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Search 69,459 Camino Questions

Walking in January 2023: advice needed for beginner

Pénélope Maz

Beginner - looking for tips
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino de Invierno (planned)
I am planning my first ever Camino for January 2023 and would love to hear your suggestions. Reading all of the various info for winter routes, but getting a little lost. :)
The elements I need to consider:
  • solo backpacking trip
  • approx. 10 days of walking
  • beginning of January 2023
  • Good condition but no experience in long walking trips. Coming from an alpinist family so the mountain is quite familiar.
  • As much nature as possible and changes of scenary
Looking for a mental and physical challenge, but would like to stay realistic and enjoy the journey. Have time for self reflection and not spend hours having to plan the next day. :)
Seems like a challenging time of year for a beginner. So need to keep in mind all challengers regarding weather conditions and infrastructure obviously...

My research led me to Camino de Invierno. Good pick?
I am now reading quite some info about more Southern routes, little more tailor-made by experienced pilgrims though...

Thanks a million for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions!
Looking forward to a life changing journey <3
 
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Hi, Penelope Maz and welcome to the forum.

You can walk the Camino de Invierno in winter, that’s for sure. Check out this recent thread. Though it’s technically not winter yet, I imagine that there will be helpful information there. Another forum member wrote in about her winter Invierno several years ago, so check this thread out as well.

I have walked the Invierno in 10 days. It was more than ten years ago, though, and there was a lot less infrastructure, but the distances haven’t changed.

I think many forum members will recommend the Francés for a first time winter camino, and there is lots of good info there if you want to consider it. It’s a beautiful route, and with a lot fewer pilgrims, you will not have the sensation of walking in endless conga lines.

But if you’re set on the Invierno, go for it, it’s a lovely walk!
 
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Hi, Penelope Maz and welcome to the forum.

You can walk the Camino de Invierno in winter, that’s for sure. Check out this recent thread. Though it’s technically not winter yet, I imagine that there will be helpful information there. Another forum member wrote in about her winter Invierno several years ago, so check this thread out as well.

I have walked the Invierno in 10 days. It was more than ten years ago, though, and there was a lot less infrastructure, but the distances haven’t changed.

I think many forum members will recommend the Francés for a first time winter camino, and there is lots of good info there if you want to consider it. It’s a beautiful route, and with a lot fewer pilgrims, you will not have the sensation of walking in endless conga lines.

But if you’re set on the Invierno, go for it, it’s a lovely walk!
Thanks for the tips! Great info in the threads you shared.
Still looking into Camino Francès indeed.
Could be easier for infrastructure and coming across pilgrims from time to time wouldn’t hurt…
 
Good morning!
I'm excited to walk the Camino Frances starting 29 of december for a full month, thus am glad to hear support for that! I am physically prepared, spiritually excited though logistically unstudied thus far. Glad this medium is friendly and useful. Thank you folks for sharing your experience.

One pair of hiking boots enough? Now that I am sure opens a can of worms.
Se hace camino al andar
 
I am planning my first ever Camino for January 2023 and would love to hear your suggestions. Reading all of the various info for winter routes, but getting a little lost. :)
The elements I need to consider:
  • solo backpacking trip
  • approx. 10 days of walking
  • beginning of January 2023
  • Good condition but no experience in long walking trips. Coming from an alpinist family so the mountain is quite familiar.
  • As much nature as possible and changes of scenary
Looking for a mental and physical challenge, but would like to stay realistic and enjoy the journey. Have time for self reflection and not spend hours having to plan the next day. :)
Seems like a challenging time of year for a beginner. So need to keep in mind all challengers regarding weather conditions and infrastructure obviously...

My research led me to Camino de Invierno. Good pick?
I am now reading quite some info about more Southern routes, little more tailor-made by experienced pilgrims though...

Thanks a million for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions!
Looking forward to a life changing journey <3

If you want the Compostela you must walk last 100 kilometers of any route. That should be easily completed on Camino Invierno or Camino Frances.

There are few pilgrims on any route in January giving you ample time to reflect, have quiet time, and simply enjoy the scenery.

It may rain a bit turning path into a muddy slosh at times.

Enjoy.

Buen camino.
 
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Good morning!
I'm excited to walk the Camino Frances starting 29 of december for a full month, thus am glad to hear support for that! I am physically prepared, spiritually excited though logistically unstudied thus far. Glad this medium is friendly and useful. Thank you folks for sharing your experience.

One pair of hiking boots enough? Now that I am sure opens a can of worms.
Se hace camino al andar

Would you like to be added to the calendar, here? You need to add your starting point.

As to the question of boots - I doubt anyone carries an extra pair, even in winter, too heavy. Something lightweight to change into at night, with maybe an extra pair of warm thick socks.
 
Would you like to be added to the calendar, here? You need to add your starting point.

As to the question of boots - I doubt anyone carries an extra pair, even in winter, too heavy. Something lightweight to change into at night, with maybe an extra pair of warm thick socks.
Walking in any part of November, December &/or January, I think you need a Plan B (and maybe Plan C & D). I last walked in the fall of 2019 on the Camino Frances and by October, many albergues had closed, even those that were listed as open on the 'Open in November today' list. It was very frustrating and stressful, and it was getting colder and wetter, so I eventually stopped walking and helped a hospitalero-friend for a week or two until it was time to head back home.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I am planning my first ever Camino for January 2023 and would love to hear your suggestions. Reading all of the various info for winter routes, but getting a little lost. :)
The elements I need to consider:
  • solo backpacking trip
  • approx. 10 days of walking
  • beginning of January 2023
  • Good condition but no experience in long walking trips. Coming from an alpinist family so the mountain is quite familiar.
  • As much nature as possible and changes of scenary
Looking for a mental and physical challenge, but would like to stay realistic and enjoy the journey. Have time for self reflection and not spend hours having to plan the next day. :)
Seems like a challenging time of year for a beginner. So need to keep in mind all challengers regarding weather conditions and infrastructure obviously...

My research led me to Camino de Invierno. Good pick?
I am now reading quite some info about more Southern routes, little more tailor-made by experienced pilgrims though...

Thanks a million for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions!
Looking forward to a life changing journey <3
I would absolutely recommend the Invierno route, but not necessarily in January.
Here is my suggestion for a very save journey at this time of the year, in whatever weather:
- Start in Ponferrada, (Hotel Aroi Bierzo Plaza*)
- Day 1 to Villafranca del Bierzo (Hostal Tres Campañas*)
- Day 2 to O'Cebreiro (Casa Carol or Casa Navarro*)
- Day 3 to Triacastella (Bunk or room at Albergue A Horta de Abel*)
- Day 4 to Sarria (Pension Escalinata)
- Day 5 to Portomarin (Huellas Albergue-Turistico*)
- Day 6 to Palas de Rey (Pension KM66*)
- Day 7 to Arzuà (Pensión Cima do Lugar*)
- Day 8 to Lavacolla (Hostal-Pension San Paio*)
- Day 9 to Santiago d. C. (Hotel Virxe da Cerca*)

Ponferrada is a well connected town easy to get to; from there you walk in 9 days (I don't know how you want to count the 10 days, with/without getting there and your plans for SdC.) Stops all have accommodation even in early January. In Ponferrada, have dinner at the Pizzeria right at the clock-tower, next door of the Aroi Bierzo Plaza, the best Bistecca Fiorentina you've ever had!
The Hotel Virxe da Cerca**** in SdC is a bit more pricy but an absolute charm and a reward for the accomplishment, but the town offers plenty of alternatives.
All the other places in brackets () are very reasonably priced, cosy (heated) hotels/pensions listed in Booking.com (*). Multiple alternative Albergues can be found in all stops, but I don't know if they are open.

Happy New Year and Buen Camino
 
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For a first Camino, definitely plan around finishing in Santiago de Compostela.

Though for January, I probably would say Francès rather than the Invierno, purely because more accommodations will be open.

Yes, there's the potential problem of some mountain passes being snowed over, but mainly that's over the Cruz de Ferro section, and the tarmac will get cleared at some point. Over O Cebreiro, the tarmac option will be open pretty much always AFAIK.

To avoid those problems entirely, there's of course the Portuguese.
 
I would absolutely recommend the Invierno route, but not necessarily in January.
Here is my suggestion for a very save journey at this time of the year, in whatever weather:
- Start in Ponferrada, (Hotel Aroi Bierzo Plaza*)
- Day 1 to Villafranca del Bierzo (Hostal Tres Campañas*)
- Day 2 to O'Cebreiro (Casa Carol or Casa Navarro*)
- Day 3 to Triacastella (Bunk or room at Albergue A Horta de Abel*)
- Day 4 to Sarria (Pension Escalinata)
- Day 5 to Portomarin (Huellas Albergue-Turistico*)
- Day 6 to Palas de Rey (Pension KM66*)
- Day 7 to Arzuà (Pensión Cima do Lugar*)
- Day 8 to Lavacolla (Hostal-Pension San Paio*)
- Day 9 to Santiago d. C. (Hotel Virxe da Cerca*)

Ponferrada is a well connected town easy to get to; from there you walk in 9 days (I don't know how you want to count the 10 days, with/without getting there and your plans for SdC.) All stops all have accommodation even in early January. In Ponferrada, have dinner at the Pizzeria right at the clock-tower, next door of the Aroi Bierzo Plaza, the best Bistecca Fiorentina you've ever had!
The Hotel Virxe da Cerca**** in SdC is a bit more pricy but an absolute charm and a reward for the accomplishment, but the town offers plenty of alternatives.
All the other places in brackets () are very reasonably priced, cosy (heated) hotels/pensions listed in Booking.com (*). Multiple alternative Albergues can be found in all stops, but I don't know if they are open.

Happy New Year and Buen Camino
Thank you so much for all these tips ! Very much appreciated. Still looking at the amount of challenge I am willing to take on and was considering more Southern alternatives for easy temperatures (and not make it to SdC). But this gives me hope again! ❤️
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Oh, and definitely bring your rain kit.

For shoes, this season is definitely one of the exceptions when traditional leather hiking shoes or boots (with rubber soles !!) should at least be considered, as pretty much your only hope of keeping your socks dry.

There are other options of course, involving easily dried socks and footwear, and so this is just about potential alternatives.

Whether your feet will swell or not while hiking is likely an unknown, but to stay safe, get a half size larger than usual (or one size if it's EU), and pack two types of socks, thick and thin.

Careful when looking at shoes and boots threads, as most of them assume that people will be walking in warm dry weather, not in Winter. Whilst I myself use leather boots, I would certainly not recommend them to most other pilgrims walking in the dry season, when lighter shoes are clearly better.
 

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