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The best period of the year to walk the Camino de Santiago

Every moment is good to walk the Camino, because every month of the year there has its own charm. However, should we advise the best periods those would be spring and autumn, because they offer the best weather to walk, most of hostels are open and it is not very crowded. The summer months, most favorable for the good weather and longer days, have some downsides: being holiday season for the many, these months record the highest number of hikers and pilgrims, which makes it more difficult to find an accommodation in the public hostels. Do not despair though: you can anyway look for the many private hotels and hostels which can be reserved. During winter the climate is more rigid and not all hostels are open. It is, though the best season for those in search of solitude and reflection.

The backpack

The choice of the backpack for the Camino is very important. Pick one that is really comfortable, ergonomic and light, with adjustable belts for your chest and waist. This is essential to distribute the weight across your whole body and not overload your shoulders. The backpack must have a waterproof cover to protect its content in case of rain. Its capacity should be around 40/50 liters, and no more. As for the weight, the backpack should not weigh more than 7kg, and anyway it should not exceed 10% of your own body weight . Bring with you just the bare essentials because along the way you will find supermarkets, pharmacies and every kind of shop. Remember that the majority of feet problems and tendinitis come as consequences of a too heavy backpack .

What to bring along in the backpack

In the preparation of the backpack we advise you to divide the content into separate transparent bags. This will help you to find things more easily and to protect your goods facilitate the research and protection. Spread the weight well in the whole backpack and put in the bottom what you will not need during the next stage. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to bring too many things with you! As for the clothes, for example, you can wash them at the end of each stage, all the hotels have a laundry area. Bring synthetic hiking-specific clothes, which dry quickly and fit comfortably. Of course your clothes choice will differ based on the season you will be walking the Camino, however there are some things which cannot be missing in your backpack:
-trekking shoes (already used by you)
-comfortable slippers, not only for the shower, but also for your feet to rest after a whole day walk
-2 long hiking trousers, preferably waterproof, to protect you from the rain and shorts the summer
-3 t shirts
-a jacket or a sweatshirt
-undergarment and trekking socks
-waterproof trousers, a waterproof cape or a light jacket in goretex
- scarf, hat and gloves (if winter)
-a quick drying microfiber towel
-1 light sleeping bag (in winter the hostels provide blankets)
-a small flashlight
-a small boxcutter
-earplugs
-1 Pillowcase
-1 multiple socket

First-aid KIT


-vaseline to be applied to the feet at the beginning of each day to prevent blisters
- needle, thread, gauzes and Betadine to cure the blisters
- painkillers and muscle cream in case of severe pain
- sunscreen cream
P.S. Do not carry too many medicines, remember that you find everything you need in the various pharmacies you will encounter on the way .

Needed documents

The identity card (EU residents only) or passport, health card and the pilgrims’ Credential

The best shoes and feet care

Your feet are your most important allies when it comes to walking the Camino and it is essential to take good care of them. We recommend water resistant middle-high boots or hiking boots with flexible sole which fit well your feet ( better a half size bigger than your usual size ) . It very important that you have already used shoes you will use during the Camino. In case you need to buy new ones make sure you buy them some time in advance and use them a bit before you go walking the Camino. Very important is the socks choice as well: use seamless trekking socks to prevent scratches and blisters

The stages

The standard stages cover generally daily distances of 20/30 kilometers. However, everyone can walk per day the wished distance , planning the route according to personal needs and desires . We advise you to take your time to enjoy the landscapes and all that the Camino has to offer.

Road signaling

The Camino’s trails are so well marked that the chances of getting lost are very very low. The most representative Camino’s signal is the yellow arrow. Look well for it and you notice that, you find it in many places: painted on the trees, nearby the houses, on the stones and on the ground. It is not the only sign you will find along the way, sometimes you encounter other signals , depending on the region or province in which you are ( eg . the shell, the Cross of Santiago, the blue shell, the milestones ). Always follow the signs and, if in doubt, ask the locals or the other pilgrims: they are more than happy to help you.

Eating and drinking

Eating well is essential to walk the Camino. Since you are subject to high demanding physical excercise it is very important that you take care of the appropriate calories intake to keep to your energy needs. We suggest that you start your day with a rich breakfast and distribute the rest of the food through light snacks during the day. It is not advisable to walk with a full stomach, so it is best to have the main meal at end of the day. Bring with you fruit, dried fruit and chocolate, which are good carbon supplements and so ideal as ready-to-use energy for your muscles. Very important: allways carry water with to hydratate. Walking for a long time means loosing quite some minerals and hydratation is then essential.In following the physical effort you'll lose a lot of minerals and is important to hydrate molro regular basis. Do not load your backpack with too much food and drinks, along the way you will always find supermarkets to buy all you need. At the end of the day reward yourself with a healthy and hearty meal. You will have many options choices: you can choose between various restaurants and taste the typical gastronomy of the area or cook together other pilgrims; many hostels provide well equipped kitchens for guests use.

The Credential

The Credential (or Passaport of the Pilgrim) is a document that accredits and identifies you as a pilgrim . It contains your basic personal information , the Camino’s map and several blank spaces which will be filled by the stamps and dates of the places you will visit along the way. The Credential has two main functions: it is essential to be able to sleep in the public hostels and it is necessary to get the Compostela at the end of your journey. It costs about 2 euros and you can request it at the Pilgrim office or any other authorized institutions like some churches, pilgrims hostels , fraternities and associations “Friends of the Camino de Santiago” ( both in Spain and abroad).

The Compostela certificate

The Compostela certificate is a document written in Latin and issued by the ecclesiastical community of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral . It certifiies the completion of the pilgrimage. In order to obtain it at the end of your journey, you must present your Credential duly stamped and showing that you have walked or ridden a horse on the Camino for at least 100 km or biked it for at least 200 km. This is one of the reasons why starting from Sarria, 114 km far from Santiago, you will meet more people than on the rest of the Camino.

Where to sleep

Pilgrim’s hostels (albergues)

PIlgrim’s hostels are simple places, meant to host on pilgrims on the Camino having the Credential with them. They can be public or private. They normally have low prices that vary between 5 and 10 euros per night. Everybody can stay there only for one night, except in case of illness. Usually they open at 13:00 and close at 22:00 to respect the rest of all. Almost all hotels have an area for washing and drying clothes, washing machine and dryer with coins, fully equipped kitchen available for pilgrims and WI Fi. These hostels do not accept reservations and the beds are assigned in order of arrival, giving priority to the pilgrims with disabilities, those on foot, on horseback and finally those travelling by bike. In crowded moments, when all hostels are full spaces such as sports centers, churches, etc. are used as hostels so that pilgrims can spend the night there.

Other accommodation options

In each stage you will find various types of accommodation, from cheap guesthouses to rural homes, to even luxurious hotels. No matter your budget, your tastes and your needs, you will always find good options suiting you. Even when you have some of those days during which you just want to rest or feeling like having your own space and intimacy the Camino offers you good accommodation options: private hotels. They do accept bookings and are a very good alternative to the pilgrim’s hostels during the most crowded periods.

Where to begin the Camino?

The Camino can have many starting points. Please find below the most chosen ones:

1 The French Way - From Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port is the last French town before entering Spain on the French Way. This charming village is one of the main departure points for pilgrims who want to cross the Pyrenees by foot and reach Santiago. The first stage, from St. Jean Pie de Puert to Orrega / Roncesvalles, is one of the most beautiful of the whole Camino. You can get there by public transport from Spain or France. There are many options you can choose from: train, bus, taxi, plane or you can combining them. Main connections:

By Bus from Pamplona

The Conda bus company connects Pamplona with Saint-Jean-Pied de Port, passing through Roncesvalles, from March 1 until November 1. The trip takes 1 hour and 15 minutes and costs 22 Euro. http://www.conda.es/

By Bus from Roncesvalles

The rest of the year, when there is no direct service Pamplona-Saint-Jean-Pied de Port, you can reach Roncesvalles by bus - company Artieda (Duration 1 h 10 min Price: € 6 per person and 6 € for the bike, more info on http://www.autocaresartieda.com/?scc=roncesvalles From Roncesvalles you can take a collective taxi to Saint-Jean-Pied de Port. The fare is about 10/20 € per person and can vary depending on how many people are using the taxi together.

By Train

From Hendaya you can reach Saint Jean Pied de Port by train, with a connection in Bayona. This connection is available 4 times a day and the whole trip takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes (further information on http://www.sncf.com/) Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Bayonne to Saint Jean Pied de Port. It costs about 80 € (120 € night tariff) and the trip takes 1 hour.

By Plane

Biarritz airport is the nearest one to Saint Jean Pied de Port, 55 km away. From the airport you can take bus No. 14 that brings you to the train station in Bayonne (30 minutes) and from there take a train to Saint Jean Pied de Port. Other airports where you could fly to and from there reach Saint Jean Pied de Port by bus or train are: The airport Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lourdes in France and the Airports of Pamplona and San Sebastian in Spain.

2 The French Way:the last 100 km from Sarria

If you decide to walk the last 100 km of the Camino on the French Way, we recommend you depart from Sarria, 113 km away from Santiago de Compostela. Please see below the different options to get to Sarria by public transport:

By Train

There are direct connections from Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao Zaragoza, Pamplona, Lugo and Leon to Sarria. Check http://www.renfe.com/

By Bus

From Santiago you can reach Lugo with the bus company Freire, and from there take another bus to Sarria (bus company Monbus, https://www.monbus.es). There are various connections several times per day. You can also take a direct bus to Sarria, passing through Monforte de Lemos (bus company Monbus, http://www.monbus.es, this is the longest route)

By Plane

The nearest airport is the one of Santiago de Compostela. From there you have two ways to get to Sarria: 1. By bus (see above) 2. by private transport, from the Santiago airport to Sarria is a 1 hour 15 min. journey.

3 The Aragonese Way from Somport

To get to Somport one must reach Jaca first. You can reach Jaca by bus from Zaragoza, Huesca and Pamplona (http://alosa.avanzabus.com/index.jsp) or by train from Huesca and Zaragoza (www.renfe.es). From Jaca to Somport you must take the bus line Jaca-Astun, running 5 times a day - for more information see http://alosa.avanzabus.com/index.jsp). The journey takes 35 minutes.

4 The Primitive Way from Oviedo

Oviedo is well connected with the rest of Spain. You can easily reach it by train or by bus from Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao.

5 The Salvador Way from Leon

Leon is a town easily reachable by both bus (Alsa) and train. See www.renfe.es

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