Every person walking the Caminos has a different story. When walking it is enchanting to listen to the tangled, exciting or boring stories of other people. In fact, there is no usual story. Equally interesting it is to have a look at the Camino de Santiago statistics.
Who is actually walking the route? Has it changed over the years? Why are people walking?
Statistics used are from the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in Santiago. It doesn’t include people who did not register and people who did not collect the Compostela after arriving in Santiago de Compostela.
- There are more pilgrims walking and cycling to Santiago each year.
- Most pilgrims are from Spain, in 2016 it was 45 %.
- The numbers of foreign pilgrims are rising.
- In 2016, the most foreign pilgrims came from Italy, Germany, USA, Portugal, and France.
- The Camino is getting popular especially among American pilgrims.
- There are more people over 60 and more women hitting the pilgrimage.
- July and August are the most crowded months.
- The number of people walking the Camino has been growing, in 2016 it was 91%. More people use a wheelchair, and in 2016 also 15 people sailed to Santiago.
- Most people walk for religious and other reasons, (read what is a pilgrim).
- Camino Francés is the most popular route leaving the second, the Camino Portugués far behind. Although 18 % of pilgrims walked Camino Portugués in 2016.
- Sarria and Saint Jean Pied Port on the Camino Francés are the most common places to commence the journey.
- Employees and students are the most occurring professions of the pilgrims.
Growing Number of Pilgrims Over the Years
Each year, there are more pilgrims traveling to Santiago. In 2006, slightly over 100.000 pilgrims reached Santiago. Ten years later in 2016, it was almost triple the number at 278.000. The spikes in the chart, in years 2004 and 2010, occurred on Holly years. When the 25th July – the day of St. James falls on Sunday, it is declared the Holy year. St. James or in Spanish Santiago is the patron of Spain. The last Holy year was in 2010 and the next one is in 2021. (2016 was declared the Year of Mercy and caused an increase in pilgrims)
Pilgrims from Spain and the World
Interesting is to look at the origin of the travelers. In Holly Years, Spanish pilgrims form the vast majority. Numbers of both Spanish and Non-Spanish pilgrims have been rising. Until 2011, Spanish pilgrims formed more than 50 % of all pilgrims. In 2012, foreign pilgrims composed 51 % of all pilgrims and in 2016 – 55 %.
The national composition of foreign pilgrims changed over the years. In 2006, foreign pilgrims came mostly from Italy (21 %), Germany (17 %), France (14 %), Portugal (7 %) and United States (4 %).
Ten years later in 2016, the countries of origin of the most were Italy (15 %), Germany (14 %), United States (10 %), Portugal (9 %), and France (6 %). Italian pilgrims dropped by 6 %, American pilgrims grew by 6 %.
When you translate this into numbers, the growth of American pilgrims is huge – in 2006 there were around 4,000 from the US, then in 2016 27,000.
Pilgrims from English Speaking Countries
It is interesting to look at the numbers of pilgrims from English speaking countries, especially the United States. The numbers of pilgrims from English speaking countries have been rising since 2004. There seem to be no effect of the Holy years on pilgrims.
Until 2011, there was no big difference in numbers of pilgrims from United States, Ireland, United Kingdom or Canada. In 2012, the number of Pilgrims from the US started rising. American Pilgrims were 4 % of foreign pilgrims in 2006, in 2016 it was 10 %. The number of travelers rose from 1909 in 2006 to 15236 in 2016.
Perhaps the movie the Way from 2010 inspired people to walk the Camino. Irish pilgrims formed 2 % in 2006 and 4 % in 2016, similarly, pilgrims from the United Kingdom rose from 3 % in 2006 to 4 % in 2016.
Age of Pilgrims
Numbers of all age groups have been growing in years. A continuously higher proportion of people over 60 are set on the pilgrimage and fewer people below 30. The proportion of people below 30 decreased from 37 % of all pilgrims in 2004 to 27 % in 2016. In 2004, pilgrims above 60 formed only 8 % of pilgrims in 2016 the number doubled to 18 %.
Pilgrims Walking Per Month
The number of pilgrims walking the Camino in different months can be extremely useful when deciding when it is the best time of the year to walk. Note in the charts below that numbers of pilgrims reach the peak in July and August throughout the years. Pilgrims take the advantage of walking around St. James’s day or just plan for summer holidays resisting the summer heat. (This chart is a compilation of all figures from 2006 to 2016)
Looking at the year 2016, Spanish pilgrims hit the pilgrimage mostly in July and August, whereas numbers of foreign travelers are more dispersed from May to October slightly dropping in July and August. American pilgrims follow this trend. They walk mostly from May to October and avoid walking the Camino in August.
Looking more closely at American pilgrims in years 2006 and 2016, the most preferred month to set on the pilgrimage are May to October. In 2006, most pilgrims walked in June and July, whereas in 2016, the most preferred months were June and October.
Over the years, men have walked the pilgrimage more, the difference between men and women has been reducing over the years. In 2004, it was 56 % men and 44 % women. In 2016, the difference narrowed to 52 % men and 48 % women.
Mode of Travel – Walking or Cycling
There are several ways pilgrims travel to Santiago, mostly they walk on foot and cycle as you can see in the chart below. The percentage of pilgrims walking has risen from 81% in 2006 to 91 % in 2016. Percentage of people cycling to Santiago dropped from 18 % in 2006 to 8 % in 2016. Other means of transport are riding a horse, using a wheelchair and in 2016 for the first time also 15 people sailed to Santiago.
In overall numbers horse riding or using a wheelchair is not apparent. Looking closely at this data brings interesting results. Years 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2014 show significantly higher number of people traveling by horse rose over 900. Other years only about 300 people traveled on horseback to Santiago.
Last 4 years, from 2013 the number of pilgrims using a wheelchair has been rising. In 2012, only 22 pilgrims using wheelchair reached Santiago, in 2016 it was 125.
Motivation of Pilgrims
The reason most pilgrims set on the pilgrimage is a mix of religious, spiritual, and other reasons. In 2006, 50 % of pilgrims and 48 % of pilgrims 2016 declared religious and others reason for doing pilgrimage. The second most common reason for walking to Santiago is religion. In Holy Years 2004 and 2010 religion was the most common reason to set on the pilgrimage. In 2004, it was 75 % and in 2010 55 % of pilgrims.
Most Popular Camino Routes
Numbers of pilgrims on all routes are rising year by year. The most popular route for each year is Camino Francés leaving all other routes far behind. However, in recent year popularity of other routes has been rising.
In 2006, 82 % of pilgrims used Camino Francés, whereas in 2016 only 63 % preferred this route. It is still by far the most used route. The second most walked route is Camino Portugués. In 2006, 6 % of pilgrims decided to walk this route. In 2016 it was 18 %.
In 2006, Vía de la Plata was the third most walked route with 4 %. In 2016, only 3 % of pilgrims walked this route. On the other hand, the popularity of Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, and Camino Inglés has been rising.
Most Popular Starting Points
The most popular places to commence the pilgrimage are by far Sarria and S. Jean P. Port. Both are located on the Camino Francés. You can see in the graph that Sarria witnessed an unusually high number of pilgrims in 2004 and 2010. The Holy years attracted pilgrims also to Tui, Cebreiro, Ponferrada, and Roncesvalles.
In 2006, Roncesvalles was the third most common place to set on the pilgrimage, in 2016 its popularity decreased. Oporto and Tui, on the other hand, became fairly popular starting points.
Professions of Pilgrims
Numerous categories of professions are collected, therefore only some of them were chosen. Students and employees are the most common professions not leaving retired far behind. The numbers of these three groups have been rising year by year. Numbers of housewives, unemployed and artists have risen slightly. Interestingly, the number of priests reaching Santiago after pilgrimage hasn’t changed over the years.
I hope you have found the above Camino de Santiago statistics helpful – if so share on your favorite social network. Thanks
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.