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which route

Fedor

New Member
Hello,

I am a canadian student who has spent the last year studying in europe, and, now that the academic year nears its end, I am seriously considering doing the Camino pilgrimage in July. My biggest difficulty is deciding which route to take, the prime contenders being the french route and the northern route.

There are basically three reasons why I am considering the northern route:

- I am afraid that the french route is too crowded/popular and thus less authentic.
- I hope that the weather might be less hot up north, closer to the coast.
- I also want to see as much natural beauty as possible (especially mountains!), and it has occurred to me that perhaps the north is better for that.

Of course there are arguments against the northern route as well:

- The northern route has substantially fewer refuges, which means that I will either have to plan my way extremely well, or sleep outside.
- Because the northern route is less popular, there is an even greater need to speak spanish there -- which I do not.
- Perhaps the northern route is so unpopular that I will meet no fellow pilgrims which would be very difficult psychologically.

So, my questions to you, more experienced pilgrims is:

To what degree are these considerations valid, and are there other ones which I should also keep in mind while trying to make this decision? Which rotue would you recommend?

Thank you for your time.

- Fedor
 
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Hi Fedor,

I don't have answers to all your questions, but here are a few observations from Santiago.

Regarding the French Route being crowded.
I talked to some pilgrims that walked from Leon in April/May and they did not find the crowds to be a problem before they reached Galicia. The crowds will not be as bad as last year, but of course the summer months are the most popular months.

Regarding speaking more Spanish on the northern route.
Not many in Spain speak anything else than Spanish. But at a refuge they are used to people not speaking their language, and I don't think it should be a problem. Some sign-language and a smile gets you far. This is true for both routes.

So, my questions to you, more experienced pilgrims is:

To what degree are these considerations valid, and are there other ones which I should also keep in mind while trying to make this decision? Which route would you recommend?

Here we need to lean on our more experienced pilgrims for some advice. Anyone?

Welcome to Santiago,
Ivar
 
Fedor said:
- I am afraid that the french route is too crowded/popular and thus less authentic.

The Camino Frances is undoubtedly (much!) more crowded than other routes, but why is that 'less authentic'? The other routes are like the Frances used to be 15-20 years ago.

Fedor said:
- I hope that the weather might be less hot up north, closer to the coast.

that's true, but it's also much wetter

Fedor said:
- I also want to see as much natural beauty as possible (especially mountains!), and it has occurred to me that perhaps the north is better for that.

well, if you're looking for mountain scenery, don't go to Santiago! Try Montserrat or one of the Alpine shrines, such as Einsiedeln, Mariazell or Varallo. Perhaps the Pilgerweg over the Monte Moro Pass at 2868m - a mountain route by anybody's standards. With a couple of exceptions, such as the route over the Port de Venasque, none of the pilgrim routes to Santiago are particularly mountainous, as pilgrims largely use(d) main roads, which more or less by definition take low-level routes. There is a range of mountains all along the N coast of Spain, but the coastal route is largely to the north of that.

Fedor said:
- The northern route has substantially fewer refuges, which means that I will either have to plan my way extremely well, or sleep outside.

there are lots of hotels, though these can be filled by holidaymakers, especially in the summer months. Spanish hotels remain quite cheap, though of course on a long trip the cost soon mounts up.

Fedor said:
- Because the northern route is less popular, there is an even greater need to speak spanish there -- which I do not.

true, but then there's nothing to stop you from learning it ;-) And if you really want to amaze the locals, learn some Galician

Fedor said:
Which rotue would you recommend?

I think it depends on your objectives:
- to get to Santiago? Fly, or catch a train - much quicker and easier than walking.
- to get a compostela? Start in Ourense - just over the 100km and a much more interesting city than Sarria
- to meet fellow pilgrims? Go on the Camino Frances - you could easily walk one of the other routes and not meet a single pilgrim, especially outside the summer months
- to meet the locals? Any route; even on the Camino Frances, I've found, despite the many thousands of pilgrims going past their door every year, people are still surprisingly open to having a chat or helping out
- to have a good walk? Well, anywhere really
- to see particular historic monuments? Find a route going past them or, if there isn't one, make your own route (se hace el camino al andar)

It's your pilgrimage - you decide what it consists of.
 
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Thanks for the replies. It looks like the north route is out. I will have to give the matter more thought in general.

- Fedor
 

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