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Walking the Camino de Santiago


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It isn't exactly your average beach holiday but if you're looking for adventure, why not try the Camino de Santiago?

Originally a path of pilgrimage in medieval times, the Way of St James is now popular with walkers of all types, religious or otherwise. The most popular version of the route is the French Way, a 750km walk which runs from the French Alps through the north of Spain all the way to Santiago.


As the most popular route, it's also served by the best amenities with plenty of cheap food and accommodation available on the road. Hostels are between five and ten euros a night and a three course meal (with wine) costs between seven and ten. Flights to Spain are cheap, buoyed by the tourist industry and coaches within the country are also significantly cheaper than in the UK.

Although relatively inexpensive, the Camino is something you need to be well prepared for. Uncomfortable shoes, too heavy a rucksack and over-packing will all make walking 20 or 30km a day a lot more difficult than it needs to be.

When I walked the last 250km of it this summer I packed just five kilos of luggage in my backpack – three changes of clothes and underwear, a sleeping bag, first aid kit and waterproofs. I also took a change of footwear (flip-flops) and my iphone and e-reader to keep me entertained.

Walking around 26km a day we covered the 250km from Ponferrada to Santiago in 10 days, slightly faster than average but nowhere near as fast as some of the people we met. Although many people start from the 100km mark, we also found that a lot of people had walked all 750km, or even further. In the case of two French boys we met they had walked all the way from Le Puy in France, around 1500km.

Blisters and injuries are something to be mindful of as sore feet can really put a damper on things. After blissfully ignoring the advice to start slow and put blister plasters on as soon as it felt sore, we had two days of agonisingly slow walking on badly blistered feet.

You'll need to get hold of a pilgrim passport at the first place you stop as they're necessary to gain entry to the hostels, or Albergues. You can also claim a compostella, or certificate of completion in Santiago if you've got more than 10 stamps over 100km and the passport full of stamps makes for a great memento.

June or early July when we did our walk is an ideal time to go as it isn't yet hot enough to be seriously uncomfortable, but the weather is relatively reliable and the route not too crowded. On holy years and in high season Albergues can fill up quickly and the path can become frustratingly busy.

It's not a holiday with the same kind of thrill factor as bungee-jumping in New Zealand or snorkelling the Barrier Reef but if you're looking for a cheap and satisfying adventure holiday, the Camino might just be for you.

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