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“Bed race” You should read this before attempting Camino Del Norte in July/August.

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Nilsmedskillz

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Will walk the Del Norte (2019)
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
 

Jean Ti

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte, Primitivo, Frances,Via de la Plata

Trying to do one camino every year
Thank you for your experience with this bed race in summer time on the Norte. I am over 60 and we were walking the Via de la Plata in the begining of april and in may and it was the same story.

I find this very sad that reservation are not accepeted to prevent these situations to occurs.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Thank you for your experience with this bed race in summer time on the Norte. I am over 60 and we were walking the Via de la Plata in the begining of april and in may and it was the same story.

I find this very sad that reservation are not accepeted to prevent these situations to occurs.
There are private albergues that do accept reservations. I am happy that the municipal albergues (in general) do not.
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
However...the reservation option is now being collapsed by those who make reservations and do not show up.
Walking pilgrims are denied beds which are being held for those who will not honor the reservation.

Many pilgrims openly brag about making several "reservations" at different points along the days walk so that they can then choose where to stop.:eek::eek:. They do not call and cancel. Most albergues do not accept credit cards so cannot insist on prepayment in any meaningful way.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
However...the reservation option is now being collapsed by those who make reservations and do not show up.
Walking pilgrims are denied beds which are being held for those who will not honor the reservation.
You are right. They need to set a deadline for pilgrims to show up for their reservations.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
Are you familiar with other less walked Caminos in Spain like Catalan, Ebro, Levante, Madrid, Invierno Mozarabe, Sanabres, Torres etc. south of Frances or Bayona/Vasco del Interior, Olvidado, Besaya, Vadiniense etc. north of Frances? No bed race there. Here is the map (not all of the Caminos on it though):

Buen Camino!
 

Lucy Keenan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Northern Route - 2016
Santiago to Finestiere and Muxia - 2017
Frances Route - May 2018
Camino Ingles
However...the reservation option is now being collapsed by those who make reservations and do not show up.
Walking pilgrims are denied beds which are being held for those who will not honor the reservation.

Many pilgrims openly brag about making several "reservations" at different points along the days walk so that they can then choose where to stop.:eek::eek:. They do not call and cancel. Most albergues do not accept credit cards so cannot insist on prepayment in any meaningful way.
Those albergues are going to have to start charging as you right. This was happening in May/June on the Frances last year.
 

Ksalud

New Member
So sad that this has happened.
Did not anyone expect this.
Obvious to me 10, 9 7 5, 3 years ago.
An opportunity for income in many rural areas, No easy solution.
The pilgrims will keep coming.
 

Pia Valbak Schmidt

Pilgrim, DK, Caminos 2007,09,11,12,13,14.15,16,18
Camino(s) past & future
2007,2009,2011,2012,2013,2014.2015,2016,2018. Hospitalera 2012,2013,2014,2016,2017
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
I had expieriences quite alike walking the Norte in 2013, 2015 and 2016. It is just the way it is, but it makes it quite a lot more expensive to walk the Camino del Norte 🍀
 

Mera

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France, Camino del Norte, Camino de Madrid
Camino Porto, Camino Primitivo
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
Thanks for sharing. I walked in April and May, no bed race was necessary. I enjoyed it so much I am thinking about going back next year. Hope your next trip, wherever it might be, will be a enjoyable one. Best of luck!
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
Yes, I found similar conditions last July. Finding beds became a lot easier on the Norte after the split with the Primitivo.
[/QUOTE]
It seemed that many of the locations you mentioned are the "stages" that are usually listed on websites and guides. If you don't stay in those towns it usually is mellower and easier to find beds. I started in late September last year. It was a little crowded but never really a race for beds as far as I could see. A difference I found with the Norte and especially the Frances is that as you go west, and it seemed to start after Santander there are fewer and fewer pilgrims. As Trecile said it really becomes quiet after the split with the Primitivo. I found that once the Camino heads inland there were many days that I did not see more than one or two pilgrims on the trail or in most albergues. it didn't start to pick up until that 100 kilometer mark near Santiago. But you really don't see many until you hit the CF but at the time of year I walked and the large number of albergues (about Oct 30th) there was never a problem.
 

rorerich

CaminoLifer
Camino(s) past & future
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, (2019)
I have plans to start Sept. 23 in Irun. Please, please, please tell me that my companion and I will avoid this problem by walking later in the season!
 

nickpellatt

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French 2015 Portuguese 2018 Norte May 2019 Finesterre and Muxia April 2019
I have plans to start Sept. 23 in Irun. Please, please, please tell me that my companion and I will avoid this problem by walking later in the season!
I walked in May. And perhaps May, will be similar to late September ... not all the albergues will be open, some are peak month only.

I didnt really struggle too much ... I used an out of date guidebook which didnt always help. An app with up to date listings might be better.

However ... I was always surprised by people who had leisurely breakfasts, stopped for lunch somewhere, then arrived in their destination at 16.30. I think it is a bit of a risk to get a bed if you do that ... so I always believe, or I always prefer ... to get to where I'm going and relax and have lunch there. That way, I think you'll always find a bed.

If you want very leisurely days, or especially want to stop for lunch in a certain place, that would be the time to skip the municipal and book something privately.
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
I have plans to start Sept. 23 in Irun. Please, please, please tell me that my companion and I will avoid this problem by walking later in the season!
The simple answer (if your budget will allow) is always be prepared to stay in a pension or other accommodation if the albergues are full. It does provide some mental stress relief if you have made the decision to use other than albergues. if they are not available.
It would help the bed race problem, if people who can afford pensiones would leave the full albergues to the budget pilgrims who need them. That was the original purpose of albergues on the modern camino routes....to supply beds for those who cannot afford normal accommodation.
Somehow. the new thinking is that you must stay in albergues to experience the camino...but transport your pack even if able to carry it....and to skip the boring parts....but you must hurry and grab a cheap bed.

Just an opinion that is held by many and seldom voiced. It is very obvious that this does not apply in any way to those who are physically or otherwise not able to walk distance or carry weight.

To each his own, of course. Just a bit of nostalgia for the "way" it was.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
Timing your Camino helps, of course this only applies to those who have the option to walk during other seasons. I've walked the Norte several times in early June and in October and I never had a problem finding a bed although this past June there were a few close calls (last bed in Castro Urdiales).

As others have mentioned, staying away from the traditional stops helps.

The Norte has changed quite a bit over the past couple of years, several municipals have closed - in San Sebastián and Comillas for example - being replaced with private albergues that take reservations. This past June many were reserving ahead, it began to seem the new norm.

What many akbergues do is reserve until a certain time, say till 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and if you do not call before to say that you're on the way and will be later, the bed is given to someone else. Of course this is stated at the time of making the reservation.
 

tinavdg

New Member
I am on the Norte at the moment and this has been absolutely my experience. So much so that I didn’t walk today - combination of heavy rain with knowing that most l of the accommodation for the next 20km was reserved before the day began. I didn’t fancy walking 20-30km in the rain and not finding a bed (and even hotels are limited in some areas so really no option at all).

I have a sleeping bag and don’t mind sleeping out (have done so before) but that depends on the weather too.

I have really loved the actual walking but the stress of finding a bed takes the pleasure away.
 

Jean Ti

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte, Primitivo, Frances,Via de la Plata

Trying to do one camino every year
I am on the Norte at the moment and this has been absolutely my experience. So much so that I didn’t walk today - combination of heavy rain with knowing that most l of the accommodation for the next 20km was reserved before the day began. I didn’t fancy walking 20-30km in the rain and not finding a bed (and even hotels are limited in some areas so really no option at all).

I have a sleeping bag and don’t mind sleeping out (have done so before) but that depends on the weather too.

I have really loved the actual walking but the stress of finding a bed takes the pleasure away.
This is probably the reality of a lot of people at this time of year, I feel very sorry for you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF May-June 2018; Norte August-Sept 2019
All right. Darn! I was hoping to bed race wouldn't be a big issue on the Norte later in the summer...
A few question; those with Norte experience please chime in!
I start walking on August 21-Oct 4, 2019. I was hoping to be past peak summer season but it sounds like I am woefully wrong.
I walk alone, age 58, pretty slow walker; doing the CF last year it was not uncommon for me to walk 10 hour days to stay on my timeline track.
1. What might my first 2-3 weeks be like in terms of the bed race?
Is one day in advance enough time to book a room if I go with private? I have no problem getting "off-stage" but there are a few places that I had my heart set on staying...
2. Are mosquitos a problem (wasn't planning on bug repellant)?
3. Are bed bugs a common issue on the Norte?

Any input would be appreciated; I leave next week for my second Spain adventure.

Thank you, team.
Michelle
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
All right. Darn! I was hoping to bed race wouldn't be a big issue on the Norte later in the summer...
A few question; those with Norte experience please chime in!
I start walking on August 21-Oct 4, 2019. I was hoping to be past peak summer season but it sounds like I am woefully wrong.
I walk alone, age 58, pretty slow walker; doing the CF last year it was not uncommon for me to walk 10 hour days to stay on my timeline track.
1. What might my first 2-3 weeks be like in terms of the bed race?
Is one day in advance enough time to book a room if I go with private? I have no problem getting "off-stage" but there are a few places that I had my heart set on staying...
2. Are mosquitos a problem (wasn't planning on bug repellant)?
3. Are bed bugs a common issue on the Norte?

Any input would be appreciated; I leave next week for my second Spain adventure.

Thank you, team.
Michelle
I think that you will be fine booking a day ahead. That's what I did last summer. I did find prices to be higher for private rooms than on the Frances. It's high tourist season through August, so you are competing not just with pilgrims but also with tourists for rooms. I kept a spreadsheet with places I stayed and what I paid. I'm not home right now, but I'll check it when I get home.

I had no problems with mosquitoes on the Norte.
 

Brackman

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017 Le Puy part 2018 (Portugues 2019)
A very amusing report, thank you. I caused an International Incident at an Albergue on another Camino this July. At 30 minutes before Opening Time, we calculated that the number of rucsacs placed in the queue was already almost the number of beds. A woman came up and started chatting to her friend who was Number One in the queue, and when the Albergue opened she casually tried to enter as Number Two. I challenged her, and luckily the Hospitalera agreed with me that you can't reserve places in the queue for your friends. She was asked to go to the back of the queue, where she received the final bed.
 

Jbirk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, SJPP to Finesterre April (2018)
Via Francigena Sept (2018)
Del Norte Aug (2019)
I’m a self admitted spreadsheet Pilgrim who leaves in two days for the Norte. This is our third Camino and we prefer to stay in private rooms and also like to know our daily destination. I’m in the process of booking now and noticed how expensive this route can be. It rivals the Italian part of the Via Francegina in terms of cost per night.
 

nickpellatt

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French 2015 Portuguese 2018 Norte May 2019 Finesterre and Muxia April 2019
I didnt encounter mosquitos in May and June ... different season tho, so not sure about august or later.

My Camino was 50 days, I met one person who got bedbugs, but she got them from a hostel not an albergue.

Booking one day ahead should be OK I think. The few I did book I used booking.com - It wasnt expensive. The Norte was cheaper than the Camino from Santiago to Muxia and Finesterre.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
I didnt encounter mosquitos in May and June ... different season tho, so not sure about august or later.

My Camino was 50 days, I met one person who got bedbugs, but she got them from a hostel not an albergue.
Probably (certainly!) the wrong thread but I’ll mention it whilst I think about it....
Bought a wonderful ‘roll-on stick’ in Spain, in Mercadona (but they also have a similar one in farmacias) as I was bitten by bedbugs on my last night 🙄. It relieves the pain/itch very quickly and effectively.
Unfortunately I forgot to bring it back so can’t remember the name, sorry. If you have been bitten (either bugs, mosquitos etc) just look out for it. It is against ‘picaduras’.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
My bed race was solved by avoiding the "pulse" of people traveling the same direction the same time was to wait a day if possible to let them get ahead far enough that you are no longer part of that wave.
2. Leave extremely early and get far ahead pushing as it may to get a day ahead.
3. Divert when i could toward a different route to avoid human wave

Driving a lorry,you had those who would stop early enough to "trash" around the rest stops. Filling up the lots early,drinking and raising cane to the detriment of those who needed the space for sleep.
Trash as a euphemism for just sitting there and taking up space,not tired or road weary,making a show of look at me

I wont bedrace unless extremely bad weather or extremely bad people and situations are whats waiting....
But then again the big empty spaces with the sound of silence and like minded company is always attractive to me
 

tinavdg

New Member
Avoiding the ‘pulse’ wasn’t working on the Norte this summer unfortunately as lots of others were thinking the same thing. Literally the next 3 stops were full on my last night there. That was a range from 12km to 30km walk the next day.
 

debra

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP 2010, Frances 2010
Via Francigena 2014 bicigrino
Way of St. Francis 2017 bicigrino
Thank for the word.

I have a general question is starting the Camino I hear that 29-5 of a month had a large bubble pilgrims and would like to know if this is still the case on the North?
 
D

Deleted member 75649

Guest
Hi. I am presently on Camino Del Norte. I am a slow Walker until I get fitter. I arrived in Irun by train and arrived at 1430hrs to the Municipal Albergue. It was full by 630pm when we returned from crossing the bridge into Spain. I pre-booked San Sebastian and Zaurutz. I met 3 Spanish women who had to spend a night in a tent with no mattress in Zarautz. I arrived in Deba to find the Municipal Albergue full. These same women couldn't find accommodation either so went on a train somewhere to spend the night. I ended up catching a bus 4 KMs away for the last bed in a Private, wonderful Albergue. I have now pre-booked the next two nights and will continue to do this. I found it stressful arriving and the female, British Albergue volunteer advising me to sleep outside. She showed no empathy or regard to safety of a 65 year old female sleeping outside (me). The system is ridiculous when you can't prebook a Municipal Albergue and the Albergue has no alternative s.
 

Teresita16

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
León-Santiago (2015)
Oviedo-Santiago (2016)
Gijón-Vilalba (2018)
Irún-Santander (2019)
I have just finished walking from Irún to Santander. I started on August 2 and had the same bed race problem. Many times I had to sit in queues for 3 or 4 hours outside albergues. I must admit I always ended up with a bed but many didn't. I met 2 German girls who ended up spending 3 or 4 nights sleeping outside. Lots of people went to Decathlon in Bilbao to buy tents and hamacs as back up plans. The hospitalarios all said that on the 1st August they became overwhelmed with walkers. Apparently July was fine but August is swamped with people. It's not a good month to walk.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I found it stressful arriving and the female, British Albergue volunteer advising me to sleep outside. She showed no empathy or regard to safety of a 65 year old female sleeping outside (me).
I think that I can understand your frustration. I am sorry to hear that you found the hospitalera unsympathetic. That is unfortunate. But on the purely practical level what did you expect the hospitalera to do? Throw out someone who had arrived earlier in order to free a space for you? Leaving them in exactly the same position in which you found yourself? In the past there was more leeway to allow people to sleep on sofas or floors when all the beds were taken. But now albergues are more tightly regulated by local authorities and that is simply not allowed for safety reasons.
 
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Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte (to Sobrado)
2019 Norte again
Hi. I am presently on Camino Del Norte. I am a slow Walker until I get fitter. I arrived in Irun by train and arrived at 1430hrs to the Municipal Albergue. It was full by 630pm when we returned from crossing the bridge into Spain. I pre-booked San Sebastian and Zaurutz. I met 3 Spanish women who had to spend a night in a tent with no mattress in Zarautz. I arrived in Deba to find the Municipal Albergue full. These same women couldn't find accommodation either so went on a train somewhere to spend the night. I ended up catching a bus 4 KMs away for the last bed in a Private, wonderful Albergue. I have now pre-booked the next two nights and will continue to do this. I found it stressful arriving and the female, British Albergue volunteer advising me to sleep outside. She showed no empathy or regard to safety of a 65 year old female sleeping outside (me). The system is ridiculous when you can't prebook a Municipal Albergue and the Albergue has no alternative s.
How does the possibility of making a reservation increase the number of beds?. The only difference will be that it is other people thay won't find a bed. You can make reservations in private albergues, hostels, pensions and so on.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I ended up catching a bus 4 KMs away for the last bed in a Private, wonderful Albergue.
Hi, Helen,
I am wondering if you remember the name of the albergue? The only one I know of that is less than 5 km from Deba on the camino is Izarbide. Could it have been that albergue?

The system is ridiculous when you can't prebook a Municipal Albergue and the Albergue has no alternative s.
I hear your pain. But I think the basic misconception here is that there is a “system.” There is no system, this is not like the Inca Trail where a number of people are let on the trail, all assured of places to sleep, etc. This is a route that runs through hundreds of towns, cities and hamlets. Some governments have built albergues, some churches and non-profit associations run albergues, and the private sector contributes lots of albergues. The different albergue owners may coordinate with each other (or they may have cutthroat competition with each other), but that’s about it. It’s up to each individual pilgrim to figure out his/her own “system”, and I wish you luck in figuring out what will work best for you and your rhythm of walking. Buen camino, Laurie
 

Jbirk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, SJPP to Finesterre April (2018)
Via Francigena Sept (2018)
Del Norte Aug (2019)
I’m on the Norte now just outside Markina. I have literally only seen 6 pilgrims since we started in Irun. We do stay in pensions and leave around 9am but I’m surprised reading this and how crowded other people have observed. Buen Camino. Hope to see some of you.
 
D

Deleted member 75649

Guest
Yes, it was Izarbide, the one with the pet pig from Vietnam. They were so helpful. I was unwell. The food and staff were great. I am sorry but I am not camping in a tent alone in Spain. Last night, I stayed at Gernikawith 60 others at YHA. Tonight, I am at Larrabetzu. I was 3rd in the queue at 2pm and now it is full. The volunteer here is wonderful and says they always find beds for people. As you say, there is no system.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
August is the tourist month here. Half of Madrid travels to the northern coast. We have little traffic jams on roundabouts you can normally take with your eyes closed. I prefer to hide on my mountain until August is over. In September I´ll have the beaches to myself again. Together with some lucky pilgrims who are able to walk in a different season.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Having just done the del Norte in June, I would note that the first week out of Irun is the stretch where the facilities are most limited, particularly before Bilbao. August is even more difficult as that is the holiday month for Spain and France and not only do pilgrim numbers increase, they must compete with holiday travellers. I only stayed in pensions, and had no trouble in finding accommodation-- my troubles stemmed from inadequate preparation so that the first week was very tough for me.

But as Peregrina2000 notes, there is no system. I was a bit perplexed that there has been little activity to increase the beds available to meet the growing demand, but perhaps locals are too focussed on the regular summer trade to think much of the pilgrims??
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
August is the tourist month here. Half of Madrid travels to the northern coast. We have little traffic jams on roundabouts you can normally take with your eyes closed. I prefer to hide on my mountain until August is over. In September I´ll have the beaches to myself again. Together with some lucky pilgrims who are able to walk in a different season.
You’re very wise 🙂 I decided against the Norte because my holidays are mid-July/August and I know how busy the coast is at that time... As you say, all my Madrid friends are there in the Summer 😁 My husband walked it in September/October and it was fine. Ah well, another project for when I really retire😉
All the best to all of you pilgrims on the Norte, ultreia!
 
D

Deleted member 75649

Guest
I have decided to not continue as there is no enjoyment whatsoever. I think I will stick to walking closer to home.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Having just done the del Norte in June, I would note that the first week out of Irun is the stretch where the facilities are most limited, particularly before Bilbao. August is even more difficult as that is the holiday month for Spain and France and not only do pilgrim numbers increase, they must compete with holiday travellers. I only stayed in pensions, and had no trouble in finding accommodation-- my troubles stemmed from inadequate preparation so that the first week was very tough for me.

But as Peregrina2000 notes, there is no system. I was a bit perplexed that there has been little activity to increase the beds available to meet the growing demand, but perhaps locals are too focussed on the regular summer trade to think much of the pilgrims??
Not only in Spain and France the August is also main holidays month in Italy - Ferragosto. Can see and feel it on our roads and highways when they are heading for Croatia Adriatic coast :D
 

donalomahony

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
"Camino Frances" 2013, "Burgos to Leon," February 2014 - "Frances" June '14
I have decided to not continue as there is no enjoyment whatsoever. I think I will stick to walking closer to home.
Sorry to hear about your experience, Helen. Can you let us know a little more about the accommodation issues. Is the bottleneck at the "end" of stages or does it appear all Albergues are filling up? Thanks.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Not only in Spain and France the August is also main holidays month in Italy - Ferragosto. Can see and feel it on our roads and highways when they are heading for Croatia Adriatic coast :D
Ferragosto is the Italian name of the 15th of August holiday which is also a public holiday in Spain. You and I know this but not everyone around the globe is aware of it. This year it fell on a very felicious day: a Thursday which made it particularly attractive for the working population to go an a short or longer vacation or camino because you need only take leave for one working day (Friday) to have 4 free days in a row. ABC titled: "a prolonged weekend with a feast day in all of Spain with half the country on vacation".

We even have a name for this lucky constellation of days in a calendar year, in several languages: el puente - faire le pont - Brückentag nehmen - a "bridge weekend".
 
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KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Ferragosto is the Italian name of the 15th of August holiday which is also a public holiday in Spain. You and I know this but not everyone around the globe is aware of it. This year it fell on a very felicious day: a Thursday which made it particularly attractive for the working population to go an a short or longer vacation or camino because you need only take leave for one working day (Friday) to have 4 free days in a row. ABC titled: "a prolonged weekend with a feast day in all of Spain with half the country on vacation".

We even have a name for this lucky constellation of days in a calendar year, in several languages: el puente - faire le pont - Brückentag nehmen - a "bridge weekend".
I didn't know that Ferragosto is Aug 15th. The term was used for the whole of August for as long as I remember exactly because of the holidays for Italians.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
But as Peregrina2000 notes, there is no system. I was a bit perplexed that there has been little activity to increase the beds available to meet the growing demand, but perhaps locals are too focussed on the regular summer trade to think much of the pilgrims??
The situation is different from the Francés. There the Camino brought new opportunities to poor and quiet villages, so almost all facilities were and are dedicated to pilgrims. And the season has become longer and longer. Almost all year round by now.

On the northern coast there has been tourism for years before the Norte became popular. The season is very short. It really starts in July and peaks in August. So restaurant and hotel owners have to earn almost all their money in two summer months (and a little bit in June and September and Semana Santa for example).

Tourists spend quite a lot of money. In season hotelrooms and rental homes are expensive and the Spaniards eat out every day and mostly twice. Pilgrims don't spend a lot of money. Houses and buildings on the coast are rare (that's why it is so beautiful and unspoilt) and expensive and the pilgrim season is still rather short. So it is very hard to make a living out of an albergue on the northern coast.

And I guess most towns were less interested in starting a muni because of the lack of a Camino tradition and the lack of the need to attract visitors. Coastal towns are already overcrowded in the summer months.

It is a shame, but I am afraid this isn't going to change.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
One unintentional benefit of all that tourist infrastructure is that if you walk the Norte out of high season, a chunk of those tourist spots belong to people who would rather rent them cheaply than not at all. Last time I walked theNorte it was late June, and four of us found opportunities to rent a tourist apartment in nice places for 60-70€ a night. Two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen etc.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Walking the del Norte in May and in October (different years), I found it much as @peregrina2000 states, and innkeepers were happy to see a pilgrim. More than once, I was the recipient of the attention of all the waiters in an otherwise empty restaurant. However, once out of that season, @Luka's description is accurate and his explanation about the lack of albergues convincing. However, there are student residences in many places which must be empty (unless perhaps they're full of summer students working on their Spanish or their tans) and more than one emptyish convent or monkery which has spare beds. This might be an area where the attention of religious orders could be drawn.
 

Vivello

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, September/October 2014; Portugues, October 2015; Frances planned June 2018
I’m on the Norte now just outside Markina. I have literally only seen 6 pilgrims since we started in Irun. We do stay in pensions and leave around 9am but I’m surprised reading this and how crowded other people have observed. Buen Camino. Hope to see some of you.
Jbirk -- I'm headed to the Norte in a few weeks and will be staying in pensions. Did you book ahead, and if so, how far ahead? I'm used to booking the night before when staying in hotels on the Frances. Wondering I can expect the same. Thanks, and Buen Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
@KinkyOne that beautiful song is exactly where I borrowed my nickname from. It was the name I gave to one of my cats.

Luka 1 lr.jpg
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
One unintentional benefit of all that tourist infrastructure is that if you walk the Norte out of high season, a chunk of those tourist spots belong to people who would rather rent them cheaply than not at all. Last time I walked theNorte it was late June, and four of us found opportunities to rent a tourist apartment in nice places for 60-70€ a night. Two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen etc.
True! Off season the tourist infrastructure could be an advantage for pilgrims. The more local entrepreneurs are going to see this, the more they might start to cater for pilgrims in spring and autumn.
 
D

Deleted member 75649

Guest
I would say all albergues are filling up plus Spain being on holidays. The beaches are packed. Last year's Camino in France was a breeze compared to this. The plus side is I am now off to Morocco.
 

Debka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 French
2017 French
2017 Finisterre & Muxia
2018 Portuguese
2019 Norte & Primitivo
I also experienced a bit of a “bed race” in September 2018 when I did the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago. I like staying in the municipales or donativos when possible, but when it became too stressful I started booking private albergues in advance. This year I will arrive in Irún on Sept. 6 and plan to walk to Santiago. I haven’t decided yet whether to follow the Norte the entire distance, or pick up the Primitivo— I’m leaning toward the latter based on a friend’s recommendation. (I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this!) I had hoped that by starting in September I would avoid the bed race on the Norte. It’s now August 26 in Boston— I’m following these posts closely to hear what everyone’s experiences are as the end of August approaches (and with it, I hope, the overcrowding!) Buen camino and may you all find a bed for the night!
 
In my experience, the end of August isn't the end of holidays in Spain (unlike in France for example)

You will find the sun/surfing resorts very busy along the first part of the Norte even in early and possibly mid September
 

psheehan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, CPo, CdN, CPr, F, CS, CV, CI, VdlP, CS, CA
There are plenty of beds on the Camino Frances at the moment... last night 9 pilgrims in the albergue... the previous night only 7... very quiet here... no bed race.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
This is not the Camino Francés. The Francés peaks in May and September, not in July and August.

@Debka, I think you will be alright. At some stages where the muni's are scarce you might want to book ahead, but the summer crowds must have passed by then.
 

Debka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 French
2017 French
2017 Finisterre & Muxia
2018 Portuguese
2019 Norte & Primitivo
There are plenty of beds on the Camino Frances at the moment... last night 9 pilgrims in the albergue... the previous night only 7... very quiet here... no bed race.
Amazing that you're finding fewer people now! When I did the Camino Frances in 2017, it was quite busy in September. I frequently had to book ahead. Glad you're finding some peace!

Thank you to the others who replied to my post. I probably will book where I can and see what happens. I'm guessing that it will only affect the first few weeks of my journey as the weather moves toward fall (and I move closer to the Camino Primitivo...
 

Debka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 French
2017 French
2017 Finisterre & Muxia
2018 Portuguese
2019 Norte & Primitivo
This is not the Camino Francés. The Francés peaks in May and September, not in July and August.

@Debka, I think you will be alright. At some stages where the muni's are scarce you might want to book ahead, but the summer crowds must have passed by then.
Thank you for your thoughts and encouragement!
 

nickpellatt

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French 2015 Portuguese 2018 Norte May 2019 Finesterre and Muxia April 2019
I'll add another thought.

I didnt do the Primitivo, and I stayed on the regular Norte path.

Why? The Primitivo can be a stand-alone trip.

If I did the Primitivo on my trip this year, I think it's unlikely I would have returned to finish the regular Norte route. But coming back and doing the Primitivo on a two week trip would work as another adventure.
 

Walkerooni

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
Starting C. del Norte in say 3rd week of May: are most albergues open then? Anyone starting around then have problems finding accommodation? I had thought lack of accommodation would be a July/August thing, but maybe I’m wrong?
 

nickpellatt

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French 2015 Portuguese 2018 Norte May 2019 Finesterre and Muxia April 2019
Starting C. del Norte in say 3rd week of May: are most albergues open then? Anyone starting around then have problems finding accommodation? I had thought lack of accommodation would be a July/August thing, but maybe I’m wrong?
I started on May 1st this year. I didn't pre-book anything before arrival in Spain, and I used the Ciccerone guide book to decide where I was going to stay each day.

I found beds OK without too much stress. I was using a guidebook that wasnt up to date and that caused a few problems ... Zaurutz was the first ... The listings I had were incorrect, so I had to backtrack a few km to get a bed in a private hostel I had already walked past.

in Comillas, my book was also out of date, the albergue de peregrinos was closed but a private one was there instead. I got one of the last beds there .... other people I knew buddied up in hotel rooms.

There was also an instance around the 4rd week when I planned to go to an albergue de peregrinos somewhere, but it was no longer open. Other pilgrims told me this on that day ... I walked another 5km and got a single hotel room instead.

After the turn-off for the Primitivo, it was much easier ... albergues were half full mostly.

About my camino - I tend to walk and arrive early. I was often the first, or among the first to arrive in most of the places I stayed. If I had taken leisurely lunches in places of interest I may have missed one or two beds I think.

Using the Buen Camino app would have helped. I'd have known in advance a little bit more. My camino friends didnt get caught out without beds .... But they did use privates more than me, and pre-book a little more often.
 

Debka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014 French
2017 French
2017 Finisterre & Muxia
2018 Portuguese
2019 Norte & Primitivo
I'll add another thought.

I didnt do the Primitivo, and I stayed on the regular Norte path.

Why? The Primitivo can be a stand-alone trip.

If I did the Primitivo on my trip this year, I think it's unlikely I would have returned to finish the regular Norte route. But coming back and doing the Primitivo on a two week trip would work as another adventure.
Yes-- I also considered this. I've been trained to be a hospitalera so considered volunteering for 2 weeks next year and then doing the Primitivo. On the other hand, since the Primitivo appears to be the most challenging of the caminos, completing the first part of the Norte first would put me in good shape to do the Primitivo. At this point, I think I will follow my intuition and spirit when the moment for a decision arrives!
 

Rachel Godfrey

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo, October 2015
I always plan my caminos for around Sept-Oct, that way you avoid the hoardes. If that doesn’t work for you then I’d suggest starting out by 6am with a headlamp and aiming to arrive by 2pm, a lot of other pilgrims are on that schedule and it gives you some siesta time and socialising time with other pilgrims in the evening. I rarely stop at the official end of a stage, there are quite a few albergues in the in between towns. Finally, I do understand that you’re cash strapped as students but I’ve lived in Norway for 4 years and wages are SO MUCH higher there than in rural Spain. I kind of feel you should pay what the going rate is for a non donativo albergue when staying in the donativo ones unless you are genuinely unable to.
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May-June 2015
While doing the CN this year, I walked into a bar in Ribadeo for lunch. There behind the bar was a stack of blank pilgrim credentials with a 5 euro price tag on it. The root of the problem on the Caminos is lack of control by the Spanish government and Santiago. The Spanish government is keep to just pack in as many tourists as possible and if there’s not enough room, then they can try another Camion trail. I’ve heard this over and over again, if you don’t like crowds try a different Camino. This idea is failing because we’re now seeing overcrowding on all the Camino routes.
If I organised an outdoor music festival and over packed the field and did not supply enough facilities, then people will have a bad time and never come back again.
John Brierley’s guide book on the Camino outline some of the considerations and respect Alberques had for Pilgrims. This has now all been lost to greed and lack of control.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
because we’re now seeing overcrowding on all the Camino routes.
West Coaster, I know that many people have the same anguished complaints as you do, but fortunately you are very wrong when you say there is crowding on all the Camino routes. I walked the Vasco Interior, a big chunk of the Olvidado, and the Invierno this year, and the sum total of peregrinos I saw over 30-odd days of walking was well under 10, actually closer to 5. There are many glorious caminos with absolutely no crowding problem. Some of them have very decent albergue systems, like the Mozárabe (Almería to Granada has the best string of albergues I have seen anywhere), Levante, Lana, Catalán, Aragonés. and Madrid, and others have lots of good cheap private options (Ebro, St. Jaume, Castellano-Aragonés, San Olav).

So if you love the camino, but hate the crowds, try one of these or any of the others I have probably forgotten to mention. They are beyond wonderful. Buen camino, Laurie
 
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017), plus more than 2000 Km/year of trekking, hiking and minor caminos since 2000.
Come and walk on Via Francigena in Italy.
Beautiful views and no crowds until it will become more popular. :cool:
 

SaskiaH

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2014, VLP 2016, del Norte 2019, Primitivo 2019
I love my walk, I am a steady walker with only short stops along the way and rarely have problems with a bed.
My budget is very low, so I prefer staying in municipal albergues. But I have always a little reserve for when that doesn't work. I don' t mind the floor if necessary. The mentality of a lot of the pilgrims on the way disturbs me , the consumption rate is very high but beds may cost nothing? Stop complaining! I M just back from the Del Norte/Primitivo and only experienced one full albergue, walked 43 km that day, It ws a choice of sleeping on the floor or walk on to the next place. So be it! I never reserve!
 

woofer

Member
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
Thanks for your articulate and honest account of your experience. We had the exact same problem. I have done over a dozen Caminos but the last 3 or 4 have been very solitary and I wasn't prepared for what the Del Norte has become. My girlfriend wanted to do a week or so on Camino so we started in Bilbao hoping to get maybe as far as Asturias in 8 days. At the end of day one Pobena had 50 people waiting in line outside the 38 bed albergue. We went back to La Arena just a short walk away and asked tourist information to help find accommodation. She rang 8 places - all full - before I suggested skipping a stage and going to Castro Urdiales. We ended up sleeping in a crowded basement but at least had beds. At Guimes we were warned of the bed shortage in Santander and the stops after it. We decided to stop our Camino and go to the Galician coast instead. Like you said there are not enough beds to cater for the numbers and my girlfriend is not a fast walker. Nor should she have to be !
May I suggest to you the following Caminos where you will not have to race - De la Plata, Levante, Mozarabe and the De la Lana - the last 3 have numbers in single figures for most of the year. 2 non-pilgrim Caminos worthy of your attention are the Camino Dos Faros and the Camino do Mar (also known as the Ruta do Cantabrico) which have sensational coastal scenery and are pretty much empty. Your own country has brilliant walking and I've hiked there but don't give up on Spain just yet !
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May-June 2015
West Coaster, I know that many people have the same anguished complaints as you do, but fortunately you are very wrong when you say there is crowding on all the Camino routes. I walked the Vasco Interior, a big chunk of the Olvidado, and the Invierno this year, and the sum total of peregrinos I saw over 30-odd days of walking was well under 10, actually closer to 5. There are many glorious caminos with absolutely no crowding problem. Some of them have very decent albergue systems, like the Mozárabe (Almería to Granada has the best string of albergues I have seen anywhere), Levante, Lana, Catalán, Aragonés. and Madrid, and others have lots of good cheap private options (Ebro, St. Jaume, Castellano-Aragonés, San Olav).

So if you love the camino, but hate the crowds, try one of these or any of the others I have probably forgotten to mention. They are beyond wonderful. Buen camino, Laurie
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May-June 2015
Hello Laurie. You're correct there are a few Camino routes that are not busy. I did the CN this summer and found the last 100km packed with bused tourists. My friends that did the CP also reported a problem with finding hostels. Each Camino path is not the same, they each have their good points and bad. The CF has always held a special spiritual magic to it, and walking it is like no other. People deserve to walk the CF without the stress of fighting for a bed or having to dodge speeding mountain bikers. The CF is the Camino that most novice pilgrims associate with Spain. Bad reviews on the CF are already starting to pour out and this effects not only the CF but all the Caminos in Spain.
I've been involved with event planning for outdoor concerts and road runs. My focus has always been to see that people attending enjoy themselves in order to keep attendance up over the years. If I over packed a concert with people, I would not be employed next year.
The Spanish government seems to feel that you will spend money in Spain whether you enjoy the Camino or not. The Camino tour companies don't want you to enjoy yourself, they would rather you pay out the $$ to them and get bused around.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
The CF has always held a special spiritual magic to it, and walking it is like no other. People deserve to walk the CF without the stress of fighting for a bed or having to dodge speeding mountain bikers.
I wonder what you mean by "deserve" in this context? The summer overcrowding on the Frances, the Norte and the Portugues are pretty well known and not a new phenomenon this year. Choosing to walk one of these very popular routes at this time of year is bound to be a gamble when it comes to finding accommodation unless you are prepared to book well in advance - something that I personally want to avoid for my own walking. Acceptance of that risk with some grace is surely part of gambling? Like most people the Frances was my first Camino but I now have to accept that its character has changed so much that I must look elsewhere for the type of experience I prefer.
 

Jbirk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, SJPP to Finesterre April (2018)
Via Francigena Sept (2018)
Del Norte Aug (2019)
Lucky you ! Long may your good fortune continue !
We’re at Comillas now and it has picked up just a little but still only a handful of pilgrims a day.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
You're correct there are a few Camino routes that are not busy.
Well, I really don’t mean to sound like I want to get into a food fight over this, but I would respectfully say that you have it reversed — there are only a few caminos that ARE busy — Francés, Norte, Primitivo, Portugués and that’s about it. Maybe Vdlp and Salvador at peak times (semana santa and high summer) But there are at least 40 more caminos in Spain.

I appreciate your frustration, and I agree with you that the Spanish government (which has moved all things Camino-related from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Tourism) is more concerned with the economic benefits of camino travel than the spiritual ones. But in the Spanish government’s defense, their mission has nothing to do with spirituality, thankfully.

Even if the Spanish government did want to limit the “massification” of the popular caminos, I am not sure how they would do that. The Peruvian government limits the total number of people entering the Inca trail to a small daily number, and without a guide, you can’t get in, but that would be totally unrealistic for the Camino.

This is not a new problem, you can find lots of threads here on the forum going way back that follow the same line of reasoning. Those who walked in 1980 are horrified at the massification they saw in 2000. Those who walked first in 2000 are horrified by the massification they see in 2020. I do think there is a breaking point at some point, and it may be that the Francés is showing some signs, but this is a free market system and I just don’t see any way around it other than moving to another Camino. And that, IMO, is an excellent choice.
 

beth8310

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020 (hopeful)
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
I would actually welcome thoughts on where you will be walking in Norway. We have small kids and fancy visiting Norway and exploring. Maybe you have suggestions? I would not go during the hottest months to avoid this and my son and I do not sweat so there is also that to contend with...
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May-June 2015
I wonder what you mean by "deserve" in this context? The summer overcrowding on the Frances, the Norte and the Portugues are pretty well known and not a new phenomenon this year. Choosing to walk one of these very popular routes at this time of year is bound to be a gamble when it comes to finding accommodation unless you are prepared to book well in advance - something that I personally want to avoid for my own walking. Acceptance of that risk with some grace is surely part of gambling? Like most people the Frances was my first Camino but I now have to accept that its character has changed so much that I must look elsewhere for the type of experience I prefer.
I'm from Canada and like a lot of other people traveling great lengths to get to Spain, we've paid the price in airfare. Those that put the money, time a effort into the Camino deserve an enjoyable walk. Those that simply book a tour and jump on a bus should not interfere with those that have put in some effort.
 

woofer

Member
I would actually welcome thoughts on where you will be walking in Norway. We have small kids and fancy visiting Norway and exploring. Maybe you have suggestions? I would not go during the hottest months to avoid this and my son and I do not sweat so there is also that to contend with...
Hi ! I will leave the recommending of routes to our Norwegian friend but you may be disappointed to hear that some of thr high level and indeed not so hi-level routes cannot be walked at any time other than the warmest because snow hasn't melted ! Unless you can ski ! The Lofoten islands have incredible scenery but are better suited to cycling in my opinion. The St.Olav's pilgrim route from Oslo to Trondheim can only be attempted in the height of summer. Beautiful country !
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
OK, I'll do it:

01: de la Nive
02: Baztanes
03: Bayona
04: Vasco del Interior
05: Olvidado
06: Besaya
07: Lebaniego
08: Vadiniense
09: do Mar
10: dos Faros
11: Ingles
12: Aragones
13: Girona
14: Catalan (San Juan de la Pena)
15: Catalan (Zaragoza)
16: Tarragona
17: del Santo Grial
18: Barcelona
19: Ebro (from Deltebre)
20: Ebro (from Castellon)
21: Castellano-Aragones
22: Ignaciano
23: La Lana
24: Sanabres
25: Levante
26: Manchego
27: Madrid
28: Mendocino
29-34: Mozarabe (from either Malaga, Granada or Jaen to either Merida or Alcuescar)
35: Estrecho
36: Via Augusta
37: Plata
38: Plata Portugues
39: Sanabres
40: Invierno
41: del Sur
42: Torres
43: Teresiano
44: Requena
45: del Alba
46: Serrana
47: Lusitana
48: Algarviana
49-53: Portugal Central, Interior, do Sul, Costa, Espiritual
54: Muxia
55: Finisterre
56: de los Blendios
57: de las Harinas
58: don Quixote
59: del Duero
60: Olav
61: Vicentina
(without CF, Norte, Primitivo and Salvador because they were mentioned as more frequently walked)

Just those that comes to mind. Not to mention all the GR routes ;)

Full albergues? Where???
 
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jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), CP(13), CN(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18), VdlP(19)
Hi everyone!

I did a lot of reading on this forum before me and my girlfriend decided to walk The Camino Del Norte. I have decided to write this post, since I myself found so much useful information posted and commented by other people. It is important to emphasize that this post is a mixture of subjective feelings, and actual objective observations.

This post is about what me and my girlfriend experienced as a very unpleasant “bed race”. We started from Irún on the 31th of July. We wanted to finish in Santander at the 13th of August, then do the rest some other time. Our plan before leaving was to primarily sleep at the donations-based albergues. The idea was to get the authentic pilgrim experience, but also, since we’re both students, save money.
What we soon learned is that there is not nearly enough beds at the donation-based albergues compared to how many pilgrims actually walking. It does not help that many of the pilgrims walking in the same period as us are also students keen on spending as little a possible. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the “bed race “

I will give you guys a short summary of our day to day experience of this “bed race.”

But before I begin I also feel that I need to provide some contextual information. Both me and my girlfriend are in our mid-twenties. Our backpacks that we carried were light and thoughtfully packed. I carried a 30l, my girlfriend a 40l.
We are both in good shape physically, and we are both Norwegians. The latter means that we are used to walking far in challenging terrain, and we didn’t find the Del Norte particularly hard. Even the infamous Deba - Markina stage was not that big of a deal. I’m writing this just to make clear that we are not ordinary scrubs when it comes to walking and hiking. So our issue wasn’t the walking itself, or not being able to finish the different stages in a reasonable amount of time. Our issue, as I have already mentioned, was the getting a bed.

Day 1 - Irùn. We arrived before the albergue opened. We were 4 and 5 in the line. 60 beds. Was full before 20:30. The volunteers working there had to turn people down.

Day 2 - San Sebastián. We soon discovered that San Sebastián didn’t have a albergue. Strange. We acted quickly, and booked two beds at a hostel. 33€ per person. Pricey, but understandable, since the city was full of tourists.

Day 3 - Zarautz. We kept a good pace, and walked past a lot of other pilgrims. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench in Zarautz, treating a blister, and discussing if we should walk onwards to Getaria. A lot of the pilgrims that we previously overtook, now came rushing past us. It was only 12:30 in afternoon. We strolled causally to the albergue and meet some of the volunteers working there sitting in the yard. We were number 39 and 40. 54 beds in total. People arriving after 14:00 did not get a bed, and had to try their luck elsewhere. Me and my girlfriend started to get concerned. Is this the case at every albergue?

Day 4 - We booked a cheap accommodation at Ibiri Quarter in the hills after Deba, because we were slowly realizing that we were now competing for beds with the other pilgrims that we met at the albergues. A pleasant day of walking, no rush, so we were able to walk the Ruta Del Flycsh. That would not been a option if we had not booked a place to sleep that day.

Day 5 - Gernika. Again we “wasted” a lot of time strolling through Gernika instead of heading straight to the Albergue. We could almost have been 1 - 2 in the line. Ended up a 13 - 14. Other pilgrims coming down to Gernika seemed stressed. We meet two pilgrims that ran the last 2km with several blisters, just to get a bed. They were 37 and 38 in the line. The Albergue had 40 beds. We also spotted two people arriving to the albergue by car. They had hitchhiked just to try and reach the albergue in time to get a bed. Our concern was growing. Other pilgrims told us it would only get worse as we went along. This is not what we had imagined. It wasn’t fun seeing the disappointing look on the faces of other pilgrims that had to find somewhere else to sleep. A lot of them had really fought their way over that mountain/hill. In my opinion, they deserved a bed just as much as everyone else there. Brutal.

Day 6 - Bus to Bilbao. Someone accused us of cheating when we told them during breakfast. Is that the Camino spirit? We did not go to a donation-based albergue in Bilbao, because we didn’t want to occupy beds for people that actually walked to the albergue.

Day 7 - Castro Urdiales. We walked almost 43km that day. Both our pace and spirit was high as we approached La Pobeña. Our breaking point came on the beach, 600m away from the albergue. As we were walking on the beach at around 12:30, discussing if to rent a surfboard or not, a man about my age, with a backpack came running past us. Curious of why he was running, I decided to run after him. Since I found the entire situation a bit amusing, I decided to slowly creep up behind him. He spotted me just as I was about to poke him on the back. He let out a loud yell, and started sprinting. I sprinted after him, and then alongside him. He looked absolutely exhausted and stressed out of his mind. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing from the absurdity of the entire situation. I had to jam my shoulder into his, like in a soccer match, since we now were running on a narrow bridge. “Why are you running?” I asked. “The albergue, it is almost full” he yelled back. He started another desperate sprint. I decided to stop. I am not doing a foot race on the Camino. It turned out that some of his friends had arrived earlier than him, and had called him on his phone, telling him to hurry up. When he saw us on the far end of the beach, he decided to run like a maniac. The albergue had 38 beds. He got the last one. Brutal. We pressed on to Tu Camino Hostel. Full. The host helped us with a booking in Castro Urdiales, but we had to be there before 17:00. Not a pleasant day.

So there you have it. We went to Arenillas. There we decided to stop doing the Camino. We will enjoy the rest of our vacation not stressing and racing for beds. Probably never doing this again, at least not in summer. We really enjoyed walking, the coastal view and Spain in general, but the stress of not knowing if you have a bed or not, ruined the overall experience.
Hope someone will find this post helpful/informative, or at the very least a bit entertaining.

Next summer will be spent in hiking in Norway. There is no “bed race” there.
There are lots of Camino's that are not as crowded. Ther Frances and Norte are probably the most frequently traveled, especially in August. I have found the March/April time frame the most accommodating.

Camino's like the Vasco, Irun to Burgos or Irun to Santa Domingo de Calzada.

San Salvador, Leon to Oviedo.

Mozarabe, Almaria to Merida.

Invierno, Levante etc. I suggest you check out www.Gronze.com for the entire list.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

Elizabeth Cheung

Existential Sherpa
Camino(s) past & future
Let's just say I've been around ;-)
Just my two cents for those who, like the original poster, want a nice long walk/hike where you can get accommodations, is inexpensive, and not too crowded. Might I suggest Turkey. The Lycian Way is great and could REALLY use the tourism. Its best done with a combination of camping and staying with locals but you can do it without camping gear if you are willing to work at it. I have no idea what the Camino was like 30 years ago but my sense is it was something like the Lycian Way. Which, has TONS of Christian and non Christian history if you are looking for that. Not to mention the scenery along the coast. It's spectacular. St. Paul's Way in Turkey is also fantastic.

Also: I've done three "proper" Camino's and I always book ahead. I know that seems sacrilegious to some but I am just not interested in walking 25+ km and finding out I have no place to stay. I'd only risk that if i had gear to sleep outside in a pinch or if I was prepared and willing to pay good money for a room on short notice. If there is one thing I have learned from all the hiking and long distance walking I have done its that given the chance for a cheap bed or a shelter over sleeping rough or expensive, people will always make a run for the cheap beds and the shelter. The Camino isn't unique in that. As the scouts say: Be prepared.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I'm from Canada and like a lot of other people traveling great lengths to get to Spain, we've paid the price in airfare. Those that put the money, time a effort into the Camino deserve an enjoyable walk. Those that simply book a tour and jump on a bus should not interfere with those that have put in some effort.
My own opinion is that access to the low-cost pilgrim accommodation is a privilege and not a right which those of us who walk longer distances or make larger financial sacrifices "deserve" as just compensation for our greater efforts. I have often heard it argued that those who walk significantly further than 100km should receive a different and more prestigious Compostela than those who walk the bare minimum because they "deserve" more recognition. Or that they should have separate priority queues in the pilgrim office. Or special quotas of beds reserved for their exclusive use in albergues. Part of a competitive and hierarchical mindset which I personally feel sits very uneasily with the idea of pilgrimage. I dislike the expression "the Camino provides" which is so often tossed around. A trouble-free Camino is not a given. Like many things it requires thought and preparation. And a willingness to adapt or endure when circumstances conspire to throw a spanner in the works.
 

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