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January 2020, El camino norte route, tips


New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked el camino 2003
Will walk north rut 2019 start 29 jan
I walked the pilgrim's walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the finisterre in 2003. So nice memories from that trip. One of the best trips of my life. Traveling was a spiritual journey for me. I got many answers to questions I was asking. I got to know myself nicely through the walk. Have always thought that I want to go the north route sometime in the future.
Now at short notice the time has come.

I Will fly 28/12 2019 from Stockholm Sweden to Bilbo, bus to Irun. And start walking to Santiago de compostela then maybe even to finisterre.

Thought about asking, tips about when I will be hiking there this season.
Tips, clothing, albergue and much more?

Thanks in advance


Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
First off - you lucky fish! It's so great that you have the time to do this; I'm really jealous! 😆

The Norte is a beautiful walk, but you might have issues with weather and accommodation at this time of year. There have just been a couple of really bad storms in this part of the world, with flooding and warnings of other disruptions (e.g. gale-force winds and dangerously wild seas). However it looks like it's going to be clear for the next week or so, with pretty mild daytime temperatures of about 15°C. But I wouldn't be surprised if the weather turns again at some point over the next few weeks, so you'll need to be prepared.

Clothing: you'll need layers, as it can get cold at night, and not all the alberugues have heating. I'd also recommend waterproof gear, like rain pants and gaters. I always use a poncho, but this is a matter of personal preference. (Most of the major towns and cities have Decathlon stores, so don't worry too much if you've forgotten something, or realise you need something along the way).

Accommodation: the Norte has far fewer albergues than the Frances, and many of them will be closed over winter. For example: I just checked, and the Irun albergue is closed until March. It's the same with the next albergue in Pasajes de San Juan. There is no pilgrim albergue in San Sebastian, and the albergue in Zarautz is also closed. I didn't check much further, but that's just to give you an idea of what you'll be facing. A handful of albergues might be open, but most of the time you'll probably need to stay in private hostels or hotels, which you can book the morning in advance on (Speaking from experience, it can be very expensive to do the Norte in winter!)

Let me know if you have any other questions.


Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
It'll get better, albergue-wise, as you proceed further west, but as Jan notes it's going to be rough in the Basque Country. I find when speaking with private albergues that they're sometimes willing to open if they're in town and someone reaches out ahead of time. You might try looking a couple days ahead and making calls or sending emails. Similarly, I'd try to book hotel rooms over the phone or email, instead of via Booking; you might be able to get a better rate. Once the holidays are over, demand for those rooms is very low, so any hotel that's open is probably going to be negotiable.

Finally, be ready for boat issues. The Laredo-Santoña ferry will be closed, so you'll have to manage that. (Personally, I'd walk to the end of the beach in Laredo and then bus around to Santoña, instead of walking the inland route. That said, the hill between Santoña and Noja might be a very exciting slip-and-slide if the weather is rough.)

Hope you have quality waterproofs!

Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
If you are walking from Irun, the first days to Bilbao will be challenging. See if you can find a place in San Juan de Pasaje, and for the day to Saint Sebastian, I would advise against taking the seaside steps-- the boring urban stroll might be a better idea. And for the Deba-Markina-Guernica stretch, which is so beautiful but challenging (you can say difficult; I won't mind), rely very carefully on local advice.

Otherwise, @Jan_D and @Dave's general advice is useful. Sorolla's painting Las Tormentas can give you an idea of what the coastal weather can be like! If you are spending time in Bilbao, I would recommend looking at the Bellas Artes gallery rather than the Guggenheim.


Camino(s) past & future
Burgos to Santiago 2008, Madrid to Sáhagun 2012, Primitivo 2012, VdlP 2014, Camino del Norte 2020
Hi Christian! We’ll start about a week later from Bilbao.
Maybe I’ll see you there and thank for everyone for tips.


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