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Which Route?


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Many first timers seem to think that it's almost obligatory to walk the Camino Frances if it's their first camino. This can have unfortunate side effects in that it adds to the hordes on this route and can turn them off any other routes. My first camino was from Sevilla in 2006 because I heeded the warning on the CSJ web site that there are other less travelled routes. Last year I walked from Le Puy and enjoyed it until SJPDP where I encountered the inevitable 5am risers-one group of idiots thought it perfectly ok to sing their lungs out opposite the albergue at this time with total disregard for other pilgrims-let alone the locals.
This year I walked from Granada and met ,for 5 minutes Marigold Fox, only one other walker-that's 400kms. From Merida on I met more-well,3 in Aljucen, and often asked what their experience was of the CF-all,WITHOUT EXCEPTION,said they would never do it again because of the crowds.One said you could hold hands and form a line from SJPDP to Santiago. The hospitallero at Fuenterroble de Salvatierra said to him it was like the London underground, crowded,noisy and about as enjoyable. I also noticed,generally speaking, older pilgrims on routes other than the CF which may account for the more relaxed attitudes in general-much less of the crazy getting up at 5am and racing to be first at albergues-on the VDLP there is no need because there are plenty of beds-in fact it's not even necessary on the CF as I always found a bed and I walked until late afternoon and that was in july/august.
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Past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Phsew Omar! It really sounds as though you had a horrible experience on the Camino Frances.
I walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago in 2002 and absolutely LOVED it.
Afterwards I felt that I hadn't learned enough about the history, architecture, folklore etc before I walked it so I went back and did the Via Turonensis in 2004 until Roncesvalles and then drove across the camino to Lugo. (On the VT we met three other pilgrims until we reached Ostabat and I felt as though I was a tourist with a backpack. No camaraderie, no sing-alongs in albergues, no sharing blister plasters!)
We then walked from Sarria to Santiago. It was the Holy Year and it was marvelous!! We met lots of wonderful pilgrims - some I am still in contact with today.
I went back and walked the CF all over again from Roncesvalles to Santiago last year. Never had to rush to get a bed, only slept on mattresses on the floor where there were no beds anyway (Tosantos, Granon, Manjarin - wonderful, unique places) and I enjoyed it even more than the other times.
There were many hours and many kms when we were completely alone on the trail but I loved the interaction with pilgrims in the cafe-bars and in the albergues. To me, it is the people you meet who make the camino such a magical experience.
An Australian spiritual writer said:
"It is an exhilarating paradox. You make your discovery of self in the company of others. Through someone else’s belief that you exist, and have a right to exist in your own way, you begin to find your solid ground within. From that place of inner reality you are able to reach out - perhaps even to forget yourself temporarily - to make contact with others. Being with others allows you to go on learning who you are. Feeling safe about who you are, you can afford to appreciate others’ differences, as well as the ways in which you are alike." (Stephanie Dowrick - an ordained Interfaith Minister)
I am planning on walking a different route next year but the Camino Frances has a special place in my heart!

Rose Louise


We are all looking for something different. Some would say that the CF experiences you speak of are just what they want whereas others like the solitude and time to think. Family members walked the CF last year and speak with such enthusiasm of the unique camaraderie amongst walkers. On reflection the CP that we have just finished was probably a little quiet.

This forum provides a huge amount of comment for prospective walkers to consider before making a judgement on what they think is right for them. Sometimes the outcome can be quite different to the expectations.

As Sil suggests its the experience that make the memories. Walk on.
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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
Rosa Louise's comments make sense. What one needs changes by the day, and the Camino has a way of presenting one with experiences which take time to be fully understood.

Both in 2005 and 2007 (yes, I am a caminoholic), I did mixed Caminoes, 3 or so weeks on an unfrequented trail (Toulouse-Pau-Somport-Jaca-PLR in 2005, and Montserrat-Huesca-Jaca-PlR in 2007) and found both sides of the mix fascinating. There is little to be compared with a solitary trek, with nothing about one but sky and sun and clean air and a long trail ahead. Unless, of course, there is the unplanned and unpredicatable family of pilgrims-- the perambulating village-- of the Camino Francese. Both types contain their special frustration and discomfort and despair--- and their special delights and rewards.

And like the best in life, it's never quite what you expect.


We walked from St Jean to Burgos end May/beg June 2008 and never had a problem finding beds. Only once did we have people getting up at 5 (that was in Zubiri) and we normally started walking at about 7.30 or sometimes 8.00.

Don't know if we were just out of the bubble of pilgrims but most days we hardly saw any people on the road and would then be surprised by the number of people in the albergue!!!!
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William Marques

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"Which Camino" is one of the less well known guides published by the CSJ. It also covers the Via Francigena and St Olaf's Route


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2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
As William will agree, if you want a solitary pilgrimage with a minimal risk of meeting any other pilgrims at all, go and walk the Via Francigena. We met a three pilgrims at the Grand St Bernard hospice - none of whom were walking all the way to Rome. We also met two cyclists in Sienna who we never saw again. That was it - 5 pilgrims from Lake Lausanne to Roma.

William Marques

Staff member
Our count on the Via Francigena between Canterbury and Rome was:

Two pilgrims on their way to Santiago we crossed in Chalons.
Two pilgrims starting in Vercelli.
One pilgrim just after Pontremoli.
Three pilgrims in San Quirico d'Orcia.

That's 8 things are getting busier!


Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
...and about 900 pilgrims have received the Testimonium (Compostela) since June 2001.

As with the Compostela, this doesn't mean that only 900 have walked the VF in the last 7 years, this is the number who have requested the certificate in Rome.

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