The Camino de Santiago trail is one of the most popular walking pilgrimages in the world and every year, thousands of people visit the historical city of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
You can walk the Camino’s hundreds of miles of paths that connect a lot of the major Spanish cities and surrounding areas, ending at the cathedral, the destination point and final destination for all Pilgrims walking a camino route.
As a new Camino pilgrim, you’re about to embark on an incredible journey. To help you make the most of your adventure, we’ve compiled 40 top tips for walking the Camino de Santiago trail that will ensure you have a memorable, fulfilling and amazing experience.
Tips for walking the Camino
Most of my Camino tips are lessons I have experienced or mistakes I’ve made (and I made a few on my first Camino) that I think will help Pilgrims thinking of walking the Camino de Santiago.
Table of Contents
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is an ancient pilgrimage route that stretches all the way from various points around Europe to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
People have been walking it for centuries and you can too.
But before you go it’s important to do some research as there are several different ways to walk the Pilgrimage as well as different routes to take.
Before my first adventure walking the Camino de Santiago I did a lot of research to learn everything I could about the Camino, how things work and what to expect when I was there. In my opinion it was invaluable.
The Camino de Santiago is something of a juggernaut in terms of pilgrimages—but it’s not a walk you can simply sign up for on a whim, or even plan while you’re actually in Spain.
Before you grab your backpack and head off on foot, it’s important to do your research so that you know what to expect during your pilgrimage.
Check out my Camino resources page for some great places to start your research.
Remember the motto Fail to plan, Plan to fail !
2 Plan your Itinerary
Decide on the number of walking days and the distance you wish to cover each day. It’s generally recommended to allocate around 30-40 days for the entire Camino Frances whilst The Camino Ingles only takes 4-6 days.
I don’t personally plan my day by day stages and just let the mood and how I feel determine that, but some Pilgrims follow a defined stage route. Anything works as there is no defined route journey. You do what suits you.
3 Use a Camino Guidebook
As part of my research into walking the Camino Frances I found a great guidebook written by John Brierley, called The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago. I found it essential reading.
I review guidebooks on a regular basis and some of my favourite guidebooks for some of the most popular Camino’s.
4 Start Training Early
Before setting off walking the Camino de Santiago, I strongly recommend taking time to get fit. The Camino is not a hike, it’s walking that can become strenuous at times, which means preparation and strength are essential for the journey.
Begin a fitness regime well in advance to improve your stamina and endurance for long walks. Gradually increase the distance and intensity of your training walks and introduce a fully loaded backpack so you can get used to carrying one.
Once I had committed to walking the Camino I started training to make sure I was fit enough to walk the 28 days I had planned on the Camino Frances. My trip was a short one but was all the time I had off work.
I know some people don’t do any training and find their ‘camino legs’ in the first week but I wouldn’t advise anyone doing this. Its always better to be safe than sorry.
5 Embrace the Unknown
The Camino is a path of discovery. Embrace the unknown, and allow yourself to be open to unexpected encounters, breathtaking vistas, and life-changing moments.
6 Use a Good Quality Backpack
Research and use a good quality backpack. You have to carry all your gear every day so having a comfortable pack that fits you properly is really important.
Go to you local outdoors shop to get fitted properly. I use the Osprey Talon 33 which is a perfect sized backpack for walking the Camino. I believe the Talon 33 is the best backpack for walking the Camino.
7 Pack Light
Keep your backpack as light as possible to avoid unnecessary strain. Aim to carry no more than 10% of your body weight and really focus on essential items and consider lightweight gear.
Check out my Camino packing list to see what I take on all my Camino adventures.
8 Invest in Good Footwear
Choose comfortable and sturdy walking shoes or boots that have been broken in before your journey. Ensure they provide proper support and protection for your feet.
I have weak ankles so I always use walking boots and especially love my Meindl Meran GTX boots, I’m on my 4thpair now.
I do however see a lot of Pilgrims walking the Camino in trail runners and regular walking boots.
The motto is, wear whatever you are comfortable with just make sure they are good quality.
9 Use Good Quality Socks
As part of my regime for keeping any sign of a blister at bay, I use Bridgedale Merino wool walking socks. I take 3 pairs on every pilgrimage and change at least once every day.
I rarely suffer from blisters and the socks are a life saver.
10 Take Care of Your Feet
You can maintain good foot care by wearing Merino wool socks and well-fitted shoes, but treating your feet after the day walk is finished is crucial. Treat any hot spots or blisters promptly with blister plasters or bandages.
I also use a good foot cream at the end of the day and use a German cream called Gerhwol. Fantastic stuff I definitely recommend.
11 Camino de Santiago Apps
There are lots of Camino de Santiago Apps on the market such as Wise Pilgrim, Gronze, Camino 360 and Camino Assist. I would try them all out and see of you want to use any of them.
I downloaded the Camino Ninja app which is brilliant and would recommend. At this stage the author has unfortunately passed away and the app isn’t available for download, but hopefully will change soon. Its really good.
12 Test your Gear
Before you embark on the pilgrimage, test all your equipment, such as your backpack, sleeping bag and rain gear, to ensure they are suitable and functional.
Arriving with sub standard gear will only make your pilgrimage harder. Don’t forget it can rain in Spain especially in Galicia.
I always take my ripstop Poncho with me for those wet days and keep dry even if it rains all day.
13 Be prepared for different weather conditions
Pack versatile clothing suitable for a range of weather conditions, including rain gear and warm layers. The weather can vary significantly along the route especially in Galicia where it can rain a lot.
14 Use Walking Poles
Consider using walking poles for added stability and support, particularly on challenging terrain. They can help alleviate strain on your knees and provide balance. Leki walking poles are very good and lightweight.
TOP TIP: Remember the first day of the Camino Frances is a very steep climb out of St Jean Pied de Port.
15 Start early in the Day
Begin your walking early to make the most of cooler temperatures and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day.
It also allows you to secure accommodation at your preferred destination especially if you are staying in a municipal albergue.
Albergues on El Camino de Santiago: everything you need to know.
16 Listen to your Body
Pay attention to your own body’s needs. Take breaks when necessary, stay hydrated and apply sunscreen regularly. Don’t push yourself too hard, especially in the initial stages.
17 Stay Hydrated and eat often
Carry a refillable water bottle and ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can impact your energy levels and overall well-being.
I use an Osprey water bladder that fits within my Osprey Talon 33 backpack so I can drink on the go.
Your body also needs the energy to keep up the pace through the day on the Camino. Check out these hiking snack ideas that are high in energy and tasty.
18 Embrace the Community
Interact with fellow pilgrims and locals along the way. The Camino de Santiago is a unique opportunity to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and share experiences.
19 Enjoy the local Cuisine
Sample the regional dishes and specialties offered along the route. The Camino is renowned for its delicious food, so indulge in the culinary delights of the different regions.
20 Pilgrim Menus
When you get to an albergue, be sure to pay attention to the menus made specially for pilgrims or ask for the local restaurants that have a pilgrim menu.
They are normally quite basic but don’t cost a lot and on most occasions come with free wine.
Typically there will be a starter of salad, a main meal usually with chicken of fish. The desert can sometimes just be a yogurt or a piece of fruit. basic but very nice after a hard days walk.
Here is a Pilgrim menu from a restaurant on the Camino Frances in Azofra.
21 Pace yourself
Remember that the Camino is not a race. Walk at a comfortable pace that suits your fitness level and allows you to enjoy the journey without feeling rushed.
It’s your Camino and no one else’s so enjoy your time on the trail.
22 Stay Flexible
While it’s good to have a general plan, be open to spontaneous changes. You may discover new places or meet interesting people that could alter your itinerary.
23 Choose your walking buddies wisely
Regardless of which Camino route you choose to walk, a walking partner is always a good idea. It can help keep you accountable and motivated, plus, it’s nice to have company during your trip.
If you’re going solo but want some company, don’t worry: Many people travel solo on the Camino but still travel with friends they meet along their journey!
A lot of people join a ‘tribe’ and stick with them to the end. Just remember everyone walks at a different pace.
If you start walking with someone who you would rather not walk with just take a break, walk faster or put your headphones in and say you’d rather walk by yourself.
24 Learn some basic Spanish
Before you start your Camino it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with a few common Spanish phrases to help with communication. Locals appreciate the effort and it can enhance your overall experience
If you don’t know any Spanish before your trip, there’s no better place to learn than Spain!
There are tons of resources out there (we’ll link to some later) and even though they’re not all perfect, they’re a good start. You can also check out the free resources on SpanishPod101.com You’ll love their ‘Word of the Day’ emails !
If nothing else, just memorize how to say I’m hungry and I’d like… and that will get you through most situations! Here are a few common words and phrases you would use on the Camino.
25 Carry some Cash
Although many places accept credit cards, it’s advisable to carry some cash for small purchases, as not all establishments may have card payment options.
I normally load up with some cash at all the major cities.
26 Stay Flexible
Obtain a pilgrim passport (credencial) at the start of your journey. It serves as a record of your pilgrimage and allows you to stay in pilgrim specific accommodations.
If you cannot get one here are a few sites that you can buy one from:
27 Respect local traditions and customs
Show respect for the local culture and customs of the regions you pass through. Please familiarise yourself with basic etiquette and be mindful of local sensitivities. You will reap the rewards if you do.
28 Embrace the spiritual aspect
The Camino de Santiago trail holds deep spiritual significance for many pilgrims. Take the time to reflect, meditate or engage in prayer along the route if it aligns with your beliefs and intentions.
Above all its your Camino journey so enjoy yourself.
29 Allow time solitude for introspection
Walking the Camino can provide a unique opportunity for introspection and self-discovery. Embrace moments of solitude to connect with your inner self and contemplate your journey.
30 Carry a journal
Bring a Camino journal or a small notebook to capture your thoughts, experiences, and insights during the pilgrimage.
It can serve as a meaningful keepsake and help you reflect on your journey afterward.
31 Be Open to Personal Growth
The Camino has the potential to transform you in various ways. Stay open to personal growth, new perspectives and the lessons that the Camino may teach you.
32 Respect the Environment
Help preserve the natural beauty of the Camino de Santiago by practicing ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. Dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife and be mindful of the impact you have on the surroundings.
Top tip: If you are going to have a poo in the woods just bury it along with the paper 😊
33 Take breaks Whilst Walking
While walking is a significant part of the Camino, don’t forget to take breaks and explore the towns and villages you pass through.
Immerse yourself in the local culture, visit historical sites and savour the unique atmosphere of each place.
Some of the local villages are amazing. Once the Camino Frances I arrived in Puente de la Reina on a late Sunday afternoon and after showering we had a few beers with the locals and they were singing and dancing in the street and just enjoying life. What a day on the Camino that was !
34 Be Prepared for Crowded Sections
Certain sections of the Camino Frances can be quite popular, especially during peak seasons.
Be mentally prepared for crowds and find your own rhythm amongst the pilgrim community.
35 Have a Camino Detour
Don’t be afraid to have a detour off the Camino to see or visit a special place such as a monastery, church or village.
These detours are a great way to see some off the trails hidden gems.
36 Be Flexible with your Accommodation
Pilgrim accommodations can fill up quickly, especially in popular towns. Consider booking ahead for peace of mind.
The accomodation on the Camino route will include the following options:
These are not bookable and operate as first come first served and are typically the cheapest option on The Camino trail.
Private Albergues with some bookable via platforms such as booking.com
Small private Albergues and Hostels that are mainly bookable in advance on most booking platforms
Anything from 2* upwards to 5* mainly offering private rooms and bathrooms. A little luxury on the Camino trail never hurt anyone.
I love Albergue life and for me its an essential part of Camino life but understand some Pilgrims do like their privacy. There is an option for every Pilgrim
Bringing your mobile cell phone can be a lifesaver in some situations and is the technology all Pilgrims bring with them when walking the Camino.
I wouldn’t advise bringing laptops or tablets with you unless you are willing to carry them with you everyday. Think about taking a break from technology for your pilgrimage, you’ll thank me for it.
38 Keep your Belongings Close
While the Camino is generally safe, it’s essential to be cautious of your belongings. Keep your valuables secure and be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas or when staying in communal accommodations.
I leave my backpack by my bed in an albergue but always take my valuables with me where every I go. I use an Osprey packing cube for my main items I need to keep safe and carry with me on an evening:
- Credit cards
- Pilgrim Passport
39 Celebrate your Achievements
Take time to celebrate your milestones along the way. Whether it’s reaching a significant distance marker or completing a particularly challenging section.
Acknowledge and reward yourself for your achievements, you deserve it.
40 Write a Blog
Keep all your notes and write a blog. It’s a great way to get your memories online for all your friends and family and keep those memories forever.
You can find all my blogs about walking The Camino route on my Camino Blog page
Walking the Camino: Have Fun
Remember, it’s your journey. Walking the Camino de Santiago is a personal pilgrimage, and everyone’s experience is unique.
Embrace the journey at your own pace, focus on your own goals and allow yourself to fully immerse in the transformative experience it offers.
Enjoy your Camino de Santiago adventure and I hope its filled with memorable experiences, personal growth and a profound connection to yourself and others along the way! It will be a trip you’ll never forget.
Once you’ve got your plan figured out, start walking!