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First timer's questions


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With apologies for asking questions that may have been addressed elsewhere, but I can't seem to find the exact answers – everything seems dependant on the time of year that you go.

I am heading off for my first Camino on 25 August and starting to obsess over the practicalities. I only have a couple of weeks (work not permitting any longer) and so will start from Leon and aim for Finisterre if there is time. I thought this better than starting further out and coming back next year as there would be no guarantee that I would ever make it to Santiago in that case and if I do come back I can always do the last part again.

My question is, will I need a sleeping bag at that time of year or would a silk/fleece liner be enough. I understand that the auberges have blankets and so a liner should be enough (I would prefer the liner to keep pack weight down). I am a bit worried about whether I will always find a place in an auberge (I have heard stories of coach loads of schoolchildren booking out all available places) and if I can’t, I expect that I will need a proper bag.

What do people recommend for sleeping bags and is it easy enough to find somewhere to sleep in the auberges and if not are there hotels instead?

All advice gratefully received

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You will be fine with a liner at that time of year, I think. Yes, some albergues have blankets but don`t bank on it. If you do get cold, you could always put on another layer.
I´ve done the Camino several times - In stages and all in one go from SJPP and personally, I still think the first few weeks are the nicest, but do whatever you want to do, there is no law against it!

My one and only warning would be this - The stage to Finisterre seems to becoming more and more popular and the albergues are few and far between. Just thought I`d give you the heads up on that one!


New Member
Thanks for this, the liner will help cut down on the weight.

For me it seems that for the moment at least the destination of Santiago (or arriving at it at least) is the most important thing, rather than the journey itself, although I dare say that experience will change my mind.

Thanks for the tip about Finisterre, I am not sure that my legs will carry me that far anyway!


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Yuip - to give yourself a chance of making it to Finisterre, you could start a little closer to Santiago. The walk out of Leon is not very pleasant and for about one and a half days you walk alongside the highway. There are buses almost every hour from Leon to Astorga and beyond and you could get a bus to Hospital de Oribigo and start from there rather.
I walked from end of August last year and only carried a silk liner. Nearly every place (excepting Roncesvalles) had blankets.



If you only have a few weeks I would start either in León and WALK out of León - not taking the bus, as this part out of León is also a part of the Camino... it can be very useful to learn something about your self... so this will also become an inner journey and not only what's visible on the outside. If we should skip the Camino for ever part or every stretch which is not so nice or beautiful, then the camino will be interupted by taking the bus quite a few places... - However the Camino is a very beautilful walk and even more if you also find the inner journey... which does not have to be beautiful at all times... this is when we get to know who we are inside. Also the few days between León and O´cebreio will prepare your feet, knees and legs for the walk UP to O'cebreio... (yes there is a backpack service... however I do believe in carrying my backpack ALL the way as I am a pilgrim and NOT a tourist.) And if you can make it to Finisterre... go for it, it is true, it is becoming more popular, but no doubt in my mind it is worth it.

...Another good place to start is St. Jean Pied de Port... the walk between there and Roncevalles is VERY beautiful... and you can takre your time and walk as far as you can... maybe to Burgos or ...?? depending on how fit you are....

Enjoy what ever you may chose ;-)
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If you wanted to walk to Santiago and then on to Finisterre it would be better to start at Villafranca del Bierzo which is 183km from Santiago, and then another ± 90kms to Finisterre (273km).

There are five buses from Leon to Villafranca - they take 2 1/2 hours and cost 8.85 euro

The timetable is:

07:30 10:00
09:30 12:00
10:30 13:00
13:30 16:00
17:30 20:00
Yuip - I'm also planning a Camino Lite - two weeks walking to Fistaerra. I was also going to start in Leon but then the daily average km you'll need to do means you won't have time to really enjoy the experience...and I absolutely promise you that getting to Santiago will not be what you look back on. It's a very personal thing as all pilgrimages are, but for me the compostela means very little, the credencial however means the world to me.

I've now changed to starting in Astorga, i'm gutted to miss some of the bits between there and Leon and personally I dont mind the walk out of Leon at all...but being a realist means reducing the daily average needed to 25km not 30. I can now do Fisterra in 14 days which gives me one more day to relax, take a break or maybe take a detour and go of track slightly. Worth considering. PLenty of good buses to Astorga and its a beuatiful place to start.

On a separate note I wholeheartedly agree that taking a bus because part of the route is ugly seems wrong.....but I disagree even more that not walking with your pack makes you a tourist. Pilgrims do NOT, i believe have to be beasts of burden. I have no doubt whatsoever that the original pilgrims would have happily allowed someone to lighten their load for a day...or give them high tech clothes that kept them more comfortable. But i'm I said pilgrimage is a very personal thing...

WHatever you choose Yuip - Buen Camino!! :)


New Member
I think that I am inclined to walk out of Leon. For whatever reason I don't think I want to take a bus actually along the route (although of course I am taking a plane and bus to get to Leon) and don't mind a couple of flat days to get me into the swing of things.

There is certainly something that appeals to me in finishing at the end of the land rather than in Santiago - my camino being more spiritual than a strictly Catholic one, but I am hoping that this will not be a one time deal and I will have other oppourtunities to do the bits I missed another time.

I will carry my pack though, for me (I am not going to be part of a group) the self sufficency seems to be a pretty integral part of it, but agree that it must be up to each individual to decide how they want to make their journey and whether or not they want to do the same. Of course I might feel differently when I turn up after a day's walk and there are no beds left!


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You will have a wonderful walk - wherever you start or finish!
Use this website to work out a more-or-less walking schedule:
It is 311km from Leon to Santiago so it is very do-able in 14 days.
Many pilgrims use Leon as a terminus to reach a starting point - like getting a bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalles - as most of the available transport is from there. The airport is about 6km out of town.
For the pilgrim who is starting from Villafranca del Bierzo - don't worry, the bus doesn't follow the camino paths so it won't spoil it for you next time!
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I would completely agree that Leon - Santiago is very very do-able in 14 days...but I would also say Leon - Fisterra in 14 days is substantially harder. I'd love to be doing it but with a total of 15 days to walk I would rather immerse myself in the walk, the countryside and the people than stress about doing an average of 28+ km a day in order to get there in time. Each to their own and I would definitely agree that Leon is well worth the visit but I would gently suggest it's worth considering what you want to do with the time and the experience. Depends how strong a walker you are as well I suppose.

Personally i'm gutted to be leaving out the first two stages of my original plan but to guarantee an enjoyable walk and getting to Fisterra with time to enjoy it its a sacrifice worth making...well for me anyway.

I hope you do manage the Leon onwards thing'll have a great time.

Buen camino!

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Hi Yuip
I hope you can make it to Finistere. I walked there in May this year with my companion who was on his third camino but had not been to Finistere before. We both regarded the three day walk as a highlight of our journey.
I don't know about how full albergues will be on the trail to Compostela itself at that time of year, but the albergue at Negriera, on the way to Finistere, only sleeps 16 [ or 20 if they open up the room normally reserved for people with handicaps]. On the night we were there, 36 pilgrims slept there, with the overflow bunked down on the cement area outside the front door. It poured rain all night [ not to mention all the next day! ] but the overhanging roof kept the pilgrims dry if not comfortable. Another point is that there were only 6 blankets available for the 36 pilgrims.
Buen camino


RIP 2015
camino lite??
only got two weeks,9days 7 days,i have a free afternoon next week,maybe i can fit it in during my lunch break,quick fix-quick fix, if you only have two weeks sit on a beach in benidorm cross legged in the lotus position and commune with nature.
too much wine and late at night,but i do wonder where all this part time quick fix ""holiday" is going,too many busy lives fitting round the work scheduel,were is the benifit,whats it all about? why am i here? i want the answer now! now".and please stamp my passport.
off to bed now
buen camino lite
love Ian


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Ian - think of it as a camino-retreat.

There is a wonderful Buddhist retreat centre in a quiet valley in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains in Kwa Zulu-Natal where people can go for a weekend or a few days to relieve the stress of their busy lives.

You can go on a Painting your Dreams retreat, Primal Rhythm - Drumming as Therapy, Shambhala - How Not to Be Afraid of Who You Are or a birding retreat. You can also have a Doing Your Own Thing - In Self Retreats - where they leave you alone.

I'm sure that a week or two on the camino would do that for most of us as well!

( )
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Thanks Ian, I think. Problem with work is that it pays the bills and so gets to call the shots to a large extent - not an entirely satisfactory state of affairs but not one that will last forever either. So I do what I can to escape in the meantime and so a Camino Lite it is and certainly I would rather that than any amount of time on a beach in Benidorm



I would also say that León - Finisterre is do-able in 14 days...

28 km a day is posible... and it is posible to enjoy it too....

Please keep in mind you have ALL day to walk... you do not have to get up at 5am to be at the albergue at 12pm... you can get up at 6 or 7 and take ALL the breaks you need... arrive at the alberque at 15pm or 17pm.... or 19pm... just take you time... enjoy the walk. Enjoy every step. This is NOT about... "I-need-to-hurry-so-I-can-get-a-bed-at-the-next-albergue-and if-i-am-not-there-at-12pm-i-wont-make-it" - I have always walked my caminos in August/September... and I have ALWAYS gotten a place to sleep. ALWAYS. Even in 2005 when we (there were 3 of us) arrived at the albergue in Portomarin at 20:00 - we saw the "COMPLETO" sign on the door... it turned out they still had beds for all 3 of us... and I am not talking about floor-space or beds hidden in a small extra room... I am talking about a nice bunk bed with all the other pilgrims...

Enjoy the way... take your time... walk from León to finisterre and I am sure you will love it. (just dont force your self - your body will let you know). You have ALL day to walk... ALL day to enjoy... remember you need to walk at your own pace... make it worth while...
Bump Yuip on this - couldn't have put it better myself. Given the opportunity I would happily take the time to do teh whole camino...but then what exactly IS the whole camino? The Portugese route only takes 9 days but qualifies as a "proper" camino. The English route looks like it takes about 9 hours...but as far as i'm aware its a "proper" camino. Then there's the Le Puy (?) route which links into the Camino Frances and adds an entire country! The list goes on....

I call my camino a camino lite because it's only a section of the camino i'd like to do.

Fair point about the quick-fix culture though, couldn't agree more. And fitting things around work is clearly wrong...but sadly is also unavoidable for many people in practical terms.

Two weeks on ANY beach for any reason other than maybe a honeymoon (and even that's doubtful) sounds like my idea of hell. I suppose my Camino is my holiday for this year - but unfortunately I am not able to take a holiday AND a the choice is fairly easy:)



If I had to choose between beach for 2 weeks or walk a part of the camino for 2 weeks... (any part) I would not have any doubt in my mind... I too would choose the Camino.

The beach is not even something I would consider... maybe only a dip in the ocean if I was to walk Camino del Norte again...

I too wish I had time for the "whole Camino" again... - however... it is the walking part I enjoy. The silence... the oportunity to disconnect... the opertunity to find me (as if I was lost) and the fellowship among pilgrims.

Anyway... Buen Camino


RIP 2015
as martin said there are many different camino's and it is the modern ones that this grumpy old baby-boomer takes issue with, the ones that are responsable for the huge increase in numbers.
camino lite ( only got a few days)
camino onion bargie ( tends to repeat on them year after year after ....)
camino smorgsborg ( little nibble at this lttle nibble at that)
camino cheap holiday .
camino post office ( brings too much stuff and calls in every post office on the way posting there gear all over the world)
camino meat free ( catches buses-taxis when the going gets tough)
and then there is mine
grumpy old man camino ( tend to be baby-boomers, they have the time to do the camino but are sandwidged between dependent ageing parents and dependent teenagers so therefor have no money)
mine and rosies camino is april 2010 and we can take two months
so if the truth be told chris,martin and annette there may be a little bit of envy in my rants,maybe one of sils courses may help.
so enjoy the walk chris,and don't worry about carrying weight,an overnight bag will be fine :lol:
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I have never been one for the meat free option, although I am partial to an onion barjee.

I am fortunately at a stage where I have no dependants, senior or junior, but I guess Ian we both have our crosses to bear (if you will forgive the pun), my lack of time and your lack of money, so we will both have our own Caminos, mine Lite and yours the grumpy old man!
Good luck to you and Rosie in 2010


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Gees..Ian!! 2010???
You are going to have the whole smorgarsboard, lite, vegan, a la carte, buffet, menu del dia, menu del peregrino and soup kitchen in 2010.
That is what I call a mendicant meander, or a penitential-pilgrimage!!

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Twenty years ago, there were 3,501 pilgrims, a 20% increase from 2,905 in 1987. If a six month season is averaged, that is 20 pilgrims a day. At that level of activity, no one would build a new albergue; no one would maintain the path; no one would open his bar early to serve coffee.

A Camino would have been fairly lonely! It would have been a far cry from the tens or hundreds-of-thousands in the Middle Ages, when walking both directions doubled traffic.

I enjoy meeting people on the pilgrimage, but I think I like meeting twenty people more than meeting one hundred. However, that does not make me nostalgic for the "good old days" that I never knew. I think the growth of tourism on the Camino is good for pilgrims and the economy alike. If I want to meet only twenty pilgrims, I can watch two hundred walk by! I can meet none by wearing an iPod, staying in an hostal single room, or dining at 10 p.m.

"The good old days" had polio, serfs, unsanitary medical treatment, vigilante justice, and robber barons. I am going to be careful before wishing for a return to the days of yore.

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