I walked the Camino del Norte last May, and we got our credenciales in the Irun albergue. If you arrive in Hendaye, it's a short walk across the bridge to Irun. The albergue opens at 4 pm if my memory is correct, and the people are very helpful. It's not too large, I think there were three rooms with 2 or 3 bunk beds each. The Camino del Norte is beautiful, buen camino. Laurie
I understand there are a couple of albergues in Irun...I guess I'll work it out.
My plan is to fly from Sydney to Paris and take a train to Hendaye. I walked the Camino Francais in 2004 and have since developed a 'hankering' to go back and am sure this won't be my last.
I had no concerns about safety before but have read on the forum about issues some people have experienced, such as theft and assault.
I'd also like to hear first hand about accommodation. My little bit of research shows a reasonable number of refugios along the way...is this the case?
Any helpful hints would be most welcome.
Oh, and did it rain all through Galicia in May?
There may be some new albergues in Irun since last year, but I'm pretty sure that the only one when we were there was the newly opened one run by the camino Amigos in the area.
In response to your question about accommodation, last year I posted a list of our stops and stages -- el-camino-del-norte/topic2829.html (I hope that works to bring it up). In general I would say that you have to be a lot more serious about planning your stages if you want to stay mainly in albergues, they are not as plentiful or as frequent as on the Frances. We wound up staying in a lot more hotels and pensiones, but met people who were on a pretty strict albergue-only diet. It can be done.
We were lucky with weather, only a few truly rainy days. People a few days ahead and behind us were not as lucky it seems.
My hints would be:
-- Always take the E-9 (EU coastal path) whenever you can (you will see the signs). It always comes back to the camino, and the walks are jaw-dropping.
-- A little detour to Cudillero is really worth it, it's a lovely harbor town.
-- If you are not going down to Oviedo, try to take a detour to go to Valdedios. There's a beautiful pre-romanesque church in a meadow, and there's an albergue next to a monastery. Walking up out of the valley is just beautiful.
-- My favorite albergues were in Orio, Guemes, Comillas, Tapia, Baamonde, and Miraz.
-- Make friends with a German walker, because their guidebook is the best.
The Camino del Norte is not as much a part of the social fabric of the communities as the frances is. For instance, I remember when I was having breakfast early in Gernika and several people in the bar, as well as the waiters, all wanted to hear all about this walk I was doing. As I'm sure you know, that would never happen on the Frances.
One of our most touching moments was as we were about 8 km out of Oviedo, and a woman walking in the opposite direction put down her grocery cart on wheels and applauded as we walked past her. It was such a sweet gesture.
I walked several days alone when my partner didn't walk, and I don't think I ever ran into another walker while I was walking. I never felt unsafe, but I wouldn't have minded some human companionship now and then. I haven't heard anything about theft and assault on the Norte, but I am sure it can happen.
I hope you have a wonderful walk, and I look forward to hearing about it! Laurie