Sunset finesterre

Top Ten Things About Camino de Santiago

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

1. The People, Other pilgrims.

The other pilgrims I met is my number one on the Camino, all Camino routes. I feel I was blessed. I don’t like crowds, however, I do in general like talking, and listening to other people. I, being an English speaker, was amazed at the number of people that spoke English when it was their second and third language – I felt quite ignorant as the result of this – I can get a coffee in a few languages – but cannot communicate in any bar 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 sticks in my head, the places I have to think about a bit more.

meseta

2. The Meseta

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

Oddly enough many people decide against walking the Meseta and get the bus or train to the other side, really it is not boring.

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 in the midst of 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. (Image courtesy of Catching Trade Winds)

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 “Welcome to the thousands of pilgrims that walk here every year.”

I did not see the sign away in the distance and walk 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 is 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 quite true either, but that was the feeling), what now?

leon-cathedral5. 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, the contrasts of 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, jewelry; the looks on the faces were different, I don’t know what I mean by this and will have to come back to it.

7. Finisterre

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 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 that they brought up here with them, then slowly silence fell, all became quiet and the sun fell passed below the horizon.

Finisterre

cruz-ferro8. Roncesvalles Amazed Me

This cannot even be described as a village; it is a monastery at the edge of the Pyrenees, on the Spanish side. 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 – hell I thought. However, as on most nights, my body was tired from walking and therefore 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. The Iron Cross

The cross of St James sits atop a hill a few days after Leon, (the Iron Cross or better known as Cruz Ferro). Why some places in the world should feel more spiritual than others puzzles me, 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, I hope this helps you think about your ten, not just on the Camino – but in life – what really 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

8 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.

  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

  6. I walked my first camino from Leon in 2015 and from Porto in 2017 and I plan to start from Port St,Jean but the pandemi was kicked me out. I am 72 and longing to walk again next year, Buen Camino friends,my best regards from Indonesia,richard.

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