The Camino overview
The Camino Frances is the most well known and travelled pilgrimage route to Santiago. It starts officially in the in the Basque region at the foothills of Pyrenees in the delightful town of St Jean Pied de Port in France, approximately 8 km from the border with Spain. From here the route stretches for almost 800km through across the top of Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
One of the great things about the Camino is the variety of terrain you will encounter, from mountains and the foothills of the Pyrenees, the beautiful vineyards of Rioja to farmland, rolling pastures and forests, though cities, towns, ancient villages and hamlets. Along the Camino there are 505km of paths and tracks, 203 Km of quiet roads (mostly through small villages) and 90 km of it runs along main roads. There are steeper sections, the lower ridge of the Pyrenees between St Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles at the start of the Camino (it is possible to skip this bit and start in Roncesvalles) and there are several mountain passes with altitudes of up to 1,500m around Astorga and before O’ Cebreiro. You can check out the elevation of the various stages along the route here. Just put in your intended start and finish place and it will give you a detailed graph of the terrain.
Areas of the Camino
To help visualize such a long trail the Camino Frances can probably best thought of in 3 distinct sections; the rolling hills of the Basque country, the hot, flat relatively empty section of the Meseta and the lush green hills and pastures of Galicia. The Camino passes through four regions and seven provinces; Navarra, Rioja, Castille & Leon and Galicia are the four regions and Burgos, Palencia, Leon, Lugo and La Coruna are the provinces. Along the way you will take in the wonderful cities of Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and Santiago, with all their amazing architecture and cultural heritage, the large and interesting towns of Logrono, Puente de la Reina, Astorga, Ponferrada, and Sarria as well as numerous villages and ancient hamlets. If you add in the wonderful food and drink of Spain, the hospitality and welcome you will receive, you can see that walking the Camino makes for an unforgettable journey.
There is very good infrastructure along the Camino, most of the paths are well maintained and you will pass through 141 different places so you are usually only on average 5-6 km from a grocery, café or bar for an essential pit stop where you can stock up, drink, eat or use the bathroom. It is only along the Meseta, an emptier section where you will need to be well stocked for the days walk before you start as distances between places here are on average 12 -17km.
Walking the Camino is considered to be extremely safe; not only as you are never too far from a town or village but with people from over a 130 different countries walking the Camino you will meet a variety of people at each stage, even those that start alone often end up with a group of walking companions. Of course if you wish to walk alone you will find that your fellow peregrinos will respect this. Of course more care needs to be taken with your belongings in the cities, particularly as Spain is suffering from such incredibly high levels of youth unemployment.
The 33 stages of the Camino
The Camino France is usually divided into 33 stages; this is arbitrary and each stage represents a day’s walk of roughly 24km. You can see detail of each stage here or download our destination guide on RAW Travel’s main website.
If you are going to walk the full length of the Camino it is a good idea to allow around 40 days; this allows for the average walk of approximately 24 km a day but with time built in for rest days. These rest days can be taken in the major cities and large towns so that you can have a chance to explore these fascinating places – but don’t overdo the exploring – it is a rest day! You can of course do it in a shorter time by cutting down on the rest days but a better idea to consider doing part of the journey by bike, a lot of people choose to bike over the Mesetas and thus cut down the length of time needed for the overall journey. If you don’t have the time to walk the full length consider doing one of the shorter trips, the first or last 100km or a start a bit further afield from O Cebrerio. Another option would be start in one of the major cities, Pamplona, Burgos or Leon and cycle the Camino. All of these trips can be scheduled for anything from 7- 18 days to suit your requirements. See the tours section for details of these itineraries.
Traditionally accommodation on the Camino is in government run or private albergues; nowadays with the Camino attracting a variety of walkers, not just those on a pilgrimage, there is wonderful accommodation on offer, from fantastic historical buildings now turned into hotels to Rural Casas and family run hotels. Finally for those who worry about their ability to walk and carry all their belongings in a heavy rucksack – you can relax -your luggage can be picked up each morning and delivered to your next destination leaving you free to take in the scenery and enjoy your walk.
NOTE – Camino Fitness Preparation (Walk & Ride)
This walk and ride is quite challenging especially days 2, 6, 9 and 21.
For Raw Travel Customers: Once you have received your guidebooks with you booking documents, please review these days closely.