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Camino Del Norte or Frances?

Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
Hola! I plan to hike my first Camino in Septemberf. I am leaning toward the Camino Del Norte due to the gorgeous ocean scenery, the vertical challenges and the smaller crowds. It seems the costs--especially for accommodation are significantly higher on CN than CF. Has anyone experienced both of these routes recently? How much more would a full 825 km trip (35-40 days) cost on CN over CF? Thanks.
 
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Rick M

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
April ('16,'18, '19, 22)
Sept ('21, '23)
The Norte costs more.

How much is hard to give you an estimate on, because it depends on how you choose to do it. The Albergue prices are comparable between the two routes, but food and incidentals are higher on the Norte. The quality is also higher on the Norte. Private accommodations (hotels/hostals/Cr's) are much higher on the Norte. The big difference is that on the Frances, you are on a pilgrim focused route with most services geared toward pilgrims. On the Norte, you're just another backpacker walking through a busy tourist destination.

Nobody can help you choose a destination, because the choice is dictated by WHY you are walking. If this is a sightseeing tour coupled with a more kinetic physical challenge, the Norte is for you. If this is a spiritual journey of self discovery or a religious pilgrimage, everyone should walk the Frances first.
 

andycohn

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
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Building on what Rick M said, I would add that prices in private accommodations are not necessarily higher on the Norte. Rather, it depends on when you go. Because the coastal towns on the Norte are major tourist meccas, there's a lot more private accommodations, and if you avoid the busiest tourist season -- July and August -- these private accommodations will often be highly discounted. For example, in May, 2018, my wife and I sometimes found that we could get a room in a pension or modest hotel for less than the cost of 2 beds in an albergue. Reviewing my itinerary from then, we typically paid 40 - 50 euros for a private room. This was no more, and maybe less, than we had paid for similar accommodations on the Frances. You'll also often get better deals if you contact them directly, rather than using booking.com. Of course, prices will have increased because of inflation.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
Thanks. I plan to use albergues as much as possible and treat this like Canadian bush hiking where I buy most of my food from grocery stores. I am mostly doing this as an avid hiker, but open to a spiritual experience! I'm not sure my wife (who will not be hiking) would be happy with me "sharing a room", but who knows after 46 years of marriage she may exclaim "free at last"!!!! Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm about 90% sure I am hitting CN, but always open to suggestions from experienced hikers.
 
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FourSeasons

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2013, 2016, 2019 ---- the next is a mystery.
I've done both and for me del Norte was more costly only because I had to take more rest days. I wasn't expecting the terrain to be such a challenge. Go up a mountain, then down to the sea, go up a mountain, then down to the sea. It was beautiful, humid and quiet. I did feel I was treated more like a backpacker and not a pilgrim which for me is why I do these Camino's, for the pilgrimage aspect.

The Frances for me is like home and in my experience is less expensive. The terrain is varied, beautiful and enjoyable with much history along the way. If comradery is on your list, the Frances is the way to go.

Either way you choose it will be a special experience like no other. :)
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, Portuguese, Aragon, Norte, SJWayUK, Nive
Norte accommodations also become problematic in October when the swells come in and tiny coastal town hostels are besieged by itinerant surfers…bro….😎
 

Skinnybiker

The Skinny Biker in Spain
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte, Frances, Primitivo May 2022
By bike
Norte accommodations also become problematic in October when the swells come in and tiny coastal town hostels are besieged by itinerant surfers…bro….😎
Interesting, are there more surfers than peregrinos in October? Most of the surfers will be in camper-vans not sleeping in the albergues / hostals / hotels, surely?
 

musicianary

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
1341
Hola! I plan to hike my first Camino in Septemberf. I am leaning toward the Camino Del Norte due to the gorgeous ocean scenery, the vertical challenges and the smaller crowds. It seems the costs--especially for accommodation are significantly higher on CN than CF. Has anyone experienced both of these routes recently? How much more would a full 825 km trip (35-40 days) cost on CN over CF? Thanks.
Hi D,
I walked the Norte (40 days from Irun to Santiago) in July and August in 2019. I don't understand any description of any of the many routes as "sightseeing with kinetic energy." In my understanding, the spirituality of every Camino emanates first and foremost from within yourself, and secondarily from whatever Camino you are led to walk. May you also find, as so many of us have, each special, precious soul you meet along the way to be your divine appointments to bless you on your journey. The reasons you gave for choosing the Norte are valid. Without question, you will get your gorgeous ocean scenery, the vertical challenges, and the smaller crowds." I did the walk for between $24-$30/day. I realize prices have risen, but I would encourage you not to make your decision on the potential difference of a few dollars per day one way or the other. I also encourage you to walk with a tent (REI has one called Milo that weighs 2 pounds). This will be a wonderful option anywhere along the Camino, but especially if you find yourself without lodging or want to camp next to the ocean and arise at dawn with a view (attached) that continues to inspire awe each time I view it. May God bless each step of your Camino knowing that it began the moment you knew in your heart, "I have to walk the Camino De Santiago!"
 

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John Holland

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016
I have done both routes. I would warn against being advised about going up and down "mountains". Generally it is just up and down fairly small hills (my opinion only) more so on the Norte than the Frances. Look at profile maps of the routes and this will clearly show the difference between the two routes. The Norte is only slightly more difficult than the Frances. Just avoid the peak summer months when accommodation costs are at a premium in places such as San Sebastian and Bilbao. Outside these months, I found costs only 10 to 15 per cent above the Frances.
 

headoverheels

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
France desde SJPP "2017"
Norte + Primitivo desde Biarritz "2017"
Portugal desde Lisbon "2018"
Hola! I plan to hike my first Camino in Septemberf. I am leaning toward the Camino Del Norte due to the gorgeous ocean scenery, the vertical challenges and the smaller crowds. It seems the costs--especially for accommodation are significantly higher on CN than CF. Has anyone experienced both of these routes recently? How much more would a full 825 km trip (35-40 days) cost on CN over CF? Thanks.
I didn't walk it recently but back in 2017. What you said about costs being higher than on CF was true even then. Mind you, September is still high season in many vacation resorts you pass (and in many you would probably look for a bed for night) on the way. So costs and also availability might be a concern. I had to walk quite a few more kms than I wanted to quite a few times even when I didn't look for only albergues but was ready to pay for pensions or cheaper hotels, too. But, the way was beautiful, memorable, worth any difficulties that might come your way. My first camino was CF which was (as the 1st camino always is) the top but I loved Norte, Primitivo, and especially Via Podiensis just as well. Not so much C. Portuges from Lisbon though. :) (Except Tomar - I fell for this town!). Unfortunately I can't tell what covid did with the prices so I'm not sharing any price comparisons to CF as that wouldn't help you at all
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
Hi D,
I walked the Norte (40 days from Irun to Santiago) in July and August in 2019. I don't understand any description of any of the many routes as "sightseeing with kinetic energy." In my understanding, the spirituality of every Camino emanates first and foremost from within yourself, and secondarily from whatever Camino you are led to walk. May you also find, as so many of us have, each special, precious soul you meet along the way to be your divine appointments to bless you on your journey. The reasons you gave for choosing the Norte are valid. Without question, you will get your gorgeous ocean scenery, the vertical challenges, and the smaller crowds." I did the walk for between $24-$30/day. I realize prices have risen, but I would encourage you not to make your decision on the potential difference of a few dollars per day one way or the other. I also encourage you to walk with a tent (REI has one called Milo that weighs 2 pounds). This will be a wonderful option anywhere along the Camino, but especially if you find yourself without lodging or want to camp next to the ocean and arise at dawn with a view (attached) that continues to inspire awe each time I view it. May God bless each step of your Camino knowing that it began the moment you knew in your heart, "I have to walk the Camino De Santiago!"
Thank you. I've settled on the CN without tent! I used to have a recurring dream about a small hiker's tent and a large vintage canvas tent. When I asked my therapist why I was having this dream she said "you're too tense". (Old joke that works better verbally!)
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
The Norte costs more.

How much is hard to give you an estimate on, because it depends on how you choose to do it. The Albergue prices are comparable between the two routes, but food and incidentals are higher on the Norte. The quality is also higher on the Norte. Private accommodations (hotels/hostals/Cr's) are much higher on the Norte. The big difference is that on the Frances, you are on a pilgrim focused route with most services geared toward pilgrims. On the Norte, you're just another backpacker walking through a busy tourist destination.

Nobody can help you choose a destination, because the choice is dictated by WHY you are walking. If this is a sightseeing tour coupled with a more kinetic physical challenge, the Norte is for you. If this is a spiritual journey of self discovery or a religious pilgrimage, everyone should walk the Frances first.
Thanks. I am looking for an adventure and open to what awaits!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
I have done both routes. I would warn against being advised about going up and down "mountains". Generally it is just up and down fairly small hills (my opinion only) more so on the Norte than the Frances. Look at profile maps of the routes and this will clearly show the difference between the two routes. The Norte is only slightly more difficult than the Frances. Just avoid the peak summer months when accommodation costs are at a premium in places such as San Sebastian and Bilbao. Outside these months, I found costs only 10 to 15 per cent above the Frances.
Thanks. I've checked the elevation profiles in my guidebook and I am cautiously optimistic.
I have completed the first half of The Bruce Trail in my home province of Ontario, Canada which features total elevation change of almost 21,000 meters over 910 kilometers. Much of that is sudden over short distances. I will be completing the last hike of the final half of the Bruce (the most vertically challenging section) two days before I fly to Barcelona. I hope this will prepare me. I find my toughest hike seems to be the on I am currently experiencing! Ha!
 
John Brierley 2023 Camino Guide
Get your today and start planning.
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
Thank you. I've settled on the CN without tent! I used to have a recurring dream about a small hiker's tent and a large vintage canvas tent. When I asked my therapist why I was having this dream she said "you're too tense". (Old joke that works better verbally!)
Thanks for laughing Trecile! I needed that. By the way Cannon Beach is one of my favorite places on the planet.
 

BombayBill

Still Learning
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2023 Norte - Del Mar , Invierno
I did many Caminos prior to the CF. The most meaningful for me was Le Puy because of my frame of mind. However I've learned from all of them. I chose my routes based on whatever my needs / resources were at the time. So in my opinion the CF or Norte could be equally rewarding, it's up to you. If you want a good perspective on the experience from a Canadian, listen to :
https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode?id=780558

or Google - Dan Mullins and Rocco Rossi .
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2021, Norte/Primitivo 2022, VF 2023
I wanted to do the Norte this year after doing Frances last year - but the more I looked at prices, the more I decided I need to stay on the Frances! If I were going alone this summer, I might have still picked Norte - but my daughter is coming. And while she is SUPPOSED to be paying for herself - I have a feeling I will be supplementing her budget (she is barely 18 and finishing up her last year of high school currently). There just are not enough "cheap" lodging options to support staying on a budget. And with 2 years of COVID and the extension of "Holy Year" - the Norte might be more crowded than usual. Which would make finding the cheap lodging even harder.
 

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