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Rethink HOW and WHEN you walk the Francés - strategies for walking during busy times

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés, Norte, Salvador, Primitivo, Portuguese
We've had several threads recently about the current (busy) situation on the Camino Francés. As those of us who have been active on this forum for a number of years know, the first two weeks of May and September are ALWAYS the busiest for starting from St Jean Pied de Port.

Unfortunately, new pilgrims don't usually have this information, and sometimes see the statistics from the Pilgrim Office in Santiago that show that July and August are the busiest months, so think that they can avoid the "bed race" by going in May or September. But busy season in Santiago doesn't really correlate to busy season for the ~700 km on the Camino Francés before Sarria, as detailed in this thread: A tale of two Caminos

I wanted to start a more constructive thread to help those who do want to walk the Francés during these busy times, or to offer suggestions for other times of the year that may be more pleasant on the Francés. It's certainly not impossible to enjoy the Francés in May and September, but different strategies may be needed.

Please make recommendations for the Francés only, as other routes have their own busy periods.
 
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Try not to start on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and try to avoid the traditional "stages". Look out for holidays and festivals and try to avoid starting on these dates. You also don't have to start in SJPDP but could start in Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Logrono, etc. These places are easier to access from Madrid.

I am a volunteer hospitalera and I can say that our donativo albergues are often overlooked because they can't be reserved and people cannot ship their bags to these types if albergues. If you are winging it and carrying your own pack you may want to seek out these places. There are several on the Camino Francis and they are identified in gronze.com.
 
Try not to start on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and try to avoid the traditional "stages". Look out for holidays and festivals and try to avoid starting on these dates. You also don't have to start in SJPDP but could start in Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Logrono, etc. These places are easier to access from Madrid.

I am a volunteer hospitalera and I can say that our donativo albergues are often overlooked because they can't be reserved and people cannot ship their bags to these types if albergues. If you are winging it and carrying your own pack you may want to seek out these places. There are several on the Camino Francis and they are identified in gronze.com.
This is certainly my strategy, intending to start around 15th May 2024 from Burgos, walking shorter stages (shortest day is 8 km and longest is 18 km) over four weeks (with a couple of rest days) and stopping in Sarria because I am not "needing" to go to Santiago de Compostela again. I also will be staying in donativo and municipal albergues the whole way. I am confident I will be able to find a place each night.
 
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Hola (1) @trecile Thanks for an "original post". Its an often said point that you can't learn the full story by reading the book. You have to get out there and DO.
(2) @J Willhaus now you are talking. When I walked in May/June 2017 from St Jean I tried to get away from those Brierley suggested stage ends. I took an extra day from St Jean to Pamplona. Out of Pamplona I ended day one at Uterga and for the next three days picked intermediate night stops. Yes I did stop in Los Arcos but only because I love that Church backdrop to the alter.
All it takes is a bit of research or route planning to avoid the crowds. Yes there will always be times when it appears just about every bed is taken. Then you do what (I think) Trecile was alluding to - be flexible or adaptable. If this means getting a taxi to the next village or town. Or asking at the bar or cafe if there is an "off camino" accommodation venue?
Once again thanks for starting a great OP. Cheers
 
I started from StJPdP in April. At that particular time (2012) it ruled out the Napoleon route due to bad weather...but I had already pre-decided to take the Valcarlos alternative due to a knee concern.

I really enjoyed the Valcarlos route & thought it was a wonderful introductory day (ending in Roncevalles) for my first ever long distance walk.

My advice to first timers?...there are always options...so don't be afraid to explore them & use them.

Edited to add for newcomers; always check the weather for that first day out of StJPdP...whichever way you decide to go. I avoided the snow storm on the Napoleon having rain instead...but it did not put a dampener (🤭) on my experience.
👣🌏
 
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I started from StJPdP in April. At that particular time (2012) it ruled out the Napoleon route due to bad weather...but I had already pre-decided to take the Valcarlos route due to a knee concern.

I really enjoyed the Valcarlos route & thought it was a wonderful introductory day (ending in Roncevalles) for my first ever long distance walk.

My advice to first timers?...there are always options...so don't be afraid to explore them & use them.
👣🌏
Yes, and you can break the stages more easily by staying in Valcarlos and going a bit further than Roncesvalles as that is a big choke point.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
It seems to me that a large part of the pressure is the change in accommodation expectation. The Camino has historically supplied Albergue\ hostel style accommodation and there is now a much larger demand for private accommodation . This is not the fault of the Camino it is a change in demand . It means that some people will have to either change their expectations or put up with a shortage . Please remember the Camino is a pilgrimage that is meant to be assessable to all especially those with limited means . Please don't try to change it to meet different expectations embrace its simplicity and you may be rewarded .
 
For me, as others have said, staying in the “in between” places really helped.

Checking the Spanish holiday time table is also great advice above- I arrived in Sarria on the Sunday at the beginning of the Semana Santa week, after 700km of lovely quiet walking on the camino Francés. It was “an experience”…. In retrospect, I should have planned better….
 
As those of us who have been active on this forum for a number of years know, the first two weeks of May and September are ALWAYS the busiest for starting from St Jean Pied de Port. Unfortunately, new pilgrims don't usually have this information, and sometimes see the statistics from the Pilgrim Office in Santiago that show that July and August are the busiest months, so think that they can avoid the "bed race" by going in May or September.
As I have written several times before, the pilgrims office at St Jean, and the albergue in Roncesvalles should publish their numbers on a daily basis just like the Pilgrims Office in Santiago does
 
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One thing I think is worth noting when reading overcrowding reports is that the posters who are walking generally have a very narrow view of how crowded it is and little knowledge of what it is like behind them. It could be that they started around the same time as a large group and haven't broken away from the pack yet so it seems crowded to them.
 
I walked into Zubiri last year, Sunday May 15th, at 16:30 and got a bed in the first albergue i knocked (the one on the right side after the bridge). Because people with reservations did not show up.
Later that day, i have been told, that the municipal did not fill till around 18:00.

The night before i had been sternly warned by "more experienced pilgrims" that if i had not at least booked everything till Pamplona i would be sleeping under the stars....

Apperently saying "screw it, i'm going to do it anyway" can be a strategy. It's a gamble, but it can work.
 
I think that there are three things any of us, but particularly new pilgrims, might want to consider:
  • at the very outset, will they book accommodation for the first few nights,that of their arrival and the next one or two depending on what route they take. It is possible (still) to arrive at a departure point like SJPP for much of the year, and get accommodation.
    • But if one intends to walk on Route Napoleon and only do a short day, booking there has been almost essential for some time.
    • if you do want to walk a short day, and cannot find accommodation at or around Orrison, book another night in SJPP, and use a taxi service to get back and forth.
    • the alternative is to walk to Valcarlos for a short first day, and booking isn't required currently
  • how and when will they arrange their accommodation for the remainder of the camino,which really comes down to booking or not booking. My thoughts on booking are:
    • the earlier one does it, and the further ahead one does it, the less flexible one's camino will be. There is plenty of discussion already on the forum about this.
      • I have booked anywhere from a few days ahead to only a couple of hours. For a section of the CF like Sarria to SDC when I did that with my wife, we had bookings several days ahead, avoided the major towns where we could and took a little longer than the minimum time.
    • booking sites, like booking.com or airbnb, are not always given all the available rooms at any particular property (hotel/hostel/casa rural/albergue). It is always worth contacting the property to see if they still have rooms if there aren't any on the booking sites.
    • I will put a plug in for the WisePilgrim app, which can format a WhatsApp message to send if you don't have the language skills to make an enquiry in person.
    • guidebooks, websites like Gronze, and the variety of apps available are all useful sources for contact information, and are sharply focussed on accommodation that supports walkers. That is, it is generally on or close enough to the walking route to be easily accessible to pilgrims.
    • after that, mapping sites - Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing are examples - will provide accommodation options, but not sharply focussed on the needs of pilgrims.
      • for places further away from the walking route, consider whether it will be worthwhile taking a taxi.
    • If you book without paying at the time of booking, you need to check whether the booking will be cancelled if you haven't arrived by a certain time. If you are going to be late, keep the property informed if you want them to keep the booking.
    • if you have made a non-refundable payment, eg through booking.com, consider whether to get a taxi there and back if you are having difficulty getting there. Note, though, that you can arrive quite late - up to the time that the reception closes, and expect the room to be available.
  • walking without booking- you might want to do this for a significant part of your camino, or perhaps because you want to stay in a particular place that does not take bookings.
    • it is possible to do this, even in the early stages from SJPP, except perhaps around Orrison.
    • it is a high risk strategy before Pamplona at certain times of the year when that section of the CF becomes popular. I have experienced this at Easter and in early May. Others report that September is also risky.
    • there are different approaches to this:
      • 'the bed race' - leave as early as possible each day, walk as fast as possible, take as few breaks as possible and make them short, and aggressively push ahead to get into the queue for an albergue before it opens. I have even had a pilgrim push past me going down the narrow downhill path into Ages to get ahead of me. This strategy appears to be complemented by the pack transport strategy.
      • my preference is to start looking in the early afternoon, basically in the first town I arrive at a couple of hours after lunch. Unless I am interested in staying at a particular albergue, I start at the first albergue on the route coming into a town, noting that in smaller places it might be the only albergue. If there is no bed, move on to the next albergue, but see my next point if that is going to be in the next town.
      • As I approach a town, there may be places advertising accommodation, as well as the numbers for the local taxi drivers. When I remember, I photograph these - they are often places that don't appear in guidebooks or on apps.
    • Have a search strategy ready for when there is no place available in a particular town.
      • If I don't find a place in the first couple of places in a town, I will start checking by phone whether other places have spaces available before doing too much more walking. This includes those places advertising on the way into town. If the whole town is booked out, it is important to have a search strategy that can be implemented at that point. Otherwise, the risk is that one will get angry and distressed. That is unproductive, and doesn't need to happen.
      • Contact the closer albergues further along the route. Depending on when you are doing this, you might be able to walk on anything up to another 10 km or up to three hours, but I generally limit my search to somewhere around 5 km or less further ahead. That will still be a little over an hours walking. If they have a space, they may be willing to hold it for you for the hour or so it will take you to get there.
        • if you are doing this at an albergue, the hospitalero might be willing to make these calls for you. I always offer my phone for this so that any associated costs are not borne by the hospitalero.
      • Start looking for vacancies on booking.com in places either ahead or slightly off-route. Some places will willingly collect and return pilgrims, although you might have to wait a little while to be collected. Others will require you to find a taxi.
      • I have never had to resort to this last step, and that is to see if there is somewhere I have passed earlier in the day that has a vacancy. For me, this would be a taxi.
  • As a final note, I have never had to resort to sleeping rough, but there are many who choose this strategy, and come prepared with a bivvy bag or tent, sleeping bag and perhaps minimal cooking equipment.
 
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It would be nice to merge a few of these recent threads instead of having them all. It seems to me that some good points have already been made in the responses. While I am so glad it was 2006 that I walked the Frances, I think it is still well possible to make a pilgrimage along this route if you include a flexibility re taking whatever means will get you out of a difficult situation, if such should arise.
Taxi? Bus? Shorter days? 1 or 2 km off route?
I did not stay in bookable locations except for Santiago. I was blessed to have a walking companion from Pamplona with local knowledge.
We used Eroski, St James Society guide - so light to carry, in spite of all the kso instructions! (Keep straight on!) Also, a blog by a respected forum member. In the end, it comes down to one step after the other.
People new to the forum possibly are up to the minute on other platforms as well. Curiosity killed the cat. Information made her/him fat. Use your head.
And have a wonderful camino pilgrimage.
 
If, for some reason (time constraints or other), you want to walk during the busy periods, I believe there are two main ‘strategies’ (not mutually exclusive):

1) Book in advance.

2) Walk with a ‘problem management mindset’ being flexible and prepared to tackle accommodation challenges in order not to become disappointed and frustrated.

The post by @dougfitz enumerates many useful ‘tactics’ for the problem management approach.
 
I've copied and modified something I wrote in another thread, I hope that is okay?

For me (as someone who prefers to wing it and not make reservations), the easiest solution is to make sure that I don't end up in a place with no beds available. That simple. Sounds funny but has worked for me so far. Even during easter, even in summer on the last 100km, even during a holy year.

That's what I do:

a) Walk distances that allow me to still continue a bit further if necessary (I want to be able to add another 5-10km or so at the end of the day). So should there not be a bed in the town I wanted to stop in, I can still walk to the next one.

b) Stop midday or for a second breakfast in a town with a walk-in or "no reservations possible" albergue and lots of choice regarding accommodation in general. Ask myself, do I want to walk further today, or do I need a half/short/rest day? If I'm very tired I can just check into the albergue (first come - first served, so no problem if I arrive early). If I want to continue and walk a longer day,

c) Check that the next town is still within my preferred walking distance and that there are several albergues there, so that the likeliness of getting a bed there is high.

d) Check if shortly after that town (<5km), there's another albergue, just in case, or

e) If I want to be absolutely sure to have a bed in the village I intend to walk to, call and ask how busy they are and if possible make a reservation. This is a good solution especially if you want to walk a very long day and arrive late, if you know you'll be too exhausted to walk further to the next albergue/village, or if the village where you want to stop has only few beds and the next place is far away.

f) If all fails, walk into a bar, have a nice drink, find out where the next place with a bed is, and get a taxi there.

g) Sometimes when talking to the locals or hospitaleros of the places that are 'completo', beds suddenly appear from nowhere ;-)

h) If you only bring a silk liner for sleeping that reduces your options. So when walking during busy times, bring a light foam mat and a decent sleeping bag. If there's only room on the floor of a sports gym or fire station or in the albergue garden / on their terrace ect., that will be helpful (add a tarp or tent if you love camping and you also have campsites as extra option for accommodation. There are a few official ones, with warm showers and all, for example in St. Jean, not far from Roncesvalles, after Estella, in Castrojeriz, in Sarria, in Portomarin, in Arzua, in Santiago... some of them are quite luxurious and even have a pool and a bar/restaurant!).

Ect.

So. Keep in mind that sometimes you might need plan b-h) to find a bed, but usually there is one, or at least a spot on the floor ect.

Now with this wall of text it looks like a lot of effort, but this process usually takes about the amount of time that is needed to drink a coffee or a beer, depending on whether it's done during breakfast or lunch time.

Of course this kind of strategies are no guarantee to find accommodation. It's just what has worked for me, personally, so far. On the Francés and other routes as well.

For some people of course all this doesn't work, because of health reasons, need for private rooms and private bathroom ect. Then you can still make reservations.

In the end we all develop our own strategies I guess, and everybody has to find out for themselves what works for them and what doesn't.
 
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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.
As I have written several times before, the pilgrims office at St Jean, and the albergue in Roncesvalles should publish their numbers on a daily basis just like the Pilgrims Office in Santiago does
I am not sure why this should happen. I did look to see if you had offered an explanation for this previously, and all I found was a post from earlier this year:
I wish St Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles would publish their daily numbers like Santiago does.
Then you can see exactly what's going on.
I don't see ex-post reporting being useful, but if you were thinking about collecting vacancy data from these places, that would give people a better idea of whether there is any prospect of getting a bed at them. You might have to work on how that is done for albergues that don't take bookings, but certainly something like that with a live ticker type feed on the SJPP Pilgrim Office web site, for example, would be useful.
 
As I have written several times before, the pilgrims office at St Jean, and the albergue in Roncesvalles should publish their numbers on a daily basis just like the Pilgrims Office in Santiago does

Telling others (who are actually working hard to support and facilitate pilgrims) what they should do / must do / ought to do (imo) is not a usefull strategy when walking during busy times.

Besides, I think the people in the Pilgrim Office and Roncesvalles albergue (volunteers, by the way) may have other things to do than publishing daily statistics, particularly during busy times.

To remain within the subject of this thread, A strategy when walking in busy times may well include the realization that people working in albergues are busy as well.
 
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Telling others (who are actually working hard to support and facilitate pilgrims) what they should do / must do / ought to do (imo) is not a usefull strategy when walking during busy times.

Besides, I think the people in the Pilgrim Office and Roncesvalles albergue (volunteers, by the way) may have other things to do than publishing daily statistics, particularly during busy times.

To remain within the subject of this thread, A strategy when walking in busy times may well include the realization that people working in albergues are busy as well.
I'm glad others are prepared to call out some of these 'suggestions'. Thank you.
 
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As someone previously mentioned, it seems that the expectations regarding the type of accommodations needed (i.e. "quality") has drastically changed over the last 10+ years. Also the need to control every step of the way.

My first Camino Francés was during the Holy Year of 2010 and it was July! Staying in between traditional guidebook stages and in municipals/parochials was the answer. But by the time I reached O Cebreiro there were so many pilgrims walking (and no accommodations for km before or after) that 8 of us slept in the entryway of the church. Outside. Without a sleeping bag or mat. From there on it was often necessary to sleep on the hard floor of gyms. Nice? Not really but there was no other option so you did it.

Fast forward 10+ years and there are many more (especially private) accommodations, private rooms, casa rurales etc. Many pilgrims expect a certain type of accommodation/service and although they are often reserving a bed (pretty much non existent back then) they may, at times, still need to sleep on the floor of a gym or rough it. Believe me, you'll live to tell the tale.

Plus side for those of us who don't reserve is that municipals, especially in Galicia, often have available beds even late into the afternoon. This happened to me on several occasions in Arzúa coming in from the Norte. I walked into the municipal albergue expecting it to be full and the hospitalera said that there were still several beds available as "everyone now reserves beds in private albergues". It was almost 4 p.m. and 2 days out from Santiago in July!
 
We've had several threads recently about the current (busy) situation on the Camino Francés. As those of us who have been active on this forum for a number of years know, the first two weeks of May and September are ALWAYS the busiest for starting from St Jean Pied de Port.

Unfortunately, new pilgrims don't usually have this information, and sometimes see the statistics from the Pilgrim Office in Santiago that show that July and August are the busiest months, so think that they can avoid the "bed race" by going in May or September. But busy season in Santiago doesn't really correlate to busy season for the ~700 km on the Camino Francés before Sarria, as detailed in this thread: A tale of two Caminos

I wanted to start a more constructive thread to help those who do want to walk the Francés during these busy times, or to offer suggestions for other times of the year that may be more pleasant on the Francés. It's certainly not impossible to enjoy the Francés in May and September, but different strategies may be needed.

Please make recommendations for the Francés only, as other routes have their own busy periods.
I like November and December. It’s very easy to enjoy walking when you’re by yourself.
 
I like November and December. It’s very easy to enjoy walking when you’re by yourself.
I agree with this statement. This is a video (not very good but you get the idea) is a video I sent to my wife after walking up the hill from Castrojeriz. It is not the most fun walk early in the morning but walking up that hill especially as the sun is rising is spectacular.
View attachment b659e38f-b705-41c4-8def-fa7341f45688.mov
The natural landscape is obviously different. Much starker than spring or late summer. especially on the Meseta. But there is a beauty and awesomeness to the Meseta during this time of the year. One wonderful aspect of walking in November on is you have a real opportunity to walk peacefully and alone for almost the entire day if you chose to. Since there are fewer albergues open there will still be ample opportunity to meet wonderful pilgrims at night to share stories, get to know, have great communal meals or go out and enjoy a night together eating dinner and chatting. It is still as beautiful and green in Galicia. Weather can be anything from one day to the next. But it is never too cold and thankfully never hot. A great time to walk.
 
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The first edition came out in 2003 and has become the go-to-guide for many pilgrims over the years. It is shipping with a Pilgrim Passport (Credential) from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
This is an excellent thread, with a lot of very good information. Over the years, I have answered the same basic question many times. Considering what has been written above, and my experience over six Caminos, I can distill everything into a few “bullet points:”

- The pilgrim movement and accommodation process follows the “pig in the python” model.

- Adjust your walking pace and daily objectives to avoid “bunching up.”

- Do not arrive at a place where new pilgrims join the flow towards Santiago on a Friday or Saturday - or on a legal holiday. On the Camino Frances, these places include, for example: Saint Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, and Sarria.

- Imagine you are a surfer, sitting on your board beyond the breaking waves, waiting for the “right wave.” The equivalent on the Camino is waiting for the “trough” or low point between waves of pilgrims.

- The bottom line is to adjust your pace, and expectations to arrive at a place and time, either a day BEFORE or a day AFTER a large pilgrim cohort arrives.

In other words, be there when the other pilgrims are not. Simple - no?

I hope this helps,

Tom
 
Most of my suggestions are on previous threads, and there is a lot of good advice above. In particular, I was pleased and astonished to read:
I will put a plug in for the WisePilgrim app, which can format a WhatsApp message to send if you don't have the language skills to make an enquiry in person.
Wow! This is huge! Could @wisepilgrim put out an app for the Camino Madrid within the next month, please? :)

Doug also notes:
it [not pre-booking] is a high risk strategy before Pamplona at certain times of the year when that section of the CF becomes popular. I have experienced this at Easter and in early May. Others report that September is also risky.
It can also be risky towards the end of the Camino Frances, especially in July and August.

Booking accommodations (if one isn't using the Wise Pilgrim WhatsApp Helper) benefits from some knowledge of Spanish, as do the methods of coping if one hasn't booked and doesn't find beds where expected, like asking local Spaniards as good_old_shoes suggests:
f) If all fails, walk into a bar, have a nice drink, find out where the next place with a bed is, and get a taxi there.

g) Sometimes when talking to the locals or hospitaleros of the places that are 'completo', beds suddenly appear from nowhere ;-)
If one doesn't have the Spanish, befriending a Spanish pilgrim can also be helpful. :)

It's hard to find good advice to add to the great advice that is needed. I will just add, building on what Doug wrote in his post, that you may find that different strategies work in different stages of your Camino.

When I walked in July/August 2016 with my son I adopted a number of different strategies at different points. I started pre-booking the first couple of nights in Roncesvalles and Zubiri to give me that peace of mind when starting the Camino. I figured I'd have enough to worry about and learn without having to worry about finding accommodations, too. After a few days, I hoped I would hit my stride.

I didn't try to pre-book Pamplona, nor did I try and walk in and find accommodations there. It was during the San Fermines. I knew it would be full. Instead I adopted a different strategy of stopping 5 km before, at Trinidad de Arre.

After that, I abandoned pre-booking, for a long while without issues. This gave us the flexibility of finding out what daily distances worked for us by trial and error. We started off with shorter days (like the 15 km to Trinidad de Arre, the same to Zariequigui, and the same (with a detour to Eunate) to Puente la Reina. We gradually increased the distance daily walked to 25-30 km, but that proved too much for my son's feet. It became obvious that 20-25 was much better for us. Having that time to figure out what our preferred daily distance was very useful. However, things got a lot hairier as we got into Galicia. We entered Triacastela in the morning and the first four albergues we checked were full with bookings. We did find an albergue with room. But after that I started to book my preferred albergues (we tended to stay in private ones) a day or two in advance. We didn't feel hampered by this because we knew by then what a good distance was for us.

Similarly, for my 2018 Portugues, I used a variety of strategies. I booked the first night in Porto well in advance and the last night in Santiago a day or two in advance. The rest I didn't pre-book, with a couple of exceptions: one albergue I booked well in advance that I particularly wanted to stay at and that I knew filled up, and another in a village that I heard was hosting an event that might fill it up.

The message being: you don't have to pick a strategy and use it throughout your Camino. You can switch it up to whatever suits the moment.

As a final note: We've been hearing a lot in recent threads about how the crowds may be ruining the Camino Frances and make it difficult to walk in the idyllic ways of yesteryear. I certainly don't wish to re-open that discussion. But I think LTFit's recollection of her Camino Frances many years ago can provide an interesting counterpoint. If things don't go perfectly and you find yourself scrambling for accommodation, rather than thinking about it as something new and a fall from the Eden of yesteryear, you can instead think of it as experiencing what earlier pilgrims experienced.
8 of us slept in the entryway of the church. Outside. Without a sleeping bag or mat. From there on it was often necessary to sleep on the hard floor of gyms. Nice? Not really but there was no other option so you did it.
 
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One thing I would like to add to my post #19 is that in the end, it will not be that perfectly appointed albergue with individual electrical sockets and bed lamps that you will remember, but rather that simple albergue where you shared a wonderful communal meal, prepared and served with love (even though you had to sleep on thin mats on the ground rather than in a bed).

Or maybe you'll remember that special night when you got up at 3 a.m. and walked in the light of the moon to Santiago because you couldn't sleep through all the partying outside and the subsequent snoring by your pilgrim neighbor inside.

Reserve if you must but leave room for serendipity. That is often where magic happens.
 
I agree with this statement. This is a video (not very good but you get the idea) is a video I sent to my wife after walking up the hill from Castrojeriz. It is not the most fun walk early in the morning but walking up that hill especially as the sun is rising is spectacular.
View attachment 146470
The natural landscape is obviously different. Much starker than spring or late summer. especially on the Meseta. But there is a beauty and awesomeness to the Meseta during this time of the year. One wonderful aspect of walking in November on is you have a real opportunity to walk peacefully and alone for almost the entire day if you chose to. Since there are fewer albergues open there will still be ample opportunity to meet wonderful pilgrims at night to share stories, get to know, have great communal meals or go out and enjoy a night together eating dinner and chatting. It is still as beautiful and green in Galicia. Weather can be anything from one day to the next. But it is never too cold and thankfully never hot. A great time to walk.
November does indeed look like a great time to walk for all of the reasons you mention. Thank you for the vidéo. Buen Camino
 
The message being: you don't have to pick a strategy and use it throughout your Camino. You can switch it up to whatever suits the moment.
This is an excellent point from @David Tallan. Not relying on any one of the strategies others and I have outlined, but being able to pick one that best suits the circumstances at the time, is going to be far more flexible. More, and this might just be pop psychology, you reduce the risk of wasting your emotional and mental reserves if you can start doing something, almost anything perhaps, rather than starting to get angry and disappointed because you cannot find a bed where you are. Depending on how far you have walked and how difficult it might have been, you will be physically, emotionally and mentally drained. You don't need to add to that.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Good thread idea :)

I have walked the Frances twice in sections on 4 trips in Easter, august, Feb/ march and may/June (although I have walked the meseta 3 times!). 2013, 2020, 2022

I have noticed that if ppl are skipping a section, it tends to be the meseta that they skip. I love it it's my favourite bit (before the industrial end into Leon). I have always found the meseta (Burgos to Leon) a bit calmer, in all the different seasons
So for newbies with less time it may an easier start in Burgos over elsewhere.

Last year, because I now have long covid and asthma following COVID I restarted from Burgos to start in the flatter section of the Camino whilst I gained my pilgrim legs! And I found that doing this really eased me in. I was so glad I did because I ended up with a great pilgrim family that formed in the meseta. And by the time I reached the Cruz de ferro and o cebreiro I was stronger for the ascents.

So maybe if you have health problems and need a slow start to your pilgrimage, are anxious about beds, or have less time, a Burgos start could be for you x buen camino
 
For me, as others have said, staying in the “in between” places really helped.

Checking the Spanish holiday time table is also great advice above- I arrived in Sarria on the Sunday at the beginning of the Semana Santa week, after 700km of lovely quiet walking on the camino Francés. It was “an experience”…. In retrospect, I should have planned better….
User tip for the readers who don't already know, Easter is not on the same weekend each year. It moves according to a lunar calendar calculation (which I don't pretend to understand) so it pays to look up "Easter" with the desired year on the search engine of your choice on the internet, or possibly consult a written table if you know of one. This person arrived in Sarria on Palm Sunday that year, the start of the busiest time of Lent/Easter season.
Another thing to look out for is the "puentes"--the long weekends. It's possible to find no place in a big city because it's a long weekend, but if you get to a smaller place, you can sleep. Or ask the locals if they know of a place to stay.
 
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
One thing I'd also like to add is that there are not only seasonal waves, but there can be a wave within the day, too.

Often many pilgrims start around the same time of the day, maybe at 6/7/8 depending on time of the year. Breakfast at the albergue, then everyone leaves to walk. That creates a pilgrim wave that can make the way seem more crowded than it actually is.

On the other hand, if you avoid that wave it can feel less busy than it actually is.

Since most pilgrims start early and stop early, in the afternoon and evening you often walk almost alone, even during busy times.

When I walked Sarria-Santiago last august it was one giant conga line from about 6am-mid day. It felt like a pilgrim tsunami! But later in the afternoon and evening I saw almost no other pilgrims walking anymore and it was very quiet.

So if you have reservations at a place that acccepts a late arrival, that can also be a strategy.... sleep long... good breakfast ... start walking later, add a second breakfast and a good lunch... and then enjoy a relaxed afternoon and evening walk.

Or start very early before the wave if that's your thing and you're an early riser by nature (just make sure not to make too much noise if in a dormitory), then do some sightseeing, or smell the roses in a nice park midday or take a nap on a bench or in the grass while the big wave is rolling by, and continue later in the day when it is more quiet again...

For example, I arrived in Santiago very late last year. From maybe 3pm on there were basically no other pilgrims on the trail even though it was august and a holy year. It was a long but lovely last day. I arrived just in time to watch the amazing sunset in Monte do Gozo at the pilgrim statues for the first time, with only a handful of other people there, and walked through the city lights to the campsite (late check-in possible!) with a big smile on my face.

So, even when there are massive crowds, there can still be quiet moments or even hours to enjoy.
 

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Easter according to western church tradition is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after 21 March. What could be simpler? :)
Couldn’t be simpler really. 21 March is the Spring Equinox and that full moon which follows is the Paschal moon. All of which one could figure out by observation alone.

The Book of Common Prayer sets out (for the benefit of future Peregrinos), a ‘simple’ formula for calculating Easter in the future. During more tedious sermons I’m sure many of us have resorted to having a look at the appendices to the BoCP

 
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All great tips

I was on the Frances last week for three days 'bridging' between the VdlP and Invierno.

Sure it was busy. But I walked into Rabanal and was 2nd in line for the CSJ Donativo Albergue. It filled up gradually through the day but was not full.

Equally the big new Albergue in El Acebo the next day had lots of space. Well, at least a dozen spare beds.

I did hear from others of an earlier 'wave'. 92 Korean Pilgrims (I think it was Korean) traveling in a block and booking places up!

Solution. Get in front of, or drop off the back of, the wave. Rest day. Walk a longer day. Stop in intermediate places etc....

The Invierno is like the VdlP. Pilgrims few and far between.

I had that amazing Albergue at Villavieja all to myself!!
 
The Table of Kindred and Affinity is a personal favourite.
Oh yes, that’s a must-read. Although TBH I only go to evensong these days where we just stick to the script and avoid any sermons. Someone turned up with a guitar at the morning service about six years ago and some new form of text was adopted. I’m a bit of a traditionalist.
 
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I've copied and modified something I wrote in another thread, I hope that is okay?

For me (as someone who prefers to wing it and not make reservations), the easiest solution is to make sure that I don't end up in a place with no beds available. That simple. Sounds funny but has worked for me so far. Even during easter, even in summer on the last 100km, even during a holy year.

That's what I do:

a) Walk distances that allow me to still continue a bit further if necessary (I want to be able to add another 5-10km or so at the end of the day). So should there not be a bed in the town I wanted to stop in, I can still walk to the next one.

b) Stop midday or for a second breakfast in a town with a walk-in or "no reservations possible" albergue and lots of choice regarding accommodation in general. Ask myself, do I want to walk further today, or do I need a half/short/rest day? If I'm very tired I can just check into the albergue (first come - first served, so no problem if I arrive early). If I want to continue and walk a longer day,

c) Check that the next town is still within my preferred walking distance and that there are several albergues there, so that the likeliness of getting a bed there is high.

d) Check if shortly after that town (<5km), there's another albergue, just in case, or

e) If I want to be absolutely sure to have a bed in the village I intend to walk to, call and ask how busy they are and if possible make a reservation. This is a good solution especially if you want to walk a very long day and arrive late, if you know you'll be too exhausted to walk further to the next albergue/village, or if the village where you want to stop has only few beds and the next place is far away.

f) If all fails, walk into a bar, have a nice drink, find out where the next place with a bed is, and get a taxi there.

g) Sometimes when talking to the locals or hospitaleros of the places that are 'completo', beds suddenly appear from nowhere ;-)

h) If you only bring a silk liner for sleeping that reduces your options. So when walking during busy times, bring a light foam mat and a decent sleeping bag. If there's only room on the floor of a sports gym or fire station or in the albergue garden / on their terrace ect., that will be helpful (add a tarp or tent if you love camping and you also have campsites as extra option for accommodation. There are a few official ones, with warm showers and all, for example in St. Jean, not far from Roncesvalles, after Estella, in Castrojeriz, in Sarria, in Portomarin, in Arzua, in Santiago... some of them are quite luxurious and even have a pool and a bar/restaurant!).

Ect.

So. Keep in mind that sometimes you might need plan b-h) to find a bed, but usually there is one, or at least a spot on the floor ect.

Now with this wall of text it looks like a lot of effort, but this process usually takes about the amount of time that is needed to drink a coffee or a beer, depending on whether it's done during breakfast or lunch time.

Of course this kind of strategies are no guarantee to find accommodation. It's just what has worked for me, personally, so far. On the Francés and other routes as well.

For some people of course all this doesn't work, because of health reasons, need for private rooms and private bathroom ect. Then you can still make reservations.

In the end we all develop our own strategies I guess, and everybody has to find out for themselves what works for them and what doesn't.
Agree!
 
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Good thread. I think folks who walk the Camino and those who are ‘suppliers’ to it will definitely need to think ahead if they want both the practical side and the emotional side to be what they want!

I had never heard of the Camino five years ago until a colleague did it. Awareness seemed low. Now when I mention it, awareness seems to be very high. Very few people look blank! Speaking to some younger (and older) Europeans, this sort of trip plays well into their concerns around climate change (not wishing to fly) and also not wishing to ‘consume’ too much. Post Covid, folks seem to be focussing spend on pre experimental acticvies rather than material possession!

So I think folks need to prepare for a different future as I can really see numbers growing. It’s cheap, it’s easy, if can be done in a few days to a few weeks etc. and it fits right into consumer trends.
 
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I read most but skimmed some of the posts above (will go read them all later!), so I hope I'm not redundant. I started from SJPdP some years ago on May 1st during a Holy Year which was very busy.

First of all, I LOVED walking in the Spring. Lots of wildflowers and green fields. Storks on their nests. There were occasional boluses/waves of people, but I found if I took a break and let them pass me, or if I passed them while they were stopped at a cafe, I very often had the Camino all to myself with no one in view ahead or behind me. I usually winged it for accomodations, because I like to stop when I find a place I like, whether it is a longer or shorter distance from where I might have planned. If I was afraid of a bottleneck, I emailed or called ahead to book a room or bed so I wouldn't have to worry about it. That worked great.

Here is, I think, my most important advice for a number of reasons, but especially if you worry about finding accomodations. WALK ALONE. There is much, much more likely to be one bed available at an albergue than even two. I occasionally hooked up with another pilgrim or two on the trail and walked together for a bit, but I noticed that I missed so much of the beauty around me while walking with others. And alone, I learned to enjoy myself as company. There is a stark difference. Not to mention the fact that I like to take spontaneous breaks or speed ahead or go back and see something I wanted to see again or go back to get my walking poles I left at a bar 2K ago, without having to work this out with a walking partner who is faster, slower, doesn't want to wait for me, etc. I like to travel without such negotiations and compromises.

A friend of mine is on the CF and left Leon about a week ago. He said he did not find any problems with crowds and is winging it for accomodations the whole way.

Altreia!
Jill
 
ps - I did lose my temper once, in Portomarin when I settled into a bed in a quiet, empty albergue, and then shortly after was joined by a group of about a hundred Spanish teenagers - a school group walking to Santiago from Sarria. They were screaming, wrestling, having burping contests and more until late into the night. I confronted their chaperones/teachers, asking What Were They Thinking; bringing such a big group on the Camino?? Why weren't they supervising them better? Did they think of how it would impact the experience of other pilgrims?

And then, after I reached Santiago and was sitting on the plaza in front of the cathedral, I watched this group of teens arrive. Their teachers stopped them at the bottom of the tunnel where the bagpipes were playing. They gave a speech to the kids about the history of the Camino and about how now they were part of it. The teens were quiet, listening. It was a moving talk about what they all had accomplished. And then they led the group in a song as they broke out onto the plaza, singing and hugging. It was wonderful.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I walked into Zubiri last year, Sunday May 15th, at 16:30 and got a bed in the first albergue i knocked (the one on the right side after the bridge). Because people with reservations did not show up.
Later that day, i have been told, that the municipal did not fill till around 18:00.

The night before i had been sternly warned by "more experienced pilgrims" that if i had not at least booked everything till Pamplona i would be sleeping under the stars....

Apperently saying "screw it, i'm going to do it anyway" can be a strategy. It's a gamble, but it can work.
The Camino always provides.
 
When I walked Sarria-Santiago last august it was one giant conga line from about 6am-mid day. It felt like a pilgrim tsunami! But later in the afternoon and evening I saw almost no other pilgrims walking anymore and it was very quiet.

So if you have reservations at a place that acccepts a late arrival, that can also be a strategy.... sleep long... good breakfast ... start walking later, add a second breakfast and a good lunch... and then enjoy a relaxed afternoon and evening walk.

Absolutely my experience. We were in Sarria-Santiago zone the week before Palm Sunday, lots of young groups and other walkers. We left after 10 a.m. most mornings, having pre-booked lodging, and had wonderful, peaceful walks the whole way, occasionally pausing for a group to pass, but enjoying their energy and fellowship and appreciating the quiet after they'd moved along. May not work for everyone, but certainly another approach.
 
I am currently in an airport in the US on my way to Pamplona to start walking the Frances next Tuesday. I have booked all my accommodations in advance, some on Booking and some by email or WhatsApp. For those I booked via email or whatsapp, I have been getting messages from them confirming that I will be there. So it looks like places are being proactive to hopefully not have situations where people reserve beds and don’t show up.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
One thing I'd also like to add is that there are not only seasonal waves, but there can be a wave within the day, too.

Often many pilgrims start around the same time of the day, maybe at 6/7/8 depending on time of the year. Breakfast at the albergue, then everyone leaves to walk. That creates a pilgrim wave that can make the way seem more crowded than it actually is.

On the other hand, if you avoid that wave it can feel less busy than it actually is.

Since most pilgrims start early and stop early, in the afternoon and evening you often walk almost alone, even during busy times.

When I walked Sarria-Santiago last august it was one giant conga line from about 6am-mid day. It felt like a pilgrim tsunami! But later in the afternoon and evening I saw almost no other pilgrims walking anymore and it was very quiet.

So if you have reservations at a place that acccepts a late arrival, that can also be a strategy.... sleep long... good breakfast ... start walking later, add a second breakfast and a good lunch... and then enjoy a relaxed afternoon and evening walk.

Or start very early before the wave if that's your thing and you're an early riser by nature (just make sure not to make too much noise if in a dormitory), then do some sightseeing, or smell the roses in a nice park midday or take a nap on a bench or in the grass while the big wave is rolling by, and continue later in the day when it is more quiet again...

For example, I arrived in Santiago very late last year. From maybe 3pm on there were basically no other pilgrims on the trail even though it was august and a holy year. It was a long but lovely last day. I arrived just in time to watch the amazing sunset in Monte do Gozo at the pilgrim statues for the first time, with only a handful of other people there, and walked through the city lights to the campsite (late check-in possible!) with a big smile on my face.

So, even when there are massive crowds, there can still be quiet moments or even hours to enjoy.
This is very helpful advice! Thank you
 
I am currently in an airport in the US on my way to Pamplona to start walking the Frances next Tuesday. I have booked all my accommodations in advance, some on Booking and some by email or WhatsApp. For those I booked via email or whatsapp, I have been getting messages from them confirming that I will be there. So it looks like places are being proactive to hopefully not have situations where people reserve beds and don’t show up.
I have an email booking for September in a pinch point town. Have heard from the owner to confirm we are coming, as she said there have been many requests for the rooms. She asks us to reconfirm a few days before - extra work for us and for her, but understandable.
 
Try not to start on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and try to avoid the traditional "stages". Look out for holidays and festivals and try to avoid starting on these dates. You also don't have to start in SJPDP but could start in Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Logrono, etc. These places are easier to access from Madrid.

I am a volunteer hospitalera and I can say that our donativo albergues are often overlooked because they can't be reserved and people cannot ship their bags to these types if albergues. If you are winging it and carrying your own pack you may want to seek out these places. There are several on the Camino Francis and they are identified in gronze.com.
J. Willhaus- are you aware if there is a list consisting of ONLY donativos and municipals?
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
It is a loose list because they are run or staffed by different organizations. Some are donation based and others charge a small fee.On Gronze.com they will be identified as municipal, confraternity, parroquial, etc instead of private. FICS staffs 3 albergues on different routes. HOSVOL staffs about 18 on different routes. There are others who staff with volunteers from various countries or maybe someone local to the town. Many don't take reservations and therefore may be overlooked by the folks who book every night or want private rooms.
 
An overthought question.
Whether leaving early or late gauge what's going on around you. Early with a headlamp is good for prime things ahead but I found late mornings fitted in fine. Less people and more anonymity.
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Telling others (who are actually working hard to support and facilitate pilgrims) what they should do / must do / ought to do (imo) is not a usefull strategy when walking during busy times.

Besides, I think the people in the Pilgrim Office and Roncesvalles albergue (volunteers, by the way) may have other things to do than publishing daily statistics, particularly during busy times.

To remain within the subject of this thread, A strategy when walking in busy times may well include the realization that people working in albergues are busy as well.
Well, if these albergues are actually there to "help" pilgrims, they should think about doing it. And, I really don't care when they publish it. Perhaps they can publish it in the middle of the winter when they are doing nothing. This suggestion would help them fill their albergue when it isn't full and to eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people. It's a win for the albergues.
 
Well, if these albergues are actually there to "help" pilgrims, they should think about doing it. And, I really don't care when they publish it. Perhaps they can publish it in the middle of the winter when they are doing nothing. This suggestion would help them fill their albergue when it isn't full and to eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people. It's a win for the albergues.
Did you miss the part that most of these people are volunteers?

And how exactly can they "eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people?"
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Well, if these albergues are actually there to "help" pilgrims, they should think about doing it. And, I really don't care when they publish it. Perhaps they can publish it in the middle of the winter when they are doing nothing. This suggestion would help them fill their albergue when it isn't full and to eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people. It's a win for the albergues.
I have never understood your point here. The Camino routes do not have some central management structure that allows them to move pilgrims around to start and walk their camino in some well ordered way to match the supply of accommodation. I certainly cannot see how publishing ex post statistics is going to affect this in any day to day sense.

As for albergues doing nothing in winter, there are many that will be. They will have taken the opportunity to close for a few months, and won't have volunteers or others doing anything. The others that remain open will continue to be busy. Perhaps not as busy as in the summer, but working on keeping the albergue running nonetheless.
 
Did you miss the part that most of these people are volunteers?

And how exactly can they "eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people?"
No, I didn't miss the part about these people being volunteers.
Listen, these people compile the numbers anyway but the just don't
release them. I was on another thread like this where a volunteer
released two weeks worth of numbers from Roncesvalles just to show me if
I went two weeks earlier the numbers would have been much lower.

And that's how you eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people.
 
And that's how you eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people.
Oooh! Maybe there could be a centralized organizing body that issues permits for walking Camino. That way every available bed could be allotted.

Weirdly, if people see that the first 2 weeks of May are not busy, then people will all book the first two weeks of May, which would lead the next year recommending the last 2 weeks of May, lather-rinse-repeat. People go when they can get time off work or away from family, when their airline ticket deal allows, the date of that special anniversary, historic weather patterns, etc.

Until we establish time travel, we will always be running into busy periods. Or to put things another way "We're not in traffic, we are the traffic."
 
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No, I didn't miss the part about these people being volunteers.
Listen, these people compile the numbers anyway but the just don't
release them. I was on another thread like this where a volunteer
released two weeks worth of numbers from Roncesvalles just to show me if
I went two weeks earlier the numbers would have been much lower.

And that's how you eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people.
This is already happening to some (unmeasurable) extent with more people planning on starting in April than in prior years.
 
No, I didn't miss the part about these people being volunteers. Listen, these people compile the numbers anyway but the just don't release them. I was on another thread like this where a volunteer released two weeks worth of numbers from Roncesvalles just to show me if I went two weeks earlier the numbers would have been much lower. And that's how you eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people.
@isawtman, that's an interesting theory: that there would not be so many people walking on a certain day or in a certain week if albergues would invest in human resources and IT resources to release daily figures of occupation.

According to the link in your signature line, you walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles during the first week of September 2022 and did not get a bed because the Roncesvalles albergue was full, right? Did you not know beforehand that this could happen I wonder. It has been widely known for a good ten years at least that the first week of September is one of the busiest weeks of the year in the first sections of the Camino Francés - see copy of a forum post of May 2014 below. This fact is certainly known on this forum. It is repeated in the very first post of this thread. What is your explanation why prospective pilgrims don't inform themselves better and plan their departure date accordingly?

The two graphs shown below, posted in May 2014, refer to the numbers of pilgrims registered in the SJPP pilgrim office in the year 2013. Calendar week 36 has the highest weekly number. In 2013, week 36 was the week from Monday September 2 to Sunday September 8.

Post 2014.jpg
Source: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/how-many-people-start-the-camino-yearly-from-sjpp.26540/post-212250
 
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No, I didn't miss the part about these people being volunteers.
Listen, these people compile the numbers anyway but the just don't
release them. I was on another thread like this where a volunteer
released two weeks worth of numbers from Roncesvalles just to show me if
I went two weeks earlier the numbers would have been much lower.

And that's how you eliminate periods when the Camino has too many people.
I don’t know how the Camino is governed from a marketing / sales standpoint but filling the ‘off peak’ times is a challenge that faces many a tourist commercial organisation. It strikes me as a largely fixed cost business so any efforts to smooth the demand curve maybe a good idea!
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I don’t know how the Camino is governed from a marketing / sales standpoint but filling the ‘off peak’ times is a challenge that faces many a tourist commercial organisation. It strikes me as a largely fixed cost business so any efforts to smooth the demand curve maybe a good idea!
The regional Government of Galicia where the Camino Francés ends has invested many €€€'s into promoting their Caminos de Santiago in a way that pilgrims and other visitors are more spread out both geographically and seasonally, and they've had some success.

The regional Government of Navarre where the Camino Francés starts don't see an issue in this respect and say that there are more than enough beds for pilgrims and other visitors in the region at all times of the year.

First-time pilgrims expect, or are told to expect, a bed at any time of their choosing and in any place of their choosing, and it has to be cheap, too. This is a well-established narrative which causes disappointment for a few (relatively very few out of tens of thousands of pilgrims per year and on relatively few days out of the 365 days of the pilgrimage season) when they hit Roncesvalles on their first day and find that they have to walk on or take a taxi to find a bed a few kilometres away from Roncesvalles.
 
The regional Government of Galicia where the Camino Francés ends has invested many €€€'s into promoting their Caminos de Santiago in a way that pilgrims and other visitors are more spread out both geographically and seasonally, and they've had some success.

The regional Government of Navarre where the Camino Francés starts don't see an issue in this respect and say that there are more than enough beds for pilgrims and other visitors in the region at all times of the year.

First-time pilgrims expect, or are told to expect, a bed at any time of their choosing and in any place of their choosing, and it has to be cheap, too. This is a well-established narrative which causes disappointment for a few (relatively very few out of tens of thousands of pilgrims per year and on relatively few days out of the 365 days of the pilgrimage season) when they hit Roncesvalles on their first day and find that they have to walk on or take a taxi to find a bed a few kilometres away from Roncesvalles.
Good to hear! Sounds well managed. Well done to all concerned. I guess the litmus test is ‘occupancy level’, beds occupied vs avaiable beds,, or maybe revenue per bed occupied or revenue per available bed. Anyway sense there might be some ‘off peak opportunity’ but many will know better then me!
 
The target group (peregrin@s walking from SJPP to Pamplona) is only around 60,000 people annually where 75% are foreigners from outside Spain. I think that most of the regional promotion of Navarre is aimed at domestic tourists from Spain. They all find a bed. Just not everybody in Roncesvalles and in Zubiri on a few peak days of the year.
 
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Having red all the thread It would appear that this is getting over complicated. You arrive you walk, you may get a bed at your destination you may not. If you are worried then book ahead, I've always managed to find somewhere to sleep and I usually go in September, apart from when I was on the VDLP.
I think half the experience of the camino is the uncertainty, the other half is faith.
 
This is a 60+ posts thread that has been awoken from its slumber with a post about a suggestion or a demand for more detailed occupancy statistics.

It is January 2024 now and we are approaching the April / May 2024 season on the Camino Francés for those who intend to start from SJPP and Roncesvalles. Even if it were to happen that webpages will be built where albergues publish their daily occupation numbers and tourism actors change their publicity campaigns and target groups and this were to serve any practical purpose for prospective pilgrims ... it is not going to happen within the next two to three months of this year.

If this is your first time and it is all unfamiliar: Try to make the best of the tips at the beginning of this thread and adapt expectations about availability and occupancy rates of accommodation between SJPP and Pamplona and your strategies for the first three to four daily sections of the Camino Francés during the spring of 2024. You'll get the hang of it very quickly after your first few days on the pilgrimage road to Santiago. Buen Camino! 😊
 
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@isawtman, that's an interesting theory: that there would not be so many people walking on a certain day or in a certain week if albergues would invest in human resources and IT resources to release daily figures of occupation.

According to the link in your signature line, you walked from SJPP to Roncesvalles during the first week of September 2022 and did not get a bed because the Roncesvalles albergue was full, right? Did you not know beforehand that this could happen I wonder. It has been widely known for a good ten years at least that the first week of September is one of the busiest weeks of the year in the first sections of the Camino Francés - see copy of a forum post of May 2014 below. This fact is certainly known on this forum. It is repeated in the very first post of this thread. What is your explanation why prospective pilgrims don't inform themselves better and plan their departure date accordingly?

The two graphs shown below, posted in May 2014, refer to the numbers of pilgrims registered in the SJPP pilgrim office in the year 2013. Calendar week 36 has the highest weekly number. In 2013, week 36 was the week from Monday September 2 to Sunday September 8.

View attachment 162487
Source: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/how-many-people-start-the-camino-yearly-from-sjpp.26540/post-212250
I didn't see those graphs ahead of time. All I knew was September is one of the busiest months. I thought maybe that was because Americans came over on the Labor Day Weekend. So, if I went there before the Labor Day Weekend, I would be okay. If I would have seen those graphs ahead of time, I most likely would have started a week or two earlier. That being said, it would be great if they published that every year so you don't have to use 2013 numbers, and also so you can pick out any trends that are happening.
 
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This is a 60+ posts thread that has been awoken from its slumber with a post about a suggestion or a demand for more detailed occupancy statistics.

It is January 2024 now and we are approaching the April / May 2024 season on the Camino Francés for those who intend to start from SJPP and Roncesvalles. Even if it were to happen that webpages will be built where albergues publish their daily occupation numbers and tourism actors change their publicity campaigns and target groups and this were to serve any practical purpose for prospective pilgrims ... it is not going to happen within the next two to three months of this year.

If this is your first time and it is all unfamiliar: Try to make the best of the tips at the beginning of this thread and adapt expectations about availability and occupancy rates of accommodation between SJPP and Pamplona and your strategies for the first three to four daily sections of the Camino Francés during the spring of 2024. You'll get the hang of it very quickly after your first few days on the pilgrimage road to Santiago. Buen Camino! 😊
Still It would be great to see SJPP Pilgrim Office and Roncevalles numbers from last year so you can make an informed decision. But I still think my best advice is to book the first few days. Book St Jean/Orisson, Roncesvalles/Burguette, Zubiri/Larrasoana. Then if Zubiri/Larrasoana is all booked up on the night you are there, book Puente La Reina for the night after Pamplona. You usually don't have to book Pamplona unless there is some sort of festival going on.
 
I didn't see those graphs ahead of time. All I knew was September is one of the busiest months. I thought maybe that was because Americans came over on the Labor Day Weekend. So, if I went there before the Labor Day Weekend, I would be okay. If I would have seen those graphs ahead of time, I most likely would have started a week or two earlier. That being said, it would be great if they published that every year so you don't have to use 2013 numbers, and also so you can pick out any trends that are happening.
The point is, even if the graphs were published more often most people would probably not know about them - as you didn't.

And actually, the Facebook page for the Pilgrim Office in SJPdP does publish graphs and statistics throughout the year.

Screenshot_20240121_100555_Samsung Notes.jpg

FB_IMG_1705860682739.jpg
 
Still It would be great to see SJPP Pilgrim Office and Roncevalles numbers from last year so you can make an informed decision.
A little playing with the filters on the Santiago pilgrim office statistics pages will give you monthly arrival figures for those who named either place as their starting point. And as @trecile just pointed out the monthly departures from SJPDP for the past few years are also publicly available:
 
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It would be nice if they would publish the weekly departure statistics again for us statistics nerds. 🤓
If someone asks @Monasp nicely, perhaps they will publish weekly statistical data again? It might help a little bit to dispel the notion that the summer months are high pilgrim season in the SJPP to Pamplona area.

The SJPdP Pilgrim Office website used to have statistics, but I can't find that section.
They obviously made an attempt at redesigning their website ... I can't find their yearly statistics either but I found two weekly graphs from 2009 and 2010 that I had not seen before. The two peaks in May and September have been around for at least 15 years! For the historical data nerds amongst us:

SPPP weekly 2010.jpg
SJPP weekly 2009.jpg
 
It is interesting to see the peak in the 2009 and 2010 graphs around the beginning of August which has now disappeared. I guess it reflects the "aoûtiens" - a French expression for people who go on their summer holiday in August in contrast to those who go in July. I guess that there has been a shift in the weight of the various nationalities of the international pilgrim demographic starting in SJPP with the result that this peak is no longer visible.
 
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.
It is interesting to see the peak in the 2009 and 2010 graphs around the beginning of August which has now disappeared.
The earliest detailed figures I've seen were the ones from Roncesvalles in 1987 that you posted some years ago. Right at the start of the Camino revival. The peak months then were July and August - massively more than May or September. A very different demographic walking at that time. The largest age group being under-25s - students walking in vacation time. Much the same for my first Camino.

Screenshot_20240121_192908.jpg
 
My only point, which maybe I didn’t make very clearly, was that it would be interesting to know how occupancy can be increased in the off season. I have no personal concerns about getting a bed!

It a perishable product and whilst it’s nice to be in a half full dorm it’s not great for the owners. Airlines and hotels look to fill the ‘off peaks’ mainly by discounting which ain’t really an option for albergues.

Assume individual albergues do this all the same but was wondering if any work goes on at a collective level. Not really looking for an answer, just speculating as to desire or possibility to ‘smooth the peaks’ and make off season part of folks considerations.
 
just speculating as to desire or possibility to ‘smooth the peaks’ and make off season part of folks considerations.
A difficult thing to attempt. Partly because there is no overall authority managing the very diverse infrastructure of the Caminos. Nothing like the national trail system in some countries where permits are required and numbers controlled. Some of the factors which determine whether a particular time of year is "peak season" or "off season" are non-negotiable anyway: although the main walking season has been greatly extended in recent years weather in winter will always be a deterrent to walking for many. For younger pilgrims school and university vacation times are fixed and a limiting factor. Part of the explanation for the surprisingly large percentage of Korean pilgrims in midwinter.
 
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A difficult thing to attempt. Partly because there is no overall authority managing the very diverse infrastructure of the Caminos. Nothing like the national trail system in some countries where permits are required and numbers controlled. Some of the factors which determine whether a particular time of year is "peak season" or "off season" are non-negotiable anyway: although the main walking season has been greatly extended in recent years weather in winter will always be a deterrent to walking for many. For younger pilgrims school and university vacation times are fixed and a limiting factor. Part of the explanation for the surprisingly large percentage of Korean pilgrims in midwinter.
Thank you very much for responding. It was more an open question so good to get an informed view to how things are and the challenges. In many countries where governments or their agencies invest money on promoting tourism, the need to demonstrate a return to the ‘public’ is even greater than private companies, who have to just satisfy shareholders. I wasn’t sure if there was transparency around this. Thanks again.
 
Still It would be great to see SJPP Pilgrim Office and Roncevalles numbers from last year so you can make an informed decision. But I still think my best advice is to book the first few days. Book St Jean/Orisson, Roncesvalles/Burguette, Zubiri/Larrasoana.
I appreciate your feedback. I am just curious again: Were you aware of the fact that the beds at the Roncesvalles albergue can be booked and paid beforehand? I am asking because I think that this is a strong point of this forum: Sharing both individual first-hand experience and collective knowledge gained from individual experience and based on solid information from other sources.

There are occasionally news articles about pilgrim numbers at Roncesvalles in the regional Navarre press. Here is a link to the most recent one that I've seen (in Spanish): The Camino de Santiago season 2023 ends with 48,729 pilgrims in Navarre. The author quotes the manager of the albergue as saying that the albergue was "completo" from 1 September until the long Spanish weekend of 12 October: "We filled our 183 beds," says Mari Sol. I find this a little hard to believe, perhaps the author misunderstood something. Still, the fact remains, when significantly more than 200 pilgrims arrive on a peak day and want to sleep at the Roncesvalles albergue, a few of them can't be admitted and have to find accommodation elsewhere. As a first-time pilgrim who has never done "anything like this before", one can then embrace this as a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn Camino lessons or wish that one had known this earlier. :cool:
 
The author quotes the manager of the albergue as saying that the albergue was "completo" from 1 September until the long Spanish weekend of 12 October: "We filled our 183 beds," says Mari Sol. I find this a little hard to believe, perhaps the author misunderstood something.
Looking at the SJPDP statistics for last year that seems plausible to me. They recorded 10,132 pilgrims at the office in September. So an average close to 340 per day. Not all that many alternative places to stay around Roncesvalles and Burguete and they often tend to be a second choice for people who cannot find a bed in the Colegiata. If 300 people leave SJPDP then I would not be surprised to find 183 beds in Roncesvalles full that night.
 
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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.
With all the talk about what's not being done and what could be done ;), I had totally forgotten what is being done: The volunteer organisation that provides the hospitaleros for the Roncesvalles albergue does count pilgrims staying with them and some of their data are even on the net. Below is their graph for 2023. It shows number of pilgrims by fortnightly intervals. Nothing new, the graph merely confirms what is known: that early to middle of May and of September are peak season in the SJPP-Pamplona area.

Period 4: 21 April to 5 May
Period 5: 5-19 May
Period 14: 8-22 September
Roncesvalles 2023.jpg
 
Wow, on Sunday 4 September 2022, the Roncesvalles albergue had 178 reservations. (Their number of regular albergue beds is 183).

I am not quoting this to lament the changing times. I am saying it because I think that we ought to reflect sometimes more carefully on the advice that is given to new pilgrims.
 
Wow, on Sunday 4 September 2022, the Roncesvalles albergue had 178 reservations. (Their number of regular albergue beds is 183).
Yes around that time I had started and was told the gym in SJPDP was used a few times as the town was full. Most here advise newcomers to book the start and then not worry.

Like a few of us I think if we had access to the figures we could watch the snake of pilgrims move across the maps. Maybe in the future :p
 
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Yes around that time I had started and was told the gym in SJPDP was used a few times as the town was full.
I found my 1990 Camino diary recently. I reached Roncesvalles on 27 August (I had a false memory of it being earlier in the summer). At mass that night there were 7 priests, a congregation of 8, and 3 pilgrims including myself receiving a blessing. I have a vague memory of there being 9 of us in the dormitory that night but it might have been fewer. Place has changed a bit since....
 
I appreciate your feedback. I am just curious again: Were you aware of the fact that the beds at the Roncesvalles albergue can be booked and paid beforehand? I am asking because I think that this is a strong point of this forum: Sharing both individual first-hand experience and collective knowledge gained from individual experience and based on solid information from other sources.
I was aware that I could book at Roncesvalles prior to my first Camino in 2021. I do not remember whether I learned that through a forum or whether I googled available accommodation in Roncesvalles, but I filled out the form online and paid for my bed a few weeks in advance.
 
It is interesting to see the peak in the 2009 and 2010 graphs around the beginning of August which has now disappeared. I guess it reflects the "aoûtiens" - a French expression for people who go on their summer holiday in August in contrast to those who go in July. I guess that there has been a shift in the weight of the various nationalities of the international pilgrim demographic starting in SJPP with the result that this peak is no longer visible.
On a Camino FB page, someone reported that in response to an inquiry about booking, they were told that the particular albergue was closed in July because of climate change; specifically, that because of the hotter summers, fewer people were walking during those months. 🤷🏻‍♀️
 
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On a Camino FB page, someone reported that in response to an inquiry about booking, they were told that the particular albergue was closed in July because of climate change; specifically, that because of the hotter summers, fewer people were walking during those months. 🤷🏻‍♀️
I have seen similar reports from the Via de la Plata but not the Frances or the Portugues. Very high temperatures and water shortages can be a major factor on the route. And for safety reasons very few people walk it in summer.
 
I have seen similar reports from the Via de la Plata but not the Frances or the Portugues. Very high temperatures and water shortages can be a major factor on the route. And for safety reasons very few people walk it in summer.

This was an albergue in Villatuerta.
 
This report was from La Casa Mágica in Villatuerta, though their website still shows them as being open from March 20 to October 31.


And speaking of La Casa Mágica - I stayed there in 2017 and it was wonderful, then I understand that the albergue changed hands, and a friend who stayed there in 2019 had a slightly different experience. But I have heard that the management may be back to what it was in 2017. Does anyone know?
 
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