Last Friday my parents in-law told me they were watching a programme about the Camino. It’s a new series on BBC2, called Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago and the second show airs tonight at 9pm.
I’m so excited that the BBC are showing this, because walking the Camino has become such an important and wonderful part of my life. I hope many people are inspired by the series. I’m also excited because I’m heading off towards the Camino myself this evening. So please do follow me along on here!
In case you’re one of those watching the series and you’re wondering whether the Camino is for you, I thought I’d pull together some of my blogs for help and advice (though of course I really recommend you go to day one and read everything).
- What’s the best way to do the Camino? The most important thing to know is that there are as many Caminos are there are people that walk it. The grooves in the shell that is the symbol of the Camino represent all of the pilgrims converging on the same point by many routes. Walk your Camino the way that works for you.
- What do I need to take? This is extremely subjective, and there are lots of good packing lists out there, which I used the first time. Then I figured out what worked for me, and this blog has my thoughts about what was ‘worth the weight’ after my first Camino.
- Is it hard? In short, yes. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. If you’re broadly fit and healthy you’ll be fine, I’ve met many pilgrims in their sixties and seventies. But give yourself time to prepare. The biggest mistake I made the first time was not training enough. You need to treat the Camino with respect!
- What does it look like? The wonderful thing about walking across an entire country is that you see a huge variety of different landscapes. These blogs have pictures of Navarra and la Rioja, the meseta, Castile y Leon and Galicia.
- What does a good day feel like? Some days on the Camino are like a happy dream! My first day walking was particularly magical and full of hope. But some of my favourite moments have been as varied as discovering the crazy Elvis bar in Reliegos, the profoundly beautiful sunrises, or spending an evening singing folk songs with other pilgrims. This year I’m particularly looking forward to Galician food and seeing Semana Santa celebrations once again.
- What does a bad day feel like? There are bad days on the Camino. For me, the lowest point was (somewhat ironically) when I climbed up to the highest point on the Camino Frances with a raging temperature in the pouring rain. But even the worst days can remind you how strong you are and lead to magical moments of their own.
- What are the people like? The people are the best thing about the Camino, it’s very international and almost everyone walks with an open heart and an open mind. I have friends for life from walking the Camino.
- What is the food like? Generally pilgrim’s meals are simple, hearty and inexpensive. Eating with others in the evening can be an extremely enjoyable part of the Camino experience.
- Is the wine fountain a real thing? Yes. It’s awesome.
- What are the hostels like? Variable. I had some good experiences, like La Perla in Azqueta, and some terrible experiences, like bed bugs in Burgos. Generally, municipal hostels are larger, cheaper and have kitchens. Private hostels often have slightly smaller rooms, which I find is a bonus (less chance someone will snore!) and some will cook your group a pilgrim’s meal. If you don’t feel like sharing a room, there are lots of hotels en route too. It’s not obligatory to stay in hostels, but they do help build a sense of Camino community.
- What did I learn? I learnt a lot about myself on the Camino, but here are my reflections on arriving in Santiago.
Hope this helps! If you have Camino-related questions please do ask in the comments. You can also find me on instagram @felicityburch. Buen Camino todos!