Day in the Life on the Camino de Santiago
In September, I walked across the entire country of Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route called the Camino de Santiago.
Walking 500 miles in one month seems unfathomable at first. Like most ambitious goals, the impossible just seems challenging after you break it down into manageable steps.
As a chronic overplanner myself, the uncertainty of what day-to-day like on the Camino de Santiago would be like was an unwelcome part of my preparation for walking the way. I would have loved to pour over blog posts like this. Instead, I’ll write them.
If you’re considering walking the Camino de Santiago, think of this as a glimpse into what a typical day in the life could be like for you. That said, everyone walks the Camino de Santiago in their own way. Finding your own “camino rhythm" is part of the journey.
Here is an hour-by-hour view of what a typical day on the Camino de Santiago looked like for me.
A Typical Day on the Camino de Santiago
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Wake up to the dulcet tones of a cacophony of snorers and/or a dozen phone alarms ringing simultaneously.
Get ready for the day. My routine involved about 10 minutes of stretching, 10 minutes of hygiene, 5 minutes of tending to my blisters, and 5 minutes of repacking my bag. Hot tip for future camino pilgrims: bring your bag into the hallway while packing to let your slumbering comrades sleep.
Start walking. I preferred walking in the early morning on my own to beat the heat. The open trails, crystal clear stars, and stunning sunrises were usually good incentive to get out of bed early.
First breakfast of the day. I typically would have a cafe con leche (Spain’s version of a latte) and a tortilla (a traditional Spanish dish that’s half-omelette and half-quiche and usually has potatoes and onions). If I wasn’t too hungry yet or the tortilla selection looked less than desirable, I’d have a picnic of granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit that I’d carry with me every day.
Walk some more. I’d usually find myself walking with friends in the mid-morning. We would chat about our lives back home, what was on our minds, or through some of these deep conversation starters.
Roughly at 11 a.m., I would have what I affectionately call “second breakfast." I found that I never had a huge appetite while walking, so I’d eat little meals throughout the day. Sometimes second breakfast was just a granola bar and an orange juice. Other times, it was another coffee and a croissant.
If I was walking a shorter day (less than 23 kilometers or 14 miles), this is when I’d check in to my home for the night. If not, I’d have a light lunch at a cafe and then keep walking.
Even on long days (around 35 kilometers or 22 miles), I was usually at my final destination by mid-afternoon. The Spanish sun is no joke!
I stayed at a mix of private and municipal albergues. Albergues are the camino version of hostels. They run the gamut from massive 200-bed dormitories to cozy places run by heartwarming Spaniards or former pilgrims.
To stay in an albergue, you have to have a compostela, or pilgrim’s passport, that denotes your home country, starting date, and starting location. Most people pick them up at the pilgrim’s office in the town they start in. The albergue will stamp and date each person’s passport during check-in.
After checking in to the albergue, my first order of business was always a shower. Immediately after, I’d do my daily camino chores of tending to blisters and hand washing and line drying my laundry.
Late afternoon is a peaceful lull in the camino day. Some people nap, but I would try to journal or read everyday. This quiet time became some of the most precious time I spent on the Camino Frances. I’d reflect on the last few days and think about the stories and conversations I wanted to memorialize. I think I’ll treasure those journals forever.
I would also use this time to set my intentions for the next day. I’d glance over my guidebook, decide what town I’d like to walk to, and make reservations at an albergue if beds were limited.
Most nights, I’d join my camino friends at the a nearby cafe for the pilgrims menu. Many restaurants serve a daily menu including bread, wine, a large appetizer, entree, and desert for about 10 euros. Sometimes, albergues would also offer pilgrim’s menu. We usually took advantage.
The day usually ended fairly early. By 9 p.m., I usually was preparing for the next day by packing up my bag and setting out tomorrow’s clothes. Sometimes, I’d have enough energy to read a chapter or two in my book. Usually, I was happy to call it an early night.