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Suggestions for a (slightly abbreviated) Camino del Norte?

Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (Sept 2020)
Hello fellow pilgrim walkers! I am guilty as charged of always trying to fit waaaay too much into a scheduled period of time. Hmmm. Whether it's that I'm an eternal optimist or that I never learn (yes Mum), guess I want to leave this earth living (and loving) life at 110%!

So my big question is that due to circumstances involving friends meeting us later on in our European foray from Australia, I now find myself having less time to complete the Camino del Norte. I am feeling totally blessed to have this time out to walk and think and just be in the moment, and the fact that my 18 yo son is keen to accompany me is still somewhat of a surprise (but a delight) nevertheless.

We are planning on leaving San Sebastian on 15 August 2020 with an expected arrival date into SdC on the 16th September. If I'd had my druthers, this would have been walked in the Sept/Oct period, with an extra week or so to complete it. Anyway, that's not to be, and this is the time we have, so...........can those more travelled than myself please give some advice on how we can make the most of the time we do have, but accepting we may have to miss out one or two sections along the way?

I have a love of the sea and good food (and wine), my son is a mountains boy/man. We'll be reasonably fit but am not wanting this to be a Race to Santiago de C. Rather I want to really make the most of this gift of time that my family have supported me to have and to be able to stop and peer into farmyards and gardens, check out the flora and fauna, AND talk with fellow travellers along the way too!

So how can we best do this please? Thank you.
 

spursfan

Veteran Member
The Norte is pretty quiet (and certainly in contrast to the Frances) - and even walking 25km or so per day will give you plenty of time to smell the flowers - the bed race is less severe as well though there will be lots of locals surfing during the first few days
 

Don Camillo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 04-16
Norte/Primitivo 09-16
VdlP/ Sanabres 02/3-17
Levante 09/17,
Ruta de la Lana 09/18
For what it is worth. You have 30 days from San Sebastian. Have you considered walking the Norte along the coast and then heading inland along the Primitivo ? I have looked at my diary for when I did this. I took 28 days from Irun with only a couple of 30 klm day's. If you are starting from San Sebastian that will leave you at least a couple of days spare.
The Way split's at Pola de Siero about 5klm past Villavicosia and heads up into the hill's. I took the "Hospital" route just after Tineo and there is certainly some height to be gained with great far reaching views. You also get to visit Oviedo and Lugo which is a plus. At the time I found that there was a forum consensus that by doing half of the Norte and then the Primitivo the best of coastal and mountain scenery could be combined. I felt the balance was right but of course there is the unfinished business of going back and completing the Norte that I missed.
Whatever you decide, Buen Camino.
Don
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (Sept 2020)
For what it is worth. You have 30 days from San Sebastian. Have you considered walking the Norte along the coast and then heading inland along the Primitivo ? I have looked at my diary for when I did this. I took 28 days from Irun with only a couple of 30 klm day's. If you are starting from San Sebastian that will leave you at least a couple of days spare.
The Way split's at Pola de Siero about 5klm past Villavicosia and heads up into the hill's. I took the "Hospital" route just after Tineo and there is certainly some height to be gained with great far reaching views. You also get to visit Oviedo and Lugo which is a plus. At the time I found that there was a forum consensus that by doing half of the Norte and then the Primitivo the best of coastal and mountain scenery could be combined. I felt the balance was right but of course there is the unfinished business of going back and completing the Norte that I missed.
Whatever you decide, Buen Camino.
Don
Thank you Don, I had been wondering about this option. Must say the Primitivo draws me, but thought it might be more challenging physically and also fewer pilgrims along the way to meet. While I’m very happy not to be walking with hordes of people, think the social side of the Camino will appeal to my 18 yo son. I need to start poring over a few maps and improve my Spanish too!
 

Don Camillo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 04-16
Norte/Primitivo 09-16
VdlP/ Sanabres 02/3-17
Levante 09/17,
Ruta de la Lana 09/18
From memory there were a couple of initial coastal climbs on the Norte which you will avoid starting in San Sebastian. The "Hospital" route was a slog but remember you will already have walked yourself fit by the time you reach that stage. The height at the top where it crosses over the road is akin to "high fell" walking in the UK ( I know that comparison is no good to you in Oz but cannot think of anything similar that you have - Blue Mountains maybe without the tree's). There is an alternative road walk but you still have to climb the ascent at the end to re join the route. The only thing about walking the high route is that you will have to plan carefully as a. unless you intend sleeping out (I did) you may find yourself without an albergue and b. If the weather closes in you will need GPS on your phone plus backup compass/map to stay on correct path.
Pilgrim numbers on both routes were reasonable but I do recall that the albergue in Lugo was full as were a couple of others. But on the Way itself much less crowded than the Frances and I seldom saw other pilgrims during the day which is how I prefer it as well.
You are so fortunate to be planning to walk with your son, what a shared experience and memory you will both have.
Last observation. I used a well known guide for the walk which I found to be inaccurate in places and in one place dangerous. It advises "to do as the locals do and" cross a railway bridge just west of Santander instead of taking a long detour. I saw that there was indeed a path along the track but strongly advise against is as pilgrims v trains is an unequal contest even if you have St James on your side. Wait for the train it is only one stop and they probably will not even collect your fare. I have posted on the walk and this guide previously on the forum.
OSMand on Google play will enable you to download walking map which should allow you to highlight the camino's, it will give you location as well plus is free.
Don.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte Sept 2013
Camino del Norte Sept 2014
Camino del Norte 2015,16,17,18
If you just carry on with El Note where this goes inland is also very rewarding. I didn't keep any notes about time frame but it's a lovely walk but less rugged and challenging than the Primitivo option I believe
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte 10, Primitivo 13, Plata 14+15, Salvador 16, Torres 17, Portugues 18, Mozarabe 19
If you just carry on with El Note where this goes inland is also very rewarding. I didn't keep any notes about time frame but it's a lovely walk but less rugged and challenging than the Primitivo option I believe
I too stayed on the Norte and loved it. Somewhere on this forum (in resources maybe?) Peregrina2000 researched and published a number of alternatives close to the sea where the Norte meanders inland. I hope to follow this one year....

Buen camino whatever you chose!
 

Jan_D

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones (2011)
Frances (2012)
Norte (2013, 2014)
Hospitalera (2014)
Portugues (2017)
Thank you Don, I had been wondering about this option. Must say the Primitivo draws me, but thought it might be more challenging physically and also fewer pilgrims along the way to meet. While I’m very happy not to be walking with hordes of people, think the social side of the Camino will appeal to my 18 yo son. I need to start poring over a few maps and improve my Spanish too!
Just remember that by the time you reach the Primitivo you will have walked hundreds of kms already, and you will definitely be fit enough for the challenge! You will love the Norte, and the Primitivo. Although I really disagree with the idea that it's "less of a bed race" on the Norte. Yes, there are fewer pilgrims, but there is also also far less pilgrim accommodation. There's frequently only one pilgrim albergue per stage, and they're not always the biggest albergues either. The north coast of Spain is very popular with tourists and surfers, so the economy doesn't 'need' pilgrims in the same way as on some of the other caminos, hence options are more limited. In fact, some 'major' stops like San Sebastian and Ribadesella don't have pilgrim albergues at all! I remember this summer quite a few people were posting on the forum that they were having trouble finding beds on the Norte and Primitivo. I really don't mean to put you off - I personally go back to walk stretches of the Norte whenever I can as I am completely in love with this path - but you need to know that accommodation can be an issue on this route, especially in August when all the tourists flock to the coast.
 

Luisa Marie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte / Primitivo Sept-Oct 2017
Camino del Norte (2020)
Prior to our Norte/Primitivo Camino in Sept/Oct 2017, I read several blogs and books that seemed to suggest that walking into and through the larger cities was “jarring”, compared to the walk on trails where you hear the rustling of the leaves, cow bells (and “moo’s”), birdsong, babbling brooks, and church bells. We decided to jump ahead to skip Bilbao, Santander, and Gijon in order to make more time to spend with my Spanish Basque family in Markina. We loved Oviedo and Lugo on the Primitivo and were glad that we didn’t pass those smaller cities by. On our next Camino (Sept/Oct 2020) we will do the entire Camino del Norte, including the cities. Our first experience was excellent, and we didn’t miss being in the larger cities at all.
 

Sandra Riordan

Hobart Australia
Camino(s) past & future
Francis 2015, Portuguese 2016, El Norte 2017 & VDLP 2019.
Thank you Don, I had been wondering about this option. Must say the Primitivo draws me, but thought it might be more challenging physically and also fewer pilgrims along the way to meet. While I’m very happy not to be walking with hordes of people, think the social side of the Camino will appeal to my 18 yo son. I need to start poring over a few maps and improve my Spanish too!
I always think it’s difficult to skip parts of a walk because I feel cheated. I loved Norte and would be happy to meet and discuss options I also live in Tassie.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
For what it is worth. You have 30 days from San Sebastian. Have you considered walking the Norte along the coast and then heading inland along the Primitivo ? I have looked at my diary for when I did this. I took 28 days from Irun with only a couple of 30 klm day's. If you are starting from San Sebastian that will leave you at least a couple of days spare.
The Way split's at Pola de Siero about 5klm past Villavicosia and heads up into the hill's. I took the "Hospital" route just after Tineo and there is certainly some height to be gained with great far reaching views. You also get to visit Oviedo and Lugo which is a plus. At the time I found that there was a forum consensus that by doing half of the Norte and then the Primitivo the best of coastal and mountain scenery could be combined. I felt the balance was right but of course there is the unfinished business of going back and completing the Norte that I missed.
Whatever you decide, Buen Camino.
Don
I walked the first half of the Norte in 2016 before turning on to the Primitivo, and loved the variety. I finally head back to Oviedo this coming April to complete the Norte and will add walking on to Muxia and Finesterre... Can't wait!
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Thank you Don, I had been wondering about this option. Must say the Primitivo draws me, but thought it might be more challenging physically and also fewer pilgrims along the way to meet. While I’m very happy not to be walking with hordes of people, think the social side of the Camino will appeal to my 18 yo son. I need to start poring over a few maps and improve my Spanish too!
The Primitivo in August will likely have more pilgrims than the second half of the Norte in August. The Primitivo is by no means empty. It never feels crowded when you are walking, but there are bottlenecks, and the Grado albergue reports being full soon after opening much of the time.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
The Primitivo in August will likely have more pilgrims than the second half of the Norte in August. The Primitivo is by no means empty. It never feels crowded when you are walking, but there are bottlenecks, and the Grado albergue reports being full soon after opening much of the time.
I agree. I haven't done the Primitivo yet, but when I did the Norte, lots of pilgrims took the Primitivo rather than continue on the Norte. Add those who start the Primitivo in Oviedo, and I can imagine that it was busier than continuing on the Norte.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (Sept 2020)
I always think it’s difficult to skip parts of a walk because I feel cheated. I loved Norte and would be happy to meet and discuss options I also live in Tassie.
Yes please Sandra, we live south of Hobart in the Huon, so mebbe we can catch up over January sometime when things quieten down. I just love to look at OP’s travel photos too, it certainly fuels the anticipation!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte (Sept 2020)
Hmmm, thanks everyone for your many suggestions! I have bought a large map today and will continue to read as much around this topic over the next few months. Luckily we can be flexible in terms of accommodation but would prefer to spend most nights sharing with other pilgrims if at all possible. And yes Don Camilo, I am feeling very blessed my boy wants to be part of this journey. Think his Camino may be quite different from mine though, and that’s just fine! If things go well, my partner will be there to meet us in SdC. Makes me feel emotional just thinking about it 😊
 

CarpenterApprentice

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte planned for 2020
This blog has given me much to think about. I am planning to do my first camino starting in mid-April 2020. My thoughts were to do the Camino del Norte, since I would prefer some solitude while walking.

Those of you who have more experience, what are the challenges of starting in mid April? Weather? Closed albergues? Access to food and water? At 72, I am not planning to sleep outside under a tarp.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte and Frances Sept 6 - Oct 11, 2016
Just remember that by the time you reach the Primitivo you will have walked hundreds of kms already, and you will definitely be fit enough for the challenge! You will love the Norte, and the Primitivo. Although I really disagree with the idea that it's "less of a bed race" on the Norte. Yes, there are fewer pilgrims, but there is also also far less pilgrim accommodation. There's frequently only one pilgrim albergue per stage, and they're not always the biggest albergues either. The north coast of Spain is very popular with tourists and surfers, so the economy doesn't 'need' pilgrims in the same way as on some of the other caminos, hence options are more limited. In fact, some 'major' stops like San Sebastian and Ribadesella don't have pilgrim albergues at all! I remember this summer quite a few people were posting on the forum that they were having trouble finding beds on the Norte and Primitivo. I really don't mean to put you off - I personally go back to walk stretches of the Norte whenever I can as I am completely in love with this path - but you need to know that accommodation can be an issue on this route, especially in August when all the tourists flock to the coast.
I loved the Norte and Ribadesella does have a very nice slbergue
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I loved the Norte and Ribadesella does have a very nice slbergue
When were you in Ribadesella? There was no pilgrim Albergue there in 2018. What had been the albergue was a hostel with a surf school, and fully booked in the summer months.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte and Frances Sept 6 - Oct 11, 2016
When were you in Ribadesella? There was no pilgrim Albergue there in 2018. What had been the albergue was a hostel with a surf school, and fully booked in the summer months.
I just reviewed my notes and it was Ribadesella and I had a pilgrim's dinner at the albergue on the beach. Perhaps it was a private one but it was definately an albergue and very nice. I wish I had stayed there but the taxi that took my backpack didn't go there and I was stuck in a lousy hotel
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I just reviewed my notes and it was Ribadesella and I had a pilgrim's dinner at the albergue on the beach. Perhaps it was a private one but it was definately an albergue and very nice. I wish I had stayed there but the taxi that took my backpack didn't go there and I was stuck in a lousy hotel
Was this the place?


It was in a lovely location right on the boardwalk.
Perhaps the surf school books certain weeks in the summer and fills it up. According to Gronze.com they don't take reservations in July and August, and they don't accept backpack deliveries.
 


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