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Poll CdM vs CdF for a first timer in march.

Go for the ...


  • Total voters
    22

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
Hi everyone

First of all, thanks for the body of knowledge you've build up over the years, it's been very helpful.

I'm planning my first camino, and the default recommendation (taste in geography aside) for a long camino seems to be the Frances (from Zaragoza with Finisterre). But I notice that many here are also exasperated with the ever increasing crowds on it (which I want to avoid mainly for the scramble for accommodation), and I think I gather that it's more expensive for accommodation than others.

I also noticed that quite a few people here like or would like to try the Madrid camino, which seems to have good infrastructure for the small numbers who currently walk it.

Since these two have ~30% of their lengths in common, my current thinking is to do the Madrid camino (using one of the itineraries from here) to get the more solitary reflective experience, then have the latter stage of the CF for the more communal experience, with the option of switching to the primitivo (weather permitting) if it's too crowded.

But is the Madrid camino appropriate? I'm a coeliac (strict gluten-free, but otherwise fit) and I'm concerned about not having the safety net of the infrastructure of the CF. Is the CF a lot or a little quieter in March?

Of course if you've got a better idea, let me know! I've also considered the Norte and VdlP but they seem expensive, please set me right on this if it isn't true. (Expensive meaning the costs of albergues and food). I get the impression that the Portuguese one has similar crowding issues and with fewer options between Lisbon and Porto.

Thanks for any and all help and ideas :)
 
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Marc S.

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
I am not putting in a vote, as I have not walked the Madrid (so I can not really say anything about it).

But - concerning the crowdedness of the CF - I do not think it is very busy if you walk in March. I do not have the crystal ball for March 2022 of course. But in 2019, 3700 pilgrims arrived in SdC via the CF. Also, please note a large number of those started in Sarria. To give you an idea, in May and September 2019 this was 25.000. So this will you give some indication.

If you do want some additional quietness at the beginning, you may consider starting on the Camino Aragones (f.e. in Somport) and then join the CF in Puenta la Reina.
 

SabineP

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
Hi @Madrood : for a first time Camino I do think you can't go wrong with the Camino Frances, especially not in March ( walked also in March and it was really quiet, even more if you do not stop in the " designated places " that the guides advise you to stop ). Of course it can be cold and weather is less predictable but you can layer up with clothes.
Take into consideration that Zaragoza is on the Camino del Ebro and that it is a very lonely Camino ( I did quit that one after a couple of days due to heavy floodings and trained to Logroño to continue on the Frances ).
So my guess is that you are ok for March!
And if you don't want to start in Saint Jean Pied de Port or Roncesvalles then Pamplona is a good alternative to begin.

Enjoy your preparations.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I think CF will probably be quiet in March and would suggest that in part because of when you’re walking (caminos with less pilgrims often don’t open albergues as early as CF) and the gluten-free requirements. It is difficult enough to get that across to people in restaurants (or read menus) in ones native tongue but even more complex in a foreign one. I think the chances of you finding gluten free products in markets may also be higher on CF.

If costs are very important you should review gronze.com or other websites (like https://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/
To be sure albergues will be open and their prices. As @SabineP said, another good way to avoid crowds (not that I think there will be any in March) is to avoid stopping at the towns listed in the guides as an end stage, instead stopping somewhere in between.

Buen Camino

Edit: also look at the websites to see albergue availability because who know with covid—right now some are closed which might mean using hotels more than you’d like on the Madrid so just keep an eye on things as March approaches (because there’s no predicting right now)
 
Last edited:

Levi

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2015
VDLP 2016
Portuguese March 2017
Sanabres September 2017
Madrid September 2018
I definitely vote for the Frances. I've walked both. Camino de Madrid is wonderful. But walking in September I met just five other pilgrims over two weeks. For a first time experience in March it's no contest...Frances. Be prepared for wind and rain and snow and sunshine. And hardy pilgrim companions. And all sorts of wonderful.
Then do the Madrid...and then....
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
switching to the primitivo
I would be remiss if I didn’t say how much I loved the Primitivo. I wasn’t paying attention to infrastructure re gluten free but just as a Camino it was my favorite. I’d suggest start on CF and if it’s too crowded (I’d be surprised at that in March) change to the Primitivo. There are easy places all along the Frances to do that by train or bus or a combination of those (and in some spots to change by foot). Or change just because…have I mentioned how beautiful it is?
 
Last edited:

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
Thanks all for your responses

@Marc S. Thanks for that it's what I was hoping for, do you know what the albergue situation is like on the Argonese?

@SabineP My reason for starting at Zaragoza was that I got the impression that March was still too early for crossing the Pyrenees, something about Napoleon opening at the end of the month. As an Irishman I'm used to walking in cold, wet, humid weather but have no experience in high mountains and heavy snow. Am I overestimating how much of struggle it would be to start from SJPdP?

@Smallest_Sparrow Yes I;ll definitely keep that in mind, I usually have a card of phrases with me when I'm abroad. I'm hoping to do the primitivo, get a good look at green spain.

@Levi Haha yeah here's to the first of many. Second on my list is actually the Tro Brezh
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Napoleon opening at the end of the month.
The Valcarlos route is open and people have posted some spectacular pictures of that route. In bad weather it’s better not only for safety but because in bad weather there are no good views on Napoleon. And as @SabineP mentioned, if the weather looks too bad for SJPdP or Roncesvalles then there’s always Pamplona.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
As an Irishman I'm used to walking in cold, wet, humid weather but have no experience in high mountains and heavy snow. Am I overestimating how much of struggle it would be to start from SJPdP?
Yes, you are probably overestimating the struggle, but the Napoleon route is closed until the end of March, so you would need to take the Valcarlos route. As others have suggested, you can always change your mind at the last minute - for example if the weather is bad - and start in Roncesvalles.

I haven't walked it, but I understand that the Camino de Madrid has a stage that could be problematic in March weather. A few days in, between Cercedilla and Valsain, the Puerto de Fuenfria peak is at 1793m, which is higher than the Napoleon route, and it could be cold and snowy.

I voted for the Frances. It will not be crowded in March.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
@SabineP My reason for starting at Zaragoza was that I got the impression that March was still too early for crossing the Pyrenees, something about Napoleon opening at the end of the month.
Regarding the mountain pass on the Camino de Madrid (Puerto de la Fuenfría) that @C clearly mentioned, we had snow in April 2019 the day after we crossed it and people behind us had to take transport in the following days. For this reason and others, I think the Francés makes more sense in your situation.
 
Last edited:
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Hola @Madrood Another vote for the Frances as a first Camino. I haven’t walked it since 2013, other than days here and there after the Le Puy, Aragones, Madrid and Primitivo and yes the numbers were a jolt (though no surprise) transitioning from those quieter Caminos.

We walk quieter routes these days and we loved the Madrid Way but for all the reasons outlined by others - and as you will be walking in March when by all accounts it will not be so busy - I’d also recommend the iconic Frances as a first Camino for sure - from start to finish if you can. It’s magical.

As others have said, there are options to switch along the Way if you find it not to your liking.

But beware - it’s likely you will be hooked 😎
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
@Marc S. Thanks for that it's what I was hoping for, do you know what the albergue situation is like on the Argonese?

There are enough albergues between Somport and Puenta la Reina on the Aragones (some really nice ones), although you may want to check how they are doing because of covid. You can find an overview here. https://www.gronze.com/camino-aragones

But I realize now that there may be snow in March (at least from Somport to Canfranc - when I walked in May I had to walk on the road because the path was too icey and snowey).
 
Past OR future Camino
Via de la Plata (2010, 2011) Camino Madrid (2013) Camino Mozarabe (March, April 2015) Camino Madrid (October 2015) Camino Mozarabe de Almeria a Granada (March 2017)
If you like Roads Less Travelled go with the Madrid. I have never walked the Frances. I have spent many happy days on the Madrid, the Mozarabe, the Via de la Plata and Del Cid. I am hoping to return to the Lana when we are let out of Australia. Maybe next year.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Madrid/San Salvador/Primitivo-2021
Hi everyone

First of all, thanks for the body of knowledge you've build up over the years, it's been very helpful.

I'm planning my first camino, and the default recommendation (taste in geography aside) for a long camino seems to be the Frances (from Zaragoza with Finisterre). But I notice that many here are also exasperated with the ever increasing crowds on it (which I want to avoid mainly for the scramble for accommodation), and I think I gather that it's more expensive for accommodation than others.

I also noticed that quite a few people here like or would like to try the Madrid camino, which seems to have good infrastructure for the small numbers who currently walk it.

Since these two have ~30% of their lengths in common, my current thinking is to do the Madrid camino (using one of the itineraries from here) to get the more solitary reflective experience, then have the latter stage of the CF for the more communal experience, with the option of switching to the primitivo (weather permitting) if it's too crowded.

But is the Madrid camino appropriate? I'm a coeliac (strict gluten-free, but otherwise fit) and I'm concerned about not having the safety net of the infrastructure of the CF. Is the CF a lot or a little quieter in March?

Of course if you've got a better idea, let me know! I've also considered the Norte and VdlP but they seem expensive, please set me right on this if it isn't true. (Expensive meaning the costs of albergues and food). I get the impression that the Portuguese one has similar crowding issues and with fewer options between Lisbon and Porto.

Thanks for any and all help and ideas :)

I guess it depends on what you mean by quiet on the Frances and also when you are starting in March.

First, everything depends on Covid. If it continues on current path that is good. That said, there is a lot of pent up demand so I think the CF will be crowded, even in March.

The CM will probably not be crowded but you will have to go over the pass between Cercedilla and Segovia. It could have significant snow. Other than that the route will be woods and Meseta to Sahagun.

The switch from the Frances to Primitivo will require walking the San Salvador, which might require some snow walking, to get to the Primitivo.

I have walked them all, in the Spring, and if you have specific questions just ask here or a PM?
 
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jsalt

Jill
Past OR future Camino
Portugués, Francés, LePuy, Rota Vicentina, Norte, Madrid, C2C, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés, Inglés
We had to take the train from Cercedilla to Segovia at the end of March because of snow, but that was OK, the rest of the CdM was perfectly walkable.

However, for a FIRST camino, I would say: definitely the CF.

BUT, having said that, my first camino was the Portugues – which is still my first love . . . . 🙂
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
Thanks all again for the advice;

@MarianneGardner I do like a quiet walk but it's mainly the infrastructure I'm concerned about, and the availability of gluten free food. I have looked into the others (except the cid, never heard of that one) and they all seem to sparse albergues, which I would prefer to stay in to keep costs down. Is this accurate?

@jpflavin1 Yes I was concerned about the pent-up walkers too, that and the yearly increases of traffic on the CF were my main reasons for looking elsewhere. How dangerous is the snow walking in spring in the CdM mountain pass? I have some experience walking in icy weather but not snowfall. Does it require special gear other than normal winter hiking clothes? Any tips on spring hiking would be helpful

@Jenny@zen Thanks, I'll keep that in mind

@jsalt the Portuguese was actually the first one I read up on, I ended up moving away from it because I wanted a ~1 month camino and the lisbon-porto section was described as having fewer albergues and not great scenery.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Madrid/San Salvador/Primitivo-2021
Thanks all again for the advice;

@MarianneGardner I do like a quiet walk but it's mainly the infrastructure I'm concerned about, and the availability of gluten free food. I have looked into the others (except the cid, never heard of that one) and they all seem to sparse albergues, which I would prefer to stay in to keep costs down. Is this accurate?

@jpflavin1 Yes I was concerned about the pent-up walkers too, that and the yearly increases of traffic on the CF were my main reasons for looking elsewhere. How dangerous is the snow walking in spring in the CdM mountain pass? I have some experience walking in icy weather but not snowfall. Does it require special gear other than normal winter hiking clothes? Any tips on spring hiking would be helpful

@Jenny@zen Thanks, I'll keep that in mind

@jsalt the Portuguese was actually the first one I read up on, I ended up moving away from it because I wanted a ~1 month camino and the lisbon-porto section was described as having fewer albergues and not great scenery.
I crossed the mountain early April and there was a foot of snow for 5k. I just walked in my hiking shoes but it really slowed me down. There are picture in a Madrid thread from 2016.

I am currently in Manzanares de real now. Looking forward to walking over a snow free mountain.

I walk in hiking shoes an under armor t-shirt and a fleece. If it gets cold l put on my rain gear. I have only had three snow days in 10 Caminos.

The Salvador was a little tougher with 9-12ft. frozen drift. I posted those
Pics also 2014?
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
That's generally what I wear too, sounds good.

To be completely honest, I accept everything everyone says here about the benefits of the CF; but while my head is with you all my heart is on a quieter dirt track.

I think my issue with the CF (maybe there's some anti-hype going on) is that it feels a bit too safe. While I always have to work with the coeliac thing, I'm also a semi-experienced hiker; I've done a number of 30 km single day hikes over semi-mountainous terrain in winter and do a 15-20 km walk most days (I'm in my 20s), and the amount of pavement on the CF plus the sort of package holiday feel of it (which I could be being completely unfair about) just doesn't seem like an adventure/journey/test to me. Sorry if this seems like I'm dismissing the advice here, I'm not, I just feel like after some reflection I'm not being honest with myself about the kind of camino I'd like to do if I do the CF.

Something I forgot to mention is that my local airport has a direct flight to Malaga but nowhere else in mainland Europe. This makes it much easier to start the CdM or VdLP (maybe with the Via August/Serrana too) than the others. I was thinking if I did the VdlP as far as Caceres, then switched to Madrid I would be more likely to avoid the snow in Segovia problem. Or I could just do the VdlP; I think the Mozarbe from Malaga is too much.

What is the VdM like compared to the VdLP? Am I being unfair to the CF?
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Madrid/San Salvador/Primitivo-2021
That's generally what I wear too, sounds good.

To be completely honest, I accept everything everyone says here about the benefits of the CF; but while my head is with you all my heart is on a quieter dirt track.

I think my issue with the CF (maybe there's some anti-hype going on) is that it feels a bit too safe. While I always have to work with the coeliac thing, I'm also a semi-experienced hiker; I've done a number of 30 km single day hikes over semi-mountainous terrain in winter and do a 15-20 km walk most days (I'm in my 20s), and the amount of pavement on the CF plus the sort of package holiday feel of it (which I could be being completely unfair about) just doesn't seem like an adventure/journey/test to me. Sorry if this seems like I'm dismissing the advice here, I'm not, I just feel like after some reflection I'm not being honest with myself about the kind of camino I'd like to do if I do the CF.

Something I forgot to mention is that my local airport has a direct flight to Malaga but nowhere else in mainland Europe. This makes it much easier to start the CdM or VdLP (maybe with the Via August/Serrana too) than the others. I was thinking if I did the VdlP as far as Caceres, then switched to Madrid I would be more likely to avoid the snow in Segovia problem. Or I could just do the VdlP; I think the Mozarbe from Malaga is too much.

What is the VdM like compared to the VdLP? Am I being unfair to the CF?
Are you looking for a route where you will meet people? Do you speak Spanish?

Considering you age and physical condition, you could walk any Camino.

The Madrid is less traveled than the VdlP.
It might also have snow in the Spring between Cercedilla and Segovia.

You could also walk the Mozarabe from Malaga to Cordoba.

Lots of options and some still not mentioned.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
Sorry if this seems like I'm dismissing the advice here, I'm not, I just feel like after some reflection I'm not being honest with myself about the kind of camino I'd like to do if I do the CF.
This is completely fair. Hopefully, reading the various opinions and suggestions has helped you evaluate what you are seeking, and also help with expectations and preparation.
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
If it's ok I might make a new thread on this since it isn't a direct comparison between CF and CdeM anymore. Thanks all again for your advice :D
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
The "package tour" hordes are unlikely to be on the Frances in march. It usually does get busy around easter, which is mid April next year, so that shouldn't affect you if you start early enough. Early march is basically still winter.

The CF has a very special vibe, which definitely shouldn't be underestimated. There's a reason why so many love that route (and that reason is not only the good infrastructure).

It will also still be difficult enough. In early spring not all albergues will be open, so you'll walk longer days and have fewer options regarding lodging and food. There will be rain and wind and mud and maybe snow.

There's a difference between a 30km day walk where you quickly return back home into your comfort zone, and walking 30 or so consecutive days in another country, without knowing where you'll end up at the end of the day. That can already be a bit of an adventure ;-)

If you feel called to walk one of the more solitary routes, that's of course great, too :) Only you know what's the way you need to walk.

But don't forget, the Camino in general is not a wilderness hike. There will always be towns and people, that's part of it.

Whatever you decide, Buen Camino!
 
Last edited:
Past OR future Camino
2022_ViadelaPlata
@Madrood In your poll, I cast a vote for CF rather than CdeM as a first camino (particularly as you will be walking a hopefully quiet time in March) But you have lots of information so I'm sure you will come to the right choice for you - and there are always possibilities to switch it up if you need to.

As you mentioned the Via de La Plata as a possibility - some information that may be useful - there is a very good and detailed Virtual Planning thread on the site -courtesy of @AJGuillaume and others - sorry that I'm not sure how to send you to that link directly - (I'd love to know!) - but you can find it on the Home Page of the forum under the area that lists the various routes.

We are planning to walk from Seville to Astorga starting in Seville on 1 April.

We walked the Madrid Way in September 2018 - and loved it. We saw very few pilgrims and, at that time, there were not a lot of options for stages or accommodation. I think that is still the case. There are recent threads on here from people who have just walked it - so that could be helpful. Perhaps the VdelP is a little more popular so more chance of enjoying the company of others - I'm not sure.

P.S. I think I mentioned earlier - as did others - the Primitivo. if you start on the Frances and it's not for you, it's easy to switch to the Primitivo at Leon - or earlier to the Norte and then the Primitivo. I LOVE the Primitivo - just sayin.

Best wishes for your thinking and planning. Buen Camino
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
I've restarted this thread at:


@good_old_shoes Yes I think I'm guilty of chronically underestimating the Frances, I keep imagining it as a 'conga-line' along the side of a road with a string of motels along the side 😝 I don't mind the towns and people at all,I feel like if I did the CF I would enjoy it but I'm just inclined to always go for the quieter road.

@Jenny@zen I'll start a conversation, is that how it works? Otherwise I'll dig through the forum, plenty of wisdom to unearth yet. If I do the VdlP then I would only be 2 weeks ahead of you, Buen Camino! I'm not picky about the accommodation so long as there is at least one cheap albergue. I'll keep reading those threads on CdeM though. The Primitivo seems great, the only thing I have against it is that it's short.
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
As you mentioned the Via de La Plata as a possibility - some information that may be useful - there is a very good and detailed Virtual Planning thread on the site -courtesy of @AJGuillaume and others - sorry that I'm not sure how to send you to that link directly - (I'd love to know!) - but you can find it on the Home Page of the forum under the area that lists the various routes.
It's very easy to post a link to another thread. When you are on the other thread simply copy the URL (page address) from the search bar at the top of your browser, then paste it into your comments, et voila!
 
Past OR future Camino
2022_ViadelaPlata
It's very easy to post a link to another thread. When you are on the other thread simply copy the URL (page address) from the search bar at the top of your browser, then paste it into your comments, et voila!
Yikes, of course that's how I would from any website. Thank you. Is there such a thing as 'lockdown brain'.
 

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