The Camino is a Deodorant Type of Thru Hike: How to Camino Differs from other Through Hikes
The first Camino de Santiago I did I was expecting a trail similar to the AT. Long trail running through forests, mountains, and sm, pushing your way to make those miles. On a through hike like that you rely on your wits and determination, but the camino is not like that at all. The Camino is a much easier and more comfortable trail about exploration.
The Camino can be distinct for different people, its all about what you are willing to get out of it. It can be about exploration of your religion through the strong religious backstory of the Camino trail. There are hikers who follow the trail and stop at every church, monastery, cathedral, and shrine to pray. Every Camino trail ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
There are many who dont care about the religious aspect of the trail and just come for the sites, and in this case the Camino becomes an exploration of the Spanish history and landmarks. The trail runs through some of the most important historical landmarks for the country and regions. The Camino’s trails pass through important towns, castles, palaces, bridges, roman ruins, wartime artifacts, museums, and more. You can learn a great deal of Spain’s past just by hopping on the trail.
You might have noticed I said “the many camino trails”, this is because there is not just one singular trail. There are many starting points across different parts of the country all ending in Galicia, but each passing through different regions of Spain. There is not one region (think of regions as small states) that a camino does not pass through. Each trail will take you through different parts of the country seeing different landmarks and landscapes.
For a small country there are years worth of trails starting from France, to the far corners of Spain, and even starting in Portugal. You can take a different trail each year and be surprised with the things you will see.
If you want the Camino to be about exploration of yourself, then let it. Hike untill your happy and pass all of the beautiful landscapes Spain has to offer. The northern region of Spain is absolutely breathtaking. Spain itself has every type of landscape you can think of; rolling hills, sharp mountains, dry desert, endless fields, fertile farmland, nude beaches, etc. At times there is nothing better than getting outside and hiking through nature. No matter which trail you start at you will pass through some of the most beautiful places in Spain and each day will have you in awe.
The Camino can be that adventure you take by yourself, or with a partner, into an unknown land only relying on the equipment on your back. It can be the catalyst for when you say “F**k it” and put yourself out their to be the independent person you have been hoping to break out and be. The Camino can be a profound experience.
The camino can also be an exploration through Spanish culture and a chance to meet the Spanish people. This is where I think the trail differs the most. Don’t expect to not make friends with someone and go have a beer or eat dinner at a restaurant with them. The other pilgrims (people walking the camino) are some of the most friendly hikers you will find and the people of Spain are usually eually as friendly.
Your day will always end in a town and you will sleep in an albergue. Don’t be deceived by the rolling fields and forests. That land is private property and you will not be able to camp there. You will need to sleep in affordable hostels called albergues. These are state sponsored sleeping hostels that are very clean, have more amenities than you typical hotel, and are inexpensive.
Ending in a town provides the chance to buy food at a grocery store or eat at a restaurant. This is where your international culinary experience can start. Some restaurants will offer meals of the day to hikers that are usually decent, plentiful, and inexpensive. Spain is know for their delicious food consisting of seafood, tapas, meats and cheeses, wines, and rustic dishes. If you hike the camino, take the opportunity to enjoy a dinner with some of your hiker friends and reminisce over some bread.
The camino is an easy hike. You are never a couple of hours or less from a town with bars, cafes, or small grocery stores. Major towns and cities are usually only about 20km from each other, so the hike is not demanding at all. Fountains line most of the trail so water is free, and the cost of living in Spain is low so food at grocery stores and at restaurants will be inexpensive.
This ease helps put enfaces on what is really important on the hike, and what is important is entirely up to you. If its religious voyage your after, roman or medieval history, breathtaking landscapes, Spanish culture and cuisine, or you just want to make a friend, the Camino has it all.
Random Camino pics