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Solitude, flexibility, & budget on the Camino?

2020 Camino Guides

wildek

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spring/Summer 2020
I will be walking the Camino this year starting May 10th. I am having difficulty deciding between Frances & Norte and would love some insight.

Considerations --
-I have been feeling a deep need for solitude (for at least a portion of the walk), and I believe the Frances is very busy? (maybe only for the last 100km? I will be on this busy stretch in mid-June... Oh no!)
-I am on a budget. Is there better access to municipal albergues on the Frances? (will the Norte albergues be open in May?)
-I would prefer not to book any accommodation ahead of time, and expect that I might be having a late start in the mornings.

I have been leaning towards the Norte because it is on the coast (I would love to be by the sea), but it sounds like it might be much more expensive/difficult to find accommodation.

See you on the path.
 

martin1ws

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Somport to Finisterre Jul-Aug 2018
For thinking about budget and albergues, you can have a look here:
-> Choose Camino -> Etapa with albergues & cost

For thinking about solitude & pilgrim statistics you can have a look here:
-> By Month & Frances or By Month & Norte

If you want to do the Frances and not like the many pilgrims after Sarria, you can choose the Camino Frances and then the Camino de Invierno (starting in Ponferrada).
 
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CdnDreamer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (12, 15 & 18) San Salvador (18), Portuguese (19)
On the Frances you may find solitude if you are leaving later in the mornings. It depends how many people are staying about 5 to 10 km behind you. You mention that you may leave late - as long as you know that the albergues usually kick you out by 8 am. I liked to leave between 7 and 7:30 in the morning and sometimes I was the last person out of the albergue. I had a lot of days where I could walk alone on the Frances and hardly see anyone.

And with regards to cost, the Frances is probably cheaper than the Norte.

If you want cheap by the sea, consider the Portugues trail out of Porto, along the ocean. It was a beautiful walk, and I had no problems finding a place to stay. I walked that route June 2019.

Have fun planning but when you start walking let go of the plans and just let the walk happen. Buen Camino!
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19, '20)
Having done both, I'm going to suggest that you may be better off on the Francis, although, given the nature of Pilgrimage, it really will not matter too much in the end.

You are walking during high season, so pilgrim accommodations will be busy, period. Your desire for late starts and no prebooking will mean that you may find yourself looking for a place to sleep in a full albergue, and needing to make alternate plans. You always will, nobody dies from a lack of beds, but the Francis has far more options at lower cost than the Norte, which has plenty of tourist accommodations but at higher prices. The locals on the Norte are pretty oblivious to pilgrims, whereas on the Francis, finding a pilgrim a bed is a daily task they seem to take care of like feeding the dog. Walking to the next town nearly always works on the Francis, but on the Norte, the next town with a pilgrim albergue might be 20 km away, rather than 5 km.

Its true that there are many times more pilgrims on the Francis than the Norte, but on the other hand, the Norte has a lot more locals, and is more densely populated. The Norte is loaded with day hikers, picnics and joggers rather than pilgrims. Either way, solitude is easy to find during the walk. Headphones will work every time. Particularly if you are a late starter, you will find the road to be empty. It is the evenings where the Norte is more likely to leave you in peace. On the Francis, every accommodation, bar, and cafe will have fellow pilgrims to greet you, whether you welcome that or not.

Every bar on the Francis serves a "Pilgrim Dinner" every night at 7 pm. It gets monotonous, but with a 10-12 euro price with all the bread you can eat and all the wine you can drink, a fabulous value. Not so much on the Norte, where the food is much, much better, but generally more expensive as well. You learn to eat your main meal (menu del dia) at lunch like the Spanish do, and dinner is a lighter affair rather than waiting for the restaurants to open at 9 pm.

Buen Camino
 

sugargypsy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2019
In progress: CP 2020 and/or CI
I will be walking the Camino this year starting May 10th. I am having difficulty deciding between Frances & Norte and would love some insight.
I walked the Frances last year, can only tell you about that, started May 22nd.

Since I'm not an early riser as well, I usually left around 8, walked anything between 4 to 7 hours and I always found a place to sleep.

Starting late in the morning and being a slow walker also meant that around 10 to 11 a.m. most of the pilgrims had passed me that day and I was very much on my own ;) - till Sarria. From there on, if you want to avoid crowds - though the path is quite nice - keep @martin1ws suggestion in mind, switching to the Invierno in Ponferrada.

I ususally stopped around 3 or 4 p.m.. I seldomly booked ahead, ususally only, when I send my backpack ahead.

I did not stay though very often at the "suggested" stages Brierly or other travel guides recommend - there you might get problems getting a bunk at the first albergue. But you will find a bunk in next or third albergue, price difference between municipals 6 / 7€, private albergues around 10 € till Sarria -, ususally I just stayed somewhere inbetween. Which was in terms of busyness in the evenings a good choice for me, since I too needed some solitude.

Since you're on a budget: After my camino, I added up costs and they averaged between 20 and 30 euros a day for accomodation, meals plus my daily iced coke zero :D.
 

thejoker

Member
Camino(s) past & future
many
I've walked the Frances in busy periods of the year, but you can hugely minimize the crowds by staying in little villages away from the book end stages. Doing this can feel a bit strange in that you start the day in a lovely peaceful village and then often tend to head into a built up area, before leaving again for the serenity of your night's sanctuary. However, by the time you get into a town by about 10 am or so, any church or museum etc that looks interesting is open, and again you are visiting them with very few other pilgrims around as they won't roll into town for at least a couple of hours, just after you've left.
It also can be quite funny to come across a cafe that has obviously had a herd of elephants passing through it a while earlier as the place is still being put back together again.
Even in Summer, the Camino Frances can feel quite solitary, if you plan it carefully.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2 Camino Frances, next: April 2020 Primitivo
The couple "Stingy Nomads", Anya and Campbell, have a great video (actually many!) in YouTube about budget of 20, 30 or 40 euros per day on camino: "Camino de Santiago cost". You'll get valuable hints from their videos 😊
 
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Delphinoula

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino PdC 2018 Finisterre Muxía 2018
C Franconia 2019
Camino desde Algeciras Sevillia (2019)
I know what you mean with solitude and needing it. So I thought beforehand of a couple of phrases that would be kind but although would set limits. Like I see you have a different pace than if fates smiles we will meet in the next bar town live...
About masses as l would look when the tourist season start, because the price reflect the times of most influx. Since Spaniards put the Camino in their bio the last 100 km are often full with school kids. Holy Week is such a time. And as nicer the whether is as more people feel like walking. August is the Holiday month in France, but August if I remember right from my time living in the south of Spain is more for desert walkers.
i would not worry it is what it is. Have hiked in the Santander area it’s lovely there greener and more proned to rain.
 

MichaelF4

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese Coastal 2017
Camino Frances 2018
Camino Frances, Camino Invierno 2019
For thinking about budget and albergues, you can have a look here:
-> Choose Camino -> Etapa with albergues & cost

For thinking about solitude & pilgrim statistics you can have a look here:
-> By Month & Frances or By Month & Norte

If you want to do the Frances and not like the many pilgrims after Sarria, you can choose the Camino Frances and then the Camino de Invierno (starting in Ponferrada).
I wouldn't reccomend the Invierno to a first timer.
 

MichaelF4

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese Coastal 2017
Camino Frances 2018
Camino Frances, Camino Invierno 2019
The Frances has more infrastructure and won't be terribly busy until the last few days. I would highly recommend that you get up early and walk as early as possible. It is not advisable to walk portions of the Camino in the heat of the afternoon. There is siesta for a reason.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
I would just suggest that you leave later. Most of the herd tends to leave about the same time (i.e. relatively early). This might have force the need to reserve ahead a bit, but I think you'll find the solitude that you wanted. And if you don't feel the need for solitude just leave with everybody else. Either way, I'm sure you will find what you want. These walks always tend to supply what you want and perhaps, even better, supply what you need.
 

Felice

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
Even after Sarria, you can still get solitude if you don't leave early with the herd. It all depends on how hot it is in the afternoon and how well you can cope with it. In late Sept, I walked into Palas de Rei in the late afternoon having seen no-one all afternoon. But the temperature for walking was ideal so I was quite happy to do this. Earlier in my walk at the beginning of September, I nearly got heatstroke walking from Los Arcos to Torres del Rio in the very early afternoon, it was just so hot.

I see you're starting on May 10th, so it's going to be getting warmer as you go westward. To begin with, there's a strong possibility that the weather will be absolutely fine to start late and arrive late, but for the first few days, at least until after Pamplona, you really ought to reserve in advance if you plan to arrive late as there are bottle necks for accommodation in that section. I'm starting on May 12th, and I have my accommodation sorted as far as Pamplona as I ease gently into the camino once again!
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
I will be walking the Camino this year starting May 10th. I am having difficulty deciding between Frances & Norte and would love some insight.

Considerations --
-I have been feeling a deep need for solitude (for at least a portion of the walk), and I believe the Frances is very busy? (maybe only for the last 100km? I will be on this busy stretch in mid-June... Oh no!)
-I am on a budget. Is there better access to municipal albergues on the Frances? (will the Norte albergues be open in May?)
-I would prefer not to book any accommodation ahead of time, and expect that I might be having a late start in the mornings.

I have been leaning towards the Norte because it is on the coast (I would love to be by the sea), but it sounds like it might be much more expensive/difficult to find accommodation.

See you on the path.
I have walked both and since I eat alot of my meals in albergues usually with some others I really didn't see much of a difference in prices. I think there is better food on the Norte, especially if you like seafood. I found plenty of cheap restaurants that were local that I ended up paying about the same as I would pay on the Frances.
If you like the seaside you will definitely not be disappointed. The Norte is more difficult especially at the beginning than the CF. I walked it in late September and got to Santiago about October 30th. There were lots of people walking but not even close to the numbers on the CF which I had walked twice before at about the same time of year. I never had a problem finding an albergue at all. Early on places were filling up but as I would start about 7 or 7:30 I never had a problem. Without a doubt there is more infrastructure on the CF compared to any other route.
I found, at least when I walked, more people seemed to prefer to walk alone than in "families" or groups. But that is just my singular observation. On my camino I found less people, even young ones who were doing much partying or staying up late and coming into albergues drunk. In fact I can never remember experiencing that. There were always people to meet at night and have wonderful dinners with. Some of my most memorable moments were meeting pilgrims along the route, sitting on some rocks on the cliffs and sharing lunches from the food we both brought as we sat peacefully, chatting and laughing and soaking up some of the most spectacular scenery you can imagine.
One other difference I did find on MY camino was that as we got to large cities people would drop out because of time constraints but very few new people would be starting. This is very different from the CF.
One last observation, when I walked and we got to the split with the Primitivo a large majority of the walkers chose to go on the Primitivo, My last part of the camino after the split was spent in almost constant solitude. I saw very few pilgrims during the day. Some days none at all. At night it was usually no more than about 5 or 6 pilgrims in the albergue. I definitely spent a few nights completely alone. For me this was fine. I like the solitude especially after walking 5 or 600K. I didn't start to see more pilgrims until we were at that magic 100K mark but nothing compared to what you see when you get to Sarria. You do not experience the CF crowd until the second to the last day when you get to Arzua. It is a wonderful experience going on the Norte. But be ready for lots of up and downs the first couple of weeks. You can count on a big hill up every morning and a big hill down every afternoon with smaller ones in between those first 10 days of so.
 

Terry Callery

Chi Walker
Camino(s) past & future
"Portuguese Camino - In Search of the Infinite Moment" Amazon/Kindle books authored
"Slow Camino"
You can avoid the traffic and crowds on the Route Frances by taking the "Winter Route" or Invierno option from Ponferrada into Santiago de Compostela.
That way you avoid the last 100 km on the Frances from Sarria which is the worst section of the Frances in terms of crowds.
I found that the more money I spent, the more solitude I purchased. So I stayed in the higher end pensions, 2-3 star hotels and even a few Paradores. Also stopping in between the suggested daily sections will reduced the number of pilgrims that you trip over.
When you consider that breakfast buffet, laundry (sometimes) and towels and sheets are all not extras that you pay another 15-18 Euros for when staying at the "less expensive" albergue, then the higher end options do not seem that much more expensive.
 

Bob from L.A. !

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Having done both I found the Norte to have much more solitude. There were times when I didnot see another Pilgrim for 2-3 days at a time. One other thing to consider though is if you decide on the Norte be prepared for many more steep and rocky hills along the way.
 

Christopher Hegan

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugese Camino (March 2014)
I have walked both, and I must say I found the Norte slightly dispiriting as compared to the Francès, for two reasons. A lot of the way consists of serial 'ballotas', a word that specifically describes a descent to a beach or waterfront town and a stiff climb out again. You might do this six or seven times in one day; I found it tough and I am a seasoned walker. However, the beaches and estuaries are unquestionably beautiful. It's just that I come from New Zealand and beaches are as familiar to me as bread and cheese.
The other more abstract drawback, purely from a personal point of view, is that on the Francès I felt very much the sense of walking an ancient spiritual way, with several very special points like the Cruz de Ferro and O Cebreiro where I really felt so connected to the centuries of pilgrimages that I was retracing. On the Norte it felt much more like just a long walk from village to village to town.
Having said that, there are some spectacular moments - Luarca, the fishing town hanging from cliffs, for example. After you turn south to join the Francès a long hard climb is rewarded with some amazing places.
Take your pick, I guess. I plan to walk my fourth Camino in the next month or so and I'm going back to the Francès
 
Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
radekorion Miscellaneous Topics 4
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OLDER threads on this topic
transformation in solitude
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