No matter what your reasons for adventuring into walking El Camino are, the pilgrimage promises to offer you a memorable experience. So, whether you want to walk towards the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela because of your religious beliefs, you want a fun outdoor escape, you have great fitness goals, or you have no idea what your reasons are, just pack your bags and leave.
But if you are a beginner, don’t start without catching a glimpse of the following useful tips for first-time adventurers. Enjoy reading!
Decide whether to go alone or with somebody
Many people walk El Camino alone, but there are also groups of travellers who have this adventure together. Both ways have their pros and cons, and how you do it depends only on what you want from this adventure.
Just keep in mind that if you are afraid of walking it solo, there is no reason for that. Most of the routes are filled with other pilgrims so, not only are you safe, but you can always meet people and have interesting conversations.
Choose Your Route
Before you begin planning your trip, you must choose a route. There are many great options, and your choice depends on your personal likes and dislikes.
The most popular and, of course, the busiest is the French Way. It can last around 30 days, and it has about 800 km. You don’t, however, have to walk that much, if you don’t think you are able. You can begin closer to Santiago de Compostela, or you can take advantage of the great trains and buses available since El Camino Frances is the route with the best infrastructure.
In case you are not interested in a busy pilgrimage, you can always go for the Primitive Way. Not only is this path quieter and more suitable for a spiritual walk, but it is also shorter. Its 300 km can be completed in two weeks. But be careful when choosing this trail because it is one of the toughest and your fitness level should be pretty high to complete it.
These are only two of your options. Just keep in mind that the pilgrimages are diverse and they can offer you different perspectives of El Camino. So, choose wisely.
Decide when to go
Though you can walk El Camino all year round, there are some things to consider before choosing when to begin your adventure.
For instance, if you choose to walk the French Way, but you don’t want to meet big crowds of people, you should avoid walking it during the summer months and Easter holidays. Summer is, however, a great idea for all the other routes, especially if you don’t mind the high temperatures.
Also, if you are not a big fan of cold weather and rain, planning your trip during Spring or Autumn is a great idea no matter which route you choose.
Train for your adventure
If you are not used to walking an average of 25 or 30km every day, consider training before walking El Camino. Preparing your body for this trip is very important if you want to have an enjoyable walk and avoid any type of accidents.
Begin your training a few months before the pilgrimage and, of course, make sure you don’t use new shoes on El Camino. To avoid wounds and blisters, walk in those shoes for a few months before you decide they are comfortable enough to wear them on the way to Santiago.
A few more tips for the road
To make the best of your pilgrimage, wake up very early in the morning. This way you will finish walking around lunch, and you can enjoy the rest of the day exploring the area, relaxing, chatting with the locals and the other pilgrims, or doing whatever makes you happy.
In case you don’t have too much time to train before you begin walking, give your body time to acclimatise. So, try to walk only moderate distances for the first three days. Also, if you don’t have to, try not to keep a strict schedule. There is no reason to put extra pressure on yourself.
No matter when you are walking, make sure you are always hydrated. Drinking lots of water is extremely important for your health so always carry a bottle with you.
As mentioned before, there is no reason to be afraid of walking El Camino alone. Besides being a safe place, filled with friendly locals and other pilgrims, it’s also full of signs. So, there is no way you will get lost.
But, whether you travel solo or with your dear ones, be prepared for the down moments because there will be some. Be patient and open, and don’t give up when that down moment or even down day comes.
Now, pack your bags and just go!
Packing light is always important no matter where you travel. But when you walk El Camino, you have to pack REALLY light, because you will carry that bag every day. And don’t bring anything in bulk, no shower gel, shampoo, or creams. You will find plenty of stores on the way.
Once you choose your route, the best time for you, and your companion if you want one, stop planning. You can plan everything else on the trail. And even if you decide what you want to do and see before you begin your adventure, things will change. So there is no reason to waste any time with these kinds of plans. A bit of spontaneity never hurt anyone.
These are our Camino tips for first-time adventurers. Other than considering our advice, make sure you walk the route with an open mind and heart and let El Camino show you the way towards Santiago de Compostela and answer the questions you had when you decided to have this adventure.
This guest post is written by Rebecca Brown. Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.
Main image credit: Miguel Ángel García via Flikr.