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Has the Camino Frances become a victim of its own success?

RachelNZ

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances April/May 2017
Portuguese Camino Apr/May 2019
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
 
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Of course the Camino has changed, and many of those changes are not to my liking. The Camino Frances, at least at certain times and segments, seems too "canned" (packaged) and too social for me. Theme parks are great fun, but in small doses! We can lament the changes, but why should we get to decide that things should be preserved at the point that we think was perfect, and restrict access for others. Life doesn't work that way.

Certainly there are logistical and ecological considerations that can be improved, and I hope they are.

Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think?
I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Is it possible that the above two statements illustrate a conundrum? Like many of us, you want adventurousness and empty spaces but you want security and shorter distances between lodgings. I don't know what you mean by "big distances" but I am in my mid-70s and have feet that complain, but I am able to work out plans for other routes, so that I typically don't walk over 25 km, and I always have a Plan B for the few stages that require 30 km. It definitely takes more preparation/planning and a willingness to adjust while on the ground, since the details are not handed out on silver platters. Sometimes I find myself outside my comfort zone, but that is where the adventure lies. Each year, when I head to Spain, I ask myself why I am not satisfied with more conventional vacations.

It wouldn't be adventurous to do the same thing over and over. So, if you are seeking more adventure, challenge, or empty spaces, you will have to go after it.
 
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Walking the Camino every year since 2013 I used to hate Camino tourists seeing the bus pull up and prepacked walkers regurgitated onto the way only to be reswallowed whole a few kilometers later back to the air-conditioned buses (Ozannie remember you laughing at me giving out about them) They now look more authentic than the plethora of Guided tourists companies making a killing from something special.

From Ireland it is very noticeable the publicity the Camino is getting in the media of the UK.
Every few months it seems there is a programme of "B" rated celebrities on TV, walking a few hundred metres of a Camino "To find themselves" currently Camino Portuguese.

The latest fashion is currently "guided" tourists on Camino youtube handy walking tours,
This is leading to the destruction of Camino making it the open tourist trap.

Back to the original point when to walk, February is cool and less occupied, September October tail end of rush hour, and Jyly, August, too hot for.most.

I am sorry for the rant but it's sad to see the ending of good and precious times.


Buen Camino.
 
I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now
Hi Rachel. I have walked the Frances twice. While the last time was in 2013, I am familiar with the crowds and higher levels of infrastructure - and the ‘theme park’ effect that @C clearly mentions - as I’ve crossed the Frances a few times in recent years at the end of other Caminos.

Like you, I’d like to walk the Frances again but would like to avoid the crowds. My solution is that I (in fact, we - my husband and I) plan to walk the Frances / Invierno this November. The number of pilgrims leaving SJPP in November is very low compared to any month between April and October. Perhaps that’s an option to consider.

Another option would be to walk the Camino Frances via Aragon which you can begin at the Col du Somport (or a few days back in France on the Arles). After about a week or so you will arrive at the ‘main’ Frances path in Obanos or Puenta la Reina, avoiding those first congested days from SJPP to Pamplona. If you want to avoid the congestion of the last 100 kms, you could then choose the Invierno from Ponferrada.

You can find the Camino Frances via Aragon information on Gronze. It’s a beautiful quiet route with some wonderful Albergues 😎
 
What does the Camino still offer
Firstly it puts together people of different backgrounds ,beliefs, values, ages and affluence.
Secondly it is still hard to do and that draws people together through suffering and kindness.
Thirdly it gives people the chance to evaluate their lives if they wish.
lastly the people who approach it from a tourist perspective are either in their own groups or struggle to connect with the more serious pilgrims in a meaningful way .
(I will state that I am one that really enjoys the social and spiritual side of the Frances Camino.)
So for me it is still a very worthwhile place to reset and hopefully improve myself.
Will it throw up challenges of course ! But if the Camino has taught me anything it is to be more tolerant so perhaps the increase in numbers is another challenge to overcome .
It has been a pivotable experience in my life and I willing share it with others that make the commitment to walk !
 
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To misquote a legend, “The Camino is too crowded; nobody goes there anymore”. Perhaps the real problem of the crowds are not in the fresh faces discovering the way for the first time, but in all of us who keep returning year after year. We take up that same bed, that same trail space, that same pew at the Cathedral - is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time? Before we point a finger at the hordes descending from buses and tour vans, perhaps we need to look in the mirror and ask if we shouldn’t make way for someone out seeking on this route in their own way.
 
To misquote a legend, “The Camino is too crowded; nobody goes there anymore”. Perhaps the real problem of the crowds are not in the fresh faces discovering the way for the first time, but in all of us who keep returning year after year. We take up that same bed, that same trail space, that same pew at the Cathedral - is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time? Before we point a finger at the hordes descending from buses and tour vans, perhaps we need to look in the mirror and ask if we shouldn’t make way for someone out seeking on this route in their own way.
Fair point , but perhaps the repeat offenders can help and advise new pilgrim's and improve their chances of completing their Caminos.
 
An alternative to the sometimes-crowded CF and to the reportedly-costly Norte?

In summer of 2022, post-CF, I rode the narrow-gauge train from Ferrol to Bilbao (except for a short temporarily-closed section).

The inland route through the mountains was eye-poppingly attractive.

I observed, more-or-less paralleling the tracks, many prepared footpaths, some of which appeared to be parts of long-distance hiking routes. I did see people with backpacks walking along these paths, plus of course many folks who looked more like locals out for a walk.

There are many small attractive towns along the route of the railway and the aforementioned footpaths: indeed, the need to connect the towns almost certainly stimulated development of the railway.

Might it be possible to link together these disjoint segments of inland footpaths plus local roads into a coherent east-to-west foot-pilgrimage route running south of the Norte and north of the CF, from Bilbao to Ferrol or similar? The east-to-west routing would be conceptually consistent with historical pilgrimage flow patterns.

Such a new route could satisfy foot-pilgrims' hunger for less-crowded routings, and provide a new source of revenue for en-route lodging places and eateries. And keeping it within reasonable walking distance to the railway, where possible, would provide pilgrims with a ready-made "Plan B".
 
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I walked the Via Bayonne from Bayonne to Burgos over the last year- with use of one or two pensions or hostals and a fair number of albergues it's very easy to keep to under 25km days (also known as the tunnel route, it also runs for several days with the Vasco Interior). It would be a new adventure, then join the CF in Burgos on the meseta which I love. My plan for next year is then to reach ponferrada and head for the Invierno before the craziness begins.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I have walked the Camino Frances four times - in 1990, 2002, 2016 and most recently in January this year.

Congestion? - in 2016 the pilgrim office handed out just over 278,000 Compostelas - most to people who had walked some part of the Camino Frances. Last year that number was 438,683. Early signs from the pilgrim office records suggest that numbers this year may be as much as 30% higher again in 2023. Most of that concentrated in the last 100km but there are fairly consistent increases on the more popular Caminos. Some accommodation has closed permanently during the Covid lockdowns. That may have some effect on those walking this year. I would expect this summer to be far busier than I encountered on my 2016 walk and frankly I found that was more than enough for me. I do intend to walk a short section of the Frances this summer with a friend - unusual for me as I generally walk solo. My friend is an experienced long distance walker and has walked several Caminos but never the Frances. I'm not sure he fully appreciates how different an experience it is.

Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? - I think that ship sailed long before 2016. Walking in 2016 I found the Camino vastly changed from my earlier walks. Not only in numbers but in attitude. In some of the people I encountered I found an unpleasant sense of entitlement - that they could and should just be able to buy themselves a comfortable, trouble-free and near-effortless experience. Feeling tired? - call a taxi. Shoulders a bit stiff and sore - chuck your pack on a luggage van. Can't be bothered to read a map or guide book and plan your own stops? - book everything through a travel company. Why not just buy your pilgrimage straight off the shelf? Though the numbers this year are likely to be much higher I would expect summer on the Frances to be essentially the same in character.

My Camino in January this year was like stepping back 30 years though the accommodation is now far better. Very small numbers. Long stages because very few albergues were open. No luggage transport services. At times walking for a whole day before catching sight of another pilgrim. At 60 I was the oldest person in the albergue most nights. It is still possible to capture some of the feeling of the Frances of twenty or thirty years ago but to do so I think you must really walk well outside the ever-widening "season". And September or October are now very much within the busy times.
 
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Every place that becomes busy due to great feedback / people going and telling their friends quite often lose something. The hordes turned up in Ibiza 1989 in its heyday and Thailand in the mid 1990's and I could list further examples of the crowds arriving and supposedly spoiling it

Should we expect the crowds to go elsewhere so people can see it as it used to be ???

The only way I can see the numbers ever declining is when people stop going home and telling everybody else how great it is. In the mean time, those wanting a different experience may well have to try somewhere else.

We always hear "it's your camino " or it's "their camino" to do it the way they want. Should we really expect others to clear off and leave it for those who want solitude ? Surely it is their camino as much as ours

I only see numbers climbing from here and also the other routes too. In this day and age, word travels faster than pilgrims and the hordes are sure to follow :)
 
We always hear "it's your camino " or it's "their camino" to do it the way they want. Should we really expect others to clear off and leave it for those who want solitude ? Surely it is their camino as much as ours
In my more cynical moments - and there seem to be many more of them these days - I am very grateful that the Camino Frances remains by far the route of choice for those who want their journeys to be prepackaged and sanitised and undemanding. Leaving quiet paths and solitary spaces elsewhere for those who taste runs in that direction instead.
 
I would expect this summer to be far busier than I encountered on my 2016 walk and frankly I found that was more than enough for me. I do intend to walk a short section of the Frances this summer with a friend - unusual for me as I generally walk solo. My friend is an experienced long distance walker and has walked several Caminos but never the Frances. I'm not sure he fully appreciates how different an experience it is.

Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? - I think that ship sailed long before 2016. Walking in 2016 I found the Camino vastly changed from my earlier walks. Not only in numbers but in attitude. In some of the people I encountered I found an unpleasant sense of entitlement - that they could and should just be able to buy themselves a comfortable, trouble-free and near-effortless experience. Feeling tired? - call a taxi. Shoulders a bit stiff and sore - chuck your pack on a luggage van. Can't be bothered to read a map or guide book and plan your own stops? - book everything through a travel company. Why not just buy your pilgrimage straight off the shelf? Though the numbers this year are likely to be much higher I would expect summer on the Frances to be essentially the same in character.
It sounds like you have enough experience to know you're not going to like this summer? Why go?

I've only walked once, last year, and I'm going back in a couple of weeks. I don't have the perspective to know "how good it used to be" but I do know I learned something everyday. The buses didn't bother me. They weren't many and I thought it was great that people were getting out in the world as opposed to doing nothing. I went mid-May and there was plenty of time to contemplate or best of all, think about nothing. I didn't find any cranky old timers. I did find a nice balance of old and new. People with experience that could let you know a good place to get some fresh orange juice and people new to the Camino that were figuring it out.

Isn't part of the Camino the affirmation of being grateful for what you have had and do have?
 
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Your problem is that you listen to the drama kings and queens who like to get noticed by others and so provide either partial information or misinformation or just plain make stuff up.

If you take the time to look at the data then you will see that the number of pilgrims who gain a Compostela and who start from St. Jean has been reasonably static since 2017 (excepting, of course, for the dip in numbers during the Covid years).

There is a possible trend for pilgrims on a Spring camino who are starting earlier. The Spring peak for departure from St. Jean used to be the second week of May but this year the peak will probably be in late April. Despite this trend towards an earlier start the overall numbers on an annual basis are about the same.

There has also recently been a growing tendancy for pilgrims to skip the Meseta and towns on and around the Meseta are complaining of reduced pilgrim numbers.

I suspect that if you choose to walk in May then your experience will be similar to May 2016 as far as pilgrim numbers go.

I have no idea about September or October as I haven't seen a discernable trend there.

Please don't be mislead by the dramatists who like to quote huge numbers receiving Compostela attributed to the Frances. These large numbers are real but overwhelmingly, these are Spanish pilgrims who start in Galicia, especially at Saria.

Knowing that these huge numbers are Spanish will help you plan to avoid them. The peaks are around Easter, the start of School holidays in Spain and August.

If you don't want to dodge the big groups of Spanish pilgrims in Galicia then swap to a less popular route as you get to Galicia.
 
It sounds like you have enough experience to know you're not going to like this summer? Why go?
As I said above - I will be walking with a friend who has not yet experienced the Camino Frances. We walk together for a week or two most years in the UK though we have also walked the Camino Ingles together. I am interested to see what my friend makes of a totally different experience. And although there is a lot about the Camino Frances in summer which I find unattractive there is also a great deal which remains superb. Not least the infrastructure which makes travelling very light so easy.
 
I agree with what you wrote apart from the fact that I personally would not use the words ”drama kings and queens” but rather “posters who extrapolate incorrectly from correct current numbers and percentages into the future because they don’t look at longer time series, at seasonal and geographical variations, at details of origin and behaviour patterns of various categories of pilgrims“ and so on. 😇
 
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I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
The times you are planning to walk are the times I choose also for the Frances. Pre-Easter and mid-September onwards. There are sufficient facilities for the lower numbers of Peregrinos.

The reports of crowds and pressure on accommodation seem to me to be concentrated on the stretches from SJPDP to Zubiri and from Sarria onwards and also to those using little more than booking.com to pre-book private rooms.
 
Hi Rachel. I have walked the Frances twice. While the last time was in 2013, I am familiar with the crowds and higher levels of infrastructure - and the ‘theme park’ effect that @C clearly mentions - as I’ve crossed the Frances a few times in recent years at the end of other Caminos.

Like you, I’d like to walk the Frances again but would like to avoid the crowds. My solution is that I (in fact, we - my husband and I) plan to walk the Frances / Invierno this November. The number of pilgrims leaving SJPP in November is very low compared to any month between April and October. Perhaps that’s an option to consider.

Another option would be to walk the Camino Frances via Aragon which you can begin at the Col du Somport (or a few days back in France on the Arles). After about a week or so you will arrive at the ‘main’ Frances path in Obanos or Puenta la Reina, avoiding those first congested days from SJPP to Pamplona. If you want to avoid the congestion of the last 100 kms, you could then choose the Invierno from Ponferrada.

You can find the Camino Frances via Aragon information on Gronze. It’s a beautiful quiet route with some wonderful Albergues 😎
You would miss out on the most rewarding stage over the Pyrenees- a stand out for me last June and I’ve walked a few Caminos .
 
Well I walked my 5th Frances June 2022. I was expecting huge crowds after all opened post Covid. Turned out we barely saw any pilgrims each day . We did start walking later each day , Maybe that was why.(9 am, and yes I stay in private pre booked hostels so I don;t have to rush for a bed. It's just the way I prefer it but know this is not everyone's cup of tea) Totally enjoyed it....again.... . So much so, that I'll be back at the Frances in 2 weeks :) .
 
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From my first CF in April 2016 to the most recent in 2022, the overall conditions and experience were nearly identical. The only two small changes I observed are a few more people after Sarria each year, and quite a few more people starting in SJPP who are physically unprepared and become injured in the first week. There is also a marked increase in the number of pilgrims who are "documenting" a Camino, rather than experiencing one......but that observation applies to every facet of life from a walk in the park to a sporting event to a fine meal, and is not unique to the Camino.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I also enjoy the quiet times, but also the time to commune with others. It gives me mixed feelings, as part of me wants to celebrate the fact that some people who have perhaps not travelled widely are using the camino as their first step into 'adventure'. On the other hand, it seems that the Frances route is becoming overrun, so I have started to explore other routes - such as the Camino Ignaciano (www.caminoignaciano.co.uk) and now the Camino Olvidado.
 
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In a way it has become victim of its success ... however that also led to what the Francés is these days: A Camino with probably the best infrastructure you could have on any pilgrimage route or hiking trail. While I personally dislike many days with many people, I like the fact that you find bars, restaurants, albergues and even people selling from little stands ... all dotted plenty along the way.

Too many people? walk early or walk late, walk in between the waves, avoid peak seasons ... or just walk the Meseta ;-)

And ... there are still other less travelled routes in Spain.

Thew only thing that really bothers me is the last 100 km on the Francés. But then again that is only a minor part of the whole experience.
 
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Hi Rachel. Our paths may have crossed on more than one occasion during April/May of 2017. I was an early starter and not in a hurry. I found the early morning hours around sunrise to be the most peaceful and conducive to thought. I knew I would be passed at some point by folks starting later in the day and that was fine. Sometimes I would be asked if I was okay while laying in the grass watching the day's freshly starched white clouds high above. I suppose my point is that regardless of how we define "crowded", there will always be a way to find the solitude we prefer. Like Bradypus, I am a solo walker, but happy to walk with an amiable fellow rover from time to time. My aim was to be at my next destination (for the most part in-between the guidebook recommended stops) by around 1300-1400. I'll be back on the Frances next year.
 
I walked in the summer last year (2022), from SJPP, and many days, I walked alone without seeing any other pilgrim until I got to the albergue. I had plenty of time to reflect and think and even sing by myself! Until I got to Sarria, it was pretty quiet and after Sarria, I stopped in the smaller villages so I never had problems finding a bed, without reservations. I would do it again without hesitation!
 
Walking the Camino every year since 2013 I used to hate Camino tourists seeing the bus pull up and prepacked walkers regurgitated onto the way only to be reswallowed whole a few kilometers later back to the air-conditioned buses (Ozannie remember you laughing at me giving out about them) They now look more authentic than the plethora of Guided tourists companies making a killing from something special.

From Ireland it is very noticeable the publicity the Camino is getting in the media of the UK.
Every few months it seems there is a programme of "B" rated celebrities on TV, walking a few hundred metres of a Camino "To find themselves" currently Camino Portuguese.

The latest fashion is currently "guided" tourists on Camino youtube handy walking tours,
This is leading to the destruction of Camino making it the open tourist trap.

Back to the original point when to walk, February is cool and less occupied, September October tail end of rush hour, and Jyly, August, too hot for.most.

I am sorry for the rant but it's sad to see the ending of good and precious times.


Buen Camino.
I agree, it seem the Camino is becoming “spring break” in the summer months. I like fall best anywau
 
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If you start walking at 9 -9.30 am, and stay in pre-booked accommodation in small places just before/after the main towns (much less stressful to book as you'll be arriving later than usual) it's pretty quiet even the last 100km. However, starting at peak times from key towns is both amazing and a bit overwhelming. We walked into Portomarin one evening having walked most of the way alone or passing the odd person, had a small picnic in a beautiful spot before walking down the hill, all very relaxed and quiet. Coming out of Portomarin in a peak wave the next day felt a bit like being part of a huge sponsored walk with people filling the road, fast people getting grumpy with slow people, groups that no one could get past, and toilets/cafes filled to the brim but also fun to be part of something big. Change your timings to get the experience you want?
 
To misquote a legend, “The Camino is too crowded; nobody goes there anymore”. Perhaps the real problem of the crowds are not in the fresh faces discovering the way for the first time, but in all of us who keep returning year after year. We take up that same bed, that same trail space, that same pew at the Cathedral - is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time? Before we point a finger at the hordes descending from buses and tour vans, perhaps we need to look in the mirror and ask if we shouldn’t make way for someone out seeking on this route in their own way.
excellent point!
 
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i don’t know why i seem to have had a totally different experience, but i walked april-june 2022, and for the most part was alone on the french way. i’m in my 60’s, do walk slowly, and unbeknownst to me at the time had a stress fracture from a fall which turned into a full-on break by the time i got to Santiago- so i was really hobbling along! everyone basically passed me early on and then i had the whole thing to myself except for the occasional one or two other pilgrims. the albergues were usually pretty full but as a single person i never had trouble getting in where i wanted to stop- even later in the day, though i did hear of one or two pilgrims who had to look elsewhere.

so, based on what happened to me, why not just start later in the day and take your time and then you’ll be alone on the CF and can adjust your pace depending on how much company you want to have on a given day! buen camino :)
 
To misquote a legend, “The Camino is too crowded; nobody goes there anymore”. Perhaps the real problem of the crowds are not in the fresh faces discovering the way for the first time, but in all of us who keep returning year after year. We take up that same bed, that same trail space, that same pew at the Cathedral - is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time? Before we point a finger at the hordes descending from buses and tour vans, perhaps we need to look in the mirror and ask if we shouldn’t make way for someone out seeking on this route in their own way.
But are there statistics available? On my Francés almost everyone I met was a first-timer on a once in a lifetime journey. Only very few who had walked before. And I would guess the large groups on the last 100k are also first timers.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Walked in May-early June last year and it was within my expectations given the increased post-covid numbers. The requirements to plan accommodation ahead by about 3 days was fine. Sarria onwards was the normal high volume, compounded last year by a corporate group of 450 walkers from across the planet. But that was a once-off, and they didn’t occupy any albergue beds.
 
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I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Hi Rachel,
I too walked the Frances in 2017 (Sept/Oct) and the Portuguese in spring 2019! Then, this last October, I walked for 2 weeks from Leon to Santiago. I have to say, I loved it regardless of that section being more "crowded" than other sections. I put this in quotes, because most of the time I did not feel it was crowded. I just enjoyed the walk and my friends and I loved seeing places I had seen before as well as the feeling that it was not the same camino as before.
I will continue to return to the camino because I just can't not go!
I like to remember that there are things I can't change (like change) and things I can change, like the time of year I go and where I focus my attention. And there is so much good to focus on while on the Camino.
Buen Camino!
 
Firstly it puts together people of different backgrounds ,beliefs, values, ages and affluence.

I walked the first half of the Camino Frances--SJPP to Leon--last October. It was my first Camino and now I'm planning my return to walk the second half. I've wondered why it was so different than I expected and also so much more than I expected. I explain to friends and family by asking: "What if you took the nicest people from all over the world and dropped them together in one place?"

Success!
 
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Might it be possible to link together these disjoint segments of inland footpaths plus local roads into a coherent east-to-west foot-pilgrimage route
It doesn't need to be officially labelled in order to be walked. For those who want a less structured pilgrimage, they can certainly do this. (Recognizing that if they want a Compostela, there are route requirements for the last 100 km.)
am very grateful that the Camino Frances remains by far the route of choice for those who want their journeys to be prepackaged and sanitised and undemanding. Leaving quiet paths and solitary spaces elsewhere for those who taste runs in that direction instead.
Yes, and I like the fact that there is a range of experiences available.

Your problem is that you listen to the drama kings and queens who like to get noticed by others and so provide either partial information or misinformation or just plain make stuff up.

If you take the time to look at the data...
@DoughnutANZ, you have made a very dramatic statement yourself, that is a bit rude to the OP ("your problem is...") and is extrapolating from inadequately informed people to "drama kings and queens...[who] make stuff up", etc.

Unfortunately, that spoiled your valid point that looking further into the data reveals that the generalizations about the pilgrim numbers can be very misleading.

is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time?
On my Francés almost everyone I met was a first-timer on a once in a lifetime journey.
I agree that the number of people repeating the Camino Frances is small compared to the total. However, most of the people complaining that the Camino ain't what it used to be are repeat offenders. So maybe they should stop complaining that they cannot replicate their first Camino, and be glad that there are appropriate options for everyone.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I am about to continue on the camino in 2 weeks time. Being in my 80s and walking on my own, the numbers, and the many albergues, help me feel confident that, if I encounter major problems, the camino will provide: there will be other pilgrims ready to support, companionship along the way. Like last year, I hope to concentrate on my camino and let others do the same.
 
From my first CF in April 2016 to the most recent in 2022, the overall conditions and experience were nearly identical. The only two small changes I observed are a few more people after Sarria each year, and quite a few more people starting in SJPP who are physically unprepared and become injured in the first week. There is also a marked increase in the number of pilgrims who are "documenting" a Camino, rather than experiencing one......but that observation applies to every facet of life from a walk in the park to a sporting event to a fine meal, and is not unique to the Camino.
I don’t think documenting prevents experiencing. There is a balance to be made for sure, but I have really appreciated people’s videos and written blogs about their experiences.
 
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Having done many, and different, Caminos (CF is my favorite) I confess to being a repeat offender...

However, it is not just a repeat: Each Camino is a new experience, and is adding to my feelings after my 1st, only that now I am much more relaxed, familiar with all things Camino, and will do different stages, new places to stay, and walk slow. Also, when asked, being able to share different aspects/places/tips with firsttimers, sharing meals with them, socialize, just as usual.

I love meeting enthusiastic firsttimers!

As for pilgrim volumes, I pick more calm times of year to walk, so as not to add to the traffic jam. I am happy that as many as possible are able to experience the wonders a Camino walk can give to them to take with them for the rest of their lives. And as traffic increases, the "Camino market" will adjust in the form of more places to stay, more entrepreneurship arising, etc. I do not worry.

The Camino is not a victim IMHO; it is what it is.

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
Heraclitus quotes of wisdom.

Biography:

Buen Camino to all, firsttimers as well as Camino addicts!

Ultreya!
 
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I am about to continue on the camino in 2 weeks time. Being in my 80s and walking on my own, the numbers, and the many albergues, help me feel confident that, if I encounter major problems, the camino will provide: there will be other pilgrims ready to support, companionship along the way. Like last year, I hope to concentrate on my camino and let others do the same.
Absolutely fantastic! Travel well.
 
I don’t think documenting prevents experiencing. There is a balance to be made for sure, but I have really appreciated people’s videos and written blogs about their experiences.
Oh, I appreciate documentary media as well. The world needs more good documentary media, just not made by me when I am trying to experience pilgrimage. While we are likely to disagree on this subject, may I humbly suggest that you test your hypothesis on yourself during part of your upcoming pilgrimage? Spend a day or a week just soaking it all in without capturing and framing it for the consumption of others or your future self. Be present in the moment, free of the need to package or preserve the moment for future persuasion, proof, narrative, or sharing. A moment for you and you alone, never to be repeated.
 
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Hi Rachel. Our paths may have crossed on more than one occasion during April/May of 2017. I was an early starter and not in a hurry. I found the early morning hours around sunrise to be the most peaceful and conducive to thought. I knew I would be passed at some point by folks starting later in the day and that was fine. Sometimes I would be asked if I was okay while laying in the grass watching the day's freshly starched white clouds high above. I suppose my point is that regardless of how we define "crowded", there will always be a way to find the solitude we prefer. Like Bradypus, I am a solo walker, but happy to walk with an amiable fellow rover from time to time. My aim was to be at my next destination (for the most part in-between the guidebook recommended stops) by around 1300-1400. I'll be back on the Frances next year.

You could be talking about me 😂. My first Camino Frances was in 2007 - I was usually the first person up as I loved to see the sunrise - spent lots of time sitting in nature - spent many days without seeing another pilgrim … and was already hearing about the ‘early risers (apparently all German) who started early and were racing for a bed’. 🤣😅
Edit: To the OP - Last year at age 71 and without being incredibly fit I walked VDLP and planned my stages so that I mostly walked between 12 and 20 Km per day in the first weeks. So don’t be put off by seemingly ‘more difficult’ Caminos.
Finally - I think daily news has trained us to highlight and look for the negative. Last year in late November I met a number of pilgrims from the Frances walking to Finistere. They said the numbers on the Frances were fine.
And finally - one pilgrim I met on the Via left to walk the Portuguese because for him the social aspect was what he loved.
Look for what is good and works for you and that is what you will find.
Buen Camino
 
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Hi Rachel. I have walked the Frances twice. While the last time was in 2013, I am familiar with the crowds and higher levels of infrastructure - and the ‘theme park’ effect that @C clearly mentions - as I’ve crossed the Frances a few times in recent years at the end of other Caminos.

Like you, I’d like to walk the Frances again but would like to avoid the crowds. My solution is that I (in fact, we - my husband and I) plan to walk the Frances / Invierno this November. The number of pilgrims leaving SJPP in November is very low compared to any month between April and October. Perhaps that’s an option to consider.

Another option would be to walk the Camino Frances via Aragon which you can begin at the Col du Somport (or a few days back in France on the Arles). After about a week or so you will arrive at the ‘main’ Frances path in Obanos or Puenta la Reina, avoiding those first congested days from SJPP to Pamplona. If you want to avoid the congestion of the last 100 kms, you could then choose the Invierno from Ponferrada.

You can find the Camino Frances via Aragon information on Gronze. It’s a beautiful quiet route with some wonderful Albergues 😎
That's exactly the route I decided on -- beginning in less than a month. Somport and then Invierno. The Invierno definitely seems to have less infrastructure and longer stretches with no towns, but I'm thinking that by then I'll be up for that.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I walked in 2001 and will be going again this year, pretty soon, actually. I am bracing myself for feeling like it's become some kind of Disney Land, from what I've been seeing. I decided to take two different offshoots/nonpopular routes in order to give myself some space away from that, but I'm still going to do the rest because I do want the historical and cultural sites on the main route. But yes, I think it might put me off. I've decided that if it's really a mob scene (seems unlikely on the meseta, since apparently numbers are down there), I'll just quit the Camino and find somewhere to hang out in Spain and take regular hikes from that base. It's a big and wonderful country. It used to be that the only people who even knew about it were people who knew something about Spanish history, and I think that part of it was meaningful for many of us. That was before YouTube, that movie, etc. I am shocked these days at how many people there are who've done multiple Caminos, even people who do it every year or so. I don't think I met anyone like that before on the Camino, although there were groups of Spaniards (friends) who did a week every year, making their way across the country over several years. This will be an unpopular view, but I think the frequent flyers should back off and let other people experience a less congested Camino. There are lots of other routes like this (OK, not quite the same, but close enough) that are less congested.
 
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I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
For a wonderful 2 week Camino, check out the Madrid Camino to Sahagun, then the San Salvador to Oviedo, then the Primitivo Camino to SdC. 3 gorgeous caminos, not crowded at all, completed 2022....love
 
Over-crowding. Mob scene. Traffic jam. Disneyland. Theme Park.

Huh?

I have walked from late May to mid-September. Never saw a traffic jam or a mob scene. I don't even know what Disneyland and theme park means in this context. Between Sarria and Santiago, I did see large youth groups. They were incredibly rude--having fun and even singing! Not only that, I saw them singing and dancing in Praza do Obradoiro. And worse, sometimes I had to pass them. I remember one time there must have been 50 high school kids, and it took me upwards of three or four minutes to get past them. And those darn Spaniards are all over the place in August. Don't they know it's too hot to walk in August. It seems clear to me that the people of Spain do not understand the rules about keeping the Camino the way we like it.

So, as to the original question:

Has the Camino Frances become a victim of its own success?​

Apparently so, at least on the caminodesantigo.me forum.
 
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For a wonderful 2 week Camino, check out the Madrid Camino to Sahagun, then the San Salvador to Oviedo, then the Primitivo Camino to SdC. 3 gorgeous caminos, not crowded at all, completed 2022....love
Whoof...how many kms do you travel in a day??? I'm planning 12 days with a rest just for the Primitivo...
 
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I walked the Via Bayonne from Bayonne to Burgos over the last year- with use of one or two pensions or hostals and a fair number of albergues it's very easy to keep to under 25km days (also known as the tunnel route, it also runs for several days with the Vasco Interior). It would be a new adventure, then join the CF in Burgos on the meseta which I love. My plan for next year is then to reach ponferrada and head for the Invierno before the craziness begins.
Awesome tip! Thankyou for your reply, I will investigate :)
 
I have walked the Camino Frances four times - in 1990, 2002, 2016 and most recently in January this year.

Congestion? - in 2016 the pilgrim office handed out just over 278,000 Compostelas - most to people who had walked some part of the Camino Frances. Last year that number was 438,683. Early signs from the pilgrim office records suggest that numbers this year may be as much as 30% higher again in 2023. Most of that concentrated in the last 100km but there are fairly consistent increases on the more popular Caminos. Some accommodation has closed permanently during the Covid lockdowns. That may have some effect on those walking this year. I would expect this summer to be far busier than I encountered on my 2016 walk and frankly I found that was more than enough for me. I do intend to walk a short section of the Frances this summer with a friend - unusual for me as I generally walk solo. My friend is an experienced long distance walker and has walked several Caminos but never the Frances. I'm not sure he fully appreciates how different an experience it is.

Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? - I think that ship sailed long before 2016. Walking in 2016 I found the Camino vastly changed from my earlier walks. Not only in numbers but in attitude. In some of the people I encountered I found an unpleasant sense of entitlement - that they could and should just be able to buy themselves a comfortable, trouble-free and near-effortless experience. Feeling tired? - call a taxi. Shoulders a bit stiff and sore - chuck your pack on a luggage van. Can't be bothered to read a map or guide book and plan your own stops? - book everything through a travel company. Why not just buy your pilgrimage straight off the shelf? Though the numbers this year are likely to be much higher I would expect summer on the Frances to be essentially the same in character.

My Camino in January this year was like stepping back 30 years though the accommodation is now far better. Very small numbers. Long stages because very few albergues were open. No luggage transport services. At times walking for a whole day before catching sight of another pilgrim. At 60 I was the oldest person in the albergue most nights. It is still possible to capture some of the feeling of the Frances of twenty or thirty years ago but to do so I think you must really walk well outside the ever-widening "season". And September or October are now very much within the busy times.
Thankyou Bradypus. Just the sort of reflection I was looking for. :)
 
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i don’t know why i seem to have had a totally different experience, but i walked april-june 2022, and for the most part was alone on the french way. i’m in my 60’s, do walk slowly, and unbeknownst to me at the time had a stress fracture from a fall which turned into a full-on break by the time i got to Santiago- so i was really hobbling along! everyone basically passed me early on and then i had the whole thing to myself except for the occasional one or two other pilgrims. the albergues were usually pretty full but as a single person i never had trouble getting in where i wanted to stop- even later in the day, though i did hear of one or two pilgrims who had to look elsewhere.

so, based on what happened to me, why not just start later in the day and take your time and then you’ll be alone on the CF and can adjust your pace depending on how much company you want to have on a given day! buen camino :)
I would say your experience was quieter due to covid restrictions? 2022 would have still seen some reluctance to travel by some. But great for you and your camino! :)
 
You could be talking about me 😂. My first Camino Frances was in 2007 - I was usually the first person up as I loved to see the sunrise - spent lots of time sitting in nature - spent many days without seeing another pilgrim … and was already hearing about the ‘early risers (apparently all German) who started early and were racing for a bed’. 🤣😅
Edit: To the OP - Last year at age 71 and without being incredibly fit I walked VDLP and planned my stages so that I mostly walked between 12 and 20 Km per day in the first weeks. So don’t be put off by seemingly ‘more difficult’ Caminos.
Finally - I think daily news has trained us to highlight and look for the negative. Last year in late November I met a number of pilgrims from the Frances walking to Finistere. They said the numbers on the Frances were fine.
And finally - one pilgrim I met on the Via left to walk the Portuguese because for him the social aspect was what he loved.
Look for what is good and works for you and that is what you will find.
Buen Camino
Awesome! Thankyou for your reply, it was just the sort of advice I was looking for :)
 
Over-crowding. Mob scene. Traffic jam. Disneyland. Theme Park.

Huh?

I have walked from late May to mid-September. Never saw a traffic jam or a mob scene. I don't even know what Disneyland and theme park means in this context. Between Sarria and Santiago, I did see large youth groups. They were incredibly rude--having fun and even singing! Not only that, I saw them singing and dancing in Praza do Obradoiro. And worse, sometimes I had to pass them. I remember one time there must have bee 50 high school kids, and it took me upwards of three or four minutes to get past them. And those darn Spaniards are all over the place in August. Don't they know it's too hot to walk in August. It seems clear to me that the people of Spain do not understand the rules about keeping the Camino the way we like it.

So, as to the original question:

Has the Camino Frances become a victim of its own success?​

Apparently so, at least on the caminodesantigo.me forum.





Your post made me giggle! Thanks! :)
 
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.
Hi Rachel. I have walked the Frances twice. While the last time was in 2013, I am familiar with the crowds and higher levels of infrastructure - and the ‘theme park’ effect that @C clearly mentions - as I’ve crossed the Frances a few times in recent years at the end of other Caminos.

Like you, I’d like to walk the Frances again but would like to avoid the crowds. My solution is that I (in fact, we - my husband and I) plan to walk the Frances / Invierno this November. The number of pilgrims leaving SJPP in November is very low compared to any month between April and October. Perhaps that’s an option to consider.

Another option would be to walk the Camino Frances via Aragon which you can begin at the Col du Somport (or a few days back in France on the Arles). After about a week or so you will arrive at the ‘main’ Frances path in Obanos or Puenta la Reina, avoiding those first congested days from SJPP to Pamplona. If you want to avoid the congestion of the last 100 kms, you could then choose the Invierno from Ponferrada.

You can find the Camino Frances via Aragon information on Gronze. It’s a beautiful quiet route with some wonderful Albergues 😎
Thankyou Pelerina! This is the sort of helpful reply I was after :)
 
Your problem is that you listen to the drama kings and queens who like to get noticed by others and so provide either partial information or misinformation or just plain make stuff up.

If you take the time to look at the data then you will see that the number of pilgrims who gain a Compostela and who start from St. Jean has been reasonably static since 2017 (excepting, of course, for the dip in numbers during the Covid years).

There is a possible trend for pilgrims on a Spring camino who are starting earlier. The Spring peak for departure from St. Jean used to be the second week of May but this year the peak will probably be in late April. Despite this trend towards an earlier start the overall numbers on an annual basis are about the same.

There has also recently been a growing tendancy for pilgrims to skip the Meseta and towns on and around the Meseta are complaining of reduced pilgrim numbers.

I suspect that if you choose to walk in May then your experience will be similar to May 2016 as far as pilgrim numbers go.

I have no idea about September or October as I haven't seen a discernable trend there.

Please don't be mislead by the dramatists who like to quote huge numbers receiving Compostela attributed to the Frances. These large numbers are real but overwhelmingly, these are Spanish pilgrims who start in Galicia, especially at Saria.

Knowing that these huge numbers are Spanish will help you plan to avoid them. The peaks are around Easter, the start of School holidays in Spain and August.

If you don't want to dodge the big groups of Spanish pilgrims in Galicia then swap to a less popular route as you get to Galicia.
Thankyou for your reply. I havent listen to the moaning queens. I am my own person. I just know that there was a difference between walking in 2017 and 2019 so logically, it could be even busier. Just wanted some frequent walkers' perspectives on how they have seen things evolve to help me make a decision on my next route and months.
 
I would say your experience was quieter due to covid restrictions? 2022 would have still seen some reluctance to travel by some. But great for you and your camino! :)
2022 broke records in number of Compostelas issued - something like 430,000. But I'll bet that the big increase was mostly due to large numbers of Spaniards walking the final 100 km.
 
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I walked last spring in April and May and at no time did I feel like it was crowded. Even the last 100km were ok. We walked from Samos to Barbadelo and when we set off the next morning at 06:30, there were no people around us. It wasn't until about noon, that the people who had started in Sarria caught up to us and even then it was ok.
There were a few log jams here and there on the last 100km, but on the whole I simply enjoyed watching people fulfill their life long dreams of being on the Camino. If they choose a tour, it is fine with me. Perhaps they watched the rest of us and decided that next year, they would walk without a tour? Or maybe they wished that their physical condition would have allowed them to walk like we are walking? If there is a large group going past you, sit down for a few minutes and let them pass until it is quiet again.
Leaving in 2 days and will start walking on Sat. so we will see what this year brings.

I make little videos each day, but it is a matter of filming 20 seconds here and there through out the day and then putting them all together at the end of the day. Pretty sure I am not missing anything by doing this. Those taking photos to record the beauty around them, are spending about the same amount of time. How would it be if I judged those walking 25-35km a day, telling them they need to slow down to 15km a day so they don't miss so much?
We are all walking our own Camino, in the best way that fits us.
 
Over-crowding. Mob scene. Traffic jam. Disneyland. Theme Park.

Huh?

I have walked from late May to mid-September. Never saw a traffic jam or a mob scene. I don't even know what Disneyland and theme park means in this context. Between Sarria and Santiago, I did see large youth groups. They were incredibly rude--having fun and even singing! Not only that, I saw them singing and dancing in Praza do Obradoiro. And worse, sometimes I had to pass them. I remember one time there must have bee 50 high school kids, and it took me upwards of three or four minutes to get past them. And those darn Spaniards are all over the place in August. Don't they know it's too hot to walk in August. It seems clear to me that the people of Spain do not understand the rules about keeping the Camino the way we like it.

So, as to the original question:

Has the Camino Frances become a victim of its own success?​

Apparently so, at least on the caminodesantigo.me forum.

EDIT: Maybe I woke up without much tolerance for irony or tongue in cheek writing. Maybe I should not comment before having breakfast then 😶

Original reply:
There is a huge difference between disliking crowd situations and disliking individuals or groups that happen to form the crowd. You imply a lot regarding the people using those terms you mentioned. And here I will end my reply as else it would become an angry one.
 
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There is a huge difference between disliking crowd situations and disliking individuals or groups that happen to form the crowd. You imply a lot regarding the people using those terms you mentioned. And here I will end my reply as else it would become an angry one.
I believe that @Bob Howard was bring ironic in his post. 😉
 
There is a huge difference between disliking crowd situations and disliking individuals or groups that happen to form the crowd. You imply a lot regarding the people using those terms you mentioned. And here I will end my reply as else it would become an angry one.
I have the feeling that the post you have issues with was tongue in cheek.
 
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I just know that there was a difference between walking in 2017 and 2019 so logically, it could be even busier.
I am a little puzzled about what you are comparing. 2017 on the Camino Francés and 2019 on the Portuguese? And starting around Easter?

While numbers of pilgrims obtaining a Compostela are increasing from year to year, on average about 5-10% (I believe), I cannot imagine that 2 years alone make such a difference that it is so noticeable for an individual. Day of departure and location of departure, day of arrival in Santiago - whether it is Good Friday or Easter Monday in the first case and whether it is a Tuesday or a Friday in the latter case - cause a significant difference in daily pilgrim numbers (on the day itself but also for days after / before it).
 
Hi!
I really confused :(
First off all sorry about my English!
I start my Caminp this weekend, arriving to SJPdP on Friday, and because the 2 option was fully booked (Orisson, and Borda), I stay one night, and start to walk on 15/Saturday.
I'm not a well expeienced walker, i travelled a lot, but most of the time with my Harley.
Maybe I'm the man, who destroy the spirit of the Route France?
I just arrived a point in my live when i felt...I have to go.
Of course i knew about Camino, but i never felt the pressure, go. But lof of You say, is too late, and only i will be part of mass turism? Maybe, but this will my firs Camino, with all my faults, and missadvantage, but i try to do my way with open heart and mind, and i try to not disturb the experted perregrinos.

Buen Camino to All!

with respect
Zoltan (Budapest, Hungary)
 
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I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Dear Pilgrim, I get it! I soloed the Camino Francis, starting mid September 2016. I purposefully selected the fall for the moderate weather and to AVOID crowds. As it turned out it was a good call. I realize time has since passed and the popularity of the Camino has only grown. Such is life. If this is a serious issue for you, I recommend you choose a lesser traveled Camino, in the end, its what you make of it. Safe travels
 
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Hi!
I really confused :(
First off all sorry about my English!
I start my Caminp this weekend, arriving to SJPdP on Friday, and because the 2 option was fully booked (Orisson, and Borda), I stay one night, and start to walk on 15/Saturday.
I'm not a well expeienced walker, i travelled a lot, but most of the time with my Harley.
Maybe I'm the man, who destroy the spirit of the Route France?
I just arrived a point in my live when i felt...I have to go.
Of course i knew about Camino, but i never felt the pressure, go. But lof of You say, is too late, and only i will be part of mass turism? Maybe, but this will my firs Camino, with all my faults, and missadvantage, but i try to do my way with open heart and mind, and i try to not disturb the experted perregrinos.

Buen Camino to All!

with respect
Zoltan (Budapest, Hungary)
@Zeiksz
Welcome to the forum.
Don't worry - you will be fine! And you will add to the spirit of the Camino Frances! Be yourself, take your time and enjoy.
 
If you are interested in the numbers, Editorial Buen Camino has posted this video (in Spanish) with interesting data from 2022. It analyzes five trends upon the total number of compostelas delivered since 2010. 1. % and total growth of pilgrims by Camino ( the % of the C. Frances is decreasing in relation to the other caminos; however, the total number of pilgrims is increasing). The other caminos are growing in different rates and total of pilgrims (Portugues is second). 2. % and total of pilgrims starting in Sarria is increasing leading to more pilgrims doing shorter caminos. 3. Spaniards pilgrims are less than 50%, France, Germany and USA have the most pilgrims besides the Spain, and from others countries are also growing in %. 4. Way to do the camino, the bicigrinos are decreasing . 5. % and total by gender. Last year there were more women than men, though this is a recent trend apparently after the pandemic. Even if it is not easy to follow up in Spanish, Carlos Mencos presents charts that are clear in any language. Enjoy!

 
Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Thanks everyone for your replies! Im now looking at the Camino Aragones from Oloron and joining up with the Camino Frances at Puente la Reina. I may just start from Somport pass...just deciding..
 
Overall, numbers on the Francès have actually been decreasing since 2017 -- except on the Sarria to Santiago section, where the number of pilgrims has become absolutely massive. (and somewhat on the SJPP to Pamplona section)

So for crowd-avoidance, the Francès can still be OK, if you avoided mid-April to May and September to mid-October, and then shifted to the Invierno at Ponferrada. Things are getting pretty crowded on the Português too, in high pilgrim season.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I haven't walked it since 2016, but I find it hard to imagine that the change over the past five years is anything like the change between my first Camino Frances in 1989 and what I experienced in 2016. If one goes by the available statistics, I think it grew something like 60x between 1989 and 2016. It grew something like 1.25x over the last five years. I might easily have thought that it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces between my first Camino and my second, with that incredible growth in pilgrims and infrastructure. But you found it perfect, people numbers-wise. And I certainly had no complaints.

I have a feeling that the Camino Frances can find ways to provide space, time, and adventure to pilgrims who look for them, no matter how many people walk.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Oh, I appreciate documentary media as well. The world needs more good documentary media, just not made by me when I am trying to experience pilgrimage. While we are likely to disagree on this subject, may I humbly suggest that you test your hypothesis on yourself during part of your upcoming pilgrimage? Spend a day or a week just soaking it all in without capturing and framing it for the consumption of others or your future self. Be present in the moment, free of the need to package or preserve the moment for future persuasion, proof, narrative, or sharing. A moment for you and you alone, never to be repeated.
I have done both. I'm not sure I can agree with your premise that the artist's eye makes them incapable of experiencing what they are looking at. To be truly effective as an artist one must be fully in the moment. But the moment that one is fully in includes a careful consideration of what the moment really is and how best to capture it.

Or to put it another way, imagine a grandparent at their grandchild's birthday party who is a self-appointed photographer. I've seen a few of these. They are an integral part of the party, fully interacting and experiencing. The fact that they are also recording doesn't prevent this.
 
For a wonderful 2 week Camino, check out the Madrid Camino to Sahagun, then the San Salvador to Oviedo, then the Primitivo Camino to SdC. 3 gorgeous caminos, not crowded at all, completed 2022....love
You must be a walking machine. I'm estimating six weeks for the same route this summer. I counted it out to about 820 km. Doing that in two weeks works out to almost 60 km a day!
 
I have done both. I'm not sure I can agree with your premise that the artist's eye makes them incapable of experiencing what they are looking at. To be truly effective as an artist one must be fully in the moment. But the moment that one is fully in includes a careful consideration of what the moment really is and how best to capture it.

Or to put it another way, imagine a grandparent at their grandchild's birthday party who is a self-appointed photographer. I've seen a few of these. They are an integral part of the party, fully interacting and experiencing. The fact that they are also recording doesn't prevent this.
I don't disagree with much of this, and I fear my post may have been misinterpreted. I take pictures on Camino too. In fact I advise people to take a pic of the table at every communal dinner.

What I am talking about are those who are preoccupied with feeding their social media. If you haven't witnessed those whose lives are focused on their Instagram feed, you are very fortunate indeed. I met several of these on my last two Camino's. They spent their time producing a glamorized representation of their Camino, or possibly anyone's Camino, for their friend's consumption.

Take pics by all means, but when the botafumeiro swings, watch it full size - not through the screen on your phone. Their are lots of videos you can find on line. It has swung many times. This one, though, is special. It's yours. We'll have to respectfully agree to disagree that videoing such a thing is the same experience as watching it live, solely focused on the majesty and meaning of this ancient ritual, rather than your sitting position and F-stop on the camera.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Two surprising comments in current news that I saw today while looking for something else:

“So far, this year, it has been quiet on the Camino De Santiago- este año está siendo tranquilo en el Camino de Santiago, David Vargas, capitán jefe de la Tercera Compañía de la Guardia Civil en Navarra.

“The Camino Francés in Navarra is losing pilgrims”, Jose Miguel Rey, presidente de la Asociación Amigos del Camino en Navarra asegura que se ha reducido casi un tercio la cantidad de peregrinos en Navarra, José Miguel Rey, president of the regional Camino association.

This refers to the Camino Francés in the area between SJPP and Logroño.
 
Two surprising comments
Less reported crime ... good news

Log jam between St Jean and Pamplona eases off after Alto del Perdon...

I noticed last year in September it was very busy ( while I was walking ) near the cities but I never had a problem heading for the albergues in between the guide book stages ( except for Hornillos which was rammed )

I booked roncesvalles only and I consider September to be one of the busy periods for the Frances from St Jean. Many albergues were still not reopening after C19 and I think we have to remember that when looking at numbers. Many pilgrims have also put off their caminos for the same reasons.. Is it safe...are there restrcitions etc etc
 
so, based on what happened to me, why not just start later in the day and take your time and then you’ll be alone on the CF and can adjust your pace depending on how much company you want to have on a given day! buen camino :)

Thank you. Exactly my experience; from Sarria to Santiago the week before Easter last year, started mid-morning, reserved ahead, and found some lovely solo pilgrims and small groups but also plenty of peace, space, and time for contemplation.
 
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.
Two surprising comments in current news that I saw today while looking for something else
Apart from between Sarria and Santiago, many reports from along the Francès over the past 2-3 years report a drop in numbers, since 2017 overall.

OTOH, up to and including the Easter weekend, there have been more arrivals in Santiago in 2023 than in the same periods 2021 and 2022 (Holy Years) combined !!
 
Transport luggage-passengers.
From airports to SJPP
Luggage from SJPP to Roncevalles
Great thread. I think I have a solution to both the problem with crowds and the tangled issue of who is a real pilgrim (other than myself of course). Static checkpoints and roving patrols of Inquisitors (suitably robed) to stop and interrogate walkers to establish their spiritual authenticity, with tourigrinis refused passage and sent home in disgrace. And an auto-da-fe from time to time to make sure the message gets across.
 
Static checkpoints and roving patrols of Inquisitors (suitably robed) to stop and interrogate walkers to establish their spiritual authenticity, with tourigrinis refused passage and sent home in disgrace.
I was refused a credencial in SJPDP because after some interrogation the woman who issued them decided that I was not proper pilgrim material.
 
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.
An alternative to the sometimes-crowded CF and to the reportedly-costly Norte?

In summer of 2022, post-CF, I rode the narrow-gauge train from Ferrol to Bilbao (except for a short temporarily-closed section).

The inland route through the mountains was eye-poppingly attractive.

I observed, more-or-less paralleling the tracks, many prepared footpaths, some of which appeared to be parts of long-distance hiking routes. I did see people with backpacks walking along these paths, plus of course many folks who looked more like locals out for a walk.

There are many small attractive towns along the route of the railway and the aforementioned footpaths: indeed, the need to connect the towns almost certainly stimulated development of the railway.

Might it be possible to link together these disjoint segments of inland footpaths plus local roads into a coherent east-to-west foot-pilgrimage route running south of the Norte and north of the CF, from Bilbao to Ferrol or similar? The east-to-west routing would be conceptually consistent with historical pilgrimage flow patterns.

Such a new route could satisfy foot-pilgrims' hunger for less-crowded routings, and provide a new source of revenue for en-route lodging places and eateries. And keeping it within reasonable walking distance to the railway, where possible, would provide pilgrims with a ready-made "Plan B".
An alternative to the sometimes-crowded CF and to the reportedly-costly Norte?
It has been 5 years since I walked the Norte and it was in October/November. I believe the idea that the Norte is costly probably stems from those who walk during tourist season and stay in pensions/hostels and hotels. I stay in municipal albergues and donativos wherever possible and then in private albergues if need be. I did not find the Norte any more expensive than the CF. Of course the last few years may have changed all that,
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
That's a good question, which might lead to what is the definition of success. Although there might be many answers, one thought comes to mind. The point at which the Camino is considered to be too crowded and which could then lead to just one pilgrim being denied the walk then the Camino is a failure. Success for the Camino, to my mind, is when it is so crowded that it is should-to-shoulder with pilgrims as this would mean mankind/womankind are in their proper place. I would love walking shoulder to should with a massive crowd, not attending a rock concert but responding to a spiritual calling.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I first walked the Camino Francis in 2017. Did a bunch after that on other routes and did the Francis again last year. Was it different? Yes. Post covid everything is different. Was it crowded? That is a hard one to answer. I personally had more encounters and ran into more people at cafe stops in 2017 than I did in 2022. In fact, in 2022, I was surprised at how many days I walked alone for at least half the day before I ran into other pilgrims. As far as changes, I could lament how its not the same as 2017 but so many walking in 2022 were on it for the first time and loved it. So why ruin that by lamenting about "the good old days" of no one pre booking, no one every using bag transfer, no one using a booking company or using a bus or taxi. A pilgrimage should free you of judgement and expectation and most of all, you can and should do it your way. perhaps the days of literally winging it and "the camino will provide" are gone or disappearing. But that's true for most of the world right now. Resources everywhere are limited and we are all looking for places to get away from it all. We are not entitled to demand the world stay the same just because we had the privilege of existing in it when it fit our own entitled needs. Get used to graciously sharing your spaces more because that is the new reality.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
Hi Rachel
I too walked the Camino Frances in 2017 in May. My camino experience at that time was clearly magical and I finally understood the phrase "the Camino will provide" as it always did. Nothing preplanned. No sherpa service. I walked alone. Met wonderful people from all over the world. It was busy at times but never so packed that I couldn't find an albergue. It could never be replicated I am sure.
However, I have the fever for long walks. I'm also old enough to know that I have a finite amount of time left for me to meet the physical challenges of walking. So I have convinced my husband to walk the Del Norte with me Oct/Nov 2023. I hope it will be calm and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the north coast of Spain. Maybe trying a new camino will cut down on your worry about too many folks.
Just a thought. Buen camino.
 
Prepare for your next Camino on California's Santa Catalina Island, Oct 27 to Nov 2
To misquote a legend, “The Camino is too crowded; nobody goes there anymore”. Perhaps the real problem of the crowds are not in the fresh faces discovering the way for the first time, but in all of us who keep returning year after year. We take up that same bed, that same trail space, that same pew at the Cathedral - is it okay that we experience these things multiple times and our presence limits the ability of others to be there for their first time? Before we point a finger at the hordes descending from buses and tour vans, perhaps we need to look in the mirror and ask if we shouldn’t make way for someone out seeking on this route in their own way.
Brilliant reply Vacajoe. The Camino Frances requires several weeks for the fittest Pilgrims. Most people in the world have a job with limited holidays thrown in, so either have to wait till they retire, and are fit enough to contemplate El Camino.
This is where the Tourist buses come in - so that people working , and less fit or even disabled interested walkers, are able to experience what we have done with our retired fit bodies
Buen Camino
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
If I do the Frances again, I will probably stop in Sarria. It just becomes too crowded from there.
If you manage to avoid holy years and the busiest months (i.e. walk in the beginning or end of the season), there should be fewer people. I really recommend trying some of the other routes (e.g. Norte, or VLDP) and resort to busses or trains if you can't make the day's distance.
 
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
My first Camino was the Frances in may 2018 and it was life changing. I walked Camino Portuguese in 2018 2019 and 2021 + Primitivo . In may 2022 I walked cf again starting from los arcos and it was different because I wanted it to be and because I was not the same person . I was doing 30 + Kms not joining Camino groups or bubbles. Still I met really amazing people and had some situations that I can’t explain . I enjoyed the afternoon walks when most of the pilgrims were finished and I had long stretches walking by myself. Also I tried to stay in different albergues and villages I think all this contributed for totally different experience.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I walked the Frances in 2017 and the Portuguese in 2019. I want to walk the Frances again but I am seeing many posts about how busy it is and from 2016 to now, I can see it's gotten pretty congested. How are the repetitive walkers of this Camino trail feeling? Does it put you off? How much has it changed from 2016? I walked last time in April/May and it was perfect weather-wise and people numbers-wise. I think it will be Sept/Oct this time around because I thought I may get a different experience at a different time of year... So, has the Camino become too populated? Has it lost its adventurousness and empty spaces to think? I very much enjoy the quiet times..Thanks in advance :) PS: I am not a big distance walker who can do some of the other routes...too big walking days for my feet!
I have walked on the Camino Frances probably a dozen times since 2003 and every walk is different . Some are busy , some cold , some wet , but never the same. I have walked with friends and only 50% of the time it’s good . Started walking alone and met up in a group and that’s the best trips. Seldom was I with people that were interested in sites and history , nobody wanted to go off the route for a Roman ruin etc. but I guess that’s why I still go again
 
I believe the idea that the Norte is costly probably stems from those who walk during tourist season and stay in pensions/hostels and hotels
When the summer tourist season ends, the winter surfing season begins which fills those cheap accommodations with lots of folks seeking a cheap stay near the coast. Unless it’s a pilgrims-only albergue, the demand often far exceeds the availability and walking pilgrims are often shunted to hotels simply to find a bed.

We walked it in 2021 and found it somewhat more expensive than the CF in every regard: food, drink, and accommodation.
 
When the summer tourist season ends, the winter surfing season begins which fills those cheap accommodations with lots of folks seeking a cheap stay near the coast. Unless it’s a pilgrims-only albergue, the demand often far exceeds the availability and walking pilgrims are often shunted to hotels simply to find a bed.

We walked it in 2021 and found it somewhat more expensive than the CF in every regard: food, drink, and accommodation.
That is good updated information. I was on the coast and yes there were many surfers. A good number of them seemed to be in camper vans but of course I have no idea of the percentage of those surfers. I also remember staying in an albergue on some coast town that was bought by surfers and catered to them. They put me in a room that was entirely made up of pilgrims. This is why I wrote the following:
I did not find the Norte any more expensive than the CF. Of course the last few years may have changed all tha
:)
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
@Zeiksz
Welcome to the forum.
Don't worry - you will be fine! And you will add to the spirit of the Camino Frances! Be yourself, take your time and enjoy.
I'm here, in Camino France
Today in Pamplona...now I understand the question of the topic.
It is really difficult to live my Camino.
I try.
sometimes go better...sometimes not.
Many people just do it...not live it. Want see, not feel.
 
I'm here, in Camino France
Today in Pamplona...now I understand the question of the topic.
It is really difficult to live my Camino.
I try.
sometimes go better...sometimes not.
Many people just do it...not live it. Want see, not feel.
Now you have got past that early "bump" of crowds between SJPdP and Pamplona you will find things settle down a bit and you should be able to set your own pace and find your own way. Take each day as it comes.
 
Prepare for your next Camino on California's Santa Catalina Island, Oct 27 to Nov 2
I have been unable to find an entry point for this discussion. Why? Because when I started in 2003 I was walking the Camino de Santiago. That wretched appellation Camino Frances came later. I still walk even in my mind, The Camino de Santiago .

Samarkand.
Don Elias Valina didn't refer to the route as the Camino Frances either. He called it the Camino de Santiago. But nowadays there are many routes to choose from and most of them end in Santiago so I suppose we have to have some way of making it clear which one we are talking about!
 

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