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Does CF feel like a crowded theme park now?

jcheneyjc

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
There are a few places where it is over-commercialized. However, in the last couple of years on the CF, I walked alone through beautiful natural areas, visited with Spanish people in sleepy villages, and managed to avoid crowds by letting them pass. I like the guidebook by Raimund Joos and the Wise Pilgrim app on the phone.
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19)
I can't speak to 15 years ago, but the answer is no, its not a theme park,.........except for parts after Sarria. Walk through Sarria, and stay off the Brierly stages.

Its still a mixture of surfaces, though crushed rock has flourished in most places. Its a walk through the country side. The tiny villages are in fact tiny, some with just a bar serving pilgrims as the only reason they are still there.

There are a LOT of people on it in the summer months. There are tours, but mostly in the last 100K. There are a LOT of albergues, but even so, it can still be tricky to find a bed, although everyone does. The cyclists are annoying, but there are not so many of them.

Stay away from walking May-September, and you will have a wonderful time. During the busiest months its crowded, but still not a theme park.
 

howlsthunder

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2018)
Camino Francés (2020)
I've only walked it once, last year (2018) in April/May. I was afraid of this same thing but I only experienced that sense of commercialization on the final 100K, at which point I chalked it up to part of the "spiritual challenge" portion of the Camino. ;) I am honestly surprised when people talk about disliking or not wanting to do the CF because of over population or commercialization because it just wasn't my experience, but I think two things I did had something to do with that:
  • I walked during a 'shoulder season' period
  • I purposely tried to stay "off-stage" (meaning I tried not to stay overnight in places that were also Brierley stage end-points)
The few times I did line up with a Brierley stage were usually in the big cities (Burgos, Leon) and I saw some commercialization but didn't really mind; maybe because it was my first Camino, I was excited to see reflections of that around me. But all the small villages were very small and not commercialized-feeling to me. Your kilometers may vary. ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
TDMB 2016
Cotswold Way 2018
I did CF in Sept/Oct 2017. It was well travelled, especially in the beginning, but not so that I felt I was walking in hordes. There was often someone visible ahead of me on the trail. There was often someone visible behind me. I never felt crowded. There were groups of cyclists from time to time, but not such that it felt obtrusive. Just stand aside, let them pass, and 30 seconds later all is back to normal. The only large, organized groups I encountered were after Sarria, and by that time I was too chill to be concerned, and actually found their enthusiasm enjoyable. The worst case of rank tourism I encountered were all the tourists crowding into the Pilgrim’s mass at the Cathedral in Santiago so I had to wait until a later one myself.

In exchange for the growing popularity I enjoyed a large selection of Albergues and hotels, options in nearly every town, many choices of places to buy food and supplies, well marked trails that were safe, you get the idea.

Brierley is a good guidebook, but I also learned that taking shorter segments and stopping at mid-points of his segments were quieter. Brierley lays out a plan for doing the Camino in 33 days or so, but if you set your own pace and have a little more time there are hundreds of ways to break it up. I had a few guidebooks and apps on my phone, and Brierley in hardcopy in my bag. They were all helpful in some way.

When I think back on it, the thing I found most enjoyable were the people I met from all over the world. The fact they were there made my camino great. I would not have wanted it any other way. I look forward to doing it again some day, and I hope more people have the opportunity to experience it. I was not looking for solitude so much as blessings, and I found those blessings in the people I met.

Not a theme park.

Buen camino.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); Fall (2020) I hope
I concur with everything already written. My advice is stay away from the Brierley stages whenever possible. I also suggest avoiding the crowded summer season. I walked in the fall of 2015 and loved every kilometer of it.
 

caminoagogo

http://camino-a-go-go.blogspot.com/
Camino(s) past & future
Francés from Leon(2014)
Frances & Sanabres from Ourense (2018)
Portugués (2020)
@jcheneyjc I switched from the Frances to the Sanabres when I reached Sarria to both avoid the crowds and because I'd done the Sarria to Santiago stretch before. It was very easy to do (one train, about an hour), I met lots of VdlP peeps (which only fired my desire to do it one day), the walk was beautiful, it was cheaper than the Frances AND, from all reports from friends that I reconnected with in Santiago, I definitely made the right choice as it was B U S Y. This was April and May last year, so not even peak season. All my stages can be found here: https://camino-a-go-go.blogspot.com/2018/05/day-27-ourense-to-cotelas.html.

As for a guide book, I carry Brierley and have the Wise Pilgrim app on my phone for the best of both worlds.

Buen Camino:)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).
Not really true. There are several threads explaining how to manage the few stages that are over 30 km. I managed to find my way from Seville to Astorga without much difficulty.😀
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (1994)
Camino Francés (2013 - 2018)
Camino Portugués (2015 - 2018)
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
theme park seems a bit exaggerated, but perhaps I'm not a purist.
in any case, the vast majority of the (hundreds of) pilgrims I have encountered appear to be carrying their backpacks, which may be an indicator of something.

avoid the 'rush hours' once you get past León, you'll walk alone. and yes, there still are tiny villages and hamlets, lots of cafes and accommodation (closer to Galicia) and lots of trails and paths.
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Good question. I have noticed changes over the last fourteen years but no commercialism in the way of famous shrines and their souvenir shops and beggars. Every village seems to have a bar now! and there are more pilgrims, sure. Fifteen years ago it was about 100,000 and now it is about 240,000 but it isn't a linked chain of pilgrims, there is still plenty of space - except that the last 100kms in high season has become crazily busy strange indeed!

Is 'busy' a problem? It is after all a pilgrimage, not a hike in the wilderness - personally I love the hugga-mugga of many people moving westwards. If your reasons are spiritual then whether it is busy or empty has no significance as the process is internal, don't you think?

Many sections have been 'upgraded' with concrete paths - hard on the feet, but marvellous if it rains. But you will find that there are two main differences that will strike you I think. Luggage carrying has become common so you will meet or see many walking with no strain, just tiny day packs with a sandwich in them, though most pilgrims seem to still be doing it the old way - and there are many 'holiday' groups now .. all walking together, sometimes with a leader who tells them what to look at (!) and they can appear odd to the solo pilgrim with a pack as they stick together and always seem ultra clean and energetic ... they don't seem to wear into the Camino over time somehow - but - we are all pilgrims.
Another thing that I have noticed that is different to years ago is that then pilgrims just seemed to pick up their old pack and chose clothes fairly suitable for walking and went on Camino but now you will see so many in expensive designer 'hiking' clothing, expensive packs, all their clothing and packs with logos printed on them - it can look quite strange (does to me).
If it were me I would do the Frances as it is the most "pilgrimy" of the Caminos, and this includes the numbers of pilgrims that are there.

The Brierley is the best guide there is, full of informative information, though rather heavy. The negative to the Brierley is that many people see it as a rule book, not a guide book, so they keep to the day stages - regardless of how well or unwell they feel - and this is a mistake as the end of the day stages is where it is most busy - better by far to use it as a guide book and stay your nights in between the stages.
There is a trimmed down 'maps only' version of the guide - thinner, lighter, and therefore possibly preferable to the full guide.

Hope this helps

Buen Camino!
 
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Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
If you end up on the VdlP do not worry about marking - it’s good. And you can always download the track onto maps.me if you’re carrying a smart phone so you’d never need to get lost!
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I walked the Camino Frances in 1990, 2002 and 2016. In the gaps between those walks the changes have been profound. Not only in sheer numbers walking though that in itself is startling. There has been a huge commercialization of the Caminos: evident in the phenomenal growth of private businesses which exist solely to cater to the needs of pilgrims (albergues, bars, luggage transport) and the never-ending use of Camino imagery for advertising (the scallop shell, yellow arrow, pilgrim silhouette or just the word itself). I found the latter very depressing: is it likely that I will walk past a bar just because it does not have a big yellow shell or arrow on its sign board? :confused: Sarria in particular is a sea of yellow and blue Camino graphics which even Disney would find in questionable taste. In fairness I should say that for most of the way these things do not detract a great deal from the experience but in hotspots like Sarria they are now very troubling for me. I now look elsewhere for quieter routes more to my liking. In the past year or so that has included the Via de la Plata which I found quite well marked but which does demand more planning and greater physical effort than the Camino Frances. A price well worth paying in my opinion.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Good question. I have noticed changes over the last fourteen years but no commercialism in the way of famous shrines and their souvenir shops and beggars. Every village seems to have a bar now! and there are more pilgrims, sure. Fifteen years ago it was about 100,000 and now it is about 240,000 but it isn't a linked chain of pilgrims, there is still plenty of space - except that the last 100kms in high season has become crazily busy strange indeed!

Is 'busy' a problem? It is after all a pilgrimage, not a hike in the wilderness - personally I love the hugga-mugga of many people moving westwards. If your reasons are spiritual then whether it is busy or empty has no significance as the process is internal, don't you think?

Many sections have been 'upgraded' with concrete paths - hard on the feet, but marvellous if it rains. But you will find that there are two main differences that will strike you I think. Luggage carrying has become common so you will meet or see many walking with no strain, just tiny day packs with a sandwich in them, though most pilgrims seem to still be doing it the old way - and there are many 'holiday' groups now .. all walking together, sometimes with a leader who tells them what to look at (!) and they can appear odd to the solo pilgrim with a pack as they stick together and always seem ultra clean and energetic ... they don't seem to wear into the Camino over time somehow - but - we are all pilgrims.
Another thing that I have noticed that is different to years ago is that then pilgrims just seemed to pick up their old pack and chose clothes fairly suitable for walking and went on Camino but now you will see so many in expensive designer 'hiking' clothing, expensive packs, all their clothing and packs with logos printed on them - it can look quite strange (does to me).
If it were me I would do the Frances as it is the most "pilgrimy" of the Caminos, and this includes the numbers of pilgrims that are there.

The Brierley is the best guide there is, full of informative information, though rather heavy. The negative to the Brierley is that many people see it as a rule book, not a guide book, so they keep to the day stages - regardless of how well or unwell they feel - and this is a mistake as the end of the day stages is where it is most busy - better by far to use it as a guide book and stay your nights in between the stages.
There is a trimmed down 'maps only' version of the guide - thinner, lighter, and therefore possibly preferable to the full guide.

Hope this helps

Buen Camino!
I walked the Camino Frances from StJPdP in 2012. It was my first experience of doing anything even remotely like it & it changed my life...something for which I'll be forever thankful. It is responsible for sending me & many, many others in a whole new direction.
However having said that, I personally have no desire to do it again. I have thousands of kilometres under my belt since then, on other Caminos, pilgrimage & non-pilgrimage walks. I love it, I'm addicted to it & always have the next few years of trails simmering away in my mind. I'm heading off in March to walk the Via Francigena from London to Rome & 2020 plans to combine the Camino Mozarabe with the Via de la Plata are already brewing away...
I prefer to leave the Camino Frances stand on its own for the extraordinary experience it is/was...why repeat it when there is a whole world of trails, pilgrimage & otherwise, out there? Also, after having experienced less well known paths and more solitary walks, I would now find the CF too crowded as a whole. Yes, I know its still possible to walk sections without another soul in sight...these are balanced out by the 'circus' sections...however it is a very well-trodden path; all the kinks have been ironed out, gaps in facilities etc, filled. Maybe that's the appeal for some. Long distance walking is always challenging by nature...get up & walk day after day after day. For me now though, I seek the additional challenges of maybe having to navigate My Own Way (as with the VF) or deal with lack of accommodation & other facilities or resolving problems on my own as there's no-one else around.
I guess it comes down to; why do you want to do it again? I know there are many CRO's (Camino Repeat Offender) out there so I'd be interested to know what makes you (& others) want to walk the same path again? I will definitely walk into that square again...& burst into tears, again...when standing in front of the Cathedral..but it won't be from walking the Frances.
Happy trails...which ever path you choose!
👣 🌏
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years?
I first walked the CF in 2010, and then most of it again in 2016. There were many obvious changes, but just as many things were much the same. The support infrastructure has improved. There were many more villages with bars, private accommodation options appear to have improved, the pack taxi network appears to be used more regularly, and I met many more people who had booked through a commercial travel company.

At the same time, much has remained the same. Locals were tolerant of my terrible Spanish. Shopkeepers would still frown at my wife when she would try and test their fruit for ripeness. Hospitaleros and people running private accommodation were generally welcoming although in some of the private accommodation places they were flat out between tending the bar, serving meals and trying to settle people into rooms.

In 2016 I travelled with my wife. As a result, we mainly socialised, if it could be called that, with other couples. It is a different type of camaraderie, and hard to compare. There are the same issues with early risers, but only once did I witness a 'bed race' in its full glory. So I doubt pilgrims are all that much different even if they are more prone to getting their bags carried.

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not
Certainly this is an interesting idea. Where do you think you would locate it? Should it be near Santiago so that one can stay there for five or six days and walk around it all day until one gets to 100 km so one qualifies for the Compostela? I know some people who organise ultra distance walking and running events who could offer you a hand on how you would be able to keep track of individuals and what distances they have done.

Imagine the benefit of having the concession area run along commercially efficient lines - with lowest common denominator food and beverages served at least cost to the operator. And there would be toilets! No longer any need to litter the trail with toilet paper and engage in unhygienic waste disposal.

I really don't know why this hasn't been tried before.
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
"jcheneyjc said:
Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not"

"Certainly this is an interesting idea. Where do you think you would locate it? Should it be near Santiago so that one can stay there for five or six days and walk around it all day until one gets to 100 km so one qualifies for the Compostela? I know some people who organise ultra distance walking and running events who could offer you a hand on how you would be able to keep track of individuals and what distances they have done.

Imagine the benefit of having the concession area run along commercially efficient lines - with lowest common denominator food and beverages served at least cost to the operator. And there would be toilets! No longer any need to litter the trail with toilet paper and engage in unhygienic waste disposal.

I really don't know why this hasn't been tried before."


Oh - that is brilliant!! I am still laughing - Genius response!!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I only did the Frances in 1989 and 2016, so it is hard to say what happened in the last 15 years. Certainly, there were a lot more pilgrims and a lot more infrastructure in 2016. I would probably have said the same thing 15 years ago, comparing it to 30 years ago. Personally, I wasn't bothered by the changes. I liked the pilgrims I met in 2016. They were one of the best parts of the experience. And having a choice in albergues (or in some places, any albergues at all!) felt like a plus to me. The only place that I really felt that it was "becoming like a theme park" was O Cebreiro, but it was still a nice village.
 

sugargypsy

Member
Camino(s) past & future
First one planned for May 2019: Camino Francés
My advice is stay away from the Brierley stages whenever possible.
Is there any way to find out about the Brierley stages (where they start/end) - except to buy the guide? I already have a guidebook, don't really want to buy another ;-).
 

Rj7797

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
It has been posted on the forums a few times that there has actually been a bit of a decline in numbers of pilgrims between SJPP and Sarria. While I doubt it will be as sparse as your first experience I bet the first 400km will be just fine.
 

ShelleyS

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP 9/20/17
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I walked the CF in s
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I agree with much of what others said. I found plenty of solitude (walked solo) and had others to walk with when I wanted. I will likely walk again in 2020 spring, in 2017, I walked in the fall. I am purposely avoiding 2021, a holy year, I'm concerned that it will be overly crowded that year.
I'm also looking into other pilgrimage walks in Germany and Ireland.

Buen Camino!
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
What is "too crowded" anyway? Should this be considered an inconvenience?
In my country, millions of pilgrims (yes, millions) arrive the 11th December, the eve of the feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Near the sanctuary they become a slow moving, giant human tide, and actually police closes main avenues to car traffic. Nobody seems to object, the crowd is happy and good natured, some neighbors have made a tradition to put stalls in the front of their houses to offer water and bread, etc.
Having said that, I appreciate the solitude of the Camino, the chance to be alone some days with my thoughts, before joining informal groups of fellow walkers.
I did my first Camino in 2008, but did not reach Santiago. I came back many times, but somewhat avoided the final stages, after Sarria, for (apparently) no particular reason.
I did it finally three years ago, in October. Yes, it was crowded, but I had accepted the idea and made the resolution that this would not bother me, that it was part of the experience. And it worked...I was only slightly annoyed with the vans from tour operators waiting at strategic intersections for their "too tired" (and young, perfectly healthy) customers. But in general, I enjoyed this section.
If somebody wants a solo walk, it is also possible to do it in France. I made the Piedmont (along the Pyrennees) in late September, and apart from albergues, I was alone most of the time, not a person in sight. After some days I started to say humorously "good morning" to flocks of sheep, just to hear my voice. And I am afraid that some more days alone, and I would had started hearing the sheep answering back "gooood morning, Feeeeelipe".
 
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carryoncouple

We love trekking
Camino(s) past & future
Spring (2013)
Lots of thoughtful comments here. We found staying away from guidebook end-of-stage stops the best medicine for the ills of crowding. But, the best advice was what I finally told myself: these are not crowds, they are fellow walkers/pilgrims, individuals, just like me.
But I do treasure peace and quiet, so I quite enjoyed the Way of St. Francis in Italy last year. We saw less than 40 trekkers over nearly 300 miles.
Happy trails.
 

cathn

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Completed one 550 Miile and six partial caminos
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
Your Camino is what you make it.
You will find plenty of moments where you can be alone with your thoughts. As for crowds from Sarria, let them move on, chose the NEXT cafe for coffee, they will appreciate the fact that you didn’t stop at the first one you came across.
Buen Camino
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Certainly this is an interesting idea. Where do you think you would locate it? Should it be near Santiago so that one can stay there for five or six days and walk around it all day until one gets to 100 km so one qualifies for the Compostela? I know some people who organise ultra distance walking and running events who could offer you a hand on how you would be able to keep track of individuals and what distances they have done.

Imagine the benefit of having the concession area run along commercially efficient lines - with lowest common denominator food and beverages served at least cost to the operator. And there would be toilets! No longer any need to litter the trail with toilet paper and engage in unhygienic waste disposal.
I have one suggestion for the Camino as theme park - slides for the steepest inclines. As they aren't motorized they should be allowed. 🙂
Yes, it was crowded, but I had accepted the idea and made the resolution that this would not bother me, that it was part of the experience.
But, the best advice was what I finally told myself: these are not crowds, they are fellow walkers/pilgrims, individuals, just like me.
I had no problem with all the shiny new pilgrims after Sarria. They reminded me of myself just a few weeks earlier - full of eager excitement.
 

Rover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, Fall 2016
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I soloed the CF two plus years ago (my first) and did NOT feel it was a commercial experience. I walked from Sept 19th to Nov 4th. The CF is very popular and heavily traveled which some may confuse with being too commercial. Shoulder months are a perfect antidote for that.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2001
Via de la plata 2008
Arles -Piemonte-Frances-Cee 2014
(Bastan-Francés) 2019
I first walked the Camino Frances in 92 I think. I avoided repeating that Camino for the same reasons that you mentioned. I didn’t want to spoil that memory of that first magical walk. Then in 2014 I joined the Camino Frances at SJPDP after walking about 450 miles on the Arles and Piemonte. ( gorgeous but challenging ).
It was like coming home. The path was almost completely separated from the highways, the choice of beds was much more interesting, the bed race less intense , and the pilgrims still seemed to be the kind of special people that I enjoyed sharing the experience with. I will happily repeat this Camino next spring starting with a few extra miles in France and maybe with an alternate route to avoid those green pilgrims will that start in Syria.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); Fall (2020) I hope
I first walked the Camino Frances in 92 I think. I avoided repeating that Camino for the same reasons that you mentioned. I didn’t want to spoil that memory of that first magical walk. Then in 2014 I joined the Camino Frances at SJPDP after walking about 450 miles on the Arles and Piemonte. ( gorgeous but challenging ).
It was like coming home. The path was almost completely separated from the highways, the choice of beds was much more interesting, the bed race less intense , and the pilgrims still seemed to be the kind of special people that I enjoyed sharing the experience with. I will happily repeat this Camino next spring starting with a few extra miles in France and maybe with an alternate route to avoid those green pilgrims will that start in Syria.
I'm fascinated to read that the bed race was less intense in 2014 than it was in 1992. What time of year did you walk both times?
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I'm fascinated to read that the bed race was less intense in 2014 than it was in 1992. What time of year did you walk both times?
That surprises me too. There was no bed race at all in 1990 - I was often alone in the refugios in July and August and very rarely met or even saw another pilgrim. But there was rapid growth in numbers around that time. In 1990 just under 5,000 Compostelas were issued. By 1992 that had risen to 9,764 - almost doubled in two years. Then the 1993 Holy Year multiplied that ten-fold with a final total of 99,439.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
But I do treasure peace and quiet, so I quite enjoyed the Way of St. Francis in Italy last year. We saw less than 40 trekkers over nearly 300 miles.
I found the same on the St Olavs Ways. This year, on the S:t Olavsleden, I didn't need to take off my shoes to count the number of other pilgrims along the way. Once I was at Trondheim, it was another matter. The place quickly filled with pilgrims arriving for the St Olavs feast day festivities.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I found the same on the St Olavs Ways. This year, on the S:t Olavsleden, I didn't need to take off my shoes to count the number of other pilgrims along the way.
My experience too. Walking in May 2016 I met only 3 other pilgrims in the whole 580km from Sundsvall to Nidaros - a German couple walking together and a young Norwegian man. In 20 winter days on the Via de la Plata I met only 5 others. There are still quiet routes and times to be found if you are happy to look further afield.
 

ranthr

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
I have seen the changes since my first camino in 2005. Been back for several times for long and short walks until 2016. More people, more noise, last year I chose Camino the Invierno, suited me well, met really nobody, peace, quiet.
In 2011, walking Via de la Plata, I went via Astorga to see some more women and young people than earlier on the VdlP. Today that would not be my choice.
I love the Camino Frances, but if I choose to walk there again, it must be in winter.
Perhaps I should option for the St. Olavs way, but the moscus scares me from that¡
If you walk the Frances Brierleys mapbook is enough!
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
There *are* more people after Sarria, but you know, that is a beautiful part of the walk and I still found myself alone in the eucalyptus forest in the fog, which was very nice. It has Portomarin, which is so unique and other varied features which I recommend.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I have seen the changes since my first camino in 2005. Been back for several times for long and short walks until 2016. More people, more noise, last year I chose Camino the Invierno, suited me well, met really nobody, peace, quiet.
Hei Randi: The CF is still a beautiful walk. Just plan accordingly. Difficult maybe, for firsttimers, but we oldtimers know how to avoid the crowds. I am going back after Easter walking from Burgos, I think. I love the peace of the Meseta.

In 2011, walking Via de la Plata, I went via Astorga to see some more women and young people than earlier on the VdlP. Today that would not be my choice.
The VdlP is peaceful and beautiful. It just needs some more planning on the first few stages. Take left in Zamora and go to Ourense; not Astorga.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Via Tolosana
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
My favourite guide book for the CF is still Brierley’s because it feels so familiar, like slipping into old shoes :D It never occurred to me to follow his stages, not even the first year! It is just a ...guide! And very easy to follow.
The CF is so well-marked you don’t even need a book, if you start in St Jean P de Port the pilgrim’s office gives you a list of accommodation, elevations etc....
Another good guide is ‘Wise Pilgrim’, you can even download it so no need to carry a book.
As for the camino being different, well, I first walked it in 2012. I have since walked it again in 2013, 2016, 2018.... I know it sounds unbelievable but the last 3 times were even emptier than the first. (Every time in July/August).
Last Summer I even started getting bored, walking on my own all the time, empty albergues, empty bars....:D From Sarria though it was a different story and I didn’t like it at all, far too many people EVERYWHERE and an altogether different experience. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like long queues just to get a coffee or go to the loo. I definitely would skip that part in future if I was to walk it again. But it’s all highly subjective of course, that’s just me!
Whatever you choose, wish you well and hope you enjoy it. To me, it is still magical. :)

PS Sorry, I replied without reading the previous answers, I hope I am not repeating things already said
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances. 2001
Via de la plata 2008
Arles -Piemonte-Frances-Cee 2014
(Bastan-Francés) 2019
Hi Tom
My experience in 92 as I recall was that the pilgrims all stayed in a limited number of dedicated pilgrim lodgings. They tended to be a days walk apart and very inexpensive. If one was fill the only options in the larger towns was a hotel at 10 times the price or in the smaller towns with no hotel a cab ride to a larger town.
In 2014 the consequences of finding that all the beds were full at your first stop were not nearly as serious. The price differences were not as spectacular and there always seemed to be alternative accommodations a few miles down the road.
I think part of the difference might be subjective. In 92 I spoke no Spanish and was new to this kind of travel. A pilgrim in the sense of being truly clueless. Today the problems seem easier to solve. But the hills are steeper and the miles are becoming longer.
Gary
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
The trail is pretty much the same as it was in 1993 when I first discovered it, but there are tons more services on offer. I last walked in in June 2018, and yes, parts really do feel like a theme park now. A lot of good stuff is gone, replaced by banal get-rich-quick touristy tat.
IMHO it´s the pilgrims who´ve changed. Most want lots of value for little money, and are not interested in interacting with the locals or having challenging, strange experiences in new languages. They travel in self-contained groups and stick to what their guidebook tells them to see, eat, and do. They want an "adventure," or "spiritual discovery," but NO surprises... which is a tall order indeed.
Happily, the Camino has a way of crushing, beating, and grinding all the expectations out of people. Which is where the adventure and enlightenment begins!
 
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tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); Fall (2020) I hope
Happily, the Camino has a way of crushing, beating, and grinding all the expectations out of people. Which is where the adventure and enlightenment begins!
I love that last sentence. Can’t you just see that on a travel brochure.

“Walk the Camino de Santiago! It will crush, beat, and grind every expectation out of you that you ever had about what it means to be a pilgrim!”
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
TDMB 2016
Cotswold Way 2018
I love that quote @tomnorth !

There is also some commentary on this thread about bag transport as it relates to pilgrimism, if that is a word. I am reminded of a guy named Steve I met on the CF. We travelled in sync with Steve for about a week. Now Steve was about as pilgrim as they get - preferring to stay In church-run hostels, attending daily mass. He walked every day in the same clothes carrying a plastic bag with his lunch and water. We could recognize Steve from far away because of the floppy hat and plastic bag. Steve had his backpack sent ahead every day.

Lesson I learned was we were all pilgrims, doing it the best way we knew how, and the only wrong way was to be judgemental.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
...Most want lots of value for little money, and are not interested in interacting with the locals or having challenging, strange experiences in new languages. They travel in self-contained groups and stick to what their guidebook tells them to see, eat, and do...
This is what makes me a little sad. So many say their best experience was meeting other pilgrims, who were not from Spain. I see some pilgrims making no effort to say even simple things in Spanish or to make connections with local people. That's a shame.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017
TDMB 2016
Cotswold Way 2018
This is what makes me a little sad. So many say their best experience was meeting other pilgrims, who were not from Spain. I see some pilgrims making no effort to say even simple things in Spanish or to make connections with local people. That's a shame.
I agree @JillGat, and that is an important point. I did meet great people from all over the world, but also some amazing locals. My Spanish is terrible but I tried and found most locals were very patient and helpful. One great lady we called Mama ran a B&B and treated us like family. Another ran a small hotel in the Meseta and helped everyone coming into town find lodging somewhere. I traded pins with the guy running a little cantina across from the abbey ruins and we talked about what it is like to live in Minnesota. A lady in Burgos grabbed me by the arm and walked me back to the turn I missed. I agree that taking an approach that insulates one from contact with locals is a miss.
 

Ekelund

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
The Camino Frances 2005
The Portugese Camino 2014
The Camino Ingles Easter 2015
The Camino Ingles April 2016
The Camino del Norte/The Primitivo 2016
Here's a picture of the "crowded" Camino Francés
Thank you Trecile for posting the picture, it reminded me of walking the CF back in 2005 and how special it was.
 

Jodean

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
22 Sept. to 21 Oct. 2015, Pamplona to Santiago
6-23.04 Porto to Santiago 2018
17.09-30.09 CF 2018
I too, like the guide books from Raimond Joos. Using this and the Wise Pilgrim app work for me.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked from Astorga to Santiago May 15
St Jean to Burghos May 16
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I walked end September and October 2018 from SJPP. Cities were busy as expected but not the villages. I expected crowds from Sarria but that did not happen.
 

Aptrail

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Aug/Sept, 2016
Hospilatero May, 2018
Primativo May, 2018
Planning Hospitalero, 2019
Agree with most of what has been written. I did the CF in Aug/Sept, 2018 from SJPP to Santiago. There was literally one night when I had a bit of trouble finding place to stay that I liked, and that was 42 km from Santiago. Last year I was a hospitelero in Granon in May. Some pilgrims talked about negotiated crowds. And, we had a few crowded night. (For those of you who know St Juan Bautista..... we had up to 74 people during May.) I hiked for the final two weeks of May and had no issues. I do like the Bierley book. And, I doubt that I ever followed his stages exactly. But, the beta is great--- lots of it and accurate. Just like the photo above, last May I had days with that exact view and no people.
 

PlutseligPilegrim

Rota Vicentina, fisherman’s trail, is sweet...
Camino(s) past & future
St Olav’s way Novgorod - Åbo
- Stiklestad - Nidaros (2019)
Via del a plata from Cadiz (2019)
I walked in on the 14’th....finishing Camino de Madrid......

Relax.....it’s all there for the one who are openminded.....magic intact...

Wintercamino is picking up though....40 peregrinos get theire Compostella each day now in january...0715983F-E6B4-4C2C-A186-7637DA9AA21D.jpeg0715983F-E6B4-4C2C-A186-7637DA9AA21D.jpeg
 

Mike Putman

Pilgrim_Traveler
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sept 2018
My spouse and I completed our first Camino in Oct of last year and really never felt it a theme park or over commercialized. It was to touristy in some bigger towns but that was not necessarily because of the Camino anyway we pretty much just walked through those areas. We did follow Brierly stages often and never felt crowded even after Sarria although pilgrim traffic definitely increased. Agree very much to try and take it at your own pace as we took 45 days we definitely did not follow the stages all the time.
 

lt56ny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013-Frances SJP-Finisterre, 2015 Camino Le Puy-Santiago, 2017 Portugues Lisbon-Santiago 2018 Norte
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I think it comes down to what you are looking for.
I walked the CF twice. It is almost 10 years since the first one. I walked from Le Puy 4 years later and after France when I got on the CF in late September it felt pretty crowded to me. This last September I walked the Norte. One topic of conversation among Norte Pilgrims that came up often was the crowds on the CF and I met more than a few Pilgrims who started on the CF and came over to the Norte. Many pilgrims swore they would either never walk it again or like me do a winter Camino.
It all comes down to taste and preferences and your own personal definition of crowds and Disneyland. I think many of the walkers on the Norte are just as warm, generous and friendly but they prefer to walk alone most of the day and do their talking and socializing more at breaks and the evening. I didn’t here the words or see much of or any “Camino families” Of course there were groups of people who bonded but it was way less structured.
Maybe the Norte is for you as it was for me. But I sure have sweet CF
memories too. Other caminos will be less of everything except of course for beauty, pain, memories that last a lifetime and some Camino friends for life!
 

paul Flanagan

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk May 2017
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
The theme park certainly wasn't my experience, I've been on it the last 2 years and returning in June, the last 100k from say Sarria to Santiago was well populated but I guess I expected that, with people who can only walk for a week but yet wanted to see Santiago and experience it.
The villages look pretty unspoilt to me and resemble rural Ireland with Sunshine.
 

Attachments

Camino(s) past & future
Camino francés from Roncesvalles and from Astorga, Camino portugués, hospitalero numerous times
(Haven't read all of these replies so don't know if this has been mentioned.) I can't address the "circus" aspect of the francés but I do have an observation about numbers. Actually pilgrim numbers *before* Sarria have been steady to actually decreasing over the past few years. Yes, I know, hard to believe. Please see: https://www.americanpilgrims.org/statistics the fourth chart in the stack. (Also attached.) The light blue lines tell the tale. So to avoid post-Sarria, where there indeed *has* been a steady increase (maybe even a circus!), walk the francés to Ponferrada and divert to the invierno.
 

Attachments

mikebet

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Pamplona (2016); Baiona to Santiago (2018); Sarria to Santiago (2018)
I haven't read all of these but enough to see the trend. And I have to say I'm a little put off by the barely-repressed smugness of some of the posts. If you decide to walk a well-known pilgrimage route you should hardly be surprised or disappointed to encounter a large number of pilgrims as well as pilgrim infrastructure. DUH! Remember, you are also adding to someone else's displeasure just by bring there, so who are you to complain about them? My wife and I did the Sarria-SdC section this past October and had a great time, so much so that my previously non-hiking wife is now eager for our next foray on the VDLP this April. If what you seek is solitude and physical challenge I suggest you take some of the hikes I did in years past -- specifically the Inca Trail in Peru (before tours and even maps were available) and the hideous jungle hell of the Kokoda Trail across the Owen Stanley range in Papua New Guinea, where the only annoying fellow travelers you will meet are leeches (but lots of them). There are many real adventure treks out there, so I humbly suggest that if the Camino Frances is too tame for your liking you may want to look into one of them. For my wife and me the Camino will do just fine, and we are very happy that it is there at all.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
Does it not just list all of the albergues etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

There are new places opening all the time, and some closing so it must be hard to keep up, but there is a guide to albergues on the forum. I was handed a printout at the pilgrim office in SJPDP and used that, it was easy to follow.
 
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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
Here's a picture of the "crowded" Camino Francés View attachment 50956
The optimist might say you got up early and the rest of the pilgrims as still in bed behind you.
The pessimist might say you got up late and the rest of the pilgrims have already reached their target for the day ;)
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
You can now buy a faked version of the older style Compostela in Santo Domingo de la Calzada - is that commercialism?
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I haven't read all of these but enough to see the trend. And I have to say I'm a little put off by the barely-repressed smugness of some of the posts. If you decide to walk a well-known pilgrimage route you should hardly be surprised or disappointed to encounter a large number of pilgrims as well as pilgrim infrastructure. DUH!
The original post is asking about changes over the past 15 years. A lot has happened to the Caminos in that time. I hope that if you return for another Camino in the future and find that for every pilgrim you met in October there are now 3 or 4 more you can dismiss the changes which you find quite so readily.
 

inmari

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Pamplona (2013)
El Camino de San Olav, Burgos - Covarrubias (2014)
Pamplona - SdC (2015)
I walked from Pamplona to Santiago in July 2015 and did not find it too crowded - maybe because July isn't the peak season? But I have to admit that the heat wave was tough on the Meseta! Next time I think of the Norte!
 

Zoran K.

ZK1107
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances July 1st -29th (2018)
Camino Frances June 25th (2019)
How has Camino Frances changed in the last 15 years? I walked it then, and am thinking about a repeat walk but wonder if it has gotten touristized and developed. I read that "much general development has taken place and infrastructure for pilgrims has greatly improved" and wonder what that means. Is it still (mostly) a path or dirt road thru countryside? Are the tiny villages still tiny villages? I really enjoyed CF the first time and like the flexibility of distances and the good marking, but if CF feels too much like a theme park now, crowded with package-tour cyclists and commercially led groups of walkers, I'll warily do VDLP instead (warily because of the long daily distances and less reliable markings).

Also, I want to buy a guidebook and wonder which is best. Bierley's looks good via its listings, but some postings say they don't like it because it "defines your stages and tells you where you should stop." Does it not just list all of the auberges etc so that you can decide for yourself when to stop?

Any info or thoughts on CF as theme park-or not, plus which guidebook?
Thanks, Joyce C.
I walked CF in July 2018 and many, MANY times I had walked 3-4 hours alone without a person in sight and I am talking about 8 o'clock in the morning or later. Crowds from Triacastella or Sarria. I am walking the whole CF again in July 2019. I have all the books published on CF and the only one that I ever use is Michelins Camino de Santiago because it has perfect maps, size and weight. Cheapest place to buy it is Book depository as they don't charge postage.
Hope you found the above usefull
regards from Croatia
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I agree @JillGat, and that is an important point. I did meet great people from all over the world, but also some amazing locals. My Spanish is terrible but I tried and found most locals were very patient and helpful. One great lady we called Mama ran a B&B and treated us like family. Another ran a small hotel in the Meseta and helped everyone coming into town find lodging somewhere. I traded pins with the guy running a little cantina across from the abbey ruins and we talked about what it is like to live in Minnesota. A lady in Burgos grabbed me by the arm and walked me back to the turn I missed. I agree that taking an approach that insulates one from contact with locals is a miss.
In one small village, a woman herded her cows through town into a barn. Pilgrims passing by took a picture and kept walking. I stopped to talk to her and found out she made homemade cheese from the milk of her cows. So I bought some cheese from her at her house and stopped the next group of pilgrims to let them know. They all stopped and bought some of this wonderful cheese, too, and sat down to have a picnic nearby. So their photos showed them eating cheese with the cow that produced it in the background. This is the kind of interaction that really makes walking the Camino special to me.
 

Peregrinopaul

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Sanabres (2018) Frances reverse(2018)
...and there are many 'holiday' groups now .. all walking together, sometimes with a leader who tells them what to look at (!) and they can appear odd to the solo pilgrim with a pack as they stick together and always seem ultra clean and energetic ... they don't seem to wear into the Camino over time somehow - but - we are all pilgrims.
An article in The Australian travel section this week quite shocked me. 21 days on the Camino including 200km of walking. Check out the price.
Four departures during the warmer northern months each come with a seasonal highlight: April’s departure has already sold out but limited places remain for May 15 and 29 for the full Spanish summer; August 12 is available to enjoy harvest golds and reds.
Fares, including flights from Australia (optional), start at $24,900 per person, twin share, economy class (solo traveller supplement: $2400).
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
An article in The Australian travel section this week quite shocked me. 21 days on the Camino including 200km of walking. Check out the price.
Four departures during the warmer northern months each come with a seasonal highlight: April’s departure has already sold out but limited places remain for May 15 and 29 for the full Spanish summer; August 12 is available to enjoy harvest golds and reds.
Fares, including flights from Australia (optional), start at $24,900 per person, twin share, economy class (solo traveller supplement: $2400).
😲😲😲
 

Peregrinopaul

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Sanabres (2018) Frances reverse(2018)
Sorry about the huge font.
I copied aand pasted!
 

FourSeasons

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sept/Oct 2013
CF April/May 2016
del Norte (July/August 2019)
The CF changed from 2013 to 2016 so I’m sure it will have a different feel from 15 years ago. However it’s still a great journey and if your heart is set on it then by all means do it. Only you can answer this question for yourself. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Brierley guide is good and shows all alburgues even those inbetween the stages. Going off stage is what I suggest. I went off stage on day 3. Instead of staying in Pamplona, I walked a little further to Cizor Manor and so on.....go with the flow and leave your troubles behind.

Buen Camino 👣
 

David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
PeregrinoPaul - "An article in The Australian travel section this week quite shocked me. 21 days on the Camino including 200km of walking. Check out the price.
“Four departures during the warmer northern months each come with a seasonal highlight: April’s departure has already sold out but limited places remain for May 15 and 29 for the full Spanish summer; August 12 is available to enjoy harvest golds and reds.
Fares, including flights from Australia (optional), start at $24,900 per person, twin share, economy class (solo traveller supplement: $2400). "


WWhhhoooooaaaawwww (etc) - that is about £12,500 - Crikey ... so, a return flight is about £1200 - £10,000 for them to watch someone walked a couple of hundred kms? Serious hotels maybe???? hhmm .. 21 hotel nights at £50 a night, twin rooms, that is £1,000 ... where does the other £9,000 per person go??
And they fill these tours up?


That is quite amazing! - though actually I think it may be a typo? Should be $2,490 per person?

Paul - would love to have the link to their company or advert so I can read the whole thing!! :)
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago (a combination of own way, voie de Tours and Camino Frances)
would love to have the link to their company or advert so I can read the whole thing!! :)
Captain's Choice Camino 2019. Their lovely brochure is here http://fliphtml5.com/omnq/awpz/basic. They spend one night in the Frank Gehry / Marquès de Risqual hotel, with Michelin restaurant. Prices for a room at this hotel start around 460 € and can easily reach 800 € in April and May 2019 when they travel. 1 tour manager and 1 tour host (one of which is a doctor) and 2 specialist Camino guides for history, culture and anecdotes.

What do we want to get worked up about? It's not a camino, it's their camino, how can one spend so much money in Spain? Income inequality? The latter would be my favourite. Oh, together with donations from their travellers, they've given $3 million to health, hunger, humanity and educational projects around the world. Last page of the brochure.
 
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David

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Not a typo then - and if travelling 1st class flights goes up to $35,500 .... tour groups of 18 - coo!
 

Zoran K.

ZK1107
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances July 1st -29th (2018)
Camino Frances June 25th (2019)
This is what makes me a little sad. So many say their best experience was meeting other pilgrims, who were not from Spain. I see some pilgrims making no effort to say even simple things in Spanish or to make connections with local people. That's a shame.
Yes, it is a shame and that's why I have a whole Pimsleurs Spanish language course on my mp3 playe and I've learned 40-50 words and it was enough to get by and to make locals happy. That's the least one can do walking one month in a country where few people (on route) speaks English.
 

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