When is the best time to walk the Camino?
Each season offers so much to pilgrims and much like why you want to go on the Camino, it’s a very personal decision.
When you should take your journey really depends on you. There’s the logistics – when can you take time off work and how long do you have, the route you plan to take, and your budget.
There are some other things to factor in like the weather and the crowds along the Camino. We’ll take a look when the best times of year to walk the Camino.
This is the most obvious time to walk the Camino. The weather is great along most routes (though very hot if you’re taking Via de la Plata). For most people, it’s also easier to get time off of work during the summer months.
Potential downsides to walking the Camino in the summer are the crowds along some routes. The Camino Frances and Camino Portugues will be the most active during the summer. That can make it difficult to get a bed at an albergue.
Between May and September is considered the high season, culminating with the Feast day of Santiago on July 25. That continues well into August when many Europeans take their summer holiday.
You can expect to see a very crowded Santiago de Compostela at that time. August is the peak month for peregrinos to arrive in Santiago. In 2018, over 60,000 pilgrims arrived in Santiago, compared with 45,000 in July.
The table below gives you a rundown of the number of pilgrims who made it to Santiago according to the Oficina de Peregrinos.
The good thing about taking your pilgrimage this time of year is that the days are long. The sunrise and set times give you more than enough time to walk during the day and enjoy the village you’re staying in while it’s still light out.
Just to give you a general idea of how much daylight you’ll have during the summer months, I included this chart of the sunrise and sunset times for Santiago de Compostela. Keep in mind that there will be some variations of the times in different parts of the country.
If you do choose to go during the summer months, you can book everything in advance. If you’re doing the Camino Frances, that is a good bet. Remember that albergues don’t book in advance, though hotels and hostels do.
On the downside, by booking everything in advance, you take away options from your journey because you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. You leave out a lot of the magic and spontaneity that can occur when you let life happen without a plan.
If you’ve ever been camping in the United States, you’ll know that the most crowded times of the year are Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend. That’s why I always loved camping the weekends after.
The weather was still great and it was much less crowded. That same kind of thinking still applies to planning for the Camino de Santiago.
The weather is often outstanding in September and October, and it’s much easier to find a bed along your chosen route. As you can see, there are still plenty of pilgrims to meet if you want to have a social experience.
In the Fall, you do need to be prepared for all types of weather. You’ll see days of rain, though the temperatures will be warmer than what you’d experience in the Northern U.S.
You’ll also have a fair amount of light for your journey. You’ll notice that in November, you’ll have much less light as Spain switches from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.
As long as you’re prepared for all types of weather and don’t mind chilly mornings, September and October are excellent times to take The Way of St. James.
Winter is an interesting time of year to be a pilgrim. It’s cold, snowing, and yes, pilgrims still travel the Camino de Santiago.
There’s beauty in this type of solitude. You get to experience Galicia and Spain in a way that few pilgrims do. The weather is definitely unpredictable, and you need to be prepared for everything – sunny 60 degree days, cold mornings, rain, and snow.
You’ll also come across very few pilgrims compared to other times of the year. Check out the chart below that shows the number of pilgrims.
I was in Santiago in late January/early February. I went to the Cathedral for early Sunday morning mass, and I pretty much had the Cathedral to myself. There was no line to pray, I could take my time to give Santiago a hug. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.
Compared to the afternoon, there were crowds and tourists visiting the cathedral, which can make it challenging to contemplate and have a few quiet moments with God.
You also have less sunlight to make your journey. If you were planning on taking long days to walk, you need to keep this in mind.
Yes, the sun does rise at 9 am. If you’re the type who loves to sleep in, you’ll love these mornings!
There’s a lot that’s happening in Spring. It’s the time for renewal, as flowers start to bloom and the weather gets warmer. Similar to Fall, Spring offers good weather and fewer crowds.
You may want to go to on your journey during Semana Santa, which is an incredible experience that you don’t want to miss.
At this time of year, though the days are getting longer, giving you more time to hike during the day.
While the days do get longer, and the weather gets warmer, you’ll still need to be prepared for rain.
When is the Best Time to Walk the Camino?
Now that you know about the number of people you’ll expect on the trails and the weather in each season, here’s how you can decide when to go. Ask yourself these questions as they should help you narrow things down.
Which route are you planning on taking? If you plan on taking a mountainous route, then it’s advisable to not hike during the winter months. Some mountain passes will be impassable. Some mountain passes get snow as early as October, which can make your pilgrimage a challenge.
How many kilometers do you plan to walk? If you only plan on hiking the last 100km of a given route, you should be OK during most times of the year. You may have to contend with snow in higher elevations, but the paths should still be passable.
Do you like hiking in wet, cold weather or would you prefer to walk in the warmer, potentially drier months? Some people love hiking in cold, wet weather. If you’re one of them, then hiking in spring or fall would be great for you. For other folks, this would get very old very quickly.
Is saving money on your trip important to you? If you’re doing your pilgrimage on a tight budget, go in the offseason. Flights, hotels, and just about everything else will be less expensive. Even if you do plan to go during the summer, it’s still possible to get cheap flights.
When the offseason starts will vary by business. Some consider October 1 to be the start of the offseason, while others don’t start their offseason hours and rates until November 1.
When can you leave work behind? The thing about taking a pilgrimage is that this is time for you. You have your own reason for it, but you have to be able to leave your job behind. If you’re constantly thinking about work, will you have the space to connect with yourself and with God?
Depending on what you do for a living, there may be slow and busy times of the year. Take your pilgrimage during a slow time. The last thing you want to be doing is always checking in during your pilgrimage to see what’s going on at work. Let it go for a while. The world won’t end, and the work will be there when you return.
If you can’t let it go, that may be something for you to discover along your way?
Plan Your Camino
There is a lot to consider when you’re planning your pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.
When is the best time to walk the Camino? That’s up to you. Be sure to take why you’re doing the Camino and what you want to get out of the experience into consideration.
For more tips on planning your journey, download this Packing and Planning Guide below.[mailerlite_form form_id=1]