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Choosing a route

Jruder

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Fall 2024
My friend and I are planning our first Camino trip in Sept. 2024 and are struggling with choosing a route. The following list includes our wishes in determining a route. We realize that this is a “dream” list and that not all criteria may be met but would like to get any input as we plan based on this list. We thought we had decided on the Madrid route but the lack of English speaking natives (we are willing to try to speak Spanish as much as possible but are newbies) as well as fewer accommodations concerns us. The Madrid route provided an easier starting point for us (see #3 below).
1. We only have a week for the total trip and don’t feel the need to complete a 100 km nor start at a beginning or finish at the end. We just want to get a taste of the experience.
2. Would like to have sufficient accommodations to be flexible in our time and where we spend it so that we could get a place to stay the day of.
3. We will fly into Madrid and will most likely spend one day there to rest and sightsee before we begin the walk. We don’t want to have to spend a full day traveling to the beginning of our chosen trail(I.e. the beginning of the French way sounded like it would take a full day of travel to get to and so decided against this. This is why the Madrid route sounded good to us).
4. Routes that most often have English speaking people that may be able to help us if our Spanish speaking skills are rudimentary.
5. September travel where it would not be too hot and too rainy(I know that this cannot always be controlled and is wishful thinking but I think extreme heat would be the greatest concern).
6. Avoid huge crowds (I.e. the last 100 km from Sarria….).
7. Scenic…historical towns, rural views, etc…

Again, we realize that this list may be unrealistic but would appreciate any advice based on this list as we go forward with planning. Thanks! JRuder
 
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How about spend only half a day sightseeing in Madrid and take an evening train to Pamplona and start walking the Camino Francés from there the next morning?

You should be able to get transportation back to Madrid pretty easily from any of the towns that you end up in.

The Camino Francés will have the best infrastructure, including English speakers.
 
Depending on where you are coming from in the US, why limit your arrival location to Madrid? Fly to Porto and start from there or fly to Bilbao and start from there or transit to Pamplona. Language should not be a barrier. Most people speak English and if you do some language prep as far as knowing the basics you will do fine.
 
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If I remember Pamplona is after the Pyrannese trek is that right? I’ll check that out. Thank you.
 
Depending on where you are coming from in the US, why limit your arrival location to Madrid? Fly to Porto and start from there or fly to Bilbao and start from there or transit to Pamplona.
Good suggestions. I was thinking that maybe they had already bought their tickets to Madrid.
 
If I remember Pamplona is after the Pyrannese trek is that right? I’ll check that out. Thank you.
Yes, it is.
Gronze is a great site for information about distances, accommodations, etc. It's only in Spanish, but check if the browser that you use will do an auto translations. I know for sure that Chrome does.

 
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Depending on where you are coming from in the US, why limit your arrival location to Madrid? Fly to Porto and start from there or fly to Bilbao and start from there or transit to Pamplona. Language should not be a barrier. Most people speak English and if you do some language prep as far as knowing the basics you will do fine.
I think Madrid was cheaper for us from where we are flying from (Wichita, Kansas) and less complicated flight. I’ll check with my companion…she was looking into the flights and cost there. Thanks for this tip.
 
Hello.

I’m not familiar with the Madrid route so can’t comment on it. Longoño, Burgos and León on Camino Frances are 3-4hrs from Madrid on bus or train. According to www.gronze.com you could walk Logroño to Burgos in one week, or walk Burgos to Mansilla and then bus to León to get train/bus back to Madrid. I particularly loved the scenery between Logroño and Burgos. And the albergue at the church in Grañón is a very special experience.

I don’t know about the numbers on Madrid route and it depends on what you’re looking for, but the Frances offers the albergue infrastructure and plenty of fellow pilgrims. Temperatures may be a little lower than central Spain.

Buen Camino!IMG_1816.jpegIMG_1836.jpeg
 
My friend and I are planning our first Camino trip in Sept. 2024 and are struggling with choosing a route. The following list includes our wishes in determining a route. We realize that this is a “dream” list...
By far the easiest thing you could do is what trecile suggested. Sightsee a bit in Madrid and then take the 3 1/2 hour train ride to Pamplona. And start walking west. Best infrastructure, and the least amount of planning needed. Pamplona is a lovely town, then pretty small towns through a pastoral landscape. And a real taste of what the Camino is like.

Take a look at a guidebook if you can. My favorite is Moon, but anyone will do. Sometimes you can find them in the library branch. You could conceivably start in Burgos, Leon or Astorga as well. All would be slightly different trips and maybe you can see something that catches your fancy in the guidebook. You're definitely right, stay away from that last hundred kilometers.

Other suggestions are good, but they'll be more complicated. Buen Camino.
 
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Hmm, you have a week? Unless you’re gonna walk a bit of the Camino Madrid you’ll spend a day getting to one of the Camino routes and a day getting back to Madrid. My suggestion: fly to Madrid. Find a decent hotel somewhere near Atocha or Sol. Spend a day in the Prado and an evening on Calle de las Huertas or one of its parallels. On the following day visit the Parque del Retiro and spend the afternoon in the Reina Sofia. Calle San Blas should provide for another evening of experiences. After that just improvise. A week in one of the great European capitals is nowhere near long enough but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

A fleeting visit to a random bit of the Camino Frances is unlikely to be the experience that you expect or anticipate.
 
Thanks so much for all of the prompt advice. We do want to get as much walking in as possible in that week so I think we are planning on flying into Madrid and then taking the 3-4 hr train ride to a spot on the France route and head west. Looks like plenty of accommodations to plan day by day. Thanks again!
 
I think your best bet is likely to be Pamplona to Logroño on the Camino Frances. That is a bit less than 100 km so should fit into your time frame. Both cities are of a reasonable size with excellent transportation options to and from Madrid. It provides an excellent taste of the Camino with some lovely little villages, small medieval churches and cathedrals, medieval civic architecture like the bridge in Puente la Reina or the Palace of the Kings of Navarre in Estella, a wine fountain, and a great opportunity to celebrate the end of your walking with a tapas (or pinchos) crawl in Logroño, the capital of the La Rioja region known for its wines. It is part of the Camino Frances, so there is lots of infrastructure and it is much easier to get by with less Spanish than the Camino de Madrid. There will also be more of a pilgrim community, but it shouldn't be crowded. It will be after the Pyrenees bottleneck but long before numbers start to pick up in Leon and most especially after Sarria.
 
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Flying into Madrid then travel to a town on the Camino Francés seems your best option. Spanish public transport is good. From Madrid, Léon by train is probably the quickest place to get to.
 
On my first camino, I could say “Una cerveza por favor” and not much else. It added to the fun. I would not eliminate the Madrid camino.
 
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A wild alternative - the Camino de Uclés, which runs from (or to - you apparently can walk it in either direction) Uclés (in La Mancha south of Madrid) to Madrid, so you would just need to take a bus one-way either to or from Uclés. Looks like you can walk it in 6 days. I haven't walked it but am very intrigued for a future camino. It's not heavily traveled. There is more information on this particular camino elsewhere on other threads in this forum.
 
So many options..........

As a first taste of the Camino, I would pick the Camino Frances.

Easy to get a train from Madrid to many places along the Frances, like Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon.

If you are fit........(there's a small hill)

Maybe get a train to Leon, walk to Ponferrada, and train back from there.

That's a wonderful section of the Frances and includes the Cruz de Fero.
Dropping in on Davide Vidal, Astorga, Rabanal a charming monutain village, etc etc
 
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Depending on when you arrive, consider skipping Madrid and going straight to the camino starting point for your recovery day. The train connections are relatively easy. I've not been particularly impressed with the large modern city of Madrid compared to the old town sections of Logroño, Pamplona, Burgos, or Leon.
 
Depending on when you arrive, consider skipping Madrid and going straight to the camino starting point for your recovery day. The train connections are relatively easy. I've not been particularly impressed with the large modern city of Madrid compared to the old town sections of Logroño, Pamplona, Burgos, or Leon.
I agree with you there, I’m in the arts, so I always want to go to the art museums in Madrid, but otherwise, I wouldn’t stop. Madrid and Barcelona are international cities, not really that much different from other big international cities. The smaller places feel more uniquely Spanish and are much more pleasant.
 
My wife and I walked our first Camino 2 years ago. Camino Portugues from Vigo to Santiago. We had decided before we left that getting a Compostela in Santiago was not that important to us, it was, we told ourselves, only a piece of paper. But as the days went by we found ourselves increasingly committed to walking the full 100km and getting that "only a piece of paper". Entering Santiago, standing in front of the Cathedral, going to the Pilgrims' Office, were all quite magical. I have to admit that tears were shed.

If I were you (and I appreciate that I am not!) I would fly to Madrid and hop straight on to a short 75 minute flight to Vigo. Enjoy the cities of Vigo and Pontevedra; take the boat from Vilanova de Arousa into (almost) Padrón and then on to Santiago. The walks between are, in my personal opinion, breathtaking. And in Santiago, should you choose to, you can collect that little piece of paper.

And from Santiago you can fly back to Madrid.

The Portugues is, I believe, the second most popular Camino with half the traffic of the Frances. The infrastructure is good and there are many places to stay. English is widely spoken as the owners of the cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels and albergues are all very familiar with the needs of their international guests. And even when English is not spoken they seem to understand that you are asking for two beers, a sandwich and the wifi code.

Last year I walked 200k on the Camino Frances. Next year I will be going back to the Portugues with my family.

Good luck with your planning. With the effort you are putting in to the research I'm sure you will make the right choice for you.
 
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Another possibility would be to fly to A Coruña and walk the Camino Ingles. That takes about a week and has great pilgrim infrastructure. It's a lovely walk.
 
I think if your main priority is to walk a Camino then get out of Madrid and onto a Camino asap. Unless your arrival time is late evening you should be able to do that in one day.
I think a train to Pamplona (basically the ‘start’ of the Francés (you will probably want to come back and finish at another’s time) or the end of the Portugese from Vigo as suggested.
Both are lovely Caminos and well supported for the non Spanish speaking ‘newbie’. You will be well taken care of.
Buen Camino
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I would be inclined to suggest one of the routes from Porto if you were prepared to use that as you port of entry. English is more widely spoken in Portugal, and all your other criteria would then be met as well.

Otherwise, if you are not walking from Madrid, you will have to factor in at least one day or perhaps two to get to your start point and then back to Madrid. My own preference in that circumstance would be to walk for a week from Leon or Astorga, but other start points that I think would work for five or six days would be Pamplona, Puenta la Reina or Logrono.

The other way to think about planning this is to end your walk at a major hub town with good connexions back to Madrid. Leon or Burgos seem most obvious on the CF, but there are others like Ponferrada, Astorga or even Sarria. Getting to your start point might then be a little more complicated, but it puts that complication at the start, where you might have more flexibility, rather than the end, where you will be less tolerant of delays, etc that might cause you to miss your flights home.
 
Another possibility would be to fly to A Coruña and walk the Camino Ingles. That takes about a week and has great pilgrim infrastructure. It's a lovely walk.
I wanted to add that if you should walk the Camino Ingles, you would have the additional thrill of ending up in Santiago. Chances are, if you book a plane to A Coruña or Ferrol, you'll have to change planes in Madrid. That's what we did last year going to A Coruña, but it was easy to do that. To get back home, it is a quick hour or less train ride from Santiago back to A Coruña if you want to do the round trip from there.
 
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A couple of thoughts. Consider an open jaw ticket, flying into one airport and out of another . We’ve done this several times to Europe , including into Biarritz and out of Santiago. It’s unlikely to be much pricier than a straight round trip. And while I can’t speak for other routes , two nice stretches on the CF that would be about seven days are SJPdP to Logrono ( fly into Biarritz and out of Madrid?) or Astorga to Sarria which would give you the Cruz de Ferro and O Cebriero and some beautiful scenery. There are train connections from Madrid to Astorga and Sarria to Santiago where you could also see the Cathedral.
The Renfe website is good for train connections.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Wow! So many options meeting all/most of our criteria! Thanks for the input. We will be busy checking out these options. You are all so helpful 😊
 
Hi... looking thru the thread I see not much mention of the Madrid Camino itself. 7 days starting in Madrid (or a short train ride out to start at Tres Cantos) would get you as far as Coca and with it a big variety of terrain, villages palaces, castles etc. Plus it would allow a day in stunning Segovia. Happy to send details of our days / stops if it is of interest. We did it last year and it was solid but doable walk.
 
Hi... looking thru the thread I see not much mention of the Madrid Camino itself. 7 days starting in Madrid (or a short train ride out to start at Tres Cantos) would get you as far as Coca and with it a big variety of terrain, villages palaces, castles etc. Plus it would allow a day in stunning Segovia. Happy to send details of our days / stops if it is of interest. We did it last year and it was solid but doable walk.
That was @Jruder's original plan, but after posting this thread changed their mind for various reasons.
 
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Hi... looking thru the thread I see not much mention of the Madrid Camino itself. 7 days starting in Madrid (or a short train ride out to start at Tres Cantos) would get you as far as Coca and with it a big variety of terrain, villages palaces, castles etc. Plus it would allow a day in stunning Segovia. Happy to send details of our days / stops if it is of interest. We did it last year and it was solid but doable walk.
Thanks! We originally chose the Madrid route but for various reasons (few English speaking, less accommodations for flexibility, doubt about that trek into Segovia, …) and so decided to take the advice to start somewhere in the Frances. There are so many options! I have the feeling that we will be back. I’m retired and so can be flexible in my time but my friend is still working and so for this first Camino we only have 1 week. I think either way we are going to learn a lot and get everything we can out of it. The Madrid route really intrigues me and I imagine it is in my future.
 
I would advise not spending time sightseeing in Madrid. That’s not what you are there for and you don’t have a lot of time. In any event, resting and sightseeing are two conflicting goals. The Frances is your best bet. Get to your starting point as fast as possible and then rest there, or sightsee if you have the energy. Starting in Pamplona is a great idea. The section from Pamplona to Burgos is wonderful. Or start in Leon or even Astorga and get some walking in the mountains. Don’t feel pressure to start in SJPP. Don’t create a big “to do list”. Just walking the Camino each day will fill your days with things to do and see and people to meet. It will also take a lot of energy. Buen Camino!
 
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Planning our first Camino trip in Sept. 2024 and are struggling with choosing a route.
We only have a week for the total trip and ... just want to get a taste of the experience.

As I understand the bare bones of your itinerary:

Day 1 - across the Pond to Madrid
Day 2 - Madrid sightseeing
...
Day 7 - return across the Pond

Leaving you four days to (get to a start point,) walk and return to Madrid.

First thoughts are to walk the Camino Madrid as you are already at the start point. Gronze.com (select English as you wish) gives the outline of the route and suggests a range of accommodation.
Although most of the suggestions seem to be more than a reasonable distance from the marked route.
My quick glance at Gronze suggests you could walk three stages for about 70 km (not miles) and return to Madrid on the fourth day.
On the other hand, the Madrid is a route not well travelled. For 2023 arrival statistics say 1,523 started at Madrid. And the accommodation appears to be private room. On either count this may not give you "a taste".

While I get it you prefer not to arrive anywhere in particular, logistics might suggest otherwise.

My first suggestion is as follows, not withstanding you preference not to be in large groups and preference not to travel too far/long.
Day 2 - Madrid - later afternoon train to Compostela and accommodation
Day 3 - bus to Melide and walk 14 km to Arzua
Day 4 - walk 19 km to O Pedrouzo
Day 5 - walk 19 km to Compostela
Day 6 - train back to Madrid

This suggestion will give you a wider range of accommodation to select from and should give you a good taste of the Camino experience.

In greater recognition of your stated preferences, I also suggest
Day 2 - Madrid - later afternoon train to Sahagun and accommodation
Day 3 - walk 18 km to El Burgo Ranero
Day 4 - walk 18 km to Mansilla de las Mulas
Day 5 - walk 18 km to Leon
Day 6 - train Leon to Madrid

As you have not identified your existing long distance walking experience, I have assume minimal and have chosen not to overwhelm you. Plus, train travel normally works out OK in Europe (in my experience at least) I have included sufficient buffers to cope with timetable and/or operational changes.

If you wanted to pick up the pace, then Sahagun, Reliegos, Leon and two days to Astorga is a possibility.

And so, @Jruder, I say kia kaha, kia māia, kia man'wa'nui (take care, be strong, patient and confident)
 
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