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Tips on walking less traveled caminos

2020 Camino Guides

Anthony Rocco

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014, Ignaciano +Aragones +Parts of Frances 2016, Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles (2017)
After walking the Frances, which we thought was already crowded 6 years ago, we have walked less traveled caminos every year since. We have learned a lot about how to avoid problems and make these caminos enjoyable and fulfilling. This was certainly the case this year as we walked from Loyola to Logrono, then hopped a train to Madrid and walked the Camino de Madrid to Sahagun. With one minute of our arrival on the outskirts of Sahagun, we saw in the nearby Camino Frances more peregrinos that we had seen our entire journey. Next year the Levante!

Here's some tips:

1. The list of less traveled caminos -- fewer than 10,000 pilgrims per year -- is declining ever year. Check before you decide on what may appear to be a less traveled camino. The Camino del Salvador, for example, which we walked years ago with few other pilgrims, is now very busy with an infrastructure struggling to keep up with the growing number of people. One of the reasons for the growth of numbers on this camino is that trail runners from Madrid discovered that they could take a long weekend, get up to Leon in the evening, run the entire camino in four days, and then take the train back to Madrid.

2. We focus on those caminos that attract less than 1000 per year. Interestingly, these tend to be well marked even if the infrastructure for food and meals is spotty. But you are on your own when you are walking. The only peregrinos you will encounter is when you arrive at an albergue or pension. Even then, there were times when we had the entire albergue to ourselves.

3. There are guidebooks or extensive online information for every camino. It may take some research, but you will be surprised how much is out there, including videos, which we find very helpful. There is also the ever reliable Gronze, which has maps and updated information on where to stay. It's so valuable to check Ivar for comments on those who are reporting LIVE or have just completed one of these less traveled caminos. Things are changing rapidly on these caminos as villagers recognize a good thing when they see it. New albergues are popping up, bars are extending hours and small markets and pharmacies are accommodating pilgrims.

4. Always check on the route out of town before you turn in for the evening. Markings in towns often disappear, so it's best to get started in the morning with the comfort of knowing you are going the right way.

5. Always check on the next day's path, availability of water, food, accommodations. You may need to get the bar in the town you are at to prepare a "bocadillo para llevarse" or stock up on snacks and water. We have found that an orange, cookies, nuts and raisins can take you very far.

6. When you arrive at a sleepy village and have no idea where you are going, find a plaza and appeal to the first local you encounter. Look miserable, hungry, lost...throw yourself on the mercy of that person. Villagers will immediately take up your cause, lead you to where you go, roust out other villagers and before you know it, you are being waited on hand and foot. You may not understand what they are saying, but you know they are enjoying being needed, a very human emotion, while making sure peregrinos, who have a special status in villages, are provided for. Being embraced by villagers is something you will not likely ever encounter on the Frances, which is sad. It is the best part for us walking a less traveled camino, which is why we keep coming back every year.

7. GPS doesn't always get you on the right path, so take your time, watch out for signs, including ones knocked down or bumped to face the wrong direction. Stop, look, calculate, recalculate. If you are still unsure, ask the first local you encounter. They may not know the camino, but they will know how to get to the next town.

8. Be prepared for unanticipated long days. It's going to happen on less traveled caminos. It could be weather related, long, steep uphills, long, steep, slippery downhills, closed albergues, whatever. On our camino in Sept-Oct 2019, this year, one of our longest days was on the Ignaciano when we faced a four-hour uphill between Zumarraga and Arantzazu. It was brutal. We are in good shape and it was a long, hard slog, only to arrive in Arantzazu with the heavens opening up with rain. When we arrived, the restaurants were closed, so we put on the miserable, tired, hungry peregrino act, which in this case wasn't an act. We were immediately provided with one of the best meals we ever had. And the proprietor guided us to the albergue where we were put in a private room "to recover." Sweet.

9. Live in the moment. This is neither a race nor a marathon, as the Frances is often referred to. It's every step as an adventure. If it's in warmer weather, start before dawn and savor the sunrise. Close your eyes to listen to the sounds. You are alone so it's just you and nature. It's magical. Take snapshots with your mind to remember those unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. These walks refresh your body and your soul. You will be sad when you finish, but you will have memories forever...and you will start immediately thinking about your next camino.
 

jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring '17)
Primitivo (Spring '18)
Madrid (April '19)
Wonderful post!

I have walked the Francés-Primitivo-Madrid in that order, so I’m trending towards less travelled caminos and finding that a lot of what you said resonated with me. On the Madrid, I felt that the ‘spirit of the camino’, which had manifested itself on the Francés and Primitivo in the form of the shared experience with other pilgrims, came from encounters with locals instead as you described. I’m thinking about the Olvidado and Invierno next year, so hopefully the spirit continues in this way.

P.S. Unfortunate to hear that about the Salvador. I’ll make sure to start early in the week if I ever get around to it!
 

naturmenneske

naturmenneske
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Madrid mars 2017
Via de la Plata februar 2016
Camino France januar 2015
Camino Portoguese 2012
I walked the San Salvador in October last year and met two other pilegrims in the alberges. All day I was alone. Continued on the Primitivo where there were more people. Walking in autumn, winter and spring is the best.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
As someone who “moved over” to untraveled caminos more than a decade ago, thank you for the post. I would also just add a note for women who want to walk alone and who may be anxious or nervous at the thought of walking for a day without seeing anyone and spending the night alone in an albergue. Some may not be able to get past the fear, and in that case, I don’t encourage you to try it. But if you can focus on the reality that Spain is one of the safest countries in the world, that crime is virtually unheard of on the solitary caminos (I have been flashed more than five times, on the Norte and Francés, but never ever on any of the many kms I have walked on solitary caminos), and if you enjoy being alone, you should give it a try. I have grieved my mother’s death, reveled in the birth of grandkids, and started to grapple with the reality of health problems in my family, all in solitude. Just me, the birds, occasionally the cows and pigs, and the expansive sky or lushness of forests or mountain ridges. Sometimes I talk out loud, sometimes I shout, sometimes I cry. But I always revel in the solitude and the beauty. I cannot imagine a year without one of these caminos, though I am sure the clock is ticking on me like it is on all of us. But for now, carpe diem. Buen camino, Laurie
 

Guy Strachan

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013+2014), Portugues (2015), Finisterre (2016+2019); Ingles (2017) & Sanabres (2018)
Like you guys after two times doing the latter parts of CF 6-7 years ago, it was a case of never again for me! Focussed on the quieter routes ever since and have loved for ex the Camino Ingles, Camino Sanabres/VdlP, and C Fisterra - next will be the Camino Invierno.
Much more fulfilling and real experiences...
Ultreia y Buen Camino!
 

Anthony Rocco

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014, Ignaciano +Aragones +Parts of Frances 2016, Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles (2017)
As someone who “moved over” to untraveled caminos more than a decade ago, thank you for the post. I would also just add a note for women who want to walk alone and who may be anxious or nervous at the thought of walking for a day without seeing anyone and spending the night alone in an albergue. Some may not be able to get past the fear, and in that case, I don’t encourage you to try it. But if you can focus on the reality that Spain is one of the safest countries in the world, that crime is virtually unheard of on the solitary caminos (I have been flashed more than five times, on the Norte and Francés, but never ever on any of the many kms I have walked on solitary caminos), and if you enjoy being alone, you should give it a try. I have grieved my mother’s death, reveled in the birth of grandkids, and started to grapple with the reality of health problems in my family, all in solitude. Just me, the birds, occasionally the cows and pigs, and the expansive sky or lushness of forests or mountain ridges. Sometimes I talk out loud, sometimes I shout, sometimes I cry. But I always revel in the solitude and the beauty. I cannot imagine a year without one of these caminos, though I am sure the clock is ticking on me like it is on all of us. But for now, carpe diem. Buen camino, Laurie
Truly inspirational. Choked me up reading this. You captured the spirit in a way I only touched on. I was focusing more on the practical.

So...as I look at next year, we were thinking about Levante, but since we love the north so much, we keep coming back to Olvidado. What's your recommendation for a hike next year in the autumn that will provide us with the spirit you described above?
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Truly inspirational. Choked me up reading this. You captured the spirit in a way I only touched on. I was focusing more on the practical.

So...as I look at next year, we were thinking about Levante, but since we love the north so much, we keep coming back to Olvidado. What's your recommendation for a hike next year in the autumn that will provide us with the spirit you described above?
Oh boy, what a choice. I’ll say first of all that for me both the natural and built environments are important parts of the backdrop of my solitary musings. So I gravitate towards spring walking, when things are green and flowering, and caminos with historical buildings — Roman and medieval (especially Romanesque) are my favorites.

The Levante is a camino of wide open spaces. In autumn the many vast expanses of fields will be brown. But the sunrises, the sunsets, and the thunderstorms will all be majestic against the vast sky. I summed up what I thought were the high points in a recent answer to a question by @Kiwi-family. https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/sureste-or-levante.65095/

For me the Olvidado is a showstopper and provides the perfect backdrop. The mountain stages are among the very very best the Camino has to offer, now that @enderjace has led the association to mark mountain stages. And I think the Olvidado makes the absolutely perfect pairing with the Invierno, if you have the time. Bilbao to Ponferrada (you have to veer off the last stage of the Olvidado, which goes on to Villafranca, to drop down to Ponferrada) and then to Santiago on the Invierno from Ponferrada. I have blogs on all of these options, with links in the signature below this post. But I am also of course very happy to answer questions.

A delicious dilemma to have, IMO. Buen camino, Laurie
 

Anthony Rocco

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014, Ignaciano +Aragones +Parts of Frances 2016, Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles (2017)
Oh boy, what a choice. I’ll say first of all that for me both the natural and built environments are important parts of the backdrop of my solitary musings. So I gravitate towards spring walking, when things are green and flowering, and caminos with historical buildings — Roman and medieval (especially Romanesque) are my favorites.

The Levante is a camino of wide open spaces. In autumn the many vast expanses of fields will be brown. But the sunrises, the sunsets, and the thunderstorms will all be majestic against the vast sky. I summed up what I thought were the high points in a recent answer to a question by @Kiwi-family. https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/sureste-or-levante.65095/

For me the Olvidado is a showstopper and provides the perfect backdrop. The mountain stages are among the very very best the Camino has to offer, now that @enderjace has led the association to mark mountain stages. And I think the Olvidado makes the absolutely perfect pairing with the Invierno, if you have the time. Bilbao to Ponferrada (you have to veer off the last stage of the Olvidado, which goes on to Villafranca, to drop down to Ponferrada) and then to Santiago on the Invierno from Ponferrada. I have blogs on all of these options, with links in the signature below this post. But I am also of course very happy to answer questions.

A delicious dilemma to have, IMO. Buen camino, Laurie
Sounds wonderful. We will look more at Olvidado and your blogs. Like you, we are deeply into culture and especially Romanesque. We were in Sahagun before on Mondays, but this time we made sure we would be there when everything was open, including San Lorenzo. We spent a lot of time at every sight...as we watched a gazillion peregrinos parade on through without stopping. And then there's Segovia, the Romanesque jewel, including the church of Vera Cruz, which completed our troika of Romanesque period but so unique, along with Torres del Rio and Eunate.
 

brian560

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, VdlP 2016, Port. Central, Norte , Port. Coastal (2018).San Salvador and Primitivo (2019)
Wonderful post!

I have walked the Francés-Primitivo-Madrid in that order, so I’m trending towards less travelled caminos and finding that a lot of what you said resonated with me. On the Madrid, I felt that the ‘spirit of the camino’, which had manifested itself on the Francés and Primitivo in the form of the shared experience with other pilgrims, came from encounters with locals instead as you described. I’m thinking about the Olvidado and Invierno next year, so hopefully the spirit continues in this way.

P.S. Unfortunate to hear that about the Salvador. I’ll make sure to start early in the week if I ever get around to it!
I walked the Salvador in May. No problems finding a bed.
 

samba

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francesca(2007),de la Plata /Sanabres ( May 2015),Mozarabe ( 2016) Norte (2018)
La Lana((2019)
Great piece and spot on
We too have walked several of the lease travelled caminos , lastthis year May the De La Lana which goes from Alicante to Burgos. Lots of great people I’m towns/ pueblos and some hard days but always interesting
Yes one thing to remember us just to wait in plaza especially if it seems no one around
Lots more than we think .and it seemed this last time that little places have a person delegated to meet n Greet and take to Hostal and food
I love Spain and it’s friendly ,lively, ocassionally infuriating but always intriguing people . Here’s to next Camino
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
As someone who “moved over” to untraveled caminos more than a decade ago, thank you for the post. I would also just add a note for women who want to walk alone and who may be anxious or nervous at the thought of walking for a day without seeing anyone and spending the night alone in an albergue. Some may not be able to get past the fear, and in that case, I don’t encourage you to try it. But if you can focus on the reality that Spain is one of the safest countries in the world, that crime is virtually unheard of on the solitary caminos (I have been flashed more than five times, on the Norte and Francés, but never ever on any of the many kms I have walked on solitary caminos), and if you enjoy being alone, you should give it a try. I have grieved my mother’s death, reveled in the birth of grandkids, and started to grapple with the reality of health problems in my family, all in solitude. Just me, the birds, occasionally the cows and pigs, and the expansive sky or lushness of forests or mountain ridges. Sometimes I talk out loud, sometimes I shout, sometimes I cry. But I always revel in the solitude and the beauty. I cannot imagine a year without one of these caminos, though I am sure the clock is ticking on me like it is on all of us. But for now, carpe diem. Buen camino, Laurie
Far be it from me to speak of what women walking alone can experience on these less travelled caminos. But if people want to see for themselves, look up Sara Dooma on YouTube, who posts daily videos from her travels. She is currently walking the Madrid/San Salvador/Primitivo. About a year ago, she posted a complete series walking the Ruta de la Lana, another less traveled camino and an early section of the Camino Mozarabe,
 

SATomlin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vigo to Baiona May( 2020)
After walking the Frances, which we thought was already crowded 6 years ago, we have walked less traveled caminos every year since. We have learned a lot about how to avoid problems and make these caminos enjoyable and fulfilling. This was certainly the case this year as we walked from Loyola to Logrono, then hopped a train to Madrid and walked the Camino de Madrid to Sahagun. With one minute of our arrival on the outskirts of Sahagun, we saw in the nearby Camino Frances more peregrinos that we had seen our entire journey. Next year the Levante!

Here's some tips:

1. The list of less traveled caminos -- fewer than 10,000 pilgrims per year -- is declining ever year. Check before you decide on what may appear to be a less traveled camino. The Camino del Salvador, for example, which we walked years ago with few other pilgrims, is now very busy with an infrastructure struggling to keep up with the growing number of people. One of the reasons for the growth of numbers on this camino is that trail runners from Madrid discovered that they could take a long weekend, get up to Leon in the evening, run the entire camino in four days, and then take the train back to Madrid.

2. We focus on those caminos that attract less than 1000 per year. Interestingly, these tend to be well marked even if the infrastructure for food and meals is spotty. But you are on your own when you are walking. The only peregrinos you will encounter is when you arrive at an albergue or pension. Even then, there were times when we had the entire albergue to ourselves.

3. There are guidebooks or extensive online information for every camino. It may take some research, but you will be surprised how much is out there, including videos, which we find very helpful. There is also the ever reliable Gronze, which has maps and updated information on where to stay. It's so valuable to check Ivar for comments on those who are reporting LIVE or have just completed one of these less traveled caminos. Things are changing rapidly on these caminos as villagers recognize a good thing when they see it. New albergues are popping up, bars are extending hours and small markets and pharmacies are accommodating pilgrims.

4. Always check on the route out of town before you turn in for the evening. Markings in towns often disappear, so it's best to get started in the morning with the comfort of knowing you are going the right way.

5. Always check on the next day's path, availability of water, food, accommodations. You may need to get the bar in the town you are at to prepare a "bocadillo para llevarse" or stock up on snacks and water. We have found that an orange, cookies, nuts and raisins can take you very far.

6. When you arrive at a sleepy village and have no idea where you are going, find a plaza and appeal to the first local you encounter. Look miserable, hungry, lost...throw yourself on the mercy of that person. Villagers will immediately take up your cause, lead you to where you go, roust out other villagers and before you know it, you are being waited on hand and foot. You may not understand what they are saying, but you know they are enjoying being needed, a very human emotion, while making sure peregrinos, who have a special status in villages, are provided for. Being embraced by villagers is something you will not likely ever encounter on the Frances, which is sad. It is the best part for us walking a less traveled camino, which is why we keep coming back every year.

7. GPS doesn't always get you on the right path, so take your time, watch out for signs, including ones knocked down or bumped to face the wrong direction. Stop, look, calculate, recalculate. If you are still unsure, ask the first local you encounter. They may not know the camino, but they will know how to get to the next town.

8. Be prepared for unanticipated long days. It's going to happen on less traveled caminos. It could be weather related, long, steep uphills, long, steep, slippery downhills, closed albergues, whatever. On our camino in Sept-Oct 2019, this year, one of our longest days was on the Ignaciano when we faced a four-hour uphill between Zumarraga and Arantzazu. It was brutal. We are in good shape and it was a long, hard slog, only to arrive in Arantzazu with the heavens opening up with rain. When we arrived, the restaurants were closed, so we put on the miserable, tired, hungry peregrino act, which in this case wasn't an act. We were immediately provided with one of the best meals we ever had. And the proprietor guided us to the albergue where we were put in a private room "to recover." Sweet.

9. Live in the moment. This is neither a race nor a marathon, as the Frances is often referred to. It's every step as an adventure. If it's in warmer weather, start before dawn and savor the sunrise. Close your eyes to listen to the sounds. You are alone so it's just you and nature. It's magical. Take snapshots with your mind to remember those unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. These walks refresh your body and your soul. You will be sad when you finish, but you will have memories forever...and you will start immediately thinking about your next camino.
Any thoughts or comments on the coastal route from Porto Baiona in late May?
 

SATomlin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vigo to Baiona May( 2020)
After walking the Frances, which we thought was already crowded 6 years ago, we have walked less traveled caminos every year since. We have learned a lot about how to avoid problems and make these caminos enjoyable and fulfilling. This was certainly the case this year as we walked from Loyola to Logrono, then hopped a train to Madrid and walked the Camino de Madrid to Sahagun. With one minute of our arrival on the outskirts of Sahagun, we saw in the nearby Camino Frances more peregrinos that we had seen our entire journey. Next year the Levante!

Here's some tips:

1. The list of less traveled caminos -- fewer than 10,000 pilgrims per year -- is declining ever year. Check before you decide on what may appear to be a less traveled camino. The Camino del Salvador, for example, which we walked years ago with few other pilgrims, is now very busy with an infrastructure struggling to keep up with the growing number of people. One of the reasons for the growth of numbers on this camino is that trail runners from Madrid discovered that they could take a long weekend, get up to Leon in the evening, run the entire camino in four days, and then take the train back to Madrid.

2. We focus on those caminos that attract less than 1000 per year. Interestingly, these tend to be well marked even if the infrastructure for food and meals is spotty. But you are on your own when you are walking. The only peregrinos you will encounter is when you arrive at an albergue or pension. Even then, there were times when we had the entire albergue to ourselves.

3. There are guidebooks or extensive online information for every camino. It may take some research, but you will be surprised how much is out there, including videos, which we find very helpful. There is also the ever reliable Gronze, which has maps and updated information on where to stay. It's so valuable to check Ivar for comments on those who are reporting LIVE or have just completed one of these less traveled caminos. Things are changing rapidly on these caminos as villagers recognize a good thing when they see it. New albergues are popping up, bars are extending hours and small markets and pharmacies are accommodating pilgrims.

4. Always check on the route out of town before you turn in for the evening. Markings in towns often disappear, so it's best to get started in the morning with the comfort of knowing you are going the right way.

5. Always check on the next day's path, availability of water, food, accommodations. You may need to get the bar in the town you are at to prepare a "bocadillo para llevarse" or stock up on snacks and water. We have found that an orange, cookies, nuts and raisins can take you very far.

6. When you arrive at a sleepy village and have no idea where you are going, find a plaza and appeal to the first local you encounter. Look miserable, hungry, lost...throw yourself on the mercy of that person. Villagers will immediately take up your cause, lead you to where you go, roust out other villagers and before you know it, you are being waited on hand and foot. You may not understand what they are saying, but you know they are enjoying being needed, a very human emotion, while making sure peregrinos, who have a special status in villages, are provided for. Being embraced by villagers is something you will not likely ever encounter on the Frances, which is sad. It is the best part for us walking a less traveled camino, which is why we keep coming back every year.

7. GPS doesn't always get you on the right path, so take your time, watch out for signs, including ones knocked down or bumped to face the wrong direction. Stop, look, calculate, recalculate. If you are still unsure, ask the first local you encounter. They may not know the camino, but they will know how to get to the next town.

8. Be prepared for unanticipated long days. It's going to happen on less traveled caminos. It could be weather related, long, steep uphills, long, steep, slippery downhills, closed albergues, whatever. On our camino in Sept-Oct 2019, this year, one of our longest days was on the Ignaciano when we faced a four-hour uphill between Zumarraga and Arantzazu. It was brutal. We are in good shape and it was a long, hard slog, only to arrive in Arantzazu with the heavens opening up with rain. When we arrived, the restaurants were closed, so we put on the miserable, tired, hungry peregrino act, which in this case wasn't an act. We were immediately provided with one of the best meals we ever had. And the proprietor guided us to the albergue where we were put in a private room "to recover." Sweet.

9. Live in the moment. This is neither a race nor a marathon, as the Frances is often referred to. It's every step as an adventure. If it's in warmer weather, start before dawn and savor the sunrise. Close your eyes to listen to the sounds. You are alone so it's just you and nature. It's magical. Take snapshots with your mind to remember those unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. These walks refresh your body and your soul. You will be sad when you finish, but you will have memories forever...and you will start immediately thinking about your next camino.
I am just about to book with a tour booing agent RAW from Australia so my accommodation and luggage transfer will be taken care of. Happy to walk alone but interested in how many people do this part of the trail.
 

JeanneB

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean to Leon (2005)
Portugues (2017)
After walking the Frances, which we thought was already crowded 6 years ago, we have walked less traveled caminos every year since. We have learned a lot about how to avoid problems and make these caminos enjoyable and fulfilling. This was certainly the case this year as we walked from Loyola to Logrono, then hopped a train to Madrid and walked the Camino de Madrid to Sahagun. With one minute of our arrival on the outskirts of Sahagun, we saw in the nearby Camino Frances more peregrinos that we had seen our entire journey. Next year the Levante!

Here's some tips:

1. The list of less traveled caminos -- fewer than 10,000 pilgrims per year -- is declining ever year. Check before you decide on what may appear to be a less traveled camino. The Camino del Salvador, for example, which we walked years ago with few other pilgrims, is now very busy with an infrastructure struggling to keep up with the growing number of people. One of the reasons for the growth of numbers on this camino is that trail runners from Madrid discovered that they could take a long weekend, get up to Leon in the evening, run the entire camino in four days, and then take the train back to Madrid.

2. We focus on those caminos that attract less than 1000 per year. Interestingly, these tend to be well marked even if the infrastructure for food and meals is spotty. But you are on your own when you are walking. The only peregrinos you will encounter is when you arrive at an albergue or pension. Even then, there were times when we had the entire albergue to ourselves.

3. There are guidebooks or extensive online information for every camino. It may take some research, but you will be surprised how much is out there, including videos, which we find very helpful. There is also the ever reliable Gronze, which has maps and updated information on where to stay. It's so valuable to check Ivar for comments on those who are reporting LIVE or have just completed one of these less traveled caminos. Things are changing rapidly on these caminos as villagers recognize a good thing when they see it. New albergues are popping up, bars are extending hours and small markets and pharmacies are accommodating pilgrims.

4. Always check on the route out of town before you turn in for the evening. Markings in towns often disappear, so it's best to get started in the morning with the comfort of knowing you are going the right way.

5. Always check on the next day's path, availability of water, food, accommodations. You may need to get the bar in the town you are at to prepare a "bocadillo para llevarse" or stock up on snacks and water. We have found that an orange, cookies, nuts and raisins can take you very far.

6. When you arrive at a sleepy village and have no idea where you are going, find a plaza and appeal to the first local you encounter. Look miserable, hungry, lost...throw yourself on the mercy of that person. Villagers will immediately take up your cause, lead you to where you go, roust out other villagers and before you know it, you are being waited on hand and foot. You may not understand what they are saying, but you know they are enjoying being needed, a very human emotion, while making sure peregrinos, who have a special status in villages, are provided for. Being embraced by villagers is something you will not likely ever encounter on the Frances, which is sad. It is the best part for us walking a less traveled camino, which is why we keep coming back every year.

7. GPS doesn't always get you on the right path, so take your time, watch out for signs, including ones knocked down or bumped to face the wrong direction. Stop, look, calculate, recalculate. If you are still unsure, ask the first local you encounter. They may not know the camino, but they will know how to get to the next town.

8. Be prepared for unanticipated long days. It's going to happen on less traveled caminos. It could be weather related, long, steep uphills, long, steep, slippery downhills, closed albergues, whatever. On our camino in Sept-Oct 2019, this year, one of our longest days was on the Ignaciano when we faced a four-hour uphill between Zumarraga and Arantzazu. It was brutal. We are in good shape and it was a long, hard slog, only to arrive in Arantzazu with the heavens opening up with rain. When we arrived, the restaurants were closed, so we put on the miserable, tired, hungry peregrino act, which in this case wasn't an act. We were immediately provided with one of the best meals we ever had. And the proprietor guided us to the albergue where we were put in a private room "to recover." Sweet.

9. Live in the moment. This is neither a race nor a marathon, as the Frances is often referred to. It's every step as an adventure. If it's in warmer weather, start before dawn and savor the sunrise. Close your eyes to listen to the sounds. You are alone so it's just you and nature. It's magical. Take snapshots with your mind to remember those unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. These walks refresh your body and your soul. You will be sad when you finish, but you will have memories forever...and you will start immediately thinking about your next camino.
Loved your post. I’ve done CF as far as Leon back in 200. Wanting to walk again and wondering which route to take - so your post struck a cord. Many./most on this site recommend completing the CF, either from Leon or starting again at SJPP.
Ive wondered about a less travelled route, for the reasons you described. I’m wondering what you would suggest for me?
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
As an obscure-Camino-addict, I thought that this was an excellent post, and should be read by anybody doing an off-Francese trail. Points 8 and 9 were worth a read.

I have fallen for the off-trails as they bring one into a very different Spain, one which does not focus on money-extraction and where pre-modern notions of hospitality to the stranger make one very humble indeed. And oranges and nuts will save you, time and again.

I have found that my occasional insomnia is relieved by google-earthing along the rural roads of Catalonia and Castile.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Thank you for this lovely post, @Anthony Rocco .
I was uncharacteristically (and completely unnecessarily) nervous about walking out-of-the-way caminos, and so started small, by walking the 3 days to Burgos from Santo Domingo de Silos on the Lana and San Olav, and getting deeper in from there.
Now I wonder what I was anxious about.

You're so right. It is a different experience altogether, and quite wonderful. The thing that stands out for me is the solitude and the welcome, both. For people living along the way, we pilgrims are a novelty rather than an overwhelming horde, and so there is still a genuine and very heart-warming welcome.

The basic lesson the remote ways have taught me has been 'Be not afraid - all shall be well' - because these less traveled caminos have been that and more, way more. Which is not to say they are all a bed of roses. But what is life without a good challenge?
 

Jenny@zen

Jenny
Camino(s) past & future
Francesx2 Le Puy Primitivo Mozarabe Arles Norte Rota Vicentina Portuguese Stevenson Madrid Salvador
In Spain, for less crowded Caminos we love the Primitivo. I was there for the second time in October 2019 - even after 5 years since the first time found there to be a nice number of pilgrims, not too crowded. Also love Aragones (Spanish end of the Arles Way), Madrid Way and Mozarabe. Our Mozarabe was bookended by two fabulous towns - Granada and Merida with Cordoba in between. Loved every day but don’t expect to see too many others. As for the Salvador, enjoyed the ‘middle’ days in the mountains.

Now from reading this post, the Olividado and Invierno combo sounds intriguing . Muchas gracias Laurie.
 

MikeJS

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
I would definitely choose the Olvidado/Invierno option if you like less traveled caminos. I walked the Olvidado late sept this year and did not see another perigrino for the whole route - went on to the San salvador where I saw a few and then onto the Primitivo which was relatively crowded. I also walked the Invierno in May 17 when again I only saw 1 other peregrino. For me the Olvidao is by far the most beatiful camino I have walked so far. I wrote this in my blog about one section -
Puente-Almuhey to Cistierna 24kms
Had a lazy day today as it was a short hike. Got up after 0800, had a relaxing breakfast with a large cafe leche and toast. With an expected 4hr hike I left at 0930. However, it was slightly longer than advertised as I arrived just after 1400. Turns out it is actually 24kms. Not that the extra made a difference to me. As for this stage it is absolutely wonderful. In fact if I wanted to show someone the essence of a camino I would take them on this stage. It has everything - gentle stroll through pastures with the donging of cow bells, woods and forests. Good tracks, including a little bit of very quiet road, rural tracks, forest trails and the equivalent of goat trails! There are panoramic views, picturesque churches and a sanctuary as well as pretty lakes. In addition, there is no long bit at the end of the hike where you can see the destination in the distance. The first sighting of Cistierna is when it is only about 3 kms away.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
I just walked the Catalan to the Aragonese. Other tips: Watch the time you do the walk and be prepared to have few pilgrim interactions. I figured that I could be a happy hermit but I had few nights shared with others (off season) and I have to admit I missed company. Be ready for that.

The Aragonese was better.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
...and remember that the Caminos are not only in Spain. In France there are much less travelled ways, with great landscapes and friendly people. And if you want a clear "final point" (so you can say "I did it"), the very old (XIII century) church of Notre-Dame, in Saint Jean Pied de Port, is it for many french pigrims.
I walked the Piedmont in September, mostly alone, not a people in sight, just seven or eight pilgrims I used to met at albergues. Only one of them continued to Roncesvalles.
 

Anthony Rocco

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014, Ignaciano +Aragones +Parts of Frances 2016, Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles (2017)
In Spain, for less crowded Caminos we love the Primitivo. I was there for the second time in October 2019 - even after 5 years since the first time found there to be a nice number of pilgrims, not too crowded. Also love Aragones (Spanish end of the Arles Way), Madrid Way and Mozarabe. Our Mozarabe was bookended by two fabulous towns - Granada and Merida with Cordoba in between. Loved every day but don’t expect to see too many others. As for the Salvador, enjoyed the ‘middle’ days in the mountains.

Now from reading this post, the Olividado and Invierno combo sounds intriguing . Muchas gracias Laurie.
Jenny:

You make one point that I feel is so important that I neglected to mention, another which I will clarify.

For clarification, while the Primitivo will always stand out as our favorite, it does not qualify according to my definition of less traveled caminos. The last I looked, there will be more than 15,000 peregrinos on the Primitivo this year. I tend to look for those with under 1,000 pilgrims, or even better, under 500.

But...the point I missed that you noted is WHEN to walk. I myself favor the autumn because of less rain, which after living in Portland, Oregon, I had enough to last ten lifetlimes. I find that with each passing year, I leave later and later in September. You talked about walking the Primitivo in October. I can believe that walking almost any Camino other than the Frances in October will avoid crowds. And rain is less likely than in April, the other border month.

Thanks for the posting.
 

Anthony Rocco

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2014, Ignaciano +Aragones +Parts of Frances 2016, Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles (2017)
I would definitely choose the Olvidado/Invierno option if you like less traveled caminos. I walked the Olvidado late sept this year and did not see another perigrino for the whole route - went on to the San salvador where I saw a few and then onto the Primitivo which was relatively crowded. I also walked the Invierno in May 17 when again I only saw 1 other peregrino. For me the Olvidao is by far the most beatiful camino I have walked so far. I wrote this in my blog about one section -
Puente-Almuhey to Cistierna 24kms
Had a lazy day today as it was a short hike. Got up after 0800, had a relaxing breakfast with a large cafe leche and toast. With an expected 4hr hike I left at 0930. However, it was slightly longer than advertised as I arrived just after 1400. Turns out it is actually 24kms. Not that the extra made a difference to me. As for this stage it is absolutely wonderful. In fact if I wanted to show someone the essence of a camino I would take them on this stage. It has everything - gentle stroll through pastures with the donging of cow bells, woods and forests. Good tracks, including a little bit of very quiet road, rural tracks, forest trails and the equivalent of goat trails! There are panoramic views, picturesque churches and a sanctuary as well as pretty lakes. In addition, there is no long bit at the end of the hike where you can see the destination in the distance. The first sighting of Cistierna is when it is only about 3 kms away.
Many in response to our message have recommended the Olividado/Invierno, and we are now looking at walking it next year the same time you did: Sept/Oct. If you have a summary of your walk, we would truly appreciate it. If you have a blog we can go to, please advise.
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(10,11,17), Vasco(12), Salvador(13), CP(13), CN(14), Madrid (16), Mozarabe (18), VdlP(19)
As someone who “moved over” to untraveled caminos more than a decade ago, thank you for the post. I would also just add a note for women who want to walk alone and who may be anxious or nervous at the thought of walking for a day without seeing anyone and spending the night alone in an albergue. Some may not be able to get past the fear, and in that case, I don’t encourage you to try it. But if you can focus on the reality that Spain is one of the safest countries in the world, that crime is virtually unheard of on the solitary caminos (I have been flashed more than five times, on the Norte and Francés, but never ever on any of the many kms I have walked on solitary caminos), and if you enjoy being alone, you should give it a try. I have grieved my mother’s death, reveled in the birth of grandkids, and started to grapple with the reality of health problems in my family, all in solitude. Just me, the birds, occasionally the cows and pigs, and the expansive sky or lushness of forests or mountain ridges. Sometimes I talk out loud, sometimes I shout, sometimes I cry. But I always revel in the solitude and the beauty. I cannot imagine a year without one of these caminos, though I am sure the clock is ticking on me like it is on all of us. But for now, carpe diem. Buen camino, Laurie
I 100% concur with Laurie.
 

Stephen Nicholls

Steve Nicholls, Suffolk, U.K.
Camino(s) past & future
Too many caminos to list in the permitted 100 characters!!
I think Laurie has said it all!
However, for me, I loved the Camino de l'Ebro: I don't recall meeting any other peregrinos from the Mediterranean coast, to Logrono. But the scenery was beautiful, and the peace had to be experienced.
I posted a few pictures: have a look at Pilgrimage V on my web site https://snicholl5.wixsite.com/home-site/santiago
It was in May, five years ago. The poppies had to be seen to be believed!
P1020785-001.JPG

Buen camino!
 

MikeJS

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
Many in response to our message have recommended the Olividado/Invierno, and we are now looking at walking it next year the same time you did: Sept/Oct. If you have a summary of your walk, we would truly appreciate it. If you have a blog we can go to, please advise.
It would be a wonderful combination. I actually walked the Olvidado as far as where it joins the San Salvador then headed north to Oviedo and then onto the Primitivo. The only reason I did not carry onto the Invierno was because I had walked that route previously. My blog is here - https://mikesroaming.blogspot.com/2019/09/ but most (possibly all(?)) the info is on my thread on this forum at https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/starting-the-olvidado-on-sept-18-2019.64505/
I would thoroughly recommend ender’s app for the Olvidado (in fact i would consider it essential - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.caminoolvidado&hl=en_GB (android version. there is one for the iphone). Web version here - https://caminoolvidado.com/?eng and you may find this useful - https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mdwd90tntrgra3w/AACcd8AdKw7lG4tT1IIoFwT7a?dl=0 . For the Invierno the Wise Pilgrim app is great and there is a forum guide in the Invierno section of this forum.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Totally agree with Mike. I have walked on the Olvidado twice. The first time, in 2014, I started at the beginning in Bilbao and then continued on the Francés in Ponferrada. The second time, this past summer, I walked the second half of the Olvidado, from Aguilar de Campoo, and then went to the Invierno.

I know that many people don’t like the idea of a jerry-rigged camino, but that’s what I did this year and I have to say it was the most spectacular of all. I started in Irún with the Vasco Interior (taking the first three days on the Saiatz alternative with its just stunning mountain walking) to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. There we hopped on a bus to Burgos and got a bla bla car to Aguilar, to walk the Olvidado’s “second half” (which is where most of the mountains are), and then the Invierno from Ponferrada to Santiago. I had originally hoped to walk every step of the way, but I had some home obligations that made me shorten the walk. But it can be done piecing together bits of the Ebro from Miranda del Ebro, etc.

I also think the Olvidado/Invierno combination is a match made in heaven for those who like solitary caminos. Since the Olvidado officially combines with the Francés in Cacabelos and not Ponferrada, it requires leaving the Olvidado on the last day but there is a well-marked alternative. I think the Olvidado Association hesitates to publicize this combination because it would mean slighting the towns on the last two stages from Congosto to Cacabelos. In fact, the spot of the split has had heavy “arrow erasing” to encourage people to go on to Cabañas Raras. So it would be a good idea to have a GPS if you want to go to Ponferrada from the Olvidado.

And albergues on the Olvidado, unlike the Invierno, seem to be sprouting at a pretty good clip.

Buen camino, Laurie

P.s. my blogs are in the link below in my signature.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
This October 19th to November 4th (17 days) from Barcelona to Puente la Reina de Jaca on the Camino de Catalan I only met one pilgrim going my way. There were a few heading the other direction though on the Camino Ignacio. I did meet the same pilgrim again and two others on the Camino Aragonese.
 

DonCamino

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 CF
2014 CN
2015 + 2016 VdlP
2017 CF + CN
2018 CP from Lisbon
2019 Salvador+Primitivo
I walked the Salvador in May. No problems finding a bed.
Same here from May, 24. to June, 20. on Salvador and Primitivo

But:

to avoid („flee“) overcrowded caminos it seems that meanwhile even beginners walk „the more special“ caminos as their first caminos. And so i think, the formerly less travelled caminos get more and more crowded.

When i did the VdlP in 2015 / 2016 i met up to - lets say - 8 pilgrims a day. 2018 i met a guy on the way to Muxia that ended the VdlP and told by 50 pilgrims there!

Now i plan to do the Levante next year (average = a pilgrim a day i read here and there) and find news of doubled numbers... .
 

DeansFamily

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 18/916/10/17 Muxia/Finisterre 18/10-22/10/17 Norte 21/4-29/5/18 Primitive 20/9-5/10/18 VdlP
Totally agree with Mike. I have walked on the Olvidado twice. The first time, in 2014, I started at the beginning in Bilbao and then continued on the Francés in Ponferrada.
We unknowingy followed the wrong arrows from out of the hilltop alburgue leaving Bilbao and loved the scenery until we finally realised we were not on the Norte but heading to Burgos. We then tracked across to Castro Urdiales, a very memorable but very long day. It was so peaceful and pretty that we have put it on our to do list. I have always preferred the road less travelled 👍
 

P Rat

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino VDLP/Sanábres April 2019
Camino Mozárabe October 2020
In Spain, for less crowded Caminos we love the Primitivo. I was there for the second time in October 2019 - even after 5 years since the first time found there to be a nice number of pilgrims, not too crowded. Also love Aragones (Spanish end of the Arles Way), Madrid Way and Mozarabe. Our Mozarabe was bookended by two fabulous towns - Granada and Merida with Cordoba in between. Loved every day but don’t expect to see too many others. As for the Salvador, enjoyed the ‘middle’ days in the mountains.

Now from reading this post, the Olividado and Invierno combo sounds intriguing . Muchas gracias Laurie.
What time of year did you walk the Mozárabe Jenny?
 

handzondeck2

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (x2); VdLP (x4); Portuguese (x2); Madrid (x2); S/Salvador, Primitivo, Ingles ('17) Camino 19 tba
Same here from May, 24. to June, 20. on Salvador and Primitivo

But:

to avoid („flee“) overcrowded caminos it seems that meanwhile even beginners walk „the more special“ caminos as their first caminos. And so i think, the formerly less travelled caminos get more and more crowded.

When i did the VdlP in 2015 / 2016 i met up to - lets say - 8 pilgrims a day. 2018 i met a guy on the way to Muxia that ended the VdlP and told by 50 pilgrims there!

Now i plan to do the Levante next year (average = a pilgrim a day i read here and there) and find news of doubled numbers... .
I walked the CaminoLevante to Astorga then Camino Invierno to Sanabres this year. Solitary Camino until I got to the Francès for two days
 

PaulG

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2015)
Via de la Plata (2016)
Via Romea Germanica (2018)
Camino del Norte (2019)
Last year I walked the Via Romea Germanica from Innsbruck to Rome. Over 6 weeks I only saw other pilgrims on tbe last few days which are in common with the Via Francigena. The scenery is stupendous in the South Tyrol and akso crossing the Appenines following the original medieval trail. Ypu also pass through some of Italy's most interesting cities such as Ravenna and Orvieto.
 

Jenny@zen

Jenny
Camino(s) past & future
Francesx2 Le Puy Primitivo Mozarabe Arles Norte Rota Vicentina Portuguese Stevenson Madrid Salvador
What time of year did you walk the Mozárabe Jenny?
Hi there
We walked from Granada to Merida starting on the 1st May. It was a little hot at times and not always a lot of shelter. We enjoyed it immensely though pilgrims were few and far between. I think we saw 5 in the two weeks (back in 2015) I recall accommodation was good, including a couple of new albergues where we picked up the key from the local polizia. We had been to Córdoba is about half way - a real treat as was Merida where the Mozarabe meets the via de la plata.We hope to walk the VdeP next year and look forward to a return visit to Merida then. There’s a lovely little Parador hotel there too. Buen Camino
 

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