This is one of the questions I get asked most frequently, what is the best time of year to walk the Camino de Santiago. Usually though people are asking about the Camino Frances to Santiago, and for that reason that is the route this post refers to.
January and December: unless you are located the other side of the equator January and December are winter. Winter in Spain can sometimes be fairly cold, in 2008 there were snow blizzards in what was the worst winter for 15 years – last year, (2015), there was again lots of snow on the hills after Leon, however 2011/2012 was a warmer winter all over Europe. So you can plan in advance but in the winter be prepared and check the forecast before heading up any of the hills, especially from St Jean Pied de Port.
Apart from the weather the other main problem between the end of Oct and the start of Easter is that some places are closed, especially between 15th December and 15th of January. If you are walking at this time of the year make sure your guide book has updated information on what hostels and albergues are open.
I would not make the choice to walk at this time of the year, however many don’t have a choice due to time constraints. Here are some threads from the forum about preparation for winter walking and some people walking this winter.
- January 2015 Camino Frances
- January 2012 Walk
- November 2011 Walk
- Camino Frances in the Winter
- Walking in Jan & Feb
Also this post on Sil’s blog has loads of good advice from someone who has actually walked the Camino during the winter. http://amawalker.blogspot.com/2009/10/walking-in-winter.html
October, February and March: these months are much wetter than the rest of the year so be prepared with rain gear. It can be fairly cold in the mornings, however if you are lucky often the sun will burn off the frost and you will have mild days. That said the last 100km into Santiago can be wet at any time of the year, I have been caught in rain that lasted two days while walking in September.
April, May, June and September: these are likely considered the best months to walk any of the Caminos to Santiago. During these months the weather is generally warm or hot, everything is open, and the routes are not as busy as the main summer months.
July and August: these are the most popular months on the Camino. I would try and avoid starting on July 25th from Roncesvalles – the feast day of St James, as it can be a very busy day. The same is true if you plan to arrive in Santiago during the week before and after the 25th July. If you are arriving in Santiago at this time be prepared for the hotels to be harder to book and more expensive, additionally the albergues will be very busy.
There is a Spanish public holiday on the 15th Aug, (the Assumption of Mary), again I would avoid starting from St Jean or Roncesvalles on this date. I once stayed in Roncesvalles overnight at this time and it was very crowded, the hostel needed overflow tents to accommodate everyone. But the worst, for me, was walking the next day. I find in general the Spanish extremely helpful along all the Caminos, however I am not used to the noise when there are many Spanish walking nearby talking on their phones, sorry Spain. This is a local problem in every country due to the availability and cost of mobile data, while at the top of Ben Nevis in Scotland I over heard many Brits calling friends with the start of the call being – guess where I am…
Below are the weather charts for Bilbao, Leon, and Santiago. Notice how wet Santiago can be, and it is generally a bit colder in Leon. I will be updating the packing list page shortly to include additional walking gear for the winter – however not much more is required.
Above photo courtesy of Amawalker