You have made the decision to embark on one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world, you’ve booked your Camino de Santiago walking tour, you’ve read up on all the advice past pilgrims have to give about packing, and you’ve started training so your feet won’t be unpleasantly surprised when they’re suddenly walking miles and miles for days on end. However, do you actually know what to expect from the journey once you begin? Even the most seasoned of hikers have found that setting out on an expedition like this is nearly incomparable to anything else they’ve ever experienced, so having a little extra insight may be helpful as you get ready to start your travels.
Walking the Trail
Though there are many routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela, the one you will walk will already be designated by whichever Camino de Santiago walking tour you have chosen to be a part of. The hike is recommended for all ages, but pilgrims should be aware that there is some varying terrain as you walk through farmland, mountains, forests and coastal regions (all depending which path you’re on). Some travelers worry about the chance of getting lost along the way, but the Camino is clearly marked throughout the entire 500 miles with yellow arrows, scallop shell tiles and signs. Pilgrims also need not be concerned about staying with their tour group at all times or keeping the same pace. Guides are well aware that many use the Camino as a destination for self-reflection, meditation and peace and quiet and won’t pressure anyone to hurry up, slow down or participate in conversation.
Since it is such a well-traveled trail, accommodations are plenty along Camino de Santiago. There’s a good chance that your walking tour will have all of your lodging set up for you already, usually making arrangements in bed and breakfasts or some of the more luxurious hotels that dot the path. If you were to make the pilgrimage on your own and decide to select more economical boarding, albergues are the most popular and cheapest alternative, where you will be placed in a dorm like setting with shared rooms and bathrooms. Hostels and posadas are also an option.
Bars, restaurants and grocery stores are not hard to find, and your Camino de Santiago tour guide will have plenty of suggestions on local cuisines. Each region will have its own specialties and are more than ready to share that with pilgrims as they pass through town. If staying at an albergue, you will also have the opportunity to cook your own meals if you wish.
One of the most exciting expectations you should have is about all the different people you’ll meet during your journey. As you progress down the trail, you may just find that you’re really getting the most from your excursion from simply taking some time to open up to your fellow pilgrims and learn about other cultures, history and walks of life.
While there are several challenges pilgrims can face on their trek, preparing for them in advance gives you a good chance of avoiding many of them. Blisters, tendonitis, dehydration, sunburn and heatstroke are the most common ailments that people have to deal with. Make sure to break in new hiking boots before you go, stretch, strengthen and condition your muscles every morning and night, don’t forgo the sunscreen and pace yourself as needed.
Each pilgrimage and experience will be different, so you can’t always be prepared for every little thing, however, this information should provide you with a good idea of what to expect as you begin your Camino de Santiago walking tour so that you may enjoy it to the fullest.
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Image author owned
Tiffany Olson absolutely loves all things travel related. She worked at a hostel for many years in San Diego and it was there that she found her passion for traveling. Walking the Camino de Santiago is next on her list of adventures to try. When she’s not writing you’ll usually find her in the company of friends, reading, or cooking.