A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step! -Lao Tzu
The Camino is no ordinary holiday. From concept to fruition, the steps involved can seem daunting. But proper planning can make or break a Camino so it’s important to be prepared. Everything from which Camino to walk, why people walk the Camino, to what to bring, through to how to even get there, these are just some of the plethora of questions prospective pilgrims are faced with.
For many people planning to walk the Camino can take years. Let’s face it, getting up to six weeks or more off work, being physically prepared to walk 20-30km a day for weeks on end, not to mention the financial outlay, well that’s a lot of stars to align! It can seem overwhelming at times. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! All the information you need to make informed decisions is right here. So let’s begin.
Choosing the right Camino for you is arguably the most important factor in your planning. If you have three weeks off there’s no point trying to take on the full 800km walk because you will just kill yourself trying. Similarly, if obtaining your Compostela (certificate of completion) is important to you then you don’t want to walk just the first section and not arrive into Santiago.
There are many factors to consider when selecting the right Camino for you. How far and how long is probably the biggest factor because not everyone can get six weeks off to walk. Once you have determined this, it’s time for some research. If you can’t walk the full Camino you’ll want to study the various stages (St jean to Burgos, Burgos to Leon, Leon to Sarria and Sarria to Santiago) to see which one appeals. Each section has different attractions so take your time to decide what is important to you so you choose the right section for you.
Other factors that may sway your choice of Caminos could include when to go, style of walking (independent vs organised tours, albergues vs hotels etc), and even whether to walk or cycle, or a combination of both.
Taking your time to do your research will go a long way to determining the success of your Camino so don’t cut corners.
TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT
Once you have decided on which Camino you’ll be tackling it’s time to prepare. Whether you’re walking the full Camino Frances (nearly 800km) or just a short portion of it, being physically prepared will not only make your walk eminently more enjoyable, it may be the difference between finishing or not.
Then there’s the old chestnut of what to take. This is a much argued subject and you can get as many opinions about it as there are pilgrims! There’s no standard checklist for all Caminos and it will be influenced by such issues as whether you’re carrying your main pack each day, how long your walk is, season that you’re walking and whether you’re staying in hotels or albergues, among other things. We strongly recommend finding a good outdoor gear equipment supplier who knows what they’re talking about to get the best advice on this.
So now you’ve settled on your walk, you’ve done your due diligence with your physical preparation and you’ve bought out the outdoor store with all the latest equipment. What next?
Well, you have to get there! This sounds easier than it is with most versions of the Camino starting in smaller towns that aren’t straight forward to reach. A good travel agent might be able to help you with this but chances are your regular travel agent won’t have a clue how to get to somewhere like St Jean Pied de Port on the Spanish/French border. You’re better off talking to the experts for this.
If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to whet your appetite for your upcoming trip, we’ve got you covered. There’s an endless array of books written about the Camino, but here’s a sample of some of the more popular ones.
There’s also several movies that have been made about it, with by far the most popular being “The Way” starring Martin Sheen. The exponential increase in pilgrim numbers has been attributed to this movie, and after viewing it if you want to know the locations used we have a full list for you. Another Australian/New Zealand made movie released in 2019 is Camino Skies, giving a great insight into life on the Camino. Similarly, the American made documentary film Walking the Camino follows six pilgrims on their journey.
There are also various websites and forums that are great for gathering information and helping you prepare for your walk. You can also read updates of past Camino news and events. And if you want to read of other people’s experience of their walks, past RAW Travel clients have been inspired to write some reviews.
So there you have it. You’ve done your research and arrived at the start of your Camino. If we haven’t covered your particular question for planning your Camino, you might like to check out our FAQ’s. Now there’s only one thing left to do- start walking!