What is the Best Walking Footwear for Your Camino?

Boots? Shoes? Trainers? Oh my! Choosing the best walking footwear for your Camino depends on a number of factors.

What route do you plan to walk?  Are you going during a hot, cold, or rainy season?  Do you have problems such as pronation of the feet that need to be considered?

To make for a more pleasant Camino, it’s important to find shoes that fit well and are suited to the weather and terrain of the trip you’re planning. Here is a list of important factors to consider when choosing your hiking footwear.

Listen below, or read on…

Getting the Right Fit

It’s a good idea to get walking footwear professionally fitted to ensure the correct size.  However, your correct size in walking shoes may be a half or even a full size larger than normal.  This is because the repeated pounding of the feet during long distance walking causes them to swell and spread.  So always try on new walking shoes at the end of the day, preferably after walking at least several kilometres.  Also, take along socks and any replacement insoles you plan to wear on your Camino.

Squashed toes can lead to blisters so make sure you have enough room in the toe box to wiggle your toes. The rest of your foot should be snug in the shoe with no movement.  Check that the sole of your foot is completely supported and that there is no rubbing around the ankle.  You also need 1 to 2 cm between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe.  The easiest way to check this is to remove the insole and stand on it with your full weight and your heel seated into the back of the insole.

Borrow a weighted backpack and walk around the shop to get a more realistic picture of how the shoes will feel during your Camino.  If the shop has a ramp, walk up and down it to see if your foot moves in the shoe.  In particular, try bouncing up and down on your feet while facing down to ramp to see if your feet will slide forward on a descent.  Your heel shouldn’t move around in the shoe as this can lead to heel blisters.

inside solesAnother way to get a better fit is to use replacement insoles.  The insoles supplied with most walking footwear are thin and non-supportive.  These can be replaced with insoles which better support the arch and can prevent or correct pronation or supination of the foot.  While these misalignments may not cause problems under normal walking conditions, they can contribute to painful conditions like tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints during long distance walking.   Off-the-shelf insoles offering varying levels of support are available from sporting goods stores and chemists.  Heat molded, custom-made inserts are also available online and from specialist suppliers.

Waterproofing or No Waterproofing?

If you’re walking in a cool, wet time of the year, waterproofing helps keep feet dry and warm for longer.  However, in hot weather waterproofing will hold in heat and moisture which can lead to blisters.  Shoes without waterproofing have better ventilation but take in water quickly on rainy days.  But because they also dry much quicker, they may be a better option during warm weather. There is always a chance of rain, no matter the season, so bring extra socks to change into, in case of a rainy spell.

What Type of Footwear

sports shoes on the caminoThe question of boots versus trail shoes or even trainers is hotly contested.  Historically, long distance hiking and walking footwear meant sturdy, leather boots.  The school of thought was that they provided good support to the feet and ankles and kept feet dry.  All true.  Well, sort of.

However, more recent evidence indicates that while a thick boot may give more support to the base of the foot on rocky ground, it also gives less ‘ground feel’ than lighter soled shoes and therefore impairs balance on uneven surfaces.  The ankle support theory has also been largely debunked.  Lightweight walking shoes with better ‘ground feel’ cause you to make constant balance adjustments and thereby strengthen the feet and ankles.

So where does this leave you when choosing walking shoes?  When walking in snow or muddy, boggy conditions in cold weather, heavy leather boots may still be the answer for warmth and dryness.  However, the downside is weight and less flexibility which can contribute to blisters and repetitive strain injuries like tendonitis.

Research suggests that a pound on the feet equals five pounds on the back.  Because of this, lightweight boots, trail shoes, and trainers are often less tiring to walk in.  These come in a variety of heel drops from standard, elevated heels right down to barefoot shoe type soles.  However, bear in mind that days and weeks of walking in thin soles can lead to sore feet, particularly on rocky ground or cobbled roads where too much ‘ground feel’ isn’t necessarily a good thing.  The most important thing is to find shoes that are comfortable and that give you a good sense of balance and traction on a variety of surfaces.

Also take an extra pair of shoes for evenings and days off.  This gives the feet a rest and allows your walking shoes to air out and dry. Options include runners or walking sandals which can be used as backup walking shoes or waterproof shoes such as flip-flops or Crocs which can also be worn in hostel showers.

Breaking Them In

Camino footwearWhatever walking footwear you choose, make sure you break them in for at least a few long walks of 3 to 4 hours or more before you leave.  That way you’ll know if there are any issues with the fit which need to be addressed pre- Camino.  Do bear in mind that full leather boots often take longer to break in than shoes made of composite materials.

Just remember, the best walking shoes for you are the ones that are fitted to your feet and the only way to find those is by proper fitting followed by lots of walking! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Follow the Camino if you have any questions!

Is It Safe To Walk The Camino de Santiago Alone?

Good news!  You’ve decided to walk the Camino de Santiago.  Bad news.  You do not have a walking partner. Well if you’re wondering is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago on your own, the answer is yes, if you stick to some guidelines.

Listen below or read on…

Many people, particularly those inexperienced in long-distance walking trips, are understandably nervous about walking solo.  However, many of the more than 250,000 people arriving in Santiago de Compostela each year begin their walk as solo travellers.  So before you let the idea of walking alone put you off, consider these points.

solo womanChoosing a Route

About  65% of people arriving in Santiago de Compostela come via the French Route, and most start walking from either Saint Jean Pied de Port or one of the major towns or cities along the route such as Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, or Sarria.  So if you’re starting from one of these points, particularly from May to September, you’ll have a lot of company.

If you are looking for somewhere less busy, you can try the Portuguese Route which accounts for about 16 percent of the pilgrims arriving in Santiago.  Although this route is much less travelled than the French Route, there are still plenty of other walkers about, especially during the warmer months.

Determining Your Walking Style

Before you defer your plans to go walking solo or panic buy a walking companion, it’s important to put the fear aside and do some homework.  What’s your walking style?  Do you like to walk quickly with frequent, short stops?  Is ambling, chatting, and long, leisurely lunches your thing?  Would you prefer solitude and contemplation or stopping to take lots of photos to record your journey?  Do you like to arrive early in the day so that you have time for a siesta and sightseeing?  Or do you prefer to use the entire day walking?

If you don’t already know what style of walking best suits you, find this out before you start a long distance walk, particularly with a companion.  And the only way to find that out is through experience.  Test out different walking scenarios as part of your training walks at home.  This is best done on walks of at least a couple of hours to give you a real feel for your preferences.  The chatty friend who is the perfect company for an hour may provide too much stimulation over the course of a whole day.  Or the solitude that is refreshing for a short walk may drift into loneliness as the hours wear on.

Once you’ve determined your default mode of happy hiking, then make your decision.  But don’t let fear lead you to believe that your own company may not be good enough.  Your perfect walking partner may just be yourself.

Read our top 5 hiking techniques tips here.

Choosing a Walking Partner

Walk the Full Camino RouteAfter your trial walks you may decide that 6 to 8 hours a day with only yourself for conversation isn’t for you.  You may now think that finding a walking partner is the answer.  While this may be true, tread carefully and don’t buy the first car you see on the lot.  Before committing to walking your entire Camino with someone, make sure that you’re compatible.

Is one of you a chatterer while the other craves silence?  Are you a tortoise while your potential walking partner is a hare?  Is one aiming for 15 km per day while the other is hoping for 40?  Make sure your potential partner has done the solo walking test too and is aware of and honest about what best suits them.  Good communication and a few test walks together are crucial.

If you are ready to head off on your Camino, haven’t found a walking partner yet, and don’t want to be walking solo for the duration, fear not!  The great sense of community that exists along the Camino makes it easy to strike up a conversation with other pilgrims.  Ask if you could join other walkers for the morning or the day.  New walkers will likely be in a similar position, and those who have walked before can make you feel at ease.

Walking the Camino aloneSafety Considerations

Some people are happy walking solo.  They relish the undisturbed time in nature and the peace and quiet of time away from the hustle and bustle of human interaction.  But everyone can experience moments of anxiety when they are uncertain or nervous about a long walk over hills with unpredictable weather or through a remote stretch of countryside with few other walkers.

At times like this, it is best to acknowledge that those anxieties and trust your gut instinct.  If you do not feel comfortable heading into or in the midst of a situation, seek the company and security of other walkers.  You will not be alone in experiencing these moments of doubt and other pilgrims are generally very understanding and supportive.  Ask other walkers if you can join them for the day or simply to the next town.  Or if you still prefer to walk alone without being alone, walk within sight or earshot of some other pilgrims in case you feel the need for support.

Pros and Cons of Walking Solo

There and ups and downs in both terrain and experience when walking solo.  On the upside, you have complete freedom to start and finish the day when you want.  Decisions regarding location and duration of breaks are all yours.  Choice of accommodation, restaurants, and distance walked in a day require no negotiation.  On the downside, you’re not guaranteed to have a sidekick for moral support when the going gets tough or someone to share the cost of accommodation with.  The shared experiences and memories can also create bonds between walking partners that last long after your arrival in Santiago.

Just remember that you are only as alone as you choose to be on the Camino.  Many people start out walking alone either by choice or by circumstance and develop wonderful friendships along the way.  Don’t let being a solo traveler stop your adventure! And don’t be afraid to meet new faces on the Camino de Santiago!

Easter on the Camino – Semana Santa in Spain

Easter on the Camino is locally known as Semana Santa, it is one of the most important religious festivals in Spain. From big bustling cities to small quiet villages, the whole country celebrates it with an ignited passion. There are huge parades that take up the streets, you will find processions marching through the roads bearing religious images and symbols, you will come across people from every nook and cranny observing the Holy Week in a unique way portraying their culture, way of life and religious beliefs. It won’t be wrong to say that the entire country of Spain lights up brilliantly.

Easter is a Christian and cultural festival that takes place according to a lunisolar calendar. The holiday, also known as Pascha and Resurrection Sunday, celebrates Jesus’ rising from the dead.  In Spain, it begins with the Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) and end with Lunes de Pascua (Easter Monday).

While it is one thing to read about the festivities and processions of Semana Santa or watch it on TV, it is an altogether different experience to attend it first-hand. If you happen to be in Camino for the pilgrimage during the Easter Week, make sure you observe the celebrations. Easter on the Camino will be a wonderful experience that will stay in your mind forever.

How is the Spanish Easter Celebrated? Traditions, Glamour and Food

Easter eggs on the camino

In Spain, most of the people participatingin Semana Santa processions put on their capirote – a traditional uniform of brotherhoods worn during Easter. It consists of a tall, pointed conical hat that completely covers the face and belted robes. In the previous centuries, the dress was worn by people to do public penance for their sins. They would slip into capirotes and walk through the streets for atonement. Today, it is worn during the Holy Week. Women wear mantilla, a traditional Spanish lace or silk veil worn over the head and shoulders often paired with a high comb called a peineta.

In most Easter celebrations, people are seen carrying pasos that they have saved for over hundreds of years in their families. Pasos are large floats embellished with statues of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints and other biblical personalities. They are often adorned with floral arrangements and candles.

The south Spanish region is known to host some of the most glamorous Easter processions and attract tourists from all over the world. In Andalusia, particularly the cities of Seville on the Via de la Plata Camino and Málaga, the celebrations are carried out in flamenco style. Unlike many other countries, chocolate Easter eggs are not all that popular in Spain. However, you don’t have to worry for your sweet tooth. Spaniards have some amazing treats for Easter in store for you. There are torrijas, a traditional Semana Santa sweet bread, and Pestinos, Sesame-flavored pastries.

Easter on the Camino

easter float

Celebrating Easter on the Camino will be an experience of a lifetime. The pilgrims who happen to be walking the Way of St. James during the Holy Week of Easter will get to observe ancient traditions and exuberant festive proceedings along the way. Even though people enjoy the celebrations in high spirits the entire week, the major events take place on the most important dates in the Easter calendar which are Holy Thursday and Holy Friday (Good Friday).

In Galicia, the coastal city of Ferrol is highly renowned for its impressive processions during Easter. Ferrol happens to be the beginning point of the Camino Inglés, the English Way, a route pilgrims used to take to get to Santiago de Compostela.
On their way along the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims can make a stop at major towns such as Santiago de Compostela, Burgos, Leon, Santander, Bilbao and Pamplona, and witness their particular way of celebrating Easter.

Easter Week in Pamplona

Easter spain

Appreciate the festivities of Easter on the Camino when you are in Pamplona. Pamplona, the city renowned for running the bulls, also have a great knack for celebrating the Holy Week. Semana Santa in Pamplona have three highlights – Easter Thursday, Good Friday and San Miguel de Aralar.

Easter Thursday – Easter Thursday dates back to 1599, when more than half of the population of Pamplona succumbed to Plague. In hopes to annihilate the illness, a procession was held known as ‘the Vow of the Five Wounds’. The legend says that after the procession, the illness of Plague was thoroughly vanquished. Today, people don ceremonial attires and gather in the Church of San Agustín to retake the Vow.

Good Friday – Good Friday is the most symbolic day of Semana Santa in Pamplona. On this day, the Procession of the Holy Burial takes place. People carry the statue of Our Lady of Solitude, also known as “La Dolorosa”, from the Cathedral to the Church of San Agustín. On early Saturday morning, La Dolorosais carried to the Church of San Lorenzo.

San Miguel de Aralar – San Miguel de Aralar takes place on a Monday that follows Easter Monday. On this day, the figurine of Saint Michael Archangel is brought to the city for one week. To welcome the arrival of the effigy, the locals get together at the Park of Antoniutti. After the figurine has arrived, people carry it to the Church of San Nicolás where it is worshiped. When Sunday comes, people of Pamplona bid goodbye to the effigy until the next year.

Easter Procession in Bilbao

Easter processions that march through the roads of Bilbao begin at the church of the Santos Juanes. The church, located in an old quarter of Bilbao, is the head office of the Brotherhood of the Santa Vera Cruz. Santa Vera Cruz, also known as the Sacred Holy Cross, is a well-known procession in Bilbao that has been taking place since 1554 to honor the memory of those who passed way in the great flood that destroyed Bilbao on September 14, 1553. Moreover, you will see pasos of important historical and religious figures. About 40 kilometers away from Bilbao, the living Vía Crucis pageant is held which is one of the most important highlights of the Holy Week.

Easter on the Camino – Camino de Santiago

On your pilgrimage during the Holy Week, you will come across plenty of festive celebrations. If you happen to be on the Camino de Santiago, don’t hesitate to join the spirited adventure of Easter on the Camino and participate in the jolly celebrations. In Santiago de Compostela, some of the Easter processions take place at nighttime where all the streets are lit my candles and torchlight. The unique medieval experience is not only beautiful to look at, but it is great spiritually too.

If you are planning to spend Easter on the Camino, make sure you check the following processions at Camino de Santiago:
Procession of ‘La Humildad’ that is held at the Church of Santa María do Camiño.
Procession of ‘La Oracion del Huerto Y Prendimiento’ which takes place at the Convent and Church of San Francisco.
Procession of ‘La Virgen de la Soledad’ which begins at the Church of Santa María Salomé.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in Camino for the religious walk or on a hiking trip, the whole week of Easter on the Camino is filled with impressive sights that will leave you in awe.

5 Must Know Hiking Techniques To Make Your Camino Easier

Understanding basic hiking techniques and gaining some experience with these before your journey on the Camino de Santiago will make for a more pleasant, pain-free trip.

So here are 5 simple points to consider and practice, that will aid you on your Camino.

1. Pace and Rhythm Hiking on the Camino

Aim for a consistent pace throughout the day.  It’s easy to start the day full of energy and in high gear only to flag in the afternoon and have your pace drop by half.  As with cars, slowing down and speeding up uses more energy than maintaining a steady pace.

Maintain a steady rhythm and keep your stride consistent.  Things like singing a song, observing your breath, or walking with poles can help to set and maintain a steady rhythm.  A consistent stride reduces energy usage but can vary in length depending on the gradient.  Shorten your stride when going up or down hills to maintain balance and lengthen it on flat ground.  With practice these hiking techniques become easier, and then becoming second nature.

 

Walking poles2. Using Poles

Hiking poles are useful for helping to you keep a consistent rhythm while walking and for maintaining balance on steep descents or uneven terrain.  When used properly, they also can help lessen the impact that walking places on the joints and can transfer some of the efforts of walking from the legs to the upper body.

Adjust your walking poles to the correct length for your height.  Poles should be long enough so that your elbow is bent at a 90 degree angle when the pole is in a vertical position.  This will mean making the poles slightly shorter for steep uphill grades and slightly longer for steep downhill grades.

When you step forward, plant the pole in the opposite hand at an angle pointing behind you.  Push off with the pole as you move forward and plant the alternate pole as you land your other foot.  With a little practice, this motion will settle into a natural rhythm.  The poles should be planted slightly ahead of the foot when going down hills to aid in balance and to absorb some of the stress of impact.

 

3. Going Up Hills Hiking Techniques

One of the most intimidating things for novice hikers is the long, steep climb.  But with proper hiking techniques, the strenuous uphill doesn’t have to be a slog.  The main things to remember are pacing, poles, planning, positivity, and the all-important rest step.

As you’re climbing, maintain a steady pace.  Pushing quickly up a mountain and then stopping repeatedly to catch your breath wastes a lot of energy.  Keep the pace steady but shorten your steps to accommodate the increase in gradient.  Plant your poles hard and push yourself up with each step.  Make those arms pull their weight rather than just hanging there at your side.

A little planning goes a long way to subtly ease the burn.  Make some adjustments to your pack such as loosening your hip and chest straps slightly to aid your stride and breathing.  Look ahead at the terrain and pick your path.  Roads on mountains are built with switchbacks for a reason:  a longer path over the same elevation gain means a lower gradient.  It may look a little silly, but zigzag around if the going gets too steep.

When walking, your leg muscles are in constant motion which means they don’t get a chance to rest until you stop moving.  Although this isn’t such a problem on flat surfaces, you can quickly start to feel the burn when the going gets steep.  Try the rest step described below, and this may become one of your favourite hiking techniques.  This little trick is barely noticeable at a quick pace but will keep you powering ahead when the youngsters who zipped past you are gasping for breath with legs that are turning to jelly.

As you step forward, lock the knee of your back leg so that the front foot isn’t bearing weight as it lands.  This locking of the knee aids in balance and transfers the job of maintaining your weight to the skeletal system thereby giving your muscles a short rest.  Next, shift your weight to your front foot as you step forward and again lock your back knee.  The amount of time you maintain this lock is dependent on a gradient, elevation, and how fatigued you are.  It can be anything as little as half a second thereby not appreciably slowing your pace.

 

4. Going Down Hills

Logic would imply that going downhill is the easy part.  However, downhill can be as difficult as up and require a different set of hiking techniques with regard to comfort, balance, and pole placement.

There are a number of hiking techniques you can use to help maintain your balance when going down hills.  Tighten your hip belt slightly to minimise pack movement which can destabilise you.  Watch your foot placement, particularly with regard to loose rocks which may move when your foot comes down on them.  Don’t lean forward.  Keep your centre of gravity slightly back and over your legs.  Take small steps and plant your pole slightly ahead of your foot to help maintain balance and to take some of the impact off of your joints.  If you have bad knees, steep downhills can be especially tricky so poles are your best friend here.

Before you start down a steep hill, tighten up your boot laces slightly.  This will keep the feet from sliding forward and jamming your toes against the end of the boots.  And have a bit of fun zigzagging your way to the bottom!

 

5. The Mental Game

hiking techniquesLet’s face it.  Sometimes long-distance walking isn’t fun.  You’re tired, hungry, hot, sweaty.  Or cold and wet and muddy.  You’re 5 kilometres from your bed for the night.  You have blisters, or sunburn, or a dodgy knee.  ‘Why am I doing this?’ you ask.

This is when a bit of positivity is crucial.  It’s time to sing a song, listen to some music, get into a meditative state of mind while repeating your favourite mantra.  Focus on your breathing and the flow of air in and out of your body.  Distract yourself with some stimulating conversation about anything other than pain, fatigue, hunger, damp, cold, or heat.  Observe your surroundings and practice a spot of gratitude, if only for the bed that’s just down the trail!

5 Awesome Top Tips from Seasoned Camino de Santiago Experts

We approached some of the most seasoned Camino experts and asked them for their top tips for anyone considering walking the Camino de Santiago. Here’s what the experts had to say:

Leslie Gilmour – Founder of Camino Adventures Blog

Leslie GilmourTop tip from me:

“Once you’ve packed your rucksack as lightly as possible, put in another two things that will not add any weight; lots of patience and tolerance! You’ll meet many people who are hot, tired, sore, sometimes exhausted, and certainly out of their usual environment, so may be a little antsy or even moody. Patience and tolerance will help you have a better Camino (and life).”  – CaminoAdventuresBlog

Umberto di Venosa – Founder of Follow the Camino and Seasoned Pilgrim

Umberto Di VenosaMy top tips are:

“More is not better. Some people want to walk more, longer, faster etc. Take your time. You will never be the person who has walked the most, fastest or slowest. Even if you are, so what? Be yourself, do things as YOU want not as you are told to do.
Cheaper is not necessarily better. I have met people from various origins and backgrounds who think that the better the deal you get, the better it is or the “more a pilgrim you are.” In the 21st century, we work in a market economy. If you pay €10 for your meal or room, do not expect a service that you would get if you paid €50 for example. Be reasonable with your expectations and what you want from your Camino.
Do not over think it. Many people, blogs etc. have different views and opinions. There is no “best way” to walk the Camino. It depends on what you want out of it, how far you are ready to go in sharing/paying. The best tip of all, speak to the experts. We will gauge after a few questions what is the best way to go about it for you personally.” – Follow the Camino

Ariana Brackenbury – Wisdom of the Camino

Ariana BrackenburyMy top tips are:

“Slow Down: For many our lives seem to be driven by the clock, schedules and appointments, and juggling all of our commitments. Too often there is a sense that there’s not enough time.
One of the great gifts of the Camino is the opportunity to relax and let go of all of that. Making a conscious decision to slow down is quite possibly one of the most powerful things you can do. Each moment on the Camino is precious. There is no need to rush to get to the next town. There’s lots of time at the end of the day to connect with the people you are walking with. When you allow your body to shift to a new rhythm, you give it some space to adjust to walking long distances each day. Injuries forced me to slow down during my first Camino journey because I was rushing at the beginning. When I let go of the perception that I needed to rush I was more in the moment. I began to trust there would be a space for me to sleep and that is what manifested for me.”

“Foot care: Many people take better care of their feet on the Camino than in everyday life. If you have cracked heels, dry feet, or heavy callouses some pre Camino love will make a difference. If getting a pedicure make sure they do not shave off the callouses but file them as a certain amount is good for protection against friction when walking long distances per day. Have the toenails shortened as much as possible regularly throughout your pilgrimage as it can be very painful when a slightly overgrown toenail cuts into the adjoining toe. Start with a night and morning routine to keep the feet soft and supple. Your feet will thank you. Buen Camino!” – Wisdom of the Camino

Shlomo Cohen – 6 Time Camino Walker

Shlomo Cohen Here’s my top tip, hope it’s helpful!

“I think it very appropriate to note that, the man/woman who goes alone can start today but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready! Why go with a friend? The chances are you will start to irritate each other and speak to less people on the Way. The whole experience is about meeting the world on the Camino and not bringing your home with you. Do I sound cynical by saying this? It’s just that I’ve met so many people over my six different Camino’s that I know if I had traveled with a friend it would not have happened and my horizons wouldn’t have been as broadened as they have been.” – Shlomo Cohen

Sue KenneySue Kenney – Author of Best-Selling Book, My Camino

My number one tip for walking the Camino:

“Don’t think so much about getting to the end. Instead, think about the idea: With each step you take forward, walk back to your authentic self.” – Sue Kenney

Adam WellsAdam Wells – Discover the Camino Blog

Top tip: It’s only today’s villages that count

“The Camino is as much a mental journey as it is a physical one. I once walked with a lady on the Camino Francés who daily kept on thinking about the remaining distance to Santiago de Compostela and whether she would make it or not. Her focus was always on the far-off destination. Yes, the Camino Francés is a journey of 500 miles, but it can also be a journey of 14 miles – each day for 35 days. My tip would be to ‘stay present’, as much as possible, to your thinking; especially so when experiencing a difficult day. In this way, you can reduce any overwhelm and still get to enjoy the best that the Camino has to offer.” – Adam Wells

For more great ideas like these see our Top Tips Blog section

Top 10 Things to Do and See in Santiago de Compostela

This is our list of things to do in the capital of Galicia and the final stop for pilgrims of the epic Camino trail, Santiago de Compostela is a glorious city in northwestern Spain. It is one of the major tourist attractions featuring stone streets, artistic Baroque buildings, amazing Spanish cuisine, the awe-inspiring cathedral, and scenic landscapes coupled with pleasant weather.  In 1985, the city’s Old Town became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to locals, Santiago de Compostela is most beautiful when it rains and the whole city is bathed in glistening mist. Each year, over 250,000 pilgrims and thousands of tourists hit the town. They bike, hike, ride or even walk to the city via the ancient routes. It is most crowded during the months of July, August and September when the weather is warm and the ambiance is festive. However, if you would like to explore the city peacefully, May, June and October are the best months that will offer you a quiet refuge and tranquility.

Whether you are at the end of your holy journey or on a Spanish vacation, there are plenty of things to do,  Santiago de Compostela is never disappointing. It is best to do some homework ahead of time especially if you are short on time. Gather some maps, collect brochures, Google the best restaurants and most popular things to do and then follow your instincts. Here are the top things you must never miss when you are in Santiago de Compostela.

The Marvelous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela 

Cathedral de Santiago

Right in the heart of Santiago, there is a magnificent cathedral that soars high into the sky. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is one of the main sources of attraction for tourists and pilgrims alike. The remains of St. James the Great, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, is reputed to be buried here. Featuring Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles on its exterior facades and interior, the cathedral is an architectural masterpiece without a doubt. On special occasions, the Botafumeiro, one of the world’s largest incense burners is brought out in the church and is swung by eight tiraboleiros in red robes. Besides a church, the cathedral has a library, music center and a museum where one can get a glimpse of the city’s culture and history.

The Wild Cape Finisterre and the Lighthouse  

Cape Finisterre Lighthouse

Cape Finisterre, often referred to as the end of the earth, is a 90-km walk from Santiago de Compostela. The westernmost ‘edge of the world’ is the culminating point for many pilgrims walking the Way of St. James. Unlike other places at Santiago de Compostela, the cape has no shops, eateries or hotels. It is simply a wild destination boasting verdant beauty, unspoiled nature and sea waves crashing into the rocky shores. The main attraction of Cape Finisterre is the lighthouse. The Lighthouse of Finisterre stands atop the peak of Monte Facho, a mountain on the cape. If you have decided to go to the cape, be prepared to enjoy ocean breeze, picturesque sunsets and Celtic spirituality. Right alongside the cape, there is a quaint fishing village by the name of Finisterre. It is a perfect stopover for travelers to get some rest and enjoy fresh seafood.

The Charming Casco Antiguo (Old Town)

The Old Town, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, extends from south of the cathedral to the Plaza de las Platerías. There are two streets, Rúa Nueva and the Rúa del Villar, running across each other right in the heart of the town. These two arched streets will marvel you with their festive ambiance. There are cafes, boutiques, restaurants and gift shops where one can enjoy a cup of coffee and Spanish pastries and buy souvenirs for loved ones back at home. To the delight of many, the town does not allow automobile traffic.

The Church of Santa María a Real do Sar – Off the Beaten Track

On the outlying district of the town by the banks of Sar River, there is a Church of Santa María a Real do Sar that was built way back in the 12th century. The church features a Romanesque design, rounded arches, arcaded colonnades, rose glass windows and a remarkable cloister that offers splendid views of the garden. In 1895, the church was declared Bien de Interés Cultural which means “Heritage of Cultural Interest”. The church is open daily to general public for visitations. If you want to seek some time out far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the church is one of the ideal things to do in order to indulge in some quiet and peace.

The Galician Contemporary Art Centre for the Art Enthusiasts

Devoted to the modern-day Galician artists, the Galician Contemporary Art Centre is located in the middle of Santiago de Compostela. The building boasts a phenomenal futuristic architectural design by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. The art center is a perfect place for those who are enthusiastic about Galician culture and art. The exhibition halls display permanent and temporary works of both local and international artists.

Casa do Cabildo – A Hidden Gem

Galicia is well-known for its Baroque architecture, and if you wish to witness one of the best examples of Compostelan baroque, there is no place better than Casa do Cabildo. The hidden gem is sitting on the southern side of Platerías Square. The aristocratic residence was built in 1758, and is today a cultural and historic landmark, and a museum. The house is only accessible to public during exhibitions.

Explore the Seaside Town of Vigo Vigo Spain

Santiago de Compostela is not just about museums and churches. There is so much more things to do. Travelers who want to experience the charm and peace of an old town should take a day trip to Vigo. The quaint fishing town lies along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and is a place filled with warmth and beauty. You will find a number of cultural attractions and archaeological monuments.

Join the Walking Tours in Santiago de Compostela

There are many fun-filled walking tours taking place in Santiago de Compostela. There are day tours that allow you to indulge in exciting activities as well as educating you about the history and myths of Camino de Santiago. For foodies, the Feast Galicia Tour is a wonderful chance to explore the town, discover and try famous Galician cuisine and even learn the secret recipes.

A Stroll at Alameda Park

Alameda Park is a lovely sprawling park right in the heart of Santiago de Compostela. It has over 90 types of plants, a flamboyant statue of the Fandiño sisters, and scenic walkways where one can take a breather from the busy life of the city. From Paseo da Ferradura, you can observe amazing views of the Cathedral. While you can visit the viewpoint any time of the day, the views of the city are most spectacular at nighttime. The park also hosts a number of festivals annually.

Experience the Galician Culture

The City of Santiago de Compostela has many things to do as it’s the hub of Galician cultural life. From religious festivals and poetry recitals to contemporary exhibitions and theatrical performances, there is so much going on in the city that will fascinate you.

Once you have visited the historical destinations and famous landmarks, take some time to learn about the culture and lifestyle of Galicia.

 

What is the Camino de Santiago?

Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James is an ancient pilgrimage with its roots in the 9th century, when a shepherd named Pelayo found remains of a body at a place in a field that he was led to by the stars of the milky way.  The local bishop declared the remains those of The Apostle St. James The Greater and with this the Camino de Santiago was born.

Camino de Santiago CathedralThe bishop ordered a church to be built on the site to house the remains of St. James or Sant Iago and as word spread pilgrims started walking from all across Europe and even further afield to visit the sacred burial site of one of Jesus’s apostles. Over the years that small church grew to the epic Catedral de Santiago de Compostela that it is today.

The Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James was originally travelled by King Alphonse II in the 9th century. He travelled there to confirm that the remains discovered were those of the Apostle Saint James. He left from Oviedo and travelled to Santiago de Compostela along the route that is now known as the Camino Primitivo or the Original Way. After King Alphonse II’s trip, many pilgrims began walking the Camino to the resting place of Saint James, taking different routes from their homes to reach Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago is not just one route. As you can imagine thousands of people walking from their homes throughout the middle ages paved many roads all across Europe, however they all come together like branches of a tree and all arrive in what has now become a city called, Santiago de Compostela.  All except for the Finisterre Way which starts in Santiago and goes out to Cape Finisterre, ‘the end of the world’ .

The Most Popular Routes Along Camino de Santiago Today Are:

 

  1. Camino FrancesCamino de Santiago routes
  2. Camino del Norte
  3. Camino Portugues
  4. Le Puy Route
  5. Finisterre
  6. Via de la Plata
  7. Camino Primitivo
  8. Camino Ingles

 

The words Camino de Santiago literally mean the way of St. James when translated from Spanish to English.

Nowadays, the Way is walked by thousands of pilgrims every year and is growing in popularity.  Each pilgrim usually walks between 15-35kms per day, depending on their speed and level of fitness.  Walking though isn’t the only way to get to Santiago. King Alphonse II traveled on horseback to visit the remains of Saint James and many pilgirms today do this journey using various methods.  Moreover, walking, cycling and horse-riding can give each person a unique experience of his/her own.  Cycling and horse-riding, for example, allow you to cover a lot more ground and also give you an elevated perspective from which to view the beautiful sceneries of Camino, whereas, walking can be a personal challenge and a grand achievement in the end. Some people also choose to take our experienced guides to help them along the way.

On the Camino there are many amenities dotted along the Way, so pilgrims have plenty of facilities to offer home comforts as well as places to stop for coffee, chats and a bite to eat. Some of the routes are more popular than others so they may have more places to stop off to eat or stay over night.  The French Way for example is so popular that you’ll never really walk more than 3kms before seeing a restaurant, coffee shop or hotel to stop for a rest, in particular, the Sarria – Santiago section or last 100kms of the French Way. Whereas, other routes, you may have to walk further before your next stop which would be a similar experience to those of the pilgrims who walked the Camino hundreds of years ago. We leave the magic of finding your unique treasures along your journey for you to discover yourself, whichever route you may choose.

The Camino de Santiago is walked each year by people of all ages and fitness levels, so you don’t have to be an expert trekker in order to take such a holiday.  The terrain is, in fact, very manageable and some even walk it in regular sports shoes. Some days are more hilly that others yet you will never be climbing up high mountains, so a decent 20km day is very doable for a person of average fitness.

Camino de Santiago Compostela

Most Popular

Most pilgrims choose to walk the famous last 100kms in to Santiago. Anyone who completes the last 100kms of the Camino de Santiago is entitled to get their pilgrim certificate or Compostela as proof and souvenir of your experience along the famous Camino de Santiago.  In order to get the Compostela you simply need to each day get a stamp in your pilgrim passport.  These stamps can be gotten at hotels, restaurants, cafes and churches along the route.  Some are very pretty and they make a beautiful record of where you stopped on your walk.

Although the Camino de Santiago has been traditionally a religious pilgrimage, there are many people who choose it as a walking holiday for many different reasons.  Some walk the Way for fitness or as a goal to achieve better physical health.  Others walk to clear their head or to feel a connection with nature for the mental benefits of unplugging from their daily lives, allowing time simply for peace or self-development. Walking for weeks completely isolated with nothing but a backpack on your shoulders and few companions at your side on the road can be a strangely spiritual experience. Although walking for your own personal betterment is why many do the pilgrimage, others take a more philanthropic approach and use it as an opportunity to fund-raise for charity groups.  There is one thing, however, that we will promise you: whatever your reason, you will find something that will last a life time – be it an unforgettable memory, friends or even yourself.

Autumn Walk Along the Camino de Santiago

An Autumn walk along the Camino de Santiago is a truly magical experience.

To put one foot in front of the other, with a gentle breeze keeping you cool as you stroll through ancient woods, stepping on freshly fallen rust and amber coloured leaves. Inhaling the fresh invigorating air as you witness the change of the season and the change in the colours of nature.

We’ve chosen our three favourite routes for Autumn walks this time of year. Each with something special to offer during the autumn season, be it the picturesque ripening of nature, local festivals or quietening accommodations we’re convinced you’ll find your bliss on either of these three routes.

Autumn Walk on the Camino

Camino Frances during September we recommend you chose the first section (St. Jean to Pamplona) as during the last months of summer to early Autumn the scenery on the way down through the Pyrenees is particularly colourful with some bright reds, oranges, rusts and plenty to indulge and enjoy besides, the last leg Sarria to Santiago can be very busy and over-crowded and sometimes your first choice accommodation may be fully booked.

Camino Portugues (The Portuguese Way) is an amazing journey that crosses some of the most beautiful parts of north Portugal and South Galicia or you could take the Coastal Way with its’ breath-taking scenery, which runs from Porto to Santiago.

Camino Primitivo (The Original Way) boasts some of the most impressive landscape of the Camino. Starting your walking from either Oviedo or Lugo every day you will be guaranteed awe-inspiring views, comfortable accommodation and delicious food.

There are many festivals along the camino in October and throughout the year.

 

Autumn walk on the Camino de Santiago Something to Consider

September can be busy with many other pilgrims so October can sometimes be a better choice. Flights may also be cheaper in October which is always a welcome bonus. Regular flights into Santiago from the UK and Ireland usually run right up to Halloween.
If you need some guidance choosing which Autumn walk on the Camino to choose this September/October we here at Follow the Camino are here to help. Simply fill out the form and one of our team will be in touch to advise you on the various options and help you book a trip that will make you forget the summer is over!

To determine if this time of year is a good fit for you, check out the Camino Weather Map. helps pilgrims plan their trip with regards to the weather. While many people ask us what the weather is like in September although we are in May, we have used statistics in a visual way.
You can see a map of the main Camino routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. Whether you walk the Camino, cycle the Camino or even simply by curiosity, you can browse each month of the year and see 10 years temperature averages, rainy days and sunny days. Keep in mind we can still not forecast the weather on the Camino but try to give you the best description on how it will be.

Pastel de Belém – The Proud Pastry of Portugal

Pastel de Belém

Also known as Pastel de nata, is a traditional Portuguese custard tart made with fresh egg custard poured into a flaky, crispy pastry that you must try if walking the Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago. It is usually served piping hot topped with icing sugar and cinnamon powder. The scrumptious dessert (which is also regularly eaten at breakfast time) is a speciality of Portugal that has successfully made its way into other parts of the world such as Brazil, France, Canada, Mozambique, Australia, Cape Verde, Malacca and Canada.

While it was created in Lisbon, the pastry has various regional variations. Different bakeries and pastry shops sell their own version of Pastel de Belém. You’ll find a creamy, curdly tart in some towns while in other places, you’ll come the across puffed up, jiggly pastries. Those of you who are following Caminho Portugués or  Portuguese Way, will have plenty of opportunities to try out the traditional warm tarts of Portugal. The route to Camino de Santiago in Portugal begins from Lisbon. Not only it offers pilgrims a great rustic experience, it also lets you enjoy the delightful sweet pastries.

The History of Pastel de Belém

Lisbon is the original homeland of Pastel de Belém. The pastries were invented in the beginning of 18th century by Catholic monks of Jerónimos Monastery, at Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon. The monks had moved from France where similar pastries were commonly found in the bakeries. But here comes the interesting part… In the 18th century, it was common for convents and monasteries to use a large amount of egg whites for starching clothes. Pastel de Belém were actually made from the leftover egg yolks. The practice continued and in a very short time, the recipe of sweet pastry became popular throughout the country.

After the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the religious orders faced extinction and many convents and monasteries were closed down. The monks of Jerónimos Monastery began to sell Pastéis de Belém at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some money. In 1834, unfortunately, the monastery was shut down and the ‘secret’ recipe was sold to that sugar refinery. The owners of the refinery opened their own pastry shop by the name of Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém n 1837. The business is still in the family and is one of the most popular sweet shops in Lisbon today.

It’s hard to believe but since 1837, people from all over the country make sure to pay a visit to the bakery when they are in the city. They wait for hours to be served with warm and gooey Pastel de Belém fresh from the oven sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

Enjoy Pastel de Belém on Your Way to Camino de Santiago

Pastel de Belém on Your Way to Camino de SantiagoIf you are taking the Portuguese Way to Camino de Santiago, you will have a number of chances to satisfy your sweet tooth at various places. It is surprising for people to know that Portugal makes some of the best pastries in the world – Pastel de Belém being the most renowned one. The Portuguese Camino begins in Lisbon, the stunning capital of Portugal featuring numerous UNESCO sites, scenic forests, a river, quiet villages, and spectacular vineyards and fields.

For the taste of original pastry, head over to Pastéis de Belém, the famous bakery that follows the ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos since 1837. The secret recipe is closely guarded to this day. Currently, there are only three chefs who have been entrusted with the recipe. They blend the ingredients behind the closed metal door and later, the rest of the staff assemble and shape the pastries. Once cooked, they are served to eagerly awaiting customers. Other specialities in the bakery are marmalade, Bolo Ingles, Salgados, and Bolo Rei and Bolo Rainha which are available during the Christmas season. Other pilgrim-friendly eatery that have Pastel de Belem include Paco Real where they serve the pastry at room temperature.

Make the Portuguese Custard Tarts on Your Own!

If you take a fancy to Pastel de Belém and want to sweeten up your day, follow the below-mentioned recipe and bake your own delicious Portuguese custard tarts.

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients that you will need to make Pastel de Belém:

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
115g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp. corn flour
400ml full fat milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry

For garnishing:

Cinnamon powder
Icing sugar

Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C, and lightly grease a muffin try.
  • Add egg, yolks, sugar, corn flour and milk in a bowl, and mix until it is smooth. Place the mixture on medium heat and stir constantly until it has reached a thick consistency. Remove from stove and add vanilla extract. Let it cool.
  • Cut the pastry sheet into two and place the pieces on top of each other. Roll the sheets into a log and cut into 10 to 12 round discs. Place the discs into the muffin tray.
  • Pour in the custard atop each pastry disc and bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle cinnamon powder and icing sugar.

Eat your Pastel de Belém right away or let it cool down.

Enjoy, preferably with a hot freshly ground coffee!

For more information on food and drinks along the Camino de Santiago see here:

The Lighthouse of Finisterre – A Journey to the End of the World

Walk the Camino Finisterre

Whenever a traveler goes on a new voyage, there is a desire to explore, a curiosity to discover new things along the way and a great sense of adventure that engulfs him. While sunbathing on a beach and spending a luxurious vacation in a resort are pretty awesome, going over to historical places and monuments has a certain charm of its own. If you are looking to do something unique, adventurous, and spiritual, you may want to check out the Lighthouse of Finisterre in Galicia.

Cape Finisterre was the last stopover for pilgrims who made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The Lighthouse of Finisterre stands at the westernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula at Cape Finisterre, on the west coast of Galicia, Spain. The renowned lighthouse is considered to be one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe. To add to the wonder, the wild and treacherous Cape Finisterre is said to be the ‘End of the World’ since medieval times. On your pilgrimage through the Camino de Santiago, spare a couple of days to visit the active Lighthouse of Finisterre at Cape Finisterre.

History of the Lighthouse of Finisterre Muxia

The legendary Lighthouse of Finisterre was constructed in the year of 1853 at the tip of Cape Finisterre. When the skies are clear and the sun is shining brightly, one can enjoy the view of the famous Galician lighthouse from up to 30 kilometers out at sea. The lighthouse is a reminder of numerous marine battles that occurred between the French and English around the cape. Furthermore, countless shipwrecks from ancient and current times rest on the bottom of the Atlantic. Due to its bloody history and jagged coastline, the slippery route of Finisterre is often aptly called the Coast of Death. Go up to the beacon, take a deep breath and look into the eye of history.
When pilgrims would reach the cape after completing the Way of St. James, they would burn their shoes and clothes to start their lives afresh. The spot has a life size bronze boot to mark the end of the journey. In the ancient times, the cape was the place where Celts would worship the sun and perform other rituals. Today, many pilgrims who walk The Way of St. James burn their belongings to pay homage to the old ritual and make a clean start.

The Architecture of the Lighthouse of Finisterre

The Lighthouse of Finisterre is the westernmost lighthouse in Europe. The lighthouse stands atop the peak of Cape Finisterre, the Coast of Death. The mount on which the beacon stands is approximately 241 meters in height. The lighthouse has a granite tower which is 17 meters (56 ft.) in height and has a range of 23 nautical miles (43 km; 26 mi). The focal height is 143 meters (469 ft). The unpainted granite tower is octagonal in shape. It has a balcony and a silver lantern which is attached to keeper’s house. Three years after its constructions, in 1888, a new building, called the Vaca of Fisterra (the cow of Fisterra), along with a siren was added as well because there was a constant fog in the winter.

Why is the Lighthouse So Important?

The lighthouse of Finisterre is not just for decoration. As one of the most powerful lighthouses in the whole of Europe, its light covers an impressive range of 65 km. The light helps seaman to find their way safely along the coast. It alerts them of the dangerous jagged edges and sharp rocks that line the coast.

Things to Do at the Cape Finisterre

Beautiful Sunsets and Celtic Spirituality
Surrounded by the vastness of Atlantic Ocean, Cape Finisterre is usually the last stop of the trip. The cape offers views to the wildly beautiful coast, the immense ocean and spectacular sunsets that happen every evening. If you enjoy nature, you will absolutely love the peaceful ambiance, Celtic spirituality, and salty sea breeze.
For pilgrims, the place tends to invoke emotions as it marks the end of their pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago. Those who are entering the new beginning after their pilgrimage sometimes burn their shoes and clothes by the bronze sculpture of the boot to make a clean start. You will often find burned clothes tied around the rocks and sticks as a memory of their journey along the Camino de Santiago. You don’t necessarily have to burn your shoes, some people choose to do it as a symbolic gesture.
For other travelers, the place holds no less significance. Its beauty is enough to immerse anyone. Stand at the western most spot in Spain and witness superb sundown. If you are into photography, you will surely capture some wondrous shots.

Take a Hike at the End of the Camino Camino Finisterre

For those of you who are a bit of sport enthusiast, it is worth walking the hiking trails atCamino de Finisterre. What’s more, you will enjoy some amazing verdant Galician scenery along the way. You will stumble upon several small villages and countryside inns during your walk and they are great for a breather. When you have reached the end of the world, you will find the famed Lighthouse of Finisterre. Don’t worry if you don’t really want to walk the extra miles, you can always take a bus directly.

Beaches of Finisterre – Playa Lagosteira and Playa de Rostro

The secluded beaches, Playa Lagosteira and Playa de Rostro, have to be two of the best secret spots in Galicia. The sun kissed beaches are clean with clear, warm water and gentle waves. If you go early in the morning, you can even have the whole beaches to yourself. Ideal for families with kids and couples, the beaches are great for quiet strolls, picnics, and relaxation. Take a break from windy hills and enjoy a sunny day at Playa Lagosteira or Playa de Rostro. Don’t forget to pick up a few lovely scallop shells.

Explore the Quaint Village of Fisterre

Right beside the cape, there is a tiny village by the name of Fisterre. The fishing village features a harbor, many restaurants and eateries and lovely people. On your way to the Lighthouse of Finisterre, it is highly recommended that you make a little stop here, have lunch, meet locals, and explore the town.

Cemiterio Fisterra Cesar Portela – An Abandoned Cemetery

While walking to the cape, you may come across a curious set of cemented cubes in the woods. The set of these cubes is an abandoned cemetery which is gradually being reclaimed by the wild greenery of the woods. The cemetery has a dark beauty about it that every nature lover will appreciate.

Cruceros Fisterra – Take a Cruise

The cruise in the Atlantic is going to be the highlight of your trip to the cape. During the cruise, you will get to see the lighthouse, the cape, and an amazing sunset from a unique perspective.
The trip to the Lighthouse of Finisterre sitting atop the cape is challenging, but it is worth it. Whenever you have a chance to visit Galicia, make sure you take some time to check out the fantastic ‘end of the world’.

Walk the Camino Finisterre

 

Types of Terrain on Popular Routes of the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a large network of paths converging from across Europe at Santiago de Compostela.

Some general information on the many types of terrain encountered on the more popular routes is included below.

Via Podiensis

Le Puy terrain

The Via Podiensis or the Le Puy Route extends approximately 690 km across southwest France to the French-Spanish border and is famous for its beautiful terrain and architecture.  The route begins in the high plateaus of the Massif Central which involves steep climbs through woodland and villages.  After leaving the Massif Central, the route includes long walks through agricultural land, open grassland, and vineyards and along rivers and canals.  In the French Basque region the terrain becomes mountainous upon approaching the Pyrenees and the start of the Camino Frances.  Although this walk contains long stretches of easy walks, the rugged, mountainous regions with long, steep climbs and descents make it a challenging but rewarding walk.

French terrainCamino Frances

The Camino Frances or the French Way is the classic Camino and stretches approximately 780 km across northern Spain.  It begins with a strenuous hike over the foothills of the Pyrenees.  From there it follows hilly, woodland paths and winds through the fields, villages, and towns of Navarra and Rioja.  The route then climbs to the high plateau of the Meseta in Castille and Leon.  Here the exposed, treeless route consists of long stretches of nearly flat dirt or gravel paths through sparsely populated agricultural land.  This area also contains long walks through the beautiful cities of Burgos and Leon.  After leaving the Meseta, the route crosses the Montes de Leon into Galicia.  The path through Galicia includes steep, rocky ascents and descents, open upland, wooded paths, and small rural roads through pastures and villages.  Rural tranquility yields to excitement with a sweeping descent by road into Santiago.

Camino Norte Norte terrain

The Camino Norte or the Northern Way is a 465 km world of extremes.  The first section extends from San Sebastian to Bilbao in the Basque Country.  It takes in many types of terrain including grassy fields, rolling hills, country lanes, coastlines, forests, villages, and jagged mountains.  After leaving the city and suburbs of Bilbao the terrain becomes less strenuous but still dramatic.  The paths wind along coastal cliffs, occasional steep hills, and flat walks along marshland and beaches before reaching Santander.  After Santander the route meanders through meadows and villages and along the wild Cantabrian and Asturian coast.  The route then heads inland to Oviedo and the start of the Camino Primitivo.

Primitivo terrainCamino Primitivo

The approximately 330 km Camino Primitivo or Original Way begins in hilly farmland and villages before crossing the Cantabrian Mountains.  This challenging section is wild, wooded, and sparsely populated with long ascents and descents on roads and paths.  As the route descends from Asturias into Galicia, walking becomes easier with a return to farmland, villages, towns, and forests.  The Primitivo joins the Camino Frances in Melide, about 40 km from Santiago.  From there it consists of forest tracks, villages, and quiet country roads before entering the more developed environs of Santiago.

Via de la Plata

camino via de la plata

The nearly 1000 km Via de la Plata is a land of extremes with an unparalleled variety in types of terrain.  After starting in urban Andalucia, the route quickly gains elevation and enters into the dry, rocky parks and agricultural land of Extremadura.  Here the path follows dusty tracks and remnants of Roman roads over mountains and across large areas of sparsely populated high plateau.  The terrain here is exposed with little shade.  Upon descending the plateau and entering Castille y Leon, the landscape becomes greener with more frequent towns and villages.  The terrain is also more challenging with steep climbs and descents upon entering Galicia.  This is “green Spain” with its forests, fields, and mountain villages.  Here is a lush mix of everything from shady paths to quiet, country roads to national roads ushering you into Santiago.

camino ingles terrainCamino Ingles

The Camino Ingles or the English Way from Ferrol is a short route of only 119 km and lies entirely within the green, misty land of Galicia.  However, it has variable types of terrain ranging from hilly coastlines and estuaries near Ferrol to steep climbs into the mountains on gravel and dirt paths.  The wooded mountains and villages then give way to paved paths on the outskirts of Santiago.

 

The Camino Portuguese Portuguese Terrain

The 600 km Camino Portuguese or Portuguese Central Way begins at low elevation in Lisbon with easy walks through river valleys.  It then enters first hilly and then more mountainous terrain as it approaches Porto.  The route here consists of everything from wooded paths to Roman roads to urban pavement.  Once the route leaves the nearly flat Atlantic region north of Porto, it enters the hillier and greener lands of northern Portugal and Galicia.  Here the route consists of gently undulating woodlands and agricultural regions with cobbled country roads and dirt tracks.  The steeper slopes and rural villages of Galicia provide a verdant landscape as one approaches the city of Santiago.

 

Coastal terrain

Camino Portuguese Coastal

The types of terrain on the 240 km Camino Portuguese Coastal are a contrast to those found on other routes.  The route leaving Porto is nearly flat with only occasional small hills. The walk along the coast is a mix of paved footpaths through towns, forest tracks, and cobbled country roads.  It’s also possible to walk along miles of pristine beach or long stretches of wooden boardwalks within the sand dunes.  Once in Spain, the gently undulating route follows the coast northwards before turning inland and becoming increasingly hilly.  The Coastal Route joins the Portuguese Central Way at Redondela.  From there it meanders through the green hills of Galicia to Santiago.

Camino Finisterre Finesterre terrain

The 89 km route to Finisterre consists of long walks along dirt tracks and quiet, paved country roads through occasional small villages.  The path through this green, undulating terrain makes a final big descent to the Atlantic at Cee.  After climbing  up and down one more headland, Finisterre is in sight.  It’s then a short 3 km road walk from the town to the lighthouse at Cabo Finisterre to watch the sunset.

 

One each of the routes in to Santiago you will encounter different types of terrain on each day or so, we have given you an over-view here but we highly recommend you take both a light and heavier walking shoe with you for your Camino journey.

A Guide To Tapas on the Camino

Indulge in Tasty Treats of Spain; Tapas on the Camino

Spain’s best contribution to the culinary world is definitely tapas. Bursting with a myriad of flavors, tapas are small, savory dishes often served as appetizers with drinks. Tapas can be succulent pieces of fish cooked in garlic or an omelette (tortilla de patatas) filled with potatoes and onions. In Spanish culture, to ‘tapear’ is one of the most popular activities among the locals. The tradition is to go out looking for tapas on the Camino from bar to bar until you are full.

The word ‘tapa’ translates into ‘to cover’. In the 19th century, innkeepers along the roadside used to offer small meals to exhausted travelers on a pot cover. That is how the famous Spanish custom originated. When you are in the Camino de Santiago, follow the tradition and hunt for tapas on the Camino in small bars and restauants along the Way.

Where Can I Find the Best Tapas in Santiago de Compostela? 

Tapas in Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes. Thousands of people travel from all across the globe every year – some to walk all The Way and some to just visit the city of Santiago de Compostela itself. Be it any case, food is a major part of your experience on the Camino. Santiago is located close to the sea so you can be sure the seafood tapas are delish and ready for you to indulge the taste buds, at almost every restaurant and bar.
Just a few minutes walk from the Cathedral, near Praza do Obradoiro, there’s a fantastic food street lined with food stalls, eateries, and restaurants, it is one of the best places to eat tapas on the Camino and of Santiago itself. There you will come across places that specialize in tasty treats. Keep wandering around, decide, walk up to the bar and order whichever tapa you fancy.
For your convenience, I have compiled a list of my favourite restaurants and bars that are known to serve the best tapas on the Camino right in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

A Taberna do Bispo

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A Taberna do Bispo is one of the best seafood tapas bars in Santiago de Compostela. If you are seeking a quick but delicious bite, A Taberna do Bispo won’t disappoint you. They have a massive array of tapas to choose from. Slide up to the counter seat, choose your tapa from those on display and pair it with a terrific drink like Albariño wine. Some of the most loved tapas are fried squids, chorizo, bacalao croquettes, shrimps, calamari, and prawns. The place is rather busy due to its popularity but the wait is worth it.

Restaurante o Gato Negro (The Black Cat)

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Located at Santiago de Compostela, the Spanish restaurant offers a perfect ‘tapas’ introduction to people who have never had tapas before. Restaurante o Gato Negro is a great place to snack on tapas whether you are a tourist or a local. Often referred to as a ‘quaint hole in the wall’, it is a place where old friends hang out to have a glass of chilled drink and a savory plate of tapas. A wide variety of dishes caters to a wide variety of tastes including seafood and vegetarian. Don’t forget to try out their home style Galician soup at the bar.

Antollos

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Strolling through the quieter streets of Santiago de Compostela, you will stumble upon this rustic bar situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city. While it is a traditional wine and pintxos bar, Antollos does serve a large number of tapas as well. The staff is pleasant and super-attentive, and if you are first-timer who is confused about what to order, they will patiently help you out. They have seafood, cheese, empanadas, tortillas, jamóm, olives among many other Mediterranean ingredients. For cold tapas, you can walk up to the counter and pick it up yourself, and for hot ones, you can request a waiter to serve it to you warmed up and delicious.

Milonga’s

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Travelers who want to relax and tapear in a family-oriented eatery should make a beeline for Milonga’s. The family-run restaurant has a calm ambiance, a lovely staff and finger-licking small plates. They have a huge and delicious variety of tapas, pinchos, salads, wines, beers, cakes and so much more. The servings are large in quantity and prices are great. Calamari, extra virgin oil and garlic mixed seafood salads, patatas bravas, fresh chips and fried squids are a must have. Finish your meal with a piece of homemade cheese cake and a glass of chilled beer.

O París

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O París is yet another eatery that serves scrumptious tapas at a really great price. However, it is not as traditional as other tapas bars along the Camino de Santiago. The restaurant has a trendy American vibe to it ideal for those who are feeling a bit homesick and hoping to munch on a familiar cuisine. Besides a range of tapas, you will find cheese burgers, fried chicken, salads, and carrot pie here. If you are on a mission to try out all the tapas bars, add O Paris to your list.

How to Order Tapas on the Camino Like a Pro

Here are the dos and don’ts of these savory Spanish appetizers.

1. Don’t order everything at once

Tapas are not your usual meal. There are dozens of tapas already prepared and waiting to be served. Order two/three initially and you can take it from there!

2. Explore! Visit more than just one bar.

The general rule is that you don’t have your tapas in just a single place. Follow the Spanish tradition and tapear with your pals from bar to bar. Go to a bar, order a drink and a couple of tapas, eat, and move on to the next place until you are full!

3. Are there any vegetarian tapas?  

Tortila de Patatas

Yes, there are. There’s a selection that include Pimientos de Padron, salad or tortilla (Spanish omelette) However, most tapas usually contain a little bit of meat or sea food. The best thing to do is to tell the barman that you are a vegetarian and would like a small plate without any meat.

Types of Tapas on the Camino You Should Try

If you are a foodie like me, you should not miss the chance to feast on the sweet and spicy tapas on your trip to Camino de Santiago. The Spanish appetizers mostly consist of the traditional Mediterranean ingredients such as garlic, olive oil, cheese, and seafood. Here are some of the sought-after tapas in the Spanish world:

Tortilla Española

The Spanish omelet is served as breakfast, fillings for sandwiches and as a tapa. Cooked with eggs, pan-fried potatoes and onions, Tortilla Española is the most famous tapa in Spain and also one of the best loved tapas on the Camino.

Gambas Al Ajillo

This tapa is perfect for those of you who love seafood and garlicky taste. The finger-licking prawns are cooked in garlic, olive oil and chili peppers. The result is simply divine.

Calamares a la Romana

These breaded fried squid rings are served across Spain and are considered a must on the menu.

Croquetas

Crispy on the outside and stuffed with ham, cheese, fish and mushrooms, croquettes are a favourite with kids as well as adults.

Paella

Paella is an ancient Valencian dish made with rice, vegetables, and meat.

Ensaladilla

Who said tapas have to be hot? Ensaladilla is a cold dish made with potatoes, mayonnaise, tuna, egg, and several vegetables.
Walk The Way and enjoy your scrumptious tapas.

Vino on the Camino!

If like us, you enjoy a glass of wine, you’ll be in your comfort zone along the Camino de Santiago. There’s a multitude of vineyards along the route and it’s possible to take day trips to some of the world’s best-known and oldest winemakers to taste something a little more authentic than what you’ll find in your local supermarket or off-license. We’ve chosen our Top 5 to give you a taste of what the Camino de Santiago has to offer… Salud!

Txakoli

Txakoli (pronounced ‘Chacolee’) is a very old wine which comes from across the north of Spain. In particular, the Basque region where it’s ingrained in their culture. It’s usually a white wine but can come in red or rose, although rare. Typically, the white wine is a pale yellow or green colour. White Txakoli is very dry and lightly sparkling with acidity, and low in alcohol. This is usually served as a young wine (one year or less from bottling date) and most often as an aperitif. Of course, being served in the Basque country one should enjoy with pintxos! Some of the most common variations of Txakoli in the Vasque region include Txakoli from Getaria, Txakoli from Biscay, Txakoli from Alava and Txacolí from Cantabria. Each type of Txakoli will vary slightly in its acidity and colour.

Wine on the CaminoTempranillo

Like many wines, Tempranillo wine has a mixed history. There are myths involving monks, theories that it has an American influence, and even ties to the Roman god of wine. Whatever the history, this grape variety is blended with almost every red wine that comes from Spain and Portugal. It’s grown in Castile and León and other regions across north and north-west Spain. Tempranillo grapes are not naturally very acidic, which is why they blend very well with other varieties. This wine can be characterized as a medium-to-full-bodied wine with red fruit characteristics. Tempranillo translated literally means “little early one” and was a name given to it by Spanish winemakers who noticed it ripening earlier than other grape varieties. This wine goes lovely with a tomato-sauce based dish. Also, you should try it with any dish that features corn as a major ingredient.

Albariño 

Camino Wine-Vineyard

Albariño is grown in Galicia and north-west Portugal. It’s a white wine grape noted for a distinctive botanical aroma which is similar to that of Viognier or Gewurztraminer, therefore suggesting apricot and peach flavours. Albariño has also frequently been considered a sister wine of Riesling. The wine produced from this grape is particularly light and generally high in acidity and with alcohol levels of 11.5–12.5%. Its thick skin and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness.  Spain produces Albariño to a significant degree in the Rías Baixas, denominación de Origen, which means you’ll pass through her along the Portuguese coastal route (Pontevedra). When you are sampling this wine, try pairing it with the local seafood dishes.

Rioja  

Made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja and Navarre, and the Basque province of Álava, which is a region you’ll pass through along the French Way. A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging and the pronounced vanilla flavors which is essentially a trademark of the region. Nowadays modern winemakers are experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak which is contributing to a wider variety of flavors from Rioja. Reds (or ‘tintos’) are classified into four categories, as shown below.

  • Rioja – the youngest. Spends less than a year in an oak-aging barrel.
  • Crianza – aged for at least two years. One year of which is in oak.
  • Rioja Reserva – aged for at least three years. Again, one year of which is in oak.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva – aged for at least two years in oak and three in a bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva vinos are not necessarily produced every year.

When trying the reds, you should order a lamb dish. The tenderness of the meat, mixed with the aroma of the wine will make for a wonderful meal. If you’re trying the white variety of Rioja, sample little menu items, like white fish or salads.

El Bierzo  

Usually characterized by fresh fruity notes, smooth tannins and a notable reflection of the mineral environment in which it’s grown. Bierzo is a rural and remote ancient region in the north-western corner of Spain, or Castilla y León, which until recently was one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. Now, with much investment and innovation, El Bierzo wine counts as one of the country’s up and coming stars within the wine industry. You’ll pass through this region along the Via de la Plata and the French Way as you near Santiago de Compostela.

Wine is as common as water along the Camino so if you enjoy a sip make sure you indulge while on your Camino journey. But remember that you’ll be walking long days and sometimes in the sun, so ensure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated – the last thing you want is to face 25km the following day with a hangover!

All that being said, we recommend the best accompaniment for any wine is the company you share it with. So, we suggest that after a long day’s walking on the Camino de Santiago you sit back and relax with a bottle of the local finest in the company of a good friend or another pilgrim that you’ve met along the way. Exchange stories, ideas, and lessons. Listen, open up, get it off your chest and come back from your Camino having experienced all the wonderful joys of the Camino both tangible and intangible.

Traditional Galician Food on the Camino de Santiago

Fresh seafood is the most Traditional Galician food you’ll find on any menu on the Camino de Santiago.

With over 700 miles of coastline producing the best of seafood, you are guaranteed to enjoy the freshest traditional Galician food when walking the Camino.  Galicia’s traditional food is famous all over Spain and even Europe.  Galicia continuously out does itself year on year gaining new Michelin stars; in fact, it is the region of Spain with the most Michelin stars ensuring that it is the epicenter of Spanish gastronomy.  Bottom line, you’ll not go hungry in Galicia.

A Bit of History

In the Galician region, not only do the recipes heavily feature seafood, but they are also heavy with potatoes, either in the dishes themselves or on the side. Since the potato was introduced into the region, Galician recipes have started to feature the root, especially since it grows so easily on the coasts. Many Galician dishes also feature maze and wheat, since those crops grow the easiest in the climate and soil of the area. 

While the majority of the dishes focus on using seafood, the are still traditional Galician dishes that use more common meats, like cow, pig, or sheep. However, since seafood is the most common and most uniquely Galician, below is a list of our top 6 seafood dishes that you must try when in the north-west corner of Spain.

Octopus on the CaminoOCTOPUS (PULPO A FEIRA):

Adult octopus including the tentacles this is possibly the most common type of traditional Galician food, in fact for many Galicians they are the best part slow boiled until tender. Typically, the octopus is boiled in a copper pot, repeatedly to curl the tentacles of the octopus. Before serving tapas style in a small dish or a larger wooden plate for sharing, the tentacles are snipped into little medallions with some olive oil poured over and sprinkled with some salt and paprika. Traditionally, this dish will be served with potatoes and bread on the side. The best Pulpo I’ve ever tried on the Camino was in Milede on the French Way.

Traditional Galician Food - barnaclesGOOSE-NECK BARNACLES (PERCEBES):

Percebes are barnacles and certainly could win an award for being the weirdest food source in Spain but yet, they are a delicacy in Galicia.  They can be costly which is mainly due to the fact that they are dangerous to catch.  The fisher many must try to pull them off coastal cliffs or rocks in between each crashing wave making it very dangerous work.  Eating percebes or Barnacles can be tricky too, you must pull them apart, split open the shell then suck out the flesh inside, which is truly worth the work.  The taste like a little bit of heaven, if heaven was in the sea.  Percebes are a must try when in Galicia to really travel, one should embrace the culture and really experience what it is like to be from that region.

Muscles on the CaminoMUSSELS (MEJILLONES):

Are in general the most affordable option on this ‘to eat’ list. Basic mussels are a mainstay of the local economy along the Rías Baixas or western coast of the region.  Usually served up with fresh lemon wedges as Mejillones al Vapor (steamed mussels) or in a paprika-spiced marinade called, Escabeche.  These salmon coloured abalones can sometimes be rubbery and definitely taste like “ocean” and their salty goodness is addictive which means you’ll have no problem eating an entire platter to yourself, yum!

Scallops on the Camino

SCALLOPS (VIEIRAS):

Scallops are the symbol of the Camino itself.  The lines in the fanned out shell all coming to one point represent the many routes of pilgrimage to the same location, Santiago de Compostela.  They are also a symbol of Galician food as you’ll find them in most restaurants along Galician parts of the Camino. They are served steamed, in one half of their shell, either plain or with a mixture of onions, peppers, and breadcrumbs called vieiras gratinadas. A must try when visiting the north-west corner of Spain.

Gambas on the Camino

SHRIMP (CAMARÓN / GAMBA):

These crustaceans just may be the most widely recognized internationally of the huge array of seafood that is common to the average Galician.   These small, striped shrimp are caught in the local rías or inlets of the Atlantic Ocean so are abundant in the north-west coast of Spain. They seem to taste extra delicious in Galicia, maybe it’s due to the freshness or how they are served drenched in chopped garlic but somehow, even though they can be messy and a lot of work to de-shell they are always worth the effort.

Fish StewCALDEIRADA (FISH STEW)

Caldeirada is commonly known as Fisherman’s Stew, because it is entirely dependent on the fisherman making it. The traditional fish stew contains a mixture of fish and vegetables. There will often times be potatoes, onions, peppers, and/or tomatoes in the stew alongside any number of types of fish. The stew can also contain prawns, shrimp or other shellfish to add a variety into the taste. After a long walk or a day swimming off the coast, you should be sure to try this traditional dish with some local wine, especially if it has been a particularly cold day.

All of the fancy talk aside; the essential ingredient in traditional Galician food is freshness all along the coast there are fisherman working away and bringing the catch of the day directly to restaurant chef who are placing it on to your plate, therefore you can rest assured that whatever seafood you are eating that day will be the freshest.

As is true of any experience abroad, in order to truly enjoy your experience, you should fully embrace the culture. While you may not understand the names, anyone in the towns and villages will be glad to help you. Do not be afraid to ask questions. And most of all do not be afraid to try all of the new and excited foods of the region.

Read our list of top 5 wines along the Camino also to help you decide what to drink with your delicious Galicain food.

Caldo Gallego – The Traditional Galician White Bean Soup

A piping hot bowl of Caldo Gallego hearty soup is an ultimate comfort food. Whether it is to warm up on a cold winter night, to bring back childhood memories or to feel whole again when you are sick, there is nothing that beats a good old bowl of soup. Those of you who are looking to try something different yet healthy and yummy should try out the famous Galician Caldo Gallego, a white bean broth infused with meat and vegetables.

Caldo Gallego is a traditional Spanish soup from Galicia, a grass-covered region in the North-West of the Iberian Peninsula by the Atlantic coast. If you have never had Caldo Gallego before, give it a try. The wholesome bowl of nutritious goodness will cozy up your body to the core.

The History of Caldo Gallego – Where Did the Hearty Soup Come From?

Caldo Gallego is a white bean broth that originated in the northern Spanish region of Galicia. For many centuries, the soup was one of the major source of nourishment in rural areas. While it may no longer be the principal sustenance, Caldo gallego is regarded as one of the most exclusive dishes of Galicia to this date. Like numerous other renowned cuisines in the world, the Spanish soup has a humble beginning. The origin of broth is linked to the farmers and agriculture.

During the last century, more than half of Galicia’s population resided in agrarian regions. Far away from the cities and their accessible resources, people used to rely on their own orchards and farms for food. To keep their bodies nourished, the Galicians used to make the soup with whatever ingredients they could get their hands on. As a result, the recipe has turned to be highly variable. Each village, town and even household has its own unique method of preparation. Wherever you go in Galicia, you can expect to find a distinctive version of Caldo Gallego. Caldo Gallego

The Galician farmers had three meals a day and a light snack. The breakfast traditionally was a piece of bread dipped in yesterday’s leftover of Caldo Gallego or oil. As lunchtime approached, a fresh pot of Caldo Gallego was prepared and served along with a glass of milk and a loaf of bread. The dinner also consisted of Caldo Gallego. One would think that having the same broth thrice a day must be tiring. Surprisingly enough, the soup never lost its immense popularity and is still enjoyed by the masses. Other than the soup, other local dishes like lacon and cocido gallego were usually cooked on special occasions and holidays.

Since its inception, the Spanish white bean stew is mostly served during the winters to cope with the frigid temperatures. As mentioned previously, Caldo gallego has a different variety of ingredients. Depending on seasons, income and produce, families would have their own special set of instructions. There were people who could afford to buy all sorts of products including meat. For most of the families, however, meat was only used on certain events and celebrations. Most of the ingredients arereadily available and the soup itself is easy to prepare. One of the reasons the families would have it for breakfast the next day was because of its taste. Even though it won’t be fresh, the leftover broth still tastes amazing. If you don’t believe us, try it yourself. In short, it is an ideal Spanish dish to experience especially if money is tight.

Would you like to taste this delicious Galicia speciality ? Try it through one of our trips to Santiago !

How to Prepare Caldo Gallego?

Caldo Gallego is simple enough to make. Whether you are an awesome chef or pretty bad when it comes to cooking, the soup does not require amazing cooking skills. The ingredients are affordable and are easily available everywhere. While there are many types of recipes for this famous soup out there, we will share with you the most traditional one of them. Gather the ingredients, light your stove and get ready to brew up a delicious pot of Spanish soup.

Ingredients You Would Need to Make Caldo Gallego

Here is the list of ingredients that are commonly used in Caldo Gallego:

Servings: 4 to 6

One cup of white beans, soaked overnight and driedIngredients Caldo Gallego
4 cups of water
3/4 large chunks of salt pork
1 turnip, diced
1 Spanish chorizo, diced
3/4 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic; minced
3/4 teaspoon Spanish olive oil
3 cups of kale, chopped
3 red potatoes, cubed
1 to 2 Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Take a large pot, add olive oil and sauté onions until they appear translucent. Next, throw in your minced garlic, chorizo, and pork into the pot. Sauté them for a minute, then add white beans and water. Let the stew cook. Once the water is reduced and the soup has gained a little consistency, add potatoes and turnips. Cook for another 20 minutes on medium heat. Add kale and bay leaf a few minutes before you serve the soup.
Make sure the extra water evaporates or else the soup would be thin and runny. You can also add lard or corn flour to thicken the broth. Sprinkle grated Manchego cheese to jazz it up.

Next time on a cold winter, make a hot bowl of caldo gallego and enjoy it with your loved ones.

Why is the Scallop Shell the Symbol of the Camino?

The scallop shell is the most iconic symbol associated with the Camino de Santiago. It’s seen everywhere, from churches and distance markers to pavements and backpacks. But how exactly did this meager mollusk become associated with The Way?

The Scallop Shell in Pre-Christian Times

Like many Christian symbols and practices, the association of the scallop shell with the Camino predates the arrival of St James and Christianity in modern-day Galicia. In Roman Hispania, there was a route known as the Janus Path used by pagans as a born-again ritual and ending in Finisterre. Its starting point? The Temple of Venus, Roman goddess of love. Venus is said to have risen from the sea on a scallop shell, as depicted in Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus, and is associated with fertility rituals practiced along the route.

Ideas and themes associated with the cult of Janus are echoed by the concept of transformation on the Camino de Santiago. The Roman god Janus, for whom the month January is named, is the god of beginnings and endings, transition and transformation – all ideas shared by pilgrimages and discovered on the Camino today, a constant source of renewal and rediscovery.

The Scallop Shell and St James

Santiago de Compostela is named in honour of St James the Greater, the taller of the two apostles named James. James worked as a fisherman alongside his brother John before becoming Disciples of Christ. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles began to spread the gospel and convert others to Christianity. As part of his mission, James travelled to Iberia, landing at present-day Padron, to preach to pagans in the area. Sadly, on his return to Jerusalem he was beheaded by King Herod for blasphemy.

Here’s where the scallop shell comes into it. Following his execution, James’ headless body was being brought to Galicia in northwest Spain to be laid to rest. As the boat containing his body approached the coast, a knight on horseback was walking the cliffs above the Atlantic. Upon seeing the boat, the horse bolted and plummeted into the sea with the knight. St James is said to have miraculously intervened and saved the knight, still on horseback, who emerged covered in scallop shells.

 

The Scallop Shell in the Middle Ages

The first recorded reference to the scallop shell’s association with the Camino dates all the way back to 1106. It’s contained in the Codex Calixtinus, or Liber Sancti Jacobi, an exquisite illuminated manuscript attributed to Pope Callixtus II. The book is essentially a spiritual and travel guide that gathers texts related to St James and information on the routes.

Scallop shell santiago

Back then, pilgrimages were long and dangerous journeys undertaken as an act of penance and religious devotion. The pilgrimage started at the pilgrim’s home and continued by foot until they reached Santiago. Once they returned home, either by foot, horseback or boat, pilgrims presented the scallop shell as proof they completed the pilgrimage since the shells are indigenous to the Galician coast. By the 12th Century, scallop shells were being sold by hundreds of licensed vendors around the Cathedral of Santiago cementing their symbolic status.

The Scallop Shell in Ireland

The shell became so ubiquitous with the Camino that it acts as an archeological breadcrumb trail across Europe. Pilgrims that completed the way were often buried with the scallop shell or had it carved on their tombs and have been found amongst religious communities across the continent.

In Ireland, medieval graves marked by the scallop shell have been uncovered in priories and cathedrals in Counties Westmeath and Galway. Excavations at one Galway cathedral unearthed a centuries-old tomb containing a bronze-gilded statue of St James on a pewter scallop shell. These discoveries show the importance of the shell and the long-established connection between Ireland and the Camino.

The Scallop Shell Today

The modern pilgrim embarking on The Way can see the scallop shell at every turn, guiding them on milestone markers and providing a reassuring point in the right direction. Many pilgrims wear the shell, either around their neck or attached to their backpack, making it easy to spot fellow Jacquets on the Camino.

You can pick up countless souvenirs and mementos emblazoned with the shell, which make a great talking point to those who’ve been or want to go. You’ll also notice that churches along the Camino and churches named St James around the world will proudly display this ancient icon as a testament to their connection with the saint.

Practical Uses of the Scallop Shell on the Camino

The scallop shell was historically used for gathering water and drinking and as a bowl for collecting gifts of food and for eating. While no longer used in these ways, it does make a meaningful wine glass when visiting the wine fountain at Irache, just outside Estella. Filled with wine, it can be raised in a toast to St James and the millions who have walked this path before us over the millennia. Salud!

How to Get Your Camino Compostela – The Pilgrim Office Santiago

The first port of call for most pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela is the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago. After a visit to the Cathedral and the celebratory hugs with friends, a trip to the pilgrim office Santiago is next on the list.  It’s here that pilgrims receive their official Compostela or certification that they have completed a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  These pilgrims then join the ranks of the millions who, for more than 1000 years, have been officially recognised for undertaking their journeys to the tomb of the Apostle St. James.

History of the Compostela

Badges in the shape of scallop shells formed the first accreditation of pilgrims arriving in Santiago.  However, these were easily forged and were soon being sold at the entrances to the city.  To curb this trade, the Pope threatened to excommunicated the forgers.  The prelates of Compostela then developed and began issuing a more secure form of accreditation.  This consisted of a “cartas probatoria” or evidentiary letter.  These were being issued by the 13th century and were the direct forerunners of the modern Compostela.

Though hugely popular during the middle ages, pilgrimage to Santiago began to decline from the 16th century onward.  However, the Camino experienced a revival in the late 20th century which forced the Cathedral to re-evaluate once again the security of  the Compostela.  This was undertaken to ensure that, in the fast-moving modern world, those receiving the Compostela  had indeed completed a pilgrimage.  The new rules regarding the Compostela defined what manner of transport and distances constitute a pilgrimage.

How to Qualify for a Compostela from the Pilgrim Office Santiago

Compostela - Pilgrim Certificate

To qualify for a Compostela, a pilgrim must show proof of fulfilling the following criteria.
* The pilgrimage must be undertaken for religious or spiritual reasons or in “an attitude of search”.

* A pilgrim must walk or travel by horseback a minimum of 100 km or by bicycle a minimum of 200 km and finish at the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.

* A pilgrim must collect “sellos” or stamps on a “Credencial del Peregrinos” which is issued by the Cathedral de Santiago or a body authorised by the Cathedral. These stamps should be preferably collected by organisations associated with the Way of St. James such as churches, cathedrals, convents, monasteries, or hostels.  However, they may be also collected from town halls, cafes, bars, etc. The stamps must be collected twice per day if the pilgrim is travelling only the last 100 km by foot or horseback or the last 200 km by bicycle.  If travelling for longer distances, one stamp per day is adequate.

The Camino can be undertaken in stages of any length in order to earn a Compostela.  It is not uncommon for pilgrims to walk consecutive stages over several years before reaching Santiago.  This is perfectly acceptable as long as the stages are completed in proper chronological and geographical order.  The pilgrim must also get a stamp with the date at completion point of each stage and again at the same point when they resume their pilgrimage.

The Compostela is issued in Latin.  The recipient’s name is also written in Latin if a Latin form of their name exists.  The English translation of the Compostela is shown below.

The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that:  …..{Name}…. has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment (pletatis causa).

In witness thereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.

Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ….{Day}…. of ….{Month}…. year of our Lord ….{Year}….

Deputy Canon for Pilgrims

Certificates of Distance

For those qualifying for a Compostela, the Pilgrim Office Santiago will also issue a Certificate of Distance which details the starting place and date of a person’s pilgrimage as well as the completion date and the route they travelled.  These documents cost €3 and can be obtained in conjunction with the Compostela which is free.

Certificado

For those not undertaking the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, the Pilgrim Office Santiago will issue a Certificado.  The Certificado is a document which acknowledges completion of the Camino and has the same distance requirements as the Compostela.

Where is the Pilgrim Office Santiago?

The Pilgrim Office Santiago has recently moved to its new location at Rua Carretas, no. 33.  This is an approximately 3 minute walk from the Cathedral.  The telephone number for the office is +34 981 568 846. Click here to see map.

How are Compostelas, Certificados, and Certificates of Distance Issued?

Pilgrim Passport

When arriving at the Pilgrim’s Office, an official will thoroughly check your credencial with its dates and stamps to determine that your pilgrimage was undertaken in accordance with the rules of the Cathedral.  You will be asked to fill out a form stating your name, where you are from, where you started your pilgrimage, and your reason for undertaking a pilgrimage.  When the official is happy with your paperwork, he or she will issue with your Compostela, Certificado, and/or Certificate of Distance.

The numbers of all pilgrims arriving at the Pilgrim Office Santiago during the previous 24 hours will be read out during the Pilgrim’s Mass at 12:00 and 19:30 in the Cathedral.  The priest will also give the nationalities and starting points for these pilgrims. Here is a list of mass times along the final 100kms.

How to Avoid a Long Waits

Over 250,000 pilgrims arrive in Santiago each year seeking certificates or Compostelas.  This makes the Pilgrim Office Santiago is a very busy place, especially during peak seasons.

The Pilgrim’s Office is open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m at Easter and from the 1st of April until to the 31st of October.   From the 1st of November until the 31st of March (except over Easter) the office is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  On these days your Compostela can be received from the Cathedral.

The busiest times of the year in the office are July and August.  Peak times during the day are generally from 11 to 2.  The office is quieter in the early morning and evening and during off-peak seasons.

Address:

Rúa Carretas, nº33
15705 Santiago de Compostela
A Coruña – ESPAÑA

Tel.: +34 981 568 846

oficinadelperegrino@catedraldesantiago.es
botafumeiro@catedraldesantiago.es
credencialesperegrinos@catedraldesantiago.es

Gaisce – The President’s Award Affiliate

We here at Follow the Camino are Aroud to Offer your Camino Trip to Qualify for your Gold GAISCE Award

Gaisce or The President’s Award is an award in Ireland, earned by young people between the ages of 15 and 25. In order to get the award they must undertake a number of set activities and personal challenges. One of the official challenges now recognised as contributing to your Gaisce award is a tour on the Camino de Santiago booked with us. This can be achieved by contacting us to request our GAISCE specific package.

The term “gaisce” is from the Irish/Gaelic language that translates as “achievement”. The award was established under the patronage of the President of Ireland on 28 March 1985.

Every participant has the support of a “PAL” (President’s Award Leader). It is a personal challenge, the only person you compete with is yourself. The PAL guides you through the challenges and sets appropriate activities.

Gaisce’s mission is to contribute to the development of all young people through the achievement of personal challenges. There are 5 headings under which each level of award must be completed and the length of time gets progressively long depending on the standard of the award being achieved. Our famous last 100kms qualifies you for both your Silver and Gold Gaisce Award Adventure Challenge, so long as you adhere to the below:

*Providing you carry your own luggage, help us with the planning of your trip and cook daily for yourself.
We can also assist in placing you in a group of your peers who are taking on the same challenge.*

There are three levels of awards: bronze, silver and gold.

Bronze Award
Community Involvement – 13 weeks
Personal Skill – 13 weeks
Physical Recreation – 13 weeks
Additional activity in any section of your choice from the three above – 13 weeks
Adventure Journey/Research – Plan prepare and undertake a 2-day, 1 night adventure journey in a group covering a minimum total distance of: Walking 25–35 km or Cycling 100–130 km over two consecutive days.

Silver Award
Community Involvement – 26 weeks
Personal Skill – 26 weeks
Physical Recreation – 26 weeks
Additional activity in any section of your choice from the three above – 26 weeks (not required if the participant has received the Bronze award)
Adventure Journey/Research – Plan prepare and undertake a 3-day, 2 night adventure journey in a group covering a minimum total distance of: Walking 50–79 km or Cycling 190–220 km over 3 consecutive days.

Gold Award
Community Involvement – 52 weeks
Personal Skill – 52 weeks
Physical Recreation – 52 weeks
Additional activity in any section of your choice from the three above – 26 weeks (not required if the participant has received the Silver award)
Adventure Journey/Research – Plan prepare and undertake a 4-day, 3 night adventure journey in a group covering a minimum total distance of: Walking 80–110 km or Cycling 300–350 km over 4 consecutive days.

You can contact one of our Camino consultants today to explain how to use our Gaisce Camino package to help you gain your Silver and Gold Gaisce Award. 

9 expert solutions to possible problems with accommodation on holidays

The last thing anyone wants once out on the Camino de Santiago is to have problems with accommodation, especially after a long day’s walking when arriving in to a town tired and weary. We’ve listed some of the most common problems with accommodation and provided you with the solutions to help your trip go as smoothly as possible.

1) You can’t find it Lost

While you walk the Camino, you will have to make it to your accommodation. These are in towns you have never been in, in a country you are probably not very familiar with. So depending on how you made your booking. Booking engine platforms, directly with the hotel etc. If you book with an agency they will give you various level of information. You should expect the address details as well as individual maps for each accommodation and these are delivered in one document in your itinerary so that you do not have to check through many emails to check daily your next stop.
Once you have these documents, have at least the day’s destination with you every day and follow the instructions and look for landmarks on the map such as train / bus stations, churches, squares etc. Then instead of trying to navigate, it may be easier to just ask people once you get near enough. It is usually quicker (locals know where things are in their own towns) it also allows you to engage with them and maybe ask for a nice place to eat in later on.

2) They can’t find your booking

Now here is when you should take a breath and play it smart. Make sure you give your name as per the person who made the booking in the first place (let’s call him/her The Group Leader). Indeed if you are part of a party of two or more, accommodations usually only take one name on their reservation notebook – even if you gave them all the names at the time of your booking.
The same way “English” speakers mix Santiago de Compostela with San Diego de Compostella (yes we do!), Spanish can struggle a bit withexotic names Siabhon O’Riordan, Fintan O’Callaghan or other Seamus O’Keeffe. So, writing your name down is a good idea.
Also give your booking date and the way you booked (agency name, booking platform or your email address) to help them find your booking as any of the mentioned forms of booking will send an email request and get confirmation from the accommodation before confirming with you.

3) Your room is not ready

Rooms are being cleaned usually as soon as guests leave the hotel (check out) when the keys come back to reception. However there are check out times that are more popular than others and the cleaning of rooms then will take turns. All rooms are usually ready by 10 or 11am, although some are from 2pm (late check out). So if you have started early today or have walked faster than you thought and get to your destination early, your room might not be ready yet.
There are a couple of options for you. Go for a coffee, lunch or explore the town centre and surroundings. Make sure you ask the receptionist to give you a clear idea of when the room will be ready. Alternatively, ask the person if they have another room ready as it is possible to swap for the same types of rooms in most cases.

4) Your luggage has not arrived Luggage Transfer

More and more people use the luggage transfer service. This service of convenience is great to allow you to walk light, manage tiredness and strain on the body. The logistic of the luggage transfer is a simple yet complex system but they usually deliver by 2pm. So if your luggage has not arrived yet, do not panic. It is usually on its way. If you are aware of the name of the transporter, you can contact them or ask the receptionist to help you with that. If you used an agency, they hopefully supplied you with a service emergency number. So you can check with them. Getting in contact with the transporter can take a few minutes as they are driving and cannot attend some phone calls right away. They should be able to let you know within 10 minutes an estimated time for your delivery.
If the driver does not have your luggage, DON’T PANIC. Ring the hotel you checked out from that day and check if your luggage is still there. If so, you need to organise a new transfer and manage a refund with the contracted company for the service that was not delivered.
If the luggage is no longer in the hotel you checked out from, you are in the worst of storm in the luggage transfer scenario. Again DON’T PANIC. In the morning, accommodation receptions can be full of bags, suitcases and might be transported by different transporters. Sometimes – rarely, a transporter might inadvertently take your bag as part of a pile of bags that belong to them. Here there is no magic formula but be patient. Usually the bag will reappear around 7pm when your bag will have been brought with another bunch to another hotel. Then the receptionist will identify the bag as not belonging to their accommodation and start the search for the owner.
Your operator will help you deal with this.

5) Your room is unsatisfactory

If the room you are in is not to your taste, there can be solutions or not. It all depends on what the issue is and where you are. The Camino is an adventure in itself as whether you are going for a 5 days walk or 35+ from St Jean to Santiago, you will be moving every day, going from town to villages to cities. The standard of service varies and you will not be able to have 3* freshly renovated every day.
I would recommend you to deal with the accommodation owner to find a satisfactory resolution.
It is not for nothing that accommodation owners are called in Spanish: Hospitalleros (hospitalyer). Most of them want to welcome people and treat them well with what they have whether the hostel or simple 1 star pension to the Parador Hotel type of accommodation. Depending on the nature of the problem, they might change your room which is the best case scenario for you. Alternatively, they might give you a “sorry” drink or dinner.

6) The room is noisy

Hotels benefit from their surroundings. Usually in a good way (great location, cheap, by the sea etc.). Although, sometimes for example if a roadwork is being carried out a hotel cannot close for the period of the work hence, work legislation being strict with specific and limited start time 8am to 5pm.
If you are staying in hostels, this will surely happen with pilgrims unpacking, snoring etc. In other types of accommodations, it may happen that during your stay, a wedding is taking place or a feria (village party). While we all like our quiet nights and resting sleep remember, that you are traveling through people leaving places. As such it is important to respect the local life and livelihood. That is when the ear plugs come handy.
Once you have used the room and or meal you should not expect compensation to a value higher than the price of the services.

7) Your double bedroom is made of 2 single beds

Accommodation

You arrive to your room and although you had booked a double bed room, you are given a twin. Unlike in the USA, on the old continent, rooms are not all fitted will 2 double beds. Hotels tend to have only 15% of double bed rooms and a small portion of single rooms too so most of the rooms are twin with 2 single beds. While they might not be the best for couples, hotels prefer these to have more rooms able to respond to any type of bookings even joining 2 single beds when clients have booked a double bed room which accommodation take as fulfilling their contract (CHECK THE LAW). It is no harm to ask for a real double bed if that is what your confirmation states.
It is up to you on how you take this knowing that this type of behaviour is very common on the hotel side, it is the best way to manage their properties. On the client’s side, it is not always ideal so speak out before you use the room and try and find a reasonable outcome.

8) There was a problem with the payment

Booking contracts vary greatly from accommodation to accommodation and from operator to booking engine.
Some hotels are paid before the stay, some on check in, some on check out and some other after client’s departure. Because accommodation owners own are not tied to any hotel chain contract and policy, they kind of do what they want and feel most comfortable with. You will find that in France they tend to ask for payment upfront (deposit at the time of booking and balance on arrival or check out) while in Spain and Portugal they tend to get paid at check out.
So if on your arrival, they are asking for payment, if you have booked via an online booking platform, check your confirmation email. If you have booked yourself, same thing and if you have booked via an agency, just ask the hotel to ring the agency to sort it out.

9) Meals

Special dietary requirements
It is a good idea to remind your host of your meal preferences if you are vegetarian or lactose intolerant etc. Even if you requested this at the time of booking, be aware that between that time and your arrival, a lot of time has passed and the receptionist might have changed, the chef too or they might simply have forgotten. Remember that you are not going to go through a chain of hotels with bullet proof booking system, line managers etc. in a lot of smaller places you are dealing with family owned business which don’t meet the standard of service of the Hiltons. But, you know what this is partly why the Camino is appealing.
So to prevent any issue at dinner by clarifying it when you check in and toyour waiter as well (he/she might be different that the person who checked you in). Do speak out nicely, it is the best way to get what you want.
Meals times
Depending on what part of the Camino you are walking, meal times may vary. In France, breakfast is around 7am to 9am, In Spain, 7:30am to 10am, in Portugal 7:30am to 9:30am.
Lunch: France, 12pm to 1:30pm, in Spain 1pm to 3pm
Dinner: France, 7pm to 9pm, in Spain 8pm to 10pm
If the time does not suit you, it is unlikely they will get the cook earlier or later for you. They are usually accommodating and can prepare a picnic breakfast for example, if you are leaving early in the morning.

Packing Light for Your Trip on the Camino de Santiago

Packing light is not always necessary as there is a luggage transfer service available but if you decide to carry your own load then, packing light is your best friend.

Once you’ve decided to walk a Camino, some of the first questions are,  “What do I need?” and “How much should I bring?”  The trick is having everything you need but packing light at the same time.  This is crucial because carrying less weight equals less pressure on backs, knees, and feet and, therefore, more enjoyment.  So packing light means condensing our wants and needs down to a core number of items.  This is tactical packing at its finest.

What to Bring

A list of items needed for packing light depends on where, for how long, and in what season you plan on walking.  However, for those walking more than three or four days in spring through autumn, the following items cover the basics.

What to packShoes

Choose comfortable hiking boots, trails shoes, or trainers.  Before starting your Camino, make sure you’ve broken them in over at least several long walks .  Also, take a spare pair of shoes for evening – preferably waterproof if using hostel showers – to give the feet a rest after a day’s walking.  Further info on choosing footwear is discussed in our article “Walking Footwear for the Camino”.


Tops and Bottoms

Be sure to choose clothes made from quick-dry materials.  Under no circumstance is cotton your friend on the Camino.  Cotton holds moisture next to the skin causing chafing and blisters and takes an eternity to dry after washing.  On the other hand, high-tech fabrics for outdoor pursuits can take a shower – on or off your body – and be dry in short order with a little sun, breeze, and body heat.

Two pairs of trousers and/or shorts, depending on the time of year, are adequate.  Convertible hiking trousers with zip-off legs are handy due to their versatility.  Two or three shirts with a mix of long and short sleeves will carry you through weeks of walking.

Rain Gear

It’s usually a good idea to carry some sort of rain gear for most Caminos in most seasons.  This can include a poncho, rain trousers, a rain coat, or some combination of the above.  Go for a walk on a rainy day at home to test out your choice before leaving.  To test under full-on torrential conditions, hop in the shower wearing your gear.  Any deficiencies will quickly become apparent.

Warm Layers Outdoor jacket

Depending on the season, lightweight thermal base layers may be advisable.  These also are handy to wear as pyjamas on cold nights.  Regardless of the season, take a fleece top as evenings can get cool even in the summer if you’re in mountainous areas.  You can also layer shirts, trousers, base layers, fleeces, and rain gear to create the necessary amount of warmth.  Travelling light mean packing little and wearing it all at once if necessary!

Smalls

Bring dependable, functional smalls with good moisture wicking and no rough seams.  Three changes of underwear and socks should be adequate.  For those who like multiple sock changes during the day, an extra pair of socks may be in order.  And remember that if you’re staying in hostels, underwear is on view during washing, drying, and sometimes wearing.  While everyone generally does their best to be discreet, privacy is minimal so don’t bring anything you’d be embarrassed to have seen.

Accessories

Bring a brimmed hat to keep your head from boiling on hot days and/ or a warm hat to keep it from freezing in cold, wind, and rain.  Depending on the season, a warm pair of gloves could also earn their place in your pack.

Toiletries

Keep it to a minimum and bring everything in travel sizes to avoid extra weight.  An all-in-one shower gel and shampoo will keep the packing light and cover all washing needs from body to clothes to dishes.

How to pack lightOther Sundries 

  • A long list so keep items small and lightweight where possible:
  • Camera and/or phone with  charger
  • Eectrical adaptor
  • Guide book
  • Notebook and pen
  • National passport
  • Pilgrims’s passport
  • small first aid pack with bandages, a needle for opening blisters, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream, pain killers, an elastic bandage, and any prescription medication you may need
  • Water bottle or bladder pack
  • Backpack with rain cover
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Safety pins for hanging up laundry
  • Small travel towel if staying in hostels
  • Wallet, cash, cards, etc.
  • Headlamp for use in hostels or walking in the dark
  • Walking sticks
  • Sleeping bag or bag liner for hostels
  • Day pack if you’re having your main pack transported to each night’s accommodation

 

How Much to Bring

Packing light isn’t a major issue if you are having your bag transported from hotel to hotel and are only carrying a day pack.  However, carrying all of your belongings raises important questions regarding not just ‘what’ but ‘how much’.

Survey 100 pilgrims and you’ll have approximately 93 opinions on any given subject:  rain coat versus poncho, boots versus trail shoes, poles versus walking stick.  While the question of ‘what’ remains contentious, the ‘how much’ generatesremarkable consensus:  as a guide, don’t carry more than 10% of your body weight, excluding water and food.  Hence, the wry observation that when someone tells you ‘10%’, this is <em>not</em> an opening bid:  they’re trying to save your life.

Each pilgrim’s pack represents their own idiosyncrasies in interpreting what’s vital.  But woe betide the indecisive, the fatalists who prepare for all possible calamities, the sartorially diverse and expressive.  They start in high spirits, their packs towering above them.  Within days they’re hobbling on bandaged feet, struggling under the weight of their possessions.  As local physios tape and brace straining muscles and joints, they jettison increasingly unnecessary items.

Gone are the books, the hair dryers, the just-in-case pharmaceuticals, the stylish clothes.  Remaining are the clothes they’re standing in and a change for tomorrow, a change of shoes for tired feet, a bottle of hair/body/clothing/dish detergent, something to keep them dry, something to cover their weary bodies at night.  Yes, they are a bit more grubby and wrinkled and frayed at the edges.  But the freedom!  The lightness of body that lifts the spirit!  A smile creeps in unbidden.  The bandages come off as the body heals.  It’s like a resurrection.  We never know how weighed down we are by the things we think we need until we leave them behind.