2021 was an important year on the Camino de Santiago because it was a Holy Year. A Holy Year of Compostela occurs when the 25th of July falls on a Sunday. The 25th of July is the Feast of Saint James, so this is cause for celebration!
There are more people, from more countries, walking further along the Camino during Camino Holy Years. There are also more people visiting the Santiago Cathedral.
Xacobeo 2021-2022, the official title of the 2021 Camino Holy Year is especially interesting because it is over 2 consecutive years. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it was extended by the Pope to run until the end of 2022. The extension was a very welcome announcement to the tens of thousands of people who wish to visit Santiago and receive the plenary indulgence.
Historically, the number of people reaching Santiago and getting their certificates from the Pilgrims Office spikes every Holy Year.
There will be more people walking than normal.
The steady trod of pilgrims to the Santiago Cathedral increases every Holy Year to a veritable stampede in the days surrounding The Feast of St James (25th July). During the whole year, there will be more people on the trails, giving the area incredible energy. It is truly an amazing experience to be part of.
This does mean that if you want to walk the Camino (or cycle the Camino!) during the Holy Year you will need to book much further in advance than normal.
You can watch some footage from the last Holy Year (2010) here to get an idea of what St Jame’s Feast day looks like in Santiago.
Whether you want to find the crowds or avoid them, there are options for you in 2022.
How can I avoid the Holy Year crowds?
Pick your Camino route wisely.
Choose from one of the amazing and unique Camino pilgrimage routes that aren’t the Camino Frances (the French Way) or the Camino Portuguese (the Portuguese Way). The French Way is by far the most popular (and therefore populated) route to Santiago de Compostela, with the Portuguese Way coming in second.
To avoid some of the crowds, choose from routes such as the Camino Ingles (the English Way) or the Camino del Norte. Even quieter is the Camino Primitivo, a more rugged trail which is considered the original route to Santiago. These routes are always more quiet and even during the Holy Year, you should still have a peaceful Camino.
Choose your stages wisely, too.
If this is not your goal specifically, you will find that the earlier stages of the pilgrimage routes are quieter than the ones closer to the end.
The walk from Lisbon to Santarem, for example, is incredibly beautiful and further away from the busy areas.
Go earlier or later in the year.
Peak season on the Camino is mid-summer, and that is especially true when people are aiming to be in Santiago for St James’s Feast Day. The Camino is very pleasant to walk in Spring and Autumn as well because the weather is cooler and the paths are quieter. Late October and November still have lovely weather, but fewer people.
Some of our Camino Experts here at Follow the Camino even say that Autumn is their favourite season to walk the Camino. You might even want to walk the Camino during the quietest time of the Holy Year – winter!
Start walking mid-week.
Many people will be flying in from all around the world to walk or cycle the Camino in 2022. Most of them will be trying to maximise their holiday days by coming in on Friday or Saturday to start their walk. If you are a few days ahead of them you’ll have less competition for rooms, restaurants, and attractions.
Stay in pre-booked accommodation.
Hostels and alberges will be full during the Holy Year. You are never guaranteed a bed in these, so don’t risk sleeping on the floor after a long day of walking.
All trips booked through Follow the Camino include guaranteed private rooms and private bathrooms in lovely hotels and guesthouses.
The walk is tough enough, your accommodation doesn’t have to be.
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What if I want to join the crowds?
For the extroverts out there who want to walk the Camino to meet new people and feel the sense of community that comes with walking with hundreds of other souls – this is your year! The Holy Year adds a whole new element to the connections you can make on the Camino.
There will be more events, more celebrations, and more people everywhere you go. You will have your pick of walking buddies every day!
If you want to dive into this buzzing environment – do the opposite of almost everything that was recommended above. Walk the last 100km of the Camino Frances or Camino Portuguese Coastal or inland, in July, August or September.
We highly recommend booking all your accommodation ahead of your trip, as beds go quickly during peak seasons and you don’t want to miss out! If you haven’t booked ahead you could end up in more expensive or uncomfortable accommodation, or even having to walk another 5km or more at the end of a long day.
Talk to us
When booking with us you will be working with one of our wonderful Camino Experts. They have all the most up-to-date information about bookings and other things that might impact your journey, so you can discuss all the options with them.
The 2022 Holy Year on the Camino is going to be amazing, so contact us now to learn more about all the options that are available to you. Anyone can walk the Camino, from solo travellers to large groups, so we absolutely have the active holiday for you.
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Originally published on 12th December 2021