The Camino – Where to start

By Eoin Garvey, Founder of Camino Groups

The Camino is like the movie “6 steps to Kevin Bacon” challenge – you know somebody who knows somebody who knows… So if you’re curious and you’re wondering where to even start asking questions – here are a few tips!

What is the Camino?

It’s a series of walking trails that end at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Spain – where the remains of St. James the disciple lie. It is a pilgrimage route (recognised in its entirety as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) but the modern Camino sees people walk for any number of reasons.

Where do I start or how long do I walk for?

You can start anywhere! The most popular section for first-time walkers is from Sarria to Santiago because it covers the minimum distance requirement of 100km – you must walk at least 100km and finish in Santiago to qualify for your Camino cert (known as a “Compostela”). But there are many, many more options.

Which route do I choose?

The Camino Francés (so-called as it extends all the way back into France) is the most popular route – around two thirds of all walkers start at some point along this route. The Camino Portugués is the next most popular route and is probably the fastest growing in terms of numbers. There are many other quieter routes – the Camino Inglés would have special resonance for Irish walkers, while some choose to walk on to Finisterre, the “end of the world” to finish there rather than in Santiago itself.

Do I need to be fit?

For many sections, especially those close to Santiago, a moderate level of fitness will do. Like much else in life, the more preparation you do, the more it will stand to you! But in general, a Camino walk is achievable for most people.

What time of year should I go?

That depends on you! Some people can only go at certain times of year due to work constraints – others can go when they like. July and August are the busiest months (as Spaniards are on holidays then), but a typical trip from Ireland is usually any time from Easter to Hallowe’en.

Can I go on my own or must I travel with a group?

A self-guided trip is one where an individual, couple or group decide on their own dates and choose a section they want to walk. We set that up for you, give you as much help as you need and then off you go! Most of Camino Groups’ bookings would be self-guided as you’re not tied down to a specific date or route.

A guided trip is one where someone accompanies the group – sometimes people who want the social aspect or indeed the safety blanket of a group feel more comfortable booking like that.

Neither is right nor wrong – they’re just different!

How do I even start trying to book a Camino trip?

You have 2 options: you can do your own research and take your chances with bookings (or lack thereof!) or you can have a chat with us at Camino Groups or another Camino specialist.

If you go down that path (pardon the pun!), shop around and ask what is included in a package and is the tour company licensed and bonded. A typical tour with Camino Groups will include some or all of the following: Flights, accommodation, airport transfers, bag transfers, pilgrim passports, walking notes, meals and travel insurance. And of course the security of booking with a licensed and bonded Irish Travel Agency.

Visit: www.caminogroups.ie for more information or join us on February 1st & 2nd at the Cork International Travel Fair to meet a ccoordinator and plan your Camino adventure!

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