Planning a Camino Hike
So you have decided that you want to walk to Santiago or perhaps another Camino walk? Maybe you have watched the movie ‘The Way’ or been inspired by TV shows about the camino, or perhaps read one of the many books on caminos.
In an ideal world, you would just throw on your backpack and hike towards Santiago de la Compostela, but of course a well planned camino will probably mean and better camino.
I have walked three caminos and many other long distance trails, so I hope I can offer some great advice for you in this post.
Welcome to AntHikes guide to planning a camino! Here is what I am going to cover
1. Which camino?
2. Should I walk alone?
5. Gear tips and what to take.
Which Camino should I hike?
So the vast majority of pligrims choose the most popular route, which is the Camino Frances that starts in France. Most camino TV and movie have been about this one. However, there are many more Caminos, starting from many places within Spain and beyond.
In fact your camino could start anywhere. In the old days many would start from their own home. These days pilgrimages tend to be shorter. Indeed, the most popular camino hike by far is just to do the last 100kms to get a compostela from Santiago cathedral. Many will start from Sarria which is just over 100kms from Santiago. Tui (which is on the Camino Portuguese is also a popular starting point too.
So it probably makes sense to start with the grand daddy of camino hikes, the Camino Frances, from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago.
Camino Frances / Way of St James, 780km, around 33 days
By far the most popular Camino, this trail generally starts in the French town of St Jean Pied de Port and continues 780km (or 500 miles) along northern Spain to Santiago. Most people complete the walk in 30 to 35 days.
Here are some facts to help you decide if it’s for you…
- Has by far the most infrastructure in terms of albergues, cafes, hotels and various other pilgrim services
- The CF is by far the most popular camino. You will have company, whether you like it or not
- Very easy to follow with great waymarking
- Many options for starting points e.g. Burgos, Pamplona, Leon, Sarria etc
This is the first Camino I walked and I really enjoyed it. I gave up the first time after having problems with me feet, but came back two years later and did the whole thing.
Camino Portuguese, 227km, around 12 days
The Portuguese Camino is becoming very popular these days and is often the choice for second time pilgrims.
- Has great infrastructure
- Easy to follow
- There are a number of alternative routes. The inland being the most popular, followed by the coastal
- You get to an even spend time in two countries
Most pilgrims start from Porto but many also start all the way down in Lisbon. The section from Lisbon until Porto has far less infrastructure and involves more road walking, hence why many skip this. That said, things are improving, with more albergues opening up along the way.
The Portugal camino is 141 miles or 227 kilometers.
Camino del Norte, 817km, around 35 days
The Northern Way starts around Irun on the very north east of Spain and continues for 817km before joining the Camino Frances. The Norte hugs the coast for quite a way, and is also considered one of the tougher routes, with much more elevation gain than many other caminos.
- Has good infrastructure
- Easy to follow generally, especially through towns
- Less pilgrims than the Portuguese and French but can be busy during summer.
The route passes through San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, and Oviedo and is around 825km long. The infrastructure is not as good as the Frances or the Portuguese, but it’s apparently improving year by year.
Via de la Plata (the Silver Way) 1000km, around 45 days
Like the Camino del Norte, the VDLP is a little more challenging than the French and Portuguese way. The route starts from Seville and continues northwards to Astorga, where it joins the Camino Frances. The Via de la Plata is around 1000km.
Many hikers actually step off the Via before the end and continue along the Camino Sanabres.
- Good Camino if you like more solo time
- Generally walked by pilgrims who have walked other Caminos before
- Less services and longer distances
Camino Primitivo, 321km, around 14 days
The trail starts at the cathedral of Oviedo and finishes at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The total distance of the Camino Primitivo 321km it can be completed in two weeks.
The Primitivo is becoming increasingly popular, particularly as an alternative route into Santiago. Less than 5% of the pilgrims who reach Santiago have come via this route
- The route is a little more rugged than other routes but is generally well marked
- The area of Spain that the Primitivo goes through is notoriously wet so make sure you have good wet weather gear!