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Comparing the Invierno to other caminos

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Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
Note from the mods. I moved this question out of a discussion about backpack transport on the Invierno, since this is a much harder nut to crack and deserves its own space.

Thanks. I found @El Cascayal ’s post about the taxi place and wrote down their numbers. I’m going to WhatsApp them and Casa Mar.

Frankly, I am just dragging my feet a bit because I’m not sure we should attempt the Invierno, just trying to make sure that our desire to do the route does not outweigh our common sense!

Any advice would be appreciated. How does the Invierno compare to the Primitivo or to the Vasco in difficulty? 🙄😮
 
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Past OR future Camino
Sept. 2022 El Salvador, Oct. 2022 Tui Portugués
@ebrandt, Do go on the Invierno! It is strikingly beautiful and rewarding. More places to stay are becoming available. I would take off right now if I could.
Manuel Mar in Sobradelo was spectacular transport from Ponferrada to Santiago and ridiculously affordable. We encouraged him to raise his prices, yes it was that low. Buen Camino de Invierno, I do hope you decide to go! Loads of great information on this Forum!
PS: Manuel was available in November. Last year the only other transport was Taxi Angel asking nearly 2-3 times the price compared to Manuel.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Any advice would be appreciated. How does the Invierno compare to the Primitivo or to the Vasco in difficulty? 🙄😮

In the “normal, regular” post, when someone asks — how hard is this or that, or how does this compare to this or that, I may tediously opine that the person asking the question has no idea how fit the people answering are, and the people answering have no idea how fit the person asking is. As @Vacajoe pointed out on another thread asking a similar question about a different camino, though, those threads are good for general heads up alerts — like, beware the descent into Zubiri, or the one into El Acebo, etc etc. But for your particular situation, @ebrandt (i.e., walking partner with miniscus injury that has subsided for now on the Francés), I would resort to the gronze profiles and do some comparisons.

My gut impression/memory is that the Invierno is not as challenging as the Primitivo. But that’s very impressionistic. I did the Saiatz alternative on the Vasco, so I am not sure about a comparison with the “regular” route. VN can chime in here.

Since there is a mochila transport system going up and down the Invierno, if you get into difficulty at a particular place, you would probably be able to get someone to come get you. But the unanswerable question, I think, is how likely is it that you will need that assistance.

So hard to answer, but maybe more heads mulling it over will help you feel more sure about what the best option is.

And p.s., I’m going to start a new thread to see what the rest of the Invierno fan club says.
 
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
Thanks for moving to a separate thread, and I guess what I am looking for is impressions! This is helpful and maybe I’ll get some other thought. Also knowing that Bag transport is available helps too.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I might offer a dissenting opinion, but... I skipped 2 sections: A Rua to Montefurado (10 km by train) and Quiroga to A Ponte (21 km by taxi). Maybe they were the hardest and/or most beautiful parts, so my opinion isn't valid, but I think there is too much hype about the route, among the forum fan club. Don't get me wrong - it is an excellent route and a very good alternative to the Frances especially if you don't want the crowding and social pressure.

Aside from the issues in a couple of places, of getting stages of reasonable length, I did not find it particularly hard. I am not super fit, and I like 20 km days, but I just go slowly on hills. I walked two 30-km days, and I did Monte Faro, but not Pico Sacro since it was cloud covered. However, it only takes a few metres of bad surface to cause a problem for bad knees.

Liz - Don't feel pressured to "achieve" this! It's just another route to Santiago. Maybe I'm a grump, but I didn't find it stunningly beautiful. Las Medulas was stunning/ dramatic, but you could do that by other means. The descent to the Rio Minho was my favourite part, but nobody recommends that for you, this time. I think a boat excursion and/or winery tour around there would be fun!

I'm sorry if I'm creating confusion here, but I think there is too much emphasis on specific viewpoints, hills, landmarks, etc. For me, the route was a very good 2-week Camino, but I wouldn't rave about it except for the joy that I had in walking with my new 3 amigos. I liked the Vasco better for "beauty" and interest.
 
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hagans

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Done Frances , invierno May 2022
I might offer a dissenting opinion, but... I skipped 2 sections: A Rua to Montefurado (10 km by train) and Quiroga to A Ponte (21 km by taxi). Maybe they were the hardest and/or most beautiful parts, so my opinion isn't valid, but I think there is too much hype about the route, among the forum fan club. Don't get me wrong - it is an excellent route and a very good alternative to the Frances especially if you don't want the crowding and social pressure.

Aside from the issues in a couple of places, of getting stages of reasonable length, I did not find it particularly hard. I am not super fit, and I like 20 km days, but I just go slowly on hills. I walked two 30-km days, and I did Monte Faro, but not Pico Sacro since it was cloud covered. However, it only takes a few metres of bad surface to cause a problem for bad knees.

Liz - Don't feel pressured to "achieve" this! It's just another route to Santiago. Maybe I'm a grump, but I didn't find it stunningly beautiful. Las Medulas was stunning/ dramatic, but you could do that by other means. The descent to the Rio Minho was my favourite part, but nobody recommends that for you, this time. I think a boat excursion and/or winery tour around there would be fun!

I'm sorry if I'm creating confusion here, but I think there is too much emphasis on specific viewpoints, hills, landmarks, etc. For me, the route was a very good 2-week Camino, but I wouldn't rave about it except for the joy that I had in walking with my new 3 amigos. I liked the Vasco better for "beauty" and interest.
I thought the views on the invierno were better than the Frances overall. But that’s a generalisation. Shorter climbs in 35c Heat with no shade are tougher than longer climbs in inclement weather. Everything depends on circumstances 😃
 
I found the Primitivo more challenging than the Invierno. With the knowledge of the stages we've flagged for consideration (in a previous thread), I think you could relax your concerns Liz. And as mentioned above, it is very easy to move ahead and past a difficult stretch. If you need it, taxi or transport assistance is just a phone call away.

Impressions are all very subjective but for me a camino route becomes special for a variety of reasons beyond spectacular views. Every route I've walked has been a mix of things I've loved and things that were difficult. I chose the Invierno at a time that I needed quiet and time to think - it supported those two primary things well. The combination of understated as well as spectacular beauty, historical sites that I expected and those I discovered by chance, quirky villages, the kindness of the local people I met and yes some tough bits too, led me to really connect with and love this camino.

Maybe start in a gentle way. Skip the climb from Ponferrada and take a taxi to Villavieja and walk to Las Medulas on your first day. Everything will unfold from there in the way you need it to!
 
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Past OR future Camino
Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
Thank you all for such good and varied impressions. I think we will go ahead and do this. In the end, the key for Tom is the availability of pack transport. He is going to start carrying his pack again after Leon, but if this aggravates his knee we wanted to know it would be available. I suppose the pressure for me is not to do any particular route but to try something new. And the crowds on the last 100 km May been significant so it would be nice to avoid this! The Frances seems so busy some days compared to the Vasco. It’s actually been a hidden benefit to Tom’s knee injury that we have had to slow down. We have stayed in quieter places and, after all the gun no types have galloped past us, have walked a bit quieter route.
 

QuailHiker

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino del Norte y Primitivo (2018)
Thank you all for such good and varied impressions. I think we will go ahead and do this. In the end, the key for Tom is the availability of pack transport. He is going to start carrying his pack again after Leon, but if this aggravates his knee we wanted to know it would be available. I suppose the pressure for me is not to do any particular route but to try something new. And the crowds on the last 100 km May been significant so it would be nice to avoid this! The Frances seems so busy some days compared to the Vasco. It’s actually been a hidden benefit to Tom’s knee injury that we have had to slow down. We have stayed in quieter places and, after all the gun no types have galloped past us, have walked a bit quieter route.
Glad you’ve decided to move ahead. You’ve already received some good, recent advice, but I thought I’d chime in as well.

Two of us (70+) recently completed the Invierno after also doing about half the Olvidado (meaning we were already tired when we reached Ponferrada). I found the Invierno to be about as physically challenging as the Primitive (2018) but I’m four years older at an age when four years makes a difference. You WILL have some significant ascents and descents. The key is you will have the option to transport packs (we did not) as well as take taxis/trains to shorter certain stages (we did).

We walked for several days with C clearly, and I took the train with her from A Rua to Montefurado. I took a taxi several other days to shorten stages. Some of the likely stages are quite long given the elevation change, and shortening them helps maintain strength and good attitude. The “longer” stages are mostly at the start of the Invierno.

I walked all of the route after Chantada with no problems. Note that this is very much still a “road less traveled.” We saw very few other pilgrims until the last 100 km and, especially, after joining the Sanabres variant in A Laxe. Also, and especially early on, there are very long stretches without any services so plan accordingly.

Finally, although we didn’t use his baggage services or stay at his albergue in Sobradelo (Bar Mar), I’d endorse the helpfulness of Manuel Angel Martínez Ramos. Seems like a very nice guy.
 

EvaMarie

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Sanabrés (I think)
@QuailHiker I’m completely new in this forum (this is the first time I write something in here) and I also consider walking the Invierno this July from Ponferrada. Would you recommend calling/writing the albergues on beforehand to make reservations, or is there sufficient amount of accommodation relative to the amount of pilgrims?
Thanks :)
 
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F

Former member 99290

Guest
I might offer a dissenting opinion, but... I skipped 2 sections: A Rua to Montefurado (10 km by train) and Quiroga to A Ponte (21 km by taxi). Maybe they were the hardest and/or most beautiful parts, so my opinion isn't valid, but I think there is too much hype about the route, among the forum fan club. Don't get me wrong - it is an excellent route and a very good alternative to the Frances especially if you don't want the crowding and social pressure.

Aside from the issues in a couple of places, of getting stages of reasonable length, I did not find it particularly hard. I am not super fit, and I like 20 km days, but I just go slowly on hills. I walked two 30-km days, and I did Monte Faro, but not Pico Sacro since it was cloud covered. However, it only takes a few metres of bad surface to cause a problem for bad knees.

Liz - Don't feel pressured to "achieve" this! It's just another route to Santiago. Maybe I'm a grump, but I didn't find it stunningly beautiful. Las Medulas was stunning/ dramatic, but you could do that by other means. The descent to the Rio Minho was my favourite part, but nobody recommends that for you, this time. I think a boat excursion and/or winery tour around there would be fun!

I'm sorry if I'm creating confusion here, but I think there is too much emphasis on specific viewpoints, hills, landmarks, etc. For me, the route was a very good 2-week Camino, but I wouldn't rave about it except for the joy that I had in walking with my new 3 amigos. I liked the Vasco better for "beauty" and interest.
Thank you for this post @C clearly Interesting for me. I’m hoping to walk the Invierno some time - and I think I may be one of those in danger of having ‘great expectations’ of the Invierno. It’s a good reminder to me to keep those expectations in check.

I had another reminder of this on our recent Chemin du Piemont from Carcassone to SJPP. I had read in a couple of camino related sources that this route is ‘regarded as one of the most beautiful in terms of both natural and built environment’. I thought this was quite a big wrap and it was part of the allure and choosing that route for our available 3 weeks. In that respect, I was disappointed and for a while it affected my attitude. I found myself drawing comparisons with the Le Puy and Arles Ways and thinking the Piemont didn’t hold a candle to either. After the first week or so we even considered switching routes but we stuck with it. I’m not sorry that we did, and the last few days in the Basque Country were glorious. But, unlike most paths I’ve walked, I have no thoughts about walking it again.

So, what’s the point of this … just to say I appreciate your honesty of your experience of thé Invierno. And when our time comes for the Invierno I will try to take it as I find it and not to fall into the ‘great expectations’ trap as I did with the Piemont. 😎
 

QuailHiker

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino del Norte y Primitivo (2018)
@QuailHiker I’m completely new in this forum (this is the first time I write something in here) and I also consider walking the Invierno this July from Ponferrada. Would you recommend calling/writing the albergues on beforehand to make reservations, or is there sufficient amount of accommodation relative to the amount of pilgrims?
Thanks :)
We made reservations and were glad we did. Another pilgrim with us one day had to call four places until she found accommodations for the night.
 
Past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
Aside from the issues in a couple of places, of getting stages of reasonable length, I did not find it particularly hard. I am not super fit, and I like 20 km days, but I just go slowly on hills. I
@C clearly, my preference is 20km days, as well.
I recall a few years ago you had a website or a blog documenting your walks, and am wondering if you have added in your recent Invierno Camino, but can't remember how to find it...
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
blog documenting your walks, and am wondering if you have added in your recent Invierno Camino,
I had trouble focusing on the blog (well, it is always a bit of a chore) and gave up for awhile. I have now almost caught up, but think I will go back and do some editing to make it more informative, now that I'm home (just arrived last night). I will also post some info here.

The blog address is in my signature. It seems that for phone users of the forum, you don't see the signatures when you hold your phone in portrait (vertical) position. Rotate it sideways and you see more information on the screen, including signatures. Let me know if you can't.
 
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EvaMarie

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Sanabrés (I think)
We made reservations and were glad we did. Another pilgrim with us one day had to call four places until she found accommodations for the night.
Thank you for your quick answer. I'm surprised that it is necessary on a fairly quit route. But maybe it is also a good idea to make calls in order to make sure whether the different albergues is open/closed/closed for good? Is it possible to make reservations with municipal albergues?
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Another pilgrim with us one day had to call four places until she found accommodations for the night.
That was me. It had little or nothing to do with there being many pilgrims, because there were not! It was 5 pm on a Sunday afternoon in A Rua; there was a fiesta in O Barco, which could have been a factor. But maybe the owners had no other guests and did not want to bother changing all their Sunday afternoon plans at the last minute. (In fact one person essentially said to call back if I couldn't find something else.) I did find a room and there was no evidence of crowding anywhere.

I'm surprised that it is necessary on a fairly quit route. But maybe it is also a good idea to make calls in order to make sure whether the different albergues is open/closed/closed for good? Is it possible to make reservations with municipal albergues?
Perhaps it is preferable because it is a quiet route. I found that along the Invierno, there are few enough pilgrims, that accommodating them is very much a sideline rather than steady business.

If I were doing it again, I would certainly book a day or two ahead, because just showing up in town does not necessarily work best for anyone - either the pilgrim or the host. I think the owners of the family-run hostales prefer to know in advance so they can plan around your arrival. They are not staffed full-time!
 
F

Former member 99290

Guest
Perhaps it is preferable because it is a quiet route. I found that along the Invierno, there are few enough pilgrims, that accommodating them is very much a sideline rather than steady business.
I agree. It does seem counter-intuitive but this was very much the case on the Chemin du Piemont. We saw 3 pilgrims in 3 weeks - and two of them were walking just for a few days. Still, we realised after the first two days that we needed to book ahead as there was often just one- or maybe two - options. Welcoming pilgrims was not a full time occupation and understandably so. Sometimes people said 'Sorry we can't take you tomorrow night as our family are visiting or we will be away etc'. If you turned up after a long day expecting a bed and couldn't find one - it could be a LONG walk to the next.
 

EvaMarie

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Sanabrés (I think)
I agree. It does seem counter-intuitive but this was very much the case on the Chemin du Piemont. We saw 3 pilgrims in 3 weeks - and two of them were walking just for a few days. Still, we realised after the first two days that we needed to book ahead as there was often just one- or maybe two - options. Welcoming pilgrims was not a full time occupation and understandably so. Sometimes people said 'Sorry we can't take you tomorrow night as our family are visiting or we will be away etc'. If you turned up after a long day expecting a bed and couldn't find one - it could be a LONG walk to the next.
Thank you for elaborating on the subject. It makes perfect sense! This is so different from the C. Francés where the reason for booking in advance has a very different reason.
 

EvaMarie

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Sanabrés (I think)
That was me. It had little or nothing to do with there being many pilgrims, because there were not! It was 5 pm on a Sunday afternoon in A Rua; there was a fiesta in O Barco, which could have been a factor. But maybe the owners had no other guests and did not want to bother changing all their Sunday afternoon plans at the last minute. (In fact one person essentially said to call back if I couldn't find something else.) I did find a room and there was no evidence of crowding anywhere.


Perhaps it is preferable because it is a quiet route. I found that along the Invierno, there are few enough pilgrims, that accommodating them is very much a sideline rather than steady business.

If I were doing it again, I would certainly book a day or two ahead, because just showing up in town does not necessarily work best for anyone - either the pilgrim or the host. I think the owners of the family-run hostales prefer to know in advance so they can plan around your arrival. They are not staffed full-time!
It makes perfect sense, thank you for letting me know :)
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
It makes perfect sense, thank you for letting me know :)
It is funny because I was discouraged with the apparent difficulty/uncertainty of getting accommodation, and I couldn't figure it out. Once I realized that it is a favour all round to collaborate with the lodging operators by making arrangements in advance, I became much happier with the situation.

On the forum there is much talk about the bed race, the people who reserve and the people who disdain it, the lack of spontaneity when reservations are made, the evils of booking.com, the market effects of pilgrim spending, etc. - all from the perspective of the pilgrim. It is easy to forget the situation of the lodging operator. On the less travelled routes, those operators cannot stand at their doors to receive and welcome a stream of pilgrims. If they have chosen to use booking.com, then I am more than happy to use it too. Even if I reserve and cancel, the process is clear and simple for everyone.

I have decided that except for towns where I know there is a fairly large albergue or significant hotel capacity, I will henceforth (usually) book accommodation, although maybe only a day in advance.
 
Last edited:
Past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
If they have chosen to use booking.com, then I am more than happy to use it too. Even if I reserve and cancel, the process is clear and simple for everyone.
I am a big fan. It keeps all reservations in order by date and totally simplified my 25+ cancellations in 2020 due to covid in a matter of minutes.
 

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