Not everyone can take off for 6 weeks on a whim and start walking the width of Spain. For that reason, many people don’t do the whole Camino de Santiago at once. I knew I had a convenient 12/13 days in between my last day of work and my flight to the U.S. With that time, I walked the last 200km (124 miles) of the Camino.
A lot of people do shorter walks. Here’s my tips on how to do a 10 day Camino de Santiago.
Pick a good starting point
Just because you are doing a shorter trip, doesn’t mean you have to do the last leg of the Camino. If you are seriously interested in the whole journey, but time is just an issue, consider splitting it all up into shorter trips. You could walk the first 10 days this year, and the next ten another time. A lot of people choose to do this. The Camino de Santiago is all about doing things on your own terms, so do whatever you’d like.
Some people start at the beginning and do the whole thing. Some people start at the beginning and stop at Burgos. Others might do, let’s say, Logroño to Leon. Whatever you choose you won’t be alone!
People will walk on average 20 km per day. Unless you are in pain, or want to sleep in a specific town, walking less than 20km would be considered a short day. For someone who is in good health and has decent athletic ability, 20 km is a decent day of walking , 30km will leave you pretty darn tired and 35+ is doable but exhausting. Some people need to make up for lost time and will walk up to 40 km in a day!
For you to receive the Compostela certificate certifying you made the pilgrimage, you only have to walk the last 100km. This is near Sarria and where the trail starts to get quite crowded. Many people say the experience changes at this point and becomes a little more commercial.
I started in Ponferrada for two reasons. For one, there was a direct train from Madrid (4.5 hours) for only 18 euros. Secondly, the amount of time it would take to reach Santiago was perfect for my time frame.
Don’t plan out where you’ll stay
I didn’t bring a guidebook (but you probably should, just in case). Instead, having a Spanish sim card and data was enough to ease my mind that I could figure it out as I went. I downloaded a few Camino apps onto my phone, but I ended up rarely using them. Instead, I met a group of people during my first day and just walked with them. They were walking at a good pace and this made my journey easy. When they stopped for the night, I stopped for the night. If I ever wanted to walk ahead, or drag behind, there would always be a friendly face to ask a few questions or help guide my way. If I ever wanted to meet up with the group I’d met but couldn’t find them, there was always Wifi or I could call.
Most times though, you just run into each other at some point or you make new friends and continue on with them.
Let yourself take the Camino as it comes. There are so many villages along the route. As long as you monitor your progress and make sure you are on track to get to Santiago by the time you need to, that’s all the planning that is really necessary. The guidebook should just be there in case you can’t find anyone nearby, don’t have any other maps (or cell service) or just want the comfort knowing it’s there.
Don’t skimp on necessities
I figured buying good socks, wearing broken in good tennis shoes and having anti-blister foot cream would prevent me from too many problems.
I was wrong.
Just because you are doing a shorter walk, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare as if you were doing the whole thing. While some people never got any blisters for weeks of walking, some people get them in the first day. It’s imparitive you start talking precautions early because it’s almost impossible to tell if you’ll be one of those people walking day after day on blisters. While blisters are a way of life on the Camino, they are a way of life I wish I dealt with less of.
I started my walk a little too laid back. I pushed on even though I felt blisters forming. I didn’t want to hold anyone back because I was being overly cautious on my first day. “How bad could they get,” I thought.
Looking back, I wish I would have tried the nylon technique my first day. I should have worn nylons under my anti-blister socks, and then when I felt an irritated area, I should have applied baby powder. The expensive foot cream I bought did nothing. It probably just absorbed straight into my socks. It’s impossible to tell if these precautions would have changed anything, but it would have been in my best interest to at least try.
If you can actually do a longer trip, do so!
Don’t let the fear of walking for a few weeks on end scare you. Most people don’t have too hard of a time walking everyday, and your body just adjusts. Your legs get used to walking and the toughest part is the mental aspect. Most people finish the Camino wishing it would continue. Don’t sell yourself short by doing a smaller trip when you have the time for a longer one. You’ll most likely end up regretting it.
I planned to walk for 10 days, but walked 32km on my second day putting me ahead of schedule. Due to this, I walked for 9 days.
Day 1: Direct train from Madrid to Ponferrada, 5 hours
Day 2: First day of walking. Ponferrada – Villafranca del Bierzo 23km
Day 3: Villafranca – O’ Cebreiro 32km. This was a long day with the last 10km all uphill. It’s recommended to stop before the ascent and tackle O’ Cebreiro in the morning. On the other hand, if you do the long trek all in a day, waking up in O’ Cebreiro and being above the clouds is a dream.
Day 4: O Cebreiro – Triacastela 21km
Day 5: Triacastela – Sarria 18km
Day 6: Sarria – Portomarin 22km
Day 7: Portomarin – Palas de Rei 25km
Day 8: Palas de Rei – Ribadiso da Baizo 25km
Day 9: Ribadiso da Baizo – O Pedrouzo 20km
Day 10: O Pedrouzo – Santiago de Compostela 20km. We started the walk extremely early in order to make it to Santiago early. We attended Pilgrim’s mass this day.
After the Camino:
Day 11: Afternoon bus to Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela
Day 12: Afternoon bus back to Santiago. 10pm flight back to Madrid.
As you can see, a 10 day Camino de Santiago covers a lot of ground and is a great trip. I’d say giving yourself 11 days in total is best to be safe, and 12 days+ works perfectly if you’d like to hang around Santiago or visit the coast. Remember, you can always do things slower, or faster, depending on your schedule!
Here’s some other posts on my experience: