As you prepare for your Camino pilgrimage, you will be making decisions on where to rest your feet and get a good night’s sleep. There are many types of accommodations along the Camino de Santiago, each offering different ways of experiencing the Camino.
We wanted to help you sort out the various lodging options so that you can make the best decisions for your needs.
Where is the best place to stay along the Camino de Santiago? For those walking the Camino, the best lodging will be albergues. Albergues are run by the municipal government, local church or a private individual and offer extremely affordable rates to stay in a dorm-style room with bunk beds. Pensions, hotels or casas rurales will offer more amenities like private rooms but at a higher price.
Here is a quick list of the different types of accommodations you will find on the Camino de Santiago:
4) Casas Rurales
8) Miscellaneous Others (not found as much)
While it may seem like there are a lot of different options to choose from, the most common places to stay will be albergues, pensions, hotels and casas rurales.
1) Staying in Albergues Along the Camino
Albergues are the main (and most basic) lodging type along the Camino de Santiago. Regardless of whether you are staying in a municipal albergue, parochial or private albergue, most offer similar amenities at similar prices.
All albergues will offer dorm-style rooms with bunk beds. Some albergues will have a room of 20 beds while other albergues will offer massive rooms with over 200 beds. The price you pay will be for one bed (not room) for the evening.
The price of a bed for one night at an albergue will range from 4 euros to 12 euros. Some albergues (typically parochial albergues) will be donation-based (donativo). You cannot make reservations at municipal or parochial albergues, but you can make reservations at private albergues.
Albergues are the cheapest lodging option for your Camino pilgrimage. Because of this, they are typically the most sought after, despite the unpleasantries that can come from sleeping in a large room full of fellow pilgrims.
All albergues offer hot water and communal bathrooms. In busy months, the hot water can run out quickly, so you may need to plan your shower for when the hot water comes back. If you walk the Camino in the winter, almost all albergues have adequate heat.
Many (but not all) albergues will come with a communal kitchen with cooking supplies.
The marker for albergues is the letter A.
Your check-in procedure will be the same at all albergues. Most will open in the early afternoon. You will need your pilgrim passport in order to complete check-in. During busy months like July, a line will begin to form, sometimes before the albergue officially opens. You can hold your place in line by placing your backpack in the queue to hold your spot. You will want to stay relatively close though, because municipal and parochial albergues are first-come, first-serve.
All albergues are required to lock doors at night by law. Most will lock their doors at 10:00pm. If you are staying at a parochial albergue, check to see if they lock their doors early (there have been reports of some parochial albergues locking doors at 9:00pm). Also, when you get into Galicia (the final part of the Camino de Santiago), you will find that many albergues lock their doors at 11:00pm.
Albergues are the only form of accommodation along the Camino that are required to lock their doors at night.
You are only allowed to stay for a maximum of one night at albergues. After staying the night, you must vacate early in the morning, usually 8:00am or 9:00am. The only exception to this is if you have a medical condition (with a note from a doctor). For most who walk the Camino, the one-night maximum stay at an albergue will not affect your schedule unless you want to stay several nights in a location, in which case you will have to look for alternative lodging.
Who operates the albergues? A hospitalero is the person who runs the albergue. A hospitalero may be a local, or a religious (nun or monk) or a volunteer from a different part of the world. Each albergue will have a hospitalero who is in charge of opening the albergue, checking in pilgrims, cleaning up as well as locking up for the night.
Most hospitaleros live in the albergue while others live right next to it. Non-resident hospitaleros will live in town. You may hear hospitaleros also referred to as wardens or innkeepers.
Hospitaleros will have the best information about the local town, as well as restaurants, Mass times, shops and the Camino in general. Please express kindness to your hospitalero as they are offering their hospitality to you.
One of your main priorities while staying at an albergue will be washing and drying your clothes. There will be times where you will need to hand wash and hang your clothes outside. However, an increasing number of albergues are beginning to offer washing machines (lavadora) and dryers (secadora). Just keep in mind that other pilgrims will want to use the machines too, so you may have to wait (or find another pilgrim to split a load of laundry with you).
The pilgrims who enjoy staying in albergues typically like the low cost, as well as the social aspect of the albergue. It is easier to make friends when sharing a large room together. Pilgrims also report enjoying albergues because it feels more like a pilgrimage (by focusing on simplicity and not having as many amenities).
Some albergues will have wifi, others will not. Keep this in mind when deciding to stay at albergues.
Most pilgrims agree that the main disadvantage to staying at an albergue is you will not get a good night’s rest on most nights. Sleeping can be very difficult in an albergue dorm-style room, as there will be people who snore, others who get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and pilgrims who rustle through their backpacks to find something to keep them distracted because they are having a hard time sleeping! In order to get a better night’s rest, it can be a good use of money to opt for a private room at a private albergue, pension, hotel or casas rurales (or split a private room with another pilgrim).
As stated before, reservations are not accepted at municipal albergues or parochial albergues. However, you can make reservations at private albergues. We wrote an entire post covering how to make reservations along the Camino, you can find it here. For the last 100km of the Camino Frances route, you will want to highly consider reserving rooms, as this is the busiest part of the Camino and beds start to become scarce. Some pilgrims also recommend reserving beds at St. Jean Pied de Port.
Cyclists on the Camino will want to keep in mind that most municipal albergues will give priority to walking pilgrims. This means that you might arrive at an albergue, but they will ask you to wait until later in the day to check-in (typically 6:00pm), sometimes you will have to wait until 8:00pm to check-in. To avoid this, cyclists can opt to stay at private albergues, as they will not give the same preferential treatment to walkers. Cyclists are not required to wait at private albergues.
One note about municipal and parochial albergues that are donation-based. Please give some form of compensation to the albergue for their hospitality. Some pilgrims believe that since it is donation-based that they do not have to give anything. While this may be true, remember that the hospitalero and staff are giving their hospitality to you as well as their most precious commodity: their time. Most agree that a minimum donation of 4 or 5 euros is appropriate. When in doubt, follow the popular Camino phrase “Pay what you can, take what you need.”
If you are a Catholic or Christian walking the Camino, keep your eye out for parochial albergues (especially ones run by a monastery or convent) as they will have spiritual activities that pilgrims are welcome to attend. You will find vesper services, hymn sings, prayers and Masses offered. We wrote a post for Catholics and Christians on the many things you can do to deepen your faith on the Camino de Santiago.
To wrap up albergues, here is a quick reference guide to some of the distinctions between albergue types:
Municipal albergue (albergue municipal) - This is the official albergue system run by the local government. You will find state employees as well as local volunteers. Municipal albergues do not typically offer food. These will offer bunk bed dorm-style rooms with a pillow. There will be a place to dry your clothes. Price will be 4 euros to 8 euros (or donation-based).
Parish albergue (albergue parroquial) - Parochial albergue run by the local church. Most of these albergues are donation-based or a very low price. Sometimes they are run by the local convent or monastery (convento, monasterio). These are the most basic lodging. Most do not have wifi. Parochial albergues will offer spiritual practices open to pilgrims like vespers, prayers and Mass. Price is typically donation-based or a small fee of a couple of euros.
Private albergue (albergue privado) - Private albergues operate the same as municipal or parish albergues, but are owned by a private individual or family (many times by someone who previously walked the Camino). These are run more as a business. Because of this, they are usually updated and offer evening meal and breakfast. Some private albergues also offer private rooms. Most have washing machines and dryers. Price will be 6 euros to 12 euros.
Youth albergue (albergue juvenil) - These are albergues designed for younger people. You will not encounter many of these on the Camino.
Tourist albergue (albergue turístico) - Tourist albergues designated for non-pilgrim guests. You will not encounter many of these on the Camino either.
Refugio - this word was previously used to describe what we know as albergues. Now, it typically denotes a small albergue.
There are several other albergue types including association albergues and network albergues. These tend to run the same as the previous albergues, but they are part of a network of other albergue owners.
We hope this gives you an overview of what to expect if you choose to stay at an albergue. Now let’s move on to the luxury option on the Camino: paradores.
2) Staying in Paradores Along the Camino
Staying at a parador is the exact opposite experience of staying at an albergue. Paradores are luxury hotels managed by the Spanish government. They are typically located in historic buildings such as castles, monasteries, or other stately structures. Paradores are run by the company Paradores de Turismo de España.
These paradores are typically rated as a 3, 4, or 5 star hotel with all the amenities you would expect to find at a luxury hotel. They feature huge private rooms with beautiful architecture and decor.
Paradores are the most expensive option for lodging along the Camino. Costs per night vary greatly, but most cost several hundred euros per night per room.
Because of the price, most pilgrims will choose to stay at other lodging options such as albergues, pensions and hotels. If you would like to splurge on an experience, choosing to stay at a parador will give you an unforgettable memory.
There are currently 94 paradores operating in Spain, some of them are along the Camino de Santiago. The most famous parador on the Camino is the Parador de Santiago, which is located in Santiago de Compostela.
So far, we have covered albergues and paradores. If you are looking for something in between these two extremes, then you will want to consider pensions, casas rurales and hotels.
3) Staying in Pensions Along the Camino
Pensions will typically offer a room or set of rooms with no more than two beds per room. Some pensions also offer bunk bed style rooms, although it is more common to stay in a private room in a pension.
One advantage to staying in pensions is that a meal is typically included and you will have the privacy of staying in a room. Pensions typically have washing machines and dryers, but (typically) do not offer a place to dry your clothes.
The price of staying a night at a pension will be 30 to 40 euros per room per night. Many pilgrims choose to split the cost of a pension with another pilgrim for the many benefits of better sleep, additional privacy, food included, wifi, and bathroom access. Some pensions will have a private bathroom, while others will offer communal bathrooms (but you won’t be sharing the bathroom with nearly as many people as an albergue).
We stayed at several pensions during our Camino and found the added amenities worth the price. Since we were traveling together, the price per person was only slightly more than if we had stayed at a private albergue in a bunk bed dorm-style room.
You can make reservations for pensions and you can stay for as long as you want in each (there is no overnight rule). The best place to book online is www.booking.com. Another benefit of pensions is there is no “lights out” time, and no lock out time.
The markers for pensions are P and CH.
Pensions are a great way to spend your nights along the Camino, and can also be a nice retreat from the bustling albergues.
4) Staying in Casas Rurales Along the Camino
Casas rurales are more like a bed and breakfast and are most common in the region of Galicia, Spain. They are similar to pensions in that you will receive a private bed, food and laundry services.
Casas rurales can be luxurious at times, which can add to the price. You will typically spend between 30 euros to 40 euros per night per room. If it is an exceptionally nice casa rural or offers exceptional food, the price may be more.
A difference between pensions and casas rurales is that pension rooms usually have two beds, while casas rurales rooms typically have one bed. In this respect, casas rurales tend to cater to couples since there is only one bed in the room. Having one bed is not always the case, but it has been the experience of many pilgrims.
The signage for casas rurales is CR.
Casas rurales offer many of the same amenities as pensions at a similar price. Casas rurales are a good lodging option for couples.
5) Staying in Hotels Along the Camino
As mentioned previously, you will be able to find private rooms at pensions, casas rurales and (some) private albergues. Hotels offer another option to find a private room. Most hotels will be found in medium to large sized cities along the Camino.
Hotels will offer private baths and laundry services. Some hotels will offer breakfast (usually a continental breakfast), while others will not. Hotels typically will not have a communal kitchen.
Hotels will vary in price, but the prices are comparable to pensions and casas rurales. The rate will also vary depending on what city you are in and what time of year you are traveling. The best place to book hotels for your Camino pilgrimage is www.booking.com. You will be able to see the amenities of each hotel as well as pictures and other helpful information.
You can also choose to stay at apartments along your Camino pilgrimage. This is much like renting a room on AirBnB where a host rents out a portion or entire house for the night.
Apartments can be the best option if you are looking for a “homey” feel on the Camino. They tend to be large, with several bedrooms, private bath, and full kitchen and refrigerator.
We stayed at several apartments during our Camino pilgrimage and loved the independence that they offered. We used www.booking.com to make all of our reservations and found the process smooth and seamless.
7) Other Less Common Lodging Options on the Camino
While the previous lodging types are the main accommodations you will encounter on the Camino, we wanted to include a couple more words you may come across. You will not see these much, as they are not common along the Camino.
8) Camping Along the Camino
Camping the Camino will not be the lodging option of most pilgrims. However, if you are interested in how to successfully camp the Camino, we wrote an entire post covering the details from A to Z, including the many camping laws of Spain, you can find it here.
Respecting fellow pilgrims while staying in a dorm-style room
While this post has mainly covered the nuances between the different types of lodging along the Camino, we wanted to include a couple of things to keep in mind if you are staying in a large dorm-style room at an albergue, pension, or casa rural.
Do I have to stay at albergues when walking the Camino?
As seen in this post, there are many lodging options for walking the Camino. You can successfully walk the Camino without staying at albergues. You can choose to stay in pensions, hotels, casas rurales or apartments.
We hope this information helps you decipher the different accommodations available to you on your Camino pilgrimage. Regardless of which lodging type you select, we are confident that your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela will be one you will never forget.
If you follow a vegan diet, you might be wondering if walking the Camino de Santiago will provide you with the appropriate food options for your diet. At home, we follow a whole foods, plant-based diet, so this was certainly something we were concerned about when we decided to walk the Camino. Based on our research and our experience walking the Camino, we provide a list of tips to help vegan peregrinos.
Can you walk the Camino de Santiago as a vegan? You can walk the Camino de Santiago if you follow a vegan/plant-based diet. You will be able to find vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in the bigger cities. In the smaller towns, you can remain vegan by planning ahead, relying on grocery stores, cooking your meals, and ordering side dishes.
If you are vegan and are planning to walk the Way of St. James, we hope the list below provides you with some useful suggestions.
1. Consider vegan breakfast options offered at albergues/cafes, but have backup provisions
Some albergues/cafes offer vegan breakfast options. These can include toast and jam, coffee, fresh fruit juice, and pan con tomate (toast with a fresh tomato spread). We had some delicious pan con tomate, and definitely recommend it. Since not all places will offer vegan breakfast options, we suggest taking advantage of those places that do offer vegan breakfasts, and enjoying having breakfast prepared for you by someone else.
But, not all places offer breakfast, let alone vegan breakfast, so we suggest having backup breakfast foods with you. At grocery stores, you can find things like bread, oatmeal, granola, and cereal, which can be good breakfast options. In case you need it, we have a post that includes Spanish words and phrases to use at grocery stores, especially if you have dietary restrictions.
The breakfast we most frequently had was oatmeal. We bought a bag of oats at a grocery store, and prepared ourselves some oatmeal in the morning by pouring water over the oats and letting them soak in the water. Sometimes, a cafe or albergue employee would be nice enough to give us hot water for free. We usually ate our oatmeal with a banana and peanut butter.
Another breakfast we had frequently was bread (or crackers) with peanut butter.
A major benefit of making your own breakfast is that you save a lot of money. Oats are very affordable, and one bag makes several breakfasts. Similarly, buying a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter is affordable and makes several meals.
One drawback of making your own breakfast is that eating the same thing day after day can get monotonous. This is why we suggest buying breakfast at a cafe or albergue every once in a while - it will give you a nice break from the usual meal.
2. Consider vegan snack options offered at cafes, but pack your own, just in case
As you walk, you will likely want to stop for a snack at some point. It was very common for cafes to sell granola bars, so a granola bar and coffee or fresh fruit juice could be a good option for a morning or afternoon snack.
You can stock up on snacks by going to a grocery store, where you can find nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit, rice cakes, bread, and crackers, among other snacks.
We usually snacked on peanut butter and bread or crackers, granola bars, or fresh fruit.
As with making your own breakfast, packing your own snacks will be more affordable than buying some at a cafe.
3. Look up vegetable/fruit markets
We were pleasantly surprised at how many vegetable/fruit markets we encountered. Picture an indoor farmers’ market, where you find many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables on display, and this is what we mean when we say vegetable/fruit market.
While you can find vegetables and fruits at the grocery stores as well, there might be towns where getting to a vegetable/fruit market is easier (or closer) than getting to a grocery store, so it’s a good idea to look them up. It is also possible that you might find a greater variety and/or fresher produce at these markets.
In addition, we thought it was an interesting cultural experience, since we don’t have these types of stores where we live.
4. Common vegan lunches/dinners on the Camino are veggie paella, cheeseless pizza, and pasta with tomato sauce
Paellas are a rice dish that usually have seafood and/or other meats. However, you can find vegetable paellas along the Camino. These are just basically a rice dish with vegetables. We had veggie paellas several times and they were a good meal option for us.
Pasta is also common along the Camino, and was many times part of the meal options provided in a pilgrims’ meal. Pasta with tomato sauce might already be on the menu, in which case you can just order that. If they offer a non-vegan pasta dish, you can ask them if they can cook the pasta and replace whatever sauce they had with a simple tomato sauce. You can even try ordering the pasta plain, with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. Remember to ask that no cheese be added to it!
Pizza is another meal that can be found on the Way. We even ate at a pizza place that offered a pizza pilgrims’ menu! You can ask if the pizza can be made without cheese. You would end up with the crust, tomato sauce, and veggie toppings, and this is a delicious alternative meal.
Each cafe will differ regarding whether and to what degree they can accommodate you. For example, a cafe might be offering pre-prepared pizza, which means they can’t offer you a cheeseless option. So, ask kindly, with the hope of being accommodated, but be prepared for your request to be denied at times. In those cases, having snacks with you will be helpful.
5. Consider modifying the pilgrims’ menu, but be aware of what the consequences will be
Vegan pilgrims have suggested asking a cafe or albergue to modify the pilgrims’ menu for you. For example, if a pilgrims’ menu consists of one vegetable dish or salad, one meat dish, and one dessert, vegan pilgrims have suggested asking whether you can get two vegetable dishes or salads, to replace the one meat dish.
You might also be able to ask if there are any grilled vegetables or baked potatoes that you could be able to order to replace the meat dish.
While this seems to have worked well for some pilgrims, it hasn’t been the case for others. For example, pilgrims have reported ending up with two small-sized dishes, or having non-vegan items be removed but not replaced (hence ending up with a smaller, less filling meal). In addition, it’s been reported that you might end up having to pay more.
6. Side dishes can make an excellent meal
When the pilgrims’ menu doesn’t work out, take a look at what side dishes are being offered. You can often put together several vegan side dishes and end up with a filling meal.
For example, one cafe we went to had sauteed mushrooms as a side. Ordering these sauteed mushrooms with a side salad, and eating this with fresh bread and olive oil made for a great meal. The sauteed mushrooms we had were one of our favorite cafe meals on the Camino.
Fries are offered pretty much everywhere, so a meal can be made out of any veggie/salad and fries. Fresh bread and olive oil are also served pretty much everywhere and can be a good, filling option.
7. Be careful with salads and “vegetarian” options!
Some salads and “vegetarian” options have tuna. Make sure you check the ingredients, which are usually listed on the menu, or check with the server. You can let them know you don’t eat meat, dairy, or cheese. Our post on Spanish words/phrases includes food-related words and phrases to indicate that you are vegan.
8. Grocery store dinners can be delicious, healthy, and affordable
When pilgrims’ menus don’t work out for you, consider going to the grocery store. Grocery stores sometimes have hot food bars, where you can order any amount of the offered foods. But, grocery stores can also have canned foods, such as canned beans, and salads.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are available as well, and you can buy some vegetables and bread to make easy sandwiches such as a tomato and lettuce sandwich, or an avocado sandwich.
One of our favorite dinners was bread, hummus, and a packaged salad. We were able to find multiple varieties of hummus, and different types of salads, so that we could vary our meals every once in a while.
In addition to fresh foods, grocery stores have packaged, microwaveable foods, which can be a good alternative on some days. For example, they might have rice dishes or pastas which you simply heat up in the microwave, or noodles or other foods that only require that you add hot water. These are another easy and affordable option.
When planning to rely on grocery stores, make sure you check the hours they are open each day, and whether they are open on Sundays.
9. Look up vegan restaurants along the Camino
Most vegans are likely familiar with Happy Cow. Here, you can indicate a specific town and you will be able to find a list of vegan restaurants in that town.
You can also check out the Vegetarian Way, which lists vegetarian and vegan restaurants along the Camino de Santiago.
You will likely only find vegan restaurants in the bigger towns. For smaller towns without vegan restaurants, the other tips provided in this list will prove to be helpful.
10. Look up ethnic restaurants
Some towns might not have restaurants that are branded as vegan, but they might have restaurants offering ethnic cuisines which often have vegan options. For example, we ate at a Chinese restaurant once, where we were able to get a dish of rice and vegetables.
Similar to vegan restaurants, you will most likely find ethnic cuisine in the bigger towns.
11. Consider taking a cab to towns where you know you can find vegan food
Finding a cab along the Camino is very easy. If you are at a town without a grocery store and without vegan food options, you can take a cab to one of the previous towns where you know you were able to get vegan food.
If you are interested in taking a cab, simply ask someone working at your albergue or at a cafe and they will help you find one.
While taking a cab to a neighboring town is easy and affordable, it might not feel like the best option. If you have snacks and breakfast foods, as suggested above, you might not need to rely on taxis, but we offer this option so that you know the possibility is there if needed.
12. Cook your own food
It is very easy to cook your own vegan meals from scratch. Simply buy some pasta, rice, or quinoa at the grocery store, cook it, and add some sauteed vegetables or salad, and you have a quick, delicious, and healthy meal.
In order to cook your own food, you will need to check whether your albergues have kitchens that you can use. Most albergues do, but some don’t, so you will have to check before you buy all your ingredients. Also, it’s been mentioned that while an albergue might have a kitchen available for you, it might be the case that there might not be pots/pans available to you, so this is something else that needs to be checked.
One option you can consider is staying at apartments. Apartments will have full kitchens, with the equipment you need, and if you share an apartment with several people, can be quite affordable.
We stayed in apartments a few times, and enjoyed being able to cook our own dinners.
As mentioned previously, cooking your food will be the most affordable option to eat vegan food on the Camino. Plus, you have the freedom to make whatever you want, instead of having to conform to a menu with limited options.
The downside is that you will need to check ahead of time if a kitchen will be available to you, and if it has pots/pans you can use.
13. Bring containers and utensils with you on your pilgrimage
If you plan on making any of your meals while walking the Camino, we recommend you bring the containers and utensils you will need. For example, having a small table knife will be useful if you plan on spreading peanut butter or hummus onto some bread. Having a spoon and a small bowl will be useful if you plan to eat oatmeal or cereal. There are many options for lightweight, small containers you can bring, and some are even collapsible, thus taking up less space in your backpack.
Keep in mind that at a minimum, you really only need one small, lightweight container per person, and the necessary utensils. Bringing these objects should not take up much extra space or add a lot of weight to your bag, but will make eating and making your food much easier.
In addition to a small container and utensils, we also brought one cloth napkin per person. We used these as napkins, or to wrap food (such as sandwiches) that we packed for the day.
14. Consider luggage transport services
If you need to bring more equipment (besides just a container and utensils) for your meals, look into luggage transport services along the Camino. For example, if you want to bring a small pot/pan in case an albergue doesn’t have any, or any other kitchen equipment that will be helpful to you, remember you don’t have to carry it all. Luggage transport services can take your bags from one albergue and deliver them to your next albergue.
Another benefit of using a luggage transport service is that it will allow you to stock up on certain food items when you are in bigger towns. In bigger towns, and in towns with grocery stores, you will be able to buy more quantities of your preferred foods (peanut butter, bread, rice/quinoa/pasta, nuts, etc.) and just pack them in your bags and have them transported to your next town, which might not have any grocery stores or vegan options.
Remember that if you are cooking for yourself, you will already be saving a lot of money from cooking instead of eating out all the time, so the cost savings can allow you to splurge on a luggage transport service when needed.
15. Bring some vegan essentials with you
Vegan pilgrims have recommended packing certain vegan essentials. These essentials will depend on each individual’s tastes, but suggestions include nutritional yeast, vegan parmesan, any seasonings of choice, and peanut butter powder, which has been recommended as a good alternative to regular peanut butter because it is much lighter.
Packing some of these essentials means you will be ready to improve any meal. For example, pasta and tomato sauce, as well as cheeseless pizza, can be greatly improved by adding some vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.
16. Plan your Camino route to accommodate your dietary needs
Another option to consider while being vegan on the Camino de Santiago is to plan your route so that you end up spending the night in places that have vegan restaurants, have access to grocery stores, and/or will allow you to cook your own meals, either by staying at an albergue with a kitchen or by staying at an apartment.
Ideally, you will determine your preference beforehand: will you prefer to cook your meals? Will you prefer to eat out as much as possible and avoid cooking? Once you have determined your preferences, you can plan a route that will allow you to follow through with your intentions.
Try as you might, it might not be possible to end up every single night at a location that allows you to follow through with your preferences. On these nights, you will have to plan ahead and come up with a backup plan.
One thing that helped us was creating a table where we listed all the towns and lodgings we would be staying in. We marked which towns had vegetarian restaurants and grocery stores, and indicated the amenities included in each of our lodgings. Because we knew where we would and would not have grocery stores, we were able to plan ahead and grab extra items when we knew there would not be a grocery store at our next location.
17. Plan for the plane, train, and/or bus ride
Remember that your Camino begins the moment you leave your house, so part of your pilgrimage includes getting to the Camino starting point. Be sure to think about your vegan needs here as well.
If you need to fly to your starting point, check with your airline. Some airlines will accommodate your dietary needs and will provide you with vegan meals. It’s a good idea to bring some snacks with you as well, just in case. For our flight to Spain, we packed a couple of apples, some rice crackers, peanut butter packets, and some pretzel bites.
If you need to take a train or bus, you will likely have to bring food with you. We had to take a six-hour train to Sarria, and packed hummus, bread, and salad to eat for lunch on the train. We did a grocery store run right before heading to the train station and grabbed the food items we needed.
Finally, don’t forget about dessert! We found the most amazing dark chocolate at grocery stores, for less than a Euro a bar. We made sure we always had a bar of dark chocolate with us, and recommend you do the same!
Being vegan on the Camino is possible, but will require some planning ahead. We hope these tips help you as you prepare for your pilgrimage, and empower you to walk with confidence that you will be able to meet your dietary needs while making your way to Santiago de Compostela.
As we were planning our Camino pilgrimage, we wanted to know what was the best way to book our accommodation ahead of time. We sought this information because we were traveling as a couple and wanted to make sure we could stay together every night while walking the Camino.
We are going to cover the best ways to make reservations on the Camino de Santiago as well as offer reasons why you may want to consider booking ahead. As a bonus, we include a sample email and phone script in Spanish which you can use for booking!
How do you reserve an albergue on the Camino de Santiago? The best way to reserve an albergue on the Camino de Santiago is by calling or emailing the albergue in advance. Reservations are only accepted at private albergues while municipal albergues are first-come first-serve. You can typically make a reservation one day in advance or several weeks in advance. Having some basic Spanish skills is helpful.
There are two main approaches to making reservations at private albergues on the Camino. Both are straightforward and simple to do.
To find the contact information for private albergues, check out the Wise Pilgrim app. This app offers the email addresses and phone numbers for most accommodations. It makes it easy for calling while walking the Camino. You can also grab an up-to-date Brierley guide (pick the guide for the route you are walking), and this book will give all of the contact numbers for accommodations. Another helpful place for information on albergues in each town is this pilgrim site.
One more recommendation for making reservations is www.booking.com. This does not include information for albergues, but it is a great service for booking hotels, pensions and apartments.
Booking Ahead while Walking the Camino (Usually a Day or Two in Advance)
If you are booking one or two days in advance while walking the Camino, you will want to have a cell phone that can make calls and/or access email while in Spain. We provide a simple phone call script later on that you can use. Or if you do not feel comfortable making the call yourself, you can ask the host at your current albergue to make the call for you. There are also many Spanish-speaking pilgrims (some who speak some English) who you could ask for help.
Remember that private albergues will offer beds in a dorm-style room (where you reserve one bed in the room for the night), while also offering private rooms (which typically have one or two beds where you reserve one room for the night). When you talk to them, you will want to let them know if you are reserving a bed or a room.
Sample Phone Script for Reserving a Bed Ahead of Time
For additional useful Spanish phrases on the Camino, check out our post here.
When making your reservation by phone, offer a later arrival time, so that you do not need to call again if you do not make it there by the specified time. If you do not arrive by your stated arrival time, you will need to call again to make sure they did not give your bed away.
If you have problems communicating in Spanish, try English (or your native language). Many albergue hosts have some basic English skills for things like making reservations.
Booking Well in Advance (Typically Before Leaving for Your Camino)
If you plan on making your reservations at private albergues before leaving for your Camino, the best way to book is by email. You will want to communicate similar information as the phone script. The advantage of email is that you can use our script for contacting the albergue host, and then when they reply you can use an online translator to understand their email.
Sample Email Script for Making Reservations on the Camino
Important: If your plans change and you no longer plan on honoring your reservation, call the albergue to cancel your reservation. Here is a simple script to use: “Hello, this is (name), I am calling to cancel my reservation for (tomorrow or date). Thank you.” “Hola, hable (name), estoy llamando para cancelar mi reservacion para (manana). Gracias.”
Please be kind to your fellow pilgrims. Imagine showing up to an albergue only to be turned away because they report being full (due to reservations), only to find out later that there were plenty of beds available because people did not honor their reservations. This is becoming a major problem on the Camino and is one of the most frequent frustrations reported by pilgrims. There have been reports of people who “got the last bed” only to find out that 2 people stayed the night in a room of 20 beds because pilgrims did not cancel their reservations!
We want to state it again, please cancel your reservation if you will not be arriving. This will show respect to the albergue hosts (and your fellow pilgrims) who are offering such hospitality to you.
Pilgrims have varying views on whether to reserve ahead or not while walking the Camino de Santiago. Those that want a more spontaneous, flexible pilgrimage tend not to make reservations. They view reservations as something that hinder their experience of the ancient pilgrimage. Meanwhile, other pilgrims who want the security of knowing where they are sleeping for the night (as well as avoid the “bed race”) tend to plan ahead and make reservations.
Do I need to make reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago? You do not need to make accommodation reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago. Many pilgrims choose to walk the Camino and sleep only at municipal albergues, which do not accept reservations. Private albergues, hotels, pensions and apartments do accept reservations and you may want to strongly consider booking ahead especially if you are walking in the busy months of June, July and August.
Here are several reasons why you may want to consider making reservations on the Camino.
Reserving Private Rooms on the Camino de Santiago
Many modern-day pilgrims will choose to stay in private rooms rather than in the dorm-style bunk bed rooms. There are many advantages to staying in private rooms, but we wanted to point out that the reservation process is a lot easier for private room accommodations.
If you are looking to book private rooms (either at private albergues, hotels, pensions, or apartments), you can simply go to www.booking.com and make all of your reservations ahead of time (or while you are on the Camino if rooms are still available). The website is a great resource as you will be able to see pictures of each accommodation as well as availability and amenities.
We used booking.com to make reservations for our Camino. It can take a little bit of time up front (because you will need to have a route planner and plan exactly how many kilometers you will walk each day, which can be difficult to gauge if you are not used to walking long distances), but we found the overall experience seamless and straightforward. You can most likely make all of your accommodations on this site, although you may need to book ahead depending on the time of year you plan on walking. We did have two private albergues that we had to email/call to make reservations, but it was very easy to do (especially with our script!).
We found the best two things about staying in private rooms was that it was about the same price per person as if we had stayed in a dorm-style bunk bed room, AND we each got a good night’s rest almost every night (which gave us the energy we needed to walk the Camino).
Should I make reservations when walking the Camino de Santiago?
Deciding to make reservations or not comes down to personal preference. If you want your Camino to be spontaneous, then you will most likely feel restricted by making reservations. If you enjoy planning most of the details of your trips, then making reservations can provide extra peace of mind.
There is a popular saying that goes “the Camino will provide” and this is certainly true when it comes to finding a place to stay. If the albergue is booked, an overflow area will be opened (most likely at a church or stadium). If there are no rooms in your town, someone will taxi you to a neighboring town for an open bed. There are countless stories of pilgrims being helped along the way to find available beds.
We wanted to mention one more time, that if you decide to make reservations ahead of time, and for any reason you cannot honor your reservation, please call or email the albergue to cancel so they can open up the bed for someone else.
One last note about reserving ahead of time. Some private albergues are beginning to ask for a small deposit to hold your bed or room. This is because of the many reservations that simply do not show.
Hopefully after reading this post, you are equipped with more information about making reservations for your upcoming Camino pilgrimage. Whether you decide to book ahead or not, we are confident that your Camino de Santiago will be an unforgettable experience!
When looking at your schedule for walking the Camino, you may be considering if it is possible to walk the Camino in the winter. We are planning on doing a second Camino walk in the next couple of years, and wanted to know what other pilgrims have experienced while walking the Camino in the colder months of December, January and February.
We researched as much as we could and wanted to share with you what we found.
Can you walk the Camino de Santiago in the Winter? The Camino de Santiago can be walked in the winter months of December, January and February. The winter temperatures are warm enough to complete the pilgrimage, although you should be checking the daily forecast for snowstorms and dense fog. You will want to avoid walking between December 24th and January 7th as most albergues and restaurants will be closed during this time.
The winter can be a good choice for those who want more solitude on the Camino, as the number of pilgrims is a small fraction of those who walk during the summer. The scenery is beautiful on the Camino in the winter, which can add to the pilgrim experience.
The winter is beginning to attract more pilgrims than in the past, and because of this, more albergues are choosing to remain open during the winter months. One advantage of a winter Camino is that these open albergues will have plenty of beds, so you will not encounter the infamous “bed race” that occurs in the summer months.
There are several things you will want to consider before walking the Camino de Santiago in the winter. We will cover what the weather will be like, which routes are best for the winter, lodging considerations, and what gear to bring. At the end of the post you will find tips on walking the Camino in the cold as well as an FAQ section.
Weather on the Camino in the Winter
For most wondering if the Camino is walkable in the winter, the weather is the first thing you are curious about. The winter presents challenges when it comes to walking conditions, so you will need to be more alert and take additional precautions.
Overall the winter weather on all of the routes of the Camino de Santiago is similar throughout the months of December, January and February. The temperatures are mild (for winter season), and most days will be wet while walking through Spain as the area gets a lot of precipitation. You can expect snow in the mountainous regions, as well as during nights when the temperatures dip below freezing.
How cold is it on the Camino in the winter? According to the NOAA, the average daily high temperature in the winter on the Camino is 54° Farenheit (12°C). The average low temperature on the Camino, typically at night, is 42°F (5°C). Most days will be in the 40s or 50s, while the night will be 30s or 40s. Most pilgrims report that the temperature rarely falls below freezing during the day.
With the lower nightly temperatures, you have a good chance of encountering snow while walking the Camino in the winter. You will have to watch out for the occasional blizzard when walking a winter Camino, so check the weather forecast every day to make sure it is safe. You can keep up-to-date with the forecast on your phone, or you can ask the person who checks you in to your albergue/hotel about what to expect the weather to be like for the next couple of days.
As we heard other pilgrims’ stories on walking the Camino in the winter, it became clear that dense fog can become a real challenge. The reason fog can become dangerous is that it greatly increases the chances of getting lost while walking. Because it is winter, getting lost while walking can quickly turn into a perilous situation, with the cold nightly temperatures and physical exertion of walking.
The risk of dense fog is another reason to check the daily weather forecast before heading out for the day.
With the risk of blizzard or dense fog (or ice in some instances), you will have to be prepared to wait out the storm until it is safe to walk again. This does not need to be a negative experience, as you will be able to get additional rest during the storm, socialize with fellow pilgrims staying at your albergue, and enjoy more alone time for reflection.
We covered the topics of snow and fog first so that you will be prepared to encounter this type of weather, but from most accounts of those who walk the Camino, they mainly encounter mild temperatures and rain while walking the Camino in the winter. Another very common report is that the weather tends to be windy.
The reason for the milder temperatures is because, during the winter, pilgrims choose to take portions of the Camino path that are designed to go around the mountainous regions. You will find yourself taking these paths often, which will reduce the likelihood of encountering snow or ice.
If you enjoy the snow, you can choose to take the traditional routes that go through the mountainous regions. However, many pilgrims agree that it is best to avoid the mountains whenever possible - partly due to the dangers of walking in the snow and risk of blizzard, but also because fewer albergues are open in the mountainous regions. Lastly, if you are planning on walking the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port, there is a section in the Pyrenees that is closed for the winter, which will force you to take another route (called the Valcarlos route). For more information on this part of the Camino Frances, check out this post.
How many hours of daylight are there on the Camino in the winter? In the months of December, January, and February, you can expect between 9 to 10 hours of daylight each day for walking, according to the NOAA. This is plenty of time to be able to walk your intended route for the day and arrive at your next albergue or hotel before dark.
One of the advantages of walking the Camino in the winter is that you can sleep in longer than you would have if walking it in the summer. This is due partly because the sun rises later in the day, but also to the fact that there is no “bed race”, which means you do not need to get up early to beat the other pilgrims. If you like sleeping in each morning, then the winter may be an excellent choice for you!
How many people walk the Camino in the winter?
According to the Pilgrim’s Office, the total number of pilgrims who walked the Camino during the 2018-2019 winter months of December, January, and February was 6,409 people. December is the most popular winter month for completing the Camino de Santiago. The ratio of men to women walking the Camino in the winter (64% Men and 36% Women) is higher than the ratio for those walking the Camino in the summer (51% Men and 49% Women).
You may be surprised to find out there is a growing number of people deciding to walk the Camino in the winter. In the past ten years, the number of pilgrims walking the Camino in the winter has steadily increased with each year. Many claim they choose to walk the Camino in the winter because it more closely resembles a pilgrimage. Many enjoy the extra physical challenge of walking in cold weather, and almost all of them cite the added peace and quiet as their favorite part of a winter Camino.
Before leaving to walk a winter Camino, many pilgrims say they expected to walk alone or see very few people when walking. However, when they embarked on their journey, most were surprised to find that they regularly met new pilgrims every night while walking. It was easy for them to join up with a group if needed for either camaraderie or as a safety precaution in case of bad weather.
Which Camino routes are best for walking in the winter?
The best (and most popular) Camino route for walking in the winter is the Camino Frances (French Route). Over half of the pilgrims who walk in the winter will choose this route. The Camino Frances offers a higher proportion of open albergues and hotels than the other routes in the winter. The Camino Frances is also marked very well, which reduces the risk of getting lost in the cold. Lastly, there are good alternate trails to avoid mountainous regions, so you will be able to walk all the way from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.
The second best route for walking a winter Camino is the Camino Portugues (Portuguese Route). The Portuguese Camino offers good infrastructure so you will find open albergues and restaurants. About 25% of pilgrims who walk in winter will choose to walk the Portuguese route. Because it winds along the coast beginning in Porto, Portugal and ending in Santiago de Compostela, the temperatures are more mild for winter walking. However, you can expect more rain on this route as well.
The remaining routes that pilgrims walk in the winter to Santiago de Compostela are the Camino Ingles, Camino del Norte, and Via de la Plata. All three of these routes will take more preparation and planning as they are not as popular as the Camino Frances and Camino Portugues routes.
We also came across a route called the Winter Way (Camino Invierno), which begins in Ponferrada, Spain and extends 263 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela, avoiding the high peaks of O Cebreiro on the way. We had difficulty finding stories of pilgrims who walked this route, or statistics on how many people choose this option, so it is difficult for us to recommend this route.
We recommend the Camino Frances or Camino Portugues for pilgrims who are looking to walk the Camino in the winter. If you are concerned about things being closed, then walk the section of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela (about 111km), because this is the most popular route year round and you will be sure things are open.
Are albergues open on the Camino in the winter?
This is a big concern for someone looking to walk from town to town, and you will want to know if there will be an open albergue for your next arrival.
More and more albergues are choosing to remain open in the winter, especially on the Camino Frances and Camino Portugues routes. Pilgrims who have walked in the past couple of years report being able to find open albergues and hotels along both of these routes for every night of their Camino.
While you will most likely be able to find open albergues, you will still want to check ahead to make sure. You can check on booking.com to see if accommodations are available for the dates you intend on walking. However, the best option to ensure that there is a bed for you in the next town, is to call a day ahead. If you do not speak Spanish well, you can ask your albergue innkeeper to do this for you. If you would like to do this yourself, learn some Spanish phrases before leaving, you can check out our post here.
The reason you want to call ahead during your Camino is because innkeepers can decide to close for a week or two for holiday without any advance notice.
Remember that if you have any concerns about being able to find a place to stay, you can always opt to take a taxi to a neighboring town to get a good night’s rest.
Another good option if you are concerned about albergues being open is to choose to stay at hotels instead.
One final recommendation about lodging in the winter is to avoid walking the Camino between the dates of December 24th and January 7th. Many of the businesses in Spain will be on holiday during this time, including albergues and restaurants. If you decide to walk during these dates, you will need to call ahead to make sure there will be somewhere for you to stay and eat.
Considering the holiday closures, try to time your winter Camino to start in November and finish up walking before December 24th. Or you could choose to start after January 7th and end in February.
What to Pack for Winter when Walking the Camino
Walking the Camino in the winter will require different clothing and gear than if you were walking it in the summer. In addition to the normal items that you will bring on your Camino pilgrimage (backpack, toiletries and water bottle), here are some additional considerations for what to bring in the winter.
Pilgrims who have walked the Camino in December, January or February agree that you will want to wear at least 3 layers of clothing to stay warm. This will insulate you from the colder temperatures while also giving you the flexibility to add or remove layers to keep up with your changing body temperature as you walk.
You can think of these layers as a base layer, middle layer and outer layer.
Consider a base layer that is made of merino wool or synthetic fabric. It will be important to have a base layer that can breathe a bit so that you do not have a buildup of moisture from sweat.
The most popular middle layer would be a fleece of some kind, preferably comfortable.
Your outer layer will be your jacket. Consider finding one that is wind-resistant.
In addition to these layers, you will want to bring a rain jacket. While we chose to walk the Camino with a lightweight poncho in the summer, we can see the value in investing in a better-quality rain jacket for the winter because of the frequent rain. Also, you will want to be fully protected from wet weather in the winter due to the colder temperatures.
We mentioned earlier that you will encounter a good deal of wind when walking the Camino in the winter. Men and women with long hair report getting tangles from the constant windiness. There are times that wind continues throughout the day because there are portions of the Camino that do not provide cover from the elements.
Because of the wind, you will want to bring a hair tie to keep your hair out of your face while walking. You will also want to cover your head and face, especially on cold days.
Here is a quick list of additional items to consider bringing for a winter Camino walk.
We usually recommend running shoes for walking the Camino, but in the winter we would recommend investing in a good pair of hiking boots. Make sure to break in your boots before walking the Camino to avoid injuries. To check out more ways to prepare physically for the Camino, check out our post here.
While you will be carrying additional gear for the winter, remember to keep your backpack’s weight to 10% of your body weight or less. This is especially important in the winter as a heavier backpack can lead to greater risk of injury.
What to Expect when Walking the Camino in the Winter
From reading many pilgrims’ experiences in the winter, we came across several themes. We compiled a quick list of things that these pilgrims learned from their winter pilgrimage.
To wrap up this post, we wanted to share a couple of FAQs for walking the Camino in the winter.
Is walking the Camino in the winter dangerous? Thousands of pilgrims safely walk the Camino de Santiago each winter. Despite being safe, you will want to take precautions so you do not get lost. Check the weather outlook for the day before you start to walk to see if snow or fog is in the forecast. Dressing in layers will help combat days when the temperature is low.
You will have opportunities to join up with a group of pilgrims to feel more safe. This way you have people around you which can help in the case of an emergency or if you lose your way. Many times you will be close to a highway, which is helpful in an emergency.
In Spain, the emergency contact number is 112. Put this number in your phone before leaving so you have it quickly available.
Will a winter Camino pilgrimage take longer? When walking the Camino in the winter, you may come across bad weather (ice, blizzard or dense fog) that will prevent you from walking until the storm has passed. You may also have days where you walk through snow, which can slow down your overall pace. It is prudent to plan for extra days to complete your Camino in the winter due to the possibility of waiting out a storm or walking in snow.
Is it hard to find your way on the Camino in the winter? The Camino is well marked with a series of yellow arrows, signs and statues pointing you in the direction to Santiago de Compostela. However, in the winter, you may encounter days with snow or dense fog which will cover up the waymarkers. Because of this, you will want to have a reliable map (either physical or on your phone). Having GPS on your phone is also helpful as you will better be able to tell if you have taken a wrong turn.
The good news is that there are many towns and villages along the Camino, so if you feel like you took a wrong turn, you can ask for directions from the locals.
After looking into walking the Camino in the winter, we feel this is an excellent way to experience the Camino de Santiago. The amount of solitude and reflection can be a powerful experience, especially in the crowd-free winter months. Some people choose to never go in the summer again because of the transcending winter experience!