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Help choosing between CF, CdN, and VdLP

braindancer

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
May 2024
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
 
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Between the lines, it seems you're really drawn to the Francés ("the" way), but worry it might be too crowded?

Maybe it helps to know that if for some reason you realize it's not working for you, you can always change routes. There are really good bus connections in Spain, so, changing to another Camino is easy. Let's say you decide to walk the Francés, and by the time you arrive in Pamplona you realize that it's too crowded for you, you can just take a bus to San Sebastian and continue on the Norte. Ect.

For me, personally, the Francés will always be "the" Camino.

It has a certain vibe to it that is very unique and difficult to explain.

I'm more of an introvert, and suffered from social anxiety when I first walked, and still loved it (and still do now), despite the occasional "crowds".

For me the "walking meditation" aspect is something internal, not external, so the existance of other pilgrims around doesn't change that fact. I can walk through a crowded city or along a loud and busy highway and still be in that "zone".

Interestingly, the occasional conversation with other pilgrims can even be something to start a new line of thought, to see something from a completely different perspective. So for me, the social aspect of the Francés is not hindering the introspection and meditation, but adding something positive to it.

In my experience, usually pilgrims are very respectful to others, and if they feel you want to be left alone, they'll leave you alone. The "crowds" can somewhat be avoided by walking later in the day. In the afternoons and evening, there will be much less pilgrims walking. Also, by taking alternative routes whenever you can (there are many).

For avoiding the final conga line from Sarria, you can also switch to the Camino Invierno at Ponferrada to avoid the last 100km. Or you do some lovely 40km night hikes, then you're through that area in three days and have the way all to yourself 😉.

What is important to make clear, I think, is that the Camino is not really a solitary scenic hike, far from it. For the Francés especially that's true, and to a certain degree also for the more scenic and more solitary Caminos, I guess

Many avid hikers say that in the Caminos it's too much ugly roadwalking through cities and along highways and to be avoided.

So if you expect something like the pct, west Highland way, or alpine mountain hiking, you might be disappointed. Even on the Norte or the via de la Plata.

The Caminos usually choose the shorter, easier route that leads through villages, towns and cities, and not always the more scenic dirt trail through beautiful wilderness.

What "normal" hiking paths try to avoid is a central part of the Caminos. Not meandering through beautiful landscapes, but a more or less direct way to Santiago, and passing through as much infrastructure, villages, churches ect. as possible to make it easier for the pilgrims on their way (there's still some very beautiful areas, and there's a lot of beauty to be found even when walking along a highway or through a city, it's just that it is not always beautiful in the classic "hiking" sense of being all alone in nature).

But if it was the pilgrimage aspect of "the way" (religious or not doesn't matter!), that inspired you to book that plane to Spain, then the Francés is maybe still the one, despite all the "negatives". Only you can know.

I'd say, go where your heart tells you to go.

Whatever you decide, buen Camino, peregrino!
 
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VdlP was my first, starting Malaga, so Mozarabe-VdlP-Sanabres-Fisterra.

I was early 50s, overweight and unfit.

Started early April.

Loved it.

I walked Frances and Norte in later years, enjoying both. VdlP was the star amongst those 3. Maybe because it was my first?
 
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3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.
It won´t be as hot in May as it is later in the year, and as you head north you are heading away from the heat. There won´t be that many people either, the Norte is along a popular holiday coast, by the way. The VdlP is actually probably a much older route and pre-dates Christianity let alone pilgrimage by at least centuries - it was a Neolithic drove route for livestock. If you followed the CF, you wouldn´t recognise so many places as they jumbled up the sequences, even used locations not on the camino at all. And remember that whichever route you use to arrive in Santiago, you can still follow ´The Way´ by walking to Fisterra and Muxia.
 
Really tough call.
The Frances to me 'feels' more like 'the' Camino.
It has a special energy.
But it's harder to be alone.

Haven't walked the CdN, and may not, due to lots of road walking.

VdlP. Loved it. You'll find solitude and amazing scenery, towns etc.
But it didn't 'feel' as much of a Camino as the Frances for me.
 
I walked the norte, the vdlp and the Frances to Burgos. To me the Frances was too crowded, so I changed over to the Sanabres from Zamora.
I liked the norte because of the combination of sea ( and coast) and mountainviews. There is indeed much asphaltwalking but you can avoid many of these stretches by taking deviations that follow the coastline more There is a thread on the forum that describes many of them ( search under "coastal alternatives to the many asphalt on the norte", it is posted I think by Peregrina)
My first camino was the Via de la Plata and I liked it. ( in april I will start in Sevilla again)There are some long stretches/ stages but that will suit you, because you plan to walk 40+ days. A pro is you will pass through some very nice cities where you could spend a restday : Sevilla, Merida, Caceres, Salamanca!!, Zamora and Ourense. A problem might be the heat in Southern Spain. When I started at the end of March temperature went up to 32 C.
 
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Agree with the 1st answer that it seems that CF "speaks to you ". For many (and yes in no small way- thanks be to The Movie), myself included, it's almost a natural way to start a Camino...no complete explanation...it just IS.
I humbly suggest to go with it. Your start will be in SJPdP (the "important start") although many will argue that that's not where the Camino starts...let's skip that for a moment.
I think you'll be more comfortable walking this route, like you said, it probably will feel familiar.
Re:crowds - don't be afraid and/or bothered by them. 1. You may be pleasantly surprised on how you might handle it (one beauty of Camino is that it provides... in many different ways and changes and challenges us) and 2. I've had plenty of days walking in solitary bliss (just don't completely zone out and miss your next yellow arrow- it's not fun to get lost...😁)
No matter what you decide Good luck and Buen Camino 🚶‍♂️
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
I think for your first Camino, the Frances will give you the best experience. Although you might see more people, it’s surprising how walkers spread out during the walking day, especially at the speed you’ll be walking. There’s also the Meseta on the Frances which offers tranquility and plenty of space. Not to be missed from my experience. I walked the del Norte last September and whilst it is beautiful and a bit more physically challenging in parts, particularly the beginning, it didn’t feel quite as good to me. So, the CF gets my vote.
 
I can't speak to the Camino del Norte, but as to the VdlP versus the CF, I would weigh them this way:

1. VdlP would suit your introversion, fitness, and general independence the best.

2. CF is the "iconic" camino and once you come home will be the one most people who know a little bit about the Camino will assume you've done. There's a good reason why most people do the CF, especially for their first camino - it's a wonderful walk full of services. I would say there's no single day on the VdlP as dramatic as the walk over the Pyrannes from St. Jean Pied de Port on the CF, although the walk to Laza on the VdlP/Camino Sanabres wouldn't be crazy far behind. Your rudimentery Spanish might make the CF more appropriate, although you can get by on the VdlP. But the CF will undoubtedly be crowed - I believe somewhere around 60% of pilgrims getting compostelas in Santiago walk the CF; 3% walk the VdlP.

I would weigh those factors and see which route seems more compelling. You can't go wrong.
 
I like your clear thinking and appreciate your honesty. When you say "scenic" and "solitude" the last thing that comes to mind is the CF. But, of course, it is "the" Camino and you should probably experience it. What about the PCT? I'm sure that walking with intention you could make it be purposeful and meaningful.
 
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The CF has the most infrastructure tailored to the pilgrim - plenty of places to stay, easy way finding, lots of English spoken, etc.
Be wary of your training, daily long distances with a loaded pack can create crippling tendinitis, etc even for the most fit walkers. I’ve witnessed marathoners, military types etc slowly degrade after 2 weeks of walking.
Also note May 1st is a huge holiday and a lot of people are walking.
Buen Camino
 
I would do the Frances. Don’t worry about the crowds. It’s only busy after Sarria. The beauty of the Camino is if you don’t want to speak you will be left alone. But a lot of the attraction of the Camino for me (I have done 4) is the people you meet, should you want to meet them, and your continuing relationship with them. I walk with my wife, we are in our 60’s. Sometimes together, sometimes alone. Both of us have our own reasons for walking, which is fine.
There is something special about the Frances, the towns, cities and villages, the Alto de Perdón, Cruz de Ferro, the walk up to O Cebrero. It’s truly lovely.
Think of your father during the pilgrims mass in Santiago, and treasure all you have.
Whichever you do, Buen Camino.
 
What others say about how the CF "feels" more like the camino is as subjective as a statement as can be made. (of course you did ask for opinions). So many say that as it was their first camino. I felt that way at first myself. But last year I walked on the Camino Vasco. No Pilgrims, It met the CF in Burgos. This was mid October. I walked to Leon as I do love the magic of the Meseta. Please never confuse the magic of the earth beneath you with everything else that you encounter when you walk. By this I mean people, places, sights and sounds. After walking 9 other camino routes and returning to the CF for me there is no more magic on the CF than there is on any other camino. The camino is your body, mind, spirit of the pilgrim and the dirt beneath your feet. Nothing more or less. It is the easiest way to find simplicity in this intense world we live. Remember the camino IS the real world, just as much as the real world that people speak of when they return home.
I will break it down simply. With your fitness level you can walk any camino, any distance, without a second thought.
Camino Frances is crowded, it has great infrastructure and if you want human connection you will have it.
I have never walked in May so I can only go by statistics and what others say. The camino will have alot of pilgrims. How many is alot is really up to you. Others say that there are plenty of opportunities for quiet meditation. I guess I am not meditative enough in my meditation as I find other pilgrims, often even their presence makes my solitary walking and lack of thought intrusive. As an example, Walking for a few weeks on the Vasco, virtually totally alone except for townspeople, day and night was a peaceful and wonderful experience. Even getting on the Meseta, with its vast openness and relatively fewer pilgrims to be far more crowded than I wanted. It is just a matter of perception I guess.
The Norte is more touristy as it is on the coast. I guess on weekends the towns will be crowded. There are breathtaking views. If you do some research and know how to read GPS pretty well there are lots of variants that will take you off the roadways. I don't have any idea how to even download a GPS so I just asked those I met if I could follow. It will be way less crowded than the CF and way more crowded than the VDLP.
I loved the VDLP even with the endless number of olive trees, the 95 (+) temperatures in late October when I started, all the closed kitchens as it was just after the camino reopened from Covid. I am sure there will be more pilgrims in May then when I walked in late October/November/December. It will probably get hotter as you go north, but who knows these days with climate change. Less infrastructure so you will have to do a little planning to know about extra water and food. I carried 3 liters of water. One was frozen to keep my food and other water cold as I walked. Some Spanish is really helpful. A bit more than agua, por favor, haha so keep your translator handy. If you like ancient Roman History the VDLP is a goldmine of history. You will find these gems in cities and villages and on the route itself. The greatest challenge is the mental and spiritual aspect, way more so than the other two routes. It may also be the most rewarding in this regard also.
Just my opinion and as we say in New York, my opinion and 3 bucks will get you on the subway.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
@lt56ny Just my opinion and as we say in New York, my opinion and 3 bucks will get you on the subway.
Really? its been quite a while since I jumped on NY subway but I can still do it for $3.00 or should we ajust for inflation? 😉
 
I, too, lean towards the Frances as a recommendation. It is the archetypical Camino and the one most supportive for first-time pilgrims. It seems the one that best fits your impetus for walking a Camino.

Many (and it sounds like you are one of that number) are concerned about the numbers of pilgrims on the Camino. And I will admit that the beginning of May is one of the busiest times for those leaving from St> Jean Pied de Port on the Frances, as I expect you will want to do. But I will counter that worry with two statements. One is that, in my recent experience, solitude isn't too hard to come by if you really want it, even on the most crowded section of the Frances at the busiest time of year. The other is that I wouldn't rule out the possibility that you may come to appreciate and seek out the presence of other pilgrims and pilgrim community, rather than always seeking solitude, when you actually find yourself on Camino. Many find other pilgrims and the pilgrim community one of the most valuable aspects of their journey.

You also talk about seeking scenic beauty. And, having walked the Salvador and Primitivo routes last year, I can't deny that other routes have it in abundance. But the Frances has its share of scenic beauty as well: whether it is the mountains at the beginning or later by O Cebreiro, or the endless fields of wheat and poppies and sunflowers, or the rolling hills of vineyards or the many other forms of scenery available.
 
I found the number of pilgrims on the CF in May 2023 not as disturbing as the quality of pilgrims. SO many tour groups, hopping in and out of vans (90% of the CF can be done in a car), large suitcases clogging every hostel entryway, very loud cyclists, and these tour pilgrims only talking to each other. So, IMO there are crowds and there are crowds.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I found the number of pilgrims on the CF in May 2023 not as disturbing as the quality of pilgrims. SO many tour groups, hopping in and out of vans (90% of the CF can be done in a car), large suitcases clogging every hostel entryway, very loud cyclists, and these tour pilgrims only talking to each other. So, IMO there are crowds and there are crowds.
You don't have to stay on places that accept luggage. There are many that don't although they usually are also non-reservable and or don't have private rooms. It is indeed a busy route, but I still find it pleasant.
 
I found the number of pilgrims on the CF in May 2023 not as disturbing as the quality of pilgrims. SO many tour groups, hopping in and out of vans (90% of the CF can be done in a car), large suitcases clogging every hostel entryway, very loud cyclists, and these tour pilgrims only talking to each other. So, IMO there are crowds and there are crowds.

That can at least partly be avoided by staying in places that do not allow reservations and luggage transport.

I usually stay in parroquials and municipals, preferredly donativos. The few times I stayed in private albergues, I realized why usually I prefer the ones that can't be booked. But that's personal taste.

You won't meet tour groups in Granon, for example. No WiFi. 😂

But, on the other hand, I met many very nice pilgrims who travelled with tour groups. Had some interesting conversations with them. One tour group pilgrim I remember carried beautiful little wooden crosses in his daypack and handed them to pilgrims he met on the way. I still have mine. It was a very touching moment.

So, don't be too quick to judge those who walk in groups or use a tour company. They might have their reasons.
 
I, too, lean towards the Frances as a recommendation. It is the archetypical Camino and the one most supportive for first-time pilgrims. It seems the one that best fits your impetus for walking a Camino.

Many (and it sounds like you are one of that number) are concerned about the numbers of pilgrims on the Camino. And I will admit that the beginning of May is one of the busiest times for those leaving from St> Jean Pied de Port on the Frances, as I expect you will want to do. But I will counter that worry with two statements. One is that, in my recent experience, solitude isn't too hard to come by if you really want it, even on the most crowded section of the Frances at the busiest time of year. The other is that I wouldn't rule out the possibility that you may come to appreciate and seek out the presence of other pilgrims and pilgrim community, rather than always seeking solitude, when you actually find yourself on Camino. Many find other pilgrims and the pilgrim community one of the most valuable aspects of their journey.

You also talk about seeking scenic beauty. And, having walked the Salvador and Primitivo routes last year, I can't deny that other routes have it in abundance. But the Frances has its share of scenic beauty as well: whether it is the mountains at the beginning or later by O Cebreiro, or the endless fields of wheat and poppies and sunflowers, or the rolling hills of vineyards or the many other forms of scenery available.
I found the CF too crowded and changed over to the Sanabres in Burgos. It is not so much that I am looking for solitude, in fact I like the feeling of being part of a community ( mainly in the evening, walking alone I like). It seems like a paradox but despite the fact that you meet many people on the road, I did not get the feeling of a community. When you arrive in a town there are so many places to sleep and to eat that people disperse over many localities. You meet new people everyday. It feels like " loose sand", for a rather introvert person like me it is not so easy to make "lasting" contacts in such circumstances. When I walked the Sanabres ( and other caminos) you see and meet far less people. You see most of them practically everyday and I like that much more
 
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This post from another thread might help you choose

I am both a hiker and a walker and this distinction played a huge role in how my first Camino (May-June 2023) evolved.

I have done a lot of solo and not-solo backpacking in various US locations. I love it. But I also walk a lot just around town. I love solitude. I knew that the Caminos are ancient pilgrimage paths, but also that some are more remote and mountainous than others. So (using lots of resources on this forum and with help from many here) I decided to walk from Logroño to León on the CF and then take the San Salvador to Oviedo and then the Primitivo to Santiago. Solitude and mountains, that was my plan! Early in my journey, I even met two other solo female pilgrims with the same plan. I was vindicated!

I soon discovered that in order to make my plan work and reach Santiago with time to continue to Muxia, I needed to keep the pace, but I found that I wasn't taking as much time as I really wanted to take pictures of flowers (I'm a retired botanist) or just sit in a bar and watch the pilgrims go by.

Then, in Sahagún, at Albergue de la Santa Cruz, I was attending a mass in English (my Spanish is good enough to catch the gist of a homily but not the details) and the priest said "The Camino is a pilgrimage, not a hike." His words hit me like a ton of bricks. I was trying to make my Camino into a hike. I was trying to convince myself that the lesser-trod paths with lots of elevation and solitude were preferable to the most popular, well-traveled, well-accommodated CF.

And even though I had previously told many people that the CF was not the way for me, I changed my plans, and continued on the CF.

By not taking the other route, I had plenty of time to slow my pace, take short days, and enjoy the long Spanish afternoons writing in my journal and watching the world go by. And I found so. much solitude. Except for the few days after Sarria. And even then, much of most days, I was able to see no one ahead and no one behind me. I walked into Santiago about ten a.m. and there were only three other pilgrims in sight!

So for me, there is a real distinction between hiking and walking. I allowed the Camino to show me how to let it all unfold and let go of my preconceived plans, and that has made all the difference.
 
First of all, I'm sorry for your loss. :-(

I'll join in with adding, the CF is my go to. Also being inspired by the movie. I've been on the CF three times with different experiences each go around. I'm in the process of planning my forth, yes to the CF. It can get crowded here or there but as many have said, there are ways around it for the most part. Staying off stage helps. Start walking early or later. At your speed I see you whizzing by. The CF is home to me and really caters to the pilgrim. You will see some beautiful sights and meet, when you want, some amazing people from around the world. You'd be surprised at how many different stories you'll hear yet so many will sound familiar to yours.

I've walked del Norte from Irun to Laredo then I switched to the Frances. del Norte is so very beautiful yet very challenging for me. I didn't so much mind or notice the road walking as I did the inclines and descents which were present nearly every day. Into the mountains, out to the sea. While I marveled at the beauty around me I struggled with the lack of a Camino feel, not like the Frances. It was hard to connect with others as there are mostly pairs walking and solo's who like to stay solo. I am a solo walker and enjoyed having the trail to myself a lot but I also enjoy the comradery at the end of the day. One last note, in my experience, some locals/shop/restaurant owners seem to view pilgrims as a nuisance, especially in the touristy cities.

I can not contribute to the other route you're considering.

Either route you chose, it will be your first and I'm very excited for you. You can never have another first.

Buen Camino!
:cool: 👣 🌻
 
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I don't have advice about choosing your route, but I do want to share some thoughts about crowds, and reassure you that 95% of your day will be spent with only the wind in your ears. You might meet a lot of people, but this will likely be in the villages, at lunch stops or albergues, less so on the path. And my thought is that your pace might be much faster than average, so I predict that you'll be flying past people before you can say buen camino.

I walked the Camino Frances in July/August 2015 with a similar goal as yourself. I was curious what 6 weeks of walking meditation would teach me, and I wanted the solitude, independence, peace, and space to do that.

One thing thing that surprised me was that solo walking became quite lonely by the end. I'd made friends at the beginning who I purposely kept at a distance, insisting on walking alone, because I didn't want the minutae of my days to be dominated by them. But found myself a bit wistful at the end, seeing how close my fellow pilgrims had become, while I had resisted the connections that I made along the way.

My next Camino begins in 2 weeks. This time, it's the connections I'm looking forward to the most. I think it will be just as healing as my hours spent walking solo. Like you, I lost family recently - my sister in 2020, and my mother in 2018. You may find that many people you meet on the camino are in a time of grief or transition, and it's surprisingly easy to talk about the stuff of life in a way that we may not back home.

You will have plenty of time to yourself, if you choose, so you don't need to worry about crowds. There's no conga line. :D
Do the route that calls to you.
 
Thanks a lot everyone for sharing your thoughts! I will keep reading and researching but so far it seems that CF is most likely the right thing to do. Mostly because it is most likely to give me the feeling of "having done the Camino". I am not looking forward to the conga lines, but as someone pointed out, if I move fast, I can lose anyone I don't want to interact with.

...and if it turns out to be too easy, I'll come back next year and do a harder one :)
 
Thanks a lot everyone for sharing your thoughts! I will keep reading and researching but so far it seems that CF is most likely the right thing to do. Mostly because it is most likely to give me the feeling of "having done the Camino". I am not looking forward to the conga lines, but as someone pointed out, if I move fast, I can lose anyone I don't want to interact with.

...and if it turns out to be too easy, I'll come back next year and do a harder one :)
Sounds good. Since you’re already super-fit hit Duolingo for more Spanish prep. Every bit helps and is appreciated.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Conga line. Four full Camino Frances during prime time, and I've yet to see one. Maybe I'll get lucky with this summer's Camino Frances and finally see one. Is there musical accompaniment on an actual Cuban conga to the conga lines? The things that moved and appealed to you in The Movie are far more likely to be found and experienced on the Camino Frances.
 
I am not looking forward to the conga lines, but as someone pointed out, if I move fast, I can lose anyone I don't want to interact with.
The "conga line" description is really overblown. Sure, you might encounter large groups walking together that resemble a conga line, but I wouldn't say that it's the norm.

Last year I joined the Francés from the Primitivo at Melide - smack dab in the last stages of the final 100 km from Sarria. Yes, there were a lot more pilgrims in Melide and the other towns than my walking companions and I had seen in weeks, but after spending the night in Boente (a bit after Melide) we found ourselves on the trail in the morning without another pilgrim in sight for about an hour and a half. And that night our little group had the Albergue Astrar, just past Santa Irene, all to ourselves.
 
The "conga line" description is really overblown. Sure, you might encounter large groups walking together that resemble a conga line, but I wouldn't say that it's the norm.
Conga line. Four full Camino Frances during prime time, and I've yet to see one.

I have witnessed the conga line in august '22 on the last 100km. Before, I thought it was a myth.

It really looked and felt like a conga line. Including singing and music and all. A seemingly neverending line of pilgrims on the trail, for hours. I remember it well because that day my family wrote me a message and asked how I was and if it wasn't too lonely walking. I sent them a video of the conga line as a reply.

After a 2500km+ Camino that year, with lots of those kms being very lonely ones, it didn't bother me too much. It was a bit surreal, a tiny bit annoying, but also fascinating and funny at the same time.

I made a good friend during that section, so, no regrets at all. I still keep that experience in good memory.

It was a holy year and main season, so I didn't expect the last 100km to be a lonely walk, anyway.

But I soon found out that when walking in the afternoon, you won't see anyone on the trails... even during conga line season in the last 100km!

In the afternoon and evening it was a very quiet, relaxed walk with no crowds at all.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
Starting early may on Frances shoulnt be that crowded. Always start at beginning of any Camino mid week to avoid the european walkers who often take a weeks hol. Fly in Friday or sat and start immediately. They often start at the big cities etc. Mid week u avoid them and less of a bed rush. Enjoy bon camino.
 
I didn't walk the Norte so I won't comment on that. Peg and I walked the CF and I walked the Catalan which, like the VdlP, is a lonely walk.

One thing about the CF and getting alone time is that you are likely not going to have to have unwanted conversations while walking. You will likely be walking faster than most so you'll come up from behind, say "Buen Camino", and continue on (if you wish). Also, you might not even be tired at the end of the day so you could wander the town alone if you wanted.

I thought that I wouldn't mind the solitude of the Catalan but I did. The solitude didn't ruin the walk but I would have found company more enjoyable. Think about how even the little interactions during a normal day can brighten it up. Limited Spanish won't help you (I remember only having two conversations in English outside of albergues in three weeks). David Tallan made a comment worth rereading. I add it below.

I try to avoid giving recommendations and give suggestions instead because I typically don't have enough information from a poster to say "this is definitely good for you". I think you have. I recommend the CF for you.

The other is that I wouldn't rule out the possibility that you may come to appreciate and seek out the presence of other pilgrims and pilgrim community, rather than always seeking solitude, when you actually find yourself on Camino. Many find other pilgrims and the pilgrim community one of the most valuable aspects of their journey.
 
Starting early may on Frances shoulnt be that crowded
Actually, the first weeks of May (and September too) are some of the busiest for pilgrims starting from SJPdP. Every year there are reports of pilgrims not finding beds in Roncesvalles, Zubiri, etc.
 
Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
Like many of us you want to know what you need to know before you need to know it

You come into this carrying a whole bunch of expectations and regardless of which option you choose those expectations won't be met. BUT, if you leave yourself open then you will find that your Camino has much for you.

Make a choice. Throw a dart, use a random number, whatever.

I personally recommend the Camino Frances so that you challenge yourself socially as you are clearly very capable physically.

Planning a perfect Camino is a good recipe for learning about expectations and your relationship with them. ❤️
 
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
You could start in Le Puy, France and go as far as you can in the amount of time you have. It's less crowded than the Francis, and you should reach the Spanish border within 3 weeks, if everything goes well.
 
St James' Way - Self-guided 4-7 day Walking Packages, Reading to Southampton, 110 kms
Camino Portuguese was beautiful for my husband and I last May. And you have a choice of 3 different Caminos in Portugal and they cross over each other periodically. If it is not long enough, continue to Muxia after Santiago. Remember if you do not indicate you are walking the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons you will not get the Compostela. You will get a certificate of completion.
 
CF has the best infrastructure.
I have met 2 people over the years that were doing marathon daily distances. Both had support vehicles and traveled with very light daypacks--never saw either again.
I also remet a Quebecois from a prior year that was doing 30-40 km days.
You will have long enjoyable walking days but unlikely to develop a c;amino family. 'Family' require roughly the same travel pace. Cyclists are not part of our camino families but are a joy for a single dinner..
Long days in a busy may will mean several 'completo' starting 3pm; most of the walking pack will settle in well before you.
The CF is best for flexibility.
I did caminos because I love to walk--the other factors are far less important. I was reasonably fit and at age 70 did 30+km days across the meseta. But did LePuy first so I was condition to consecutive long days.

Do it!! You will love the CF for its flexibility; no need for zero days, just go at a pace that your body loves.
 
Hello! Newbie here. I've been searching/reading for a while, and it's been incredibly helpful. However, I am still torn between several route options, and would appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice :) I'll lay out my situation in some detail - hope it will help you help me. :) Thank you!

Who am I: 41 y/o male, living in California. Very fit (literally ran 7 marathons in the past 7 weeks). Have solid experience hiking, backpacking and light mountaineering. Have all my outdoor gear and know how to use it. Atheist. Introvert. Rudimentary Spanish ("agua por favor").

Motivation for doing Camino: 2 reasons.

1) As for many here, it started with the movie The Way. I watched it back in 2011 with my father, and we both liked it a lot. I thought about maybe doing it someday. Fast forward to 2020, and my father passed away suddenly. Somehow the whole thing with the movie character carrying his son's ashes spoke to me. I did a "virtual Camino" (covered the same distance on home trails while marking progress on the CF map) that same year, in my father's honor. It was meaningful, but I still feel that closing this "loop" and doing the actual route would be important. (No, I don't have his ashes.)

2) I am taking a break from working like a dog for 15+ years, and want to use this time to think about what I want to do next. A long scenic solo walk seems like a good way to do some housekeeping in my head.

Note: starting at "the start" and finishing at "the finish" is important for me. Religious/spiritual aspects are not. I'll get the Compostela as a badge of completion, but that's it.

Schedule constraints: I am planning to start in early May (can probably go as early as May 1 if I need to). I have all of May to get it done. Given that I am planning to cover 40+ km per day, any route should be doable. Ideally, I'd like to bake in 3-4 zero days in important/interesting locations to explore them.

With these inputs, I think I narrowed down my options to 3:

1. Camino Frances. Pros: this is the "movie route", so the closure will be most complete, plus I can probably relate to some locations from the movie. Cons: it's crowded, and especially so in May. I am really not a crowd person. I want to be able to think, zone out, meditate. Occasional human interaction is great, I'm not a sociopath :), but when I read about "conga lines", I shudder.

2. Camino del Norte. Pros: not crowded, very beautiful. Cons: lots of pavement (I can handle it but don't love it). Not "the" route. (Yes, yes, I know, there's no such thing... :) )

3. Via de La Plata. Pros: solitary, starts in Seville, goes through cool towns. Cons: likely to be hot as hell in May?.. Not "the" route.


So, here I am :) What should I do? What am I missing? Thank you for any tips!
The Norte was my first Camino. I loved it. I split off at Oviedo to do the Primitivo and I’m going back to finish the Norte this year. It’s along the ocean so May will probably be windy and wet, but I loved it. People, but never too many, plenty of infrastructure. I did some scenic variants so not as much road. Lots of climbing in and out especially the first week. Stunning views. I went in August, so swimming whenever possible. It was a great first. The shocker is coming into the last 100 miles. Then you’ll hit crowds like wow. My vote is Norte.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
The Norte was my first Camino. I loved it. I split off at Oviedo to do the Primitivo and I’m going back to finish the Norte this year. It’s along the ocean so May will probably be windy and wet
My first Camino del Norte was in a very wet July, and my second time on the Norte (last year) was a mostly dry May - you can never predict the weather!
 
The Norte was my first Camino. I loved it. I split off at Oviedo to do the Primitivo and I’m going back to finish the Norte this year. It’s along the ocean so May will probably be windy and wet, but I loved it. People, but never too many, plenty of infrastructure. I did some scenic variants so not as much road. Lots of climbing in and out especially the first week. Stunning views. I went in August, so swimming whenever possible. It was a great first. The shocker is coming into the last 100 miles. Then you’ll hit crowds like wow. My vote is Norte.
The Norte is certainly the 'nicest', followed by the Portuguese (except between LIS and Porto)......., Via de la Plata has quite some long stretches, such as 35-40km a day with nothing in between. CF is the one I wouldn't recommend, as it is loaded with people (each day, about 250 do start in Roncesvalles), - no fun........
Ultreia!
chronic walker
 

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