Are you interested in knowing my tips as to when to eat and drink on the 482-mile Camino Francés? Would you like to know my recommendation on how many miles to walk per day? Do you want to know if you should bring hiking poles? Are you curious about shoes, backpacks, and accommodations? And what about the Pyrenees, guidebooks, and how many pictures to take? Here are my recommendations and tips for walking the Camino de Santiago on these topics, and a few more.
Recommendation #1: Backpacks and Transport Services. My first recommendation is one that will help your back and body throughout your journey. I recommend carrying as light weight backpack as possible. And know that you have the option to use mochila transport services to carry your extra belongings not needed during each day. For more information on this please read my detailed blog, “From Carrying a Backpack to Using Mochila Transport Services on the Camino de Santiago.”
Tip #1: Accommodations. My first tip is knowing that you have the option to reserve private accommodations. You may prefer to stay in albergues, which are similar to hostels, as most people do while walking the Camino. But in my blog, “Reserving Private Accommodations on the Camino de Santiago,” I tell of an option of being able to stay in your own private rooms, and reserving these in advance.
Tip #2: Shoes. My next tip is choosing the most important item when planning and packing for the Camino – shoes. In my blog, “Hiking Boots, Sandals, or Sneakers on the Camino de Santiago,” I share my story of blisters and which shoes I ended up wearing.
Recommendation #2: Food. You will eat well on the Camino. There are many restaurants, cafés, and bars along the way. My recommendation is to stop and eat something at the first restaurant, café, or bar that you come across in any given town. It just might be the only restaurant, café, or bar in that town.
And then stop and eat something at the next restaurant, café, or bar that you come across in any given town. It just might be the last restaurant, café, or bar for a few miles until you reach the next town.
Oh, and my favorite “power breakfast” was eggs and bananas. Protein and minerals for your muscles.
Tip #3: Water. – Drink. Drink. Drink. Each time you come across a water fountain, drink what is left in your water bottle or water bladder, if any is left. Fill your water bottle or bladder up, and drink some more. Fill it up once again before walking on.
Oh, and I occasionally added salt to my water for extra hydration and replenishment of minerals.
Recommendation #3: Mileage. I walked an average of 10 miles per day, which is my recommendation if you have the time. I had the luxury of 47 days. Many walk more than this per day, but for me 10 miles allowed me enough time to take my time, enjoy the scenery, appreciate the churches, do some sight-seeing, drink at each water fountain, and eat at plenty of restaurants, cafés, and bars. I usually started walking about 7:00 am, and arrived in my final destination between 2:00 and 4:00 pm. This let me have the rest of the day to shower, take care of my feet, and rest, recover, relax, and refresh.
Recommendation #4: Pictures. If picture taking is something you like to do, take a lot of pictures. I took over 5,300.
Recommendation #5: Churches. I did not walk the Camino de Santiago for religious reasons like many people do, but I still went into each and every open church or cathedral that I walked by. I took the time to sit, rest, and appreciate the art, architecture, spirituality, and religion of these historical buildings, whether a small village church, or a grand cathedral.
Tip #4: Hiking Poles. I had to buy hiking poles on my first day in St. Jean Pied de Port. This is because airlines don’t allow you to take hiking poles in your carry-on luggage, and I did not check my bags. There were a couple of stores there that sold them there. Hiking poles are great for the up and down hills you will come across, and I used them mainly for this purpose. I didn’t really use them on the flats, but many people do in order to keep a cadence going.
Tip #5: Cars. Please be careful at all intersections and when the Camino crosses a busy street. Stop, listen, look for cars, and wait to make sure they stop, or let them go by. I found that many did not stop.
Tip #6. The Pyrenees. From St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles you have two options. One is to go up and over and down the Pyrenees. The other is to go around the Pyrenees. Pay close attention to the weather advice given in St. Jean as to whether you should go up and over via Orrison (only in good weather), or go around via Valcarlos (in not-so-good weather). In either case, since Orrison or Valcarlos are only part of the way from St. Jean, and you may think your first day is not very long, I recommend to stop at either of these overnight anyway. You will need to make reservations, especially in Orrison, as they only have one albergue, and I noticed them turning people away who didn’t have a reservation. However, spending the night in either Orrison or Valcarlos will make your second day, and the rest of the Pyrenees, a more pleasant and shorter day.
Recommendation #6: Guidebook. I used John Brierley’s guidebook, “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago,” and I loved it. You don’t need to follow the 33 stages he recommends. Make up your own nightly breaks. I really enjoyed staying in the smaller towns in the middle of his stages. This will be especially true between Sarria and Santiago, where it can get crowed. I found that by staying at towns in between, I was off-set with others and had a quieter Camino. But that is just my preference. (Note that I was not given a complimentary copy of this guidebook. I bought it on my own, and this is my opinion. There are other guidebooks out there for you to choose from.)
Tip #7: Website. The Camino de Santiago Forum is a great resource for everything-Camino. You can ask your own questions and receive answers, and read others’ questions and answers. I read a lot on this website before I went and picked up some good recommendations and tips for walking the Camino de Santiago that others have provided.
Disclaimer: All these recommendations and tips are what worked for me. They may or may not work for you. I claim no responsibility toward the decisions you make on your Camino. But please, do have a Buen Camino!