El Camino de Santiago


I recently returned from a wonderful month in Spain: three weeks of which were spent walking the Camino de Santiago – an ancient pilgrimage that stretches across the north of Spain, culminating in the city of Santiago, and more specifically in the Cathedral of St James.

The entire pilgrimage is 800km long, if you start from the most established starting point of St Jean Pied de Port in France. The first day of this epic trek takes you up and over the Pyrenees, where it frequently snows… Even in Spring. 800km of walking takes most people between 5 and 6 weeks (an average of about 20km a day). Luckily, because we only had 3 weeks to walk, we could only (only!) do 500km, so we started from the lovely city of Burgos.

Although this is the most popular route, there are actually variations of the Camino de Santiago route from all over Europe – in ancient days medieval pilgrims would begin their pilgrimage as soon as they stepped out of their front doors, and continue walking until they arrived in Santiago. Their reason? Absolution. The relics of St James (actual bones, apparently) are in a casket in the cathedral, and they believed that the pilgrimage would absolve them of their sins and could effect miracles – particularly heal illnesses.

These days, there are fewer pilgrims walking for absolution, but just as many for religious and spiritual reasons (which may not be that far off). It’s a well-organised path that thousands of people walk every year, backpacks filled with necessities, shoes worn down by the many steps on gravel, road, dirt, mud and grass. You can start anywhere you like, although you have to walk the last 100km to receive your Compostela (a certificate of completion). You start when you like, walk as far as you like and end when you like, so long as your last steps take you to the Catedral de Santiago.

These are the basic facts about the Camino, but the true meaning of it will take many hundreds of blog posts to distil… It is an extraordinary experience. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll be sure to include them in my next post. The first rule? Greet everyone with Hola! and Buen Camino!

Our Readers Comments

  1. I’ve been on the Camino twice before – once by bike and most recently on foot from Leon to Santiago de Compostela – LOVED it! I’ve built a resource page for people interested in doing the Camino – currently it has video, photos, route maps and general info, but a more detailed day route planner and packing guide will be live soon! Buen Camino:) – Andre

    • Hi Camino Junkie Andre. Is the route planner, videos, general info, etc. available yet? Would love to read it, please. Thank you. Barbara

  2. Hey fellow walkers . I am South African living in the Uk . Hoping to do the Camino July 2016 . Can anyone help me out with how they got their shengen visa? I’m hoping to do it on my own but that involves a lot of “winging it” if anyone can help it would be so very much appreciated .

    • Hi Crystelle,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      You will need to apply for your Schengen visa at the country you are staying in the longest. This will need to be done through the official visa handling agency or the Embassy direct. Depends on which country you are applying in.

  3. Hi, we are also planning to walk the Camino in spring 2015. I am looking for information on the application of visas. As you are probably going at your own pace, you don’t have specific dates and accommodation details as required in the application. One agency said that we need proof that we are going to walk the El Camino, but how do you prove that if you only get your pilgrims passport in France?
    Any help would be appreciated.


    • Hi Dedre, generally the embassies do require you to have paid for accommodation for the duration of your stay. That being said, it is not uncommon to do what you are doing, I would suggest that you check with the handling agent before applying though I suspect they will require you to show that you have sufficient funds for the duration of your stay which may include about 40-50 Euros per day spending money + money for accommodation which would roughly be the same amount. You can find contact details for VFS, the official handling agency on http://www.vfsglobal.com/spain/southafrica/

      If you don’t come right I would suggest trying someone like ROSE visas on 0100015060 / 0210014440 for advice and assistance.

  4. Hi there.
    Im planning to walk the Camino in May 2015. Would like to know who else from South-Africa will also be walking over that time. Email me@: amanda-all@ananzi.co.za. Planning together and sharing tips and advice make the trip more fun.

    Kind Regards

    • I walked the Camino in May and June and estimated about a max of seven South Africans, the Camino vine is intimate …

  5. Hi There
    do you know how many South Africans are currently walking the camino annually?

  6. Hi Allyson.
    Did you do the Camino and could you please send me details regarding your planning.

    Thank you

  7. Hi the El Camino is high priority on my Bucket List. I am hoping to go in either 2014 or 2015. Finance permitting. I really would like to spend most of the journey on real country roads, with as little traffic as possible. I am not very good at surfing the net, have pretty bad internet signal on our farm, plus not that much time to spend surfing. Soooo, I would love someone who knows a lot about the various routes to please give me as much info. as possible. Or a link to a specific site where I could gain as much info without having to surf from site to site. I would so appreciate hearing from someone out there who would be willing to help me in this regard. Kind regards June Smith.

    • June, I too am trying to garner as much info as I can about the walk….want to do it this year.x

    • contact me and I will share info

    • Hi June

      A freind and I want to do the Camino in June, the last 100 or so km how does one go about booking all these things and just getting started.



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