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Guidebook question


Staff member
I am looking for the best Vdlp guidebook in English, I only want to carry one. I'm more interested in practical route and accommodation information and less in cultural, historical info. People on this site have recommended both the Cicerone guide and the Confraternity guide. And as I check them out on the web, I see that both are written by Alison Raju. Can you give me some advice as to which of the Raju guides is better, or tell me how are they different? Or do you have another suggestion? Thanks, Laurie
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Laurie, I bought both of them and took them to the Via. In the first couple of towns I mailed the CIcerone guide back to Madrid. Weight issues was part of it, but the way it is written is not for me. It will tell you in detail advice like, "cross the road, go 200 meters, then take the first fork and go right, then go 200 meters more then take the left fork staying to the left of the fence, ignoring the signs....". Like that! Too much detail on the instructions when really the arrows and other signs used are enough. It´s well marked for the most part. We got lost only a couple of times, and we found our way back no problem. I tend to ask anyone when I can for directions. The CSJ guide I liked better, for it is lighter weight and it is basic towns, distances, heights and accomodations.
Now, do know that it is not up to date. For example, there is an albergue in Aldea del Cano, very nice. In Monesterio the refugio is closed. In Merida, there IS an albergue also very nice by the river in a park. The Hostal Miraltajo was reopened. I would make notes into the book as I went through the forums and added any info people ahead of me would offer.
When are you going?


Nunca se camina solo
Hi Laurie

There are three english langauge guidebooks which I know of:

1 Cicerone Guide to the Via de la Plata by Alison Raju

2 Pili Pala Press Walking the Via de la Plata by Ben Cole and Bethan Davies

3 The Confraternity of St James The Camino Mazarabe or Via de al Plata edited by Alison Raju

I've used all three at various times and they each have things to offer. Lillian is correct - the Cicerone guide is very detailed in terms of directions. It also has information on the cultural and architectural background along the way and describes detours to places of interest. The VdlP is still developing and the Cicerone guide is perhaps not the best for up to date info on accomodation etc.

The Pili Pala guide is equally detailed but in a different style - more commentary on the route and much more information on flora and fauna.

The CSJ Guide gives the basics - with information about accomodation etc.

However it is really important that you check the Updates section of both the CSJ website and Pila Pala Press:

For example the update section of the CSJ website includes all of the information Lillian noted was missing in her guidebook

I found that hospitaleros were knowledgable about the route and I think with the CSJ guide and updates you can step out with confidence.

Buen Camino



Staff member
Thanks for the information, Lillian and John. It sounds like the CSJ guide is the best for me. I have used it for the Camino Frances and found it indispensable, but my experience in 2007 was that the CSJ guide to the Norte was not as good. Maybe it's just more out of date, or maybe the real problem was that there were sections of the Norte that were very poorly marked, and the CSJ guide didn't fill in the gaps.

Lillian, I really enjoy your posts, and I hope you are healing well in Madrid. Your description of the vdlp has given me a lot of food for thought. I am thinking about an early April departure next year, but nothing is definite yet. I may bail out and head back to the Camino Frances. Like many, I suppose, I am overwhelmed by the crowds on the Frances but also unsure/apprehensive about the apparent total solitude on the vdlp. I usually walk with a friend, but she is unable to take that much time next year, so it would be me on my own. I am lucky to have a lot of time over the next twelve months, and my wildest dream would be to walk several caminos over that time span! The aragones and the primitivo are calling too......


Dawn of a new Day

Active Member
Hi Laurie,

I prefer the ben cole and bethan davies book, i have used it for the camino. i like it for the accurate maps and accomodation listing.check out his website, as he has just updated (may2008) with new information. /Seems like alot of albergues on the route now.
What i do, is take an exacto knife and cut out the flora and fona , makes for a lighter book.
i have not the confirturnity book, but it is so easy to follow the arrows, so i don;t care for the directions eg. go 200yds, turn left, under the bridge etc.......
i also walked the camino norte and i think there will be many more people on the via de plata than what i saw on the norte.
just go anyway.
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Active Member
No no no, Laurie, don´t bail out. This camino is awesome. Very rarely does one have to be in total solitude. It does not happen often. There are people in most albergues that you can meet and hook up with. Just like the CF but with less pick´ns. I have been alone in two albergues so far, but it was rather nice. I will post more on my blog when I can upload pics and you will see, it is definitely a wonderful camino.
Do it


Staff member
Hi, Lillian,
Thanks for your encouragement. I have enjoyed every word of your blog, and I really do want to walk the vdlp. My idea was to start a bit earlier than you did, around mid April -- I keep reading about the profusion of wildflowers and would like to be able to enjoy that. But I also assume that going a bit later would give me more possibility of companionship. Can't wait to read more! Laurie


Active Member
Actually, from what I have seen in pilgrim books and from talking to hospitaleros, starting in April is a good idea as well. Most of the pilgrims tend to be mid camino in May. Perfect timing for you. The later on starts in the spring the less there will be. Then it changes again in the autumn. Seems to be all about the heat.

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