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How busy is the Camino Frances in August? Can it be walked alone?

J

JJP

Guest
I am planning on walking the Camino starting in the last week of July 2017 and ending by the first week of September. This is the only time I can do it. I'd assumed that I'd be walking the Camino Frances because it is what most pilgrims do. I'm more introverted than most and want to walk the Camino for spiritual reasons as much as for anything else so am going alone so I can choose to walk alone or with others. I'm hoping to be able to walk long stretches alone when I feel like it. I was aware the Camino Frances is busy in July and August but as I've been reading the posts on this forum I kept coming across how crowded it is at that time. Someone said they never managed to walk more than an hour or two alone over the entire Camino. I know the last 100 km will be packed but that's only to be expected; I'm thinking of the preceding 700 km. I now have a mental image of a road so busy it's impossible to walk by oneself without being right next to others.

I'd be interested and grateful to hear from those who have walked the Camino Frances in July or August about their experiences in this regard. I know this is a frequent topic but I haven't found this exact question on this forum.

The other option I'm now considering is the Camino Norte. The length is about right and it sounds lovely. To those who've done it during the summer my questions are: Is it not too quiet? I want to be able to meet others as well as walk alone. Can one get as much out of it as out of the Camino Frances?
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
It is always possible to walk alone, even when the path is crowded, provided you are prepared for others to greet you, and perhaps to politely return that greeting. If someone wishes to chat, have a stock phrase to let them know that you want to walk alone. However, if you are concerned to not even do that, it could be more difficult.

The stages from Sarria to Santiago can be crowded, but I found the first day the worst, where there was a pretty continual stream of people for perhaps the best part of the morning. After that, faster walkers have moved ahead and slower walkers fallen behind. Bars can be crowded on the first day, but those crowds also thin out. Albergues can be crowded, as can bars and restaurants in the evening, but unless your only choice is a communal meal, there is no real or implied obligation to share a table if you don't wish to do so.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
@JJP, not personally been there during this time, so following offered with those reservations:
1 it will be more crowded, especially west of Astorga and even more so from Sarria (as it is for most of the year); however you are also having to contend with Spanish school & university holidays and these student groups often walk a section of the Camino during their summer vacations;
2 it will be very warm, even hot, especially on the Meseta so bring a broad brimmed hat (and wear it?) and have a couple of water bottles.

I hope this helps.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
Just go out last in the morning, take a siesta in the middle of the day and walk in the afternoon and you will have the Camino to yourself, even in August. You might have to be flexible about desired accommodation (or book ahead) but it is perfectly doable. Buen Camino, SY
 
A

AJ

Guest
I have walked the Fances in July and part of the Norte in August.

The Norte was crowded with groups of young people. The infrastructure is not up to it. I would not do it again in August.

The Frances was crowded, but not excessively except from Sarria. It was possible to be alone. I never had problems with accommodation. I would do it again at this time.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
I walked in August with throngs of pilgrims and found solitude. Walking the CF, is just, well: wonderful. Don't allow possible crowds detour you literally. Lastly, camino gives us what we need, open yourself up to everything.
Buen camino.
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
I've been on the Camino Frances a couple of times in July and August. Yeah, it can get crowded sometimes, but overall plenty of opportunities to walk alone. The last stretch from about Sarria to Santiago does have the most pilgrims, but if you plan your schedule to arrive in Santiago in the beginning or middle of the week as opposed to a weekend you will see less pilgrims.
 
J

JJP

Guest
Thank you everyone. You've been very helpful and reassuring.
 

eviemonkey

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances August 2016, Camino Primitivo August 2018
I walked SJPdP to Santiago last August. I started off alone and on two separate occasions left a group of friends to walk on my own for 2-3 days, as I was curious to experience my first Camino as a solitary journey of self-discovery. Pre-Camino, my lifestyle was a private one. I had become introverted and distant. I had expected the Camino to be similar.

I enjoyed those days walking alone and can remember each of them vividly. I felt more open and vulnerable to what was around me. But on each occasion I was glad to re-join my new friends. As much as I enjoyed walking alone, I missed my new friends more. I missed the shared camaraderie, the social convening in the evenings, their genuine expressions of compassion and encouragement that I can still remember months after parting ways. By the time we walked together into Santiago, I could not have imagined a Camino experience as fulfilling without them.

For many (most?) the Camino is a inward-looking experience, a time to reflect within yourself and hope to discover more about yourself as a person. For me, it became an outward-looking period instead where I learned more from others and in doing so shed some of the insular traits I had built up over time before I arrived in St Jean.

The above is merely a personal reflection. On a practical level, it is possible to walk as alone as possible in August. Leave at different times to others, stay in smaller, less popular towns and villages, avoid the first cafes you encounter along the way. Before you know it, you will have walked long stretches of the day without seeing others, sleeping in half-empty albergues, and you can be sitting alone for breakfast and dinner and so on.

I certainly wouldn't be put off the Frances because of concerns over a lack of alone-time. Even during those last two weeks when I planned my walking schedule and accommodation in advance to join others, I still walked mostly alone. We'd set off together in the morning, but our different walking paces meant we walked alone most of the time. For me it was the best of both worlds, alone-time walking during the day, social get togethers in the evening. Plenty of time for reflection and celebration.
 

Leigh Macklin

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances {2016}, Portugese {2017}
I had no problem last summer. I stayed in towns that were not atvtge end of guidebook stages. My alburges were all under 50% capacity...even in the last 100 km. And most were lovely municiple ones.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
Not as busy as the month either side.
Walk into the evening and book ahead into good accommodation.
 

Leigh Macklin

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances {2016}, Portugese {2017}
If you are nervous and want to stay in private albergues/hostels/pensions...install bookings.com app and you can book something over wifi after lunch if you decide how much further to go that day.
 
J

JJP

Guest
Thank you, the issue wasn't about not being able to find a bed for the night, something which hasn't concerned me (the Camino will provide, as nycwalking said above), but rather about not being able to walk on my own when I feel like it. I've been reassured on this point by several helpful comments; I'm just stating it here to clarify.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances [08 ]Portuguese [09 ]Le Puy[10] Norte[ 11] Madrid [12] Figeac - Pamplona [13] Mont Saint Michel - Bordeaux / St Palais - Pamplona [14] Moissac -Burgos [15] , Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo [16]
Le Puy to Moissac and Dax to Santo Domingo
Thank you, the issue wasn't about not being able to find a bed for the night, something which hasn't concerned me (the Camino will provide, as nycwalking said above), but rather about not being able to walk on my own when I feel like it. I've been reassured on this point by several helpful comments; I'm just stating it here to clarify.
You book ahead whenever you like
You walk alone or if you smile smile ......there is the conversation for the next hour.
And you have a wonderful Camino
Don't worry JJP it will all pan out by Pamplona
 

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