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What's going on? Camino del Norte hard?

I walked the Norte and found it...

  • hard

    Votes: 7 13.5%
  • pretty hard

    Votes: 16 30.8%
  • perfectly doable

    Votes: 27 51.9%
  • easy

    Votes: 2 3.8%

  • Total voters
    52

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
 
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rorerich

CaminoLifer
Camino(s) past & future
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, (2019)
THANK YOU Luka for your perspective!
I most appreciate your thoughts as my sister and I prepare to walk from Irun in September. We have both logged many K on the Camino Frances and Camino Sanabres. We are hoping that our experience and wisdom will serve us well to make this a positive effort despite my being over 65 and sis having health considerations.
 

Jan Jones

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April/May 2018
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
Imho it’s very different to the Francés for a number of reasons that for some people makes it harder and they are legitimate reasons for them. Fewer people which can make for a lonelier experience if walking alone, The hard surfaces are more difficult on the body, especially if it’s not so young, There are some long stretches without services , and so on. I walked the Francés last year and the Norte this year, solo and mid sixties. I did find the Norte harder going but had anticipated it and it was easier than I thought it might be, but I kept my stages as close to 25kms and under as much as possible. If you walk alone be prepared for solitude, I found the varied nature and beauty of the Norte to be well worth any difficulties. Home five weeks and missing it enormously, but I was way more emotional at the end of the Norte than the Francés which I put down to weariness and walking in solitude. It felt like a much more significant achievement for me , but every walk is different.
 

Suzanne S.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Camino Frances/Muxia/Fisterre (2017) Caminho Portuguese/Fisterre
(2019) Camino del Norte
Imho it’s very different to the Francés for a number of reasons that for some people makes it harder and they are legitimate reasons for them. Fewer people which can make for a lonelier experience if walking alone, The hard surfaces are more difficult on the body, especially if it’s not so young, There are some long stretches without services , and so on. I walked the Francés last year and the Norte this year, solo and mid sixties. I did find the Norte harder going but had anticipated it and it was easier than I thought it might be, but I kept my stages as close to 25kms and under as much as possible. If you walk alone be prepared for solitude, I found the varied nature and beauty of the Norte to be well worth any difficulties. Home five weeks and missing it enormously, but I was way more emotional at the end of the Norte than the Francés which I put down to weariness and walking in solitude. It felt like a much more significant achievement for me , but every walk is different.
Your experience is what I'm anticipating. I, too, am mid 60s and will be walking solo. Thank you for sharing your thoughts...
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
@Jan Jones Thank you for sharing your experience. Happy to read you enjoyed the Norte althought it is different from the Francés. It sounds like you were well prepared.

It is interesting to read that solitude is a perpective as well. Compared to the Francés you could call the Norte a lonely walk, but I always meet (other) pilgrims when I am on the road and for sure in the albergues (if you are not walking in winter). From my perspective walking in northern France or on the Camino de Invierno means solitude ;-)
 

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
THANK YOU Luka for your perspective!
I most appreciate your thoughts as my sister and I prepare to walk from Irun in September. We have both logged many K on the Camino Frances and Camino Sanabres. We are hoping that our experience and wisdom will serve us well to make this a positive effort despite my being over 65 and sis having health considerations.
I’m with you..we start in late August and I’m turning 67 in September. My fourth Camino in four years. I too hope experience and training many miles on hard surfaces will serve me well on the Norte.
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
My vote is for 'perfectly doable'. However, I do remember a thread in which somebody calculated there is relatively more asphalt walking on the Norte (as compared to the CF). Not such a problem for me, but it could be for others - that is why I always advice people preparing for the Norte to look up the thread on coastal alternatives.

As for the solitude... it is all relative I suppose as my august/september Norte wasn't exactly solitary. For me walking the German camino's are a more proper solitary experience (meeting at most 1-2 pilgrims per week). Remembering the Norte, I mostly remember getting a little spoilt, as there seemed to be no end to the beautiful seaside views (and one almost started to take these for granted..)
 

nickpellatt

Member
Camino(s) past & future
French 2015 Portuguese 2018 Norte May 2019 Finesterre and Muxia April 2019
I think its perfectly doable. Based on the experience of having recently done it.

My experience was the Portuguese was quieter. I had a day there when I didnt see anyone, and was then the only person in an albergue. That was never my experience on the Norte, and although the days could be quiet, there were always others around in the evenings.

Definately less coffee stops and amenities. But that was OK for me. If you are the kind of person who cant start the day without breakfast, preparing your own isnt a bad idea as you cant be sure of finding a cafe every morning.

The waymarking is excellent, so no issues there making it hard.

I have thought a lot about how hard the walking was. I was able to walk much longer distances on the Portuguese (35km + many days), and yet struggled with 25km + on the Norte, but ..... I was around 74kg on the Portuguese, and weighed 88kg when I ended the Norte. That's like carrying two extra backpacks, so maybe that was why it was harder!

I didn't notice the road walking at the start, but I did struggle with my feet at the end, but I did walk for 50 days, so its standard really. Overall, I found the Norte my most rewarding Camino experience.
 

psheehan

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, CPo, CdN, CPr, F, CS, CV, CI, VdlP, CS, CA
Thank you for a great post Luka. The Norte is a wonderful Camino, yes there are a few short hills in the first few days but overall the terrain is excellent, complimented with wonderful views and the best of food and wine to be had on any of the Caminos... and not 'brutal' as somebody recently described it on this forum!

The Norte definitely gets my vote.
 

André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
Thank you all! I think my motivation to post this thread came from disappointment that not everyone shares my love for the Camino del Norte... :oops:
I do!

On the Frances I got tendinitis walking on the mesetas. That was hard.
The second time on the Frances I developed a knee problem. That was hard.
The Del Norte had more climbing than the Frances. That was hard.
On the VdlP I had to walk in temperatures up to 48 degrees Celsius. That was hard.

I guess it makes no difference. Every Camino has it’s hard parts.
But each of them can bring a lot of good ... if you let them.

Just like giving up a good job to start again, somewhere in Spain. ;)
 

SinBosun

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF September 2016, Norte September 2018
Comparing the CF from SJPP and the Norte from Irun for difficulty, I would say that the CF is much less hard going in terms of climbs. There were fewer people doing it (last September) than when I did the CF, but most importantly for me was the fact that for much of the coastal path the towns and villages are dedicated to their seaside tourism unlike the CF where the hostels etc have little choice but to focus on pilgrims. This meant that we found fewer communal meals etc. However, we loved the wilderness and view on the Norte and still made some wonderful friends.
 

Liz Drew

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Coastal Portuguese
2018 Via de la Plata
(2019) del Norte
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
I have never done the Frances and probably never will as there are far too many people for me! The Portugués was my first and last year the Vis de la Plata which does have quite a bit of road walking, lots of solitude and quite a few hills. I start the del Norte in September. I expect it to be breathtakingly beautiful. Even if I don’t get to share it with someone now and then. I have walked alone but never for long
 

AJGuillaume

Pèlerin du monde
Camino(s) past & future
Via Gebennensis (2018)
Via Podiensis (2018)
Voie Nive Bidassoa (2018)
Camino Del Norte (2018)
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
We haven't done the Frances, but we walked the Gebennensis, the Podiensis (Voie du Puy) and the Norte last year.
We're in our 60's, and we took our time, averaging 16km per day over 133 days.
We loved the Norte, with its beach walks, and as we followed @peregrina2000 's alternatives, we enjoyed some amazing scenery, without having to endure too much road walking.
Back in Australia, speaking to people who are interested in the Norte, we share our experience that the Norte is not as hard as its reputation, and if you don't blindly follow yellow arrows, you'll be on beautiful walking trails.
We are still to experience other Caminos (Caminho Português un 2020), and once we have done that we will gladly return to the Norte.
 

AJGuillaume

Pèlerin du monde
Camino(s) past & future
Via Gebennensis (2018)
Via Podiensis (2018)
Voie Nive Bidassoa (2018)
Camino Del Norte (2018)
Thank you all! I think my motivation to post this thread came from disappointment that not everyone shares my love for the Camino del Norte... :oops:
@Luka , we share your love of the Norte.
In fact it is thanks to one of your posts that we discovered Monte Candina from Oriñon. Not the way you walked it, but through the southern part. That would have been one of the many highlights of our Norte.
Thank you for sharing your love of the Norte!
 
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
I am a Norte-repeater as I quite enjoy it but there should be no soft-pedalling the difficulty of the first week. Deba to Markina/Xemein and to Guernica/Gernika are two very tough days, with few stops, and are at the beginning of the route. There are a few options for breaking Markina/Xemein-Guernica/Gernika into two stages, and I would recommend looking at it.

There is more asphalt, perhaps, than the Francese, but most of it is on country roads, and my recollections are that it is not much worse than the Francese. Off-road paths are perhaps more work than the Francese, but it all balances out and, unless there are some specific medical conditions in play, neither consideration is that great.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago, Norte (2016)
Camino Portuguese, Coastal (2018)
Perfectly doable but there are stretches within a doable day that are hard. And as oursonpolaire mentioned above, it's mostly during the first week, especially the two stages he or she highlighted. But it's a beautiful walk and the first week, though tough in places, has some absolutely stunning views.
 

Kathie Morton

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
5/2017
Hmmm,
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
 

Kathie Morton

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
5/2017
I’m seriously thinking of doing the Norte next June/July and from the profile it does look bumpy, definitely not the Portugués coastal route, and I can see how one might compare to Francés, however the parts that seem to be more like the Francés is a few days away from start in Irún. By then, I would assume one is fit enough to be easier than it looks. The first few days out of SJPP on Francés were tough, even with intense training. I’m 66 now, so I’m training like I did for Francés, but I don’t expect it to be as hard. By the way, what time of year did you go? And how was the weather? That concerns me more. Thx, Kathie
 

Dominick

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via De La Plata 2018, Finisterre 2018,
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
Hi Luka; thanks for your perspective. I will be walking the del Norte starting in early Septiembre and I am very much looking forward to it (even the challenging parts). You mentioned alternative routes along del Norte; where would I find out about such routes? Do these alternative routes have albergues o only hotels and the like? I have not walked the CF, but during my walk of the VDLP, I noticed (some) Pilgrims often compared it to the VDLP. I think the beauty of Los Caminos is that they each have their own unique beauty - whether that be solitude o picturesque o whatever. Ultreia
 

Redvespablur

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte/Primitivo April/May 2016
Voie Littorale May 2020
We did Norte/Primitivo for our 50th birthday in 2016. I planned first week badly - links to blog under my username- and this meant some stupidly difficult days ie 42km stage from Zumaia over two small ranges etc.

But even with that we managed. Going back next Spring to walk some of Voie Litoralle and then Irun to Bilbao (with shorter stages to better enjoy the Basque Country.).

We wii do Irun to SS. SS to Getaria. Getaria to Deba. Deba to Markina. Markina to Guernica. Guernica to Bilbao (with bus for last bit in industrial suburbs). This should add 2 days to our previous itinerary and bring the average stage to below 25 from 36 km plus.

It’s lovely country and the towns and cities are worth having a little time and energy to explore.
 

O Peracha

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago (2014)
Annapurna Base, Nepal (2014)
GR 5 - Holland to Pompey, France (2015)
Lisbon to Finesterre (2016)
What's a hard or easy camino is so subjective that it is nearly meaningless without context or hard data. For example . . .

I just got back from doing the Primitivo. Is it hard? Not at all. But here's the context. I started in Toulouse - Chemin d'Arles to Camino Aragones to Camino Frances (Obanos to Leon) to Camino de San Salvador and finally Primitivo to Santiago. Right after Salvador, the Primtiivo was exhilarating, fun and surprisingly easy. Now the Salvador. That is one tough mofo.

Also, time makes a difference. I first did the Frances 5 years ago, starting in Le Puy. If you had asked me two months ago if the Frances had any hills or steep climbs, I would have said no. The only hill I recalled was the Pyrenees. After that it was flat and very easy. This year, when I started from Toulouse and did the Frances from Obanos to Leon I was shocked at the number of steep hills that have been added in the ensuing five years. Both times I started way before Frances and the sections before Frances were equally hilly (this year may have been even more so). Five years older was the only difference.

As for the Norte, I'd place it as harder than the Frances from 5 years ago and about the same as the Frances from this year but definitely easier than the Primitivo. But, rather than difficult or easy, I prefer to look at the data - elevation, slope and distance between services.
 

Padraigl

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 - Saria to Santiago (bug had bitten)
2014 - Camino del Norte
We, a fit 40+ couple walked with my father who was 72 at the time. He had more walking legs than both of us and loved every minute. He is a hill walker every day.

Overall the best walk I have ever completed and will probably never achieve that feeling of complete "perfectness" again.
I would consider it a hard walk overall. Each of us had our easy and difficult days, no question. We all loved the hill stages especially from Irun (probably because the 3 of us grew up beside the hills) and none of us liked the road walking.

We would all do it again in a shot.....
 

WayWalker

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2016
Is it "hard" is subjective. What kind of fitness level do you have? How old are you? How many Caminos do you have under your belt? What kind of training have you done? I have done the Frances, Portugese Coastal from Lisbon and lastly the Norte from Irun last fall. I was 59. I live in Colorado and trained in the mountains and was glad for it. On the north coast of Spain the cities, towns and villages are at sea level beneath giant beautiful headlands that you must walk straight up and down to the next place. No switchbacks. I found it challenging but doable. It's the toughest Camino yet for me but I was up for it. And it was definitely the most beautiful.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
The first few days out of SJPP on Francés were tough, even with intense training. I’m 66 now, so I’m training like I did for Francés, but I don’t expect it to be as hard.
I can guarantee that the first few days of the Norte from Irun are tougher than the first few days of the Frances.
 

NadineK

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2014)
Norte/Primitivo (2015)
San Salvador (2016)
Le Puy-Cahors (2017)
Aragonés (2019)
What's a hard or easy camino is so subjective that it is nearly meaningless without context or hard data. For example . . .

I just got back from doing the Primitivo. Is it hard? Not at all. But here's the context. I started in Toulouse - Chemin d'Arles to Camino Aragones to Camino Frances (Obanos to Leon) to Camino de San Salvador and finally Primitivo to Santiago. Right after Salvador, the Primtiivo was exhilarating, fun and surprisingly easy. Now the Salvador. That is one tough mofo.
I’m curious, about how many days did you need for this itinerary? With the exception of Toulouse to Oloron-Ste-Marie, I’ve walked all of these Camino routes (yes, you could say I’m an addict), but spread out over a number of years. If I could return to walk for a few months, this might be my ideal itinerary, and I would love to see what the experience would be like.
 

O Peracha

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago (2014)
Annapurna Base, Nepal (2014)
GR 5 - Holland to Pompey, France (2015)
Lisbon to Finesterre (2016)

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
I've walked five Caminos, with the Norte/Primitivo my second one. I found it somewhat more difficult, but only "here and there", not everywhere. The beauty was delightful and made any hardship quickly disappear by end of day. It did occasionally have longer stages, so took a bit more planning at times. It had a less religious feel to me as there were not as many churches and cathedrals along the way. I cannot speak for the Norte past Villaviciosa as we headed southwest towards Oviedo.
 
Camino(s) past & future
this will be my first. Norte September 2018.
Recently I have read quite a few posts stating that the Norte is a difficult Camino. That surprises me. Yes, in a few ways it is harder than the Francés, with all the facilities and the possibility to walk (very) short stages. But hard?

It is true, especially the part from Irún to Bilbao has quite a few ups and downs. But no difficult climbs or descents. And yes, you'll have to walk quite a bit on asphalt, but there are loads of coastal alternatives. There are a lot less facilities and less albergues than on the Francés, but still more than enough to limit your stages and not to carry liters of water. I really believe the Norte has become a well accomodated Camino with excellent marking. Has it to do with preparations or different expectations? Or do some pilgrims compare it too much to the Francés?

Or am I the one with the odd opinion?
You are not. It was my first and I enjoyed it even the “hard” challenging parts. I also found lovely company and places to stay.
 

zacattack909

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
september (2016)
I quit halfway through the Norte last year {problems back at home really weighed me down and made me question why I was being so selfish} and am going back in october/november of this year to start again, hopefully in a better headspace and with the farm in better order at home. I agree with most of your comments in this thread, but would like to add a little if I can. One thing I really struggled with in the first two weeks or so of the Norte as I travelled up hill and down dale, was that if this Camino has been around for a thousand years or so, how come in all that time no-one has found a better route along the coast than to go up and over almost every steep hill in sight! At one spot, not sure where now but I think after Deba, or perhaps before Guernika, I had been climbing for over two hours only to take FOUR steps before starting a steep descent. I know it was 4 steps because I actually went back and checked. Surely, in all these years and after all these pilgrims, someone has considered a path AROUND a few of the higher hills? Especially the ones with no view, no services and especially, no water. I had walked the Frances in 2016 from ST Jean, and I started walking the Norte from Biarritz, but I found the Norte significantly harder. I just kept thinking, if the Frances was Spains way of showing us enlightenment, The Norte (at least in the first week or so) was Spains practical joke. I think I also struggled a little that you would have these hard long days, and yes, achieve lesser kms than on other routes, and then come out into tourist towns that werent based on pilgrims and cpuldnt care less that a sweaty exhausted Australian had just stumbled out of their mountains. No, I didnt expect rose petals and parades in my honor, I just didnt feel the same sense that Spain was helping us on our way as I had previously on the Frances. None of this, I will add, is Spains problem. It was MY problem, and I simply failed to adjust.
 

Dàoest

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2020)
@Luka , we share your love of the Norte.
In fact it is thanks to one of your posts that we discovered Monte Candina from Oriñon. Not the way you walked it, but through the southern part. That would have been one of the many highlights of our Norte.
Thank you for sharing your love of the Norte!
Will you both be at the MEL Camino dinner next month?
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
You mentioned alternative routes along del Norte; where would I find out about such routes? Do these alternative routes have albergues o only hotels and the like?
Hi Dominick, you'll find all the information about alternative routes in this thread:

Most of these alternative routes will end up at the Norte again before the day is over. This means less facilities while walking (carry water and some food), but you will end most of you detour days in a Camino del Norte albergue.
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
No, I didnt expect rose petals and parades in my honor, I just didnt feel the same sense that Spain was helping us on our way as I had previously on the Frances. None of this, I will add, is Spains problem. It was MY problem, and I simply failed to adjust.
Thank you for sharing your experience. It takes self insight to be able to look at it this way. And I think that this is where a lot of Camino days go wrong: expectations. That is my big Camino lesson: take it as it comes and adjust to the circumstances instead of expecting the circumstances will adjust to you.
 
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Dominick

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via De La Plata 2018, Finisterre 2018,

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
I started following this thread early on with great interest. Now that I just finished (Last week) The Norte from Irùn to Santiago I can give a first hand recent account of what the Norte was like for a couple that are in their sixties (I’m 68, my wife 63), and have walked the Frances twice (2016,2017) and Portuguese (2018). We walk a lot, not just on Caminos. We train, I was in full pack training four months before we left for the Norte. We were in decent shape. We took it slow, 41 days walking with four rest days. Okay, that being said, this my humble opinion about how hard it was for us. No doubt the beauty of Spain’s headlands and beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Being a guy that has lived in California all my life that is saying a lot. I did love walking in all the forest and farmland at first. But I have to admit that I did get a bit tired of the farmland towards the end. Second, yes there is more asphalt walking than most people would like. To me is was not the asphalt that was tough but there were more times than I liked when the road was mixed with fast moving vehicles and tight curves. Was it hard? For us, Irùn to San Sebastián was probably the hardest physically day walking! I laugh now when I think back to my first Camino and I thought walking from SJPD over the Pyrenees was hard. Yes we took the high road at the split but it was the stairs and the hills (after the ferry) the last four miles into San Sebastián. Okay I’m not the first one to make this claim about day one, but all the days to Bilbao we’re almost as tough. The downhill into Deba, after a long day, there are hundreds of stairs to descend. The accent out of Deba going to Markina-Xemein made it a very long tough day. We made some great Camino friends during these stages, most fit, in their thirties and early forties and they too admitted that these stages were hard! So it was not just this old guy’s brain working against him. After Bilbao it gets a little better because you get what I call your Camino Legs, but it stays hilly and there are some difficult days ahead like the 30k day coming into Gijón. No choice but to do 30k that day with one very steep rocky climb that is about 3k long. Three other days come to mind after Gijón. The day after Soto Del Lauina to Cadavedo. Check the elevation on that up and down day. Also this first two days after leaving Ribadeo, a couple very good climbing days! I felt, as we got near the end of the Norte, the last three or four days before the Camino Frances, were a bit uneventful. The stages were not tough, just a tad boring. Maybe because we were anxious to get it done. In closing, I write this because the Camino Norte is still fresh in my brain. I do not wish to discourage anyone from attempting this great Camino. I only wish to give my point of view as a 68-year-old man who just completed this beautiful but at times difficult task. A point I must make in closing, no matter how difficult the stage on the Norte, when the day was done and my wife and I sat with a cold beverage in our hand, we laughed, gave thanks for a safe day and were amazed at the day we had just completed! If you would like to read a day by day account of our Norte it is on Instagram, Please search t_vela_aka_lbpilgrim
 
Last edited:

Liz Drew

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Coastal Portuguese
2018 Via de la Plata
(2019) del Norte
I also have just finished walking all the del Norte as well. I finished on the 9 th October and I agree with you. I have also done a few other Caminos and this one was by far the most physically challenging. The day walking into Gijón was a killer! It is relentless, day after day of hills until almost the very end. However the scenery is breathtaking. I carried my pack all the way and had my 67th birthday in Camillas - a most enjoyable experience.
Disappointingly I have left without a Compostela. I arrived at the pilgrim’s office at 2 pm only to be told that they had stopped giving out numbers for the day and to come back tomorrow. That was out of the question as I had an early flight out of Santiago. No amount of pleading helped. Having come from Australia and walked from Irún I left without one.
The last 100 kms was a race - well it seemed like one with those only doing 100 kms and many not carrying a back pack at all. They beat me to the pilgrims office, got their Compostela and were off rejoicing.

to say I was disheartened is an understatement. This will be my last Camino, it’s just too touristy!
 

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
Sorry you didn’t get your compostela! I agree with you in that the Camino Frances is getting out of hand with the amount of people. They should set a certain amount of time each day for people that have walked a full Camino. Some kind of distance pecking order! But congratulations on finishing your Norte!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
I started following this thread early on with great interest. Now that I just finished (Last week) The Norte from Irùn to Santiago I can give a first hand recent account of what the Norte was like for a couple that are in their sixties (I’m 68, my wife 63), and have walked the Frances twice (2016,2017) and Portuguese (2018). We walk a lot, not just on Caminos. We train, I was in full pack training four months before we left for the Norte. We were in decent shape. We took it slow, 41 days walking with four rest days. Okay, that being said, this my humble opinion about how hard it was for us. No doubt the beauty of Spain’s headlands and beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Being a guy that has lived in California all my life that is saying a lot. I did love walking in all the forest and farmland at first. But I have to admit that I did get a bit tired of the farmland towards the end. Second, yes there is more asphalt walking than most people would like. To me is was not the asphalt that was tough but there were more times than I liked when the road was mixed with fast moving vehicles and tight curves. Was it hard? For us, Irùn to San Sebastián was probably the hardest physically day walking! I laugh now when I think back to my first Camino and I thought walking from SJPD over the Pyrenees was hard. Yes we took the high road at the split but it was the stairs and the hills (after the ferry) the last four miles into San Sebastián. Okay I’m not the first one to make this claim about day one, but all the days to Bilbao we’re almost as tough. The downhill into Deba, after a long day, there are hundreds of stairs to descend. The accent out of Deba going to Markina-Xemein made it a very long tough day. We made some great Camino friends during these stages, most fit, in their thirties and early forties and they too admitted that these stages were hard! So it was not just this old guy’s brain working against him. After Bilbao it gets a little better because you get what I call your Camino Legs, but it stays hilly and there are some difficult days ahead like the 30k day coming into Gijón. No choice but to do 30k that day with one very steep rocky climb that is about 3k long. Three other days come to mind after Gijón. The day after Soto Del Lauina to Cadavedo. Check the elevation on that up and down day. Also this first two days after leaving Ribadeo, a couple very good climbing days! I felt, as we got near the end of the Norte, the last three or four days before the Camino Frances, were a bit uneventful. The stages were not tough, just a tad boring. Maybe because we were anxious to get it done. In closing, I write this because the Camino Norte is still fresh in my brain. I do not wish to discourage anyone from attempting this great Camino. I only wish to give my point of view as a 68-year-old man who just completed this beautiful but at times difficult task. A point I must make in closing, no matter how difficult the stage on the Norte, when the day was done and my wife and I sat with a cold beverage in our hand, we laughed, gave thanks for a safe day and were amazed at the day we had just completed! If you would like to read a day by day account of our Norte it is on Instagram @ t_vela_aka_lbpilgrim
Re the downhill into Deba: in 2017 we had to end our walk at Deba (injury). We resumed in 2018 at S Sebastian. At Deba, where the billboard announcing their carefully conserved section of original Roman road is, there is asphalt, kinda steep looking, going to the left and curving. If your knees are goners, or like me you have bad memories of that bit of Roman road, take the asphalt and follow the street and a few relict arrows. You will find the famous elevator! Actually it is a pair of elevators. And they are wonderful. I was so happy that I got to ride in the famous elevators, a once in a lifetime thing for me, taking the old way into the center of town.
And, looking back, I really wonder if there is an elevator in Bilbao that could be connected up to. I think I saw a tower that might be one.
Ribadeo also seemed to have an elevator, but it wasn't located anywhere near where we walked across the long bridge--pedestrian pathway, no problem--so we only looked at it and said, will you look at that!

Buen camino to all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
I also have just finished walking all the del Norte as well. I finished on the 9 th October and I agree with you. I have also done a few other Caminos and this one was by far the most physically challenging. The day walking into Gijón was a killer! It is relentless, day after day of hills until almost the very end. However the scenery is breathtaking. I carried my pack all the way and had my 67th birthday in Camillas - a most enjoyable experience.
Disappointingly I have left without a Compostela. I arrived at the pilgrim’s office at 2 pm only to be told that they had stopped giving out numbers for the day and to come back tomorrow. That was out of the question as I had an early flight out of Santiago. No amount of pleading helped. Having come from Australia and walked from Irún I left without one.
The last 100 kms was a race - well it seemed like one with those only doing 100 kms and many not carrying a back pack at all. They beat me to the pilgrims office, got their Compostela and were off rejoicing.

to say I was disheartened is an understatement. This will be my last Camino, it’s just too touristy!
I am always bemused by the people who plan their Camino walk so tightly, with a very short stay in Santiago, and with no spare days in case something happens. Perhaps it's because I'm becoming old, but we always build in some extra days and some rest days, just in case. If you get a trip-ending injury you're still out of luck, but if it's only needing a day to rest you're good. And those extra days that didn't get used give you a bit of space to get the Compostela if you're wanting it and to perhaps see something that otherwise you couldn't. But that's just me, YMMV, and all that.
 

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
Re the downhill into Deba: in 2017 we had to end our walk at Deba (injury). We resumed in 2018 at S Sebastian. At Deba, where the billboard announcing their carefully conserved section of original Roman road is, there is asphalt, kinda steep looking, going to the left and curving. If your knees are goners, or like me you have bad memories of that bit of Roman road, take the asphalt and follow the street and a few relict arrows. You will find the famous elevator! Actually it is a pair of elevators. And they are wonderful. I was so happy that I got to ride in the famous elevators, a once in a lifetime thing for me, taking the old way into the center of town.
And, looking back, I really wonder if there is an elevator in Bilbao that could be connected up to. I think I saw a tower that might be one.
Ribadeo also seemed to have an elevator, but it wasn't located anywhere near where we walked across the long bridge--pedestrian pathway, no problem--so we only looked at it and said, will you look at that!

Buen camino to all.
I did eventually heard about the elevator long after we passed Deba. Glad you got to use it! I would of if I had known!!
 

Padraigl

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 - Saria to Santiago (bug had bitten)
2014 - Camino del Norte
I started following this thread early on with great interest. Now that I just finished (Last week) The Norte from Irùn to Santiago I can give a first hand recent account of what the Norte was like for a couple that are in their sixties (I’m 68, my wife 63), and have walked the Frances twice (2016,2017) and Portuguese (2018). We walk a lot, not just on Caminos. We train, I was in full pack training four months before we left for the Norte. We were in decent shape. We took it slow, 41 days walking with four rest days. Okay, that being said, this my humble opinion about how hard it was for us. No doubt the beauty of Spain’s headlands and beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Being a guy that has lived in California all my life that is saying a lot. I did love walking in all the forest and farmland at first. But I have to admit that I did get a bit tired of the farmland towards the end. Second, yes there is more asphalt walking than most people would like. To me is was not the asphalt that was tough but there were more times than I liked when the road was mixed with fast moving vehicles and tight curves. Was it hard? For us, Irùn to San Sebastián was probably the hardest physically day walking! I laugh now when I think back to my first Camino and I thought walking from SJPD over the Pyrenees was hard. Yes we took the high road at the split but it was the stairs and the hills (after the ferry) the last four miles into San Sebastián. Okay I’m not the first one to make this claim about day one, but all the days to Bilbao we’re almost as tough. The downhill into Deba, after a long day, there are hundreds of stairs to descend. The accent out of Deba going to Markina-Xemein made it a very long tough day. We made some great Camino friends during these stages, most fit, in their thirties and early forties and they too admitted that these stages were hard! So it was not just this old guy’s brain working against him. After Bilbao it gets a little better because you get what I call your Camino Legs, but it stays hilly and there are some difficult days ahead like the 30k day coming into Gijón. No choice but to do 30k that day with one very steep rocky climb that is about 3k long. Three other days come to mind after Gijón. The day after Soto Del Lauina to Cadavedo. Check the elevation on that up and down day. Also this first two days after leaving Ribadeo, a couple very good climbing days! I felt, as we got near the end of the Norte, the last three or four days before the Camino Frances, were a bit uneventful. The stages were not tough, just a tad boring. Maybe because we were anxious to get it done. In closing, I write this because the Camino Norte is still fresh in my brain. I do not wish to discourage anyone from attempting this great Camino. I only wish to give my point of view as a 68-year-old man who just completed this beautiful but at times difficult task. A point I must make in closing, no matter how difficult the stage on the Norte, when the day was done and my wife and I sat with a cold beverage in our hand, we laughed, gave thanks for a safe day and were amazed at the day we had just completed! If you would like to read a day by day account of our Norte it is on Instagram @ t_vela_aka_lbpilgrim

Hi

The Instagram link is not working...

Thx
 

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
Hi

The Instagram link is not working...

Thx
Thank for the information...Please search on Instagram.....t_vela_aka_lb_pilgrim
 
Last edited:

rorerich

CaminoLifer
Camino(s) past & future
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, (2019)
Hi everyone - I posted earlier that I would be on the Norte with my sis and appreciated the positive encouragement of the original post and the information others have provided. Having just returned from walking Irun to Santander I have some observations:
1) Yes some of the walking was challenging (for reasons others have mentioned) but we managed to do well by planning distances that were manageable for our circumstances. In the end we completed more trail than we ever thought we might!
2) Mid September to Mid October was busy! Albergues were mostly or completely full and we did see pilgrims turned away after long days of walking.
3) The Camino spirit certainly wrapped around us, and yes, there were other times we felt that we were just visitors in a community. But the considerate and generous moments were so so sweet!
4) The coastal scenery was stunning. The woods were serene. The pavement walking was expected. The towns were bigger and less well marked than I have experienced before. And the weather lovely.
Del Norte is really like any other Camino - challenge yourself but be reasonable - keep an open mind and spirit - enjoy what has been given and give what you can. It really is that simple.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk the Camino del Norte from Castro Urdiales (2019)
I loved every step of my Norte. I walked from Castro Urdiales to Santiago, arriving September 21st. It's anything but brutal. The coastal stretches in Cantabria and Asturias are beautiful. The only 'shock' was the sheer number of pilgrims leaving Arzua early in the morning after the Norte joined the Frances.
 

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
We enjoyed walking the Norte from Hendaye. The scenery is striking in many parts, the wonderful Donativos gave us cherished memories, the variants (especially before crossing over to Santander) were worth the effort. But I agree that there are sections of the Norte that can challenge especially when deep with mud, and steep downhill sections (into Deba and Markina) that will leave you hurting. On top of that, the continuous pounding on asphalt does stress your feet. I lost some toenails on the Norte, which hasn’t happened on other Caminos. The Norte is not as Spiritual as the Frances, there are fewer churches and many are closed as you pass so the feel is much different, but it felt more close knit with fellow walkers (as does the Primitivo). And I agree it is a big shock when you join back up with the Frances. We appreciate each Camino for its own uniqueness :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk the Camino del Norte from Castro Urdiales (2019)
Each pilgrim's Camino is unique but I have to say I found the Norte profoundly spiritual. Paradoxically I believe this is due in part to the long stretches of solitary walking (I was on my own and not in a group) and in part to the wonderful people I met along the way - fellow pilgrims, local people and a couple of truly inspirational folk. I admit, too, to being biased as so far my only Camino experience has been on this route.
 

Padraigl

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 - Saria to Santiago (bug had bitten)
2014 - Camino del Norte
Thank for the information...Please search on Instagram.....t_vela_aka_lbpilgrim
Still not working.... But found you under
t_vela_aka_lb_pilgrim

Thx..
 

Thomas V

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 & 2017 FRANCES, 2018 Portuguese, 2019 Norte Irún to Santiago
Thanks for the effort ! Looks like I don’t even know my own username 😐. I’ll edit the post.
 
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