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Walking the Camino alone

Walkers on the Camino de Santiago need to prepare for long distances, harsh path conditions and carrying a pack. Read here how if you need a guide for this trip or is better to buy a self-guided tour.

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Do I Need a Guide to Walk Camino de Santiago?

Unlike places like Kilimanjaro and Everest where an expert guide is either necessary or could mean the difference between life and death, hiking one of the routes of Camino de Santiago is certainly easy enough to tackle on your own. The trails are clearly marked and very walkable, so much so that hikers and pilgrims hardly need hiking gear.

In fact, many hikers do so, planning it and arranging everything on their own. Some, on the other hand, do a self-guided tour during which they simply have a tour company arrange accommodations and luggage transfers, while a few others actually join a guided tour not only for convenience but also for company and for a more informative experience.

Is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone?

Independent travellers along the Camino de Santiago do everything on their own. They secure their own transport, accommodations and meals, as well as plan the actual hike and route segments on their own. It isn’t a difficult thing to do. As we mentioned earlier, the trails are marked well, and there are many people as well as towns to pass through, that it’s harder to lose your way. 

If you’re looking to spend time with yourself on a journey of self-discovery, or if you prefer to travel with friends and loved ones, it’s certainly an option to consider. However, do realise that in the summer and winter months when available accommodations are few and far between, you’re on your own, so be sure to plan for that.

Self-guided walking tours

Much like with any other type of holiday, tour operators offer self-guided options to travellers who seek convenience and more security. Self-guided tours are essentially a compromise between an independent hike and a guided one wherein, most commonly, you get to hike a route on your own and largely in your own terms. 

However, the tour operator is able to make arrangements for you for things such as meals, accommodations, and even transfers and pickups. Additionally, they can transfer your luggage for you from one section to another, allowing you to enjoy your modern conveniences without having to carry a heavy pack on your back.

Full service guided Camino tours

Guided tours are essentially tours when everything is taken care of for you. Plus, you’ve also got a knowledgeable guide who will not only share with you some insider information about spots you’re passing or visiting but also take care of any emergencies or issues that may arise during your hike, allowing you to simply focus and immerse yourself in the hike. Additionally, guided hikes along the Camino generally means that you’re travelling and bonding with a group of like-minded people. 

If you’d rather travel with a group for security or if you are not used to travelling alone, it’s certainly a great option.

Camino routes by difficulty

Here the best time to walk the Camino de Santiago

DIFFICULTYLENGTH
Camino FrancesEasy772 km (480 mi)
Camino PortuguesEasy610 km (380 mi)
Camino de FinisterreEasy90 km (155 mi)
Camino InglesMedium119 km (74 mi)
Camino del NorteMedium827 km (514 mi)
Camino PrimitivoMedium321 km (199 mi)

Camino de Santiago tours & reviews

Camino de Santiago Information

  • How can I get to Camino de Santiago?

    This, of course, depends on the route you’re taking. Flying to the city closest to the trailhead is certainly preferable if you’re coming in from Australia, USA and the UK. However, UK travellers may travel by bus or rail to the towns of Ferrol, Oviedo and St. Jean Pied de Port. Learn more.
  • When should I walk the Camino de Santiago?

    The absence of extreme weather changes in the area makes Camino de Santiago’s routes walkable year-round. Though June through September may be its busiest months, more than one thousand people still make the hike during the cold winter months of December, January and February. Learn more.
  • What permits, visas, vaccinations and insurance do I need?

    Though a permit isn’t necessary, you must obtain your Credencial del Peregrino or Pilgrim Passport at the start of your trip and get it stamped along the way. The stamps are proof that you walked the 100 kms necessary to obtain the completion certificate in Santiago de Compostela.
  • Can I walk the Camino during Christmas time?

    While most pilgrims prefer to walk the Camino de Santiago from Spring to Autumn, the number of pilgrims who walk during winter time is increasing. But be aware there will be less pilgrims on the way around those dates so you might miss out on the social aspect of the Camino.
  • What should I pack and what equipment do I need?

    Along the way, you'll be able to stop in towns to refuel. Carrying a day pack of your personal essentials, change of clothes, a two-litre water bottle, a first aid kit, and your passport and Pilgrim Passport will suffice. Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes and walking poles. Learn more.
  • How do I prepare for Camino de Santiago?

    Do your research to choose the best route for your skill level and study the rules and etiquette on the trail. Purchase and read a guidebook for your chosen route. Finally, train for several months prior and push yourself to hike farther every day until you’re fit to do 26- to 29-kilometre days.

Camino de Santiago Routes & Maps

  • Camino Portugues

    The Portuguese Way, the second most popular route, starts in either Lisbon or Porto and takes hikers from Portugal to Spain. Considerably longer, the Lisbon hike starts at the Lisbon Cathedral and passes through Caldas da Rainha, the Alcobaca Monastery and Porto before crossing several rivers on its way north to Spain.

    Distance: 610 km (380 mi)
    Average duration: 21-30 days 
    Average difficulty/success rate: The Portuguese Way is relatively moderate. Minor elevation gains work to your advantage, though concrete and cobblestone roads, which it has its fair share of, can put a strain on the walk. The success rate is high.
     
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  • Camino Primitivo

    A few ups and downs, rocky or muddy sections and the frequency of the paved roads make Camino Primitivo one of Camino de Santiago’s most challenging routes. It is, however, worth tackling, if only for the challenge and for the fact that it’s the oldest one. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views.

    Distance: 321 km (199 mi)
    Average duration: 12-15 days
    Average difficulty/success rate: Camino Primitivo has its fair share of challenging climbs and descents as well as paved sections, making it a difficult route. Still, if you take your time, the success rate is high.
     
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  • Camino de Finisterre

    Once you’ve reached Camino de Santiago, you might continue on to the “end of the world”. Cape Finisterrae is one of Europe’s westernmost points, thus the name. Adding 90 kilometres to the trip along an ancient route, perhaps even another 29 to Muxia, might just be an epic way to wrap up the journey.

    Distance: 90 km (55 mi), 117 km (73 mi) to Muxia
    Average duration: 2-4 days
    Average difficulty/success rate: Because it’s a shorter hike and offers spectacular views, the road to Finisterrae is a moderate route to take on. The success rate is certainly high, even if fewer people traverse it, choosing to end their trip at the cathedral.
     
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  • Camino Frances

    Is it a wonder why the French Way is favoured by most Camino de Santiago pilgrims? It’s not just the most traditional route, with a lot of history surrounding it. It also boasts lush landscapes, charming towns and great infrastructure along the way, taking travellers through the beautiful Iberian Peninsula for a month. 

    Distance: 772 km (480 mi)
    Average duration: 4 weeks
    Average difficulty/success rate: Due to the excellent infrastructure and facilities along the way, not only is Camino Frances an enjoyable hike, it’s also a fairly moderate hike. So long as you take a couple of days to rest along the way, you are guaranteed to make it to the end.
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  • Camino del Norte

    For 827 kilometres, Camino del Norte stretches from the town of Irun in Basque Country to Santiago de Compostela, following Spain’s northern coastline. It’s not only the longest route in the network, it is also the least travelled and has fewer facilities, making it ideal for thru-hikers who prefer solitude and a challenge.

    Distance: 827 km (514 mi)
    Average duration: 36 nights
    Average difficulty/success rate: A little more than a month and a more rigid schedule could be challenging for less experienced hikers. The success rate is generally good, so long as you train beforehand and can tackle more than 21 miles a day.
  • Camino Inglés

    A favourite among hikers arriving from the British Isles and northern Europe, the English Way starts from the City of Ferrol and runs straight south to Camino de Santiago. Though short, it does boast longer sections and major elevation changes, making it a challenge for the more casual walkers.

    Distance: 119 km (74 mi)
    Average duration: 6 nights
    Average difficulty/success rate: This ranks as medium to high in difficulty, though chances of completing are very good because of its short distance.
     
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