FAQ : When


                                                                              When should one go



                                        Confraternity of Saint James of South Africa



  When should one go? 

- It depends very much on the time of the year.

- A Mediterranean-type climate prevails over most of the route, but as with most places the weather is very unpredictable - and every year is different!

- South Africans are not generally used to cold weather and it does mean carrying more kit, so May through to September are recommended.

- As for rain, it can be wet in virtually any season, particularly in Galicia, and suitable rain gear makes the walk that much more bearable in wet and muddy times.

- If there is any doubt about bad weather, ask questions of the locals and use your own judgement rather than just following other pilgrims - especially when walking over the Pyrenees or in other mountainous sections.

- Never cross the Pyrenees on the Route Napoleon alone in bad or unstable weather, rather take the low road via Arneguy.

- See the section What do you take with you? for more information on travel gear.


  The following descriptions are based on reports from returning pilgrims:

- January - February Very cold with snow - not advisable

- March Rainy, windy and moderate to high potential for snow

- April Variable - warm spring sun, sometimes even hot, rain, sleet and snow around the Pyrenees/Roncesvalles, thunderstorms around Sarria & O Cebreiro

- May For wildflowers spring or early summer is a good time. It is still fresh, but generally warm, (22 - 23 °C) with some rain and wind around O Cebreiro. It can however also be very cold with snow in the north

- June Warm to hot, some rain

- July - August Generally pretty hot with daily high temperatures on the meseta (Burgos to Léon) up to 40°C. This is the time to be in Santiago for the Feast Day on 25 July. It is also traditional holiday time in Europe, so the route tends to be busiest

- September Generally warm days and cool early mornings and nights. Rain from around O Cebreiro intermittent, increasing towards Santiago. There are still a few wildflowers in Navarre and La Rioja, and broom blooms in Galicia. The meseta fields are brown and dry and field crops mostly harvested except vineyards around La Rioja and Villafranca del Bierzo

- October Cooling down and windy, especially around the Pyrenees, O Cebreiro and other high places. It can be chilly early on, with rains, cloud, fog and even snow always possible. This is chestnut season! Dark till around 8am so its not easy to set out early.

- November - December Very cold with snow - not advisable


                                                                    American Pilgrims FAQs     




  What time of year should I go?

- Perhaps the first question here should really be, “When can I go?” If you are a student or if you work, you may have to go whenever your vacation time allows. But if you have the freedom to travel when you wish, then there are a couple important of considerations that present themselves: weather and crowding.

- July and August, even in the north of Spain, are normally HOT. Mid April through June and September through early November can be the most pleasant times of the year to walk. And the cold and wet conditions of the Spanish winter have always presented their own unique challenges to the pilgrim.

- No matter when you walk, however, if you are on the road for weeks or even months, chances are very good that you will encounter a wide range of weather conditions to keep your journey interesting.


- In addition to the weather, you may also want to consider how many other pilgrims will be out there walking with you.

- Overcrowding on the Camino francés is notorious during the months of July and August, when most European students and working people take their long annual vacation.

- The other Caminos in Spain and throughout Europe do not experience similar multitudes, but since their infrastructures are not designed to handle huge numbers of pilgrims, they may feel crowded.


- If you seek the medieval spirit of the pilgrim or if you consider the pilgrimage as a spiritual journey, you may find winter the perfect season to walk.

- Even on the Camino francés, crowds are nonexistent. Your first and foremost consideration however must be your preparations for the weather. Northern Spain has a true winter! You may find yourself walking in snow at Puente la Reina, freezing fog on the meseta, rain at León and warm sunshine in Galicia.

- On the Camino francés, most pilgrim services such as albergues and restaurants remain open during the winter; on other routes, winter services may be less available.


  What year should I go?

- It might seem odd to consider that the year to travel the Camino would make any difference but there are some sporadic factors to take into consideration.

- Undoubtedly the most important factor is the Jacobean Holy Year, those years when Saint James feast day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday. See below for a further description of the issues.


- If you decided to put off your Camino from the Holy Year of 2010 to 2011 to avoid crowds there is one particular event taking place that year that you should also take into account.

- World Youth Day 2011 is scheduled for Madrid August 16 to 21 and authorities are planning on upwards of 2 million visitors in Madrid. The Catholic Pilgrim Office is advertising a variety of excursions that will visit Santiago, León and Burgos all in the week prior to Madrid. All of these will travel by bus and will be staying in hotels so their impact may be minor for walkers and cyclists. But in addition it is a given that many in attendance will elect to combine World Youth Day with the Camino, whether before or after.


  What is a Holy Year?

- A Holy Year is any year when Saint James feast day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday.

- 2010 was the last Holy Year and the next will not occur until 2021. In those years what that means for the pilgrim as a practical matter can be summed up in one word: crowds!

- Statistics issued by the Pilgrims' Welcome Office show that the number of Compostelas issued during Holy Years has been several times the number issued during the preceding year; for the last Holy Year of 2010, there was almost a two-fold increase from 2009.

 - In the Catholic Church, a plenary indulgence is still granted to those who visit the Cathedral and the tomb of the Apostle at any time during a Holy Year, make their confession, attend Mass and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.



                                            Confraternity of St James : Frequently Asked Questions  




  When should I go ?

- The pilgrimage season is from March (Easter) until October, with the pleasantest weather in May, June and September. The summer months can be extremely hot, especially on the meseta, the high and very exposed plain between Burgos and León on the Camino francés, and on the more southerly sections of the Via de la Plata.


  What about going in winter ?

- If you are thinking of going in winter, remember that the meseta is on average 800m above sea level, and that the passes over the Pyrenees, the Montes de León and O Cebreiro on the Camino francés, and the passes of A Canda and Padornelo on the Via de la Plata all reach about 1,400m. It can be very cold, wet, and windy, and you can meet deep snow.

- Two pilgrims died when they were caught in blizzards during the crossing to Roncesvalles in January and April 2002; another died just above Roncesvalles in April 2007; and we have recently heard of a French woman pilgrim who died of exposure at the Col de Lepoeder in March 2009. In late March 2005 two pilgrims neglected local advice in St Jean Pied-de-Port and attempted to follow the Route Napoléon in snow. They very nearly died. We cannot emphasise too strongly: MOUNTAINS ARE DANGEROUS and LOCAL PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. Take local advice about weather conditions; disregard it at your peril.

- Experience suggests that the passage over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles, perfectly feasible and even enjoyable in good weather, can be particularly treacherous even in late spring (April), and - as in all mountainous areas - the weather can change very quickly. In any doubt, we recommend that you follow the less attractive road route rather than the highlevel route; avoid going alone if you possibly can; and tell people in St Jean what your plans are, arranging for them to call the emergency services if you haven't phoned back from Roncesvalles by an agreed time to report your safe arrival.

- Accommodation may be less plentiful in winter, since not all the refugios operate in the winter. Don't be altogether discouraged, but do be aware of the risks.

- A pilgrim who walked the first half of the Via de la Plata in January 2007 reported thick freezing fog on many mornings, lasting sometimes until middday. He was appropriately dressed, and carried a compass and a mobile phone, but he also took the precaution - it being a very lonely route at this time of year - of telling his hosts each morning where he was going and when he expected to arrive: if they had not heard from him by an agreed time, they undertook to contact the Guardia Civil. This seems wise.


  Is the camino becoming too popular ?

- There are different views on this. Some regret the not-so-very-distant days of few pilgrims and rudimentary facilities; others welcome the emergence of a mass pilgrimage on foot in Europe to compare (albeit still feebly) with those to Mecca and Benares, pointing out that if you want a solitary walk, whether religious or otherwise, there are plenty of places left.

- Certainly the Camino francés has been promoted well beyond the capacity of the facilities available for pilgrims, and the refugios have been tending to fill up well before the usual high season. The summer's unseemly race between pilgrims who set off earlier and earlier each day to be sure of a bed in the next refuge, starts in the spring, and extends into the autumn as well. Similar difficulties are arising on the very popular le Puy Route in France.

- Perhaps this means that the original hardship of the camino, when there were few if any facilities for pilgrims, has been replaced by another type of hardship: the difficulty of maintaining one's simplicity and trust when in frank competition with so many others.

- If the crowds deter you, give serious thought to choosing the Via de la Plata (from Seville), even for your first pilgrimage, as an alternative route. It is perfectly feasible, very beautiful, and - so far - much less frequented. In France, consider the Vézelay or Arles routes.


  What about going in a Holy Year ?

- Numbers arriving at Santiago have been rising steadily since 1986, with peaks in Holy Years (years in which St James's Day, 25 July, falls on a Sunday), and (usually) a return to the underlying pattern immediately after. However, the graph following the 1999 Holy Year shows a marked increase in the underlying trend.

- More than 150,000 Compostelas were issued in Holy Year 1999, and just under 180,000 in Holy Year 2004. In 2000, Santiago (as well as being a European City of Culture) participated in the general Jubilee, treating it as an exceptional Holy Year, and granting the plenary indulgence to those who qualified for it: 55,004 Compostelas were issued. Since 2001, not a special year in any sense, when numbers reached 61,418, the underlying trend

has continued to rise steadily; in 2006, numbers exceded 100,000, and in 2007 reached 114,000.

- 2010 is another Holy Year. There is every reason to expect more than 200,000 pilgrims to be on the roads to Santiago. Uunless you have a strong reason of your own for going in a Holy Year, you would be well advised to avoid it.

- Pilgrim Masses at Santiago in Holy Year 2010:

The Pilgrims Office have confirmed that the Pilgrims' Mass will be held every day at 10.00, 12.00, 18.00 and



  What is the weather like?

- The weather is unpredictable most of the year, so you should be prepared for rain (particularly in Galicia), day-time heat and cold nights, especially in the Pyrenees, and the high passes in Galicia.

- See above "What about going in winter?" for advice on crossing the mountains in winter weather.

- One of our members, Peter Robins, provides links from his website (mainly devoted to an account of the currently practicable European routes to Santiago) to the 5-day weather forecasts, and 30-year averages, for several places along the Camino.


- See also: http://www.xacobeo.es

- and (for a truly formidable array of weather information covering most of Europe, though especially Spain)

http://groups.msn.com/ElCaminoSantiago/weather.msnw : as its designer says modestly: you can't change the weather, but you can dress accordingly.

- And visit the Pilgrimage to Santiago Forum for up-to-the-minute exchanges about the weather




                                                              Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011





- All traveler’s accounts of the Camino de Santiago mention the weather and it needs serious consideration. The Camino includes several high mountain passes—how high, and how many, depends on the route taken, but one can count on cold wet weather during the winter in any case. Many mountain passes are closed with snow in winter and most refugios are not open. At the other extreme, summer can be very hot and dry and there are many portions of the Camino that will require walking many miles in full sun. Despite this, there are pilgrims who complete the trip during every month of the year.

- "El Camino Santiago Weather" Is a good source of links to the climate and weather for various routes on the camino.


  Peak Periods

- The peak periods for Europeans making the pilgrimage coincide with the vacation and school holiday periods. Thus, July and August find the most people on the Camino and the accommodations most difficult to obtain.


  Peak Years

- Año Jubilar or Jubilee Years are years in which the 25th of July occurs on a Sunday. During such a year, Catholics can receive the jubilee indulgence. For this reason there are many more pilgrims than other years. Many will go for the minimum distance. The last Jubilee years were in 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2010. The next one will be in 2021.


  The Trip to the Start

- In planning your trip, particularily selecting clothing, take into consideration what you will wear enroute. If you plan to tack on a visit to Paris, Madrid, or some other location, and do not wish to wear the clothes you use on the camino, you will be faced with the problem of storing them. One possibility is to make reservations to stay at an inn or hotel in or around Santiago where you can mail the clothing to pick up on arrival.


  The Return Home

- Santiago is prepared for one-way travelers at the airport, train and bus stations. Good connections are available to other European cities via all modes of transportation. A few travelers even follow medieval traditions and walk back the way they came.

- One cost of walking back is that the people doing so are traveling against the flow and have only brief encounters with those on the way to Santiago. When I encountered a pilgrim on the Camino returning from Santiago, it was only a fleeting look, with no real contact, because we were both intent on our destinations—it was also because of the determined look on their faces. I regret now that I did not stop to chat for a few minutes.



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delhommeb at wanadoo.fr - 20/01/2013