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Ranking the Caminos for a first-timer

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
Hi all,

I started a thread in the Camino de Madrid sub-forum about whether to do that Camino or the CF, but after much helpful advice I've decided to restart the thread since I i) have a better idea of what I would like from a Camino now ii) think I didn't give other options enough consideration. I've listed some biographical information and aspirations below, along with where my thoughts are at for which Camino fits the description most. Once again, I would appreciate any and all advice you could give me, thanks in advance :)

Bio
  • 20something who walks 15-20 km about 2.5 out of 3 days.
  • Semi-experienced hiker with a few >30km hikes in hilly and semi-mountainous terrain, mostly solo and often in winter. I usually load in my routes as .kml files into google maps and use the GPS on my phone to make sure I'm heading the right way.
  • No experience of multi-day hikes, but I have gone interrailing before and planned and prebooked it, I'm comfortable with booking.com and enjoy planning ahead, though I haven't done that by phone before and being able to just show up would be nice.
  • Not a Spanish speaker, but willing to learn what I can
  • Coeliac, but not a foodie and happy to cook the basics most of the time
  • Local airport flies to Malaga, otherwise takes a good chunk of a day to travel to the national airport for more options
  • I plan on following an itinerary from here along with gronze, happy to do stages of any reasonable length.

Preferences
  • A 1-2 month full Camino which finishes in Santiago; if possible, I'd also like to include the C-Ingles to A Coruna and/or C-Fenesterre.
  • Starting in early to mid-march, +/- 2 weeks
  • Budget of <€35 per day, but ideally <€25.
  • Happy to stay in albergues, but being able to include unique accommodations (monasteries etc) would be a plus.
  • Don't have a preference on social things, but I'm used to long solo hikes, and would prefer to avoid a scramble for accommodation
  • Prefer dirt tracks and quiet countryside to pavement, minimal highway would be great
  • Value geographical diversity, a mix of coast, mountains, forests, plains, whatever
  • Value historical museums and buildings, particularly Roman, Carthaginian, and Medieval (Moorish and Christian, bonus points for Visigothic, bonus bonus points for anything to do with Ireland)
  • Variation between cities and villages would be nice but not a deal breaker
  • A balance point between a not-reckless adventure/test and appropriate first-timer journey

Caminos
  • Camino Frances - This was strongly recommended to me in my first thread for a beginner, on the strength of it's infrastructure being conducive to my gluten-free requirements, the relative quietness of spring, and that Frances magic. There is also the option of switching to the Camino Primitivo if I want to switch to a road less traveled. I currently have it as my default option if I keep flip-flopping until it's time to lock in. My reservations for this route are i) it may still be quite busy due to the yearly increases in traffic, with the possibility of many who would have gone over the last 2 years having to defer until 2022 piling in ii) the very high amount of paving iii) the distance from Malaga iv) a vague idea that it's one of the more expensive ones v) a possibly misconceived idea that it would be coasting
  • Camino Portuguese - I haven't considered this one too much on the basis that the section between Lisbon and Porto seems to have few albergues, and just going from Porto is a little short. But I think I may end up flying home from Porto (it's less of an issue flying home than flying in) so there is the option of doing this section in reverse, maybe following the Fatima route from Santiago.
  • Via de la Plata - This one has the advantage of Seville being close to Malaga, with plenty of Roman architecture in Merida etc.. I have also read that this one is best in spring for the wildflowers, which suits me nicely. There is also the option of extending it downwards to Gibraltar (Via Serrara), also accessible from Malaga and I like the idea of the starting point being a long look across the sea to Africa, though I think there accommodation on this is touch and go. I have read elsewhere though that the albergues on this route can be expensive (?). From what I can see, the best parts seem to be in Extremadura, but this is mainly because of Merida and not knowing much about the Galician section. I've also heard that geographically it's pretty monotonous.
  • Camino Mozarbe - There seems to be much variety here geographically and architecturally, with the most Moorish architecture along with the option to start directly from Malaga or the easily accessible Cordoba. But the albergue network seems to be a work in progress, which I'm guessing means that it would be relatively expensive up until it joins the VdlP. For that reason and others, I've seen many here discourage first-timers from it.
  • Camino de Madrid - This was my first idea, since it seemed to have a good albergue network for a lightly traveled dirt path and was popular with those who have walked it. I figured that since this joins the Frances, I would be able to mix the two with the further option of the Primitivo for a nice mix. I could also prolong it my doing the VdlP as far as Caceres before transferring by train to Madrid (unless the second half of the VdlP was better ofc). There is also a recently found Irish connection, with the probable discovery last year of Red Hugh O'Donnell's remains in Valladolid. The downsides seem to be the possibility of a dangerous amount of snow around Segovia, as well as the isolation and lightly trafficked nature of the route being riskier for first-timers.
  • Camino del Norte - This seems to be the most expensive route, and one of the least variable in geography (mostly mountains and coast). It also has the same distance from Malaga as the CF, and will probably be the most mucky in March. I have read elsewhere that the choice of albergues is curtailed outside of summer.

Once again, thanks for all the advice you've previously contributed in general and on my previous thread, and for any suggestions you can give me.

Buen Camino 2022 :)
 
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Past OR future Camino
2022_ViadelaPlata
You are over-thinking this.
Just throw a dart and walk the one that comes up randomly. There are way too many x-factors in this equasion for you to come up with a logical solution... the camino defies logic. Nobody can make up your mind for you.
Just do it.
Some years ago for my third camino, I was considering VdelP, Norte and Le Puy - in that order, with Le Puy a distant third. Then through serendipity and not much else I found myself on the Le Puy. Not a moment's regret.
 
Past OR future Camino
2022_ViadelaPlata
P.S> Not suggesting that you add Le Puy to the list! I think my point above is if there's one that keeps coming up ... despite the many variables, just go for it. It sounds like you have all the info you need - and with more suggestions, perhaps the decision may be more difficult. I hope it works out well for you ... it usually does. Buen camino
 
Last edited:

Sirage

Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago (2005), Porto to Santiago (2007), Vezelay for 200 kms (2009), From Seville, May (2015), Le Puy to Sangüesa (2016), Norte-Primitivo (Sep-Oct 2016)
Looking at your bio / preference, don't do the Frances.

As above, don't overthink this.

Le Puy is a great walk, as are a few others, but being in France it is more expensive. Although you could stretch your budget as it probably is flexible and you might look back after a year and an extra 1,000 of some currency doesn't really matter much when reflecting on a good experience.

Lots of good options with differences - over Somport Pass is good, the Norte, the Via de la Plata, one of the Mozarabe options which are longer, but don't be distracted about the albergues as I hear the local Camino group is very helpful.

This is a fact-free post, just my ideas, and I have walked a few Caminos.
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
It’s been a while since I walked but it seemed at the time knowing Spanish (at least some) was more necessary on the Norte and Primitivo than the Frances. I imagine any less travelled road would be the same—not a reason not to choose them but a reason to learn some basic Spanish.

I don’t think any Camino is necessarily a “first-time” Camino. As a first time pilgrim I patched together parts of several caminos to see everything I wanted to see, plus one stage each of several I was considering for the future, including several you are considering. As others have said, for the most part just decide which one you like and go for it. With two caveats: consider contacting a celiac support group in the area of Spain your Camino of choice is in, and ask what stores and restaurants are like. Two, learn some Spanish—at a minimum emergency/pleasantries words and in particular for you, how to ask about/explain gluten free. I think even on the Frances, where it seemed everyone spoke English, knowing how to ensure gluten free in Spanish is important.

Buen Camino!
 
Past OR future Camino
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
I have found that many restaurant menus identify gluten-free (sin gluten) options and that gluten-free food can be found in most mercados.

As far as which Camino, I tend to think that the Frances is best, but I really like Rebekah's idea of throwing a dart. On two trips to Spain, I chose Caminos by flipping a coin (the Catalan via Huesca, or via Saragossa) and west of San Vicente to choose between the Primitivo and the del Norte.
 

Tassie Kaz

Sempre Avanti
Past OR future Camino
2019
@Madrood, it seems you are quite the pragmatist as indeed am I! Having said that however, if you are able to step back from that way of thinking, you may find that certain trails 'call' to you.
If you read back over your own description of each walk, instead of focussing on the practicalities, how does each one make you feel? If your pulse increases or a lightbulb goes off...that's the one for you now.
Works for me...I'm drawn to a trail for some reason & I don't question that gut reaction.
Sempre avanti!
👣 🌏
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
This is a fact-free post, just my ideas,
I like this quote and may employ it in the future.

A 1-2 month full Camino which finishes in Santiago; if possible, I'd also like to include the C-Ingles to A Coruna and/or C-Fenesterre.
Hmmm. Yes, you may be overthinking this, IF you are expecting a logical answer to fall out. But I enjoy overthinking some things, too, so that's all right with me! If one could do an analysis of all the items you have listed, including some very complex weighting of all factors, one might come up with a winner. But I am doubtful. There are a million or so ineffables and unknowns to be accounted for. At the end of the day, if all else is equal, throw that dart or respond to your gut.

You might find that adding the Mozarabe to the Ingles, etc., is too long for your 1-2 month period, but I question your reason for eliminating the Mozarabe, based on the following.
  • Camino Mozarbe - There seems to be much variety here geographically and architecturally, with the most Moorish architecture along with the option to start directly from Malaga or the easily accessible Cordoba. But the albergue network seems to be a work in progress, which I'm guessing means that it would be relatively expensive up until it joins the VdlP. For that reason and others, I've seen many here discourage first-timers from it.
The albergue network is very well organized from Almeria to Granada, with the support of the Amigos association. Even from Granada to Merida it seems OK. (After all, you only need one bed each night - it doesn't really matter to you what the total capacity is.) The big unknowns are how Covid closures may affect this network at the time you walk. You can get very precise and up-to-date information from the Guia de Alojamientos on this website or on their Facebook page. It is updated monthly.

There is something special about picking one long route and following it, rather than jumping around! However, there is no reason that you cannot start one route, change your mind at any time and catch a bus to somewhere else.
 
Past OR future Camino
2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
Various routes...
  • Don't have a preference on social things, but I'm used to long solo hikes, and would prefer to avoid a scramble for accommodation
  • Prefer dirt tracks and quiet countryside to pavement, minimal highway would be great
  • Value geographical diversity, a mix of coast, mountains, forests, plains, whatever
  • Value historical museums and buildings, particularly Roman, Carthaginian, and Medieval (Moorish and Christian, bonus points for Visigothic, bonus bonus points for anything to do with Ireland)
  • Variation between cities and villages would be nice but not a deal breaker
Given this, in your shoes I'd be looking at an Viejo-Olvidado-Invierno combo from Pamplona. Or Madrid-Sanabres-Primativo from Madrid. The second option gives the big bonus points for Visigothic (Wamba on the Madrid, and the crowd of sites around Oviedo).
 
Last edited:
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Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
Hi all,

I started a thread in the Camino de Madrid sub-forum about whether to do that Camino or the CF, but after much helpful advice I've decided to restart the thread since I i) have a better idea of what I would like from a Camino now ii) think I didn't give other options enough consideration. I've listed some biographical information and aspirations below, along with where my thoughts are at for which Camino fits the description most. Once again, I would appreciate any and all advice you could give me, thanks in advance :)

Bio
  • 20something who walks 15-20 km about 2.5 out of 3 days.
  • Semi-experienced hiker with a few >30km hikes in hilly and semi-mountainous terrain, mostly solo and often in winter. I usually load in my routes as .kml files into google maps and use the GPS on my phone to make sure I'm heading the right way.
  • No experience of multi-day hikes, but I have gone interrailing before and planned and prebooked it, I'm comfortable with booking.com and enjoy planning ahead, though I haven't done that by phone before and being able to just show up would be nice.
  • Not a Spanish speaker, but willing to learn what I can
  • Coeliac, but not a foodie and happy to cook the basics most of the time
  • Local airport flies to Malaga, otherwise takes a good chunk of a day to travel to the national airport for more options
  • I plan on following an itinerary from here along with gronze, happy to do stages of any reasonable length.

Preferences
  • A 1-2 month full Camino which finishes in Santiago; if possible, I'd also like to include the C-Ingles to A Coruna and/or C-Fenesterre.
  • Starting in early to mid-march, +/- 2 weeks
  • Budget of <€35 per day, but ideally <€25.
  • Happy to stay in albergues, but being able to include unique accommodations (monasteries etc) would be a plus.
  • Don't have a preference on social things, but I'm used to long solo hikes, and would prefer to avoid a scramble for accommodation
  • Prefer dirt tracks and quiet countryside to pavement, minimal highway would be great
  • Value geographical diversity, a mix of coast, mountains, forests, plains, whatever
  • Value historical museums and buildings, particularly Roman, Carthaginian, and Medieval (Moorish and Christian, bonus points for Visigothic, bonus bonus points for anything to do with Ireland)
  • Variation between cities and villages would be nice but not a deal breaker
  • A balance point between a not-reckless adventure/test and appropriate first-timer journey

Caminos
  • Camino Frances - This was strongly recommended to me in my first thread for a beginner, on the strength of it's infrastructure being conducive to my gluten-free requirements, the relative quietness of spring, and that Frances magic. There is also the option of switching to the Camino Primitivo if I want to switch to a road less traveled. I currently have it as my default option if I keep flip-flopping until it's time to lock in. My reservations for this route are i) it may still be quite busy due to the yearly increases in traffic, with the possibility of many who would have gone over the last 2 years having to defer until 2022 piling in ii) the very high amount of paving iii) the distance from Malaga iv) a vague idea that it's one of the more expensive ones v) a possibly misconceived idea that it would be coasting
  • Camino Portuguese - I haven't considered this one too much on the basis that the section between Lisbon and Porto seems to have few albergues, and just going from Porto is a little short. But I think I may end up flying home from Porto (it's less of an issue flying home than flying in) so there is the option of doing this section in reverse, maybe following the Fatima route from Santiago.
  • Via de la Plata - This one has the advantage of Seville being close to Malaga, with plenty of Roman architecture in Merida etc.. I have also read that this one is best in spring for the wildflowers, which suits me nicely. There is also the option of extending it downwards to Gibraltar (Via Serrara), also accessible from Malaga and I like the idea of the starting point being a long look across the sea to Africa, though I think there accommodation on this is touch and go. I have read elsewhere though that the albergues on this route can be expensive (?). From what I can see, the best parts seem to be in Extremadura, but this is mainly because of Merida and not knowing much about the Galician section. I've also heard that geographically it's pretty monotonous.
  • Camino Mozarbe - There seems to be much variety here geographically and architecturally, with the most Moorish architecture along with the option to start directly from Malaga or the easily accessible Cordoba. But the albergue network seems to be a work in progress, which I'm guessing means that it would be relatively expensive up until it joins the VdlP. For that reason and others, I've seen many here discourage first-timers from it.
  • Camino de Madrid - This was my first idea, since it seemed to have a good albergue network for a lightly traveled dirt path and was popular with those who have walked it. I figured that since this joins the Frances, I would be able to mix the two with the further option of the Primitivo for a nice mix. I could also prolong it my doing the VdlP as far as Caceres before transferring by train to Madrid (unless the second half of the VdlP was better ofc). There is also a recently found Irish connection, with the probable discovery last year of Red Hugh O'Donnell's remains in Valladolid. The downsides seem to be the possibility of a dangerous amount of snow around Segovia, as well as the isolation and lightly trafficked nature of the route being riskier for first-timers.
  • Camino del Norte - This seems to be the most expensive route, and one of the least variable in geography (mostly mountains and coast). It also has the same distance from Malaga as the CF, and will probably be the most mucky in March. I have read elsewhere that the choice of albergues is curtailed outside of summer.

Once again, thanks for all the advice you've previously contributed in general and on my previous thread, and for any suggestions you can give me.

Buen Camino 2022 :)
My comment is purely about the coeliac issue. Even on the Frances, its not always easy to find the right meals. We have the same problem in NZ as well. There is a difference between being coeliac and being gluten intolerant. Some places are aware of this and others aren't, and some think you are just following a fad.
My husband is always being told not to be 'special', and to 'eat the cheesecake off the top and just leave the crust behind'. I've seen staff pull the croutons out of his salad- unaware that I was watching.
As I am often the person having to deal with the health issues when this type of thing happens I've become very diligent. If we keep him happy and healthy - we're all happy and healthy!
At home, we have a gluten free house - so there is no cross contamination. For instance I dont allow anyone to put normal bread in our toaster. We tend to go to the same cafes that we know we can trust.
I have had to insist even with family not to bring standard bread to our house. No he cant have 'just a teeny tiny bit". And no, you cant bring brown bread either - for some random reason people think it doesnt contain gluten.

In Spain, you can often buy gluten free food from restaurants and cafes - but not necessarily food that has been prepared in a gluten free environment. Your toast for instance may have been prepared in the same place as gluten products.
I guess it depends on the severity of the disease. My husband needs food prepared in a gluten free kitchen.
We found we went to supermarkets, and bought food for him there. The smaller shops tended not to have much. Supermarkets usually had a decent range. And for him, even on the Frances, we tended to carry food for him, as we were never sure what we'd be able to get in smaller places.
He ate a lot of eggs, meats, nuts and fruits. And wine. Wine is good.

I have to admit that walking the Camino on my own is SO MUCH EASIER! I have no food problems and can eat anything they serve (well mostly)
 

sharon w

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
Hi all,

I started a thread in the Camino de Madrid sub-forum about whether to do that Camino or the CF, but after much helpful advice I've decided to restart the thread since I i) have a better idea of what I would like from a Camino now ii) think I didn't give other options enough consideration. I've listed some biographical information and aspirations below, along with where my thoughts are at for which Camino fits the description most. Once again, I would appreciate any and all advice you could give me, thanks in advance :)

Bio
  • 20something who walks 15-20 km about 2.5 out of 3 days.
  • Semi-experienced hiker with a few >30km hikes in hilly and semi-mountainous terrain, mostly solo and often in winter. I usually load in my routes as .kml files into google maps and use the GPS on my phone to make sure I'm heading the right way.
  • No experience of multi-day hikes, but I have gone interrailing before and planned and prebooked it, I'm comfortable with booking.com and enjoy planning ahead, though I haven't done that by phone before and being able to just show up would be nice.
  • Not a Spanish speaker, but willing to learn what I can
  • Coeliac, but not a foodie and happy to cook the basics most of the time
  • Local airport flies to Malaga, otherwise takes a good chunk of a day to travel to the national airport for more options
  • I plan on following an itinerary from here along with gronze, happy to do stages of any reasonable length.

Preferences
  • A 1-2 month full Camino which finishes in Santiago; if possible, I'd also like to include the C-Ingles to A Coruna and/or C-Fenesterre.
  • Starting in early to mid-march, +/- 2 weeks
  • Budget of <€35 per day, but ideally <€25.
  • Happy to stay in albergues, but being able to include unique accommodations (monasteries etc) would be a plus.
  • Don't have a preference on social things, but I'm used to long solo hikes, and would prefer to avoid a scramble for accommodation
  • Prefer dirt tracks and quiet countryside to pavement, minimal highway would be great
  • Value geographical diversity, a mix of coast, mountains, forests, plains, whatever
  • Value historical museums and buildings, particularly Roman, Carthaginian, and Medieval (Moorish and Christian, bonus points for Visigothic, bonus bonus points for anything to do with Ireland)
  • Variation between cities and villages would be nice but not a deal breaker
  • A balance point between a not-reckless adventure/test and appropriate first-timer journey

Caminos
  • Camino Frances - This was strongly recommended to me in my first thread for a beginner, on the strength of it's infrastructure being conducive to my gluten-free requirements, the relative quietness of spring, and that Frances magic. There is also the option of switching to the Camino Primitivo if I want to switch to a road less traveled. I currently have it as my default option if I keep flip-flopping until it's time to lock in. My reservations for this route are i) it may still be quite busy due to the yearly increases in traffic, with the possibility of many who would have gone over the last 2 years having to defer until 2022 piling in ii) the very high amount of paving iii) the distance from Malaga iv) a vague idea that it's one of the more expensive ones v) a possibly misconceived idea that it would be coasting
  • Camino Portuguese - I haven't considered this one too much on the basis that the section between Lisbon and Porto seems to have few albergues, and just going from Porto is a little short. But I think I may end up flying home from Porto (it's less of an issue flying home than flying in) so there is the option of doing this section in reverse, maybe following the Fatima route from Santiago.
  • Via de la Plata - This one has the advantage of Seville being close to Malaga, with plenty of Roman architecture in Merida etc.. I have also read that this one is best in spring for the wildflowers, which suits me nicely. There is also the option of extending it downwards to Gibraltar (Via Serrara), also accessible from Malaga and I like the idea of the starting point being a long look across the sea to Africa, though I think there accommodation on this is touch and go. I have read elsewhere though that the albergues on this route can be expensive (?). From what I can see, the best parts seem to be in Extremadura, but this is mainly because of Merida and not knowing much about the Galician section. I've also heard that geographically it's pretty monotonous.
  • Camino Mozarbe - There seems to be much variety here geographically and architecturally, with the most Moorish architecture along with the option to start directly from Malaga or the easily accessible Cordoba. But the albergue network seems to be a work in progress, which I'm guessing means that it would be relatively expensive up until it joins the VdlP. For that reason and others, I've seen many here discourage first-timers from it.
  • Camino de Madrid - This was my first idea, since it seemed to have a good albergue network for a lightly traveled dirt path and was popular with those who have walked it. I figured that since this joins the Frances, I would be able to mix the two with the further option of the Primitivo for a nice mix. I could also prolong it my doing the VdlP as far as Caceres before transferring by train to Madrid (unless the second half of the VdlP was better ofc). There is also a recently found Irish connection, with the probable discovery last year of Red Hugh O'Donnell's remains in Valladolid. The downsides seem to be the possibility of a dangerous amount of snow around Segovia, as well as the isolation and lightly trafficked nature of the route being riskier for first-timers.
  • Camino del Norte - This seems to be the most expensive route, and one of the least variable in geography (mostly mountains and coast). It also has the same distance from Malaga as the CF, and will probably be the most mucky in March. I have read elsewhere that the choice of albergues is curtailed outside of summer.

Once again, thanks for all the advice you've previously contributed in general and on my previous thread, and for any suggestions you can give me.

Buen Camino 2022 :)
I would think the VdlP would be best with your budget in mind. The Le Puy route is more expensive. Every Camino is wonderful, but those 2 are my favourites.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
@Madrood, your bio and preferences are useful but think about addressing the social aspects a bit more. You will not be doing your usual types of hikes. You could be picking out a long camino with few other pilgrims speaking English and also not being able to converse with locals. In your usual life, even if very introverted, you still have talks with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, shopkeepers, etc. Contacts like this would be missing on some caminos.

I discovered that I really needed more contact than I thought I did on my Camino Catalan. That portion of my trek was only two weeks and my Spanish was good enough to have some chats if not conversations. You might choose a camino with even fewer people and towns than the Catalan. Remember, on the busier caminos you can always walk alone and seek out seclusion during the afternoons and evenings but when the mood strikes you have the opportunity for company too. Phone calls can help but they still leave something to be desired.

Now, with that out of the way, has anyone suggested the quiet Camino Invierno? ;)
 

zzotte

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
Wow! You can write, not once you mentioned why you want to do the Camino, so here it's my two cents if you had a religious motive I would do the Frances, but if not don't overthink buy a ticket and go it's a just a hike and can return to Spain and hike the others you can also hike Picos de Europa which should be beautiful in late March. Whatever you decide have fun and buen Camino :)

Zzotte
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
I would think the VdlP would be best with your budget in mind. The Le Puy route is more expensive. Every Camino is wonderful, but those 2 are my favourites.
Great minds kind of think alike. I too love Le Puy but at his budget too expensive. I start out in 2 weeks from Sevilla on a Camino I have waited to do for a long time. As Rebekah Scott said he is way overthinking this. You could slot in just about any Camino depending on how much he values each of long wish list. There is beauty and wonder and grace and pain too in any camino he chooses. Buen Camino. (I have to say I absolutely loved the Norte, even though there is just alot of up and downs and some water to your right. ;) 👍 ;)
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all,

I started a thread in the Camino de Madrid sub-forum about whether to do that Camino or the CF, but after much helpful advice I've decided to restart the thread since I i) have a better idea of what I would like from a Camino now ii) think I didn't give other options enough consideration. I've listed some biographical information and aspirations below, along with where my thoughts are at for which Camino fits the description most. Once again, I would appreciate any and all advice you could give me, thanks in advance :)

Bio
  • 20something who walks 15-20 km about 2.5 out of 3 days.
  • Semi-experienced hiker with a few >30km hikes in hilly and semi-mountainous terrain, mostly solo and often in winter. I usually load in my routes as .kml files into google maps and use the GPS on my phone to make sure I'm heading the right way.
  • No experience of multi-day hikes, but I have gone interrailing before and planned and prebooked it, I'm comfortable with booking.com and enjoy planning ahead, though I haven't done that by phone before and being able to just show up would be nice.
  • Not a Spanish speaker, but willing to learn what I can
  • Coeliac, but not a foodie and happy to cook the basics most of the time
  • Local airport flies to Malaga, otherwise takes a good chunk of a day to travel to the national airport for more options
  • I plan on following an itinerary from here along with gronze, happy to do stages of any reasonable length.

Preferences
  • A 1-2 month full Camino which finishes in Santiago; if possible, I'd also like to include the C-Ingles to A Coruna and/or C-Fenesterre.
  • Starting in early to mid-march, +/- 2 weeks
  • Budget of <€35 per day, but ideally <€25.
  • Happy to stay in albergues, but being able to include unique accommodations (monasteries etc) would be a plus.
  • Don't have a preference on social things, but I'm used to long solo hikes, and would prefer to avoid a scramble for accommodation
  • Prefer dirt tracks and quiet countryside to pavement, minimal highway would be great
  • Value geographical diversity, a mix of coast, mountains, forests, plains, whatever
  • Value historical museums and buildings, particularly Roman, Carthaginian, and Medieval (Moorish and Christian, bonus points for Visigothic, bonus bonus points for anything to do with Ireland)
  • Variation between cities and villages would be nice but not a deal breaker
  • A balance point between a not-reckless adventure/test and appropriate first-timer journey

Caminos
  • Camino Frances - This was strongly recommended to me in my first thread for a beginner, on the strength of it's infrastructure being conducive to my gluten-free requirements, the relative quietness of spring, and that Frances magic. There is also the option of switching to the Camino Primitivo if I want to switch to a road less traveled. I currently have it as my default option if I keep flip-flopping until it's time to lock in. My reservations for this route are i) it may still be quite busy due to the yearly increases in traffic, with the possibility of many who would have gone over the last 2 years having to defer until 2022 piling in ii) the very high amount of paving iii) the distance from Malaga iv) a vague idea that it's one of the more expensive ones v) a possibly misconceived idea that it would be coasting
  • Camino Portuguese - I haven't considered this one too much on the basis that the section between Lisbon and Porto seems to have few albergues, and just going from Porto is a little short. But I think I may end up flying home from Porto (it's less of an issue flying home than flying in) so there is the option of doing this section in reverse, maybe following the Fatima route from Santiago.
  • Via de la Plata - This one has the advantage of Seville being close to Malaga, with plenty of Roman architecture in Merida etc.. I have also read that this one is best in spring for the wildflowers, which suits me nicely. There is also the option of extending it downwards to Gibraltar (Via Serrara), also accessible from Malaga and I like the idea of the starting point being a long look across the sea to Africa, though I think there accommodation on this is touch and go. I have read elsewhere though that the albergues on this route can be expensive (?). From what I can see, the best parts seem to be in Extremadura, but this is mainly because of Merida and not knowing much about the Galician section. I've also heard that geographically it's pretty monotonous.
  • Camino Mozarbe - There seems to be much variety here geographically and architecturally, with the most Moorish architecture along with the option to start directly from Malaga or the easily accessible Cordoba. But the albergue network seems to be a work in progress, which I'm guessing means that it would be relatively expensive up until it joins the VdlP. For that reason and others, I've seen many here discourage first-timers from it.
  • Camino de Madrid - This was my first idea, since it seemed to have a good albergue network for a lightly traveled dirt path and was popular with those who have walked it. I figured that since this joins the Frances, I would be able to mix the two with the further option of the Primitivo for a nice mix. I could also prolong it my doing the VdlP as far as Caceres before transferring by train to Madrid (unless the second half of the VdlP was better ofc). There is also a recently found Irish connection, with the probable discovery last year of Red Hugh O'Donnell's remains in Valladolid. The downsides seem to be the possibility of a dangerous amount of snow around Segovia, as well as the isolation and lightly trafficked nature of the route being riskier for first-timers.
  • Camino del Norte - This seems to be the most expensive route, and one of the least variable in geography (mostly mountains and coast). It also has the same distance from Malaga as the CF, and will probably be the most mucky in March. I have read elsewhere that the choice of albergues is curtailed outside of summer.

Once again, thanks for all the advice you've previously contributed in general and on my previous thread, and for any suggestions you can give me.

Buen Camino 2022 :)
This is my second post about this topic. Please just pick a camino and enjoy it. As I said in my other post there is pure joy/pain, pure happiness/sadness, pure love and lifelong immediate friendships/solitude, reflection and reintroducing yourself to yourself, pure beauty of magnificent vistas, flowers, mountains, rivers, streams/pure drudgery of highway walking, industrial parks, monotonous streets entering and leaving cities, fantastic gluten free meals (although I personally don't worry about that) shared with friends who are awesome cooks in albergues (Many not anytime soon), or in a donativo or restaurant/eating sardines out of of a tin sitting on a rock or the 20th roll of 3Euro goat cheese and crackers. It goes on and on. Pick the two or three things you think you want the most, find a camino you think fits it. Make your reservation and get to your starting city, town or village and realize in a few days that all that planning and all that worry is out the window because it will be nothing like what you want or expect it will be what you need. If your heart and spirit is open to it and you say WTF and go with it, you will absolutely have an experience you will cherish. Get out of your head and just listen to your body when you walk. So many have way too many wants and don't realize how little we need.
Buen Camino young Pilgrim
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
Looking at your bio / preference, don't do the Frances.

As above, don't overthink this.

Le Puy is a great walk, as are a few others, but being in France it is more expensive. Although you could stretch your budget as it probably is flexible and you might look back after a year and an extra 1,000 of some currency doesn't really matter much when reflecting on a good experience.

Lots of good options with differences - over Somport Pass is good, the Norte, the Via de la Plata, one of the Mozarabe options which are longer, but don't be distracted about the albergues as I hear the local Camino group is very helpful.

This is a fact-free post, just my ideas, and I have walked a few Caminos.
I think 35 euros/day would be enough for le chemin, staring in Le Puy.
 
Last edited:

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
Thanks for all the advice! As far as overthinking it goes, I've been told I don't need to walk it since I've walked it in my head so often, I guess you're on to something 😅 Got to fill the time until March somehow, talking about caminos is second best to doing one, can't imagine how pent up some of you regulars are feeling.

My gut on which one I want to do is one of the north-south ones anyway, and coast-to-coast too, probably some combination of the map below. Only outstanding things are:

Mozarabe or Serrana + early VdLP? I reckon I'll go for the Serrana route for the sake of seeing Africa at the start, but I do like the Moorish feel of the Mozarabe ... in a way it feels like a choice between Seville and Granda/Cordoba, all beautiful places. How do Seville-to-Merida and Cordoba-to-Merida compare?

VdlP to Granja or transfer to Madrid by train from Caceres (or Salamanca)? Continuity feels right to me, but I've bought into the Madrid hype, and it seems to have a lot of appealing history (also, Madrid). Could also transfer to Valladolid or Segovia.

So many options for the last leg. Primitivo, Sanabres, CF, Inviero ... Currently Primitivo is top for the Asturian ruins at Oviedo, but I don't know a thing about the others.

Thanks all for the tips and reality checks :D

1633046654937.png
 
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Past OR future Camino
2022_ViadelaPlata
@Madrood Good for you - you are closing in on your choices Listen to your heart / gut.

If you're interested, I can send you privately my blogs for Camino Mozarabe (from Granada to Merida - though in two parts due to injury) and Camino de Madrid from 2018 - just to give you a sense. We loved both.

Sorry, if you've already indicated this - do you speak any Spanish? We have barely Camino Spanish but I walked with my husband - and between us we got by.

On the Mozarabe in particular, the locals were always happy to see us. They would like to see the route become more popular.
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
@Jenny@zen Thanks that's kind of you; I don't speak Spanish but I usually have card(s) with important info like the gluten free stuff when I travel, I'm planning to learn what I can before March though. As for the Mozarabe, it would be nice to help out but I'm going to have to browse that part of the forum some more first.
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
BTW just to add to what @Anamiri said about travelling gluten-free if anyone was curious; the main ingredient coeliacs have to watch out for is flour. Wheat flour is the most common, but barley and rye are also verboten (so no beer). We can eat e.g. wheat startch and barley malt extract, but only if they are prepared with special care to avoid cross-contamination with flour; in the case of wheat starch, it's rarely the case which is why coeliac and wheat-intolerant are usually synonymous.

Rice and maize flour are both ok though. Oats are a special case as they have a slightly different kind of gluten, which a minority of coeliacs are also allergic to. The main problem buying oat products is again cross-contamination; gluten free porridge and normal porridge are actually both made from oats, but with gluten free porridge more care has been taken.

Being a coeliac is (AFAIK) a genetic condition which is inherited, and is more common in some parts of the world (west of Ireland, Basque country, Finland) than others. People who have it often develop lactose intolerance too, and before the link was made between it and gluten it could be lethal; what essentially happens is that your immune system turns on your intestines if provoked by gluten, which compromises your ability to absorb nutrients from food. But lately many people have jumped onto gluten-free diets for normal dieting reasons; not a problem with me since it has made gluten-free substitute food more common. Gluten intolerance (again AFAIK) is slightly different as I think it's something people develop.

Finally, just what does this troublesome gluten do? It's the thing that yeast interacts with to make bread rise; this is why most gluten-free bread is kinda dense or flaky.

Happy to give any more info if you're still curious!
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
BTW just to add to what @Anamiri said about travelling gluten-free if anyone was curious; the main ingredient coeliacs have to watch out for is flour. Wheat flour is the most common, but barley and rye are also verboten (so no beer). We can eat e.g. wheat startch and barley malt extract, but only if they are prepared with special care to avoid cross-contamination with flour; in the case of wheat starch, it's rarely the case which is why coeliac and wheat-intolerant are usually synonymous.

Rice and maize flour are both ok though. Oats are a special case as they have a slightly different kind of gluten, which a minority of coeliacs are also allergic to. The main problem buying oat products is again cross-contamination; gluten free porridge and normal porridge are actually both made from oats, but with gluten free porridge more care has been taken.

Being a coeliac is (AFAIK) a genetic condition which is inherited, and is more common in some parts of the world (west of Ireland, Basque country, Finland) than others. People who have it often develop lactose intolerance too, and before the link was made between it and gluten it could be lethal; what essentially happens is that your immune system turns on your intestines if provoked by gluten, which compromises your ability to absorb nutrients from food. But lately many people have jumped onto gluten-free diets for normal dieting reasons; not a problem with me since it has made gluten-free substitute food more common. Gluten intolerance (again AFAIK) is slightly different as I think it's something people develop.

Finally, just what does this troublesome gluten do? It's the thing that yeast interacts with to make bread rise; this is why most gluten-free bread is kinda dense or flaky.

Happy to give any more info if you're still curious!
And oats. All the other coeliacs we know react the same with oats.
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
You can count me as an exception! Do you know if they have tried specifically designated gluten free oats and been ill, or have they just been told not to go near them?
 
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Anamiri

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
You can count me as an exception! Do you know if they have tried specifically designated gluten free oats and been ill, or have they just been told not to go near them?
I havent seen gluten free oats. The gluten free (coeliac friendly) cereals we can buy dont have oats. They use other grains, or rice.
I am really cautious though as a mishap takes a long time to recover from.
 
Past OR future Camino
2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
Various routes...
So many options for the last leg. Primitivo, Sanabres, CF, Inviero ... Currently Primitivo is top for the Asturian ruins at Oviedo, but I don't know a thing about the others.
There's only one pre-Romanesque site close to the VdlP (a short detour, actually), but it's a doozy:
Santa Lucía de Trampal. San Pedro de la Nave is 22km from Zamora.

Here's a resource with the whole list:
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
It seems that the gluten-free movement has probably been a blessing (and a minor curse) for people with celiac disease. A blessing because there are so many products out there now that are gluten-free, but the minor curse because I'm sure that many people think that you are just following a fad, when in reality it's a very serious health problem for you!
 

Madrood

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances or Madrid
I havent seen gluten free oats. The gluten free (coeliac friendly) cereals we can buy dont have oats. They use other grains, or rice.
I am really cautious though as a mishap takes a long time to recover from.

Maybe it varies by country. But you are absolutely correct that trying it is something you do at your own risk.

@VNwalking Thanks that's a great list!

@trecile More blessing than curse I think; used to have to go to the pharmacy to get gluten free bread and it was rubbish, really flaky pale stuff. The improvement of quality AND decrease in cost of substitutes has been great. As far as what others think, in western Europe at least so much legislation and general awareness has developed in the last 10 years that there really is no excuse anymore for anyone in the food industry to make those kind of mistakes. While nobody is obliged to have gluten-free items on their menu, they absolutely should not make a guess or a rough fix (like the aforementioned brushing away of croutons) and try to make a sale on it; I've been lucky enough (though on this I think you make your own luck) not to get caught, but my mother has been conned like this and been ill for the night.

Where the dangers of fadness comes in is when people (with good intentions, usually) assume they know what it means and then offer some food as gluten-free, usually with a line like "Yeah I checked, it's fine, it's got no bread in it". But at the end of the day (imho) if you've got the allergy then the buck stops with you on what you eat; if you take a chance on someone else's guess it's your fault, you know best and they aren't making you eat it.
 

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