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Prepare everything yo would need. We help you with some tips.

Which way should I chose?

The real way is the one that starts at your home. Due to modern life it is complicated to do it this way, so there are many established routes that you can follow.

Before starting you should decide which way you want to follow. The yellow arrow will indicate the route that you should follow to get to Santiago de Compostela.

These are the different ways:

For those people that are going to do the way for the first time we recommend you do the French Way because is the one with more accommodation, the better signposted, the one with the easiest route, and the one with more monuments history and culture. You will feel really safe and protected.

Once you have concluded this way you are ready to do any of the other ways, you will enjoy it more. It is not compulsory do the French Way the first time you are doing a way but we deeply think that is the best option. When it comes to choose the way you should take into account the amount of money that you are willing to spend; if you are doing the French Way you can stay at public hostels from the beginning till the end, but if you do any of the other Ways it is probably that you need to book a private accommodation.

You also have to take into account how you are doing the Way (walking, by bike, horseback); for example the French Way is perfect walking way, Vía de la Plata is perfect to do it horseback and the Costal Way and the Primitive Way are perfect for cyclists.

Where should I start?

As we mentioned, pilgrimage used to begin at home, so each person would walk from his home to Santiago de Compostela. But currently people use the established places to start their way, these places could be Roncesvalles, el Puerto de Somport, Oviedo or el Puente de Santiago.

The first thing that you have to take into account to decide the starting point is the amount of days that will take you arrive to Santiago. You should first see the stages and then choose the starting point. If you decide to do the French Way:

Number of days

Starting point

5

Sarria

6

O Cebreiro

7

Vega de Valcarce

8

Villafranca del Bierzo

9

Ponferrada

11

Astorga

13

León

20

Burgos

25

Logroño

28

Puente de la Reina

29

Pamplona

32

Roncesvalles

Get to know all the different places where you can start your way.

According to medieval tradition, the way used to start at home and after reaching Santiago the way back home was also done walking because there weren’t any kind of public or private transport.

If you want to start the way at your home you should know that there are different variations of the way that get unified with other main ways:

Camino de Madrid: It starts in Spain’s capital city and goes through the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain pass, Segovia, Valladolid and León. In Sahagún this Way and The French Way get unified.

Camino Aragonés: It unifies the Hispano-French boundaries of Somport and Puente de la Reina where it goes together with The French Way.

Camino Primitivo: It is the original way, done for the first time by Alfonso II the Chaste in the 9 century to visit St. James’ grave. It starts in Oviedo and goes to Melide and then it gets unified with the French Way.

Camino del Salvador: Also known as San Salvador Way, it links León and Oviedo, historically pilgrims leave the Way to go to Oviedo to visit the Catedral de San Salvador cathedral. Then they continued through The Primitive Way.

Camino de la Lana: It starts in Alicante and goes through Castilla La Mancha to reach Burgos where it gets unified with The French Way. It is not a famous way and it has Neolithic origins because of the importance of the wool trade.

Camino del Levante: It starts in Valencia and goes through five communities before entering in Galicia. It links the main Peninsula seas. In Zamora this way and Vía de la Plata get unified.

Camino Vasco del Interior: It was really important in Roman ages because it was the entrance to the Peninsula centre from Irún. This way starts in Irún and it gets unified with The French Way in Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja).

Camino de la Montaña: Also known as Viejo Camino (Old Way). It starts in Bilbao and it gets unified with The French Way in Villafranca.

Camino de le Puy: Also known as La vía Podiensis. It starts in Le Puy, in Velay and it goes to Roncesvalles mountain pass where it gets unified with The French Way.

Camino Portugués por la costa: It starts in Oporto and goes to Padrón along the coastline. In Padrón it gets unified with The Portuguese Way.

Camino de Invierno: It is the way used by many pilgrims to enter in Galicia in winter to avoid crossing the snowed mountains. It starts in Ponferrada and goes to Santiago going through the four Galician provinces; following the steps of the Sil River.

Ruta del Mar de Arosa el Río Ulla: This is a river-sea route that commemorates the arrival to Galicia by sea of St James’ mortal remains. Once you arrive at Pontecesures you start walk through The Portuguese Way to finally arrive at Santiago.

Camino Beztanés: It starts in Bayona (France) and concludes in Pamplona where it gets unified with The French Way. 109 kilometres (67.7 miles) full of different stories. This was a useful way in the middle ages for pilgrims and also for monarchs and armies. This is why the Asociación de Amigos del Camino association wanted to rebuild it.

Other possibilities are: Camino de Bayona, Camino del Ebro, Camino del Sureste, Camino Sanabrés, Camino de Cádiz, Camino Mozárabe, Camino Catalán por San Juan de la Peña, Camino Catalán por Zaragoza.

How to get to the starting point

The real way is the one that starts at your own home but most times pilgrims decide to start in any of the established starting points. To analyse which is the best way to get to the starting point you can visit our page How to get there, where you can find how to get to the starting point in many different ways.

Is it necessary to plan the route? How I do it?

We recommend you to plan the route and the stages before leaving home, but not totally planned because you can find many different problems and obstacles along the way.

You should plan the stages and then take into account all the unforeseen things that could happen.

The French Way is easier and better prepared than other ways. The villages are very close, there are lots of accommodation for pilgrims, and restaurants.

HOW TO PLANIFY ROUTES?

Once you have chosen the starting point you should know that there are some established stages, the ones that most people do but they are not compulsory. You should design your stages according to you and your capacities. Most people do 20 kilometres per stage but if you are a young person or if you have a good physical condition you can walk around 30 or 35 kilometres per day. Moreover, you should take into account that you need a free day per week to rest and recover.

If you are older than 55 years old we recommend you do stages of 10 or 15 kilometres per day. If you have any disease, we recommend to take it into account

If you are doing the way with little children of less than 12 years old you shouldn’t walk for more than 15 kilometres. On the other hand, we recommend you combine long stages with short stages. You should know that when a child or an old person is doing the way they have many limitations, we don’t have to be blind to arrive to any certain place. If they became weak they could suffer many consequences such as tiredness and lack of motivation.

Is it better an organized route or a free route?

It will depend on your preferences and also on your budget. If you are an adventurous person you won’t have any problem to do it alone, planning where to stay each night and visiting all the places and monuments that you want. You have to take into account that there is not the same amount of accommodation in all the ways and in many cases you should go to other villages to find accommodation.

Nevertheless, if you want to optimize time you can plan the visits and also book the accommodation. We plan your way according to your preferences.

Walking, by bike, or horseback

The Ways are interesting for walkers and cyclists. You could decide depending on what you like and on the time that you have to do it. To walk the entire Camino you need more or less a month, and to do it by bike you need more or less 12 days.

There are advantages and disadvantages in both cases. For example if you go walking you would be freer to enter in restaurants, you wouldn’t have to be worried for anything and you wouldn’t need any technical service along the way. On the other hand, if you decide to go by bike you can move faster but you should find a place to leave it while you are eating or sleeping.

Camino de Santiago horseback is the one that could bring you more problems. There are many problems such as finding food for the animal, find where to leave it at night and also find different stages and routes to avoid entering in the cities. Moreover we have to take into account the fact of going one by one on the road and the fact that the rider should be fit.

Nevertheless, there are lots of companies that are in charge of solving of this problems and would make your way as easy as possible. You just have to enjoy it.

For more information click Ways of doing it.

Signposting and dangerous points of the road

All the ways have signposts. This depends on the community or province but they all have enough signposts. You can find 4 different types of signposts.

Yellow arrows: This is the most common one. You can find them on trees, houses, asphalt or stones. It has its origins on the 70’s. Father Elias Valiña started to sign with this arrow all The French Way.

Yellow scallop shell on a blue background: it is the second most used signpost after the yellow arrow. The scallop shell is the most used sign and it represents the Way as a European Cultural Itinerary.

Bronze scallop shells: It is not as usual as the yellow scallop shell but you will see it many times along the way.

Traffic signs and information tables: this kind of signposting would be different in each community or province but is perfect to get to Santiago.

Once you enter in Galicia you will find stone blocks buried in the ground that indicate the distance to Santiago de Compostela and which way you should follow. It is typical from Galicia and once you enter in Galicia you would find one every 500 metres. You can also see little piles of rocks that indicate the way.

If you get lost don’t panic! There are lots of signs with the name of the villages and the nearest villages. You can also ask inhabitants where to go or other pilgrims or also call us, we will help you.

You have to be very careful on the road stages. You should walk on the left side of the road to see the cars that are coming next to you. Another thing that you have to take into account is that when you are walking through a road you have to be very visible especially on rainy days and at night.

The Portuguese Way is the one with more road stages and the French Way the one that has less road stages.

You can visit our Signposting section to get more information.

Is it better to do it alone or accompanied by someone?

Veteran pilgrims recommend doing the way alone. One of the main objectives of doing the way is finding yourself. If you travel alone you appreciate more all the little things that you would find along the way.

If you travel alone you would find other people that is travelling in the same conditions. It is not important travelling with a group of people, you would meet lots and lots of people every day. You will never be alone.

Another positive thing of doing the way alone is that you would have priority because according to tradition weak people need help.

You can also be accompanied during the way, it is a personal decision and both options are great. For more information you can visit our Ways of doing the Way section.

Budget

If you want to do the Way as a typical medieval pilgrim you can do it for a few amount of money but on the other hand you can do it on a luxury way.

A normal pilgrim would need approximately 30 euros per day for:

  • Public accommodation: 6-8 euros per night
  • Breakfast: 3 euros and includes a coffee and pastries
  • Lunch: 8-10 euros pilgrim’s menu
  • Dinner: 8-10 euros pilgrim’s dinner.

You also need 8 or 10 euros per day for any unexpected things such as medicines, sticking plasters, snacks, water or even for a beer at the end of a stage, the ticket for monuments and other things that you could need during a day.

If the mentioned quantity for food is expensive you can buy food at the supermarket with a group. You can find many supermarkets along the way.

But how much money I am going to spend preparing the way?

  • Buying the material: If you like trekking or cycling you probably already have most part of the materials. If you don’t have it you should buy it and consider it as an investment. If you decide to do more than just one way, the second time you will have all the materials, the boots and the backpack last ages. You have to take into account that shoes are the most expensive thing that you need. You need a good pair of shoes because you are going to use it for many hours and days.
  • The other things that you may need are the backpack, sleeping bag and, of course, appropriate clothes. How to get to the starting point and from Santiago to your home? There are two important things that you should take into account: the distance between your home and the starting point. The ticket’s price could also vary depending on when you take it.

If you have not a reduced budget you can find along the way a great variety of establishments to eat, hotels and physiotherapists.

Should I take cash or there will be any cash dispenser?

Most part of the villages has cash dispensers of different banks. Moreover, you can pay with your credit card in most part of the establishments. Nevertheless, we recommend you take with you a little amount of money for any contingences.

Where to stay

The most important Caminos have different types of accommodation, but some pilgrims decide to take with them a tent and stay the night in a calm place along the route. The main kind of accommodation are:

  • Public hostels
  • Private hostels
  • Boarding houses
  • Hotels
  • Holiday cottages
  • Country houses
  • State-owned hotels.

Along the way you can find a lot of public and private hostels; the main differences between them are:

Public hostels: Could also be called municipal or parochial hostels. Most of them are staffed by public officials or priests. Most of them do not have a fixed price, you just have to pay the amount of money that you think that they deserve for the service. Due to people’s bad practices some of this establishments had to set a minimum price per night, and depending on the autonomous community prices are different and they go from 6 to 8 euros. You can’t book a room so you have to take it into account that there would be a lot a people in the busiest months. It is also important know that pilgrims that go by walking have preference because they can’t move to other cities and villages as fast the as cyclists.

Private hostels: They have a fixed price that the establishment set. It goes from 10 to 16 euros per night. This kind of hostels offer the possibility of deciding the kind of bedroom in which you want to stay. They also offer menus. In this kind of establishment you can book a room.

Along the busiest ways you can find hostels in every single village. This make you easy to find where to stay the night. On the other hand, it is important to mention that Vía de la Plata is the one that offers less amount of accommodation, but there are public buildings where you can stay the night.

There are lots of people that book a room at a hotel to be sure that they would have where to sleep at the end of every stage.

Which is the best season to do it?

You can do the Camino whenever you like. All seasons have beautiful things, but the best seasons to do it are spring and autumn; April, May, June, September and October. In these months days are longer, climate is softer and there are less pilgrims than is summer.

75% of the pilgrims get to Santiago in July and August, this means that the routes are very crowed, especially the French Way. The fact of being overcrowded means that sometimes there aren’t enough public accommodation for everyone and pilgrims have to book a private accommodation.

Nevertheless, we recommend you do the Northern Way in summer, because climate will be perfect, hostels are not so crowed and nature is beautiful in summer. Vía de la Plata when it goes through Cáceres and Salamanca is too hot, so it is better to do it in spring.

To sum up, spring and autumn are the best seasons to do any of the ways.

St. James’s way with pets. Is it a good idea?

Before starting your way you have to take into account all the things that could happen along the way. There are some problems such as accommodation because pets are not allowed everywhere. All you have to do is phone the places where you want to stay to ask if pets are allowed.

For more information you can visit our Ways of Doing the Camino section, where you can find everything that you should know before starting this incredible adventure with your pet.  

Do I need to train before starting?

The way is usually hard so we recommend you to be fit. There are lots of pilgrims that start without being prepared.

It is important to train at home, starting three weeks before the beginning, you should walk some hours with the backpack as if you were in the Camino. It would be perfect if you start the training sessions three months before starting. If you start training three months before you should start walking a little bit per day, then you should increase the distance and then you conclude by walking with a heavy backpack.

Also cyclist should train because it is not the same pedalling with the pannier and without it. So they should train with the panniers.

If you are pedalling with a group you should also train with the group or alone.

Cyclist should also know how to put a patch if the wheels get punctured, how to adjust the brakes and also how to do the general servicing of their bikes. They should know more or less where there are stores to repair their bikes along the way. For more information you can visit or Services section of each stage to see where these places are located for any kind of emergency.

If you want to go horseback, you should be a good rider or have a previous experience. It could seems easy but if you are not trained enough you will get hurt. If you are not a rider and you want to do the way horseback we recommend you to take horse riding lessons starting six months before the beginning.

Is it possible to do it step by step, not all the way in just one time?

As we said walk the Camino is a hard experience and you need to be prepared. If you are not a fit a person, if you have any kind of disease or even if you don’t have time to do the entire way in one single time we have an option for you!

You can walk the Camino for many reasons, but all pilgrims have common things. The most important thing is taking as much time as you need. You can do the way in different months or even years, or just do some of the stages, you can do the way whatever you want.

If you don’t know which is the better option for you we will help you.

Pilgrim’s card or passport (credencial): What is it? Where to get it. Where to get the stamps.

The pilgrim’s card or passport is like pilgrim’s identity card. It is a document that goes with you all along the way to verify that you have done the way. You have to ask for it at the beginning of your way, at the pilgrim’s offices, the town hall or even in public hostels at the starting points.

It is an official document and the only document to get Compostela at the end. It is a fold card with lots of pages and with empty spaces to get the hostel’s stamps or even from monuments or different establishments. You have to get two stamps per day minimum.

At the pilgrim’s office in Santiago they will verify all the dates and also that you have done at least 100 kilometres walking or horseback or 200 kilometres by bike. If you lose your card you won’t get Compostela.

Compostela: What is it? Where to get it?

Compostela is a document that indicates that you have done the entire way or at least the last 100 kilometres or 200 kilometres by bike. You have to give the credencial to the church authorities and they will ask you about the reasons to do the Camino, to obtain Compostela you should have done the way for religious or spiritual reasons or just to find yourself.

You can get it at the Oficina del Peregrino office (Rúa do Vilar, 1. Phone number +34 981 568 846) there you can also get the Certificado del Peregrino certificate, you should ask for it if you did the Camino for other different reasons.

There is also another document called In Memoriam that is for people that died along the way.

For further information you can visit our Compostela section.

When can I see Botafumeiro?

Botafumeiro is one of the cathedral’s symbol. It is so heavy, approximately 50 kilograms (110 pounds), that are needed 8 men to move it.

It is used just in a few masses such as:

  • 6th of January (Epiphany)
  • Easter Sunday
  • Feast of Ascension
  • Battle of Clavijo’s anniversary
  • Pentecost
  • St. James’ day (25th of July)
  • Assumption of Mary (15th of August)
  • All Saints’ Day (1st of November)
  • Feast of Christ the King (first Advent Sunday)
  • Immaculate Conception Day (8th of December)
  • Christmas (25th of December)
  • 30th of December that was when St. James’ mortal remains were moved.

You can also see it every Friday at 7.30 pm (except on Good Friday). For further information you can visit our Botafumeiro section.

If the date of your arrival is not one of the mentioned dates you can ask them to move it but you have to pay for it.

For more info: botafumeiro@catedraldesantiago.es

The backpack

First of all you have to take into account that you do the way in a humble way, with no luxuries until you arrive at Santiago. Moreover, you have to take the backpack with you all the time and if it is too heavy it would be uncomfortable and could hurt you. So you should take with you just the essential things.

What are the essentials?

  • Boots: It is the most important thing. They must be comfortable and they can’t be new. If it doesn’t rains you can also use trainers once a week. Your boots should cover the ankles to avoid injuries. They should also be breathable and waterproof shoes.
  • Light backpack: It must be waterproof and with strips to adjust it to your body.
  • Comfortable clothes: You should take with you just a few clothes. The type and amount of clothes would depend on the season. In summer you just need two trousers: a short to walk and a long one in case of having bad weather; three polyester t-shirts: two long-sleeved and one short-sleeved; you can also take a jumper with you. In winter you should take two long thermal trousers; two long-sleeved thermal t-shirts and a normal long-sleeved t-shirt. You should also take a windbreak. You should take more or less three pairs of polyester socks. You have to take into account that most part of the hostels have a laundry.
  • Cap/hat: You need it to be protected from the sun. We also recommend you wear sunglasses. In winter it is important to wear a hat and a tube scarf.
  • Raincoat: We recommend you take one of this, preferably if it is breathable. It would be perfect if it covers also the backpack.
  • Towel: It is better if you take a microfiber towel made with polyester and nylon, this kind of towel dries better.
  • Flip-flops: We recommend you use it on the shower. You can also use them sometimes to walk if you want to let your feet rest.
  • Comfortable shoes: Any kind of shoes that are comfortable to you.
  • Utility knife: It is perfect to make a staff or eat fruit.
  • Torch: It is better if you take a head torch, but a normal torch is perfect. You have to take into account that it shouldn’t be too heavy.
  • Water bottle: with a litre capacity. You can find lots of springs along the way, but be careful because there are many of them with non-potable water.
  • Sleeping bag: We recommend you take a light one unless you are going to sleep in a tent. Some hostels give disposable sheets.
  • Staff: You can take one or two trekking sticks, they will help you to walk better.
  • Clothes-peg: To hang your clothes and dry it.
  • Toilet bag: With all the necessary things to your own cleanliness such as toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, gel, toilet paper, earplugs, and some washing machine tablets and razor blade if needed.
  • Your own papers and documentation: National Identity Card, passport, health-insurance card, credit card and pilgrim’s card or passport (credencial).

You can also take with you a camera and your smartphone with all the chargers. You can also take a pen and a notebook.

The backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10 or 12 per cent of your weigh or more than ten kilograms.

You can put all the heavy things at the bottom of the backpack and all the things that you could need while walking at the top.

Should I take a first-aid kit?

There are pharmacies, supermarkets, or even a doctor in most of the villages but it is a great idea to take with you some important things that you could need such as: gauzes, bandages, sticking plasters, anti-inflammatory pills, aspirins, dressing for blisters and skin injuries, alcohol, antiseptic or disinfectant liquid, sunscreen, Vaseline, moisturizers, antihistamine pills (if needed) and also a pair of small scissors.

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