Every time a person does the Camino de Santiago, it is an adventure. It is never the same. It is never repeated. But in this article we have thought about those who do it for the first time. We know that the prospect of walking so many kilometres can be challenging and overwhelming at times.
So here are 10 tips for the Camino de Santiago that we would have liked to receive before our first time. We leave them to you wholeheartedly, let's get started!
When it comes to tips for the Camino de Santiago, this is the first one. Especially if it is the first time you are going to do the Camino de Santiago, the most important thing - and that's why it goes first - is to plan. You will have heard a lot of "as far as your feet will take you", but on the Camino it doesn't work. Unless you plan to take a walk and return home at the end of the first day.
In short: the Camino de Santiago is a long route. In fact, as long as you want it to be. It requires finding places to spend the night, having provisions, and keeping a certain pace. And that's why it's much better to have clear stages. That way we avoid getting lost, overloaded and broken. You don't want to get injured and have to give up at the very beginning.
2. Alternative routes on the Way of Saint James
The Camino de Santiago is not limited to the famous French Way. It is true that this route has enormous attractions. In fact, few routes concentrate as much heritage as the French Way, in which many other routes converge and which for centuries has been bringing together the majority of pilgrims. But even so, there are more than interesting alternatives.
Most people start on the French Way because of tradition. Or also because it is by far the most promoted of all. But it is also the busiest, which means that at peak times - in early and late summer - it can become overcrowded. So, if you prefer a quieter route, it's best to look for other options.
Some time ago we wrote an article about the 8 officially recognised Pilgrims' Routes to Santiago de Compostela. They are not all of them, because there are also routes that do not give you the right to the Compostela. But, in any case, it is useful to start looking at the options.
3. Be prepared
Another of those great tips for the Camino de Santiago that you will hear repeated ad nauseam: get a guide for the Camino. There are paper or digital, with all kinds of information and formats. But, above all, get a previous guide to inform you about how to prepare the Camino.
We have said it above: the Camino de Santiago is a demanding experience and, in addition to planning it, it is advisable to prepare it minimally.
At Proguías we have written a guide that can help you. There are 80 pages that introduce you to what it means and that are written with those people who are going to face the Camino for the first time in mind. And it is also illustrated. Click on the image below to download it.
Handbook of Pilgrims
Download the most complete guide to prepare the Camino de Santiago from scratch and step by step.
One of the best experiences of the Camino de Santiago is to share it. Not only with your own circle. On the Camino you will meet new people from many countries. As the stages are similar for everyone, you will end up meeting people who walk alongside you and with whom you can exchange ideas, feelings and information. On its paths great friendships have been forged, the kind that last a lifetime.
What's more, you'll pass through a good number of towns and cities. Some say that the Camino is the landscape and the people. And, without a doubt, talking to the people who live along the Camino will help you to understand and appreciate all its richness.
5. Keep moments to yourself
This advice is complementary to the previous one. Although we always recommend socialising and taking advantage of the Camino to engage in conversation, it is also important to reserve moments for oneself. Moments to talk to our inner self and reflect.
This is what many call the "inner path". And everyone agrees that it is healthy and revealing. Moreover, it is one of the reasons why the Camino engages those who do it. Because in our day-to-day lives we don't have many opportunities to just be, with ourselves.
6. Don't limit yourself to the Camino
The Camino de Santiago is one of the largest and most diverse cultural routes in the world. But not everything is at the foot of the route. That is to say: to really experience it, you will have to take a few steps outside the limits of the path and in directions other than those marked by the yellow arrows.
We recommend you take advantage of your passage to know nearby places of great value, make an additional visit and expand your experience of the Camino. In Proguías we prepare complementary activities specially designed for pilgrims. But even if you do not walk with us, we recommend them anyway. You will discover real gems.
7. Make sure you have somewhere to sleep
The Camino has a good network of hostels and accommodation of all kinds, but in busy periods they fill up fast. Especially the public hostels, which have a first-come, first-served admission policy. The truth is that sometimes there are real races.
It's not the best way to enjoy the Camino, so it's best to look for accommodation that you can book, to make sure you have a place to sleep at the end of the day.
At Proguías we work precisely by searching, selecting and booking the best accommodation. You tell us which Camino you are going to do, when you want to start and we do the rest. If you are interested, you can contact us and tell us your plans. I'm sure we can help you.
8. Reduce weight
Surely you've seen those images of pilgrims carrying huge backpacks towering over their heads. Well, be warned: it doesn't have to be like that. And, moreover, carrying more weight does not make you a better or more pious pilgrim, unless you have strictly religious motivations and are seeking some kind of penance.
Increasingly, pilgrims are turning to services that move their luggage from accommodation to accommodation. In this way, they can reduce the weight of their backpacks, limiting the number of belongings. Generally, it is enough with a mobile phone with a charged battery, your personal documentation, the pilgrim's credential, water and some snacks or energy bars to take when you take a short break.
9. Attention to diversity
One of the advantages of such large routes is how varied they are. Of course, there is the question of the landscape. The Galician and Castilian landscapes are not very similar, for example, and offer an interesting contrast. And that's just to talk about the French Way.
But we are not just talking about the views. Our recommendation is that you let yourself be seduced by the enormous cultural diversity of the Iberian Peninsula: several languages, different cuisines, intangible culture, popular music, diverse traditions... The Camino is much more than landscapes and monuments.
and 10. Take care of yourself
This is also one of the most important pieces of advice we can give you. Take care of yourself. Almost all the routes of the Camino de Santiago are suitable for all types of people, but that does not mean that it is like lying in a hammock. The effort will be important, and it is advisable to keep body and mind in good condition during the travel.
In the Handbook of Pilgrims we talked about before you have some ideas on how to do it. On how to avoid the main physical problems that the Camino produces and what to do if they appear. But it is also useful to know, before you start, if you are ready to start.
You may also be interested in: Doing the Way of Saint James: 5 reflections to know if you are ready for it