Getting Ready for the Camino
The Camino de Santiago is an adventure that starts before you even leave your home. First you have to choose which route, which section on that route, when to go, self guided or guided – many questions to be answered. Here is some useful information and tips for the Camino.
Where do I start the Camino? Which route do I choose?
Before you choose your starting point, you need to decide how many days you want to walk for, your budget, the season and the area you would like to walk through. This will help you choose the Camino that is best suited for you and decide on the stages depending on your time availability. We currently offer the following Camino Packages in Northern Spain:
Sarria – Santiago de Compostela, 8 Days
Saint Jean Pied de Port – Pamplona, 6 Days (Coming January 2019)
San Sebastian – Bilbao, 8 Days
Santander – San Vicente de la Barquera, 4 Days
Santander – Ribadesella, 8 Days
Northern Way & Picos de Europa, 8 Days
Finisterre Way – Santiago de Compostela – Finisterre, 8 Days
English Way – Ferrol – Santiago de Compostela, 8 Days
Lebaniego Way – San Vicente de la Barquera – Potes, 6 Days
In our packages section, you will find information about the different packages. Our Camino Specialists will give you advice on the best Camino routes and times of the year to suit you.
Self Guided vs Guided on the Camino?
Both options take the hassle away from planning a Camino trip, so what is the difference between a self guided and guided?
Self Guided Trip
- A self guided trip means that you can choose a start date that suits you and it can be customised to your requirements for example extend your trip by one night, exclude airport transfer etc.
- There is no guide and you are not part of a group but you will receive a detailed Camino Information Pack (detailing the history of the Camino, practical tips such as what to pack, what walking shoes are recommended and lots more) and a Detailed Itinerary Pack (containing route maps, topography maps, historical information about the towns/villages along the route and walking notes so you know where you are going each day).
- Please note the Camino is regarded as the best signposted, long distance trail in the World. Furthermore we are available 24 hours a day by telephone for any assistance you may need.
- We recommend self guided trips for people who want more independence or for those who like the flexibility of being able to choose a start and finish date that suits them.
- A group trip is on a set date of the year and includes a bilingual tour guide.
- The benefits of this option is that it eliminates concerns about getting lost and is ideal for solo travellers who do not want to walk on their own. Having said that, we would say that walking the Camino (particularly the final 100km of the French Way), you will never be alone as it is very popular. Last year 180,000 people from all over the world walked this route, representing 60% of the entire number of pilgrims who walked a Camino in 2017.
- You can also still walk at your own pace and alone if you wish but you have the added safety of knowing your guide and other group members are close by there for you.
- We offer one guided trip on the Last 100km of the French Way (8 Days) on the 21st – 28th of September 2019.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Camino:
What is the Pilgrim’s Passport?
The Pilgrim’s Passport (or Credencial del Peregrino in Spanish) originated in the Middle Ages and has two goals; you will be accredited as a pilgrim enabling access to pilgrims hotels (albergues). Secondly, stamp it along the way as proof that you have walked in order to receive your Compostela (certificate of completion) when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela. You can get your stamps at hotels, cafes, restaurants, churches, Correos post offices. Some of them have special stamps with the image of significant tourist attractions in that particular place, and the date. To receive the Compostela you need to: 1) walk a minimum of 100km and end in Santiago and 2) obtain at least 1 stamp each day and 2 stamps daily in the last 100km. This Pilgrim’s passport ends up being a treasure possession as it is a special remainder of all the places you stopped or stayed during your walk. If you go with a Company like us, this is provided to you.
Do I need to be fit to do the Camino?
The Camino involves both physical and mental effort, but anybody with some prior preparation and will, can do it. If you are not doing any exercise at the moment, we recommend walking 3 – 4 times a week or doing some other form of regular exercise before your Camino. Walk in the shoes you will be using on the Camino, on a mix of surfaces to properly prepare yourself (tarmac and trail) and both flat and hills/mountains. This is important to build up fitness, reduce the risk of shin splints, muscle cramps and to get used to your new footwear. Your training duration depends what distance you plan to walk. If you plan to walk 100km, 6-8 weeks pre-training is ideal. If you plan to walk for 30 days continuous, 4 – 6 months pre-training is recommended. Don’t forget to stretch before and after training; this will help you minimise cramps and muscle pain.
What footwear should I bring?
We recommend trail runners that are light, breathable, with extra grip for walking up and down hills. You can also wear hiking boots if you prefer but it is not absolutely necessary. Proper fitting footwear is very important to reduce the risk of injuries and blisters. Please note it is recommended to replace running shoes every 800km as the cushioning and support will be exhausted at that point. We also recommend either anti blister socks or breathable and padded socks. There is lots of debate out there about whether to use vaseline, some people love it, some not. We recommend this in conjunction with surgical spirits on your feet a couple of weeks pre the camino and during the camino at night – this helps to harden feet to reduce the risk of blisters. Also remember to take Compeed to treat blisters in case this happens.
What backpack should I bring?
The most important thing about your backpack is that it is resistant, properly fitted and has adjustable shoulder pads, shoulder straps and a hip belt. Wear the backpack close to your body. Learn how to use all the straps correctly. Hip belts are worn tight on the hips and not loose around your bum. Shoulder straps need to be pulled tight. This will keep the weight off your shoulders and adjust the load more evenly. Also you will need a rain cover for your backpack. Regarding the size, the typical bags are around 50 litres in volume. Please seek specialist advice on this when purchasing your bag. If you plan to carry your rucksack every day, your bag should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight. If you do not have such a rucksack and you do not want to buy one, you can take a normal suitcase as we will send it on daily for you. Remember to take a small day bag in order to carry basics: water, food, phone, money, suncream, detailed Itinerary pack.Should I bring walking poles?Whether to take them? Its a personal choice. Some people love them, some not. They can be very useful – they can help to reduce the impact on knees and ankles, reduce back strain, fatigue, they are helpful when climbing up and down steep hills, they provide grip and balance on slippery or muddy surfaces. However some people find them an annoyance as you don’t have free hands when walking meaning it takes a little longer to do tasks such as read maps and drink your water. If you do take them, we advise you walk with them for a few days before you decide if they are for you or not. If they are uncomfortable after a few days, then you might be better off without them.
When buying poles make sure you have 1) the correct poles for the terrain you plan to walk and 2) the correct length for your height. Foldable poles are very useful as they will fit in your backpack for travelling on airlines. If you will be flying with poles, check the luggage guidelines with your airline as you may need to check them in or you may be charged for bringing them.When should I go?
The Camino walking season is from April to mid October. July and August can be busy on the French Way but this is not the case on any other Camino routes.Any other questions?
If, after reading this, you still have questions about walking the Camino, please contact us and any of our Camino specialists will be more than happy to answer your questions.
The typical greeting for pilgrims on the Way, meaning Good Journey in English!