Camino Primitivo and Camino Finisterre

The Camino de Santiago

Trek date: July 2019

Walking the Camino Primitivo and Camino Finisterre (two routes of the Camino de Santiago) across Northern Spain was truly a life-changing experience. When we planned our trip in 2019, it was surprisingly difficult to find detailed information about the Camino Primitivo specifically. Most internet searches about the Camino de Santiago describe the Camino Frances – the most popular route walked by the majority of pilgrims (63%). Since we loved our Camino Primitivo experience, we wanted to share our insights on what to expect and resources to help others prepare for their journey.

Buen Camino! 

A Brief History of the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, known as “The Way of St. James,” is comprised of multiple medieval pilgrimage routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The routes converge at the Cathedral de Santiago, where the remains of the Apostle St. James lay. Throughout history, thousands of Christian pilgrims have walked “the Way” in honor of St. James, carrying scallop shells back home with them as a symbol of their Camino completion. In modern day, pilgrims continue this tradition by displaying a scallop shell on their packs. They also carry a pilgrim passport and collect stamps (sellos) along the way to track their progress. Upon arrival in Santiago, they present this passport to receive a Compostela as recognition for completing their pilgrimage.

 

Travelers walk the Way for many different religious and secular purposes. About 25% of pilgrims complete the Camino primarily for religious or spiritual reasons. Others walk to connect to nature, explore different regions of Spain, or seek a physical and mental challenge. Traditionally, pilgrims end their Camino at the Cathedral de Santiago, which is a true sight to behold. Others, including us, continue to the coast and end their journey looking out into the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean at Finisterre (regarded by medieval Europeans as “the end of the world”) or Muxía (the actual westernmost geographic point of Spain). The Camino Finisterre is ~55mi/90km.

 

Regardless of why you walk the Way, which route you take, or where you end your trek, the Camino is truly a journey of self-discovery. 

The Camino Primitivo

The Camino Primitivo is one of many Camino de Santiago routes. It is known as “the original way” because it was the first Camino pilgrimage route ever completed. King Alfonso II of Asturias walked this route in 814 AD. The Camino Primitivo is a ~200mi/315km route beginning in Oviedo and ending, as all routes do, in Santiago de Compostela. With steeper terrain and more elevation, this trail is significantly less crowded and less traveled than other Camino routes. Less than 5% of Camino pilgrims take the Primitivo and those who do rarely walk it as their first Camino. The trail passes through the small towns, winds over hilly farmland, and traverses one mountain pass (the Hospitales route, which can be bypassed via an alternative path) across two regions of Northern Spain: Asturias and Galicia. The Camino Primitivo meets up with the Camino Frances in Melide for the last 50km to Santiago. 

Choosing the Camino Primitivo

We can’t remember exactly when the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago emerged for us. For the years leading up to this once in a lifetime trip, a multitude of things coalesced to inspire us to walk the Way. As both hikers and lovers of travel, finding international trips that incorporated our passion for trekking and experiencing different regions of the world has been a priority. Many of the backpacking, outdoor, and travel magazines we read featured the Camino. Then, some family members walked part of the Camino Frances and loved it. And perhaps most importantly, Kevin read The Pilgrimage by one of our favorite authors, Paolo Coehlo, and really connected with some of the major themes of the book.

 

Walking the Camino was a perfect opportunity for us to try one of the longer international “hut to hut-esque” types of treks we had seen advertised. It is well-established and could allow us to experience Spain in a way that we hadn’t before. But most importantly, it could challenge us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

 

As hikers who are attracted to challenge and averse to crowded pavement-walking, we selected the Camino Primitivo for its road-less-traveled appeal. We also tacked on the Camino Finisterre to end our journey at the ocean.

 

Walking the Way was a trip of a lifetime. It challenged us physically and mentally. While we were sore and tired every day, we always pressed on, sometimes with hobbled steps, humbly putting one foot in front of the other. It is incredible how much our bodies and minds can overcome when we fully commit ourselves! We loved walking through small towns, seeing different regions of Spain on foot, eating local cuisine, and meeting pilgrims from around the world. For the most part, the two of us walked together. Sometimes we chatted and sometimes we remained silent. Walking the Way allowed us to share an experience together while at the same time going through our own individual journeys of spiritual self-discovery. When we arrived in Santiago, Kathy, exhausted from a 20+ mile day, was overcome with accomplishment standing in front of the cathedral. Surrounded by cheering pilgrims and lively music, she was brought to tears by the outpouring love and support displayed by the Camino community. For Kevin, it was making it to the “end of the world” at Finisterre that was most meaningful. He felt a bursting sense of unbridled joy seeing the 0km sign and standing atop the cliff overlooking the expanse of the Atlantic ocean, marking his true completion of the Camino.

Camino Primitivo Day-by-Day Itinerary

Below is an overview of each of our days on the Camino Primitivo, but it is not meant to be one size fits all. Each person we met along the way walked their own Camino and crafted their own experience. Some choose to walk less miles each day. Some prefer to stay in hotels instead of albergues (pilgrim hostels along the Camino). Some follow their plans to a T while others remain more flexible. We certainly adapted to our surroundings and altered our initial plan. Ultimately, your choices should be your own! We intend our itinerary shared here to be a helpful starting point for those planning their Camino. 

Stay tuned for more detailed day-by-day posts. 

Travel Day

Start: Boston|Stop: London Gatwick|End: Oviedo 

 

Accommodation and Cost: Gran Hotel España, 60 Euro per night

Highlights: 

  • Tasting Oviedo’s famous cidre and trying an fabada, an Asturian pork and beans dish 
Day 0: Oviedo

Start and End: Stayed in Oviedo 

 

Accommodation and Cost: Gran Hotel España, 60 Euros per night

 

Highlights:

  • Getting our Camino passports from Catedral de Oviedo 
  • Strolling through the Campo San Francisco park
  • Walking to the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco just outside of Oviedo
Catedral de Oviedo
View from Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco
Campo San Francisco
Day 1: Oviedo|Grado

Start: Oviedo|End: Grado

 

Distance: 16mi, 25.7km 

 

Elevation Gain: 1114ft, 340m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Albergue de Peregrinos de Grado, donation based about 5 Euro per person

  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathroom
  • Breakfast included

Highlights:

  • Walking out of Oviedo into the countryside 
  • Listening to the cowbells ring through the morning fog
  • Watching the mist dissipate as the sun came out 
  • Successfully getting to our first albergue! 
  • Fields of wild poppies

Challenges:

  • Not knowing albergue etiquette – waiting for showers, setting your alarm clock on vibrate instead of ring so that you don’t wake up the whole room, using the laundry facilities
  • Unusually loud albergue bunkmates (i.e. snorers) 
  • Adjusting to language barriers
Plaque showing the direction of the Camino Primitivo and Norte routes
Cobbled path
Camino marker along the way
Field of wild poppies
Misty view of fields
Day 2: Grado|La Espina

Start: Grado|End: La Espina

 

Distance: 18.1mi, 29.1km

 

Elevation Gain: 3345ft, 1020m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Albergue el Texu, 10 Euro per person

  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms
  • Private rooms available 
  • Add on breakfast and dinner for extra Euro  
  • Drinks (beer and softdrinks) and snacks available for purchase 
  • Outdoor hangout space

Highlights: 

  • Walking through the misty countryside in the early morning
  • Enjoying homemade snacks left along the path for pilgrims (donations accepted) – trail magic on the Camino!
  • Resting in Salas, a really cute town
  • Meeting our Camino crew who we stayed with for much of the way

Challenges:

  • The last few miles were very steep
  • And then, the albergue we wanted to stay at was full so we had to walk slightly further than we expected
  • Really strong smells of hay and livestock
Forest Path
Found some roadside trail magic (coffee, fruit, pastries) here
Church in Salas
Haystacks
Morning sun burning off the mist
Sunny road section
Day 3: La Espina|Campiello

Start: La Espina|End: Campiello 

 

Distance: 15.6mi, 23.9km

 

Elevation Gain: 1280ft, 390m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Casa Ricardo, 35 Euro per room, private bathroom

  • Private rooms available (what we opted for)
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms available
  • Fully-outfitted kitchen for pilgrim use
  • Grocery store and restaurant with pilgrim menu 
  • Courtyard

Highlights:

  • Traversing the hilly countryside
  • Exploring the ruins of Monasterio de Obona
  • Arriving in Campiello after a grueling road stretch

Challenges:

  • Extremely muddy paths 
  • Really long road section with relentless sun bearing down on us 
  • Stinging nettles at the monastery. Watch out for them!
Path through the hills
Monasterio de Obona
Muddy trail
Road walking
Day 4: Campiello|Berducedo

Start: Campiello|End: Berducedo

 

Distance: 14.2mi, 22.9km

 

Elevation Gain: 2633ft, 803m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Albergue Casa Marques, 20 Euro per room, shared bathroom 

  • Private rooms available (what we opted for)
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms available
  • Restaurant/bar with pilgrim menu
  • Basic kitchen

Highlights: 

  • Navigating the Hospitales Route using unique Camino markers
  • Seeing horses, cows, and a bull grazing along the path
  • Emerging from the fog for only a few minutes at the top of the mountain pass
  • Taking in the views from the ridgeline path after the Hospitales Route
  • Cheering on Hospitales Route finishers as they rolled into town 
  • Sharing a communal Camino meal with fellow pilgrims 

Challenges:

  • Super cloudy and foggy weather making it difficult to see when walking the Hospitales route 
  • Very sunny stretch at the end of the day without many places for a break 
  • A lot of elevation gain 
Unique Camino sign
Walking into the mist
Horses in the mist
Hospitales route and highest peak
Cows grazing next to the path
View after the Hospitales Route
Day 5: Berducedo|Castro

Start: Berducedo|End: Castro

 

Distance: 15.5mi, 25km

 

Elevation Gain: 2040ft, 622m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Residencia Juvenil de Castro, 13 Euro per person

  • Dormitory bunk beds (4 per room) with shared bathrooms
  • Restaurant/bar with pilgrim and a la carte menu
  • Coffee machine
  • Breakfast to stay or go for extra Euro
  • Lots of outdoor seating

Highlights: 

  • Another morning walking in the mist
  • Eating snacks at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the reservoir (Embalse de Salime)
  • Enjoying the best albergue meals with our Camino crew!
  • Teaching fellow pilgrims yoga

Challenges: 

  • Physically, we started getting worn down. Kevin had to stop at a pharmacy in Grandas de Salime for an ankle sleeve. 
Another misty morning walk
Road walking
City street in Grandas de Salime
View of Embalse de Salime
Residencia Juvenil de Castro - albergue common space
Crow pose with the Camino crew
Day 6: Castro|A Fonsagrada and then bus to Lugo

Start: Castro|End: A Fonsagrada and then bus to Lugo

 

Distance: 12.6mi, 25.2km

 

Elevation Gain: 2040ft, 622m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Hotel Monumento Pazo de Orbán, 55 Euro per room

  • Room in a 18th-century manor house

Highlights: 

  • Crossing from Asturias to Galicia
  • Incredible patches of purple flowers 
  • Riding the bus down mountain roads to Lugo
  • Touring Lugo Cathedral and walking the city streets

Challenges:

  • Figuring out where to get the bus from A Fonsagrada to Lugo (we had finite time and wanted to cut out a small section to have time to walk to the coast), although, we asked a restaurant owner and it was very easy 
  • Deciding to leave our newly formed Camino group to stick to our plan
Crossing from Asturias to Galicia
Trailside flowers
Catedral de Lugo
Lugo street
Day 7: Lugo|As Seixas

Start: Lugo|End: As Seixas

 

Distance: 19.8mi, 31.8km

 

Elevation Gain: 1500ft, 457m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Albergue de Peregrinos de As Seixas, 8 Euro per person

  • Clean and modern xunta (standard municipal albergue run by Galician government)
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms 
  • Fully-equipped kitchen
  • Grassy outdoor space 
  • Restaurant nearby

Highlights: 

  • Pausing to let cows cross the road in the morning mist
  • Eating pan con tomate and tortilla at a small cafe 
  • Walking ancient paths through the woods
  • Lounging in the expansive outdoor space at the albergue 

Challenges:

  • It started getting very hot and sunny from this point onward
  • Very sore calves and ankles
Church in the mist
Sun drenched forest path
Municipal xunta (Galician albergue) in As Seixas
Day 8: As Seixas|Arzua

Start: As Seixas|End: Arzua

 

Distance: 18.1mi, 31.8km

 

Elevation Gain: 1025ft, 312m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Pension Luis, 55 Euro per room

  • Small, clean, private rooms with private bathroom

Highlights: 

  • Viewing the landscape from the top of a road pass
  • Passing through small villages with Camino markers on the sides of buildings
  • Eating delicious pizza with pilgrims playing guitar and singing in Arzua!

Challenges:

  • Hot and sunny 
  • The Camino Primitivo and the Camino Frances (most popular route) converge in Melide. It was tough going from the relative quiet and solitude of the Primitivo to the business of the Frances. 
Path through small town
Early morning start
View of the hills
Meeting up with the busy Camino Frances
Day 9: Arzua|Santiago de Compostela

Start: Arzua|End: Santiago de Compostela

Distance: 23.9mi, 38.5km

Elevation Gain: 1615ft, 492m

Accommodation and Cost: Hostal Airas Nunes, 60 Euro per room 

  • Beautiful room with private indoor balcony/sitting space 
  • Private bathroom 
  • Located a few blocks from the Catedral de Santiago

Highlights:

  • Seeing the sunrise over the fields 
  • Passing super cute establishments for pilgrims along this popular section 
  • Walking through a eucalyptus forest
  • Finishing the Camino Primitivo at the Catedral de Santiago
  • Soaking in energy and excitement buzzing in Santiago de Compostela as pilgrims from all routes finished their journeys
  • Getting our compostela, which officially recognized our completion of the Camino Primitivo 
  • Enjoying tapas and cold beer in celebration of our accomplishment!

Challenges:

  • Beginning the day before sunrise 
  • We upped the mileage on this day to give ourselves a full rest day in Santiago, which made for a very long day 
  • Sunny and hot
Hiking boot planters
Sunrise over the fields
Towering eucalyptus trees
We finished the Camino Primitivo!
Walking into the square to finish at the Catedral de Santiago!
Day 10: Santiago de Compostela

Start and End: Stayed in Santiago de Compostela

 

Accommodation and Cost: Hostal Airas Nunes, 60 Euro per room

  • Beautiful room with private indoor balcony/sitting space 
  • Private bathroom 
  • Located a few blocks from the Catedral de Santiago

Highlights: 

  • Touring the Catedral de Santiago and seeing the tomb of St. James 
  • Visiting the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago 
  • Walking around the city, shopping, and visiting the marketplace 
  • Relaxing with sunset views of the Catedral de Santiago from a hill in Parque de Alameda
  • Taking in the beauty of the Catedral de Santiago at night with live music 

Challenges: 

  • Getting ready to walk another Camino when most other pilgrims were done 
  • The wear and tear of 10 days of walking already
Going upside down
Inside Catedral de Santiago
Catedral de Santiago at Night
Distant view of the Catedral de Santiago
Rooftops of Santiago
Day 11: Santiago de Compostela|A Peña and Piaxe

Start: Santiago de Compostela|End: A Peña and Piaxe

 

Distance: 18.4mi, 29.6km

 

Elevation Gain: 2500ft, 762m

Accommodation and Cost: Albergue Alto de Pena, 24 Euro per room with private bathroom

  • Private rooms (what we opted for) 
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms available 
  • Fully-outfitted kitchen
  • Pilgrim menu offered at restaurant next door 

Highlights: 

  • Starting the Camino Finisterre (many pilgrims who want to see the coast, but who don’t want to walk, can take a bus there – one we considered is Monbus)
  • Crossing an ancient bridge by a wide waterfall
  • The wonderful view of the church from our room at the albergue

Challenges:

  • Kathy was physically sick this day so she couldn’t walk this section 
  • Kevin had to walk the long day alone and with a sore ankle 
Sign to Fisterra (Finisterre)
Waterfall along the walk
Path through the trees
Church in A Peña and Piaxe
Day 12: A Peña and Piaxe|O Logoso

Start: A Peña and Piaxe|End: O Logoso

 

Distance: 17.9mi, 28.8km

 

Elevation Gain: estimated 1500ft, 457m

 

Accommodation and Cost: O Logoso, 24 Euro per room, private bathroom

  • Private rooms (what we opted for) 
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms available 
  • Fully-outfitted kitchen
  • Pilgrim menu 

Highlights: 

  • Walking the paths between farm fields
  • Passing herds of cattle in the trailside pastures

Challenges:

  • Kathy was sick but pushed through half of the walk and Kevin had to finish it alone
Path through the fields
More road walking
Day 13: O Logoso|Finisterre

Start: O Logoso|End: Finisterre

 

Distance: 19.4mi, 31.2km

 

Elevation Gain: estimated 1500ft, 457m

 

Accommodation and Cost: Pension Doña Lubina, 40 Euro per room with private bathroom

  • Private rooms 
  • A block away from the beach 
  • Newly updated room (unsure if all are)

Highlights: 

  • Reaching the fork in the road and taking the route toward Finisterre
  • Getting our first glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean – the true end of our journey
  • Swimming at a secluded beach with a view of Finisterre
  • Standing at the “end of the world” to complete our full Camino
  • Drinking a cocktail at an outdoor bar on the beach

Challenges:

  • Peak of physical pain for Kevin’s ankle
  • Really long, steep, and hot stretch leaving the city of Cee
The split between Finisterre and Muxía
Beach at Finisterre
At 0km in Finisterre
Standing at mile 0, the "end of the world"
View of Cee
Secluded beach near Finisterre
Day 14: Finisterre|Muxía

Start: Finisterre|End: Muxía

 

Distance: Finisterre was the end of our journey so we opted for a 30-40 minute taxi ride. You can also walk this or take a bus. 

 

Accommodation and Cost: Bela Muxia, 50 Euro per room, private bathroom

  • Private rooms (what we opted for) 
  • Dormitory bunk beds with shared bathrooms available 
  • Fully-outfitted kitchen
  • Rooftop common space with lounge chairs 
  • Washing and drying machines

Highlights:

  • Listening to the surf pound the rocky coast at Muxía
  • Climbing the hill for a view of the whole town
  • Watching a stunning ocean sunset
View of Muxía
Rocky coast of Muxía
Ocean view from Muxía
Church at sunset
Travel Day

Start: Muxía|Stop: Santiago de Compostela|End: Boston 

 

Accommodation and Cost: Hostal Airas Nunes, 60 Euro per room

  • We opted to stay one more night in Santiago on our way home so we did not have to rush to the airport 

Transportation from Muxía to Santiago de Compostela: The closest airport to Muxía is Santiago de Compostela. To get back to Santiago, we took a bus that runs two times per day from Muxía. It takes approximately 2 hours. The cost is 8 Euro per person and you pay cash on the bus. Note: there is not much about this online, but you can ask at your albergue or the pilgrim office in Muxía and they will provide more information.

  • Monday – Friday: 6:45 and 14:30 
  • Saturdays and bank holidays: 7:30 – 14:30
  • Sundays: 7:30 – 18:45

Transportation from Santiago de Compostela to the airport: To save money, we took a bus to the airport. The cost is 3 Euro per person and you pay cash on the bus. You can look up schedules and stops on the Empresa Freire Bus website. There are a few pickup stops around the city and a main hub at the Santiago bus station. We asked at our hotel and they directed us to the closest stop for us.

Camino Primitivo Tips

Below find detailed tips for what you should know on the Camino Primitivo!

General Logistics
Just got our Pilgrim Passports!

Get your Pilgrim Passport. There are two ways to get your pilgrim passport (also called a credential): order online to be shipped to your home or pick up at the Catedral de Oviedo when you arrive. You’ll need to get your first sello (see below) at the cathedral where you start the Camino Primitivo, so we recommend getting your passport there.

Get sellos along the way. Sellos are stamps that you collect in your pilgrim passport along the Way. You need to get at least two sellos a day to prove that you actually walked the Way in order to receive your Compostela (certificate that shows you completed a Camino – see below for details) in Santiago.

You always get one sello at your albergue upon check in. To get your second daily sello, ask for one at churches, bars, restaurants, hotels, and albergues. Some are sitting out for self-service. If you don’t see one, ask at the front desk or the bar of the establishment. You can always get more if you want! It is nice to collect sellos at the places you stop for snacks, lunch, lodging, etc. to mark your way and remember your journey.

Stamping a sello

Get your Compostela. After reaching the Catedral de Santiago and taking your time basking in your accomplishment, head out the northwest corner of the square to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office to get your Compostela, an official accreditation to recognize your completed pilgrimage. To qualify, you must walk at least the last 100km to Santiago. You’ll show your pilgrim passport with sellos from your journey to prove this and they’ll stamp it with a final sello from Santiago. The Compostela is free, but you might also want a Certificate of Distance. This costs 3 Euro and is a more detailed document that will include your name, the route you walked, and the distance of that route. We decided it was nice to have this more personalized document in addition to the Compostela.

Guides and Directions
Camino route map courtesy of El Camino de Santiago con Correos

Buy a Camino Primitivo specific guidebook. We used the Camino Primitivo Wise Pilgrim Guide. This is a small, but comprehensive guidebook with maps and elevation profiles as well as essential information about accommodations, food, and amenities along the way. We used it for both our initial planning and carried it with us so we could change our plan when needed.

Wise Pilgrim Guidebook

Use a Camino phone app. Our guidebook purchase also included a download of the Wise Pilgrim Phone App – they have an app for each Camino route for $0.99 each. This was super helpful for quick referencing and checking our location on the interactive map while we walked. 

For the Camino Finisterre, we used the Buen Camino app (Apple or Google). This app was popular amongst pilgrims and lets you make in-app purchases for each of the Camino routes.

The scallop shell signs point the way, but the designs change. The scallop shell signs line the path and indicate what direction to take. Every time we wondered if we were still on the right path, a sign was just around the corner. Be aware, though, the signs have various designs and are oriented in different directions in Asturias and Galicia!

  • In Asturias, the lines converging on the scallop shell point the direction of travel. This symbolizes the various routes of the Camino converging in Santiago. So you walk whichever way the base of the scallop shell points. Sometimes there is also a yellow arrow, but more often it’s just the scallop design.
  • In Galicia, the scallop shells are usually affixed to standardized posts, which also include the kilometers remaining to Santiago. Differently from Asturias, these scallop shell designs don’t actually point the direction of travel. Instead, every post includes a yellow arrow to direct you.
  • Note: sometimes there will be yellow arrows or shells painted on or affixed to trash cans, walls, buildings, the ground, etc. In cities, there may be bronze scallop shells embedded into the pavement. Keep your eyes peeled! 

Markers in Asturias

Bronze scallop shell in Oviedo
Keep going straight
Go right
Follow the arrow

Markers in Galicia

Go right
Go left
Accommodations

Planning resources. We used a combination of the Wise Pilgrim website and Gronze (this is in Spanish, so you might need to translate it) as resources to help our initial planning. Both of these provided important details on albergues and other accommodations including cost, number of beds, other services offered, if they take reservations, and sometimes a few basic pictures. All of this really helped us decide where we wanted to stay each night.

Albergue el Texu

Albergues, pensions, or hotels. There are three lodging options on the Camino Primitivo. We stayed at a combination of albergues (pilgrim hostels), pensions (slightly nicer pilgrim hostels, often with private room options), and hotels. See the day-by-day itinerary for details on which accommodations we stayed at and detailed posts for reviews of the accommodations. 

Book albergues in advance if you can. On the Primitivo in particular, the best albergues may fill up quickly. Although there are less people on this route, there are also less albergues. You may consider calling an albergue in the morning to reserve a bed for that evening if things seem crowded, if you really want a private room, or if you want to stay at the same place as your newly formed Camino friends. 

Maintain some flexibility. That said, you might not want to book everything in advance. Part of the beauty of the Way is experiencing things in the moment. You’ll always find some place, you just might need to walk a bit further or change your plans. Some of the best experiences of our Camino came when we changed our plans and ended up right where we needed to be!

Private rooms. Everyone is different, but we really enjoyed knowing we had a couple of nights here and there in a private room with our own bathroom. If this option is financially feasible, you may want to consider it.

Residencia Juvenil de Castro - albergue common space
Human clothesline

Use the albergue facilities. Many of the albergues have common kitchens. Make use of them! Maybe make dinner some nights or prepare your meals for the next day. Some albergues have outdoor or other common spaces, where pilgrims tend to congregate. We made our best Camino friends just hanging around outside albergues!

Ask about what is included and what extras are offered. Some albergues include breakfast or dinner for an added cost. Just ask when you get there.

Laundry. Many albergues offer laundry for a fee, usually just a few Euro. Others have a designated wash area free for all to use. Otherwise, it’s common practice to wash a few articles of clothing in the sink. We recommend using Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for laundry (it’s also great for showering too). Some recommend bringing your own sink stopper and clothesline, but we only used them once, so they weren’t really worth carrying. Most places have a clothesline outside or you can ask if they have drying racks to use. For anything that did not dry in time, we would just clip it to our packs and let it dry on the walk!

Food and Drink
Favorite Camino snacks

Carry fresh vegetables, fruit, and other snacks. There weren’t a ton of fruits or vegetables included with pilgrim meals, but there were plenty of places to buy produce along the way. Grab tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh fruits, olives/pickles (drain the liquid to make it lighter to carry), cured meats, and cheese for some filling and nutritious snacks.

Family-style pilgrim meal

Pilgrim menus. Many albergues and most restaurants in the smaller towns offer a pilgrim menu. They typically include a soup or salad, a main dish, dessert, water, and house wine. Often served family style where you sit at communal tables with fellow pilgrims, this provides a great opportunity to connect with others and swap stories from your journeys.

Take cafe breaks. As you walk through towns, stop in for a drink and a snack. I looked forward to a cafe con leche every morning and an Aquarius every afternoon. We found Aquarius in 2 flavors: limon and naranje (lemon and orange). Both are delicious and refreshing!

 

Save the bread. Every restaurant served a ton of bread on the side of our meals. We could never eat as much as they provided, but hate wasting food. So, we used a gallon ziploc bag as a “bread bag” to take leftover bread with us and make sandwiches for our lunches the next day. 

 

Getting water. The tap water in Spain is safe to drink. We were able to fill up water at our albergue or hotel to start each day. Along the way, you can ask bartenders to fill up your water bottle when you stop in town for snacks. It’s good practice to actually buy something when you do this which is a great opportunity to enjoy an Aquarius! Many towns also have a communal fountain with flowing water that we heard was safe to drink, but didn’t want to risk anything as it was so easy to fill up elsewhere.

Seafood paella in Santiago
Pouring cidre in Asturias
Pulpo
Tortilla and empanada

Enjoy the local cuisine. The food and drink in Spain is delicious and cuisines change from region to region. You’ll notice differences as you walk from Asturias to Galicia. 

  • Jamón
  • Tortilla
  • Pan con Tomate
  • Cidre (alcoholic cider is a specialty in Asturias)
  • Empanada
  • Croquetas
  • Pimientos de padrón 
  • Patatas bravas 
  • Pulpo
  • Paella
Tapas in Santiago - Patatas bravas and Pimientos de padrón
Mouth full of complementary tapas in Lugo

Tapas. Tapas can refer to two different things: a complimentary small bite of food that comes every drink you order or small dishes that you order to share.

Communication and Socializing

Wifi access. You can generally expect to have wifi at most albergues and definitely at hotels. Sometimes it’s really slow, though, so don’t count on streaming videos or downloading large files. We noticed that wifi signals were usually stronger in common areas.

 

Get an international SIM Card. Make sure your phone is unlocked and buy an international SIM card. This will give your phone a local number and you will be able to make calls within the country and use data when you need it. We opted for this SIM card from Three Mobile which gave us unlimited calls and text with 12GB of data. Having data to look things up while we walked or as a backup when wifi was spotty was invaluable.

 

Language. In larger towns and cities, you’ll usually find that people speak at least a little English. In smaller towns and the countryside, don’t count on it. We were able to at least communicate food orders and lodging requests, but it was useful to learn a few Spanish phrases to communicate our questions and needs. As non-Spanish speakers (so please excuse incorrect grammar and elementary vocabulary) here are some that we used:

  • Asking for a bed in a dormitory: Is there a bed available for tonight? “¿Hay una coma libre para esta noche?” Plural: “¿Hay dos (or however many you need) comas libre para esta noche?”
  • Asking for a private room: Is there a room available for tonight? “¿Hay una habitación libre para esta noche?”
  • Ordering food or drink: I would like… “Me gustería…”

Talk to new people. The Camino experience is both an individual journey and a group one. You will find a Camino crew and become very close very quickly. Enjoy sharing this experience with people from around the world. The Camino truly has a global draw!

But don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. It is also easy to get wrapped up in socializing all the time. As we say elsewhere, hike your own hike. Take time for yourself if you need and want it. Your new friends will be happy to chat later.

Camino Gear Preparation and Training

People carry different things when they walk the Camino depending on personal preference. There is no one packing list that will suit everyone’s needs. We saw pilgrims with a huge range of items. Generally, we are of the ethos that lighter is better while still maintaining enough comfort, but to each their own! 

Ultimately, taking care of your feet should be a priority when picking your Camino gear. They bear the brunt of the work, so make sure you treat them well. As such, selecting your socks and shoes for your Camino are of paramount importance (see below for specific recommendations). 

Below is a packing list separated into “essentials” and “additional items for comfort” and some tips for testing your gear out.  

Gear Essentials
Camino gear

Comfortable trail shoes. This is probably the most important gear decision to make for your Camino. Try different shoes out – we did and both ended up changing our shoe decisions from what we initially thought. As hikers, we originally wanted to wear hiking boots. But Spain is hot and boots are heavy. We both opted for trail runners because they provide the support needed to walk the distance without feeling clunky and heavy. We went to REI and tested a bunch of shoes and ultimately settled on the Women’s Brooks Cascadia for Kathy and the Men’s Adidas Terrex Agravic XT for Kevin.

Socks (2 pairs). We recommend wool or synthetic blend socks (no cotton!). They will help your feet breathe and dry quickly. Try Darn ToughSmartwool, or Lorpen.

30-50 liter backpack. Size really depends on how much you need to carry, just be sure it has a hip belt to help support the weight. Kathy used a Gregory Jade 28L and Kevin used a Mountainsmith Approach 45L

Pack rain cover. We didn’t need these, but were still glad to have them just in case.

Rain gear. We opted for light ponchos and actually never used them. That said, it did pour one night and others say that the Primitivo is notoriously wet. So, check the weather and plan accordingly.

Water reservoir or water bottles. Your choice, just be sure to have enough capacity to carry at least 2 liters. 

Guide book. We used the Wise Pilgrim guide, which included their digital app.

Trekking poles. Not essential, but we find that they help our joints, assist with balance, and keep a solid walking rhythm. FYI: you have to check your trekking poles at the airport. 

Sleep sack. In summer, you don’t need a full sleeping bag. We used sleeping bag liners as a sheet. Most albergues provide a blanket and pillow. We had no issues with bedbugs (phew!), but heard they have been a problem in some places. We treated our sleep sacks with permethrin, a soak in bug repellant.

Sleepwear (1 top and 1 bottom). Options include things like long johns, shorts, a t-shirt, etc. Choose whatever you will be comfortable in and keep in mind that you will be sleeping in dormitories with other pilgrims!

Underwear (3-4 pairs). 

Hiking shirts (2). Any moisture-wicking synthetic fabric.

Hiking shorts/pants (2). Also moisture-wicking synthetic fabric.

Long sleeve shirt (1). More needed if you tend to get cold easily. A light jacket may be enough. You might also bring a really light long sleeve shirt for sun protection, such as a sun hoody.

Light jacket. We each brought a soft shell jacket and wore them in the evenings when it cooled off.

Hat. For sun protection. Style depends on preference.

Sunglasses. Don’t get blinded by the intense rays.

Buff/Handkerchief/Sweat towel. It gets hot so you’ll want something to wipe off sweat.

Microfiber towel. You need your own towel for showering at albergues. We recommend microfiber camping towels. They come in all different sizes and designs. Some even come as sets with a body and hand towel together.

Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, medications, etc.

Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Use it for laundry, showering, literally everything. 

Shower shoes/sandals. Some of the showers may be a little gross. These double as lounging shoes to get your feet out of your walking shoes at the end of a long day on the Camino.

Hand sanitizer. You might not see soap in every bathroom. 

Earplugs. You will want these. Block out the snoring at night and the shuffle of pilgrims packing up their gear in the morning 

Sleep mask. People turn on lights when you are sleeping. They really do.

Electronics. Phone and charger.

First aid kit.

Sunscreen.

 

Additional Items for Comfort

Book/Kindle/e-Reader. You will have plenty of downtime in the afternoons to read. 

Drawing/journaling materials. Walking the Camino is a reflective journey. We really liked having a notebook to jot our thoughts and reflections.

Playing cards. Great bonding activity with your fellow pilgrims!

One “city” outfit. Kathy opted for one lightweight versatile dress. 

Foot or body glide. Helps with blisters and chafing. 

Moleskins or other blister prevention/care. Your feet are so important on this walk!

Clothespins. To hang your clothes on a line or off your pack after washing.

Stuff sacks. Maybe waterproof. We each kept our clothes in a small bag that made pack organization easier.

Ziploc bags. For organizing small items in your pack or saving some leftovers for a snack. We used 1 large bag to save bread after meals.

Headphones. It might be nice to listen to something if you’re having a tough walking day.

Power bank. Some people might find it nice to have an external battery for charging phones and other electronics. In many albergues, there are only a few plugs and you might not want to leave your phone charging unattended.

Bug spray. We didn’t end up using ours so wouldn’t recommend it.

Testing Gear and Training

As we mention above, one of the most important parts of preparing for the Camino is actually getting the right gear, shoes in particular. The second most important part then, is testing out that gear to make sure it works for you as you physically train. 

 

The best way to train for the Camino is to walk on different terrain with your pack and trail shoes! We would load our packs with the gear we planned on bringing and take long walks around town. In the months before our trip, we often walked with packs to complete errands, to friends’ houses that we would otherwise have driven to, and just for the sake of walking. We varied our routes, put in some high distance days (10+ miles), and made sure to walk on pavement too. As hikers, we were not used to much road walking, but we knew there would be plenty of that on the Camino. All this walking got our bodies ready for the Camino and helped us decide to purchase different shoes and packs than we initially planned on using.

 

As you are training, be sure to test and break in your shoes, but don’t wear them out. You’ll need them to last hundreds of miles/kilometers along the Way!

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2 Comments

  1. sharon
    May 7, 2023
    Reply

    wow

    every other site i went to said the camino primitivo takes seventeen days

    and i was tryinig to decide whether i should do that
    or do the camiinio fniesterre/muxia
    and then i came across your website
    very inspirational
    but also y’all must be…very…fit?

    • Kathy
      May 8, 2023
      Reply

      Thank you! We are so glad that our blog is helpful. Your estimation seems right. Most people do take longer to do the Primitivo. Hah, I guess we would say we are …very…fit. We hike a lot and truly enjoy doing days with big miles, which is not the case for many! We also had a limited amount of time off of work and so we just had a time constraint we had to deal with.

      Additionally, you’ll see we took a bus on Day 6 between A Fonsagrada and Lugo because we needed to cut some miles due to time and because we really wanted to go to Fisterra, so that makes a big difference.

      I’d probably suggest taking more days to do the Primitivo unless they really like to hike fast like us or also have severe time constraints like we did. There is a lot to do and take in each day, so giving yourself more time and flexibility, we think, would make for the best experience!

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