Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Camino de Santiago Routes

The rays of the pilgrim shell are oftentimes likened to the many routes of the Camino de Santiago.  The routes of the Camino may start in different places, even countries, but ultimately, they converge at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

When you follow the pilgrim shell, generally, the hinge should always points towards Santiago de Compostela, just like the movement of the clam shell in the water.  This may not be the case in some signs, so in doubt, just look for and follow the yellow arrows.

The Camino Frances

The most popular of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes is the Camino Francés, or French Way, a 775 kilometer (482 mile) route, which takes an average of about 32 days.  The route starts in the French side at the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the foot of the Pyrenees, and crosses over to the Spanish side in Roncesvalles, Spain.  The route is the most popular and well-travelled of all the Camino de Santiago routes, and passes through the major Spanish cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Leon and ends in Santiago de Compostela.  Due to its popularity, this route has excellent infrastructure, with albergues, restaurants, groceries, pharmacies, and teller machines in great supply, specially in the last 100 kms (62 miles).  This route is also very well-marked with camino shell signs and yellow arrows, so there is no getting lost as long as you pay attention.

The route is beautiful, passing through the different regions of Spain -- through Navarre, Rioja, Castille y Leon, and ending in Galicia.  The lovely and varied scenery and landscape accompany and lift you up along your walk.  You will pass through high windy passes, lush muddy forests with chirping birds, wide green pastures, undulating hillsides with tended vineyards, rocky paths -- which you appreciate when it is time to walk beside flat country roads and loud busy highways with fast trucks and speeding cars.  The altitude changes often, from plains to hills and mountains, also resulting in unpredictable weather -- snow, wind, rains, cold, heat.  There was one day along our walk (April) when we experienced cold, rain, hail, snow, sun -- all in a few hours.  How wonderful it is to arrive in your destination to a hot shower, a warm pilgrim meal, welcoming smiles and a comfortable albergue bunk bed!

Passing through these different regions of Spain also means changes in culture, dialect and culinary specialties.  As sure as the landscape changes, the food changes too!  Be sure to try the different specialties of the region.  I remember the trout in Roncesvalles and the chorizos of Pamplona in the Navarre region, the tapas and wines in Logroño of La Rioja,  the Cocido Maragato in Astorga of the Leon region, the Caldo de Gallego in Galicia.  The Pilgrim Meal, ranging in price from 7 to 12 Euros, usually offers the region's specialties, includes a glass or even a bottle of wine, and is always a good bet for a deeply fulfilling meal.

In 2013, about 70% of all pilgrims went through the Camino Frances route.

There are several routes that feed into the Camino Frances.  This means that you can also begin your pilgrimage starting with these routes and later connect with the Camino Frances.  Some of these routes include the following:
  • Camino Aragones, 164 kms (102 miles), or about 6 days, that starts from Somport in the French Pyrenees near the border to Spain, crosses over a pass then connects back to the Camino Frances at Puenta la Reina/Gares in the Navarre Region, which leaves still about 656 kms (408 miles) till Santiago de Compostela;
  • Le Puy Route, 736 kms (457 miles), or about 32 days, that starts from Le Puy-en-Velay in the French Pyrenees, close to Lyon, France and connects back to the Camino Frances in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the normal start of the Camino Frances.  The Le Puy Route is the most popular Camino route in France, and is marked clearly with the red and white waymark symbols of the GR65 (Grand Randonée network of France).

The Camino Finisterre, to "the end of the world"  

After the Camino Frances, pilgrims also sometimes continue on to the Camino Finisterre.  Truly, when you reach Santiago de Compostela, it seems you do not want the pilgrimage to end!  This 90 kilometer (56 mile) route takes from 3 to 4 days, from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterra, and particularly, the lighthouse of the Cape Finisterre, where if you are lucky, you witness a beautiful sunset from one of the westernmost points of Europe.  That is why Finisterre was called the "end of the world" and pilgrims stop here, as you cannot walk any farther west.  (See also my blog post:  on arriving in Finisterre.)

This route passes through Negreira, Olveiroa, Cee, Corcubión and ends at the seaside town and beach of Finisterre. The traditional end of the Camino Finisterre is another 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the center of the town of Finisterre, to the Cape Finisterre Lighthouse.  From here, you may also opt to go further on, from Finisterre to another beautiful seaside town called Muxia, adding another 29 kilometers (18 miles) to the route.   There is a famous church here called the Santuario da Virxe da Barca which is located by the rocky coast.  Sadly, this church was destroyed by a fire due to lightning last December 25, 2013, according to a Wikipedia article on Muxia.  A legend tells that the stones near the church are from the stone boat of the Virgin Mary, who was said to have appeared to apostles who had lost hope of being able to convert the locals to Christianity.  Muxia is also famous as the site in the final scenes of the movie "The Way."

From Muxia or Finisterrre, most pilgrims take a bus back to Santiago de Compostela. You can also get a Compostela certificate in Finisterre.

At "the end of the world" - Camino Finisterre

Camino Portugues

The Camino Portugues, or the Portuguese Way, starts from Portugal and ends in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  The route can start from either Lisbon (610 kms or 379 miles), Porto (227 kms or 141 miles) or Tui (119 kms or 74 miles).   From Lisbon, the way takes about 28 to 30 days, from Porto, about 12 to 14 days, while the route from Tui takes about 6 to 7 days.  The route goes northward from Portugal, and is the next most popular route after the Camino Frances, with about 14% of pilgrims passing this way in 2013.  There are a considerable amount of albergues and restaurants, with a portion of the route passing beside motorways.

Camino del Norte

The Camino del Norte, or the Northern Way, runs for 815 kms (506 miles), or about 35 days, starting from Irún, Spain, on the border with France, passing close to the northern coastline of Spain westwards into Galicia, through the cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander and Oviedo, then joining back into the Camino Frances at Arzua.  From Arzua, it is another 40 kms (25 miles) to arrive at Santiago de Compostela.  This route passes through some portions of the Via Agrippa or Old Roman Road.  It is also becoming quite popular and the route has been described as very beautiful as it passes right by the Spanish coastline.  It is said to be more difficult hiking with albergues spread farther apart (from 20 to 25 kms, or 12 to 15 miles apart) in contrast to that of the Camino Frances (about 5 kms or 3 miles apart), meaning that more planning is needed to ensure that you are at a town with an albergue at day's end, specially at the beginning portions of the route.  Not all albergues are open year-round, so it would be better to go in summer.  There are also not as many waymarks as in the Camino Frances.  About 6% of pilgrims in 2013 passed this way.

Via de la Plata

The Via de la Plata is a 705 km (438 mile) or about 31 days, pilgrimage route from Sevilla to Astorga, Spain.  From Astorga, it is another 259 kms (161 miles) or about 11 more days, to Santiago de Compostela. This route first goes north from Sevilla to Zamora passing through Merida, Cáceres and Salamanca, then continues on to Astorga to rejoin the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela.  This route follows an old Roman road (the Via de la Plata).  It is a less frequented route thus you can expect less albergues and facilities along the way, and only about 4% of all pilgrims passed this way in 2013.

Camino Primitivo

The Camino Primitivo, or the Original Route, 270 kms (168 miles), takes about 10 days starting from the town of Oveido to Melide, This walk rejoins the Camino Frances at Melide, and is described as a challenging route with lots of hills, with more unpredictable weather patterns.  From Melide, it is still about 53 kms (33 miles) or about 2 to 3 days to reach Santiago de Compostela.  About  3% of all pilgrims passed this route in 2013.

Camino Ingles

The Camino Ingles, or the English Way, is a 155 km (96 mi) route of about 7 days, that starts from Ferrol, Spain, passes A Coruña then goes on to Santiago de Compostela.  This route is "Y-shaped" and got its name because it was said that during the Middle Ages, English pilgrims arrived by boat from Britain and started their walk in Ferrol.  From Ferrol directly to Santiago de Compostela, it is about 110 kms (6 miles), or 5 days, and from A Coruña, about 75 kms (47 miles), or 3 days.  To receive the Compostela, you should have walked at least 100 kms (62 miles), thus you have to either start from Ferrol, or start from Ferrol, fork up to O Coruña then continue on south to Santiago de Compostela.   The route forks at Hospital de Bruma.  About 2% of all pilgrims went this way in 2013.

Here is a nice overview map showing some of the major Camino Routes. (From the Pilgrim-FAQ website.) Thanks to

Here is a link to other maps provided by Camino Route maps.

For more details on these routes, including itineraries, see the Eroski Website (in Spanish).   Also available on the web is a guide to the Northern Routes: Camino del Norte and Camino Primitivo, and a map for these northern routes.  There are also lots of information on route planning, with maps and planners provided by fellow pilgrims at the Camino de Santiago Forum and corresponding main site Camino de Santiago Website.  Another informative website is Confraternity of Saint James with a comprehensive map of the different routes here.

Wiki References:  Way of St. JamesWay of St. James (route descriptions), Muxia

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Itineraries for the Camino Frances and Camino Finisterre

The Camino Frances is a 775 kilometer pilgrimage walk which begins from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  This is the most popular and well-travelled of all the Camino de Santiago routes.  To hike it in comfort, you need to be reasonably fit, have good walking shoes and a very light pack (maximum of 10% of your body weight).

The Camino Frances can be walked as fast or as leisurely as you want.  Remember that this is your Camino.

Here are some itineraries that you can use for walking the Camino de Santiago. There are 4 major cities that you pass along the way -- Logroño, Burgos, Leon, Santiago de Compostela.  You can change the itineraries to stop at some of these cities and take the time to look around.

It is easy to plan these itineraries using the Camino Pilgrim Android app.  You can look at maps and check out the lodgings at each city/locality.  Try it out!

Camino Frances 

Below are some itineraries that one can follow for the Camino Frances.

Itinerary 1: 5 Days (Sarria - Santiago de Compostela)

Here is the minimum itinerary that one can do to get the Compostela certificate.  This is a walk of about 100 kms starting from Sarria.

Day 1:  Sarria - Portomarin (22.4 kms)
Day 2:  Portomarin - Palas de Rei (25 kms)
Day 3:  Palas de Rei - Arzúa (28.8 kms)
Day 4:  Arzúa - O Pedrouzo (19.2 kms)
Day 5:  O Pedrouzo - Santiago de Compostela (20 kms)

Itinerary 2: 34 Days (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Santiago de Compostela)

The normal itinerary is a 34 day itinerary provided by the Les amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques des Pyrénées Atlantiques.  This itinerary is given as a loose-leaf handout at the Pilgrim Office when you arrive in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France.

Day 1:    Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Roncesvalles (27.1 kms)
Day 2:    Roncesvalles - Larrasoaña (25 kms)
Day 3:    Larrasoaña - Zizur Menor (20.7 kms)
Day 4:    Zizur Menor - Puenta La Reina (20.4 kms)
Day 5:    Puente La Reina - Estella (22.4 kms)
Day 6:    Estella - Los Arcos (21 kms)
Day 7:    Los Arcos - Viana (19.5 kms)
Day 8:    Viana - Navarrete (21.5 kms)
Day 9:    Navarrete - Nájera (16.5 kms)
Day 10:  Nájera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21.2 kms)
Day 11:  Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Belorado (23 kms)
Day 12:  Belorado - San Juan de Ortega (24.3 kms)
Day 13:  San Juan de Ortega - Burgos (26 kms)
Day 14:  Burgos - Hornillos del Camino (21 kms)
Day 15:  Hornillos del Camino - Castrojeriz (20.5 kms)
Day 16:  Castrojeriz - Fromista (25.5 kms)
Day 17:  Fromista  - Carrión de los Condes (20.9 kms)
Day 18:  Carrión de los Condes - Terradillos de los Templarios (26.6 kms)
Day 19:  Terradillos de los Templarios - Bercianos del Real Camino (23.8 kms)
Day 20:  Bercianos del Real Camino - Mansilla de las Mulas (26.3 kms)
Day 21:  Mansilla de las Mulas - León (20.4 kms)
Day 22:  León - Villadangos del Paramo (20.4 kms)
Day 23:  Villadangos del Paramo - Astorga (26.4 kms)
Day 24:  Astorga - Rabanal del Camino (20 kms)
Day 25:  Rabanal del Camino - Molinaseca (25.5 kms)
Day 26:  Molinaseca - Cacabelos (23 kms)
Day 27:  Cacabelos - Vega de Valcarce (24 kms)
Day 28:  Vega de Valcarce - Alto de Poyo (21.8 kms)
Day 29:  Alto de Poyo - Calbor (27.5 kms)
Day 30:  Calbor - Portomarin (27.5 kms)
Day 31:  Portomarin - Ponte Campana (28.5 kms)
Day 32:  Ponte Campana - Ribadiso (22.5 kms)
Day 33:  Ribadiso - Arco de Pino (22 kms)
Day 34:  Arco de Pino - Santiago de Compostela (20 kms)

Itinerary 3: 31 Days (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Santiago de Compostela)

Here is another itinerary of 31 days based on the Eroski Consumer link.  This itinerary averages about 25 kms a day, with the longest day being a 37 km hike from El Burgo Ranero to Leon on day 18.

Day 1:    Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Roncesvalles (25.7 kms)
Day 2:    Roncesvalles - Zubiri (21.5 kms)
Day 3:    Zubiri -Pamplona/Iruña (20.4 kms)
Day 4:    Pamplona/Iruña - Puenta La Reina/Gares (24 kms)
Day 5:    Puente La Reina/Gares - Estella/Lizarra (22 kms)
Day 6:    Estella/Lizarra - Torres del Rio (29 kms)
Day 7:    Torres del Rio - Logroño (20 kms)
Day 8:    Logroño - Najera (29.6 kms)
Day 9:    Nájera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21 kms)
Day 10:  Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Belorado (22.7 kms)
Day 11:  Belorado - Agés (27.4 kms)
Day 12:  Agés - Burgos (23 kms)
Day 13:  Burgos - Hontanas (31.1 kms)
Day 14:  Hontanas - Boadilla del Camino (28.5 kms)
Day 15:  Boadilla del Camino - Carrión de los Condes (24.6 kms)
Day 16:  Carrión de los Condes - Terradillos de los Templarios (26.6 kms)
Day 17:  Terradillos de los Templarios - El Burgo Ranero (30.6 kms)
Day 18:  El Burgo Ranero - León (37.1 kms)
Day 19:  León - San Martin del Camino (25.9 kms)
Day 20:  San Martin del Camino - Astorga (24.1 kms)
Day 21:  Astorga - Foncebadon (25.9 kms)
Day 22:  Foncebadon - Ponferrada (27.3 kms)
Day 23:  Ponferrada - Villafranca del Bierzo (24.1 kms)
Day 24:  Villafranca del Bierzo - O Cebreiro (28.4 kms)
Day 25:  O Cebreiro - Triacastela (21.1 kms)
Day 26:  Triacastela - Sarria (18.3 kms)
Day 27:  Sarria - Portomarin (22.4 kms)
Day 28:  Portomarin - Palas de Rei (25 kms)
Day 29:  Palas de Rei - Arzúa (28.8 kms)
Day 30:  Arzúa - O Pedrouzo (19.2 kms)
Day 31:  O Pedrouzo - Santiago de Compostela (20 kms)

Itinerary 4:  30 Days + 1 Rest day in Logroño (Slow at start with rest day)

Here is an itinerary followed by Pinay Pilgrim of 30 days + 1 Rest day.  The Camino Finisterre of 3 days is added at the end.

Day 1:  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Roncesvalles (25.6 kms)
Day 2:  Roncesvalles - Zubiri (21.5 kms)
Day 3:  Zubiri -Pamplona (20.3 kms)
Day 4:  Pamplona - Puenta La Reina (24.0 kms)
Day 5:  Puente La Reina - Estella (21.9 kms)
Day 6:  Estella - Los Arcos (21.2 kms)
Day 7:  Los Arcos - Viana (18.3 kms)
Day 8:  Viana - Logroño (9.5 kms)
Day 9:  Logroño rest day (0 kms)
Day 10:  Logroño - Najera (28.7 kms)
Day 11:  Najera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21.0 kms)
Day 12:  Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Tosantos (27.4 kms)
Day 13:  Tosantos - Atapuerca (25.3 kms)
Day 14:  Atapuerca - Burgos (20.4 kms)
Day 15:  Burgos - Hornillos del Camino (20.6)
Day 16: Hornillos del Camino - Boadilla del Camino (39.0 kms)
Day 17:  Boadilla del Camino - Carrión de los Condes (24.6 kms)
Day 18:  Carrión de los Condes - Terradillos de los Templarios (26.6 kms)
Day 19:  Terradillos de los Templarios - El Burgo Ranero (30.6 kms)
Day 20:  El Burgo Ranero - León (37.3 kms)
Day 21:  León - Villadangos del Páramo (28.58 kms)
Day 22:  Villadangos del Páramo - Murias de Rechivaldo (33.2 kms)
Day 23:  Murias de Rechivaldo - Foncebadon (21.2 kms)
Day 24:  Foncebadon - Ponferrada (27.3 kms)
Day 25:  Ponferrada - Villafranca del Bierzo (24.1 kms)
Day 26:  Villafranca del Bierzo - O Cebreiro (28.4 kms)
Day 27:  O Cebreiro - Calvor (34.2 kms)
Day 28:  Calvor - Portomarin (27.6 kms)
Day 29:  Portomarin - Melide (38.3 kms)
Day 30:  Melide - O Pedrouzo (32.8 kms)
Day 31:  O Pedrouzo - Santiago de Compostela (20 kms)

**Note that on Day 27, you can instead pass via Samos for an extra day in Samos to see the famous Benedictine Monastery, and connecting back to Portomarin.
Day 27:  O Cebreiro - Samos (30.7 kms)
Day 28:  Samos - Portomarin (28.1 kms)

Itinerary 5: 25 Days (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Santiago de Compostela) -- Fast paced, 30-40 kms/day average

Here is a sample fast-paced itinerary of 25 days averaging from 28 - 32 kms per day. This is only for the extremely fit.

Day 1:    Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Roncesvalles (25.6 kms)
Day 2:    Roncesvalles - Larrasoaña (27.1 kms)
Day 3:  Larrasoaña - Zariquiegu (25.7 kms)
Day 4:  Zariquiegui - Estella/Lizarra (34.9 kms)
Day 5:  Estella/Lizarra - Torres del Rio (29.0 kms)
Day 6:  Torres del Rio - Navarrete (32.7 kms)
Day 7:  Navarrete - Santo Domingo de la Calzada (37.9 kms)
Day 8:  Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Villafranca Montes de Oca (34.4 kms)
Day 9:  Villafranco Montes de Oca - Burgos (38.7 kms)
Day 10:  Burgos - Hontanas (31.1 kms)
Day 11:  Hontanas - Boadilla del Camino (28.5 kms)
Day 12:  Boadilla del Camino - Carrión de los Condes (24.6 kms)
Day 13:  Carrión de los Condes - Terradillos de los Templarios (26.6 kms)
Day 14:  Terradillos de los Templarios - El Burgo Ranero (30.6 kms)
Day 15:  El Burgo Ranero - León (37.1 kms)
Day 16:  León - Hospital de Orbigo (33.7 kms)
Day 17:  Hospital de Orbigo - Rabanal del Camino (36.4 kms)
Day 18:  Rabanal del Camino - Ponferrada (32.9 kms)
Day 19:  Ponferrada - Villafranca del Bierzo (24.1 kms)
Day 20:  Villafranca del Bierzo - O Cebreiro (28.4 kms)
Day 21:  O Cebreiro - Calvor (34.2 kms)
Day 22:  Calvor - Portomarin (27.6 kms)
Day 23:  Portomarin - Melide (38.3 kms)
Day 24:  Melide - O Pedrouzo (33.2 kms)
Day 25:  O Pedrouzo - Santiago de Compostela (20 kms)

Itinerary 6:  42 days or 6 weeks with 1 day in Santiago de Compostela -- Slow paced, 18 - 20 kms/day average)

Here is a sample slow and relaxed itinerary of 40 days averaging about 20 kms per day.

Day 1:  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Orisson (7.4 kms)
Day 2:  Hontto/Orisson - Roncesvalles (18.2 kms)
Day 3:  Roncesvalles - Zubiri (21.5 kms)
Day 4:  Zubiri -Pamplona (20.7 kms)
Day 5:  Pamplona - Uterga (16.8 kms)
Day 6: Uterga - Lorca (20.5 kms)
Day 7: Lorca - Villamayor de Monjardin (18.0 kms)
Day 8: Villamayo de Monjardin - Sansol (18.8 kms)
Day 9: Sansol - Viana (11.3 kms)
Day 10: Viana - Navarrete (22.2 kms)
Day 11:  Navarrete - Azofra (22.6 kms)
Day 12: Azofra - Grañon (22.2 kms)
Day 13:  Grañon - Tosantos (20.5 kms)
Day 14: Tosantos - Ages (22.7 kms)
Day 15: Ages - Burgos (23.0 kms)
Day 16:  Burgos - Hornillos del Camino (20.6 kms)
Day 17:  Hornillos del Camino - Castrojeriz (19.7 kms)
Day 18: Castrojeriz - Boadilla del Camino (19.3 kms)
Day 19:  Boadilla del Camino - Villalcazar de Sirga (18.8 kms)
Day 20: Villalcazar de Sirga - Calzadillda de la Cueza (22.8 kms)
Day 21: Calzadilla de la Cueza- Sahagun (22.6 kms)
Day 22: Sahagun - El Burgo Ranero (18.2 kms)
Day 23:  El Burgo Ranero - Mansilla de las Mulas (19.2 kms)
Day 24: Mansila de las Mulas - León (18.1 kms)

Day 25:  León - Villadangos del Paramo (21.3 kms)
Day 26:  Villadangos del Paramo - Santibañez de Valdeiglesias (17.1 kms)
Day 27:  Santibañez de Valdeiglesias - Santa Catalina de Somoza (20.7 kms)
Day 28: Santa Catalina de Somoza - Foncebadon (16.6 kms)
Day 29:  Foncebadon - Molinaseca (19.6 kms)
Day 30: Molinaseca - Cacabelos (24.3 kms)
Day 31:  Cacabelos - Trabadelo (17.2 kms)
Day 32: Trabadelo - O Cebreiro (18.7 kms)
Day 33:  O Cebreiro - Triacastela (21.1 kms)
Day 34: Triacastela - Sarria (18.3 kms)
Day 35: Sarria - Mercadoiro (16.8 kms)
Day 36: Mercadoiro - Ligonde ( 22.1 kms)
Day 37: Ligonde - Melide (21.8 kms)
Day 38: Melide - Arzua (14.0 kms)
Day 39: Arzua - O Pedrouzo (19.2 kms)
Day 40: O Pedrouzo - Monte del Gozo (15.2 kms)
Day 41:  Monte del Gozo - Santiago de Compostela (4.8 kms)
Day 42:  Santiago de Compostela

Note: Day 40 and 41 can be combined to make a 19 km day, but if you want to take the last day very slowly to arrive in Santiago de Compostela for the 12 noon pilgrim mass, then stopping in Monte del Gozo is a good option. Otherwise, you have to leave O Pedrouzo early (we left at 5 am) to be in Santiago at noon.

Camino Finisterre 

Itinerary 1: 3 Days (Santiago de Compostela - Finisterre)

Day 1:  Santiago de Compostela - Negreira (21 kms)
Day 2:  Negreira - Olveiroa (33.4 kms)
Day 3:  Olveiroa - Fisterra (34.9 kms)
Day 4:  Fisterra - Santiago de Compostela (bus)

Itinerary 2: 4 Days (Santiago de Compostela - Finisterre - Muxia)

Day 1:  Santiago de Compostela - Negreira (21 kms)
Day 2:  Negreira - Olveiroa (33.4 kms)
Day 3:  Olveiroa - Fisterra (34.9 kms)
Day 4:  Fisterra - Muxia (29.0 kms)
Day 5: Muxia - Santiago de Compostela (bus)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

About the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James or Jakobsweg, is one of the most popular religious pilgrimages of Western European Catholics since the Middle Ages.  It has, of late, been rediscovered, and now, thousands of people from around the world come to walk its paths for different reasons, not always religious or spiritual.  In 2013 alone, there were 215,880 pilgrims who received the Compostela certificate in Santiago, meaning that they had completed at least the last 100 kms of the pilgrimage if arriving on foot, or at least 200 kms if arriving on a bike.  Other statistics can be found here.

El Camino is actually a set of different hiking routes that start in Spain, France or Portugal but which all ultimately converge and end in the Shrine of Saint James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the remains of Saint James is said to be located.

About Saint James

Saint James is the patron saint of Spain.  He was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, and is said to be the first one to be martyred.  He is the brother of Saint John the Apostle and son of Zebedee and Salome.  Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to James while he was preaching the Gospel along the Ebro River in Spain.  Soon after that, Saint James went back to Jerusalem, where he was said to have been beheaded in 44 AD by King Herod.  One story says that after Saint James' martyrdom, his disciples brought his body by sea to Iberia, landing at Padrón on the Galician coast, then later taking his relics to Santiago de Compostela for burial.  Another story says that after Saint James' death, his body was carried by angels and  taken into a boat, which sailed crewless, and ending up in Iria Flavia in Iberia.  Here, a rock was said to have encircled his remains, after which they were then taken to Compostela.  Another legend says that Saint James appeared miraculously to lead the Christian army to victory in a battle against Muslims in 834 AD.  This was said to have earned him the name of Matamoros or "Moor-slayer".   The traditional battlecry of Spanish armies is Santiago y cierra España, which translates to "Saint James and strike for Spain."

The emblem of Saint James is the scallop shell, thus you see pilgrims generally wearing a shell on their hats, clothes or belongings.


UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Route of Santiago de Compostela was declared as the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987 and is listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites due to its major role in promoting cultural exchanges within Europe during the Middle Ages.  Then and until now, it has borne witness to the power of the Christian faith.  In addition, there are about 1,800 buildings of cultural and historic interest along the route.

More on the Camino de Santiago

A great forum for finding out lots of things about the Camino de Santiago, getting updated information and asking fellow pilgrims for advice is the Camino de Santiago Forum and corresponding main site Camino de Santiago Website

Wiki References:  Way of St. James

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Check out the latest version of the Camino Pilgrim Android app -- now Ver 1.3.1!

Update: June 26, 2014  Version 1.4.0 is now available!

Really cool new feature!!! Share your location-- email, sms, share your exact coordinates (and address if location services are available) to your family and friends with Camino Pilgrim App.  Information links for useful tips such as budget, packing list for the Camino.  An option to donate to help me in my work. :-)

Update: June 1, 2014  Version 1.3.1 is now available!

This new update contains improved layouts and more stable offline map handling. Please check it out at Camino Pilgrim at the Google Play Store.

Below is an example of the Offline Maps using Mapsforge - Offline Maps.  With this option, you can browse a map of the Camino on your smartphone even without an internet connection/wifi!   The red line on the map is a simplified version of the Camino Trail to serve as a guide. When in doubt, remember to just follow the yellow arrows! The markers show the localities/towns along the way. If you click on the round/bullseye icon, your location will be displayed with a hiker icon, so you know where you are. (Screenshot from a 7" tablet)

Here is an example of the Offline Map for a chosen Lodging in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. (Screenshot from a 7" tablet)

To set the Offline maps option, go to Settings and Download offline map.  Below is a screenshot of the Settings screen.  Set Map Type to Mapsforge - Offline then choose Download Offline Maps. (Screenshot from a Phone)


I've just uploaded a new version of the Camino Pilgrim Android app -- Version 1.30 -- to the Google Playstore . This one has German translations and a hiker icon to display your location in offline maps -- a bigger icon, as suggested by Misha, who sent feedback to me via the Camino Pilgrim App.  Previously, I increased the font sizes on the offline maps, providing more readable output. I believe having offline maps is pretty useful on the Camino. Honestly though, nothing beats following the yellow arrows!

One feature that I hope people use in the app is the option to create your own itinerary or schedule based on some basic itineraries that are provided. Please make sure to use this feature -- check out the Camino Pilgrim tutorial at the Camino Pilgrim App Blog site -- see Camino Pilgrim App Tutorial.

I have had a few people write me to thank me for developing the app and providing it for free. Thank you very much for your emails and feedback! It makes me very happy to hear from you, and imagining people using my app as they walk on the Camino everyday, as David from Australia wrote, really makes my day!

I have also received updates on albergue information (changed prices) and new albergues. I am compiling them and will update these on the next version -- please keep those updates coming. 

So to all those walking on the Camino de Santiago -- I am sure today must be a beautiful sunny spiritual soul-filling heart-opening day!

Buen Camino!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pinay Pilgrim's Camino de Santiago Packing List

Pinay Pilgrim's Camino de Santiago Packing List
Item Quantity Description
Backpack 1 30 liters volume or more, lightweight with good suspension, hip belt and sternum strap. Try out with at least an 8 kg load at the shop before buying. I used the Deuter ACT Trail 28. Check out Deuter, Osprey packs.
Pack raincover 1 Preferably integrated into backpack.  It rains quite a bit.
Water bladder 1 1.5 - 2 liters, should fit in backpack.  Easier to sip water while walking. i.e. Platypus, Camelbak
Drybag 1 12 liters or more, waterproof, and with compression valve.  Put your clothes inside to keep dry, and compress (take out air) for a compact package during your hike. This can also be used as a pillow. i.e. Ortlieb, Sea to Summit
Hiking boots/Trail shoes 1 Well-broken in, Goretex, preferably with ankle-support, i.e. Lowe (boots), Salomon (trail shoes)
Small knife 1 Lightweight #4 Opinel (can be bought in France/Spain) or basic Swiss knife. For cutting cheese, ham, bread
Spork 1 Integrated spoon/fork for light weight
Folding mug 1 Lightweight plastic, available at camping stores
Nalgene bottle 1 500 ml bottle, aside from water bladder in backpack, for fast filling in fountains along the way. Can double as hot-water bottle
Travel towel 1 Small and lightweight, fast-drying. i.e. Sea to Summit
Sleeping bag/Bed liner 1 Preferably bring a sleeping bag, specially for cold weather - very light weight (i.e. light down fill weighing less than a kilo);  Lighter bedliner/sleeping sack for warmer season
Headlamp 1 Choose a small and light headlamp. Very useful for going to the washroom at night!  i.e. Petzl, Black Diamond
Whistle 1 For emergency
Small tweezers 1 From Swiss knife
Tying rope 1 About 2 - 3 meters, for making clothesline or tying on stuff to your pack

Hiking pants 1 Comfortably loose, with belt, as you may lose some weight. Sturdy, non-cotton, synthetic polyester material for easy washing, drying. Preferably with zip-off pants so you can also use as shorts i.e. North Face, Mammut, Marmot
Extra Lightweight Pants 1 To change into, very lightweight easy washing material
Long sleeve top 1 In cold weather, to use when hiking as another layer. Nice if light wool/woolblend with zip-up top, that stays warm even when wet, and dries fast. i.e Icebreaker, Smartwool, Odlo
Short sleeve tops/Tech shirts 3 -4 One for hiking and two or three extra changes.  Lightweight, quick-drying, i.e. I used Icebreaker 150 merino wool tops -- they were great for cold and even warm weather
Light Wool bottoms 1 Only in cool to cold weather, to use under hiking pants as another layer. Nice if light wool/woolblend, that stays warm even when wet, and dries fast. i.e Icebreaker, Smartwool, Odlo
Extra lightweight shorts or light cotton dress (for ladies) 1 For walking around once you get to hostel, for sleeping, and for changing into from your shower.
Sleepwear 1 set (For cold weather) I used light wool thermals, top and bottom. For warmer weather, just use the extra short sleeve top and the lightweight shorts
Sports bra (for ladies)2(For ladies only) One for hiking, and an extra one to change into when the other one is washed. Dryfit/quickdry material.
Underpants 4 Lightweight, polyester, quick-drying.
Hiking socks 3 - 48 One for hiking and two to three extra changes. Socks should be washed everyday to prevent blisters. One to double as a sleepsock in cold weather.  Wool socks preferable. i.e. Icebreaker, Smartwool, Woolpower
Sports Sandals 1 Lightweight and supportive sandals, to change into, shower with and walk around with (to rest your feet) when you arrive in the hostels, and in a pinch, to use for hiking. i.e. Teva or Crocs
Fleece sweater 1 For cool to cold weather, pullover with zip top to save on weight. I used a relatively thin fleece and added layers when it got too cold, i.e. Odlo
Lightweight gloves 1 Lightweight and warmth retaining, wool or polypropylene
Lightweight skullcap 1 For cool to cold weather, wool or polypropylene material. i.e. Odlo
Hiking hat 1 For sun and rain. Sun can be extremely strong, and it rains pretty hard too, so it's nice to have a waterproof or Goretex hat. i.e. Outdoor Research
Rainjacket 1 Very important piece of clothing.  Choose a lightweight Goretex. i.e. North Face, Marmot, Arcteryx
Rainpants 1 Choose a lightweight Goretex. i.e. Montrail, Marmot
Windbreaker 1 Lightweight and easily packable, i.e. Arcteryx, Marmot.  Use with light wind, and layer under rainjacket when cold
Buff or scarf 1 - 2 Use a Buff scarf, very useful to cover head, neck
Sunglasses 1 Important for strong Spanish sun
Reading glasses, small screwdriver 1 Bring if needed
Important Stuff

Money Belt/
Fanny Pack
1 To hold important stuff that needs to be accessible, i.e. cash, credit cards, passport, cellphone, medicines for the day (I always have arnica globules), sunglasses, reading glasses, comb. Make sure it is waterproof, or put things in ziplocs. I also bring this when I shower (or put them in another stuffsack). Find a sturdy fanny pack.  The zipper of mine broke so I stuffed most of my things in my pockets or my money belt
Passport, Residence Card (and photocopies) 1 Put photocopies in your backpack, store soft copies/pdfs in your smartphone
Health Insurance card 1
Bring enough, you can also withdraw along the way. Always have some cash, as not too many places accept credit cards.
Debit/Credit Card 1 There are ATMs in bigger cities where you can withdraw cash
Cellphone and charger with EU plug adapter  1A smartphone is great to have, although you need to charge everyday. I sometimes charge my phone at lunch stops. Do not leave your phone as it is charging, as there have been cases of lost phones. I did not bring a camera and used my smartphone for taking photos, and uploading my blog to the internet.  I have seen pilgrims with extra power packs/batteries, and I would bring one next time (as they are quite lightweight now).  
Journal/Notebook 1 Very light/small. To write emergency numbers/contacts and other scribbles.
Pen/Pencil 1
Travel Documents 1 Booking certificates, train and flight tickets
Guide to the Camino
(app on your smartphone, printouts, or a guidebook
1 Load a camino app into your smartphone if you are bringing one! Check out my Android App Camino Pilgrim! :-)  You can create your own schedule, check out facilities in localities, albergues and look at their location on offline maps (even when there is no wifi).  You can also bring printouts of itinerary, distances, hike profile, list of albergues), or bring a guidebook. Refer: Guides, Books and Apps for the Camino. If you do bring a book, make sure it is lightweight!
Pilgrim Passport 1 You should have one to be able to stay in pilgrim albergues! Get this from one of the bigger towns on the Camino, i.e. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Burgos...
 Pilgrim Shell 1 Nice to have to show you are a pilgrim. I made one for myself and my sister from a scallop. I bought 2 big Jakobsmuscheln, cooked and ate them -- yum! -- dried the shells, drilled 2 holes along the hinge part and put a string through it. You can also find them for free ( I saw them at the St Jean-Pied-de-Port pilgrim office), or for sale in albergues along the way.
Toiletries organizer 1 Important to organize your toiletries. Find a lightweight organizer, with mesh pockets, a little mirror and a hook for hanging. i.e. Eagle Creek, Deuter. I also put my medical kit in here.
Deodorant 1 50 ml in a plastic bottle is enough for one month
Toothbrush and toothpaste 1 Bring a 75 - 100 ml toothpaste tube, you can buy along the way
Moisturizer 1 50 ml/50 g in a plastic tube, should be enough for a month, for your face
Sunscreen 1 Small plastic tube, can buy refills along the way
Soap 1 In a soap case, or if liquid, in a 100 ml refillable plastic bottle
Shampoo 1  In a 100 ml refillable plastic bottle, refill along way
Comb 1 Small
Lip Balm 1 For chapped lips
Soap 1 In a soap case, or if liquid, in a 100 ml refillable plastic bottle
Nailclipper 1 Small
Toilet Paper 1 Half a roll for emergency (remove inner cardboard part). Usually, hostels have them in supply
Sanitary napkins 1 (for ladies) If necessary
Hand Tissues 1
Earbuds 1 pack Enough for the hike
Laundry soap 1 If liquid, in 100 ml refillable bottle or a small pouch of detergent for daily washing. At some hostels, when you use the washing machines, they provide some detergent
Medical Kit
Blister tape 1 pack i.e. Compeed is best, you can buy these in pharmacies along the way. Compeed also has a blister stick which some people use to prevent blisters
Foot ointments/Muscle pain ointments 1 50-100 ml tube i.e. Voltaren gel, Hirschtalg/Milchfett (in Germany). I used these quite a bit to relieve painful feet at the end of the day, and to prevent blisters/pain at the start of the day. See also my blog entry on:  Caring for your feet and Legs during the Camino 
Ibuprofen 6 pcs For aches and pains. i.e. Voltaren, Alvedon. Use sparingly as it is not so good for the liver.  I also brought Arnica globules (homeopathic medicine from Germany) to relieve pain and swelling
Paracetamol 6 pcs For fevers and pains. i.e. Biogesic, Tylenol, Advil
Antibiotics21 pcs For infection, one cycle is 3 times a day for 7 days, use only for emergency. I used them when I had cough, colds that did not go away for 5 days.  Always finish the cycle of 21 tablets.
Antihistamine 4 pcs For allergies
Diarrhea medicine 4 pcs For diarrhea
Betadine/Iodine 1 Small plastic bottle, about 15 ml. For external use, for cleaning and disinfecting blisters, wounds
Cotton 1 Just a few cotton balls, store in a little plastic bag
Katinko/Anti-itch cream 1 Bring a small pack of pain and itch relieving, mentholated cream. i.e. Katinko, Vicks
Bandaid 6 pcs For wounds
Special Medicines Bring any/all special medicines you may need as they may not always be available on the way. i.e. Asthma medicines, blood pressure maintenance doses, etc
Vitamins Bring enough of the vitamins you need. Vitamin C always useful (repack in small plastic bags)
Oral Rehydration Tablets/Salts 2 Used as fluid replacement for dehydration, after bout of diarrhea/vomiting. Can also be made with one teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons of sugar added to one liter of water
Miscellaneous Items
Sewing kit 1 Needles, thread, buttons, i.e. bring one they provide in hotels
Safety pins 6 For pinning wet clothes to backpack to dry
Earplugs 1 Important! For noisy nights in albergues, to be able to sleep.
Extra ziploc bags 4 - 6 For all sorts of uses
Food to bring along way
Energy bars2 Bring along a few
Dried fruits and nuts 1 pack Bring some, then buy along way
Bread, hams, cheese 1You can buy food along the way for quick and fast lunches/snacks along the way.
Chocolate bars 1 For energy, bring some, then buy along way
Other Items you may want to bring (not necessary)
Walking poles 1 set If you need extra support for walking. I used them but discarded them later. Note that this is not allowed as cabin baggage for airlines
Camera 1 A smartphone does the trick, others may prefer a small camera or even an SLR
Rain Poncho 1 I preferred to use a rainjacket/rainpants combination (which also doubles as cold weather gear for me) and a raincover for my backpack, but others prefer to also bring a poncho for the rain and to cover their packs. I noticed that when the wind blows, people have a hard time with their ponchos. Because of the wind, it is not a good idea to use an umbrella for the rain.

Fully-packed Backpacks
The list above contains all the things I brought with me for a 35-day Camino during Spring (March-April), with temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees Celsius. I used each single piece I brought!  The only things I added were an extra pair of shorts for sleeping and one walking pole that I bought halfway through but discarded later.  I weighed each piece I brought (with a kitchen scale).  When I started, my backpack without water weighed about 4 - 5 kilos, and with water and food, about 7 - 8 kilos. My weight then was about 55 kilos and I had lost 5 kilos by the end of the Camino and felt great!  Also refer to how I planned my packing at What to bring to the Camino?  A Packing List for the Camino de Santiago.  My pack also was acceptable as cabin baggage (note that per EU air regulations, a knife with not more than a 6 cm blade is accepted as hand luggage so the Opinel #4 was okay). You can also very easily buy this folding knife or a similar one in France/Spain then just leave it, as it does not cost much.

Remember that for a comfortable Camino, the total weight of backpack and contents should not be more than 10% of your body weight. Choose the most functional and lightweight equipment. A comfortable broken-in pair of hiking boots or trail shoes is very important for a enjoyable hike, together with good socks.  In the list above, I noted the brands of the gear I brought.  Test them all out before you go. Pack your backpack and hike a few kilometers with what you plan to wear -- you will be bringing this pack for 800 kms so make sure each piece counts.

When cold, use layering -- noted here from the inside/closest to the body going outward (top: short sleeve tech shirt, longsleeve wool, fleece jacket, windbreaker, rainjacket; bottom: wool thermals/bottoms, hiking pants, rainpants; buff scarf, fleece cap and mittens). These layers were enough for me up to 3 degrees, even snow, and I generally always feel cold! :-) The extra changes were used when my clothes got wet during rains - it rains quite a lot in spring.  Make sure you keep your extra clothes in your pack dry with a drybag or plastic bags.

You should have a basic medical kit with you as specified in the packing list above, but you can resupply at pharmacies available in bigger towns along the way. Remove all unnecessary packaging to minimize weight.

Good luck and Buen Camino!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Camino Pilgrim Android app in Google Play Store

I finally finished my Android app!!! It's called Camino Pilgrim, it's free, and it is now available in the Google Play Store here Camino Pilgrim App on Google Play Store.

I decided to make an app after my own trip on the Camino de Santiago.  While planning for the trip, I had a hard time fixing and finalizing a schedule.  During the trip, I was worrying about places to stay and facilities available. I was also always wondering what town I was in and how far to the next town.

Hopefully, this app will answer those issues.  I will also put this same page on the app website linked here: Camino Pilgrim App Blog.

I have provided some sample itineraries in the app of 31, 32, 34 and 35 days (from my own trip here, adding the Muxia leg, as this was my original plan, except I did not have the extra day that time).  You can make your own schedule based on any of these itineraries -- add a rest day, combine 2 days, insert an in-between day, add an extra day.  Using the base itineraries or your own itinerary, you can look at the localities or towns that you will pass by and approximate distances to there. You can check out the lodgings at a town, together with information such as costs, beds, opening times and seasons, and even see it in a map in relation to where you are.

Here are some screenshots, but the best thing is to try it out yourself, and let me know how it goes.

Here is the main page, showing a sample itinerary:

Here are the itineraries you can choose from, by clicking on the spinner:

Here is how you create your own itinerary based on one of the system-provided itineraries. You need to click on the Hiker with the + sign. You may also specify your start date and a schedule will automatically be created for you:

Here is how you edit the itinerary. You can just long-click on each of the items, in this case, the itinerary stages:

Then you will have your own itinerary and schedule with the dates of your trip!

If you need to know more about your locality stops of your Itinerary/Schedule day. The next screen shows that:

Clicking on the Map icon (the globe icon) shows you the locality stops in the stage. Clicking on the Overlay Camino Trail (the route icon), will put a simplified version of the Camino Frances route over the map. Clicking on the Show my location (the direction icon) will show you where you are if you have the GPS enabled (even if you are not yet on the Camino :-) ).

And clicking on a locality will show you the lodgings available.

Clicking on the Map (the globe icon) or clicking on one of the Lodging names (i.e. Refuge Municipal) will display a map with the available lodgings in the locality.  If you clicked on the lodging name, it will be shown in orange as in the screenshot below:

I tried to make the app as intuitive as I could. You can also change the settings such as the default itinerary name (defaulted to "Camino Pilgrim"),  the default Measurement units (defaulted to "metric") and the default map (defaulted to "Google Maps Online"). You do this by clicking on Settings (click the 3 dots on the lower right hand side):

Please note that showing the online maps requires a data connection. If you are using your phone, it may use up your bandwidth.  Please remember to turn OFF mobile data on your phone if you do not want to use it! Maps take up a lot of data. This can be done in Android by choosing Settings, going to Mobile tag, then setting Mobile data OFF.

You may use any of three map types: Google Maps online, OpenStreetMap online and OpenStreet offline.  If you want to use the offline option -- what I suggest is that while you are in a place with wifi, browse over the map sections you will need to use. This caches the particular map data on your phone and will show the map sections even if you are offline (note that even if you choose this option but you have data roaming on, the online maps will be downloaded, so again, please remember to turn OFF mobile data on your phone!)

Ok then, I think this is enough to get you started.  Have fun and Buen Camino!