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Best time for Albergues on Del Norte

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hielienie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April 2020: Del Norte: Irun -> Santiago
April 2017: SJPDP -> Santiago -> Muxia -> Finisterre
I am planning on doing El Camino del Norte in 2020. I know that this route is less busy than the French route so in theory you can walk it in the more popular summer months without it being too overcrowded. But I've also heard that many Albergues change into tourist accommodation over the holiday period and that peregrinos then often have to make use of more expensive accommodation. Can anyone who walked del Norte in the past 2 years maybe shed some light as to what time of the year I would be able to stay in more affordable Albergues?
Thanks!
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Hi hielienie, whereas the route itself is far less crowded (only 5% of total pilgrims), the albergues can be VERY crowded. This is because there is sometimes only one albergue per stage. Also, some bigger towns that you might expect to find albergues, such as San Sebastian or Ribadesella, don't have them! Hence you might experience the dreaded "bed race" in the summer months. (That said, sometimes the municipality will provide extra mattresses in the albergue, or open the sports hall for pilgrims to sleep in).

I wouldn't worry about it too much, it's difficult to predict, but you might find that you're only affected by the over-crowding a handful of nights. A good trick is to avoid the "official" stages and stop in the small towns or villages in-between. You also need to be a bit flexible and open to staying in non-pilgrim backpacker hostels, pensiones, hostales, or hotels. I have often shared a double/triple room with other pilgrims, and it works out about the same price. There is quite a range of private accommodation options along the Norte, as it's a touristy region, and you're usually able to book something the night or morning before through booking.com.

I walk stretches of the Norte fairly regularly (about twice a year), and I've noticed things getting quiet a lot busier recently, even in the off season. June-August will be busy for obvious reasons, but May and September are also surprisingly busy as it's the most popular walking period for retired folks. The weather is usually still warm in October, so this isn't a bad time to walk. April is also good, although in 2020 it's the Easter period - which might be a bit busier, but you could see some cool Easter parades!
 

freeflyer123

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
www.cyclingsofties.blog
Camino de Santiago, 2013
This is something I, too, worry about. We rode the Camino de Santiago in 2013 and, because we were on bikes, naturally enough weren't allowed beds until all the walkers had been catered for. Obviously it's easier for someone on a bike to ride a few more miles whereas someone who's walked a long way often cannot walk much further. Your comment, Jan, that September can be as busy as August has me wondering if we should put our ride off until late September/early October rather than August/September.
 
I think that starting later in September is very sensible as resorts such as Deba and Zarautz along the coast will still be busy with surfers and other local holidaymakers in early September
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Ok, so I just checked the statistics for numbers of pilgrims arriving in Santiago from the Camino del Norte and Primitivo (counted them together as many Nortegrinos continue along the Primitivo) in 2018:

March: 672
April: 1537
May: 3443
June: 4589
July: 6518
August: 8269
Sept: 4759
Oct: 3134
Nov: 665

Of course, this only counts those pilgrims who have done the last 100km on the Norte or Primitivo, and says nothing about the pilgrims such as myself who don't always go all the way (lots of people, for example, only come for a week of walking in the Basque country). But it should give you an idea of numbers. [Edit: just to add, I know statistics can seem abstract, but in an attempt to make it more accessible: 8269 pilgrims in August works out at 267 arriving per day in Santiago. If that's how many are walking per day, ending each stage in the same small towns or villages, it does make you wonder where they are all sleeping!]

As you can see, there's a significant drop from August to September in terms of pilgrim numbers, so going on these statistics alone, September's not the worst time to walk. However as spursfan notes, the holiday towns will still be fairly busy, at least at the start of the month, so maybe wait a week or two for things to quieten down!
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I think that the Norte “sweet spot” is early summer. By then all the tourist accommodations are open, but there aren’t a lot of tourists. Pilgrims are of course the second choice of the owners of all the tourist places, but they would rather have a full bed than an empty bed. Four of us had coalesced into a group and we got some really nice deals in vacation apartments — two bedrooms, four beds, kitchen, balcony, etc, for 60-70 for the four of us. On one stage, I think it was from Soto de Luina, one of the owners was cruising up and down the road where the camino coincided and was handing out fliers. I hadn’t seen that since the Frances but we took him up on his offer and had a very nice stay.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Ok, so I just checked the statistics for numbers of pilgrims arriving in Santiago from the Camino del Norte and Primitivo (counted them together as many Nortegrinos continue along the Primitivo) in 2018:

March: 672
April: 1537
May: 3443
June: 4589
July: 6518
August: 8269
Sept: 4759
Oct: 3134
Nov: 665

Of course, this only counts those pilgrims who have done the last 100km on the Norte or Primitivo, and says nothing about the pilgrims such as myself who don't always go all the way (lots of people, for example, only come for a week of walking in the Basque country). But it should give you an idea of numbers. [Edit: just to add, I know statistics can seem abstract, but in an attempt to make it more accessible: 8269 pilgrims in August works out at 267 arriving per day in Santiago. If that's how many are walking per day, ending each stage in the same small towns or villages, it does make you wonder where they are all sleeping!]

As you can see, there's a significant drop from August to September in terms of pilgrim numbers, so going on these statistics alone, September's not the worst time to walk. However as spursfan notes, the holiday towns will still be fairly busy, at least at the start of the month, so maybe wait a week or two for things to quieten down!
In addition to the fact that many Nortegrinos head down to Oviedo, I think that the Norte numbers do not have a huge inflated number walking the last 100 km. So the numbers you see are likely to have started further back on the norte, whereas the Frances numbers have a huge percentage that start from Sarria. If that makes any sense.

BTW, the Norte after the split is just gorgeous, and there are some really nice albergues. I never felt any crunch at all, in June. But then I am lucky that I can go to non-albergue options when it seems like the albergue would be crowded (and it was jam packed in some places).
 

hielienie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April 2020: Del Norte: Irun -> Santiago
April 2017: SJPDP -> Santiago -> Muxia -> Finisterre
I have walked this route twice and always found a place, and I walk without a phone and do not reserve. Be brave through caution to the wind and experience the Camino without fear.
The only problem is that I have a serious handicap walking with South African rands... So winging it gets problematic if it means that you will have to sometimes sleep in hotels etc. A little parting gift from our previous president ;)
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
The only problem is that I have a serious handicap walking with South African rands... So winging it gets problematic if it means that you will have to sometimes sleep in hotels etc. A little parting gift from our previous president ;)
Are you walking with anyone? I'm a fellow S.African (now living in Scotland), but my mom sometimes joins me from South Africa and she finds she's able to budget for sharing a hotel room (usually works out at around €15 each) when the albergues are full. Hopefully you'll only need to do this a few times - and even if you're travelling solo I guarantee you'll find someone walking at your pace to share with.

Just so you know, most of the municipal albergues on the Norte are only €6, which is half the price of those on the Frances. So even if you don't get to spend every night in an albergue, it should balance out a bit. I agree it's hard to wing it when you have limited resources - when I did my first Camino in 2011 it was a lot easier, now I've become a bit more wary (even with the luxury of having pounds to spend!)

p.s. I also agree with Laurie that there's a "sweet spot" in the summer. I remember walking in early June 2016, and never had any problems with accommodation. Of course this is just anecdotal though, and it was 3 years ago, so I wouldn't want you to base a decision on this!
 

hielienie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April 2020: Del Norte: Irun -> Santiago
April 2017: SJPDP -> Santiago -> Muxia -> Finisterre
Are you walking with anyone? I'm a fellow S.African (now living in Scotland), but my mom sometimes joins me from South Africa and she finds she's able to budget for sharing a hotel room (usually works out at around €15 each) when the albergues are full. Hopefully you'll only need to do this a few times - and even if you're travelling solo I guarantee you'll find someone walking at your pace to share with.

Just so you know, most of the municipal albergues on the Norte are only €6, which is half the price of those on the Frances. So even if you don't get to spend every night in an albergue, it should balance out a bit. I agree it's hard to wing it when you have limited resources - when I did my first Camino in 2011 it was a lot easier, now I've become a bit more wary (even with the luxury of having pounds to spend!)

p.s. I also agree with Laurie that there's a "sweet spot" in the summer. I remember walking in early June 2016, and never had any problems with accommodation. Of course this is just anecdotal though, and it was 3 years ago, so I wouldn't want you to base a decision on this!
Thanks Jan_D - this helps a lot. I will probably have one or two of my Frances camino family joining me next year so this sounds perfect.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte Sept 2013
Camino del Norte Sept 2014
Camino del Norte 2015,16,17,18
I have walked El Norte several times in mid to late September and hadvery few problems with muniical alberguesand the weather is lovely then.
 

intrepidtraveler

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Madrid, Frances and Finisterre (2015)
Camino Norte-2017; Camino Ingles from A Coruna - 2017
I walked the Norte from mid-May until late June. This is still considered to be the off-season along the coast so finding places to stay that were reasonably priced was not an issue.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
Yes, I agree on the 'sweet spot'. Tourism on the northern coast peaks in August. June could be a good month. And weatherwise it doesn't really matter, because the weather has become very unpredictable. An extreme example: July 2018 we had 127 hours of sunshine and February 2019 that number was 203!
 

hielienie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April 2020: Del Norte: Irun -> Santiago
April 2017: SJPDP -> Santiago -> Muxia -> Finisterre
Yes, I agree on the 'sweet spot'. Tourism on the northern coast peaks in August. June could be a good month. And weatherwise it doesn't really matter, because the weather has become very unpredictable. An extreme example: July 2018 we had 127 hours of sunshine and February 2019 that number was 203!
Thanks Luka! I did Francés in April 2017 and was ready to walk in the rain most days. Ended up walking in the rain for one day out of the 31 I spent on the Way. So I think you are 100% correct. Planning your Camino around "normal" weather patterns doesn't work anymore.
 

512

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
We did the Norte in June/July 2017. It was busier than expected, but we never went without beds.
On one stage, I think it was from Soto de Luina, one of the owners was cruising up and down the road where the camino coincided and was handing out fliers. I hadn’t seen that since the Frances but we took him up on his offer and had a very nice stay.
Casa Carin (sp?) in Cadavedo, as I recall. Nice family. We even got our laundry done.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
We did the Norte in June/July 2017. It was busier than expected, but we never went without beds.

Casa Carin (sp?) in Cadavedo, as I recall. Nice family. We even got our laundry done.
Yes, that looks like it. http://www.casacarin.com. We did not want to walk all the way into town for a late lunch, but there was a very popular restaurant on the road not too far away. Looks to me based on my bad orientation skills, that it was Mesón La Granda.

We had taken the “high route” (HIGHLY recommended, no pun intended) and I think that this location is more convenient for those who do that. If you walk the low route, as one in our group did, you will have to go through Cadavedo and then out to the apartments. Not far, but it adds a bit of pavement at the end of the day. Those who walk the high route come to it from the other side and don’t have to go into Cadavedo.

@512, can you correct me if my memory is wrong?
 

512

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
I can confirm that it was near La Granda, but I can't comment on the route; I remember coming into town at the intersection near the Hotel Casa Roja and GPSing the way to Carin.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I can confirm that it was near La Granda, but I can't comment on the route; I remember coming into town at the intersection near the Hotel Casa Roja and GPSing the way to Carin.
So, just to check in case others are interested in this place — you walked the lower route from Soto, is that right? Because the higher route comes to Casa Carín from a different direction, and you don’t actually go into Cadavedo.
 

512

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
I believe that is correct. I remember the hospitalero in Soto de Luiña going over the map and recommending the lower route.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I believe that is correct. I remember the hospitalero in Soto de Luiña going over the map and recommending the lower route.
That’s what I thought. Don’t want to get too off-topic here, but the hospitalero’s dire warnings should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. (I don’t want to speculate on motives, but people told me he is the one who marked the lower route, so it may be that he feels a particular connection) All but three of the 20-plus people in Soto the night I was there followed his recommendations and stayed on the lower route. Three of us went up and it was not particularly strenuous, but it was particularly glorious!
 

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512

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
That's our plan for this year (and I'm also going to ignore the hospitalero at Lourenzá and take the steeper route out of Mondoñedo).
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
That's our plan for this year (and I'm also going to ignore the hospitalero at Lourenzá and take the steeper route out of Mondoñedo).
Hi, @512,
Again, not to derail the thread too much, but if you haven’t seen it, you should look at the “coastal alternatives” thread on the Norte forum. https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/coastal-alternatives-to-the-nortes-asphalt.49578/

In particular, the long looping way out of Santander along the coast bears no resemblance to the road walking Camino, it is gorgeous. And the Ruta del Flysch from Zumaia is too. For the latter, you won’t need any GPS, everyone in town can get you on the route and it will take you to Deba. But for the Santander one, and some of the others on that thread, a GPS is really kind of necessary to get you from the Camino to the alternative. I know some people don’t want to carry a GPS, and in this case you would have to be a much better map reader than I am to be able to get to the coastal routes.
 

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