The Camino de Santiago is a trail that refers to Spanish pilgrimage routes, also known as pilgrim ways, that lead to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great. This route is common for travelers who enjoy hiking, cycling, and travel tours, as well as for those taking the path for spiritual growth and other additional religious reasons. While many times of year are great to walk the Camino de Santiago, the best time to traverse the route is during the summer, when mountain passes are clear and weather is less likely to interfere with your journey.
The route is also known as the Way of St. James and other similar variations, such as St. James's Way, Path, or Trail. There are also several references to the path known as the Route of Santiago de Compostela as well as the Road to Santiago. This was one of the most significant Christian pilgrimages in the Middle Ages with several routes starting in various locations of France and Portugal.
How Long Does It Take to Complete the Camino De Santiago?
Doing the entire popular route of the Camino de Santiago, the Camino Frances, will take an average of 30 to 35 days to complete. The timeline depends on how many kilometers you will walk, cycle, or ride per day, and finishing the route within about a month means traveling about 14 to 16 miles per day. This recommended route starts from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela.
Peak Season on the Camino De Santiago
The decision on when to do the Camino de Santiago depends largely on the weather and the number of people traveling together. Some people want a private experience and others like the crowds. Additional travelers may deal with temperatures like the cold or extreme heat better than others.
The terrain varies greatly on the Camino de Santiago. The mountain passes are extremely dangerous in the winter. It isn't possible to do the walk in winter, but it's important for travelers to heed the advice of other travelers and the hostel staff before setting off each morning. It is also recommended that travelers follow the weather forecast, be prepared to take a safer route, and even abandon the trip entirely if necessary.
Visiting the Camino de Santiago During a Jacobean Year
Travelers who have some flexibility in which year to do the Camino should consider waiting for or avoiding the Jacobean Years, or years in which St James's Day (July 25) falls on a Sunday. It is known in Spanish as Año Santo Jacobeo, in Galician as Ano Santo Xacobeo, and sometimes referred to in English as a Jubilee Year, Holy Compostellan Year, or just Holy Year.
Jacobean years include:
For Catholics, visiting Santiago de Compostela in a Jacobean year is a very important event. If they fulfill all the necessary requirements, Catholics will receive a "plenary indulgence" upon visiting the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The Puerta Santa (Holy Door) in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, normally closed, is open for the whole of the year.
In a Jacobean year, there will be huge numbers of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Numbers more than triple in a Jacobean year, with a huge concentration around St James's Day in particular. This means that walking in late June and July will see an even more competitive battle for hostel beds than usual.
By March, the weather is cool but not unpleasant. More travelers are now on the route, making it a very good time to walk. In April, the weather can be quite warm in some places. May could be very hot, though the weather varies more in northern Spain than it does in other parts of the country. The route gets quite busy in May and some hostels may be full by the time travelers get to them.
Events to check out:
- Semana Santa, or Easter, is among the most popular spring events you'll encounter along the walk. Seville and Malaga are home to the most elaborate celebrations.
- Portugal celebrates its Freedom Day, a national holiday, on April 25. It's the celebration of the country's transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Summer travel on the Camino de Santiago is very different from doing it in winter. Many people fill up the hostels during the summer, so travelers will need to set off very early in the morning to get a good hostel by evening. Though weather conditions are unlikely to prohibit travelers from finishing the Camino de Santiago, the host conditions might make the journey unpleasant or even unbearable. Travelers should drink a lot of water when traveling in the summer.
Hot weather can be expected during June. There is sometimes a slight dip in "traffic" in June compared to May, though still more people make the trek this month than in April. It is very hot in July and there are a lot of other travelers on the path. Travelers should also note that July 25 is St. James's Day, a popular day for Catholics to finish the Camino. In Jacobean Years, travelers can expect vast numbers of people walking in July. Meanwhile, August has similar conditions as to July's weather.
Events to check out:
- Pamplona's famous running of the bulls takes place in early July. This iconic festival can be dangerous, should you chose to run with the bulls, but there are also other events, like parades and fireworks.
- Semana Grande takes place in mid-August in northern Spain. This giant festival is dedicated to the Virgin of Begona but feels like one giant street party. If you want to experience Basque culture, this is how to do it.
Septembers calls for cooler weather, but not by much. There are still a lot of travelers at this time. The weather is much more pleasant in October and the crowds die away at this time. By November, it is quite cold in some parts of the walk, and very few people are walking.
Events to check out:
- If you're passing through Ponferrada in the fall, don't miss the Fiestas de la Encina. This celebration, in honor of the Virgin of La Encina, saint patron of El Bierzo, typically begins on September 1 and lasts for about 10 days.
Most of the winter is not a good time to walk. December is very cold with the possibility of extreme weather. January is cold and wet and you'll see few travelers. By February, the weather has typically improved a bit and you may see a handful of other travelers.
Events to check out:
- While winter isn't the ideal time on the Camino De Santiago, December 25, can be festive in many small towns and villages. If you're traveling on Christmas Day, make sure to check hotel opening dates—many small inns may close.