The Camino de Santiago (or in English the "Way of St. James") is a pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. The remains of the apostle James are supposed to be buried there (a tradition that arose around 850 years after he died). Hiking the Camino de Santiago is a very popular pilgrimage and a considerable undertaking.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims made the trek every year. And for the most part, the routes are well developed are straightforward to trek. Be sure to pack correctly for hiking the Camino de Santiago.
Duration Of The Camino De Santiago
In the past, devout Christian pilgrims would come from far and wide and from all directions. So there isn't one trail, there aren't two trails, it's a network of trails from where pilgrims used to come from. In addition, people are free to start the pilgrimage more or less wherever they want to.
- Pope Alexander VI: Declared The Camino de Santiago One Of The Three Great Christian Pilgrimages (Together with Rome and Jerusalem)
This means that there isn't a set distance, nor is there an estimate for a timeframe for the pilgrimage without knowing which path one is taking or where one is starting.
- Most Popular: Camino Frances
That being said. The most popular way is the Camino Frances (the French Way) and it attracts around 60% of the pilgrims. If one starts at the beginning from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France then the distance is around 500 miles or 780 kilometers. An experienced hiker can travel that in around 30 days.
- Camino France: Full Length, 500 Miles (780 KM), Duration - Around 30 Days
- Minimum: Pilgrims Must Travel At Least 100 KM (62)
Other ways are the Camino del Norte (830 km), Camino Portugues (600 km), Camino Primitivo (260 km), Via de la Plata (1,000 km), and Camino Ingles (110 km). To be considered to have made the pilgrimage one must walk (or ride on horseback) at least 100 km (62 miles).
Ways Like Camino Frances are Developed
The Camino Frances is was well developed and there is a well-established system of albergues (inns and lodges for pilgrims) along the route. There are also lots of food options. As the most popular route, pilgrims are likely to meet plenty of other pilgrims in route and there may be crowds in the popular parts of the year.
There are plenty of accommodation options for pilgrims along the various ways - especially the more popular routes like the Camino Frances and Camino Portugues Way. Most of the accommodation options the "Albergues" or Pilgrim Hostels are cheap and on the Frances route, they can be very frequent being as little as 5 kilometers or 3 miles apart. There are only a few stretches of up 15 km (9 miles) between albergues.
- Accommodation Distance: Between 5 - 15 km or 3 - 9 miles Apart on The Camino Frances
- Booking: Mostly First-Come, First-Served
- Accommodation Type: Mostly Shared Dormitories (Private Rooms Are Also Available)
Most of these albergues are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and they are not possible to be reserved in advance. There are some private accommodations that can be reserved in advance. So one can basically just hike until they feel like they are done for the day and then call it a night.
- Hosts: The Person In Charge of an Albergue Is Called A "Hospitalero" (Man) or "Hospitalera" (Woman)
Always get one's passport stamped to prove one is completing the Camino de Santiago.
- Tip: One Can Also Camp Along The Route
- Priority: Priority Is Given To Walkers Over Horseback or Bike Riding Pilgrims.
Types Of Pilgrim Hostels
Some of these albergues are sponsored by local government bodies and are often staffed by volunteers. One should not expect too much comfort from these but they are cheap. Sometimes they are in former schoolhouses or the like. In the peak summer months, pilgrims can even be accommodated in public sports buildings.
On the more popular routes, there can also be privately run hostels dotted along the way. If one hasn't stayed in hostels before, don't worry, just learn the hacks for how to stay in hostels.
- Municipal Albergues: Sponsored by Local Governments And Often Staffed By Volunteers
- Parochial Albergues: Operated by Religious Institutions (E.g. Monasteries, Convents, or Local Churches) - Often Donation Based Or Very Cheap
- Association Albergues: Operated by Various Pilgrim Associations And Are Often Staffed by Volunteers
- Private Albergues: Run by Private Individuals And Often Offer More Comfort, A Little More Expensive (around 10 Euro or $12) per Night
To learn more about hiking the Camino de Santiago, there are dedicated websites in English like Camino Guide Book and Camino Ways. If one is planning to do the less popular routes, there may be less accommodation along the way, and so one may need to plan ahead.