long does it take to walk the Camino?
of Saint James of South Africa
Walking the entire Camino Frances route from St.
Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela can
take anything from one month to six weeks.
Depending on fitness, time restraints and inclination,
daily walking distances may vary between 12 and
30 km. - Sometimes the positioning of the refugios
makes it possible to walk much less - or more -
You need to walk the last 100km or cycle 200km to
qualify for your certificate (compostela).
Cyclists will need around two weeks on average.
A complete list of the refugios with distances between
them is available in most guidebooks or from the
confraternities, but weather and terrain should
also be considered when calculating potential sectors.
Don't overestimate your fitness.
If possible give yourself a few rest days along
the way to recuperate and enjoy some of the cities.
And listen to your body!
long does it take?
is no simple answer to this question. Whether on
foot or bicycle, how long your pilgrimage will take
will depend on many variables, such as what kind
of terrain you will be crossing, how much you want
to travel each day, how many rest days you wish
to take during the pilgrimage and, naturally, your
The hilly countryside near Le
Puy, France, may limit walkers to 15 or 20 kilometers
per day, while the flat expanses of the Spanish
meseta will allow some to walk 30 or more kilometers
You may choose to finish your day’s walk
early in the afternoon, or you may prefer to continue
walking until late in the day.
The distance you
travel in a day will depend on your pace, as well
as on how often you stop to rest, to visit cultural
attractions and to talk to people. You may wish
to take a day off from time to time, or you may
prefer to walk every day.
guidebooks for the various pilgrimage routes offer
For the entire Camino francés,
a distance of approximately 750 km (~450 mi), walkers
commonly take about 32 to 35 walking days. Cyclists
might count on about two weeks.
Other examples would
be for the Camino primitivo, 13 to 15 walking days
from Oviedo to Santiago; for the French Chemin du
Puy, 30 to 34 walking days from Le Puy to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port;
and for the German Münchner Jakobsweg, 10 walking
days from Munich to Lindau-Bregenz.
Take your pick;
the possibilities are nearly endless.
there alternatives to walking the Camino?
but traversing the Camino using muscle power one
way or the other is a requirement for certain benefits.
Today between 15 and 20% of peregrinos, for example,
bicycle the route.
In order to use the majority
of albergues and in order to receive the compostela
from the cathedral in Santiago, you must be either
on foot or bicycle (or rarely, on horseback).
information is available for cyclists?
present the American Pilgrims' web site is oriented
toward the walking pilgrim, but much of the information
presented applies to cyclists as well.
information directed specifically toward cyclists,
you should consider joining the Yahoo special-interest
group Santiago Bicicleta.
The British Confraternity
also has a useful booklet, The Cycling Pilgrim.
Entering something like "camino santiago bicycle"
(without the quotes) in your favorite search engine
will produce a plethora of sites.
is possible to do the Camino on horseback? With
although it will take some planning.
Confraternity has a useful page with advice for
horse riders and with further web site links.
about using a burro? You'll want to visit El Burro
I have to carry a backpack?
short answer to this is 'yes'. Assuming that you
are walking it would be rather impractical to travel
carrying your worldly possessions any other way.
A suitcase - even one with wheels - would simply
be non-functional on almost all of the Camino's
If you will be walking but with vehicle
support a suitcase would work but traveling this
way would deny you access to a substantial percentage
of the pilgrim albergues.
So if you are traveling
with complete vehicular support and you will be
staying strictly in private albergues and/or hotels,
then, yes, you could get by without a backpack.
if you are cycling, the question will be worded
differently but the answer is pretty much the same.
are various types of walking trailers manufactured.
Try a term like "hiking trailer" in your
favorite search engine. There are some rough sections
of the Caminos where these would be problematical.
of course you can have a horse or burro do the work
for you. See above.
I mail a package ahead to myself?
and this is fairly common. Many do it after starting
out to lighten their load; others may do it with
aforethought, sending a package of 'city clothes'
ahead to Santiago.
The service in Spain, called
lista de correos, is the same as poste restante
or, in the U.S., general delivery. You can buy a
box at the correos (post office). Packages are addressed:
name with your surname first and in capital letters
and underlined or boxed
city with postal code and province (see below for
Correos' general policy is to hold a package for
14 days after which they will return it to the city
of origin. Needless to say that would be very bad
news! You might write "PEREGRINO" boldly
on the box and you might also add "Retener
en lista de correos hasta el <day> de <month>"
("Hold until date" with the month spelled
out in Spanish) but nothing says that doing all
that will guarantee anything.
lista de correos addresses of a few major cities
along the Camino are:
Sarasate 9/31080 Pamplona (Navarra)
de Inmaculada 5/31200 Estella (Navarra)
Caldo 44/26080 Logroño (La Rioja)
Conde de Castro 1/09080 Burgos (Burgos)
de San Francisco s/n/24080 León (León)
General Vives 1/24400 Ponferrada (León)
Calvo Sotelo 183/27600 Sarria (Lugo)
17/15703 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)
will need your passport for identification when
retrieving your package.
a further question about mail service in Spain?
Link to the Correos de España web site (click on
"English" upper right corner). http://www.correos.es/dinamic/plantillas/home1.asp
the way, the information for poste restante service
in France can be found at the site for Discover
France (English). http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/DF_postal.shtml
for "General Delivery Service." We have
seen advisements against sending packages from France
(St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port for example) to lista de
correos in Spain. Apparently the two systems don't
recognize each other.
I have my pack transported?
although a service to support you over the entire
route probably does not exist short of joining an
Be advised that some albergues may
refuse you accommodation if they are aware that
you are not actually carrying your own pack.
in a few select stretches of the Camino francés
over some of the higher and more arduous passes,
the peregrino seems to be given a waiver from this
your pilgrimage: some practical tips
of St James
We have a very useful booklet in our Practical Pilgrim
Notes series - The Cycling Pilgrim, 2nd ed, February
2007 - which is available in our Bookshop. We hope
it will do something to make up for the emphasis
generally given to walkers.
For a group "geared to those who have ridden,
or who are planning to ride, the Camino de Santiago
pilgrimage route across northern Spain, or any of
the connecting routes. The group is planned to collect
and share information about this tour and act as
a resource for those who are contemplating it. The
list is primarily intended for cyclists who will
be using roads for most of their journey, perhaps
with some short sections on the walking path, but
those who plan to use mountain bikes or hybrids
on the path are also welcome."
And a special warning: the Spanish police are now
enforcing the law introduced a few years ago, obliging
cyclists to wear helmets. One cyclist (not on the
Camino, as it happens) had his front wheel confiscated
when he couldn't pay the €90 fine.
And visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum to join
the current conversation among cyclists: http://www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com/board/biking-the-camino
of St James : Frequently Asked Questions
about cycling ?
of the advice given on this site, though mainly
intended for walkers, applies to cyclists as
well, but for more specific advice, try http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Santiago_Bicicleta
also have a very useful booklet in our Practical
Pilgrims Notes series - The Cycling Pilgrim,
2nd ed, Feb 2006 - available through our our Bookshop.
visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum to join the
current cyclists' conversation.
like to go on horseback, or maybe take a donkey
On the whole, animals seem to be more trouble than
they're worth, but follow these links to find out
more about going on horseback: http://www.csj.org.uk/horse.htm
taking a donkey: http://www.csj.org.uk/other-websites.htm#donkey
W. Tripp, Jr. 2011
Bicycling pilgrims can travel on touring bikes or
mountain bikes. Many portions of the path followed
by walkers cannot be traversed using touring bikes,
and riders must follow alternative routes that pass
through the same villages and towns, using local
dirt roads or those paved with asphalt but generally
with little traffic. These parallel the route used
by walkers but stick to surfaces suitable for such
bikes. Mountain bikers follow the camino and cohabit
with walkers throughout the trip, even along portions
where the average walker is astounded to see someone
riding a bike.
Although it is possible to rent bicycles in Spain,
you are better off to bring your own. You can ship
your bike as checked luggage on your flight and
clearing customs on arrival will not be a big problem.
The fees involved and rules for shipping your bike
vary with the airline, so this should be checked
into early in your planning and could affect your
decision as to which airline to fly. After arriving
at your European air terminal, you can use local
mass transportation to get to the location where
you intend to start. In addition, there are several
tours available which offer rental bikes for a supplemental
Whereas a walker can cover 20 to 25 km per day,
a bicycle rider can cover much greater distances,
60 to 75 km.
Start training three or four months in advance.
It is preferable to condition yourself on your bike
but workouts in the gym are also useful, particularly
if you are going to make an early spring departure.
Remember that once you start out, you will not have
the option to stay off the road if the weather is
bad, so do the same in your work-up phase. Make
a schedule and stick to it, regardless of the weather.
It will be a good test of your gear. A bicycle trip
lasting a weekend to a week, requiring you to totally
depend on what you are carrying is recommended to
help condition you and to evaluate your gear. Leave
some time afterwards so you can buy replacement
gear if something proves unsatisfactory. If possible,
practice over different terrain, including steep
hills, mountains, and roads in poor condition, using
a loaded bike to the maximum practible extent.
Check out more than one bike shop and talk to employees
knowledgeable in touring before making a purchase
decision on your bike and its gear. Chose one of
good quality and minimize the weight. Use extra
reflectors and ensure you have working lights for
travel during rainy and overcast conditions or in
case you find it essential to travel during twilight.
Rearview mirrors are a must. You will need front
and rear saddlebags, and should plan to distribute
the loading so that the weight is balanced to both
sides, fore and aft. Because of the weight, a high
quality dependable braking system is essential.
You will need wider tires because of the rough conditions
of parts of the route. Because of the weight and
the hills/mountains you will be crossing, use gearing
that provides 10 to 18 speeds. You will probably
find a small handlebar bag convenient for small,
frequently used items. A frame-mounted water bottle
is also essential.
Last but not least is the seat. Make sure you and
your seat are compatible. If you decide to part
company during the trip, it will be expensive, take
time and will only be made after reaching a point
where the discomfort reached an unbearable point.
If it gives you discomfort during the conditioning
period, it will not get better on the Camino.
Above all, remember it will be your muscles that
have to power you and everything for the hundreds
(200 as a minimum) of kilometers you will be traveling.
Everyone will have their own preferences but the
ones below are generally accepted as the quintessential
requirements. If you are traveling with others,
weight and volume can be reduced by sharing items
among the group but replication prevents problems
if a unique item is lost or a person drops out of
Tire repairs: pump, spare tire or inner tube, patches,
rubber solution, sand paper, tire lever
Mechanical repairs: brake liners, spare spokes,
brake and gear wires, chain links, adjustable wrench/multipurpose
For safety, select clothing that will make you easy
to spot when cycling along the roads. Like walkers,
bikers also need clothing that dries quickly and
should think in terms of two sets of clothing, what
you are wearing and what you just washed.
Hard soled shoes
Protective headgear, including provision for protection
of your face and neck from the sun.
Shirts that absorb sweat and vent it
Pants designed to minize chaffing at inseams and
the inside of the thighs
similar to that recommended for walkers, with emphasis
shifted from care of feet to care of chaffing and
abrasions/cuts resulting from falls.
Plastic bags to protect your clothing and other
items from the water that will inevitably get inside
See the comments for walkers concerning the following
items you will need:
Getting your bike undamaged to your trans-Atlantic
destination is a major aspect. Your airline will
have bike cartons but also a local bike shop should
have them or can get them for you, and that may
be more convenient. You will have to rely on the
airline for the return flight.
However your bike will be shipped, boxed or bagged,
for your own protection take precautions so that
it will arrive in good condition at the other end.
Take extra steps to protect breakable items within
the carton. The damage resulting from poor handling
may be the airline's responsibility but preventing
it by packing your bike carefully will take less
time than effecting repairs and result in a more
pleasant trip. Make sure you use the tools you will
have on your trip to do any disassembly required
to prepare it for packing..
If you are not already an experienced bicycle tourist,
read a general book on bicycle touring. You can
also read articles on this in bicycle magazines
or search online.
At one point I was going to have a full section
addressing travel by horseback. However, because
of the difficulties of shipping horses internationally,
there are very few potential travelers who will
travel from the US to travel the Camino by themselves
on horseback. If you wish to travel by horseback,
you need to contact one of the busineses that organizes
camino travel by horseback (a caballo). Here are
a few links to help you get started:
Camino a Caballo
Caminos de Santiago a Caballo
Hipica Rabadeira (In Spanish)
El Camino de Santiago a Caballo This is a more general
site listing riding clubs where one can rent horses
for riding on the Camino.
à Q.Pratique Avant