My Experience Walking the Camino de Santiago in Photos
Posted On June 13, 2017
People come from all over the world to walk the Camino de Santiago. The 790 km (490 mile) French Way is the most popular route with the best infrastructure for pilgrims. Although I’ve returned home, I still think daily about all the friendly people I met, the lessons I’ve learned and the feeling of serenity I felt during my walk. Here are a few photos that offer glimpses into my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.
Saint Jean Pied de Port
I actually happened to be one of the pilgrims who travelled the least distance to reach Saint Jean Pied de Port in France. It took two buses from Barcelona for me to get to what is considered the starting point for the Camino Francés route. Some of the other pilgrims came all the way from Australia, South Korea and the United States and started the trek the very next day, jet lag and all!
The small town of Saint Jean in the French Pyrenees was full of excitement as new pilgrims were getting ready for the day ahead. After spending the night in my first albergue, a hostel specifically for those doing the trek, off I went. The Camino de Santiago began by passing through a stone arch and over the bridge before heading uphill to cross the border from France into Spain.
Crossing the Pyrenees mountain range
The first few days were some of the most beautiful for me because of the weather and panoramic views of the pastures and hills. In the morning the landscape was blanketed in fog and it was hard to resist the urge to stop and take a photo every ten minutes. The first day was one of the harder days of the trek because of the consistent uphill climb for the majority of the day before a steep, yet short descent.
This food truck providing walkers with drinks, fruit and snacks was definitely a welcome sight. The truck is the last stamp you’re able to get in France, then it’s off to Navarra, Spain. If the food and drinks weren’t enough of a reason for me to stop, the view definitely was.
Living out of a backpack
The Camino de Santiago was my first multi-day hike with an overnight pack and although my bag wasn’t amongst the heaviest of the bunch, it did weigh around 8 kgs (about 17 lbs). After the first day, I quickly got used to wearing the backpack and when I arrived back home, it was so weird to walk somewhere without it!
This is a typical sight at an albergue, since we all need to wash and dry our clothes for the next day. After walking for five to eight hours, the last thing I wanted to do was hand wash and hang my clothes, although I do think I got pretty good at it after awhile. Laundry is also a good moment for some small talk. You keep seeing the same people each day, so you really get to know each other.
It was hard for me to see the beauty in the never-ending vineyards and monotonous fields that led me across the tiny region of La Rioja. But walking alone here allowed me to think about the reasons that I did the camino in the first place. There is only one way, one path to follow. The camino took away the difficult decisions I faced in my daily life, making me feel more at peace. Now I look back at these photos and truly appreciate the rolling hills, amazing wine and perfect rows of grapevines.
The not so nice parts of the Camino de Santiago
I was quite surprised to find out that the trail had many sections that crossed the road or followed right alongside a busy highway. There are also parts where the camino takes you right through industrial areas, factories or directly on a road with no shoulder. It’s not all just beautiful landscapes and clear skies as you can see from my walk into the town of Atapuerca.
Food, food, food
Most of the small towns that I passed through had just one or two small bars and only serve tortilla española (Spanish omelette) and cold sandwiches. I would usually just pack some food and have a quick rest on the side of the trail for lunch. The best food (and more expensive of course) was in the larger cities. In the Basque Country there were spectacular pintxos, or little snacks similar to tapas. My favorite was the baked sea urchin from Bar Gaucho in Pamplona.
The earliest hominids in Western Europe
I was excited to see that the Camino de Santiago took me straight through the Sierra de Atapuerca, where the oldest known evidence of our ancestors were found. I joined the tour of the archaeological sites, which are still being excavated today. The artifacts and remains, some of which date to 1.2 million years ago are displayed in the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, which is on the camino as well.
Because the camino originated as a religious pilgrimage, the trek isn’t focused on tourism. The trail does however always make sure to go past each town’s cathedral, where some of them have stamps for the pilgrim’s passport. In the end, you don’t really see much of the towns because you arrive very tired after the long hours of walking and get up early the next morning to continue on.
I spent an extra day exploring Burgos, my final destination before hopping on the train back to Barcelona. I was lucky enough to step outside of my albergue and see these dancers performing on the street. It was such a treat!
The Camino de Santiago was a really great experience and truly one that I will never forget. I’m already planning a trip back to Burgos to finish the rest of it from where I left off!