Is starting from Pamplona ‘cheating’?

Camino de Santiago Map

The question was:

I am starting my Camino on the 25th March. I have booked my train to Pamplona, arriving late Sunday evening, 24th March with a view to staying overnight in Pamplona and getting the train to Roncenvalles to start the camino on the Monday morning. However, I have booked my flights home from Santiago on the 28th April – and I am a little alarmed that I have now not given myself enough time to get from Roncenvalles to Santiago in only thirty-four days…

How flat is El Camino Frances? Is it do-able in only thirty-four days. I’m young (23) and quite fit, but for anyone, doing over 20 km per day for thirty-four days straight is quite a challenge…

Will it be ‘cheating’ for me to begin my Camino in Pamplona? Thus giving myself a bit of a headstart…?

I’m very excited about starting my Camino, but I reeeeally want to complete it in one go – and not end up having to catch any buses or trains along the route to ensure that I reach Santiago in time…

What do all you experienced Pilgrims think? How long did it take you guys, and how mountainous is the route?

Any advice would be much appreciated

Read the responses to the question if is starting in Pamplona is cheating? in our Camino Forum.

19 Replies to “Is starting from Pamplona ‘cheating’?”

  1. Depends on what you mean by ‘cheating’; it’s not a game, the only person you’ll be fooling is yourself and I think the point is to enjoy the experience, not beat yourself up about cutting a few corners. I caught buses into an out of a couple of cities including Burgos and Leon because I just couldn’t face the long, dull slog and there were times, across the Meseta, that I came close to forsaking the Camino for a fortnight’s ‘proper’ hiking in the Picos.

    A young pup like you could comfortably complete the Camino Frances in 34 days without much trouble, a dozen or so stages aside it is relatively flat, sometimes soul-destroyingly so. Once you’re to speed then 30-35km a day won’t seen excessive and we did 50km on our penultimate day. I wasn’t pushed for time and continued to Finisterre – I would have carried on walking across the Atlantic if I could – but I have no regrets about taking the odd bus. For me one of the highlights was crossing the Pyrenees from St Jean to Roncevalles, if I had to make concessions to time I’d cut out the dreaded 17.5 km after Carrion de los Condes; it’s the closest I came to turning into a pilgrim psychopath.

    But love it or hate – I did both in equal measure – the Camino will change your life. Last year was my first, I’ll be back again this July.

  2. I started in Pamplona, because i thought i was short of time, but i arrived in Santiago in exactly 30 days and played around there and Finestierre as i had five extra days to kill. i was 64 and untrained. that being said based on discussions with many injured walkers the walk from Roncenvalles to Pamplona for many was where they picked up injuries. the first 3 days might be better done in four… geez, i am still trying to figure it out. one more inconclusive thought: i regret not spending 60 days to do the 34 day walk. i missed too much by having the objective of completing a map segment every day. i did not even see the cathedral in Burgos. flying out of Santiago is a good trick as i spent 2 days getting to Madrid airport

  3. No worries. I started at St. Jean Pied de Port, and it is a difficult stage, crossing the Pyrenees. It took me 33 days, go with joy, because the goal is the path ;o)

  4. Cheating? Only if you think so yourself. Walking the Camino is all about doing something very personnel and will help you to learn a lot about yourself. It is not about pitching what you do, or don’t do, against somebody else. So cheating doesn’t come into the equation, in my opinion. Go with an open mind … you will experience so much every day on the Camino … Treasure it all and don’t be too concerned about what other people think. Yes, a lot of people do make derogatory remarks, (mostly in jest I think) about taking shortcuts and such, but try to let it all go over your head. I hope you have a wonderful Camino!

  5. Took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact I started in Pamplona and not at the “official” start in St. JPDP. But as others have said, it is only cheating if you let that thought inhabit your mind. You are about to go on a life changing journey, that is just that, YOUR journey. Where you start, how you complete it and the direction you take are just the factors that will make the Camino, your camino. It took me exactly 31 days to walk from Pamplona to Santiago. I am a young fit 25 year old woman and walked the Camino when I was 23, so you should have plenty of time. Have an amazing time, don’t worry about rushing, enjoy the journey. BUEN CAMINO!

  6. I walked from Pamplona in a month and you shouldn’t have a problem with either location! I personally would recommend not taking any buses thru any of it because the boring and not so pretty parts of the camino are part of the experience and reflects life itself!

  7. So you are 23, quite fitted and you have 34 days? You can start from SJPDP!!!!! and enjoy your Camino!!!! I was 35, completly untrained, overweight and with an heavy backpack and I made Roncesvalles – Santiago in 29 days.

  8. Don’t worry. I am 51, walked from Saint Jean to Santiago last summer in 24 days without problems. You will see that 30 km a day is easy for you, and you will be able to do 40 or even 50, if you want (but probably you will not want to leave your new Camino friends behind). Just remember to take it easy the first few days; some young men tend to overestimate their powers and thus get injured.

  9. We are starting at Pamplona because of our ages. 75 and 72 didn’t think it smart to start off crossing the Pyrenees!! I’m sure we could do it at the end, but geography rules.

  10. It’s no cheating as what really counts is the part from Samos to Santiago it’s after you many start the Camino from Pamplona. Buen Camino

  11. No, starting from Pamplona is fine … a good place to begin, The pilgrimage isn’t a competition, or a game – it’s a spiritual journey, and begins where it begins for you!

  12. Just returned from my Camino and have suffered the injuries prevalent to so many who push to get “to the end” and forget that it is the journey. When one injury became too much to bear, I spent the night short of my destination in the alburgue, Casa Banderas, in Vilcha just short of Portomarin (highly, highly recommend). The wise innkeeper shared with us that there is no ‘start’ to the Camino, there is only an end. For me the journey started when I donned my backpack and walked out my door. I plan to do the Camino again next fall but will allow days for sitting and listening, for sitting and contemplating, and if needed days off for rest and fellowshipping. If you get to Santiago early it simply means you have time to visit with other pilgrims or visit an amazing city or relive the moments. Buen Camino

  13. I’m starting in Pamoplina on 27th June. I get to Madrid 26th and will take a bus. I’m excited and nervous it’s the first time I’ve travelled alone! Buen Camino!

  14. I’m walking the camino next week and I’m worried about 2 things. The weather – rain is expected every day from St Jean. My knees are an issue for me. My doctor told me to go slow, rest when necessary, and take the meds. Should I consider avoiding St. Jean to Roncesvalles, and just start in Pamplona? I have 42 days to walk, but I also want to see Finestierre and don’t want to rush. My son says starting in Pamplona will leave me feeling short changed on the trip of a lifetime.

    1. Hello cynthia , I think it is a good idea to start in pamplona, since the medical doctor I had to see in the pamplona hospital told me than about 30% of pligrims have to give up the walk for knees injuries after the first three days of hard walkin between SJPP and Pamplona. I started myself the second time there and as the result +I enjoyed better my pilgrimage : I was in better shape.

  15. I met several pilgrims on my Camino who had returned to walk the road they had missed their first time. There is a sense of wholeness,completeness . If your mind says you are cheating then that is how you will feel .

  16. Walking from anywhere is doing the camino. There is no rule where to start. It is a very personal journey that you start and end when and where you feel is right for you.

    I started from Pamplona because I was worried my bad knees might give out on day one in the Pyrenees. I just did it in June and I completed the walk in 28 days from Pamplona, averaging 25-30kms a day. This wasn’t over exerting myself to make it. It was a comfortable walk. You’ll soon see that 20kms a day is VERY doable and I’d imagine you’ll do 5-10kms more a day without a problem. Infact I had 2 extra days up my sleeve and got to Santiago quicker than I had expected. So 33 days or so is PLENTY! It is certainly NOT a flat route and you will climb 2-3 mountains but everyone from 16 – 87 year olds were doing it when I was there so you don’t need to be a mountaineer to walk this. You will be fine. It is one of the most amazing journeys I have ever done in my life so enjoy.

    A word of advice – the people I met that were having serious feet/knee/ankle issues all had these common problems: bad shoes (you don’t need heavy leather mountain boots), too much weight in their pack and they pushed themselves too far and walked longer distances than necessary. All of us who paced ourselves and travelled light, barely had a problem. You’ll be told this constantly. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. You’ll know when enough is enough each day.

    Buen Camino!!!

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