The Camino de Santiago draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. Each are lured by their own unique reason; spirituality, camaraderie and fitness are just some of those reasons. But how can you actually prepare for the Camino de Santiago, what are the different route options and when is the best time to visit? Here is our beginner’s guide to the Camino de Santiago.
What To Bring On The Camino De Santiago
For the Camino de Santiago, you may opt to use hiking or walking shoes rather than hiking boots. Hiking boots will be useful if you’re doing mountain sections, however walking shoes usually suffice in the other areas.
Every day on the Camino de Santiago you’ll consume far more water than you expect, and each night you’ll fill up your water storage again. Having a useful water bladder, which fits nicely in your backpack, is a great idea as a tube brings water directly to your mouth. Some backup bottles are also a great idea.
Blisters can happen on the shortest and easiest of walks. It’s a near certainty that you’ll get a blister or two as you pound the pavement day after day. Blister plasters will provide you with relief from the constant rubbing of your shoes and socks against your skin.
You will worship your flip flops come evening time, when you’re relaxing with a glass of wine and some good food. Not to mention flip flops come in very useful if you’re staying in hostels along the way, as you may not want to be walking around there bare foot.
Bring every kind of sun protection that you can think of on the Camino de Santiago. Sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream are absolute musts as you’ll get sections along the Camino with very little shelter or shade.
In contrast, in the north of Spain you may get a bit of rain, especially in the higher ground. You’ll be praising your rain jacket when the rain hits as it’ll keep you and your equipment nice and dry.
First Aid Kit
No matter where you’re hiking, a first aid kit is a very important piece of kit. Even if nothing happens to you, you may come across someone who has tripped and has a nasty gash on their knee. You could be their saviour.
Pilgrim Passport (Credencial)
Don’t forget your pilgrim’s passport! You can get this in advance and then get stamps along the way. It proves to the people in Santiago (when you’ve finished your hike) and will allow you to get your certificate.
The Camino De Santiago Routes
The Camino Francés is the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago. At almost 800km in total length, it’s a fantastic route, with lots of variety and culture to be experienced.
You will begin in France, cross the Pyrenees, enter Spain, and make your way to Santiago. However, the most popular section to walk is the last 110km from Sarria.
Beginning in Portugal, the Camino Portugués is the second most popular route. You will begin in Lisbon, pass through Porto and then cross the Portuguese-Spanish border before again, making your way to Santiago.
The most popular section to walk is also the last 100km starting in Tui, just inside the Spanish border. In more recent years, the Camino Portuguese Coastal Way has also grown in popularity and offers an alternative inland route from Porto to Santiago.
There are hundreds of Camino de Santiago routes just waiting to be explored, but if you’re a beginner, the above two may be the best to get a fully authentic Camino experience.
When To Walk The Camino
The Camino de Santiago is popular all year round. The best time to walk it is down to personal preference. In the summer months, the routes are busy and full of friendship and camaraderie. In the spring and autumn, the routes are quieter and you get more time to yourself. Very few people walk during winter, and very few accommodations are open. Therefore, for a beginner, winter probably isn’t the best option.
We hope that you enjoyed this Camino de Santiago 101: A Beginner’s Guide. If you are interesting in walking The Camino, check out our range of self-guided hiking tours.