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Is the Camino too crowded?

Spikemitchell

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances
Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?
 
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including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September
Roncesvalles is not already booked up for September.

The recent thread title is unintentionally misleading.

The relatively few rooms in the 3 hotels in Roncesvalles are already fully booked on some days in September and that is not unusual compared to the past - and by that I mean the past 10-15 years. This does not apply for the very large albergue with about 245 bookable beds plus a few dozen additional beds.

Also, the posts about everything being supposedly fully booked concern usually only the first 3 days on the first section of the Camino Francés where one sometimes wonders about the talk about not wanting to book ahead when it is fairly obvious where most people want and need to stay, namely Roncesvalles, Zubiri/Larraosana and Pamplona because these are the normal daily distances that newcomers can walk in the beginning. Unlike later on, there are just not many towns or villages in this first section that allow much flexibility concerning where to stay for the night.

Buen Camino in any case!
 
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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.
September (together with april/may) is one of the most busy months on the Camino Francés (for a start from St. Jean / Roncesvalles). So be aware that you're planning to walk in high season.

If you want a less crowded Francés, choose any time apart from april/ may and september.

Summer (June, July, August) is usually more quiet, as are march and october.

I usually don't book and never had to sleep outside unless I wanted to, not even when it was very busy, but I'm not picky with accommodation and happy to use plan b)-z) if necessary.
 
I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity.
The Camino Francés isn’t the only possibility for walking your kind of Camino. There are many other great Camino routes available for the pilgrim who doesn’t want the more “crowded” experience. To paraphrase an old Will Ragers saying, I’ve never met a Camino I didn’t like!
 
I'm on the Camino Francés right now, and this is also a very busy time for the early stages, but I saw a total of five other pilgrims while I was walking today. The reason is that I'm not staying in traditional end stage towns. Last night I was in Cirauqui where only 9 of 20 beds were full, and tonight I'm in Luquin where only half the beds are taken.
 
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Having just come off the Baztán (which was too isolated to be safe in inclement conditions [hail, fog, and disturbed man in the woods near Sauraren) and with misleading signage after Souraide that tells one absolutely *not* to go in the direction of exactly where you want to go -- which would be Urdax), and having had to head home at Logrono for family reasons, I can say that the stretch from Trinidad de Arre to Logrono was *very very* busy. I stayed "off stage" in places like Uterga, Villa Major de Mojardin, and Torres del Rio and avoided booking until the people in the Dutch albergue in Monjardin advised me to secure a room for the next day in Torres del Rio. But... every landing spot was crowded. I'm sort of a solitary type... I like to walk with one or two people for little bit of the day, not the whole day... I like to talk to 1 or 2 people....
The experience of being at tables of 10-12 people, without elbow room and without being part of the conversation of "camino families" who so glommed onto each other from St. Jean that they avoid looking at anyone new felt really *crappy*.
I had intended to leave the Frances route for the reverse Ignatian anyway, so I can't say how things might have thinned out by Burgos, but that would be my suggestion: start at Burgos and see how it goes. If it stinks, get a bus to Astorga [edited because autocorrect had rendered this as "storage"] and a train to Oviedo and walk the Primitivo.
Or walk in the shoulder seasons (usually I do that but wasn't able to this year).
I would not necessarily advise the reverse Ignition -- it may also be *too isolated* yet.... but the Madrid route seems like a stable, reasonably supported and calm route these days.
 
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I'm on the Camino Francés right now, and this is also a very busy time for the early stages, but I saw a total of five other pilgrims while I was walking today. The reason is that I'm not staying in traditional end stage towns. Last night I was in Cirauqui where only 9 of 20 beds were full, and tonight I'm in Luquin where only half the beds are taken.
Wish I were there! 2.5 weeks ago Cirauqui was full! I can't recall about Luquin. I did have peaceful walking time, but it was unusually hot in early May and many -- including self -- were having departure and quitting time constrained by heat. I think it created a kind of "squished accordion" population.
 
Traditionally there are a lot more pilgrims leaving St. Jean Pied de Port in the first half of September than the second half. We left in the middle of September of 2021 and it wasn't bad at all, although that coincided with a lull in covid infections. If your schedule is flexible, leaving beginning the fourth rather than the third week of September would show an even steeper decline in pilgrims.
 
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I'm on the Camino Francés right now, and this is also a very busy time for the early stages, but I saw a total of five other pilgrims while I was walking today. The reason is that I'm not staying in traditional end stage towns. Last night I was in Cirauqui where only 9 of 20 beds were full, and tonight I'm in Luquin where only half the beds are taken.
I wholeheartedly agree with your 'traditional/stage' town theory. It certainly worked for me last September.
Go well!🇳🇿🇪🇸
 
To me the Frances was too crowded two years ago, april-may. The problem was not so much finding a place to stay. There were just too many people too my liking. When walking it was not a problem but everyday I saw many new faces. This is because people spread out over lots of different albergues, pensions, restaurants and so on. The "community" feels like loose sand. I like it a lot more when I see familiar faces at regular times. Even though I like to walk on my own , I do like company when I am in the albergue and not being an extravert person contacting is easier with people I know a little bit and I can expect to see again in the rest of my camino
 
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I'm on the Camino Francés right now, and this is also a very busy time for the early stages, but I saw a total of five other pilgrims while I was walking today. The reason is that I'm not staying in traditional end stage towns. Last night I was in Cirauqui where only 9 of 20 beds were full, and tonight I'm in Luquin where only half the beds are taken.
Trecile, if you’re still in Luquin when you read this, please remember me to Tiago. He was exceptionally kind to me last year when I got sick. Tell him I’ll be coming through in a month!
 
Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?
The bed race has an undeserved negative connotation. One starts early because everyone else is starting earlier. At around noon, just after second breakfast, the end of the day is contemplated. Goal is to end the day walking around 2:30. If beds are unavailable still plenty of time to consider options, walk or taxi to the next town.
 
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Not my goal. On most days I would rather walk for another two or three hours after that. One of the reasons I would now consider making a reservation when I would not have done in earlier years.
I think you might be able to do it even now, except for the heat. I was shocked only a few weeks ago by how the sun seemed to drain me by 1pm. I started leaving just before 6am to have walking time while it was still cool, and the temperatures were hovering only around 24C at mid-day, but it felt so much hotter than that...
I think that if I ever get to go again I will have to learn to nap under a tree in the heat and then carry on later to arrive somewhere around 5:30. Even that, however, might not be 'secure' in some seasons. I was astonished to find such crowding in the 'off stage' locations. I wonder if one needs to avoid not only the May Day and Ascension holidays, but also Whitsun and now... the rush that will come directly after that series of events.
So June? which is bound to be *hotter*...
I think that for me forever after, any camino will be started in late September or Mid-October. I've stated as early as Nov. 1 and that got a bit dicey with rain, rain, and more rain... though perhaps that would not be the case on the Frances (I was on the Portuguese).
 
I think that if I ever get to go again I will have to learn to nap under a tree in the heat and then carry on later to arrive somewhere around 5:30.
That was what I did most days on my first two Caminos. Walk until lunchtime. Have a menu if I could find one or a picnic lunch bought earlier in the day. Then doze for an hour or two in the shade somewhere before walking another couple of hours. At the time some refugios did not open their doors before 4pm or even later. There was certainly no expectation that people would have stopped their walking around noon as seems increasingly common these days.
 
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That was what I did most days on my first two Caminos. Walk until lunchtime. Have a menu if I could find one or a picnic lunch bought earlier in the day. Then doze for an hour or two in the shade somewhere before walking another couple of hours. At the time some refugios did not open their doors before 4pm or even later. There was certainly no expectation that people would have stopped their walking around noon as seems increasingly common these days.
I think, TBH, that part of my hesitation about this strategy is that it feels "unsafe" or ill-advised in the current realities of the world (in which people are pretending to be pilgrims and leaving albergues pre-dawn with other people's belongings...). Napping in the wild as a small-ish woman of a certain age feels very vulnerable in a way I'm not sure I want to test. All the nappers I have seen have been strapping young men, or pairs of older men together.

On that point about false pilgrims thieving belongings... (which my spouse read about on a few different fora) -- I wonder if maybe the Refugio types would be safer... less "attractive" targets (I fell into whatever was available on this last go round and saw the full spectrum... and it is definitely the private accommodation somewhere in the middle range that seems easiest to invade and like the most plum target).

I can say of this trip that although finding the true entry to the Trinidad de Arre albergue was most difficult, it was the most modest one I fell into *and* felt the most secure. It was extremely full, but I did see that one of the "rooms" (more like an appendix) had 2 beds in it. And while I had come in from Olague, I learned that most of my companions that night had started at Biskaroetta (indicating that they'd had no luck at Roncesvalles, or that they had wisely gone only as far as Valcarlos on the first night, and Trinidade de Arre was their third stopping point.

I see that Ivar notes 23% up this year from last... so that makes the Sarria or Tai to SdC stretches sound pretty unappealing right now.
 
I see that Ivar notes 23% up this year from last... so that makes the Sarria or Tai to SdC stretches sound pretty unappealing right now.
The current running total is now 18% up on last year. I walked the Portugues from Tui a few days ago and I have certainly never seen numbers like it on any Camino - even when walking the Frances in September 2016 or SJPDP to Logrono in September last year. Sitting down for a brief rest more than 50 pilgrims passed by in a few minutes. 60+ pilgrims in the bar and garden of a small rural cafe at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Almost never out of sight of another pilgrim (and occasionally a dozen or more) for more than a minute between Caldas de Reis and Santiago. An interesting glimpse of the Portugues these days but not an experience I will be repeating any time soon.
 
We (with spouse) began walking May 10 and are now in Sahagun. Reserved in Borda and Roncesvailles, but after that only booked one day ahead via Whapsapp in off stages and have not had a problem at all. Empty beds in many albergues.

And about crowds, I found myself walking alone much of the time, seeing a pilgrim way ahead and behind. Because I’m 74 and slow, I was passed by a pilgrim or two throughout the day in an average 20-26 km/day. Bars not too crowded either. I expected bed races and crowds mid-May and late May, but have encountered neither yet.
 
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We (with spouse) began walking May 10 and are now in Sahagun. Reserved in Borda and Roncesvailles, but after that only booked one day ahead via Whapsapp in off stages and have not had a problem at all. Empty beds in many albergues.

And about crowds, I found myself walking alone much of the time, seeing a pilgrim way ahead and behind. Because I’m 74 and slow, I was passed by a pilgrim or two throughout the day in an average 20-26 km/day. Bars not too crowded either. I expected bed races and crowds mid-May and late May, but have encountered neither yet.
...As compared to the past when we never booked *anything* unless one was perhaps taking a rest day in a city and needed something for the second night...
Booking a day ahead is booking. For those who cannot manage Spanish on the phone, aren't carrying a phone, don't want to finance borking.com.... the new norm feels invasive... like zebra mussels in the Great Lakes...
 
Perhaps time for a reminder that may help to provide useful advice for the OP: The OP is planning to walk in the near future, in 2024, starting "probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean". Of course the thread title, not very specific, invites to a broad discussion of the state of all Caminos in Spain past and present but the OP asks about the likelihood of conditions for a Camino walker who starts around the 16th of September 2024 in SJPP and later on. IOW, he is likely to walk much of the Camino Francés in October of this year.
 
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in which people are pretending to be pilgrims and leaving albergues pre-dawn with other people's belongings
This has been reported on the forum in the past, but it's a very rare occurrence, and not something I worry about. I never leave my valuables unattended, and I doubt there's any value in my dirty socks.

But I definitely am not inclined to take a nap alone out in the open anywhere in the world, including the Camino.
 
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I walked from Leon to Santiago de Compostela, leaving on 4 April and for most of the way (until Sarria) there were few pilgrims and it was very peaceful. I loved much of my time walking on my own. At times the only sounds were my feet, the click of my poles, birds, insects and the sound of a river. I had times when I could see no-one in front of me and no-one behind but there were also some people in the bars. I was told it got busy from May. People that I met who had left from SJPDP had left in Mid March. Maybe switch to an early spring departure.
 
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Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?

September is a busy month on the Camino - as is May. If you can choose a less popular month it will be less crowded.

This year I walked from Pamplona to Santiago starting March 10 and has zero issues with overcrowding or overbooking.
 
This has been reported on the forum in the past, but it's a very rare occurrence, and not something I worry about. I never leave my valuables unattended, and I doubt there's any value in my dirty socks.

But I definitely am not inclined to take a nap alone out in the open anywhere in the world, including the Camino.
Yes, I recognise the rarity, but it is information that continues to dissuade me from napping in the open, anywhere... *not even* in the "camino bubble"...
 
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Perhaps time for a reminder that may help to provide useful advice for the OP: The OP is planning to walk in the near future, in 2024, starting "probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean"… the OP asks about the likelihood of conditions for a Camino walker who starts around the 16th of September 2024 in SJPP and later on. IOW, he is likely to walk much of the Camino Francés in October

Thank you, Katharn1na and to all who addressed my question. My main concern is not if the walking will be too crowded but if the albergues will be full. And will that result in a lot of stress and distraction in trying to find a place to sleep? I really don’t want to have to be working the phone to find a place to stay each night. I would like to bury my phone deep in my pack and forget about it. I apologize for not being clear.
 
Hi, I set off on my first Camino last September, 16th, from St. Jean and had 7 days of walking before having to return to work.

The first couple of days were busy but I always found it easy enough to find walking time to myself. From Zubiri on I thought the walkers appears more stretched out.

Regarding accommodation: I booked Orisson for the first night and from then winged it and found a bed handily enough each night without advance booking. That included staying in the Municipal Albergue's of Pamplona and Ayegui.

Given the opportunity I would not hesitate to travel around the same time of year again on the Camino Frances.
 
Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?
There are many other Caminos that are well worth walking. They are beautiful and less crowded.
 
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Yes. The Norte is fantastic and much, much better than the Frances. "he Invierno is also less crowded.
 
Yes. The Norte is fantastic and much, much better than the Frances. "he Invierno is also less crowded.
You've got me thinking about the norte again. I wanted to walk it from Irun, but was discouraged by the lack of municipal albergues the first few days out of Irun and lack of affordable alternatives. Gronze shows Zarautz having two hotels with 25 Euro beds, but they are $44 or $45 on booking.com, no thanks. Then, I thought of starting from Irun and walking the camino vasco to Burgos and then following the frances from there, but I dislike the huge crowds after Sarria. Ultimately, I decided that I will travel to Bilbao in early September and start the norte from there, as there's no issue with municipal albergues at each etapa. I start walking early, so arriving at the albergues prior to the check-in opening time should be fine and has always worked well for me on other caminos. Best of all, I will have time to travel from Santiago to Leon and walk the San Salvador to Oviedo for that certificate.
 
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Maybe "we are the problem"
Particularly repeat offenders.
There is no doubt that numbers are far higher this year.

But I get a sense that the lack of accomodation is to a certain extent, a......
  1. Lack of 'bookable' accomodation
  2. Lack of accomodation of the preferred type.
  3. Lack of accomodation at the preferred budget.
  4. Lack of accomodation in the preferred location.
How about........
  • Pick a different route other than the Frances
  • Be flexible with accomodation options
  • Be flexible with overnight locations (avoid end of guidebook stages)
  • Don't walk at peak periods......
If we pick the most popular route, at the most popular time of year, and expect to stay in the most popular type of accomodation, in the most popular stopping points........... Guess what? :rolleyes:

The last time we walked the Frances was in 2018.
At the end of May.
From Zubiri to Plamplona there was not a bed to be found......
Buses were organised to take Pilgrims to Pamplona.
It's a known bottle neck (Roncesvalles-Zubiri)......this is nothing new.

Last year I joined the Frances for a few days in peak season. Mid May.
There were horror stories over the lack of beds.
Accounts of a party of 90 Koreans booking everywhere out.

Yet each day I walked into an Albergue and got a bed.
And they were far from full by closing time.

Perhaps we just need to be more flexible?

For the OP, as already pointed out, you'll be walking into October so should be less crowed.
 
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Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?
I do hope it will not be too crowded. I O much want to do my second Camino Frances starting around 12th of September. The first one was in September 2014 and lovely.
There are Camino less frequented if Santiago is not a must. Piemonts Pyrenees, stretching from the Mediterranean along the Pyrenees to SJPDP is great, and some parts I didn't see another pilgrim for days. Best walk ever, and Lourdes is a pearl, though a bit crowded. Just a few days from SJPDP.
 
You've got me thinking about the norte again. I wanted to walk it from Irun, but was discouraged by the lack of municipal albergues the first few days out of Irun and lack of affordable alternatives. Gronze shows Zarautz having two hotels with 25 Euro beds, but they are $44 or $45 on booking.com, no thanks. Then, I thought of starting from Irun and walking the camino vasco to Burgos and then following the frances from there, but I dislike the huge crowds after Sarria. Ultimately, I decided that I will travel to Bilbao in early September and start the norte from there, as there's no issue with municipal albergues at each etapa. I start walking early, so arriving at the albergues prior to the check-in opening time should be fine and has always worked well for me on other caminos. Best of all, I will have time to travel from Santiago to Leon and walk the San Salvador to Oviedo for that certificate.
I started from San Sebastian which is a fabulous city. San Salvafor is also great, although difficult Camino
 
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I've just completed the del Norte, starting April 12th from Irun. It was challenging for my abilities but I did it with 8 kilo pack. The weather was great except for 2 days of rain all day. The funny thing about the Camino was when I would connect with others for 3 days maximum, then people would either go home or stream ahead. No one was there for the whole walk that I could keep up with, so it was different. One friend for life who connected on What's app was Mary from Ireland and she helped with accomodation up ahead. The Norte was wonderful for the generosity of the Spanish hosts & the coastal scenery. I did the traditional ending, quite isolated and one day no food or water! Then the Frances!!! Wow so many people. Santiago was lovely and I did the scary roof top tour of the cathedral. The botofumier is out of action. Love Miki Goldie
 
Hello.

I am considering walking the Camino for the first time this fall, probably beginning the third week of September in St. Jean. But I keep reading about how crowded the Camino is, including Roncesvalles being already booked up for September.

I want to be able to have space and time to walk, think, and follow my curiosity. The last thing I want is to find myself in a daily race, rushing to the next albergue, worrying about securing a bed, or working the phone, reserving beds in advance.

So I am wondering if the Camino is too crowded to allow for the kind of experience I am hoping for?
The first thing I wonder is what is the experience you're hoping for? What is that experience based on?

If it's solitude you're looking for, there is still opportunity on The Frances, with the exception of the last 100+kms from Sarria.

My thought is to avoid the stress of racing each day to find a bed, the Camino needs to be booked ahead many months in advance. That way, you can enjoy each day, take your time, stop at the sights etc.

Buen Camino.
 
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The current running total is now 18% up on last year. I walked the Portugues from Tui a few days ago and I have certainly never seen numbers like it on any Camino - even when walking the Frances in September 2016 or SJPDP to Logrono in September last year. Sitting down for a brief rest more than 50 pilgrims passed by in a few minutes. 60+ pilgrims in the bar and garden of a small rural cafe at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Almost never out of sight of another pilgrim (and occasionally a dozen or more) for more than a minute between Caldas de Reis and Santiago. An interesting glimpse of the Portugues these days but not an experience I will be repeating any time soon.
.I understand your feelings about the Tui camino path. Did in early may last year. Having started my walk in Tomar, had got used to a quiet path. It got busier after Rates...them tui happened! Not complaining as such, it was kinda nice seeing the enthusiasm of the new pilgrims and the path is quite pleasant, but all the groups....that was a noticeable change.
Employed some tactics such as starting later and/or doing long stages (like Tui to Redondola, Redondola to Combarro) so I could enjoy some afternoon walking, and doing the espiritual as planned.
Enjoyed that part of my camino, didn't find the crowds too distracting that way

Oh, and those unplanned long stages plus 2 spare days, gave me enough time to extend to Muxia. Now if you are after a relaxing reflective walk, definitely worth a try.
 
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