Last updated: September, 2018.
The Camino de Santiago is a set of historic pilgrimage routes from France, Spain and Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. While it has its origins in religious practice, many people walk the routes for more general spiritual and personal enrichment reasons.
I have walked both the Camino Portugues and the Camino del Norte. Many of the days were spent walking in near solitude, interacting with only a few other hikers and locals along the way. It was both peaceful and exhilarating to walk these historic routes. The scenery, history, food and people along the routes were wonderful.
The Camino Portugues
The Camino del Norte
You'll meet many interesting people from all over the world while walking the Camino, all with one thing in common with you: They decided to walk the Camino! Many will be on their 2nd, 3rd, or higher number Camino. We met folks from Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the USA, and Wales.
I can heartily recommend these routes in particular, and the Camino in general, as a positive and rewarding experience.
You will be walking distances of 18 to 32 kilometers per day (11 to 20 miles) on the Camino. Including the short breaks to get a passo (pilgrim passport stamp), refreshment, and talk to other walkers, this is 5 to 10 hours on your feet every day. Start walking, and slowly work up to that distance and duration. Walk on all types of surfaces - asphalt, cement, gravel, dirt, and cobblestones. Break in two different types of shoes, such as boots and sneakers. Learn how to take care of foot issues. There will be foot issues.
Water. Carry 1.5 to 2 liters of water at all times. Refill your water at cafes along the way. Many water fonts along the way are not safe to drink.
Lodging and luggage. Some folks love the uncertainty of finding ad-hoc lodging in hostels or albergues each day along the way. And carrying the full backpacks necessary to have the sleeping bags, gear and several days worth of clothes. Other folks pre-book their lodging and use luggage forwarding so that one need only carry water and the bare essentials in a day pack. I chose the latter, and used Follow the Camino. This outfit did very well in my estimation. No hesitation recommending them.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago is a very happening place. The outskirts may not seem remarkable, but as you get closer and closer to the Cathedral, the density of bars, restaurants, and tapas joints gets greater and greater. Everyone's happy because they've finished their one to eight week long journeys......
Expect long lines to get your certificates at the Pilgrim Reception Office. By the afternoon, 1.5 to 2 hour wait times are normal. It's a great chance to talk to other hikers and have reunions with others you have seen along the way. Just don't try to cut in line.... :-)
Movies and videos about the Camino
Some fictional, some factual. There are many others, from a few minutes long to feature length.
The Way (Martin Sheen)
Footsteps: The Path of Your Life (On Netflix July 2017; more for Catholics)
Camino Portugues (Youtube)
Camino Portugues - Camino de Santiago (Youtube - 3.5 hours of great photography)