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This guide is intended as a practical, no-nonsense guide to the Camino de Santiago for pilgrims walking it in the traditional manner and sleeping in pilgrim albergues. The route described is the Camino Francés, the French Camino, which is generally considered to start in the picturesque southern French village of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, from where it winds its way for almost 800km across northern Spain, through the rolling hills of Navarra, the vineyards of La Rioja, the endless plains of Castile, before arriving finally in the green valleys and forests of Galicia. It ends on the magnificent square before the western façade of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
After many centuries of near abandonment this ancient pilgrimage route suddenly (and to the surprise of almost everybody) sprang back into life in the latter years of the 20th century. Today it welcomes pilgrims in numbers not seen since its heyday in the early middle-ages.
The rapid development of new accommodation and other pilgrim resources in recent years have made the Camino Francés one of the most easily accessible long-distance walks in the world. Nowadays people of all ages and abilities walk this Camino, whether just the last 100km or from much further afield.
The 2020 edition
I last walked the Camino Francés in the summer of 2018. It was my fourth time walking this Camino end-to-end. It was a pleasant experience filled with interesting encounters with people from all walks of life, only slightly marred by an unforgiving bout of tendinitis (my first in many years of walking – and a reminder to always drink plenty of water!)
In the autumn I rewrote the guide based on my experiences. For this the 2020 edition, I updated it again to take into account any changes which happened in the meantime. The 2020 edition is the ninth since the guide was first published in 2012.
If you have any comments or suggestions about this book, or there’s a question you’d like to ask, you can contact me at email@example.com I’m always happy to hear from my readers and it’s always useful to receive feedback from people who have actually used the book while walking the Camino.
I wish you every success and Buen Camino!
Gerald Kelly Seville, January 2020
Many other resources are available from our website www.caminoguide.net
If you’re currently trying to decide what to bring with you on the Camino you may find my packing blog useful, it contains information and advice about what clothes and equipment you’ll need, www.caminoguide.net/packing
There’s also an interactive version of the guide with links to loads more accommodation options and the ability to book online through Booking.com, it’s at www.caminoguide.net/guide
You can also download a set of GPS files to use in a mapping app on your mobile phone. Just go to the Download page on the website and enter your email address. You’ll receive an email with links to the free version of this guide and links to download GPS files. The files come in .KML format and we recommend you use the MAPS.ME app to view them. It’s free and open source and available for both Android and Apple (iOS) phones.
If you have any comments or suggestions about this book, or there’s a question you’d like to ask, you can contacted me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m always happy to hear from my readers and it’s always useful to receive feedback from people who have actually used this book while walking the Camino.
The guide has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheCaminoGuide where you can do the usual Facebooky stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing!
How to use this guide
The information is presented like this:
The heading for a town or village or anyplace else with a pilgrim albergue looks like this:
Zubiri is the name of the village. It is 16km from the last place with a pilgrim albergue, and if you walk at 4km per hour it will take you 4 hours to walk that distance (4km is almost exactly 2½ miles). This estimated walking speed is based on an average over the entire day over typical terrain. Your actual walking speed may be very different and many factors will affect it, principally: ascents, descents, mud, wind, injury and fatigue.
How to calculate distances
Use town and village headings when calculating the length of stages. Distances are albergue-to-albergue, if there is only one albergue listed in a places, otherwise they’re an approximation of the midpoint between albergues in a given place. Distances are rounded up or down to the nearest kilometre. Great care has been taken to make sure the distances given are accurate.
Information about pilgrim albergues is given like this:
Private (16, 10€) Los Arancones, pass the Parish albergue, cross the main road then to the right of the church. Café / restaurant. Good reports. Tel 947 581 485 Open 11:00
This is a private albergue, which sleeps 16, costs 10€ and is open all year. Its name is Albergue Los Arancones. (Albergue is Spanish for hostel). Next comes a description of how to find the albergue, locations are always described in relation to the Camino. So, when you’re following the Camino through this village you’ll cross a main road and then you’ll see a church and the albergue is to the right of the church. After the location we describe the facilities the albergue has (besides basic ones, see next paragraph), followed by any comments. A phone number is given when it may be useful to reserve ahead or in winter to check if a particular albergue is open. Please remember that generally only private albergues accept reservations, and that phone numbers will be of limited use to you if you don’t speak at least a little Spanish. It opens at 11:00.
The price given is the price quoted for a bed in a dormitory in summer. Outside of peak season you may get it cheaper.
Unless otherwise stated all pilgrim albergues have the following basic facilities:- running water – hot showers – electricity – beds – toilets – heating The opening dates given are checked every year, however, please bear in mind that, especially in the case of private and small albergues, opening dates vary at the whim of the owner / administrator and some albergues close unannounced during off-peak times (for more details see Walking in Winter).
General information about what you’ll find in towns and villages is given in this format and follows directly after the list of Pilgrim Albergues. This will include any useful amenities available close by. Such as:- Shops- Cafés / Restaurants- Pharmacies- Banks (with an ATM)- etc. There is no clear distinction between a bar and a café in Spain. In this guide the word café is used throughout.
Background Information includes the following: – Sights: the important monuments and other places of interest with a short description of their historical significance and architectural style – History: a short introduction to any historically significant local events – Food: local culinary specialities and where to try them
The meaning of place names is displayed at the end of the information section.
Description of the route and information about things you will see between places are given in this format. Distances given in this format should be ignored when calculating distances between albergues, unless they refer to where two alternative routes rejoin (see example below).
Where the Camino divides you will see a heading like this before the description of each alternative route:
Left route 11km
The left route is 11km long and, below, the right route is 15km long.
Right route 15km
The distance from the last albergue on alternative routes to the first after the rejoin is shown like this:
12km to Los Arcos
When the two alternative routes rejoin you will see a heading like this just before the the place where they rejoin.
Left and right routes rejoin in…
The first albergue after where two routes rejoin will not have a distance indicated because the distance to it depends on which route you took.
Albergues are listed in the order in which you will encounter them when walking the Camino from east to west which is the way most people walk it. The price given is the price quoted for a bed in a dormitory in summer. In recent years private albergues have begun operating high-season and low-season pricing as well as surge pricing (ie. The price increases when demand increases). This creates a difficult situation for pilgrims because it makes it impossible to say for certain how much a bed in one of these albergues will cost. To deal with this, and to express our disapproval of shady / non-transparent pricing practices, when a albergue quotes more than one price we always assume the highest one. There is no clear distinction between a bar and a café in Spain. In this guide the word café is used throughout.
Walking in winter
Many business along the Camino (shops and cafés as well as albergues) now cater primarily to pilgrims, so during winter months, if they open at all, they may only do so with reduced hours. For this reason walking in winter requires more planning ahead than does walking in summer. However, if you plan your stages to end in or close to a larger town or village (generally, those with several pilgrim albergues) you should be fine. It’s also a good idea to stock up on basic food (bread, cheese, etc.) when you get the chance, rather than assume you’ll be able to do so later in the day. Also, if a shop is closed, you can always knock or ask around nearby, and the chances are they’ll open for you or you’ll find out they open later.
Parts of the Camino pass through mountainous areas where snow is likely in winter. Ask hospitaleros about weather conditions and heed any advice they give you about which route to take. This especially applies to the first stage out of Saint-Jean.
In winter many albergues close for a time, despite claiming to be open all year. This applies especially to small and private albergues. So, during December, January, February and March you may find some albergues closed which are listed in this guide (and other sources of information – including sometimes their own website) as being open all year. However, even in winter, larger places (ones with several albergues) usually have at least one albergue open and failing that there’s always an enterprising individual to fill the gap. If you ever find yourself stuck for a bed try asking in shops and cafés about alternative accommodation. Hospitaleros can also often provide you with reliable information about what’s open on the next stage.
One thoughtful person has built a website with information about accommodation for winter walkers. It’s updated regularly so please contact them if you have some information which you think would be of use to other pilgrims. It’s at www.aprinca.com/alberguesinvierno (only updated in winter).
All distances are given in the metric system (kilometres and metres).
Drinking fonts and springs are not mentioned because many of them are dry some of the time, or the water may not be safe to drink (there’s usually a sign: agua no potable / no apta para el consumo humano). Stock up on water in towns and villages and don’t set off without enough to get you to the next inhabited place.
Spain uses the euro, the symbol for which is € after the amount, 1€, although you will sometimes see it written before the amount, €1. Numbers are written using a point as the thousand separator and a comma as the decimal separator 2,25€ (so, the opposite of what’s normal in English speaking countries). Occasionally, an apostrophe is used as the decimal separator, 2’25€. Or the euro symbol is used as the decimal separator, 2€25. Just to confuse things further, prices are also sometimes written without the € symbol and minus trailing zeros: 4,5 or 4’5 = 4,50€. This confusion reflects the fact that there is no official standard for how to write euro amounts. Without wishing to be controversial, the English plural of euro is euro or euros, according to one’s personal preference. The same applies to cent and cents. Euro is written with a lower-case e, unless at the beginning of a sentence.
If the price of a albergue or a meal is shown as donativo that does not mean it’s free, it means you should leave whatever amount you can afford and that you should leave at very least enough for the albergue to cover its costs. Donativo albergues are the heart and soul of the Camino, if we don’t support them they’ll disappear and we’ll all have lost something precious.