A large number of pilgrims walk through Galicia every year to receive the Compostela de Santiago, the official certificate of the Camino route. In 2018, the official pilgrimage office registered 327,342 pilgrims. More than 300,000 of them had traveled to Santiago de Compostela on foot. With these vast numbers we want to encourage sustainable travel as you journey the road to receive your Compostela de Santiago.
Sustainable travel: 6 hiking tips
When so many people are on the same hiking trail, it is important to think about sustainable tourism – we are all responsible for this planet, and while we want an unforgettable experience, we also want to “leave no trace” and be mindful of sustainably as much as possible.
Where can you best dispose of your waste? What about the tradition of pilgrims to burn their shoes or clothes at the end of the journey? With these hiking tips for sustainable travel you make a pilgrimage that is environmentally conscious, mindful and above all very satisfying.
1. Use your own water bottle
Do you already have a reusable water bottle? If not, you should think about purchasing one! Having your own water bottle is one of the simplest and most effective ways to use less plastic – whether you plan on walking to Santiago de Compostela or not.
Reusable water bottles are not only good for the environment (since you stop throwing away plastic bottles), but are also great for you (because you will probably drink more water)! What’s not to love?
Pilgrim or no pilgrim – make it a habit to always have the reusable bottle with you and refill it regularly. After a while this goes without saying and you can’t imagine how you could ever get through a day without this hydrating buddy. Along the Camino route you will regularly find fountains where you can fill your bottle.
2. Waste bags
The route of the Camino de Santiago sometimes runs for hours through the countryside, through the forest or through other nature reserves. These are great landscapes to walk through, but they are generally not rich in waste bins. It is obvious, of course, but throwing waste outside the waste bins is one hundred percent not done .
With a little bit of preparation, it’s very easy to keep the landscapes of Northern Spain clean. The best thing is, of course, not to purchase products at all with packaging that has to be thrown away. But the road to zero waste is an intensive process that is not feasible for everyone in the short term. A simple solution that is feasible for everyone: take your own bag every day to store waste until you come across a rubbish bin. No effort for you, and the Spanish nature will thank you!
3. Participate in the community
Perhaps the best thing about the Camino is the knowledge that you are sharing an – admittedly unique – experience with millions of others. All pilgrims are in this together and will run into trouble or have a bad day every now and then. You can get blisters along the way, get lost or suddenly feel immensely lonely. In those moments you can use the support and kindness of other pilgrims well.
Sustainable travel is not just about polluting the environment, but also about creating a welcoming and helpful culture on the road. Wish everyone who crosses your path a “Buen Camino”! And offer your help when another pilgrim looks nervous or lonely. During the hike to Santiago it sometimes feels as if all pilgrims belong to the same family. So don’t be afraid to contact others. You will be amazed at how strong the sense of community can be when you have an open attitude and engage in conversations with fellow pilgrims.
As a walker along the Camino Frances, you will not only enter a community of pilgrims, but also the local communities of France and Spain. Therefore, adapt to local customs and culture: after all, you are a guest here!
4. “I was here”
Scratching your name on a bench, tying a ribbon to a tree or leaving a photo of a loved one – it sounds harmless, but these practices disrupt the harmony of the Camino route. After all, what you like can be an eyesore for other pilgrims. In addition, it is difficult to say what effect pilgrims’ unnatural objects may have on the flora and fauna along the path. So don’t leave anything behind that doesn’t belong in nature.
Do you still have the urge to leave a personal mark on the pilgrimage route and do you want to travel sustainably at the same time? Then take a small stone or a little sand from your place of residence or start location on the route and leave it on your journey to the Compostela de Santiago.
5. Burn shoes?
Centuries ago it was a tradition for pilgrims – after receiving the Compostela de Santiago – to burn or leave their clothes and shoes at Cape Finisterre. A beautiful, symbolic way to end the Camino. From 2017, however, this is seen as a dangerous practice, which can result in environmental pollution and even forest fires. Those two consequences do not go well with sustainable travel.
Do you still want to visit this special place, which translates to “the end of the world”? Then create a personal, eco-friendly tradition to celebrate the completion of the Camino. For example, wash your feet in the sea (swimming in the sea is not recommended in many areas around Finisterre, due to dangerous currents), or come up with a personal victory dance!
6. Enjoy the environment
This won’t be difficult for hikers who like to travel sustainably, but we can’t stress it enough. Enjoy the special landscapes, the surprising encounters and the unique experiences that come your way before you reach the Compostela de Santiago.
Those who walk in a conscious way will get more satisfaction from the journey. For example, try to dwell on the view instead of taking a quick picture and walking on. Take the time to get to know other pilgrims. Open up to new smells, tastes and emotions – after all, the journey is a perfect opportunity for self-reflection!
You can be proud knowing that you achieved your Compostela de Santiago with sustainable travel in mind.
At Hillwalk Tours we think sustainable tourism is very important. That is why we are proud followers of the Leave No Trace principle. Has this blog inspired you to make a sustainable journey along the Camino de Santiago yourself? We are happy to help you put together an individual and sustainable Camino hiking trip. Read more about the route and the possibilities on our Camino Frances overview page .