Top Ten Things About Camino de Santiago

I was asked what my top ten things would be about the Camino de Santiago – so here it is.

1. The People, Other pilgrims

The other pilgrims I met are my number one on the Camino – all Camino routes. I feel I was blessed. I don’t like crowds. However, I generally enjoy talking and listening to other people. As an English speaker, I was amazed at the number of people who spoke English when it was their second and third language – I felt pretty ignorant as a result of this – I can get a coffee in a few languages – but I can only communicate in English.

It was the people that made my Camino – people from diverse backgrounds from all over the world. I think I could write many stories about the people. They are what stick in my head, the places I have to think about a bit more.

The Meseta on the Camino

2. The Meseta

This long area is so unlike any other that I have walked. It is quiet, almost eerie sometimes; it has vast, open, expansive views of the mountains far on the right as you walk. There was a feeling of going back to another time.

Oddly enough, many decided against walking the Meseta and got the bus or train to the other side. It is not dull.

Granon3. Granon

Granon is a tiny little village on the Meseta. Pilgrims sleep on the floor in the bell tower and have a communal dinner together – people again, I suppose. I have stayed here twice. The first time, I was happy and felt free – the second, I was amid sorrow; my friend had just died, and here I spoke to someone about it, and I spent the afternoon in the church crying.

Then, later, I saw some things that made me think about the cycle of life – I began to think of life rather than death and my friend’s life, how hard he had tried to overcome problems and did his best to live a normal life – I then felt grateful for my own life.

4. Walking into Santiago

It took me by surprise. There is a small bridge with a sign saying – Santiago.

That is it, nothing else. No sign saying, “Welcome to the thousands of pilgrims that walk here every year.”

I did not see the sign away in the distance and walked towards it, seeing the end in sight – it was the first place that had walked towards me; most of the rest had walked away from me and had taken longer to get to than I had ever thought it would. I was here, wow. It was still a few km into the city – but I was there – my god, what do I do now – life was simple during the last four weeks (not entirely true either, but that was the feeling); what now?

5. Leon and its Cathedral

Leon is a beautiful city. There is a square in front of the Cathedral; the square appears smaller by the dominance of the Cathedral, a must-see. Both times that I stayed overnight here, I slept in the same hostel and ate in the same pizza place at night for dinner – with different people, though.

6. Santiago Cathedral

I cried again in Santiago Cathedral. We were finished, and the contrasts between the ragged pilgrims and the tourists were interesting. Pilgrims looked fit and healthy, hardened by walking for a few weeks, clothes generally unkempt by too much use, hand washing, and drying in an unforgiving Spanish sun. Whereas the tourists were squeaky clean – new and clean clothes and jewelry; the looks on the faces were different.

7. Finisterre

Sunset at Finisterra

The end of the world for pilgrims of old. Finisterre is an isolated village kept alive mainly by pilgrims visiting there at the end of the Camino. It is said that you should do three things here. Wash in the sea. I did. It is not warm. Burn something at the lighthouse that you want to leave behind. There are many hiking shoes and boots here – for others, it is a piece of paper with something written on it. There are places to burn things.

The last of the three is watching the sunset. I watched the sunset twice and was so enthralled that I did not take photos of it – I have relied on others for those (update: I have been back and took photos the last time I was there). Both times I was here, I watched the sunset. Until the sun begins to go down, there is the noise of pilgrims talking with each other, people eating food they brought up here with them, then slowly silence fell, all became quiet, and the sun fell below the horizon.


The Iron Cross8. Roncesvalles Amazed Me

This cannot even be described as a village; it is a monastery on the Spanish side at the edge of the Pyrenees. The Albergue here contains more than 100 beds in one large hall (this has been changed into smaller areas).

This was my first experience of an Albergue, so many people together in the one room to sleep – wow, I thought. However, as on most nights, my body was tired from walking, finding sleep was not a problem.

The second time I stayed in Roncesvalles, I slept in the overflow tents and walked out of Roncesvalles with about 300 other pilgrims – this was August and the start of the Spanish holidays – a time to be avoided for the likes of me that does not like crowds too much – the crowds dispersed quickly though.

9. Cruz de Ferro – The Iron Cross

The Cruz de Ferro cross of St James sits atop a hill a few days after Leon. (It is also known as the Cross of St James and the Camino Iron Cross). Why some places in the world should feel more spiritual than others puzzles me, but this is one of those places. The cross is stuffed with many notes that pilgrims leave. I left a note, not a request, a question. I found an answer later.

10. Galicia

Walking through the eucalyptus forests in Galicia. Again for me, quietness and peace, and an incredible smell. Everyone has a different ten things, and I hope this helps you think about your ten, not just on the Camino – but in life – what matters?

Have you read lessons learned on the Camino and how the Camino changed my life? Both are in a similar vein to the above.

Buen Camino

15 thoughts on “Top Ten Things About Camino de Santiago”

  1. I agree with everyone of your list.
    Even the stones I stumble on have been touched with the history of the Camino and I think about the others that may have stumbled on the same stones.

  2. Thank you for this. I am in tears at the memory of my one Camino this week eight years ago.It was a gift from heaven ,I realised ,for my 70th birthday earlier in the year.I walked only from Sarria. How I would love to go back and walk through the places I missed and on to Finisterre.In the present world situation it cannot be ,even if I were otherwise able.So, I rest in gratitude and rejoice and remember the great gift it all was. On returning home I went on to devise pilgrimage routes nearer home and continue to be blessed by them.

    It is a sunny Sunday afternoon and I think I should set out right now on a very local one.

    Thank you. You will never know how you helped me today: to do with the memory of past graces and promises fulfilled.

    • Hey Beth – you were an inspiration -have done both the Spanish and Portuguese and cannot wait to go back – Lori and I are talking about starting in Le Puy – we are tossing up whether in one hit or over two years…we just need the vaccination rates to improve and we I am sure will all be planning again

  3. The simple things, like sharing plaster for a toe. The company (sometimes), some of which have lasted years so far. Having been on 7 differennt caminos in Spain and France we can vouch for the beauty of the landscape, the churches in all their forms, the silence, those trees, oh those trees in France…just being alive and to be able to be there. At 78 and 8o we hope to do our grand finale in 2022 Covid willing.

  4. I too have wonderful memories of Granon. The first time, in 2011, there were only about five of us. But then the secret was out. When I returned in 2016, people just kept arriving. By the end of the day there must have been forty of us.
    I remember waking up in the middle of the night… to silence. Everyone else must have been awake as well.

  5. I’ve also walked several Caminos and thoroughly agree with the Top 10 things mentioned.

    But it’s hard to limit yourself to a fixed number of delights when considering this wonderful life changing experience.

    So I would offer a couple more, and encourage other Peregrinos to add yet even more.
    I would add O’ Cebreiro , the highest point on the French route, and Muxia ,out on the coast, about 20 km north of Finisterre, and 40km west of Santiago de Compostela.

    In both locales, you’ll be experiencing incredible scenery, history, and tradition in one
    package. Don’t ignore these possibilities if you have the time.

    You won’t be disappointed. Unless it rains constantly while you’re there.

    Which it very often does in Galicia.

    Buen Camino,

    Peregrino Ron

    • My wife and I have just returned from our second Camino. The first from Sarria, the second from SJPdP. I am 83 and my wife 80.
      We limited our daily walks to approx 15 km from Sarria and 20km from SJPdP.
      We were elated when we reached Santiago on each walk, so much so that we are now planning our 3rd Camino, hopefully a large section of the northern route.
      We came across this verse during our initial planning for the 2nd Camino ….” The Camino begins when you reach the end”
      You will understand when you reach the end of your Camino.
      Consider the following :
      In the last 10 years I have experienced the following which have not had any bearing on my decision to walk the Camino.
      4 heart attacks.
      16 stents in my heart arteries
      Bowel cancer
      Obviously I had clearance from my medical specialists before starting each Camino.

    • Hi Charles. I celebrated my 80th, on the Camino, in June. It was my 5th Camino Frances in the past 6 years. I plan to keep walking as long as I can. Keeping in shape, keeps me from wasting away in my chair. Also, you receive lots of encouragement for being an 80-year-old pilgrim. Last year, I met an 87-year-old who had started in Lepuy, two months earlier. He was doing 13 miles a day. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too old.Just be careful—we don’t want to fall at our age. Mark

  6. Thank you for this. Brings back so many memories. I have always planned on walking the Camino Frances in stages due to family commitments. I did my first 140km in October 2018, from St Jean Pied de Port to Los Arcos in 7 days of walking (finishing with 2 rest days in Bilbao which was amazing). My daughter (then 13) had had a bone marrow transplant the previous year and had been critically ill in and out of hospital from May 2017 to June 2018 so it was the first time she had been well enough for me to feel able to leave her with my husband and other family members. I do not have any religious affiliation, but I did a lot of praying and giving thanks in all the little churches in the villages along the way, and at the same time so grateful for being able to just be me and chat with people about so many things. Had hoped to go back in 2020…really hope I can return this year (daughter is now 16, 4 years post transplant and well, in case you wondered).


Leave a Comment