This site contains links to many of the best websites written in English about the Camino Frances and some of the other routes to Santiago de Compostela. It also contains some links for the Via Francigena and routes to Rome.
Confraternity - Confraternities should be your starting point for local advice and a network of interested people. They are able to provide the credential (pilgrim passport) which you will need for the journey.
Forum Links - Forums are useful for answering questions about the camino or anything to do with it. There are many helpful pilgrims who can give good advice.
Route & Map - Route and Map sites give you some idea of the route and can also provide details on refugios, hostales and hotels and maps as well as written guides.
Journal Links - Many people returning from the Camino Frances write good and well illustrated websites. These journals are useful to get an insight on what it’s like on the way and people’s reaction to it.
Via de la Plata - The Via de la Plata (Camino Mozarabe) is one of the oldest routes it starts in Sevilla and goes to Santiago through Merida, Caceres, Salamanca and Zamora then via Astorga or Ourense.
Cam. del Norte - The Caminos del Norte follow the north coast of Spain and then go inland via a number of different routes. The Camino Primitivo and the diversion from the Camino Frances from Leon to Oviedo are included here. There are few websites in English about them.
Photo Links - Many of those who have completed the Caminos have taken beautiful photographs and they are available on these websites.
Have you got any websites to add to these? If so e-mail on will&bron at caminolinks . co . uk . (Remember to insert @, delete spaces and mention Camino in subject)
The door is open to all, to sick and healthy,
not only to Catholics but also to pagans,
Jews, heretics and vagabonds.
These lines taken from a thirteenth century Latin poem in praise of the Monastery of Roncesvalles show that the Camino has welcomed all people for a very long time.
My random thoughts on the Caminos would be:
Don’t over plan. The only things you need are time (as much as possible) and a little money.
Take things easy. Don’t turn the Camino into a race, go with the flow. This will save your feet and save you stress. Michael McMahon puts it very well "Having cut my ties to everything except my backpack for four weeks, I felt free. I walked at my own pace, stopping when I felt like it. Sometimes, I lingered to admire the landscape or the architecture; more often than not I walked on, enjoying the reality rather than the view. For four weeks, the past didn't matter, and nor did the future. I learnt to be content with how things are, and didn't have to think any further ahead than getting to Santiago.”
Take only what you need. This is difficult the first time as you don’t realize how little you need, (there are a number of websites that publish packing lists such as the Confraternity of St James), but remember there are plenty of shops in Spain and France and you will able to pick up anything you did not pack on the way. Wear the things you cannot be without on the plane in case your luggage goes astray, the camino is not a place to break in a new pair of boots. The old adage applies; when you've decided what things you want to carry along and how much money you'll need, bring half as much stuff and twice as much money. You'll have done yourself proud if you use everything you brought at least once, and if you manage to avoid using all the money. A very rough budget would be 30 euro per day if staying in refugios.
There is no right way just your own way. Don’t take too much advice, even this, on what you must do. Your own camino will be unique.
Don’t expect anything of the camino. You cannot predict what your experience will be, so don’t try. As the saying goes, “If you ever find happiness by hunting for it, you will find it as the old woman did her lost spectacles - on her own nose all the time”.
Don’t expect anything of the people on the camino. Nobody puts it better than Judith. “A pilgrim does not demand, a pilgrim is grateful. He leaves what he can and takes only that which he needs.” You have no rights as a pilgrim and must rely on the kindness of strangers.
Look after your things. The people around are the same as those at home. Don’t leave you wallet and passport lying about if you wouldn’t do the same at home. And if you would, tell us where this utopia you live is, so we can all move there.
If you are walking or cycling in mid summer and are not used to walking in hot climates be careful. Take plenty of water and think about getting a “Camelback” or other hydration system that you can put in your pack as well as drinking you fill at the fountains. This is especially valid on the less travelled routes such as the Via de la Plata.
You will find that most of the people leave the refuges at about the same time this means especially in summer that there are people-jams of those who have come from the refuges in the bigger towns. If you start earlier than the crowd and walk a little faster or leave after them and walk a little slower you can walk alone in the height of summer - if you want to. Think about staying in refugios in the smaller villages, they are often less crowded in the summer.
Four thing I would not go without:
1 A pillowcase (a clean pillowcase to use with the pillows in refuges or fleece from your pack weighs very little and gives a clean place for you head each night, you can also use it as a hat)
2 A tiny torch (a very small torch or head torch is useful for the early starts it is wise to make in summer to walk in the cool of the morning)
3 Earplugs (after your first night in a refuge you will realise these are probably the first thing you should pack)
4 A mobile phone (many pilgrims have a prejudice against mobile phones but I think they can be useful in emergencies, for booking rooms in hostales and hotels for a little luxury and for security for those walking on their own)
The route you take and the way you do it make you no better or worse than any other pilgrim. There is a tendency for some of those who have walked, travelled further, carried a heavier pack, trekked in the most difficult weather or spent the least amount of money to think they are the truest pilgrims. This type of pride is out of place on the camino. We are all pilgrims, it’s just that some of us haven’t realised it yet.
All the routes as described in guides now are recent inventions, at the peak of the pilgrimage’s popularity in the middle ages the walkers would have followed the road as foot traffic was most of the traffic. Over the years many of those roads have become places you would not want to walk any more so quieter paths have been provided for pilgrims. What I am trying to say here is don’t be too tied to the yellow arrows. If you feel like taking your own route do so.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always on your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields and,
until your journey's end,
May God hold you safely in the palm of his hand.
William and Bronwyn
Coming back to the real world from the camino – Many people return from their journey changed in some way; perhaps a greater empathy with others, less of a need for possessions, a closer contact with nature. Maybe they come back home and their friends and family cannot understand the change or do not even realise that there has been one and it feels difficult to fit in. The simplicities of life on the camino are gone. What happens next?
Life and its course are like a river fed by many streams, some like family are the source of the river but sometimes a large tributary like the camino joins the river later. The river still flows maybe now with a greater force but it will still reach the same destination. The rocks and stones over which the river passes, the real world, may sometimes be moved by it but most of the time they will sit there as the river flows over and around them. So stop trying to alter the course of the river, accept the course that your God and the real world has in store for you and if the power of the river is strong enough over time it can cut through mountains.
Doing the Camino brought me in touch with a hobby I never thought I would be interested in “walking stick making”. I include a few links here to pages on sticks, stick making materials and how to make your own. You may like to make one and take it on the Camino with you.
Makhila Ainciart-Bergara The makhila, the traditional Basque walking stick, elegant, practical, a redoubtable defensive weapon as well as a decorative object, is a symbol of Basque honour.
Scottish Walking Sticks A very brief example of how to make a stick by Derek Farrar.
The Stick Man A commercial site by Keith Pickering but good for purchasing DIY stick-making supplies.