In this Section
Sample itinerary covering the journey day to day by Ruth Potterton
Useful Links & Suggested Reading
St. James’ Gate in Dublin was, traditionally, a main starting point for Irish pilgrims to begin their journey to Santiago. Their pilgrims’ passport were (and still can be) stamped there before setting sail, usually for La Coruna, north of Santiago. Waterford and Cork harbours were also starting points for Irish pilgrims.
Nowadays, many fly and train it to their starting points within Spain or mainland Europe. Le Puy (France), St. Jean Pied de Port IFrance) Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, Sarria, and Oporto (Portugal) are all popular initial destinations. The braver are drawn to more complicated methods and itineraries!
Accommodation en route comes in the form of refugios or albergues. They are either state-run or run by Pilgrim’s Associations or privately financed. They are usually quite basic but on the whole well maintained and run by local or "ex-Pilgrim" volunteers! There is a nominal or donational contribution for a (bunk)bed, a (hopefully) hot shower, somewhere to wash out your clothes, somewhere to prepare and gobble down food and maybe even a friendly chat to console the weary wanderer.
Cyclists may, especially during the busy summer months, be asked to camp, with walkers being given preference for beds. It is generally not possible to book in advance, all that is required is to prove that you are a bona fide pilgrim on the Road to Santiago, i.e. the production of your pilgrim’s passport.
A list of each year’s official refugios should be available and obtained in the tourist office or parish sacristy of whichever town you begin your pilgrimage. There may be changes in this list as new refugios open and old ones close. Last years list may not be accurate for this year. Obtaining this list should be one of the first things you do before you set off.
Refugios are sanctuaries for a weary pilgrim. They should be respected and appreciated as such. They are a gift, not a reward. Town people etc. who offer and run these refugios are not doing so because they have to, they are doing so because they want to. It is therefore, only polite to leave the space you are given in the condition that you would wish to find it yourself. And remember, your donation / contribution is paving the way for the pilgrims behind you!
Alternatively, there are a growing number of private pensions, hostals and hotels along the route that can be booked in advance… should you know your exact rate of progress!! Tourist offices should be able to assist you with finding and contacting these and there are some particularly beautiful establishment along the camino that are well worth checking out.
What to Carry
There are many different lists of what you’ll need to bring/wear/eat whilst on the "camino", but the one main thing to remember is you are carrying everything on your back or bike. Every gram / ounce add up and EVERYTHING must be kept to a minimum. There are however, some unavoidable necessities that you will need to carry with you, whether walking or cycling.
Water: The heaviest thing you will carry. Irish pilgrims in particular should be careful to always carry a supply of drinking water, unaccustomed as we are to the Spanish heat and humidity which can de-hydrate even the most experienced celtic wanderer! A suggested 2 litres is recommended by many guidebooks but one may suffice. Although there may be many fuentes along the way with "agua potable" or drinking water, one cannot rely on their existence or maintenance. This situation improves, however, every year, in particular since the Holy Year in 1999 and Jubilee Year in 2000. De-hydration is a condition to be avoided at all costs and should be watched out for. Nuts are a good mainstay of many pilgrims as they help replace lost body salts under the Spanish sun. Don’t forget, however, it doesn’t need to be sunny for you to become de-hydrated. Drink plenty of water!!
First Aid Kit: Roller bandage, blister kits and plasters, antiseptic, gauze, sun screen, insect repellent, safety pins, needle and thread (for draining blisters, as well as haute couture repairs!) and a couple of sachets of whatever settles an upset stomach for you.
The Pilgrim’s Staff: Pilgrims of old carried a long staff (known as a bordon in Spanish) to help them on their journey. It gives the pilgrim something to lean on and is especially welcome on steep hills. Some guidebooks claim it is a good deterrent against any "not-so-friendly" canines that you might come across on your travels, after a few days of walking with a bordon, it will feel like an extension of your arm!!
Sleeping Bag: Light, cotton-lined preferably and if you can get one that has a "hood" it is an advantage. You may not always get a "pillow"!
Rain Gear: Believe it or not, you may actually get some rain on your journey, in particular in the Pyrenees and "green" Galicia! It’s best to be prepared. A light but large and easily packed away rain-poncho that covers both you and you’re backpack is the best option. Bright colours are favourable… the more noticeable you are, in particular when the trail may be close to any roads, the better.
A Hat: Essential protection from the sun, make sure it covers the back of your neck. You will find that you will be doing most of you walking/cycling in the morning hours, when the sun is behind you.
Sample itinerary covering the journey day to day. Download Camino Itinerary Word Doc (85kb)
Experienced Camino Walkers
Those interested in discussing practical issues with experienced camino walkers, please contact one of the following: