you want to become a peregrino? If you haven't yet
had any experience on the Road, it is the intention
of this page to present information about the most
basic questions that are probably bouncing around
in your head. When should I go? Where should I start
and how do I get there? Just what is this passport
or credential that I've reading about? What should
I carry? We will here attempt to cover some of these
basic issues. This is a subset of the material available
on the American Pilgrims' FAQ page, which you are
encouraged to visit.
should I take?
there will be numerous personal variables here and
any group of 10 peregrinos will have 12 lists to
offer. Such considerations as: How much weight am
I capable of carrying or comfortable carrying for
an extended period? How much experience do I have
camping or backpacking? Just how clean to I really
have to be? Do I have special needs or requirements,
for example, serious, meaning 'heavy', photographic
equipment? We can offer a few sample packing lists:
Van Peski http://www.americanpilgrims.com/camino/support_files/packing_list_van_peski.pdf
additional suggestion: Take along at least a partial
roll of toilet paper—and a plastic bag to carry
the used paper until you can properly dispose of
it! At some point along the way, you'll probably
wish you had it.
should I go?
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
it. 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. See our weather
and climate links for detailed information.
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 would like to examine
some graphs that indicate heavily walked years and
months as well as some other interesting patterns
and trends, we have a page of statistics. (1/12/10)
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.
You should consult the climate information we have
on our Internet Resources page. 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.
route should I take?
are many routes, many Caminos, to Santiago de Compostela.
In the Middle Ages, pilgrims began their pilgrimage
from their front door, whether that was in Jaca
or Sevilla, Paris or Ostabat, Brussels or Vienna:
there were as many routes as there were pilgrims.
The best known route today, the one that most people
mean then they talk about "the Camino",
is the Camino francés, which crosses the north of
Spain from the French border through Pamplona, Burgos
and León all the way to Santiago. But many other
routes have been marked and are available to modern
pilgrims, beginning both inside Spain and beyond
its borders. Inside Spain, well known Caminos include
the Vía de la Plata which begins in Sevilla and
passes through Mérida, Cáceres and Salamanca; the
Camino primitivo which begins in Oviedo and passes
through Lugo before meeting the Camino francés shortly
before Santiago; the Camino del Norte which begins
in Irún at the French border and follows the northern
coast before turning inland near Ribadeo. There
are now also recognized and well marked routes in
France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium,
Austria … almost everywhere in Europe. You are invited
to visit our Route Overviews page for further food
long will it take?
real question here is how far do you want to walk?
Actually one must realize that, aside from the cathedral-imposed
requirement of having to walk the last, westernmost
100 km or to bicycle the last 200 km in order to
receive the compostela, one can start anywhere.
Still, many peregrinos choose to start in either
St. Jean Pied-de-Port on the French side of the
Pyrenees or in Roncesvalles on the Spanish side.
From these starting points the distance is approximately
750 km (~450 mi) and walkers commonly will take
about 35 days - perhaps with a range of from four
to six weeks. Cyclists should count on about two
weeks. From any starting point, about 20 to 25 km/day
is a reasonable pace for most walkers. Obviously
these numbers will depend on the individual.
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 long you want
to travel each day, how many rest days you wish
to take during the pilgrimage and, naturally, your
physical abilities. The hilly countryside near Le
Puy, France, may limit walkers to less than 20 kilometers
per day, while the flat expanses of the Spanish
meseta may allow some to walk 30 or more kilometers
per day. 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 how you pace yourself
and on how often you stop to rest, to visit cultural
attractions and to talk to people along the road.
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
suggested itineraries. For the entire Camino francés,
a distance of approximately 750 km (~450 mi), walkers
commonly take about 35 days—perhaps with a range
of from four to six weeks. Cyclists should 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.
is the pilgrim's credential or passport?
walking the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims carry a
credential (credencial), a small, folded document
in which the pilgrim authenticates his or her progress
by obtaining stamps (sellos) along the way. Sellos
can be obtained from many sources including many
bars, hotels, town halls, museums and churches and
from all refugios and albergues.
credential or 'passport', as it is sometimes called,
is not to be confused with an official, government-issued
passport. The former is strictly a record of passage
along the Camino; the latter is a required document
for international travel.
registering at an albergue, you will be asked to
present your credential to verify that you are walking
or biking the Road. In addition, upon reaching Santiago
de Compostela, at the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos
(Pilgrims' Office, Rúa do Vilar 1, MapQuest map,
Google Earth image), you can present your stamped
credential to confirm that you have walked at least
the last 100 kilometers or cycled at least the last
200 kilometers, whereupon you will receive a compostela,
a wonderful document that certifies your pilgrimage.
See the entry immediately below for more about the
credentials can be obtained from numerous sources—including
from American Pilgrims—before setting out on the
Camino, or from sites actually on the Camino.
further questions that haven't been addressed here?
We would encourage you to also look through the
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
à Q.Pratique Généralités