camino de santiago best time to walk

Best time to walk the Camino de Santiago

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When is the best time to walk the Camino? This is one of the most frequently asked questions here at Follow the Camino. The issue is though that we are all different and consider “nice weather” different weather forecasts.

What is hot for an Irish, British or traveller from Seattle or Vancouver is a cool spring morning for someone living in warmer parts of the world such as Texas, Utah, California or Australia.

While we all have our personal thresholds for hot and cold tolerance, the weather on the Camino is rather stable (although we are seeing warmer autumns lately probably due to climate change). My first Camino in 2008 was in December and believe it or not, I had cold but dry weather and walked wearing just a jumper most of the time! However, last October brought temperatures as high as 32°C (89.6°F) near Santiago de Compostela when typically the temperature is closer to around 19°C!

So to help you decide when is the best time to walk the Camino de Santiago I will try and help you make the right choice by providing:

Best time to go on the Camino:

When considering the seasons to walk many people ask should I go in Spring or late Summer when temperatures are milder? Every season on the Camino de Santiago, however, has its own beauty that is worthy of discovery.

Walking The Camino in Spring

spring walk on the camino
Sarria to Santiago – French Way

From the 21st of March until 21st June; the temperature will rise gently from the mid-teens to mid-twenties. As the weeks go by, it will get drier, in general, making it ideal for a lot of people who like the sunshine without getting too hot. Nature is blooming along the way making May the most popular month along with September to walk the Camino for Non-Spanish people.    

As you head towards June you’ll have the advantage of more hours of sunshine as the days reach their longest (21st June Summer Solstice). Making it a great time to relax in the afternoon and evenings under the sun.

Recommended Spring Caminos

With the weather getting gradually warmer and drier over the spring (still don’t forget your raincoat just in case!), coupled with longer evenings we recommend the following routes to experience the best of what the Camino has to offer at this time of year.

Camino Frances – Last 100kms Sarria to Santiago: This route is greater for those new to walking the Camino. During the Spring the countryside is awash with flowers, trees have their full leaves out and your day will be accompanied by the sound of babbling brooks and birdsong.

Camino Portuguese -Last 100kms Tui to Santiago: This traditional inland route takes you from the border of Portugal and Spain up through a mixture of vineyards and the countryside to reach Santiago. A true delight for the senses with flowers coming in bloom and fields of crops beginning to grow.

Camino Frances – Burgos to Sahagun: If you have been walking the Camino bit by bit each year then this will be a great section to walk in the Spring as it will avoid the unhabitable heat and sun that affect this stretch in the summer due to its lack of shade on the Meseta.

Walking The Camino in Summer

summer walk st james way
Summer walk

Summer (21 June to 23 September) is one of the most popular seasons for walking the Camino for Spaniards, so you better book accommodation in advance to make sure you will find a place to rest.

During the summer months, the further inland and south you go expect higher temperatures and drier weather right through to the end of August.

Routes like the Finisterre Way, Portuguese Way and the Northern Way can be great options during this period, with temperatures that can range from 20°C (73°F) to 28°C (80°F). In summer, pilgrims go to bed earlier at night and wake up before the sunrise to get a head-start on the heat of the day.

Recommended Summer Caminos

As summer is one of the most popular seasons to go on the Camino and temperatures can increase in some sections of the different routes, we recommend our clients to go on the following routes:

Camino Portuguese Coastal Way: this route follows the Galician coastline providing a much needed Atlantic breeze to keep you cool as well as the opportunity to cool off in the ocean either on your way or at the end of your day

Camino Ingles from Ferrol to Santiago: starting on the coastline, summer is a great time to walk the Camino Ingles as you can end your first day walking by taking a dip in the sea on the beautiful beach as you enter Pontedeume.

Camino Frances from St Jean de Port to Pamplona: summer is one of the best times to walk in the Pyrenees. The temperatures up in the mountains are cooler and perfect for walking.

Walking The Camino in Autumn

autumn walk
Autumn walk

September has become a very popular and busy time on the various routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. As you enter autumn from mid-September you will get a milder temperature and a fair bit of shade.

Things will get wetter in general though from mid-October onward especially in Galicia, the arrival region of most routes. Temperatures will also go back down to the low teens at best in November/December. At this time, a certain number of accommodations close down after their busy season which needs to be considered while planning.    

Recommended Autumn Caminos

The last 100km from Sarria to Santiago is one of the most beautiful sections to do in autumn. We also recommend the first section of the Camino Frances. Starting in St Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona, you’ll be surrounded by the Pyrenees and all its fiery, breath-taking autumn colours.

Another great option for autumn is the final section of the Via Francigena from Viterbo to Rome. You will enjoy the spectacular scenery and Rome is less busy in the autumn with tourists so you can make the most of your time there.

Walking The Camino in Winter

walking the portuguese way
Road to Santiago – Portuguese Way

Winter is considered low season for the Camino. Some routes will be closed (Napoleon route of the French Way in the Pyrenees) or will prove more difficult to access (O’Cebreiro) with some snow at altitudes of above 800m. This is the most peaceful time for going on the Camino, there are fewer people on the way and accommodation is very quiet. 

winter camino french way
Winter walk – French Way

During the months of December, January and February, temperatures can drop to around 0°C ( 32°F) to 10°C (50°F), the weather also in the northern region of Spain is typically rainier.

We recommend wrapping yourself properly with various layers of clothes, gloves and a proper coat.

We have great experience in organising trips even outside of the main season so don’t worry about the weight of your backpack; we can still transfer your luggage from one point to another so you just have to enjoy your walk.

Recommended Winter Caminos

Some of the routes that we recommend to walk in winter are the Camino Portuguese from Tui to Santiago and the Portuguese Coastal Road from Oia to Santiago. Very good options for winter because of their location, the weather is always milder in this western region than in the north of Spain. 

What are your time constraints

If you really want to know when is the best time to go onto the Camino, one question to ask yourself is firstly “When can you go”?

If you are retired and one of those lucky ones to have very few major (paid) commitments left then, pick what suits you and go I suppose!

However, with all the will in the world, if May and September are considered the best months to go on the Camino because the weather is mild and very pleasant if you are a teacher or have other work commitments, you might simply not be able to make it then.

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Now DON’T PANIC, we will help you out

Adapt to The Camino Weather Conditions

If it is colder: Cover-up, and use layers.

If it is hotter: Temperatures reach their maximum between 13h00 and 15h00 so on a hot day, try and set off by 6 or 7 am depending on the temperature and how you feel. This way you will most if not all your walking done before the heat of the day settles in.

If it is dark: If you are on those months with less daylight, use a head torch for the first 1hr or so of darkness. Most smartphones also have torches that will aid you in finding the Way!

Our packing list tool can be very helpful for you to pack for your Camino according to the season.

Change Camino Route

With the great variety of routes to choose from, it is always possible to find a warmer route in winter and a cooler one in summer. You can check out our weather map or contact us directly to discuss your options with your Camino planner.

How busy does the Camino get?

How busy will the route be is something you might want to consider. The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage after all and for most people doing the Camino, it is anticipated to bring a level of peace, reflexion and quiet.

camino peak season
Pilgrims on the Camino

Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the banter you get as there are people along the way but it may be too busy for you at times if you are looking a more peaceful experience.

The great thing with the Camino is that you do not have to choose just one route. If you consider that the French Way carries 65% of pilgrims arriving into Santiago and that the 5 other routes that reach it share the 35% left, you get what I mean!

The French Way will have people on this route all the time (in Season) and more and more it is becoming very busy. But what does very busy mean? Well, it means that you will never walk on your own without seeing somebody else in the distance ahead or behind you. It means that cafes and bars are busier and the line for the bathroom will be longer!  Having said that you will have plenty of opportunities to chat with fellow walkers though from all over the world and walks of life.

The Portuguese Way will be quiet most of the time. However, the more popular sections on this route from Porto north, particularly the traditional inland route via Tui, is witnessing growing numbers of pilgrims and can be busy on this last 100kms in high season.

All of the other routes will be quieter, and you need to be prepared to not meet many other pilgrims.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these are our suggestions for the best times to go depending on the weather and the experience you are looking for. However, don’t get caught up on that or feel restricted to travelling at a certain time of year.

The best time to go might be the enemy of the good time to go! What is important is to make a decision and plan accordingly. Travelling in summer, autumn or whatever time will bring you something different and greatly enjoyable, so long as you plan properly and realistically – which we can help you with.

Make 2020 Your Camino Year!

We’ll help you make it happen.

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