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Search 69,459 Camino Questions

Getting Great Mileage But Missing the Jewels

Bob Howard

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2016 2018 2022
@JohnRRogers posted "Favorite 'Mid-Stage" Albergues" earlier today, and there were plenty of good recommendations. It appears this will be John and his wife's first time. Last summer I finally managed to have overnights in some of those mid-stage villages/hamlets. But in looking at Forum responses/recommendations to @JohnRRogers, it was clear that they were in the spirit of what I referred to in post a couple years ago as the "In-Between Places".

So, this is a different look at it, and I thought it might merit a separate thread.

Notwithstanding my desire and intent to stay in those In-Between places, which I pretty much did last summer, I still tried to overnight in my very favorite villages/towns/cities. I used to think that everyone, especially first-timers, should overnight in the Big 4--Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Leon. I would now remove Logrono (and I really like Logrono) and bracket it with Viana and Navarette, although for newbies I would still think Logrono should not be missed as an overnight stop.

Then for me there are Tier 2 towns that I have stayed in on all three of my Caminos, and in which I will probably stay this year:

Puente La Reina
Estella
Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Belorado (I don't know what it is, but something always calls me back to Belorado.)
Castrojeriz
Carrion de Las Condes
Sahagun
Astorga (pretty much Big 4 caliber)
Rabanal/Foncebaddon
Villafranca del Bierzo
Sarria
Portomarin
Triacastela

So, my Tier 1's + Pamplona, Burgos and Leon are 19 nights, leaving for me the balance for the In-between Places overnights stops. My walks have been from 33 to 42 days.

Now, that is actually the intro for a larger point which is that it became apparent to me last summer (I'm slow on the uptake I guess) that for some people, the overnight stops are merely incidental to the actual walking. For me, after decades of wilderness backpacking--to paraphrase a great Native American, "never no more shall I sleep on the ground"--the walking part and the charm of the destination towns are pretty much equally balanced. I want to have things to see and experience at the day's destination. But I have to admit that although some are better than others, I have never seen a Plaza Mayor that I didn't like, regardless of the town.

I met a number of people who not only did not stay in the Big 4 cities, but also missed many of my Tier 2 towns. I met several people last July who walked right through Burgos without detouring from the path, not even stopping at the Cathedral--and they were first-time pilgrims! For them, it was the walking, and meeting their daily mileage/kilometer goal.
I'm sure they enjoyed the scenery through Burgos, but apparently it's just not somewhere to dally. At first I was kind of aghast, especially about Burgos, as it is, for me, the most beautiful and interesting town on the Camino, although Astorga . . .

So, two queries, one practical and one slightly philosophical:

1. What are the Forum's views regarding my Big 4 and and what I included in the Tier 2 towns. I'm being a bit selfish in that I am always open to a new charming overnight. So, fire away.

2. But perhaps the more interesting question is what would you consider your personal ratio/balance in terms of the actual walking vs staying in some of the traditional stops, many if not most of which tend to correspond the Brierley stages. And for a good reason--they are fascinating places to stay.

I stayed in El Acebo and Molinaseca for the first time last summer, and they are now knocking on the door of my Tier 2 stops.

Oh, and although I didn't include it above, there is Hontanas--for some reason I think about that little hamlet every few days. There's just something about it. I've stayed there twice, but now with Navarette (one of my Tier 2's), the decision is difficult.

Still can't get over that Pamplona is not a Brierley stage stop.
 
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On my first Camino I didnt have a guide book, so therefore no expectations.
And thats kind of the way Ive walked ever since.
Sometimes Brierly stages work out, sometimes they dont. I dont set out with a list of must-do priorities, other than 2 or 3 places I particularly love.
I still haven't stayed in Logrono, though I might do next time, maybe a short day from Viana, I just love Viana/Navarette.
Still havent stayed in Triascastela - I prefer Samos. Or Carrion de Las Condes, or O'Cebreiro - they're good second breakfast places, but Ive never stayed there.
It was my third walk before I stayed in Sarria and Portomarin. I probably wouldnt stay in Sarria again. I chose it last time as a base and taxied to Lugo and back for the day.
For the last 100 kms, I do prefer the smaller towns and villages, Melide and Arzua are the only places I've stayed at twice.
I love both El Acebo and Molinaseca. Rabanal is another favorite, although maybe next time it may be Foncebaden.
Ive stayed in a lot of the smaller places, some of the bigger towns - whatever works for me at the time, I dont make an itinerary, but I do have a few places I dont like to miss.
I know a lot of people spreadsheet their walks and plan each day, I just know how far I like to walk each day, and divide the total to get a rough number of days so I can buy tickets home, and give myself a few spare 'just in case' days. Usually I continue to the coast.
I have taken rest days in Burgos and Leon - the Leon cathedral is a favourite. But Astorga is so close to Leon, and you can see a lot in an afternoon/evening.
 
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I have to admit that I am at a loss for words. I just don't view the Camino in the same way.

All of your first tier and second tier places are worth visiting. Many more places as well. You ask what ratio of walking versus staying in towns - that depends on how many days I have available, how tired my body is, and what else might be happening.

Still can't get over that Pamplona is not a Brierley stage stop.
Brierley wasn't writing a guide book to highlight favourite cities of Spain. He wrote a guide on how to walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, in convenient stages.
 
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I love both El Acebo and Molinaseca. Rabanal is another favorite, although maybe next time it may be Foncebaden.
An albergue owner was telling me last summer that Rabanal--Molineseca not too long ago was the preferred stage, but that has now shifted to Foncebaddon--Ponferrada. The one I want to stay in at some point is just down the road from El Acebo--Riego de Ambrós,
 
An albergue owner was telling me last summer that Rabanal--Molineseca not too long ago was the preferred stage, but that has now shifted to Foncebaddon--Ponferrada. The one I want to stay in at some point is just down the road from El Acebo--Riego de Ambrós,
I stayed at Riego de Ambros the first time, I remember we had a nice dinner at a great bar with big trees in their yard. And the next morning the terrible walk on the rocky path.
Rabanal/Foncebaden- Ponferrada is a day I like to split as my least favourite walking day - these days I walk on the road. I think Ponferrada is an OK place to stay the night, but towns either side were nicer.
 
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I have to admit that I am at a loss for words. I just don't view the Camino in the same way.

All of your first tier and second tier places are worth visiting. Many more places as well. What are your tiers based on - size? things to do? beauty? You ask what ratio of walking versus staying in towns - that depends on how many days I have available, how tired my body is, and what else might be happening.


Brierley wasn't writing a guide book to highlight favourite cities of Spain. He wrote a guide on how to walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, in convenient stages.
What I call the Big 4 and Tier 1 are places I have stayed each year irrespective of how may days I have available. And that was kind of the point. I think of them as so interesting, historical, atmospheric, things to see that they, to me, are must-stays as opposed to simply worth visiting. Last summer I stayed in all my favorites and still had 23 days for other places worth visiting. As to Brierley, not sure I see much difference in convenience in staying in a suburb of Pamplona as opposed Pamplona itself. Although I have always heard good things about the albergue in Cezor Menor.
 
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not sure I see much difference in convenience in staying in a suburb of Pamplona as opposed Pamplona itself.
I guess I have never considered his stages to be particularly recommendations for visiting, so much as convenient distances en route to Santiago.

I think of them as so interesting, historical, atmospheric, things to see that they, to me, are must-stays as opposed to simply worth visiting.
They certainly are that, but there are other cities in Spain that are even more interesting, historical, etc.
 
Interesting questions.

For me, I think a stop in your 'Big 4' makes a lot of sense.
They are wonderful towns/cities, and full of history.
Even if only staying overnight a walk around the historic centres in not to be missed in my view.
And Logrono for Tapas bar crawling!

As for other stops or 'in-between' places.

We've stopped in quite a few, and honestly, loved them all.
As we tend to walk slower, shorter days, we're often staying at small intermediate places.
I can't think of anywhere I stopped that didn't have some unique attraction or charm.

I love Hornillos, and it's a small one street village.
Uterga was great. the next morning we walked to Eunate.
Lots of smaller places were great. El-Acebo, Ambasmestas, Viskarret, Hospital de Orbigo, Ledigos, Foncebadon, Vega de Lalcarce, Ventas (only 2 places to stay) and many more.

Loved them all.

There are just so many great places to stay.
It takes multiple Caminos, or really slow ones to appreciate even a few of them! :)

As to the question of 'balance'?

The walking is a major part for me. I walk slowly, short days and alone. I'm in no rush.
My time on the trail is precious and I draw it out..........
I pause to admire all the views, the churches along the way, stop for coffees....

The stops are not so important to me.
If the town is particularly attractive, or has some great sights, I'll wander about a bit.
I wouldn't want to miss that. I might have dinner in the plaza major and people watch.
I suppose as I walk slowly and short days, I pause in your various 'Tiers' anyway.

But I've also been in a tiny village and was the only guest in the accommodation.
That's fine too. A chance to relax, unwind.
I'm not really into the social scene on the Camino.
Dinner with 2 or 3 other Pilgrims is nice.
The Mass shared meals that sometimes occur, tend to make me run a mile.
I'm not good in crowds.

But hey, we're all different.........

Interesting questions.
I'm sure you'll get lots of variety in the answers! :)
 
Sorry, I don't want to sound all 'Woo Woo' on this.
But having read your post and the responses again.

Doesn't it really all come back to how we walk our Camino?
How we interact with everything around us?
What we learn along the way?
How our perspectives might change?
How we unwind and let go?

If I was honestly to say what were my Camino highlights so far..........none would have anything to do with places. At all.

#1 would be people I met along the way. The interactions we had. Perhaps how they helped me view the world in a different way? Or helped me appreciate things more?

#2 would be the landscapes. Which at times took my breath away. Countless times I'd sit on a mountain top, just taking it all in.

#3. Might be places. But nothing at all to do with 'Tiers'. Casa de los Dioses, (is David still there). Cruz de Ferro, the Pilgrim memorial grove outside Astorga. Even though my next Camino is not the Frances, I'll visit these three again.

Everything else just provides a backdrop for the top 3 main events for me.
They provide the stage for it all to play out.............

I'm often asked "You must love hiking"?
My response is "actually I don't. I only do it on Camino."

But it's the 'vehicle' for magical things to happen.......
 
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On a Camino I stop when I am tired and find a place to sleep. Especially on the Francés where there is more than choice enough.
On lesser walked Caminos I stop in a town that offers accomodation.
A Camino for me is a pilgrimage and I could not be bothered in the least to think about the towns in terms of attractivity of top tens or in which " Tier" it is.
I found charm in the quiet village of Rabé de las Calzadas and spend an afternoon there to escape the tourist vibes of Burgos.
Or when I had a great lunch in a truckstop somewhere on the Ingles instead in of one the main towns.

Again the Camino is a pilgrimage and not some slick Club Med trip.

"De gustibus "etc...
 
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Sorry, I don't want to sound all 'Woo Woo' on this.
But having read your post and the responses again.

Doesn't it really all come back to how we walk our Camino?
How we interact with everything around us?
What we learn along the way?
How our perspectives might change?
How we unwind and let go?

If I was honestly to say what were my Camino highlights so far..........none would have anything to do with places. At all.

#1 would be people I met along the way. The interactions we had. Perhaps how they helped me view the world in a different way? Or helped me appreciate things more?

#2 would be the landscapes. Which at times took my breath away. Countless times I'd sit on a mountain top, just taking it all in.

#3. Might be places. But nothing at all to do with 'Tiers'. Casa de los Dioses, (is David still there). Cruz de Ferro, the Pilgrim memorial grove outside Astorga. Even though my next Camino is not the Frances, I'll visit these three again.

Everything else just provides a backdrop for the top 3 main events for me.
They provide the stage for it all to play out.............

I'm often asked "You must love hiking"?
My response is "actually I don't. I only do it on Camino."

But it's the 'vehicle' for magical things to happen.......
Yes, virtually all of us remember those #1 encounters as highlights. But those highlights as universal as they are on the Camino also happen everywhere on the Camino irrespective of location. Maybe I didn't express it well--as indicated in my original post, I have developed an acute fondness for about 19 specific village/town/cities. And if I spend multi-thousands of dollars on a Camino trip not to mention a sometimes uncomfortable 8-hour plane ride, I am going to damn well stay overnight in my favorite towns. That's all. Its just the places I like to stay--and much of that like is because I enjoyed those places so much on the previous Camino. I was not trying to posit that anyone else should stay or even approve of those place in my Tier list. Rather, I was wondering if anyone else had places they always returned to, and after hearing about them, maybe I would see an addition to my favorites. Again, the whole Tier metaphor is simply comprised of those place in which I personally find irresistible. As you noted "But hey, we're all different........."
 
Rather, I was wondering if anyone else had places they always returned to, and after hearing about them, maybe I would see an addition to my favorites.

Not really.
There are too many places I have yet to try ;)

If I have stayed in places more than once, it's because it happened to be a logical place to stay on that day....
None were an intentional 'return'.
 
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Interesting questions.

For me, I think a stop in your 'Big 4' makes a lot of sense.
They are wonderful towns/cities, and full of history.
Even if only staying overnight a walk around the historic centres in not to be missed in my view.
And Logrono for Tapas bar crawling!

As for other stops or 'in-between' places.

We've stopped in quite a few, and honestly, loved them all.
As we tend to walk slower, shorter days, we're often staying at small intermediate places.
I can't think of anywhere I stopped that didn't have some unique attraction or charm.

I love Hornillos, and it's a small one street village.
Uterga was great. the next morning we walked to Eunate.
Lots of smaller places were great. El-Acebo, Ambasmestas, Viskarret, Hospital de Orbigo, Ledigos, Foncebadon, Vega de Lalcarce, Ventas (only 2 places to stay) and many more.

Loved them all.

There are just so many great places to stay.
It takes multiple Caminos, or really slow ones to appreciate even a few of them! :)

As to the question of 'balance'?

The walking is a major part for me. I walk slowly, short days and alone. I'm in no rush.
My time on the trail is precious and I draw it out..........
I pause to admire all the views, the churches along the way, stop for coffees....

The stops are not so important to me.
If the town is particularly attractive, or has some great sights, I'll wander about a bit.
I wouldn't want to miss that. I might have dinner in the plaza major and people watch.
I suppose as I walk slowly and short days, I pause in your various 'Tiers' anyway.

But I've also been in a tiny village and was the only guest in the accommodation.
That's fine too. A chance to relax, unwind.
I'm not really into the social scene on the Camino.
Dinner with 2 or 3 other Pilgrims is nice.
The Mass shared meals that sometimes occur, tend to make me run a mile.
I'm not good in crowds.

But hey, we're all different.........

Interesting questions.
I'm sure you'll get lots of variety in the answers! :)
How many days did your camino take. I like your post and the idea of slow walking!
 
How many days did your camino take. I like your post and the idea of slow walking!

For the Frances from St Jean it takes me about 40 days.
I average about 20-25 kms a day, but walk slowly with lots of breaks.
So I often don't 'arrive' till 4-5pm.
But I also leave later than most.
Usually between 8-9 am.

Because of that, each day I look at where I want to stay the next day and book ahead.
I might book 2 nights ahead if it's busy.

Of course there are exceptions.
Depending on the time of year, the CF can be busy.
So I might book all the way to Pamplona before arriving.
But I do a slow start, such as. SJpdP, Orrison, Roncesvalles, Biskerett, Zubiri, Pamplona.

Doesn't suit many people though. They want to go 'faster' than that.

One 'positive' though, as I'm walking slowly and more hours, is that often in the afternoon there might be no other Pilgrims in sight. They have already 'got there' ahead of me.

I do need to be prepared though, to call my accommodation sometimes, to let them know I'm still coming, if arriving late.
 
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So I am one of those who tend to figure out how far I want to walk - so I didn't stay in Pamplona or Burgos doing the CF but did spend a few hours in each before moving on- including seeing Burgos cathedral. Though I don't mind an afternoon walk and arriving later in my planned destination.
Over the years on caminos I have discovered that I find larger cities a bit overwhelming so unless I feel very strongly about spending time to see something particular or it makes sense as a stopping point, I kind of don't worry about staying overnight. And rest days become rest days if I stop in a town with limited "sights" but with a nice bar, supermarket and a chance to do laundry. So I tend to figure out before I start on any route what are the real gems I want to see but truthfully I am often surprised because somewhere unexpected steals my heart - whether a city, a town, a village, a particular albergue or a spot in the middle of nowhere.
 
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Yes, virtually all of us remember those #1 encounters as highlights. But those highlights as universal as they are on the Camino also happen everywhere on the Camino irrespective of location. Maybe I didn't express it well--as indicated in my original post, I have developed an acute fondness for about 19 specific village/town/cities. And if I spend multi-thousands of dollars on a Camino trip not to mention a sometimes uncomfortable 8-hour plane ride, I am going to damn well stay overnight in my favorite towns. That's all. Its just the places I like to stay--and much of that like is because I enjoyed those places so much on the previous Camino. I was not trying to posit that anyone else should stay or even approve of those place in my Tier list. Rather, I was wondering if anyone else had places they always returned to, and after hearing about them, maybe I would see an addition to my favorites. Again, the whole Tier metaphor is simply comprised of those place in which I personally find irresistible. As you noted "But hey, we're all different........."

i get it @Bob Howard .
I’m just saying the towns aren’t important to me.
they are all nice, any will do….so it's hard to 'recommend' any.
yes, we are all different. :)
 
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For me it is less about the town and more about specific albergues and the hospitality. I also love to walk around and interact with locals when possible. That is harder to do in the bigger population centers where people are rushing about. It doesn't take long to see a whole town like San Nicholas, but then again usually my feet hurt anyway. Besides they have a great restaurant in that town. They get fewer pilgrims, but we did get to experience a meeting of a regional Spanish muscle car club that was dining that day. (I think they were Dodge fans.)

The restaurant owner told us a time to come back after the car club meeting and then we were his only customers so he had time to chat. Best meal on the Camino that year and although we spoke little Spanish and the owner little English, there was a communication of hospitality by him and appreciation by us.

In San Nicholas we also met a couple of pilgrims walking the Camino carrying their packs. 96 year old Ira was from New York and his 65 year old girlfriend who fussed over him like you wouldn't believe. I might not have noticed them in a more crowded environment.

The albergue has a nice yard and a cozy bar and the rooms/bunk areas offered privacy in 4 person configurations. It is next to the church and perfectly situated on the Camino to either be ignored and passed by or to offer respite to passing pilgrims. Not too much to see and do, but a very welcoming place to me.

I prefer these small places where time passes more slowly to the hustle bustle of the cities.
 
@JohnRRogers posted "Favorite 'Mid-Stage" Albergues" earlier today, and there were plenty of good recommendations. It appears this will be John and his wife's first time. Last summer I finally managed to have overnights in some of those mid-stage villages/hamlets. But in looking at Forum responses/recommendations to @JohnRRogers, it was clear that they were in the spirit of what I referred to in post a couple years ago as the "In-Between Places".

So, this is a different look at it, and I thought it might merit a separate thread.

Notwithstanding my desire and intent to stay in those In-Between places, which I pretty much did last summer, I still tried to overnight in my very favorite villages/towns/cities. I used to think that everyone, especially first-timers, should overnight in the Big 4--Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Leon. I would now remove Logrono (and I really like Logrono) and bracket it with Viana and Navarette, although for newbies I would still think Logrono should not be missed as an overnight stop.

Then for me there are Tier 2 towns that I have stayed in on all three of my Caminos, and in which I will probably stay this year:

Puente La Reina
Estella
Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Belorado (I don't know what it is, but something always calls me back to Belorado.)
Castrojeriz
Carrion de Las Condes
Sahagun
Astorga (pretty much Big 4 caliber)
Rabanal/Foncebaddon
Villafranca del Bierzo
Sarria
Portomarin
Triacastela

So, my Tier 1's + Pamplona, Burgos and Leon are 19 nights, leaving for me the balance for the In-between Places overnights stops. My walks have been from 33 to 42 days.

Now, that is actually the intro for a larger point which is that it became apparent to me last summer (I'm slow on the uptake I guess) that for some people, the overnight stops are merely incidental to the actual walking. For me, after decades of wilderness backpacking--to paraphrase a great Native American, "never no more shall I sleep on the ground"--the walking part and the charm of the destination towns are pretty much equally balanced. I want to have things to see and experience at the day's destination. But I have to admit that although some are better than others, I have never seen a Plaza Mayor that I didn't like, regardless of the town.

I met a number of people who not only did not stay in the Big 4 cities, but also missed many of my Tier 2 towns. I met several people last July who walked right through Burgos without detouring from the path, not even stopping at the Cathedral--and they were first-time pilgrims! For them, it was the walking, and meeting their daily mileage/kilometer goal.
I'm sure they enjoyed the scenery through Burgos, but apparently it's just not somewhere to dally. At first I was kind of aghast, especially about Burgos, as it is, for me, the most beautiful and interesting town on the Camino, although Astorga . . .

So, two queries, one practical and one slightly philosophical:

1. What are the Forum's views regarding my Big 4 and and what I included in the Tier 2 towns. I'm being a bit selfish in that I am always open to a new charming overnight. So, fire away.

2. But perhaps the more interesting question is what would you consider your personal ratio/balance in terms of the actual walking vs staying in some of the traditional stops, many if not most of which tend to correspond the Brierley stages. And for a good reason--they are fascinating places to stay.

I stayed in El Acebo and Molinaseca for the first time last summer, and they are now knocking on the door of my Tier 2 stops.

Oh, and although I didn't include it above, there is Hontanas--for some reason I think about that little hamlet every few days. There's just something about it. I've stayed there twice, but now with Navarette (one of my Tier 2's), the decision is difficult.

Still can't get over that Pamplona is not a Brierley stage stop.
I love this thread. And will think about it before I respond.
 
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I have to admit that I am at a loss for words. I just don't view the Camino in the same way.

All of your first tier and second tier places are worth visiting. Many more places as well. You ask what ratio of walking versus staying in towns - that depends on how many days I have available, how tired my body is, and what else might be happening.


Brierley wasn't writing a guide book to highlight favourite cities of Spain. He wrote a guide on how to walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, in convenient stages.
FYI: In Brierley's 2022 edition, Pamplona is at the end of the 3rd stage.

Totally agree that Brierley's book is a "guide". It's actually in the title: "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago".

Last fall, I attend a zoom call organized by the American Pilgrims with John. What caught my attention is when John mentioned that he worked as a cartographer (drawer of maps). Aha! Light bulbs went off in my head.

John said that he came up with the stages (SJPP to Santiago) based on 3 criteria.
1) Each stage had to have a start and end (basic map making and probably so each map would fit on a page)
2) Average distance (25k) per day that he and other pilgrims at that time (prior to his first edition in 2003) were walking.
3) Availability of sufficient infrastructure (beds and food) at an end point. It didn't sound like John was trying to find towns that could support everyone walking that day just enough to call it an end point.

I wish he would put those points (in red) into a future edition so readers will understand that his stages are just a series of maps. Each map shows you the route, towns along the route, places to stay, things to explore and topography. Based on the information in his guide (and those of other authors), it's up to each pilgrim to decide how far they can walk, where that might put them each day, what's available in each town, what's interesting that you want to explore, how long you want to explore, etc. In other words, your stages are your stages not John's. It's your pilgrimage. Enjoy the journey!
 
I have to admit that I am at a loss for words. I just don't view the Camino in the same way.

All of your first tier and second tier places are worth visiting. Many more places as well. You ask what ratio of walking versus staying in towns - that depends on how many days I have available, how tired my body is, and what else might be happening.


Brierley wasn't writing a guide book to highlight favourite cities of Spain. He wrote a guide on how to walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, in convenient stages

I completely agree about being at a loss. I too do not view the Camino in the same way. I am not sure what you believe and would love to know. It sounds so confusing to me, first tier, second tier and on and on. The beauty of the camino is the simplicity and the step you take at each moment. If I am walking the CF or another camino with great infrastructure I am thankful for the opportunity to walk as far as my body feels that day. If I am on a camino like the VDLP I am thankful that there is an albergue that is even only bare bones with a clean floor and bed and hopefully a warm shower. Maybe you will stay in a solitary town with no visual beauty and not a pilgrim to be found or wifi to connect to. It gives you a chance to reconnect with your solitude. Maybe you are an albergue that has lots of new faces and gives you that chance for a meeting with a pilgrim(s) that will afford a new lifetime memory. Maybe the town will be lovely, maybe. As I have said before here I have stayed in the same albergue more than once and have had the most wonderful experience one year and a more than questionable one 3 years later. It is the people you meet and the frame of mind you are in. I have walked through big beautiful cities and have felt all alone and been in tiny hamlets with no "charm" or history, alone or with others and been completely happy.
I say, just walk, feel the ground, hear the dirt crackling under your feet, free your mind and just listen to your body and heartbeat. This is way better, way more powerful than any tier or any town, or restaurant or albergue.
It can be all summed up with keep everything as simple as possible. Let out the bad and be open to whatever the next breeze, raindrop, snowflake or sun has for you.
SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE.
Just my opinion
 
I wish he would put those points (in red) into a future edition so readers will understand that his stages are just a series of maps. Each map shows you the route, towns along the route, places to stay, things to explore and topography. Based on the information in his guide (and those of other authors), it's up to each pilgrim to decide how far they can walk, where that might put them each day, what's available in each town, what's interesting that you want to explore, how long you want to explore, etc. In other words, your stages are your stages not John's.
I think that's the approach that @wisepilgrim has taken for his guide books.
 
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Interesting questions.

For me, I think a stop in your 'Big 4' makes a lot of sense.
They are wonderful towns/cities, and full of history.
Even if only staying overnight a walk around the historic centres in not to be missed in my view.
And Logrono for Tapas bar crawling!

As for other stops or 'in-between' places.

We've stopped in quite a few, and honestly, loved them all.
As we tend to walk slower, shorter days, we're often staying at small intermediate places.
I can't think of anywhere I stopped that didn't have some unique attraction or charm.

I love Hornillos, and it's a small one street village.
Uterga was great. the next morning we walked to Eunate.
Lots of smaller places were great. El-Acebo, Ambasmestas, Viskarret, Hospital de Orbigo, Ledigos, Foncebadon, Vega de Lalcarce, Ventas (only 2 places to stay) and many more.

Loved them all.

There are just so many great places to stay.
It takes multiple Caminos, or really slow ones to appreciate even a few of them! :)

As to the question of 'balance'?

The walking is a major part for me. I walk slowly, short days and alone. I'm in no rush.
My time on the trail is precious and I draw it out..........
I pause to admire all the views, the churches along the way, stop for coffees....

The stops are not so important to me.
If the town is particularly attractive, or has some great sights, I'll wander about a bit.
I wouldn't want to miss that. I might have dinner in the plaza major and people watch.
I suppose as I walk slowly and short days, I pause in your various 'Tiers' anyway.

But I've also been in a tiny village and was the only guest in the accommodation.
That's fine too. A chance to relax, unwind.
I'm not really into the social scene on the Camino.
Dinner with 2 or 3 other Pilgrims is nice.
The Mass shared meals that sometimes occur, tend to make me run a mile.
I'm not good in crowds.

But hey, we're all different.........

Interesting questions.
I'm sure you'll get lots of variety in the answers! :)
I am with you Robo, I walk shorter stages usually no more than 15 km a day, and this is my plan on the Frances, having allowed about 5 weeks to walk from Burgos to Sarria, scheduled for 2024. I walk alone mostly because others are passing me by walking longer stages. For me it feels less rushed, and although I have an itinerary, it doesn't feel controlled, and there is no pressure. Having read this forum and others for years, it is about so many different things for so many different people.
 
It’s late on a Saturday night and I can sense I’m about to dig myself into a hole; but it’s never stopped me before.

It’s quite a time since I lived in a city, and where I live now barely qualifies as a hamlet. I’ve got this theory - and there’s probably a book if not a phd in it.

My thought is that ‘our’ natural environment is a village. That probably has a shop, a pub, a church and basic infrastructure and constitutes a ‘sufficient’ social network.

If we happen to live in a city; I suggest that in time each person selects their own social network out of the myriad options available. They create their own virtual village.

As a tourist or visitor to - for example - Leon - we see all the possibilities. As a native; we see the sub-set that we have chosen or inherited.

In Burgos, for example - having visited 7-8 times now - I see my preferred church, shop and places to stay and eat. And it’s sufficient.

In my mind; having stayed in virtually every village or larger on the CF in the past ten years; I no longer really differentiate between places to stop based on size of town or village . I have some preferred albergues and hotels, but that’s because of what they are; not where they are.

My adopted style is to have a couple of places I’m intending to stay; but otherwise to just see how I feel on the day - sometimes going 40k, other times <10 or even staying still.
 
@henrythedog
I think you're right.
And many have studied this. (my numbers below are rough)

A friend of mine studies the social interactions and hierarchies of apes and of people's who still live in 'traditional' hunter / gather type communities.

There are 'natural' community sizes that 'suit' humans.

A family group of about 5-9.
A larger 'clan' group of no more than 150.
And these groups, making a larger group with a maximum size of about 1,000.

Any who has served in the Military will recognise these numbers.

We don't function as well in uncomfortable group sizes.

If I can find his book I'll correct my 'guess' at the numbers.

But back to your point. I think we are happiest in Villages.
My wife comes from Bangkok. A huge city.
But the street (Soi) in which her family lived was in effect a village.
Even with a village head man.
Life revolved around the goings on in the street like a soap opera.

Maybe we are 'hard wired' to most comfortable living in villages?

Oh that book. A great read for anyone interested in this stuff and in management.
 
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How many days did your camino take. I like your post and the idea of slow walking!
Last summer was a 42 day Camino. I wrote a post about walking a slow camino a couple years ago called the "In-Between Places" and last summer I tried to put it into practice.
How many days did your camino take. I like your post and the idea of slow walking!
It was a 42-day Camino. I wrote a related post about it when I was first starting to think about a slow Camino. Here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/the-in-between-places.69961/#post-919585
 
42 days? My kind of CF @Bob Howard :)

It's so hard to recommend those 'in-between' places, or any place for that matter isn't it?
Our enjoyment at the time depended on so many factors. How we felt that day, how we interacted with others who were there, who was running things at the time....... Your mileage may vary. :oops:

One that sticks in my mind though..........

Vega de Valcarce - Las Rocas. A rural house + cafe/bar across the street.
I think the best Pilgrim meal of that trip.
Husband and wife team. Lovely fresh food cooked with care.
 
42 days? My kind of CF @Bob Howard :)

It's so hard to recommend those 'in-between' places, or any place for that matter isn't it?
Our enjoyment at the time depended on so many factors. How we felt that day, how we interacted with others who were there, who was running things at the time....... Your mileage may vary. :oops:

One that sticks in my mind though..........

Vega de Valcarce - Las Rocas. A rural house + cafe/bar across the street.
I think the best Pilgrim meal of that trip.
Husband and wife team. Lovely fresh food cooked with care.
My first two Caminos were Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro, although each time I admired the string of villages along the way. So, Las Herrerias last summer, and I am indeed planning on Vega de Valcarce this summer.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
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From airports to SJPP
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I love this thread and the idea put forth by several folks here of just walking slower and absorbing the whole thing.
I will be doing my first camino in June, and very much look forward to the experience of a slower walk and interacting with the smaller towns and albergues along the way, along with taking time in a city if it suits me.

I have about 10-12 days allotted to walk with a padding of an extra 5 days to be used on either side. I am consideing some of the mid section instead of the Sarria to Santiago portion.
This thread is very helpful, thank you!
 
One of the more delightful (and totally unplanned) stops was the municipal albergue San Roque in Villambistia. I was having a rather heavy day, taking a rest on the bench in front of the church just before one turns right into the village, when another French peregrina came walking along and sat next to me. We got to chatting and she said "yes, I think I stay here tonight" so I tagged along.

The albergue ended up being an absolute jewel. The owners were so welcoming and kind, and the dinner blew all of us away. Pasta and clams cooked in white wine sauce, and some delicious dessert pudding. It was downright gourmet and we all felt so cared for that night.
 
I love this thread and the idea put forth by several folks here of just walking slower and absorbing the whole thing.
I will be doing my first camino in June, and very much look forward to the experience of a slower walk and interacting with the smaller towns and albergues along the way, along with taking time in a city if it suits me.

I have about 10-12 days allotted to walk with a padding of an extra 5 days to be used on either side. I am consideing some of the mid section instead of the Sarria to Santiago portion.
This thread is very helpful, thank you!

It's a bit of a hybrid, and may not suit, but I'll put it out there.
I may incur some wrath for acting like a Tourigrino! :oops:

For my wife's first Camino I wanted her to experience a bit more than the final stages from Sarria.
Don't get me wrong, I love those stages, but we had the time to do a bit more. But which bit?

And she wasn't able to walk far. (Plantar Fasciitis)

So I came up with a Hybrid.
Given the Logistics required I had someone living in Spain help with some of it.

It went something like this.........

Land in Madrid, with 2 days sightseeing.
Train to Astorga, changing trains in Leon. Really nice journey and views.
Car pickup in Astorga and dropped at Foncebadon.
Visited a couple of mountain villages on the way.
Overnight in Foncebadon.
Early start, walking to Cruz de Ferro and down El Acebo.
Car pickup and head to O Cebriero for lunch.
Walk down to Linares, and car pickup to Sarria via Samos.
Start Camino in Sarria.

It gave Pat a chance to see the Cruz de Ferro, walk across some mountains etc before starting her Camino proper in Sarria. It was intentionally short walks given her injured feet. But it acted as a warm up.

And in so doing she declared the day before arriving in Santiago, that 'next time' she wanted to start in St Jean!

I use this merely to illustrate that there are many options for those who want to 'add a bit more' to a Camino starting in Sarria.

The easiest option being of course, to just start a little further back. Astorga, Ponferrada, or maybe closer? Though to start in a small village, might require a taxi or bus, from a larger town serviced by trains / planes etc.
 
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I once walked a "Disneyland" camino with a friend who was experiencing great grief and sadness following a bereavement. All I wanted was to show her that laughter and joy was still possible. We did indeed have the best time. When she was looking back at the photos the other day she commented that it was the first time after her loss that she felt like smiling, and how that showed in the photos.
 
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I love this thread and the idea put forth by several folks here of just walking slower and absorbing the whole thing.
I will be doing my first camino in June, and very much look forward to the experience of a slower walk and interacting with the smaller towns and albergues along the way, along with taking time in a city if it suits me.

I have about 10-12 days allotted to walk with a padding of an extra 5 days to be used on either side. I am consideing some of the mid section instead of the Sarria to Santiago portion.
This thread is very helpful, thank you!
Indeed my plan so I originally chose Leon to Sarria but got swayed by encouragement to start at Burgos and include the Meseta so am now going to walk from Burgos to Sarria, and plan over 5 weeks, so very slowly, slowly (as once suggested to me by a guide in Nepal). I already have a compostela, and happy with that.
 
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I would now remove Logrono (and I really like Logrono) and bracket it with Viana and Navarette, although for newbies I would still think Logrono should not be missed as an overnight stop.
If you want some short days to "rest" there's nothing wrong with stopping in all three! You may especially need a short day after a tapas crawl in Logroño. 😉
 
There is only one solution to all of this :) walk the Camino as often as possible to experience all the wonderful villages, cities and albergues!!
 
Indeed my plan so I originally chose Leon to Sarria but got swayed by encouragement to start at Burgos and include the Meseta so am now going to walk from Burgos to Sarria, and plan over 5 weeks, so very slowly, slowly (as once suggested to me by a guide in Nepal). I already have a compostela, and happy with that.
I was also considering starting in Leon, now am now fairly sure I will start in Astorga, then slowly see how far I get. I am planning on just 10-15 km per day, no rush to any finishing point. I may or may not get to Santiago, and at this point, that's ok. I can always change my mind as I go...
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
@JohnRRogers posted "Favorite 'Mid-Stage" Albergues" earlier today, and there were plenty of good recommendations. It appears this will be John and his wife's first time. Last summer I finally managed to have overnights in some of those mid-stage villages/hamlets. But in looking at Forum responses/recommendations to @JohnRRogers, it was clear that they were in the spirit of what I referred to in post a couple years ago as the "In-Between Places".

So, this is a different look at it, and I thought it might merit a separate thread.

Notwithstanding my desire and intent to stay in those In-Between places, which I pretty much did last summer, I still tried to overnight in my very favorite villages/towns/cities. I used to think that everyone, especially first-timers, should overnight in the Big 4--Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Leon. I would now remove Logrono (and I really like Logrono) and bracket it with Viana and Navarette, although for newbies I would still think Logrono should not be missed as an overnight stop.

Then for me there are Tier 2 towns that I have stayed in on all three of my Caminos, and in which I will probably stay this year:

Puente La Reina
Estella
Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Belorado (I don't know what it is, but something always calls me back to Belorado.)
Castrojeriz
Carrion de Las Condes
Sahagun
Astorga (pretty much Big 4 caliber)
Rabanal/Foncebaddon
Villafranca del Bierzo
Sarria
Portomarin
Triacastela

So, my Tier 1's + Pamplona, Burgos and Leon are 19 nights, leaving for me the balance for the In-between Places overnights stops. My walks have been from 33 to 42 days.

Now, that is actually the intro for a larger point which is that it became apparent to me last summer (I'm slow on the uptake I guess) that for some people, the overnight stops are merely incidental to the actual walking. For me, after decades of wilderness backpacking--to paraphrase a great Native American, "never no more shall I sleep on the ground"--the walking part and the charm of the destination towns are pretty much equally balanced. I want to have things to see and experience at the day's destination. But I have to admit that although some are better than others, I have never seen a Plaza Mayor that I didn't like, regardless of the town.

I met a number of people who not only did not stay in the Big 4 cities, but also missed many of my Tier 2 towns. I met several people last July who walked right through Burgos without detouring from the path, not even stopping at the Cathedral--and they were first-time pilgrims! For them, it was the walking, and meeting their daily mileage/kilometer goal.
I'm sure they enjoyed the scenery through Burgos, but apparently it's just not somewhere to dally. At first I was kind of aghast, especially about Burgos, as it is, for me, the most beautiful and interesting town on the Camino, although Astorga . . .

So, two queries, one practical and one slightly philosophical:

1. What are the Forum's views regarding my Big 4 and and what I included in the Tier 2 towns. I'm being a bit selfish in that I am always open to a new charming overnight. So, fire away.

2. But perhaps the more interesting question is what would you consider your personal ratio/balance in terms of the actual walking vs staying in some of the traditional stops, many if not most of which tend to correspond the Brierley stages. And for a good reason--they are fascinating places to stay.

I stayed in El Acebo and Molinaseca for the first time last summer, and they are now knocking on the door of my Tier 2 stops.

Oh, and although I didn't include it above, there is Hontanas--for some reason I think about that little hamlet every few days. There's just something about it. I've stayed there twice, but now with Navarette (one of my Tier 2's), the decision is difficult.

Still can't get over that Pamplona is not a Brierley stage stop.
The challenge is that sometimes the ones you'd like to stay at are just too close together. When I last walked the Frances in 2016 we stayed at Viana and Navarrete, but that meant we missed tapas in Logroño. It is hard to do it all in one Camino. All the more reason to keep coming back.

Of your big 4, on my last CF, I only did 2. As I mentioned, we missed Logroño. We also did not stop in Pamplona (it being during the San Fermines). Instead we stayed before Pamplone in Trinidad de Arres and after in Zariquiegui. We also wanted to do some shorter days at the beginning, because we hadn't trained. I agree that Astorga should be at the level of Logroño or Pamplona. (We did stay in Astorga.)

Of the Tier 2 towns, if you stay in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, that makes it harder to stop in Grañon. Those who want to stay in the ruins of the monastery of San Anton, probably won't be staying in Castrojeriz. We chose not to stay in Sarria, but 5 km further, to hopefully separate ourselves a bit from the crowds. I'd say O Cebreiro probably ranks alongside a number of your Tier 2 towns.
 
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@JohnRRogers posted "Favorite 'Mid-Stage" Albergues" earlier today, and there were plenty of good recommendations. It appears this will be John and his wife's first time. Last summer I finally managed to have overnights in some of those mid-stage villages/hamlets. But in looking at Forum responses/recommendations to @JohnRRogers, it was clear that they were in the spirit of what I referred to in post a couple years ago as the "In-Between Places".

So, this is a different look at it, and I thought it might merit a separate thread.

Notwithstanding my desire and intent to stay in those In-Between places, which I pretty much did last summer, I still tried to overnight in my very favorite villages/towns/cities. I used to think that everyone, especially first-timers, should overnight in the Big 4--Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos and Leon. I would now remove Logrono (and I really like Logrono) and bracket it with Viana and Navarette, although for newbies I would still think Logrono should not be missed as an overnight stop.

Then for me there are Tier 2 towns that I have stayed in on all three of my Caminos, and in which I will probably stay this year:

Puente La Reina
Estella
Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Belorado (I don't know what it is, but something always calls me back to Belorado.)
Castrojeriz
Carrion de Las Condes
Sahagun
Astorga (pretty much Big 4 caliber)
Rabanal/Foncebaddon
Villafranca del Bierzo
Sarria
Portomarin
Triacastela

So, my Tier 1's + Pamplona, Burgos and Leon are 19 nights, leaving for me the balance for the In-between Places overnights stops. My walks have been from 33 to 42 days.

Now, that is actually the intro for a larger point which is that it became apparent to me last summer (I'm slow on the uptake I guess) that for some people, the overnight stops are merely incidental to the actual walking. For me, after decades of wilderness backpacking--to paraphrase a great Native American, "never no more shall I sleep on the ground"--the walking part and the charm of the destination towns are pretty much equally balanced. I want to have things to see and experience at the day's destination. But I have to admit that although some are better than others, I have never seen a Plaza Mayor that I didn't like, regardless of the town.

I met a number of people who not only did not stay in the Big 4 cities, but also missed many of my Tier 2 towns. I met several people last July who walked right through Burgos without detouring from the path, not even stopping at the Cathedral--and they were first-time pilgrims! For them, it was the walking, and meeting their daily mileage/kilometer goal.
I'm sure they enjoyed the scenery through Burgos, but apparently it's just not somewhere to dally. At first I was kind of aghast, especially about Burgos, as it is, for me, the most beautiful and interesting town on the Camino, although Astorga . . .

So, two queries, one practical and one slightly philosophical:

1. What are the Forum's views regarding my Big 4 and and what I included in the Tier 2 towns. I'm being a bit selfish in that I am always open to a new charming overnight. So, fire away.

2. But perhaps the more interesting question is what would you consider your personal ratio/balance in terms of the actual walking vs staying in some of the traditional stops, many if not most of which tend to correspond the Brierley stages. And for a good reason--they are fascinating places to stay.

I stayed in El Acebo and Molinaseca for the first time last summer, and they are now knocking on the door of my Tier 2 stops.

Oh, and although I didn't include it above, there is Hontanas--for some reason I think about that little hamlet every few days. There's just something about it. I've stayed there twice, but now with Navarette (one of my Tier 2's), the decision is difficult.

Still can't get over that Pamplona is not a Brierley stage stop.
I may have missed it , but what are your Tier 1 overnight stops?
 
I don't really care for Pamplona. I have been to Logrono, Burgos and Leon several times. I think I'd probably prefer one of the smaller villages unless I have a specific need to stay in one of those towns such as ending my Camino there to bus or train back home.
 
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For me (and it changed a bit after last year's Camino), the Tier 1 towns are simply my favorite places to stay pretty much based on experiences from previous Caminos, and are places I have stayed each Camino. They are Pamplona, Estella, Santo Domingo de La Calzada [a difficult choice inasmuch as staying in Santo Domingo precludes staying in Granon], Burgos, Carrion de Las Condes, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Vlllafranca del Bierzo, Triacastela & Portomarin. And of those, I suppose I think of Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and Astorga as must-stays, although I understand many people do not care for the more urban overnight stops.
 
I have enjoyed reading this thread. I appreciate everyone’s different goals and motivations. I think we all sometimes need to be better at realizing that what is best for one is not best for all, nor is one way better or worse than another.

For me, I am hoping to balance being a pilgrim and a tourist. If someone wants to call me a tourigrino I will embrace it because I have decided not to accept that as a negative description. For me it is accurate in what I see as a positive thing for me. I am planning 40 days from Pamplona to Santiago for the purpose of being able to go slow and see things in the villages along the way. But I also appreciate those who want to focus solely on the walking and where they stay is largely irrelevant.

I find I am staying in most of the places that the OP listed as his favorites so I am excited about that.

My flight from the US is one week away and I cannot believe that three years after deciding to finally do it that it is already here. I studied in León in 1995 and this will be my first time back since a quick stop there in 1997. I am excited to see how it has changed with the influx of pilgrims since then.
 

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