This is one of the questions I get asked most frequently, what is the best time to walk. In many ways they are all good for different reasons, and yes I know that is a bit oblique – so I will list what is considered the best times to walk the Camino Frances – which is the main route that most people walk to Santiago.
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 worse winter for 15 years – this year, (2015), there has again been 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.
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 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 last two days while walking in September.
April, May, June and September: these are likely considered the best months to walk any of the Camino de Santiagos. 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. Also there is a Spanish public holiday around 14th Aug, again I would avoid starting from St Jean or Roncesvalles at this time. 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 – but I have heard this many times, while at the top of Ben Nevis in Scotland I over heard many calling friends with the start 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