So you’ve decided to walk the Camino de Santiago – that’s great! But, you don’t have a walking partner? That is ok! It is safe to walk the Camino de Santiago on your own – even as a solo woman! Of course, there are some guidelines that you should bear in mind to make sure you have the safest and happiest Camino.
Here are our tips for safely walking the Camino as a solo traveller:
Listen below or read on…
Many people, particularly those with little or no experienced 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!
Choosing a Route
About 65% of people arriving in Santiago de Compostela come via the famous French Route. The most popular starting points are Saint Jean Pied de Port or one of the major towns or cities along the route such as Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, or Sarria.
If you’re starting from one of these points, particularly from May to September, you’ll have a lot of company. You will never need to walk alone if you don’t want to!
It is also easy to get to these starting points on trains and buses, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.
If you are looking for somewhere less busy, you can try the Portuguese Route which accounts for about 16% 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
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, try to find this out before you start a long-distance walk. 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.
Choosing a Walking Partner
After 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.
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.
If you’d like to guarantee that you have people to walk with every day, then consider a guided group tour!
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Some people are happy to walk the Camino 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 the 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 traveller stop your adventure! And don’t be afraid to meet new faces on the Camino de Santiago!
For advice on walking the Camino as a solo pilgrim, or on anything else Camino related – get in touch! Our brilliant Camino Planners are ready to help.
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Originally published on 27th August 2020