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Tips for Avoiding a Crowded Start Date on Camino Frances

Paynefive

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2023
Should I start the Camino Frances at the end of August or push it to mid September? I’m planning to walk from SJPP to Santiago this year and need to be back in the US by October 17, but am flexible with my start date. I understand the crowds are supposed to be large and am wondering if anyone has some insight about less crowded days of the week or times of the month to begin? Thanks in advance for any advice!
 
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Are you starting from St Jean? If you are I’d push it back to mid September to allow the Sarria to Santiago stretch time to clear. More of you will be starting there as @J Willhaus correctly says; but there are far larger numbers starting much closer to Santiago in September.
 
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Are you starting from St Jean? If you are I’d push it back to mid September to allow the Sarria to Santiago stretch time to clear. More of you will be starting there as @J Willhaus correctly says; but there are far larger numbers starting much closer to Santiago in September.
Yes, I will start in St Jean. I’m giving myself about 40 days loosely for walking and travel. My totally unfounded guess is that more people choose to start things on the 1st and Mondays if those are options, so Tuesday, August 29, could be a less crowded choice? I do realize there is no real way of knowing but possibly some history of what’s typical!
 
My totally unfounded guess is that more people choose to start things on the 1st and Mondays if those are options,
Funny you say that ... I don't imagine there are statistics available for that ... maybe? But I can give you a sample of ONE from which you can extrapolate ... well, nothing. I like to start on the 1st of the month. It has not always been possible but if I look back on my caminos, I have often started on the 1st of the month! I could say it helps me keep track of the date / number of days I've been walking but that would be embarrassing, right? We will also be heading back to the Frances this year - after an absence of 10 years - but not until late October. Buen Camino.
 
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Funny you say that ... I don't imagine there are statistics available for that ... maybe? But I can give you a sample of ONE from which you can extrapolate ... well, nothing. I like to start on the 1st of the month. It has not always been possible but if I look back on my caminos, I have often started on the 1st of the month! I could say it helps me keep track of the number of days I've been walking but that would be embarrassing, right? We will also be heading back to the Frances this year - after an absence of 10 years - but not until late October. Buen Camino.
Haha! I feel certain that losing track of time is one of my goals so starting before or after the first or a Monday could help me accomplish that immediately!
 
Yes, I will start in St Jean. I’m giving myself about 40 days loosely for walking and travel. My totally unfounded guess is that more people choose to start things on the 1st and Mondays if those are options, so Tuesday, August 29, could be a less crowded choice? I do realize there is no real way of knowing but possibly some history of what’s typical!
I’m thinking like you and am starting on Tuesday the 29th. Hoping most start on weekend or Monday and before the 1st.

Purely speculation.
 
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.
At most any starting point or place, there is a pronounced wave on Friday and Saturday, as people who arrive via trains or buses the day before get a start on their Camino on a weekend. My advice has always been to start from Sunday through Thursday. This puts you in the "valleys" between the peak waves.

Hope this helps.

Tom
 
At most any starting point or place, there is a pronounced wave on Friday and Saturday, as people who arrive via trains or buses the day before get a start on their Camino on a weekend. My advice has always been to start from Sunday through Thursday. This puts you in the "valleys" between the peak waves.

Hope this helps.

Tom
Thanks, Tom!
 
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Should I start the Camino Frances at the end of August or push it to mid September? I’m planning to walk from SJPP to Santiago this year and need to be back in the US by October 17, but am flexible with my start date. I understand the crowds are supposed to be large and am wondering if anyone has some insight about less crowded days of the week or times of the month to begin? Thanks in advance for any advice!
You can check online to see if there are any national or regional holidays or 3-day weekends and plan to start during a different week. One of the things I’ve noticed every spring on Camino forums is people worrying about crowds. This always seems to happen around Easter and also the 1st of May, a holiday 3-day weekend, but is not representative of all weeks/weekends most any time of year. So check the calendar and that might help you avoid more populated start times.
 
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Should I start the Camino Frances at the end of August or push it to mid September? I’m planning to walk from SJPP to Santiago this year and need to be back in the US by October 17, but am flexible with my start date. I understand the crowds are supposed to be large and am wondering if anyone has some insight about less crowded days of the week or times of the month to begin? Thanks in advance for any advice!
Paynefive,
Experience from my last Camino taught me not to start from SJPD on a weekend, and especially not on a Spanish four-day holiday.

So, this year I will leave SJPD on Thursday the 31st. Because I’m flying in from the States, and am limited to 35 days for my Camino, I already booked four hostel/motels up until the morning of the 4th of September. Once again, this action is based upon my past experiences. Once I got past Puente La Riena I had no problems just showing up to a town and finding a place to crash. Now, finding lodgings from Sarria to the end of the Camino is a different story. I will deal with that when the time comes.

Who knows, maybe we will run into each other in September?

— Matthew
 
Thanks for the insight. I will be purchasing my flights this week so my dates are a little fluid until that happens. And then, of course, I will be at the mercy of the airlines for my actual arrival time! Perhaps we will arrive at exactly the same time!
 
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At most any starting point or place, there is a pronounced wave on Friday and Saturday, as people who arrive via trains or buses the day before get a start on their Camino on a weekend. My advice has always been to start from Sunday through Thursday. This puts you in the "valleys" between the peak waves.

Hope this helps.

Tom

Wouldn't it be more logical for the crowds to start walking on a Saturday or Sunday? Assuming that also Spanish pilgrims will need to travel, I can imagine that they'll travel either Friday evening or Saturday to their starting point and start walking the day after.
 
Should I start the Camino Frances at the end of August or push it to mid September? I’m planning to walk from SJPP to Santiago this year and need to be back in the US by October 17, but am flexible with my start date. I understand the crowds are supposed to be large and am wondering if anyone has some insight about less crowded days of the week or times of the month to begin? Thanks in advance for any advice!
Hi,

I don't have the answer, but I will by traveling about the same time as you. I am hiking 8 days in the Pyrenees and then going to start the camino in Pamplona. So if you start mid september, maybe we will meet. My flight back to the US is on the 17th.
 
Wouldn't it be more logical for the crowds to start walking on a Saturday or Sunday? Assuming that also Spanish pilgrims will need to travel, I can imagine that they'll travel either Friday evening or Saturday to their starting point and start walking the day after.
Many, many people take Friday off, then travel to the jumping off place on Thursday. They start walking on Friday, Saturday or Sunday mornings. This necessarily means that accomodations at the starting place will usually be very tight on Friday and Saturday night.

The trick, IMHO and experience, is to not be where the "pig in the python" is. A day earlier, or a day later in the main pilgrim flow makes a HUGE difference sometimes.

Then you need to consider holidays, and the practice of taking a "bridge day" to spread the weekend. This is a very common practice across Europe. If there is a Thursday holiday, most folks with something else to do, will take the Friday off. The same goes for a Monday holiday,

Plan accordingly. Stay flexible. You may find yourself taking a rest day, walking longer or shorter days, to adjust your arrival at the major terminal places along any Camino route. These are usually the towns and cities with excellent train and bus connections. Avoid them on Friday, Saturday and (sometimes) Sunday evening.

If you happen to land on one of these congested places, consider staying an extra night if possible. Anything to space yourself out from the main peloton or mob of walking pilgrims.

Hope this helps.

Tom
 
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I vote for Monday Aug 28 or Tuesday Aug 29. (I think more people start on the weekend.) The Sarria-Santiago crowds should have mostly cleared by the time you get there.
We started SJPDP-SdC last year leaving Aug 29 arriving 40 days later. Crowded Sarria onwards. We found some smaller villages/towns well before Sarria were impacted (ie Roncesvalles, Puente de Reina, etc). I've heard from those starting 1st week of Sept 2022 was even more crowded. Not sure how best to avoid crowds but perhaps 2nd week or later in Sept? Regardless, the Camino is the Camino. Savor all the sights and sounds, culture, food and most importantly the spirit. Buen Camino!
 
Not sure how best to avoid crowds but perhaps 2nd week or later in Sept?
The first two weeks of September are typically the busiest of the entire year for starting from SJPdP - in fact all of September is busy. That's why I suggested going in August to beat the September crowds.
 
Haha! I feel certain that losing track of time is one of my goals so starting before or after the first or a Monday could help me accomplish that immediately!
I may see you there if you start from SJPP. I'm starting on Aug 29, staying at Auberge Borda that night. This is my first Camino and I want to take it easy for the first few days to get my trail legs.
Buen Camino
 
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The first two weeks of September are typically the busiest of the entire year for starting from SJPdP - in fact all of September is busy. That's why I suggested going in August to beat the September crowds.
It does seem like everyone I’ve come in contact with is going in September!
 
I may see you there if you start from SJPP. I'm starting on Aug 29, staying at Auberge Borda that night. This is my first Camino and I want to take it easy for the first few days to get my trail legs.
Buen Camino
This will be my first as well. I plan on starting the week gently, too!
 
I would start around August 23 - ahead of the September rush.
Me too. 23 -24 Aug. Or 28-29 Aug work well. I figure that most of those Spanish taking august break, have left SJPdP earlier in august plus you’ll miss the crush from sept 1 and weekend departures.
Leaving too late in September will bring you more chance of the rain in Galicia. (That was the reading from my crystal ball anyway ). It’s a lottery. It will be wonderful no matter when you choose. .
Buen camino.
 
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Me too. 23 -24 Aug. Or 28-29 Aug work well. I figure that most of those Spanish taking august break, have left SJPdP earlier in august. You’ll miss the crush from sept 1 and weekend.
Leaving too late in September will bring you more chance of the rain in Galicia. (That was the reading from my crystal ball anyway ). It’s a lottery. It will be wonderful no matter when you choose. .
Burn camino.
My crystal ball is telling me the same thing! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I’m sure I will start when I’m supposed to!
 
Planning your start day/date in St Jean to avoid a crush of pilgrims is worth trying for. Also note that many pilgrims start in Sarria - logically on the weekend. If you are crowd adverse, passing through Sarria during the week might be a good option for you.
 
Planning your start day/date in St Jean to avoid a crush of pilgrims is worth trying for. Also note that many pilgrims start in Sarria - logically on the weekend. If you are crowd adverse, passing through Sarria during the week might be a good option for you.
Thank you! I appreciate all of the advice I’m getting here!! Looking at hotel availability in St Jean, it looks like plenty of rooms available for Monday check-in and not as many on the weekends!
 
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Every year the last week of August and the first two weeks of September are the busiest weeks of the year. And as this spring was much busier than ever, probably it will be even busier in September. So I would advise to start before mid August or after mid September. If that is not possible, please make reservations in the 'bottleneck' SJPdP - Pamplona.
 
Every year the last week of August and the first two weeks of September are the busiest weeks of the year. And as this spring was much busier than ever, probably it will be even busier in September. So I would advise to start before mid August or after mid September. If that is not possible, please make reservations in the 'bottleneck' SJPdP - Pamplona.
Thank you! When I first started trying to determine a date, I understood that September was shoulder season thinking it would be less crowded?! Maybe I should go sooner? But July seems really hot! Soon!! I will make my decision!! And I expect it will be just right!
 
If you start in July you walk on the Meseta in August (the plateau between Burgos and León) and the Meseta is really hot, try to avoid that. If you want to avoid the terrible heat of the Meseta, start 3rd or 4th week of September.
 
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Are you starting from St Jean? If you are I’d push it back to mid September to allow the Sarria to Santiago stretch time to clear.
When I started on August 22 in 2016 I encountered a couple of near empty albergues after Sarria.
Thank you! When I first started trying to determine a date, I understood that September was shoulder season thinking it would be less crowded?!
For starting from SJPdP the busiest times are the first two weeks of September followed by the first two weeks of May because lots of people have the same idea!

Check out this thread which has some graphs showing pilgrim starts from SJPdP.
 
Wouldn't it be more logical for the crowds to start walking on a Saturday or Sunday? Assuming that also Spanish pilgrims will need to travel, I can imagine that they'll travel either Friday evening or Saturday to their starting point and start walking the day after.
It may appear more logical but that is not what happens, at least not for SJPP. I had a quick look at their 2019 statistics: Seen over the whole year, more than half of those who start in SJPP come from major European countries. They don't waste a Saturday for travelling to SJPP. They need only a few hours to reach Biarritz/Bayonne so leaving on Friday afternoon, either after work or taking half a day off is ideal for them.

I noticed that the 1st of September is a Friday this year. Avoid the weekend as your starting time at all cost.

And a general remark: There may be a "wave" at SJPP but it's not that this wave is rolling for 30+ days over the Camino. 500 people starting in SJPP is an awful lot but 500 people walking through Sarria and arriving in Santiago five days later is not much: at the end section of the Camino Francés at peak times (traditionally during the summer months of July and August) numbers are in the region of 3000 pilgrims daily. So bear this in mind: beds, either private or public or both, may not be sufficient at peak times between Roncesvalles and Pamplona (traditionally during first two weeks of May and September) to cover demand but that does not mean that this situation will continue for the remaining 700 km or so.
 
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Thank you! When I first started trying to determine a date, I understood that September was shoulder season thinking it would be less crowded?! Maybe I should go sooner? But July seems really hot! Soon!! I will make my decision!! And I expect it will be just right!
September is shoulder season for those who start in Sarria but high season for those who start in St. Jean. July is high season for those starting in Sarria and shoulder season from St. Jean. The patterns are very different for the two starting points.

I walked starting in July when I walked with my teenage son. Not gonna deny it, July and August can be hot. The Frances isn't quite as challenging as the Via de la Plata in the summer heat. If you start walking early each day and finish mid-day it is quite doable.

Whatever decision you make, I agree it will be just right.
 
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Thank you! When I first started trying to determine a date, I understood that September was shoulder season thinking it would be less crowded?! Maybe I should go sooner? But July seems really hot! Soon!! I will make my decision!! And I expect it will be just right!
So…there is great advice here already, and the Camino Frances is very popular now. If you have the flexibility for a later start, most albergues and other facilities are open and thriving through October. The weather can still be warm and comfortable on the meseta. There will be plenty of company etc… the only problem being that if you arrive in Santiago in November, Casa Marcelo has been closed the last two years
 
So…there is great advice here already, and the Camino Frances is very popular now. If you have the flexibility for a later start, most albergues and other facilities are open and thriving through October. The weather can still be warm and comfortable on the meseta. There will be plenty of company etc… the only problem being that if you arrive in Santiago in November, Casa Marcelo has been closed the last two years
Is Casa Marcelo somewhere I need to go?
 
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It may appear more logical but that is not what happens, at least not for SJPP. I had a quick look at their 2019 statistics: Seen over the whole year, more than half of those who start in SJPP come from major European countries. They don't waste a Saturday for travelling to SJPP. They need only a few hours to reach Biarritz/Bayonne so leaving on Friday afternoon, either after work or taking half a day off is ideal for them.

I noticed that the 1st of September is a Friday this year. Avoid the weekend as your starting time at all cost.

And a general remark: There may be a "wave" at SJPP but it's not that this wave is rolling for 30+ days over the Camino. 500 people starting in SJPP is an awful lot but 500 people walking through Sarria and arriving in Santiago five days later is not much: at the end section of the Camino Francés at peak times (traditionally during the summer months of July and August) numbers are in the region of 3000 pilgrims daily. So bear this in mind: beds, either private or public or both, may not be sufficient at peak times between Roncesvalles and Pamplona (traditionally during first two weeks of May and September) to cover demand but that does not mean that this situation will continue for the remaining 700 km or so.

Thanks! I don't want to hijack this topic, but I am asking as I am going to walk the Sanabrés in August and will walk out of Ourense on a Friday. I am now getting a bit worried about congestion in Cea.
 
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I am now getting a bit worried about congestion in Cea.
I have no idea about this area but, just in general, this topic is not so much something to worry about as it is something to be made aware of, and it mainly concerns departure from SJPP and from Sarria - for SJPP because there can be an issue due to a temporary overall imbalance between demand for and supply of beds in the area between SJPP and Pamplona and for Sarria because some pilgrims dislike too many other pilgrims within their sight and earshot.
 
We started SJPDP-SdC last year leaving Aug 29 arriving 40 days later. Crowded Sarria onwards. We found some smaller villages/towns well before Sarria were impacted (ie Roncesvalles, Puente de Reina, etc). I've heard from those starting 1st week of Sept 2022 was even more crowded. Not sure how best to avoid crowds but perhaps 2nd week or later in Sept? Regardless, the Camino is the Camino. Savor all the sights and sounds, culture, food and most importantly the spirit. Buen Camino!
Off topic, but how was the weather for those 40 days
 
So!!! I finally bought my airline tickets! And it looks like I’m going to be walking at the very busiest time possible! I looked at everything, read every comment, attempted to manipulate the airlines, my schedule and the number of days my husband will be walking with me-to no avail! I will be leaving Louisiana, on August 24 arriving CDG the next day and possibly make it to sjpp on Saturday, beginning my walk on Sunday, August 28! I thank each of you for your input! I have no idea why I am supposed to do this at this point in time, but I look forward to finding out! I hope to meet some of you along the Way!
 
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September on the Frances will be warm to hot, not oppressive…. Less than you’re used to in Louisiana. Enjoy every moment! Book ahead
 
So!!! I finally bought my airline tickets! And it looks like I’m going to be walking at the very busiest time possible! I looked at everything, read every comment, attempted to manipulate the airlines, my schedule and the number of days my husband will be walking with me-to no avail! I will be leaving Louisiana, on August 24 arriving CDG the next day and possibly make it to sjpp on Saturday, beginning my walk on Sunday, August 28! I thank each of you for your input! I have no idea why I am supposed to do this at this point in time, but I look forward to finding out! I hope to meet some of you along the Way!
I would definitely book up through Pamplona, and try to get into Orisson or Borda if you want to split the first stage.
 

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