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If there are too many pilgrims, what is a pilgrim to do?

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2024 Aragones, Madrid, Portugues Coastal
This is only my opinion and suggestion and if you don't agree or like it that is fine and dandy. It will not bother me in the least. For days we have been seeing posts about too many pilgrims, bottlenecks, bed races, etc.
I know many first time pilgrims read, write, and see so many videos, posts, blogs and films about the Camino Frances. It is the camino almost all pilgrims want to do first. When I walked I loved it but it was also 12 years ago and I didn't even know there were other caminos.
It seems with each passing year the joy of walking the CF at times seems to be diminished due to its ever growing popularity.
I have a solution that may help and by following it the old saying that ignorance is bliss may come into play. Walk a DIFFERENT camino. There are so many different one's to choose. Not just the Primitivo or Norte or Portuguese either. There is magic, there is experiences, there is friendships, there is moments of enlightenment, or just peace, there is beauty to be found on other caminos just as much as on the CF.
The criticism I have and I know I will catch less then warm responses to is that I feel like too many people want a camino experience with the least amount of inconvenience, pain, and discomfort as possible. I am excluding those who have physical ailments or age challenges that would preclude walking if there was not luggage service or public/taxi transport to help them along the way. A camino is not a vacation. A camino is supposed to be difficult. It is supposed to be challenging. Yes please spare me the tale of kings and nobleman who were carried to Santiago, and blah, blah, and blah. Yes all the conveniences of fine dining, paradors, better hotels and casa rurals, can I assume only be found on the CF. But is this what the camino is or what it has evolved into. Again, I am happy for the people of Spain who have benefited greatly from the rise in people walking. I know what the Meseta looked like just 12 years ago compared to today. Many of the villages are unrecognizable from the time of my first camino.
I also know some may need to walk in "peak" seasons due to work or other commitments. But not everyone. People want to avoid rain, or too much sun, or cold, or snow, or whatever the weather brings. But again the camino is not meant to be easy.
Maybe if people walked in less desirable seasons, if they walk on other landscapes, or with many fewer pilgrims, they may quickly realize how beautiful and profound the experience can be. Just as much as the Frances or Norte etc.
Last year, the final leg of my camino (I walked 3 different camino paths) was walking up the CP coastal. I had done the Central from Lisbon before and I really wanted to experience the coast. As others who walked the coast in November '23 will attest it was just unbelievable the amount of rain we encountered. Walking in the small hills above the coast was often walking in streams. I had only trail runners and they were completely soaked every day, and usually within 15 minutes of me leaving the albergue. But I never complained because I knew that no matter how bad the weather, where would I rather be? Of course the answer is no where.
Maybe and hopefully soon people will realize that the camino provides, that there is camino magic, there is joy, self discovery, friendships, challenges and maybe even greater and deeper fulfillment on a camino not named Frances.
 
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The shift on to other routes and other times of the year is already happening and has being happening for many years now. When I walked the Camino Frances for the first time it was the only recognised and signposted Camino route. Now the Camino maps of Spain and Portugal look like a spider's web! Last year 32% of those receiving a Compostela had walked one of the Portugues routes. The Ingles, the Primitivo and the Norte each accounted for about 5% to the total.
 
The shift on to other routes and other times of the year is already happening and has being happening for many years now. When I walked the Camino Frances for the first time it was the only recognised and signposted Camino route. Now the Camino maps of Spain and Portugal look like a spider's web! Last year 32% of those receiving a Compostela had walked one of the Portugues routes. The Ingles, the Primitivo and the Norte each accounted for about 5% to the total.
I realize the shift has been happening. There are also other caminos that have yet to be "discovered". My point is and you know probably better than I, that there are many, many caminos to walk that be as rewarding. Last year I walked the Vasco and saw less then a couple of pilgrims. (It was October). Two years ago I walked the Aragones (also October), and met only 2. I think the spring is prime Aragones walking. This year I will walk the Aragones again in October. Then head over to Madrid (late October) to do the CM. Will be interesting to see how many, if any pilgrims I meet. Hope I do. Finally I will walk the CP coastal again to see what the sky and the ocean look like when it is not under rain clouds and fog. Numbers on the coastal were pretty light until Spain. But always a few pilgrims every night. It was quite nice.
 
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The rise in numbers on the Portuguese Coastal last year compared to 2021 increased by about 700%
The more people that hear about Camino the more will come!
 
The rise in numbers on the Portuguese Coastal last year compared to 2021 increased by about 700%
The more people that hear about Camino the more will come!
I am sure that is true. I have been reading about it. That was part of my point about walking during non peak months. As I said there were just a few pilgrims on the coast in November in Portugal. It was very nice. Even the last 100k in Spain was fine, even though there were more pilgrims in the albergues. But it was still quiet and nice walking.
 
Its a little late for people who already have their plans set in stone or who are already on the ground. My husband and I were talking about it this morning walking to my work. Most new pilgrims often don't realize that May and September are the busiest times to walk. They walk when they can get the time to do so or perhaps when they think it could be less busy in their home country. For example, early May and the month of September are still considered "shoulder season" in many of the popular US National Parks due to children still being in public school which limits when families may be traveling. If you are not from the EU, you may not realize that May 1 is a popular work holiday which can sometimes be stretched into a longer stretch for walking.

Last year we had a nice thread about things pilgrims might consider to help lessen anxiety and give constructive tips on how to cope. I'd rather see something positive like that.

Yes, there are things you can do which may help:
1. As @It56ny indicates, you can switch to another route. (That may be less comfortable for new pilgrims.)
2. Consider abandoning your start at St Jean or Roncesvalles during the busy season. If you are still at home just planning your Camino, don't start in May or September or if you already here, plan to start further ahead than Pamplona. (Logrono, Santo Domingo, Burgos, etc.)
3. Don't rely solely on Booking.com. They don't have all the beds available at any given place. You may need to call directly or send a WhatsApp to see if a bed is available.
4. Try not to start on a weekend (or holiday).
5. Check out some of the albergues that don't take reservations (this one is of course my favorites since I volunteer at these kinds of albergues). Spending all my time trying to get a reservation would be a real downer for me, so I generally don't reserve. I've never not found a bed, but if I could not, I would go somewhere further off the Camino to stay, go to another Camino, or ahead or get behind the mob. I always have a little back-up plan in my head although I have not had to use it.
6. Stay at places "in-between" the prescribed stages. End your day early in a small town or walk a little past to the next little town.

Just know that many of us do know how yucky it feels to have walked all day carrying your pack to arrive and find you may have to work harder to get a bed or sleep on a gym floor. It is for that reason that we walk in different seasons on different routes using different strategies. We do want to help you when we can. I hope you won't give up even on days when you might like to.
 
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.
I am not too sure what I think ... seems to me that the moment someone sits down at home and thinks about "which Camino next" because that one is prettier, etc, they may have already lost focus on what the pilgrimage is, or why it was ... a personal visit to the shrine in Santiago, the remains of the saint who knew Jesus ... regardless of discomforts along the way, and rather that they are looking at their next walking holiday, and which would be more pleasant for them - Saint who?

You think not? Which do you think is the most common Google search - how to get to the casket of St James when in the cathedral or how to get to the airport in Santiago?

In medieval times parts of the remains of saints were bought by monasteries and taken home so that pilgrims would come and they would have some income, even a single finger worked ... the remains 'shared out' as it were .. so - I would like to see some of the remains of St James placed in St Jean (and maybe Le Puy?) - then all the French Caminos - and infrastructure - would grow and maybe the Spanish Frances would stabilise?

Is a selfish thought, I prefer being on Camino in France than in Spain ;)

p.s. another thought - all those who have been on Camino and fulfilled their pledge to visit the remains of St James - don't go back, don't repeat it, the pilgrimage has been fulfilled ... that would remove significant numbers.

Edit addition: - I am not being wildly serious! I don't mind at all which people do which Camino and when nor if they even visit the cathedral, nor how many Caminos they do, I only get to run my life (and not even sure about that).
 
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In medieval times parts of the remains of saints were bought by monasteries and taken home so that pilgrims would come and they would have some income, even a single finger worked ... the remains 'shared out' as it were
The main idea was in this time that when the saint soul were in Paradise, the remnant of his body on earth could be a benefit for those who visit its sepulcher.
But now ? Who actually believe that the bones of a saint could bring a benefit to those who come to them ?

The paradox is that the success of the Camino mainly comes from the wish to meet other people.
But too many people could also be the failure of the Camino.
 
I am not too sure what I think ... seems to me that the moment someone sits down at home and thinks about "which Camino next" because that one is prettier, etc, they may have already lost focus on what the pilgrimage is, or why it was ... a personal visit to the shrine in Santiago, the remains of the saint who knew Jesus ... regardless of discomforts along the way, and rather that they are looking at their next walking holiday, and which would be more pleasant for them - Saint who?

You think not? Which do you think is the most common Google search - how to get to the casket of St James when in the cathedral or how to get to the airport in Santiago?

In medieval times parts of the remains of saints were bought by monasteries and taken home so that pilgrims would come and they would have some income, even a single finger worked ... the remains 'shared out' as it were .. so - I would like to see some of the remains of St James placed in St Jean (and maybe Le Puy?) - then all the French Caminos - and infrastructure - would grow and maybe the Spanish Frances would stabilise?

Is a selfish thought, I prefer being on Camino in France than in Spain ;)

p.s. another thought - all those who have been on Camino and fulfilled their pledge to visit the remains of St James - don't go back, don't repeat it, the pilgrimage has been fulfilled ... that would remove significant numbers.
The quote about the Google search is funny because it is so true, as we all know the answer to that question. I have recommended a podcast here before that is so full of the history of the Camino. There was a second season started by the historian in February but sadly there has not been a second podcast in the second season. You may already know it but if you do not I think you would really enjoy it. "The Scholarly Pilgrim". A perfect name when the podcast is hosted by a medieval historian/professor!
Your last thought does scare me a little as I do my pilgrimages now as my outlet for my spiritual growth/the settling of my mind after months of the other world madness we all endure. It is my precious time for myself and to be all about myself. To be selfish to prepare for the balance of the year to try to be more unselfish. Finally it is my great motivator to stay healthy and fit, as I am now 70 and there is so much more in the rear view mirror of life than through the windshield. I want to enjoy what we have left being as fit and as healthy as possible. So more caminos for me at least, hopefully will translate to a richer and healthier future. P.S. I only walked in France once from Le Puy. Ah it was wonderful. A feast for my eyes and my stomach. Had some amazing dinners in the Gites. Didn't speak a word of French. had the worst guide (Michelin) didn't have a telephone, but it was wonderful. (Did get lost a bunch of times as I got lost in my head and those little lines on posts are alot tougher to see then yellow arrows.
Last year we had a nice thread about things pilgrims might consider to help lessen anxiety and give constructive tips on how to cope. I'd rather see something positive like that.
Lots of good points by @J Willhaus
 
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.
You'll hear no criticism from me, and your post perfectly sums up my feelings re the changes on the Frances. As a result, I've decided it's time for me to to "branch out" to other routes, should I hear the call again.

I do find it interesting some folks who feel the need to "defend" the camino. There was a recent post on how the Frances has become unpleasantly busy...and it wasn't even a negative downer post, just simply someone's experience of the camino. I agreed with the OP, saying I had a similar experience, and received a comment (peppered with one too many emojis) about "well some people enjoyed their awesome camino!"

Let people have their experiences. It's not a personal attack on anyone to say "hey, it's beginning to feel a little bit like a cruise ship circus around these parts".

YMMV.....but also, I've walked the CF three times, trust that I know change when I see it.
 
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The final year that I truly enjoyed the Camino experience was in 2017. I was still living in Biarritz at the time and hopscotched from one Camino to another for 90 days, I also volunteered for several weeks at San Anton. I think avoiding the bottlenecks and traffic takes some previous experience with connecting between one route and the other. I too recommend the Madrid and the Aragones as routes to consider even if you are a newbie.
 
I have started out a bit a-typical... My first Camino was the Via Monastica in Belgium in 2011. Then in 2012 I walked for 4 weeks in Northern France. I recall my arrival to Vézelay really well. There was a real accueill pélerin with even a pilgrims mass! In 2013 and 2014 I walked the Via de la Plata. I loved it, there were albergues everywhere and you could find at least one open supermarket, bar or restaurant every day!

In 2015 I finally walked the Francés, coming from Le Puy. It was a walk in the park, but it was also great to be part of such an international and huge group of pilgrims.

After that I walked the Norte, part of the Mozárabe, the Sanabrés, the Portugués de la Costa (during the Christmas holidays) and some shorter Caminos in France. And somehow I am now considering walking the Francés again. Next year. For good old sake, starting in SJPDP and then from Ponferrada on to the Invierno (Sarria - Santiago still feels like exaggerating).
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
p.s. another thought - all those who have been on Camino and fulfilled their pledge to visit the remains of St James - don't go back, don't repeat it, the pilgrimage has been fulfilled ... that would remove significant numbers.
I love arriving in Santiago and would like nothing better than to always be arriving! It is a very selfish thing, but I think your right - the pilgrimage has been fulfilled.
Janice
 
...

p.s. another thought - all those who have been on Camino and fulfilled their pledge to visit the remains of St James - don't go back, don't repeat it, the pilgrimage has been fulfilled ... that would remove significant numbers.

Edit addition: - I am not being wildly serious! I don't mind at all which people do which Camino and when nor if they even visit the cathedral, nor how many Caminos they do, I only get to run my life (and not even sure about that).
:::chuckle::: OTOH, those of us who are visiting St James in memory of the souls of others may still have a few souls left in the queue. In Vicarie Pro only permits one name at a time.... 😉

I am blessed by the people I meet on Camino, and I try to let the Lord work in me to bless them... but I don't come on pilgrimage to meet them. That's a secondary objective.

My wish is that all who seek come on Camino...any Camino. Even if they have no idea what, or Who, they're looking for.

As the last endurance event I participated in more or less put it, "Remember, it's your race...but it's thousands of others' race, too. Respect their way. Leave room for them. "
 
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As a newbie who just returned from walking my first Camino, CP, mostly on Senda Littoral, Coastal and Spiritual Variente, I thought it was so beautiful. I was very lucky, both in weather and number of people walking. There were enough to share some time with but not so many to be annoying at all. I loved walking by the water, I loved walking in the forests and I liked going up and down the hills (mostly). It was totally a challenge for me, both mentally and physically. I had my birthday on the Camino, it was a present to myself. I would find myself thinking "why am I doing this", there wasn't immediate meaning for me at all. Even when I got to Santiago, I didn't feel anything special but when I went to Sunday mass for the Eucharist, it hit me like a sledgehammer. All these people, from all over the world, walked to Santiago and they are here to receive the Eucharist. When the priest told us "peace be with you" and we wished each other "peace", I couldn't stop crying. I found it such a wonderful occasion, shaking hands and wishing each other "peace."

It wasn't really until I got home and could reflect on the experience and the people, that I truly started to understand the journey.
 
Being that I’m a newbie “pre-pilgrim”, as I am preparing for my first Camino this coming August, I’ve felt somewhat disheartened by all these posts about bed races, crowding, etc. To be clear, I will not back down from my intention of walking every single step from SJPDP to SDC. I’m not completely clear on why I feel so strongly compelled to walk 500 miles, although I do have some strong reasons like trying to complete a grieving process and moving on to a new chapter on my life, but there’s more to it and I’m not completely clear as to why else. I grew up Catholic but let’s say I have my issues and disagreements with churches in general (not trauma in case if you are wondering, although I have other types of trauma). I do have the intention of being respectful of the religious aspects, trying to keep an open mind, light candles in memory of those I’ve lost, trying to understand the spirituality and sacredness of this journey that has been taken by so many. I’ve been watching videos of people completing the camino, and I’ve been moved to tears when they reach SCD to the sound of bagpipes, and the enormity of this accomplishment feels overwhelming to me. Maybe it’s an ego thing, but there’s something empowering to be able to say “I did this” (of course, no guarantees that it will happen because of the unexpected).
Having said all of that, I do find off-putting when I feel that the Camino sometimes feels like a competitive sport, as it doesn’t feel as unique as I thought it was. I already know of a couple of people that have done it, even more than once. Still, what matters is that I do it. I’m choosing the Francés because being an older newbie, I don’t have the confidence and/or skills needed to venture into lonelier trails. I’m somewhat of an introvert so I’m fine with being alone, but I feel it’s important to allow new people in my life, but I don’t want to have my time being consumed by competing with other pilgrims for beds. I do expect that some days will be easier and others harder, and I’m challenging myself to learn to deal with hardship, open myself to others, help those I can, but hearing about tour groups, holiday travel, does distract from my focus.
I also recognize that part of my growth is in learning how to accept people where they are at without judging them, and to not judge myself when things don’t go as planned. I wrestle with my ego, my motivations, my judgments, and I imagine that’s true for others as well, so I know I must learn how to give grace to others…and to myself.
I plan to start my walk in August and none of these concerns are going to change my mind. I hope that in doing so, not only I can get something meaningful out of the experience, but maybe also have something positive to contribute.
 
Having said all of that, I do find off-putting when I feel that the Camino sometimes feels like a competitive sport, as it doesn’t feel as unique as I thought it was.

Being that I’m a newbie “pre-pilgrim”, as I am preparing for my first Camino this coming August, I’ve felt somewhat disheartened by all these posts about bed races, crowding, etc. To be clear, I will not back down from my intention of walking every single step from SJPDP to SDC
Good! I know that my intention for my first Camino was to walk every single step across Spain. From the French border to the Atlantic Ocean. And I did it, and it was awesome! I'm sure that it will be for you too.

Please put all of it out of your mind. Starting from SJPdP in August won't be anywhere near as busy as it is right now, or will be in September.

Please read the threads that I linked to in post #15 - I think that you'll find some information and advice that will be helpful.
 
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Good! I know that my intention for my first Camino was to walk every single step across Spain. From the French border to the Atlantic Ocean. And I did it, and it was awesome! I'm sure that it will be for you too.

Please put all of it out of your mind. Starting from SJPdP in August won't be anywhere near as busy as it is right now, or will be in September.

Please read the threads that I linked to in post #15 - I think that you'll find some information and advice that will be helpful.
Thanks for the helpful response!
I’ll be checking out those threads!
 
This is a good thread, but I have only had time to read the first couple of posts for now.
I have walked the majority of the "main" Caminos in Spain and loved them all, so have now
started to branch out on some of the less traveled routes and they are more quiet. I have loved all my Caminos and no two are alike.

That said, I personally loved the Camino Frances as my first Camino in 2015 and walked it again in 2017. For me, the experience was the most "unique" and unusual, so I am glad I walked it first...and before it's continual crazy growth. It has lovely scenery, but in addition, I think it's the many interesting people that give it its "one of a kind" charm and lively vibe.
My other Caminos since have all been motivated more by the beauty of the scenery, seeing fewer people, and visiting the sights of a few of the ancient cities before or afterward.
I consider myself to be an ambivert. I do not do well conversing in big groups, but I have no problem enjoying the company and chatting with strangers on the Camino...a few at a time.
 
I am sure that is true. I have been reading about it. That was part of my point about walking during non peak months. As I said there were just a few pilgrims on the coast in November in Portugal. It was very nice. Even the last 100k in Spain was fine, even though there were more pilgrims in the albergues. But it was still quiet and nice walking.
Interestingly, one of the reasons that so many people walk in Spring and Autumn from St. Jean is because of a lack of information.

Before I walked my first Camino I went looking for information about when the busy times were on the Camino Frances and I found the statistics that are published by the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.

That shows that the peak months for completing the Camino Frances is July and August and so I thought that I was being very clever by starting from St. Jean on the 15th May.

Of course, the joke was on me!

The 15th May 2019, the day I left, still holds a record for the number of pilgrims leaving in one day during Spring and is one of the busiest days of all time.

Listening to posts by other Spring pilgrims over the intervening years I have noticed a similar pattern.

By and large people either don't know that Spring and Autumn are peak times for St. Jean and this Eastern end of the Camino Frances or went looking for information and because of confusion misunderstood when this Eastern end is busiest.

In addition, in general, people fail to grasp the consequences of this particular Camino being 800 klms long and as a result that different parts of this Camino can be very busy, moderately busy and not at all busy all at the same time.

Some time ago I suggested that the portion of the Camino Frances from Sarria be called a different name.

My suggestion was that by differentiating this part of the Camino Frances from the other parts it would immediately become obvious for people who take the time to look, that the busy time from Sarria is July and August while the busy times from St. Jean are April/May and September.

If people know before they start then they will have more realistic expectations. Those who can only start from St. Jean in Spring and Autumn will know to expect crowds and can, perhaps, adjust their behaviour to take this into account.

Those people who are more flexible with their starting times can also be aware and if they don't want crowds then they can start from St. Jean at other times of year (and if they also don't like rain then they can choose June and July).

Every time someone on this forum publishes finishing statistics from the Cathedral authorities without differentiating the differences between Sarria and St. Jean then those people are adding to the confusion of future first time pilgrims.

Once you have walked once or twice you figure this out for yourself but sometimes experienced pilgrims forget how it was to walk for the first time and then they forget how important this distinction can be.
 
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This is only my opinion and suggestion and if you don't agree or like it that is fine and dandy. It will not bother me in the least. For days we have been seeing posts about too many pilgrims, bottlenecks, bed races, etc.
I know many first time pilgrims read, write, and see so many videos, posts, blogs and films about the Camino Frances. It is the camino almost all pilgrims want to do first. When I walked I loved it but it was also 12 years ago and I didn't even know there were other caminos.
It seems with each passing year the joy of walking the CF at times seems to be diminished due to its ever growing popularity.
I have a solution that may help and by following it the old saying that ignorance is bliss may come into play. Walk a DIFFERENT camino. There are so many different one's to choose. Not just the Primitivo or Norte or Portuguese either. There is magic, there is experiences, there is friendships, there is moments of enlightenment, or just peace, there is beauty to be found on other caminos just as much as on the CF.
The criticism I have and I know I will catch less then warm responses to is that I feel like too many people want a camino experience with the least amount of inconvenience, pain, and discomfort as possible. I am excluding those who have physical ailments or age challenges that would preclude walking if there was not luggage service or public/taxi transport to help them along the way. A camino is not a vacation. A camino is supposed to be difficult. It is supposed to be challenging. Yes please spare me the tale of kings and nobleman who were carried to Santiago, and blah, blah, and blah. Yes all the conveniences of fine dining, paradors, better hotels and casa rurals, can I assume only be found on the CF. But is this what the camino is or what it has evolved into. Again, I am happy for the people of Spain who have benefited greatly from the rise in people walking. I know what the Meseta looked like just 12 years ago compared to today. Many of the villages are unrecognizable from the time of my first camino.
I also know some may need to walk in "peak" seasons due to work or other commitments. But not everyone. People want to avoid rain, or too much sun, or cold, or snow, or whatever the weather brings. But again the camino is not meant to be easy.
Maybe if people walked in less desirable seasons, if they walk on other landscapes, or with many fewer pilgrims, they may quickly realize how beautiful and profound the experience can be. Just as much as the Frances or Norte etc.
Last year, the final leg of my camino (I walked 3 different camino paths) was walking up the CP coastal. I had done the Central from Lisbon before and I really wanted to experience the coast. As others who walked the coast in November '23 will attest it was just unbelievable the amount of rain we encountered. Walking in the small hills above the coast was often walking in streams. I had only trail runners and they were completely soaked every day, and usually within 15 minutes of me leaving the albergue. But I never complained because I knew that no matter how bad the weather, where would I rather be? Of course the answer is no where.
Maybe and hopefully soon people will realize that the camino provides, that there is camino magic, there is joy, self discovery, friendships, challenges and maybe even greater and deeper fulfillment on a camino not named Frances.
Thank you so much for your thoughts.
 
Over tourism is a hot topic nowadays in Europe, maybe soon we might see some sort of tax implementation of this in the main Camino routes 🤞.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Over tourism is a hot topic nowadays in Europe, maybe soon we might see some sort of tax implementation of this in the main Camino routes 🤞.
Well if it's anything like Venice's tax all it's going to do is line the coffers of the state. If we're fortunate it will provide more/better facilities, but then that is simply more likely to end in more people walking.

Realistically the only way to bring the numbers down is to bring in a permit system (like you get on many great walks nowadays) but how on earth you would enforce that is completely beyond me. It's not like there is a limited number of access points.
 
Having said all of that, I do find off-putting when I feel that the Camino sometimes feels like a competitive sport, as it doesn’t feel as unique as I thought it was. I already know of a couple of people that have done it, even more than once. Still, what matters is that I do it. I’m choosing the Francés because being an older newbie, I don’t have the confidence and/or skills needed to venture into lonelier trails. I’m somewhat of an introvert so I’m fine with being alone, but I feel it’s important to allow new people in my life, but I don’t want to have my time being consumed by competing with other pilgrims for beds. I do expect that some days will be easier and others harder, and I’m challenging myself to learn to deal with hardship, open myself to others, help those I can, but hearing about tour groups, holiday travel, does distract from my focus
I’ve been watching videos of people completing the camino, and I’ve been moved to tears when they reach SCD to the sound of bagpipes, and the enormity of this accomplishment feels overwhelming to me. Maybe it’s an ego thing, but there’s something empowering to be able to say “I did this” (of course, no guarantees that it will happen because of the unexpected).
Do not in any way let other people's experiences or perceptions enter your mind. @trecile said and she follows this closely:
Please put all of it out of your mind. Starting from SJPdP in August won't be anywhere near as busy as it is right now, or will be in September.
Everyone feels what the allow into their hearts and souls and what they have already clouded their minds with expectations, fears and the 2nd and 3rd hand experiences of others.
EVERYONE has some fear and anxiety before a camino. I will do camino 9 soon and I still get have some. The difference between you and I is my fear will go away alot more quickly. But trust me within a week you will say, I got this. Please, please, please clear your mind and let the camino come to you. Do not go to it. As I have said many times, and I know we are different people and have different lives, I am 70 years old and if I haven't figured something out by now, why bother. I made it this far without figuring it out so now I just say F$Q%k it. For the big things and for everything as the old saying goes, the camino will give you what you need not what you want.
Finally my last bit is to say you are walking in the peak of summer. I do not know how much long distance walking you have done. If you haven't done much please listen to this. It will be very, very hot. Listen to your body, when it tells you to stop, stop. When it says go, go. Go shorter distances. If you have walked 18 or 20k and you say I feel pretty good, I think I will walk to the next town that is 5k away. Those last 5k could turn out to be torture. Heat and fatigue can come up on you like a sucker punch. How much time do you have to walk? You should pencil in at least 42-45 days. If you get there early no problem you are in Spain. You will not be want for places to see and things to do. Drink a liter of water when you wake up. Drink alot, even if you don't think you are thirsty. You can wear very light long pants and shirts that protect you from the sun. Where a good hat, I have one with a neck hood and it covers almost my entire face.
Lastly again, listen to your body. Your mind can only get you in trouble. Learn your body rhythm. It will naturally show you how fast to walk. Do not try to keep up with others and walk faster or even slower than your rhythm. Camino families may be wonderful as so many say, but they are not your family. Your loved ones would not allow you to push yourself, walking with an injury, blisters or walking too far. Each person has their own reasons and needs. Follow your needs not others. The family may be great but remember there are other wonderful people coming up behind you or in the bed next to you in the albergue. Take your time and have a great camino and remember thinking can only get you in trouble.
 
Realistically the only way to bring the numbers down is to bring in a permit system (like you get on many great walks nowadays) but how on earth you would enforce that is completely beyond me. It's not like there is a limited number of access points.
And most of the paths are not exclusively used by pilgrims anyway. I can imagine local people becoming a tad irritable if they are asked to produce a permit when walking to the bar in the next village. Conceivably you could make credencials a more controlled and expensive item. But I do not see any official enthusiasm for going down that route. A couple of days ago I saw an item on a Ponferrada website about a group of US journalists and travel writers on a visit sponsored by Spanish tourism organisations specifically to drum up more interest in the Frances in the USA. The Xunta in Galicia set aside over 100 million euros for promotion of the 2027 Holy Year. Doesn't sound like capping numbers is on the agenda just now.
 
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I can imagine local people becoming a tad irritable if they are asked to produce a permit when walking to the bar in the next village
🤣very true!
Conceivably you could make credencials a more controlled and expensive item.
Which would just send more people to hotels. Unless you included them too,
The list of issues goes on.

As you rightly point out, they’re actively promoting the Camino, not trying to lessen the numbers. The same is true of the Inglés, too. (Promotion in Canada over winter ). Money talks….
 
Yes, it's really bad what you hear about the CF at the moment. I don't have any generally valid suggestions either. In any case, I'm glad that at the age of 77 I've completely pre-booked this year's Camino Astorga - SdC. (Start 20.05.24) It's a nice feeling not to have to take part in the uncertain bed race or be forced to do a lot of extra kilometres.
I'm sure there are some people who will turn up their noses. (PS I have also run all the big caminos since 2008)
 
Do not in any way let other people's experiences or perceptions enter your mind. @trecile said and she follows this closely:

Everyone feels what the allow into their hearts and souls and what they have already clouded their minds with expectations, fears and the 2nd and 3rd hand experiences of others.
EVERYONE has some fear and anxiety before a camino. I will do camino 9 soon and I still get have some. The difference between you and I is my fear will go away alot more quickly. But trust me within a week you will say, I got this. Please, please, please clear your mind and let the camino come to you. Do not go to it. As I have said many times, and I know we are different people and have different lives, I am 70 years old and if I haven't figured something out by now, why bother. I made it this far without figuring it out so now I just say F$Q%k it. For the big things and for everything as the old saying goes, the camino will give you what you need not what you want.
Finally my last bit is to say you are walking in the peak of summer. I do not know how much long distance walking you have done. If you haven't done much please listen to this. It will be very, very hot. Listen to your body, when it tells you to stop, stop. When it says go, go. Go shorter distances. If you have walked 18 or 20k and you say I feel pretty good, I think I will walk to the next town that is 5k away. Those last 5k could turn out to be torture. Heat and fatigue can come up on you like a sucker punch. How much time do you have to walk? You should pencil in at least 42-45 days. If you get there early no problem you are in Spain. You will not be want for places to see and things to do. Drink a liter of water when you wake up. Drink alot, even if you don't think you are thirsty. You can wear very light long pants and shirts that protect you from the sun. Where a good hat, I have one with a neck hood and it covers almost my entire face.
Lastly again, listen to your body. Your mind can only get you in trouble. Learn your body rhythm. It will naturally show you how fast to walk. Do not try to keep up with others and walk faster or even slower than your rhythm. Camino families may be wonderful as so many say, but they are not your family. Your loved ones would not allow you to push yourself, walking with an injury, blisters or walking too far. Each person has their own reasons and needs. Follow your needs not others. The family may be great but remember there are other wonderful people coming up behind you or in the bed next to you in the albergue. Take your time and have a great camino and remember thinking can only get you in trouble.
Thanks for your feedback and loving intentions.
I don’t have as much fear as I think you think I have, sometimes things get amplified on the internet.
Besides, what’s wrong with fear? Nothing. Not a thing. It’s a natural emotion that is designed to keep us safe, so I’ve learned not to disregard it, but to listen to it. This is why we have structures like the limbic system, the amygdala, that enables us to experience fear so we (and other mammals) can fight or flee. It’s a biological capacity that I’ve learned to appreciate.
I’m not interested in “overcoming my fears”, they are my allies in my journey. I realize this is not a common way of seeing things, as our culture seems to view fear as something to be avoided, conquered, or somehow shameful. For me, the trick is to learn to have the fear without the fear having me.
Making the decision to do something like walking 500 miles across Spain doesn’t sound to me like fear “has me”.
As for the “allowing the experiences of others influencing me”, well, I find much wisdom and inspiration from others, particularly since I’m inexperienced in pilgrimages. I’ve learned a long time ago to be teachable. Also, aren’t you trying to influence me by giving me advice? Your advice and intentions are welcome and appreciated. I’ve picked up lots of great advice here in this board, including from you, and I’m grateful. What’s wrong with learning from others? It doesn’t mean that I disregard my own experience, but having different perspectives can be enriching.
I’m aware of the heat, and I already have a wide hat, a trekking umbrella for the meseta, convertible hiking pants, a hydration system, I learned about these things in this board.
I recognize that you are concerned about my well-being, and I am grateful for you sharing your experiences.
We are on synch better than you might think.
It will be challenging, but I’m confident that I’ll be fine.
 
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Thanks for your feedback and loving intentions.
I don’t have as much fear as I think you think I have, sometimes things get amplified on the internet.
Besides, what’s wrong with fear? Nothing. Not a thing. It’s a natural emotion that is designed to keep us safe, so I’ve learned not to disregard it, but to listen to it. This is why we have structures like the limbic system, the amygdala, that enables us to experience fear so we (and other mammals) can fight or flee. It’s a biological capacity that I’ve learned to appreciate.
I’m not interested in “overcoming my fears”, they are my allies in my journey. I realize this is not a common way of seeing things, as our culture seems to view fear as something to be avoided, conquered, or somehow shameful. For me, the trick is to learn to have the fear without the fear having me.
Making the decision to do something like walking 500 miles across Spain doesn’t sound to me like fear “has me”.
As for the “allowing the experiences of others influencing me”, well, I find much wisdom and inspiration from others, particularly since I’m inexperienced in pilgrimages. I’ve learned a long time ago to be teachable. Also, aren’t you trying to influence me by giving me advice? Your advice and intentions are welcome and appreciated. I’ve picked up lots of great advice here in this board, including from you, and I’m grateful. What’s wrong with learning from others? It doesn’t mean that I disregard my own experience, but having different perspectives can be enriching.
I’m aware of the heat, and I already have a wide hat, a trekking umbrella for the meseta, convertible hiking pants, a hydration system, I learned about these things in this board.
I recognize that you are concerned about my well-being, and I am grateful for you sharing your experiences.
We are on synch better than you might think.
It will be challenging, but I’m confident that I’ll be fine.
I am glad you got this. But I think you completely missed what I was trying to say but that is ok no worries. Buen Camino
 
I am glad you got this. But I think you completely missed what I was trying to say but that is ok no worries. Buen Camino
Thanks. I think we both missed what each other was trying to say, but that’s cool. Internet communications can be tricky, but it’s important to recognize the good intentions all around.
Thanks!
 
I know what the Meseta looked like just 12 years ago compared to today. Many of the villages are unrecognizable from the time of my first camino
I walked the CF in 2013 and really enjoyed the solitude and vastness of the Meseta. Back then, other pilgrims bemoaned the Meseta, some even skipping that portion. Fortunately, I met some wonderful pilgrims and stayed at some unforgettable family run lodgings along this section. I’d be curious to hear what the Meseta portion of the CF has evolved into today. If anyone has any description or photos I’d really be interested in hearing about/seeing photos. Thanks!
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
This is only my opinion and suggestion and if you don't agree or like it that is fine and dandy. It will not bother me in the least. For days we have been seeing posts about too many pilgrims, bottlenecks, bed races, etc.
I know many first time pilgrims read, write, and see so many videos, posts, blogs and films about the Camino Frances. It is the camino almost all pilgrims want to do first. When I walked I loved it but it was also 12 years ago and I didn't even know there were other caminos.
It seems with each passing year the joy of walking the CF at times seems to be diminished due to its ever growing popularity.
I have a solution that may help and by following it the old saying that ignorance is bliss may come into play. Walk a DIFFERENT camino. There are so many different one's to choose. Not just the Primitivo or Norte or Portuguese either. There is magic, there is experiences, there is friendships, there is moments of enlightenment, or just peace, there is beauty to be found on other caminos just as much as on the CF.
The criticism I have and I know I will catch less then warm responses to is that I feel like too many people want a camino experience with the least amount of inconvenience, pain, and discomfort as possible. I am excluding those who have physical ailments or age challenges that would preclude walking if there was not luggage service or public/taxi transport to help them along the way. A camino is not a vacation. A camino is supposed to be difficult. It is supposed to be challenging. Yes please spare me the tale of kings and nobleman who were carried to Santiago, and blah, blah, and blah. Yes all the conveniences of fine dining, paradors, better hotels and casa rurals, can I assume only be found on the CF. But is this what the camino is or what it has evolved into. Again, I am happy for the people of Spain who have benefited greatly from the rise in people walking. I know what the Meseta looked like just 12 years ago compared to today. Many of the villages are unrecognizable from the time of my first camino.
I also know some may need to walk in "peak" seasons due to work or other commitments. But not everyone. People want to avoid rain, or too much sun, or cold, or snow, or whatever the weather brings. But again the camino is not meant to be easy.
Maybe if people walked in less desirable seasons, if they walk on other landscapes, or with many fewer pilgrims, they may quickly realize how beautiful and profound the experience can be. Just as much as the Frances or Norte etc.
Last year, the final leg of my camino (I walked 3 different camino paths) was walking up the CP coastal. I had done the Central from Lisbon before and I really wanted to experience the coast. As others who walked the coast in November '23 will attest it was just unbelievable the amount of rain we encountered. Walking in the small hills above the coast was often walking in streams. I had only trail runners and they were completely soaked every day, and usually within 15 minutes of me leaving the albergue. But I never complained because I knew that no matter how bad the weather, where would I rather be? Of course the answer is no where.
Maybe and hopefully soon people will realize that the camino provides, that there is camino magic, there is joy, self discovery, friendships, challenges and maybe even greater and deeper fulfillment on a camino not named Frances.
Thank you so much for this reasoned, thoughtful comment. I do think the Camino (the Francés) has morphed into kind of a vacation.
 
This is only my opinion and suggestion and if you don't agree or like it that is fine and dandy. It will not bother me in the least. For days we have been seeing posts about too many pilgrims, bottlenecks, bed races, etc.
I know many first time pilgrims read, write, and see so many videos, posts, blogs and films about the Camino Frances. It is the camino almost all pilgrims want to do first. When I walked I loved it but it was also 12 years ago and I didn't even know there were other caminos.
It seems with each passing year the joy of walking the CF at times seems to be diminished due to its ever growing popularity.
I have a solution that may help and by following it the old saying that ignorance is bliss may come into play. Walk a DIFFERENT camino. There are so many different one's to choose. Not just the Primitivo or Norte or Portuguese either. There is magic, there is experiences, there is friendships, there is moments of enlightenment, or just peace, there is beauty to be found on other caminos just as much as on the CF.
The criticism I have and I know I will catch less then warm responses to is that I feel like too many people want a camino experience with the least amount of inconvenience, pain, and discomfort as possible. I am excluding those who have physical ailments or age challenges that would preclude walking if there was not luggage service or public/taxi transport to help them along the way. A camino is not a vacation. A camino is supposed to be difficult. It is supposed to be challenging. Yes please spare me the tale of kings and nobleman who were carried to Santiago, and blah, blah, and blah. Yes all the conveniences of fine dining, paradors, better hotels and casa rurals, can I assume only be found on the CF. But is this what the camino is or what it has evolved into. Again, I am happy for the people of Spain who have benefited greatly from the rise in people walking. I know what the Meseta looked like just 12 years ago compared to today. Many of the villages are unrecognizable from the time of my first camino.
I also know some may need to walk in "peak" seasons due to work or other commitments. But not everyone. People want to avoid rain, or too much sun, or cold, or snow, or whatever the weather brings. But again the camino is not meant to be easy.
Maybe if people walked in less desirable seasons, if they walk on other landscapes, or with many fewer pilgrims, they may quickly realize how beautiful and profound the experience can be. Just as much as the Frances or Norte etc.
Last year, the final leg of my camino (I walked 3 different camino paths) was walking up the CP coastal. I had done the Central from Lisbon before and I really wanted to experience the coast. As others who walked the coast in November '23 will attest it was just unbelievable the amount of rain we encountered. Walking in the small hills above the coast was often walking in streams. I had only trail runners and they were completely soaked every day, and usually within 15 minutes of me leaving the albergue. But I never complained because I knew that no matter how bad the weather, where would I rather be? Of course the answer is no where.
Maybe and hopefully soon people will realize that the camino provides, that there is camino magic, there is joy, self discovery, friendships, challenges and maybe even greater and deeper fulfillment on a camino not named Frances.
From one perspective, not perception, there can never be too many people on the Camino--never. The very essence of the Camino demands all be accommodated, regardless of the challenges or difficulties presented. This includes the Camino doubling, tripling, etc. If there were a million people doing even one particular Camino trek, I sort of doubt if anyone from Heaven is going to moan, groan, and complain. One might even conclude that half the world ought to do the Camino in one year, irrespective of the outcome or the associated suffering of the walking pilgrims. Again, this is one perspective.
 
I think one of the challenges with all of the "there are too many pilgrims on the Camino" posts is that what constitutes "too many pilgrims" for one person may be "not enough pilgrims" for another. We all have different preferences. In general (and I know I'm an exception here) the perfect amount of pilgrims seems to be however many there were on your first Camino. In this case, feel free to walk other Caminos, as I did last summer, and see other parts of Spain (or Europe) and have other great experiences.

On the other hand, the Camino Frances has much to offer first-time pilgrims that the other routes without "too many pilgrims" simply don't have, not least, the deep sense of following in the footsteps of millions of other pilgrims over a thousand years of continuous history, and the flexibility to adapt to what the pilgrims discover their needs are (including the ability to adapt to provide solitude in its busiest times and sections, as was also my experience last summer).

I wouldn't be so quick to send first-time pilgrims elsewhere. I would rather teach them to use the flexibility that the CF offers to meet their needs. Then, when they have a bit of experience, a better idea of how far they can do, send them off to the much less walked Caminos with much less infrastructure that have been "rediscovered".
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
In general (and I know I'm an exception here) the perfect amount of pilgrims seems to be however many there were on your first Camino. In this case, feel free to walk other Caminos, as I did last summer, and see other parts of Spain (or Europe) and have other great experiences.
Or the Frances outside the ever-widening main pilgrim season. After a difficult experience at times walking the Frances in September 2016 I was quite convinced I would not return to that route. But walking it in January last year was a revelation. In terms of numbers it was like stepping back 20 years. Some long stages because of limited accommodation but for someone like myself who is more comfortable on a quiet route well worth the extra effort.
 
From one perspective, not perception, there can never be too many people on the Camino--never. The very essence of the Camino demands all be accommodated, regardless of the challenges or difficulties presented. This includes the Camino doubling, tripling, etc. If there were a million people doing even one particular Camino trek, I sort of doubt if anyone from Heaven is going to moan, groan, and complain. One might even conclude that half the world ought to do the Camino in one year, irrespective of the outcome or the associated suffering of the walking pilgrims. Again, this is one perspective.
Every idea or perspective that is expressed without absolutism is fine by me and just as valid as anything I may think or say.
 
I walked the CF in 2013 and really enjoyed the solitude and vastness of the Meseta. Back then, other pilgrims bemoaned the Meseta, some even skipping that portion. Fortunately, I met some wonderful pilgrims and stayed at some unforgettable family run lodgings along this section. I’d be curious to hear what the Meseta portion of the CF has evolved into today. If anyone has any description or photos I’d really be interested in hearing about/seeing photos. Thanks!
The trees have grown and there is shade 😎😁
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I walked the CF in 2013 and really enjoyed the solitude and vastness of the Meseta. Back then, other pilgrims bemoaned the Meseta, some even skipping that portion. Fortunately, I met some wonderful pilgrims and stayed at some unforgettable family run lodgings along this section. I’d be curious to hear what the Meseta portion of the CF has evolved into today. If anyone has any description or photos I’d really be interested in hearing about/seeing photos. Thanks!
The trees have grown and there is shade
Yes those little trees have gotten taller. My first camino was right around your camino. The woman who introduced me to the Camino walked in 2002, She was advised even then to skip the Meseta. What I remember was village after village that seemed almost deserted as I walked through. Often times only a bar and maybe an albergue in many villages. There seemed to be abandoned farms and villages seemed to have few young people or young families. As an example I remembered that there was only the municipal and maybe one other albergue in Castrojeriz. I just checked Gronze.com and there were two albergues including the municipal on our first camino. Now there are 8. I walked the Meseta last year. It was sandwiched in between the Vasco and the CP Coastal. I missed the Meseta and with the Vasco ending in Burgos it was a great opportunity. I walked in early November. I was amazed at how much and how vibrant so many of the towns and villages were.
The Meseta was the same and yes the trees grew up alot. But many villages were so different. More people than I remember walking when I went through the Meseta the first time in mid October.
 
Often times only a bar and maybe an albergue in many villages. There seemed to be abandoned farms and villages seemed to have few young people or young families.
I remember Foncebadon in 2012. We were told the last person to live there (an elderly lady) had not long since died and it was empty. And so it was.
Look at it now! 😎
 
I remember Foncebadon in 2012. We were told the last person to live there (an elderly lady) had not long since died and it was empty. And so it was.
I passed through there in 1990 and even by then Maria was the sole resident. Her son lived with her part of the year but I was told he was away doing seasonal work in another part of the country. It was an extraordinary place back then.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.

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