There are three main considerations that most people factor when deciding what time of year is best to walk the Camino de Santiago: weather, crowdedness, and scheduling (typically around your vacation time).
With these considerations, what months are the best to walk the Camino de Santiago? The months of May, June, and September are best for walking the Camino with favorable weather and medium-sized crowds. For those who are socialites and enjoy hot weather, July and August are best with the heaviest traffic, while introverts who enjoy cooler weather will prefer October and November.
Overall, if you are considering walking during the Spring (March, April, May), these months have less traffic with beautiful flowers but are typically wet. The walking traffic increases as the temperatures get warmer. For a more social experience, the Summer months (June, July and August) are the busiest, but many hostels will be filling up so you will want to plan ahead, and the weather can get hot. Three months of the year (June, July and August) account for around half of the walking traffic on the Camino all year. The beginning of Fall offers some of the best weather with fall foliage and medium-sized crowds. Winter will be cold, with some hostels closed, but offers the most solitude for your pilgrimage.
The Spring months offer cool conditions for walking and are often wet and windy. March and April are equally wet, with slightly less rain in May. The average warm temperature during March is 59F, while the average low temperature at night is 42F. By May the average high is 66F, and average low is 49F. These may seem chilly at first, but with the amount of distance you cover in a day, you will most likely work up a sweat. With the weather warming up in Spring, most services will be operating and the spring flowers will be out. You will also see many birds while you walk.
The Summer weather will be the hottest with little rainfall. The average max temperature during the day hovers around 75F, while the average low temperature at night will be around 55F. Taking into consideration the high temperatures, you will want to start walking earlier in the morning to avoid the hot sun in the afternoon. We walked our Camino in July, and found the weather to be enjoyable. We were lucky that it did not rain for a stretch of 10 days while walking, and the days did not get too hot in the afternoon. The scenery was beautiful in the summer, with lush green forests and fields. Another benefit of walking in the summer is that the days are longer, giving you more time to walk, and enjoy nature. We enjoyed the additional sunlight that the summer offered as it gave us more time to reflect on our pilgrimage.
The Fall offers some of the best weather conditions of the year on the Camino. The temperatures will not be too hot (as in the summer), with maximum highs around 66F, and lows at night around 50F. The beauty of fall foliage will add some wonder to your walk. Wine will be in season as well. The later you get into Fall, the wetter the Camino becomes with October becoming quite wet, but usually with no snow.
The Winter will be cold with snow in the Pyrenees mountains. Other parts of the Camino will not have as much snow. Due to the weather, and fewer walkers, many hostels will be closed (but you will still be able to find ones available). Also, it will be more difficult to cover greater distances as you have fewer daylight hours. The average high temperature will be 53F, with the average low temperature of 40F.
How many people walk the Camino each year? Overall the Camino is gaining popularity with each passing year. The pilgrim office released the official numbers for how many people walked the Camino in 2018, with a total of 327,378 pilgrims. This number only includes those who actually received their Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, so the number of people on the Camino is most likely higher. This is almost double the amount of people who walked the Camino in 2011 (total of 183,378 and 2011 was not a Holy year). If the number of people walking the Camino continues to double every 7 years or so, then in 2025 there would be a total of 654,684 people walking the Camino.
How many people walk the Camino each month? To get an idea of how many people walk the Camino each month, here are the number of pilgrims who received their Compostela in 2018 by month, per the pilgrim office:
January - 1,628
February - 2,181
March - 11,056
April - 22,068
May - 40,665
June - 45,685
July - 50,868
August - 60,415
September - 47,006
October - 35,602
November - 7,651
December - 2,553
For us, it was fascinating to see these numbers from the pilgrim office. We walked in July 2018, and were surprised to see we were part of over 50,000 people earning their Compostelas. We felt the walking traffic on the Camino was steady and consistent while we made our pilgrimage, but we never felt that the road was too crowded.
There are opportunities for both social life and quiet time on the Camino no matter what month of the year you choose to walk. If you are looking for time alone, and find that you can only go during the summer, do not be discouraged by the large number of pilgrims walking during those months. We walked from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela during one of the busiest months statistically (July) and we found many opportunities (and space!) to peel away from the crowds to enjoy some solitude.
If you prefer a social Camino experience where you have the chance to meet many people from all over the world, the warmer months of April through October are when most people plan to walk the Camino. We found that the beauty of the Camino is that it offers plenty of time for socializing as well as ample time for reflection.
While the weather and crowds will be a consideration for some who walk the Camino, most pilgrims will choose their Camino calendar dates by when they get time off from work. For most people, the months of June through August tend to be when they take their vacation time from work, and this is reflected in the statistics of those who walk the Camino. If you have a more flexible schedule, the spring and fall months are a great option for completing your walk.
Another consideration for Catholic Camino walkers may be the desire to walk the Camino on a Holy Year. The next Holy Year (when the feast of St. James falls on a Sunday), will be 2021.
To recap, here is a snapshot of the main advantages and disadvantages of each season:
Fall (September, October, November)
Winter (December, January, February)
If you have decided to walk the Camino, or are planning your trip, we hope that you found these statistics and information useful for your pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Whether you plan to walk in the summer or winter, with the crowds or without, we want to be the first to wish you a Buen Camino!