ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Tips before walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Updated on June 13, 2013

Can I walk the Camino alone ?

When you are a solo traveler, this is your own Way : you decide who you talk to, who you walk with, what time you start the walk, when you want to rest.

The Way is the place to make friends whom you'll set off with the following year !

If you decide to leave alone you have to know that from the month of May to October you are never alone on the Way. This is the ideal place to meet people. Meetings are easier since walking alone compels you to meet other walkers. Even if you go by yourself, the medieval Camino de Santiago is such a strong project that it brings people of all backgrounds and cultures closer together.

St Jean Pied de Port, the beginning of the Camino Frances
St Jean Pied de Port, the beginning of the Camino Frances | Source

Where to start the Camino Frances ? from Roncesvalles or from St Jean Pied de Port ?

For the people eager to walk the Way, this is a common doubt: will I be able to climb up from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles ? This is a very tough stage in the beginning of the Camino Frances! 1500 m of elevation gain, 7 hours’ walk.

If you are a mountain walker you know what it means ! This is a mythical ascent, no doubt you have to walk this stage from France. Just plan one or two days of training before tackling the dramatic ascent to Roncevaux.

For those who have never walked any mountain stage, the best is to train before and to start with shorter and easier stages.

St Jean Pied de Port, where the main French routes meet

st jean pied de port:
64220 Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

get directions

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Conques (France - Via Podiensis)Conques (France - Via Podiensis)Tympanium of Conques (France - Via Podiensis)St Chelly bridge (France - Via Podiensis)Ste Foy abbey church (France - Via Podiensis)Shell of the WaySt Jean Pied de Port (France) - icietlanature.comLourdes (France) - icietlanature.compilgrim passport - icietlanature.comEstaing (France - Via Podiensis)
Conques (France - Via Podiensis)
Conques (France - Via Podiensis)
Conques (France - Via Podiensis)
Conques (France - Via Podiensis) | Source
Tympanium of Conques (France - Via Podiensis)
Tympanium of Conques (France - Via Podiensis)
St Chelly bridge (France - Via Podiensis)
St Chelly bridge (France - Via Podiensis)
Ste Foy abbey church (France - Via Podiensis)
Ste Foy abbey church (France - Via Podiensis)
Shell of the Way
Shell of the Way
St Jean Pied de Port (France) -
St Jean Pied de Port (France) -
Lourdes (France) -
Lourdes (France) -
pilgrim passport -
pilgrim passport -
Estaing (France - Via Podiensis)
Estaing (France - Via Podiensis) | Source

Which Way to choose ?

The authentic Way of St James is the way which starts at your own home. But nowadays pilgrims walk during their holidays and can’t be out of their home for more than two or three weeks in average.

The first contact with the Camino is generally the Way called the Camino Frances which starts in St Jean Pied de Port and crosses Spain westward to Santiago : around 40 days are necessary to walk the whole French Way. This Camino is the most famous, with plenty of accommodations, numerous pilgrims, efficient waymarks and wealthy historical monuments.

This is also the part of the Way which is the most popular with lots of « pilgrims » walking to Santiago.

In France there are several routes : the route of Arles, the route of the Pyrenees starting from Lourdes, the Vezelay route which crosses Bourges.

The most famous Route in France starts from le Puy-en-Velay (it is also called the Via Podiensis) which has become famous thanks to the medieval villages all along the Way with the jewel of Conques and very renown places as the Aubrac plateau, Cahors, up to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the famous meeting point of all European Ways.

When to leave ?

Any period is a good period to start the Way.

The best periods are from April to October even if the rest of the year is also possible.

In Summer, the climate in the Castile plain is very hot and the earlier you start your walking days the better (avoid walking during the hottest hours of the day,between 2 and 6 pm).

In Winter, the accommodations may be closed, the days are shorter, the bags heavier with more clothes to carry, and heating is often lacking in some of the guest houses, the climate can be hard as well in some parts of the Way.

Which backpacker ? and what to bring ?

The choice of your backpack is important. Choose a backpack which is large enough : between 40 and 50 liters. You’d better not carry a bag heavier than 10% of your own weight. (If you weigh 70 kg, the bag has to weigh 7 o 8 kg max) in order to avoid muscle spams.

Choose a waterproof backpack that has a padded back, shoulder straps and buckles in the chest and waist areas.

The indispensable things to pack :

  1. A sleeping bag for 10 degrees C temperatures
  2. A pair of walking poles.
  3. Hiking boots ; Hiking socks,Trekking pole/s, Underwear ; Hiking pants ; T-shirt with wicking qualities ; fleece sweater ;Wind stopper jacket ; Gore-tex rain pants & jacket, ;Hat ;Shorts ;Bathing suit ;Thermals ; Top, pants, gloves, socks, balaclava (if a winter departure)
  4. Waterproof Backpack 40/50 litres
  5. Picnic items : Plate, Knife, fork, spoon ;Food (dried fruit, chocolate...) ; Trash bag ;First aid kit ;Swiss army knife ;Water bottle (2 l) ;
  6. Sunglasses ;Sun screen ;Camera.

Which shoes to wear ?

On the Camino de Santiago de Compostela you will walk on every type of ground : tarred road, rural tracks, concrete, gravels, clay tracks. You’d better choose light trail shoes or trekking shoes with a thick Vibram type sole.

Mountain Gore Tex hiking boots are convenient as well for they are waterproof and

built up to shore up the ankle, but it is uncomfortable on tarred or hard ground.

While walking

Walking long stages at a quick pace on the first days is a mistake and can cause muscles or articular injuries. During two or three days, walk at a slow pace, under 20km stages. « Walk like an old and arrive like a young ! » Once the muscle spasms have disappeared you can increase the length up to 30 km.

25 km stages are the average distance to walk each day.

Before starting the walking day, carefully stretch out your leg muscles and shoulders.

The Way movie

Need some help to plan your trip?

If you wish to walk on the Camino but without a backpack on your shoulders, a few agencies propose the service of Luggage transfer and hotel reservation, as « Ici et Là Nature » agency.

This is a more comfortable but really great solution : you only have to carry the things of the day and do not have to worry about the accommodation since everything is planned in advance !


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      thank you so much for your valuable info we are walking next yr 2016 April are excited and apprehensive at times

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thank you Dr Kristy!

      I've just discovered Hubpages and it's great to read posts about France.

      I'm French and I hope I can tell you more about it!

    • Doctor Kristy profile image

      Kristy Callan 

      5 years ago from Australia

      A great first hub - long and detailed. Voted up and useful.

      Welcome to hubpages!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)