100km or closer (for example, Sarria 111km), then you will want to have your Passport stamped two (2) times per day. The reason for the increase in stamps per day is to deter abuse of the credencial system. If you are cycling the Camino, then you will want to have it stamped twice per day when you reach 200km or closer (Ponferrada, 205km).
You can have your Passport stamped as many times per day as you like, especially if you want to remember a specific place. We found it best to have our Passport stamped one time at the beginning of the day, and also around halfway through our walk for the day. It worked well for us because with this habit we didn’t have to keep track of whether we were getting two stamps every day, and it served as a reason to take a break to rest our feet from walking.
Where do I get my Pilgrim Passport stamped?
As you walk or cycle, there will be signs at most albergues, restaurants, bars, stores, and churches advertising that you can acquire your stamp (sello) there. Most of these establishments advertise this service because they want you to stop in and take a look at what they have to offer as you take your break. Most of the time we wanted to keep moving to arrive at our next route destination and settle in (although it was hard to say no to some of the coffee or sweets along the way). One overlooked location where you can receive a stamp for your Pilgrim Passport is at the Post Offices throughout Spain.
If you have watched the movie The Way, then you may have the expectation that someone will be stamping your Pilgrim Passport at every location. This is not the case, as most of the stamping stations are self-serve. There will be arrows directing you so you can find it easily.
A note on stamping your Passport yourself: Make sure to write in the date of each stamp as you fill in your Credencial along the way. This was a surprise to us, as we assumed each stamp would have the date pre-filled. These dates serve as proof that you walked the Camino de Santiago within a certain timeframe.
Does it cost anything to have my Pilgrim Passport stamped?
No, you will not need to pay for your stamp at most locations. There are some places that will ask for a donation (donativo), but this is not required. We did notice a couple of stamping stations that asked for 1 or 2 euros to have your Pilgrim Passport stamped, but we decided not to take our Passport there. These tended to be more culturally significant or famous tourist spots.
What should I do if my Pilgrim Passport fills up before reaching Santiago de Compostela?
If you are walking the entire 790km Camino Frances, or a similar route, and having it stamped one time per day, then your official Credencial will fill up. Once it fills up, you can pick up another Credencial in the next town. In a pinch, you could make your own Credencial as mentioned previously. When you arrive in Santiago de Compostela, present both Pilgrim Passports to the Pilgrim’s Office to receive your Compostela. Even if you are only walking the last 100km of the Camino, you will be surprised at how many stamps you will receive.
One last benefit of obtaining the Pilgrim’s Passport for your pilgrimage is various discounts at certain tourist attractions. Keep your eyes open for any of these reduced rates as you walk.
For many, the Credencial will be one of their favorite keepsakes from their pilgrimage. It is a wonderfully colorful visual for remembering your journey on the Camino, as most of the stamps will be in different styles and colors. Each will most likely feature the name of the town that you traveled through. There is a certain sense of accomplishment that is felt after walking the Camino de Santiago, and your Pilgrim Passport and Compostela provide tangible proof that you did it. You walked the Camino.