One of the most common questions I am asked – is it safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone? This became a question being asked more again recently when someone went missing on the Camino. However my opinion remains unchanged – yes, it is safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone. I would think it safer than most local walking routes in most countries; safer than walking home from Dublin or any large city on a Friday or Saturday night.
Safer Than What?
I presume when I am asked this question it is regarding physical security. I started two Caminos on my own and one with my partner. She started one with only one friend. Many, many people start each year on their own and find that they are not alone very quickly.
I, like many others, became part of a larger loose group very quickly, some refer to this group as their Camino family. You walk each day and many people walk at the same pace, you see these same people in the morning, at cafes along the way, and in the hostels at night. The conversations I had with these people were deeper, more open, and more honest than I would normally have with people I had just met.
Staying Safe on the Camino
During the busy times of the year on the Camino Frances, July & Aug, you are rarely out of sight of another pilgrim – yes, it gets that busy – so if you want some alone time start walking late after everyone has started for the day.
Even though the Camino Frances is incredibly safe don’t be crazy. Perhaps one of the reasons there are so few reports of any mishaps regarding pilgrims is that we are normally in bed by 10 pm; and sleeping 5 minutes later, (as long as you have your earplugs…).
Some of the misconceptions about Spain are quite funny, and being European I laugh at Americans quite a lot in this area – as we snotty Europeans tend to do. Firstly, Spain is not a third world country, it has a very good internal travel system, its banking system is the same as the rest of the world, you will recognize the food, its healthcare system is great, (I had to use it once), most things that you forget you will be able to buy locally.
Now after all that bear in mind that the Camino Frances goes through some of the most rural areas in Spain. Outside of the main cities, you will find it difficult to buy much apart from food – but you will not need anything, bar food.
Bear in mind however that most who start walking alone end up as part of a loose group as they walk – this is one of the best parts of the Camino.
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.
30 thoughts on “Is It Safe Walking the Camino de Santiago Alone?”
Walk alone. I believe if one walks with a friend or relative you both carry a lot of mental baggage and many home topics then accompany one along the Camino. This tends to isolate a couple or small group somewhat.
I walked alone but I was never alone. I sometimes teamed up with another pilgrim for a couple of days, learned and shared many new things and then we went our own ways. Words like “Safe” and “Risk” can make you lose focus and distort your judgements. I have always believed these words are blockers to almost everything in life and can causes failure to do something before even beginning.
So true John!
I was a 76 year old American male in 2014 when I started the Camino at Port a Peid alone. The first person I met and walked with was a married women from Florida walking alone. We met on and off the and would walk together than part and run into each other again. This same scenario happened with maried couples other men and women and even a Catholic priest who cheerfully gave me a blessing. I finished the final days of the Camino walking with a tennis pro from Brazil, an airline emp;oyee from Panama and a 20 somethin female from Japan who is a pharmatist! We have all kept in rouch and recently enjoyed a Zoom. Ssomeone is always available to walk with.
I will be a 62-year-old female, hopefully starting this September. I am nervous, but your words gave me courage. I love being alone, but I don’t want to be stupid, and my husband and children are worried about this endeavor. I try to soothe them…..
My first Camino was 31 days from SJPP to Santiago, and I walked alone, in May. I wasa small 62 yr old female carrying my pack every day.
I met many of the same people during my hike and spent a few hours chatting when needed. The advantage is you can be very flexible and adjust your overnight stops according to how tired you feel! It was great. I never felt frightened. I didn’t have to rush or slow my pace. I was free to join in with numerous people but not beholden to anyone. The best hike ever. Letter I walked another months Camino with a friend and it wasn’t as good…
Me too! Alone it’s your camino.
I walked the Camino Ingles in 2014, age 64, and the Camino Portugues in 2015, both times on my own. They were magical experiences and I had planned the whole Camino Frances in 2020. I felt very safe throughout. The people you will meet, both locals and other walkers, are so kind and supportive to someone travelling alone. Take the usual precautions when travelling. You should go. You will not regret it.
I kept running into a 60ish French woman on the North Way who spoke only French. She had health issues years ago, then sold everything and started hiking everywhere: India, Vietnam, etc. I have no idea how she did it especially with only one language under her belt, alone. So……go for it.
consider joining the American Pilgrims of the Camino, if you haven’t already. I went to the gathering in South Bend last year (alone) and had a wonderful time – learned so much and just enjoyed the company. They are planning another gathering in March in the Carolina’s (that I am registering for this evening as a matter of fact). This will give you a great feel of the Camino and the pilgrims who travel it. I too, and looking at traveling the portugal route – hopefully soon!
Hi Elizabeth, I walked solo in 2016. It was a wonderful experience. Never felt unsafe
throughout the whole journey. Must say I was in bed at 8 pm. Buen Camino. Brenda from South Africa
Elizabeth I too plan on walking this September. I am about to turn 69.
I completed the Camino solo and this is what I can share. My family was also concerned about being solo so many miles away from Salt Lake City, Ut. What I can share is I never felt alone. Being solo allowed me to always walk at my pace, to always be open to walking with a beautiful person, or be within my own experience. I felt loved and supported in every moment either from within or others who were there in any moment.
I will never forget a 73 yr. Man from Ireland named Pierce who had a kidney transplant 30 days before the Camino. His doctor advised him against the Camino adventure so soon after his surgery. Pierce said to him, I can sit at home wishing I heeled fast or I can walk the earth meeting beautiful people and heal along the way. Wow!!
I met a boy who was uncomfortable walking with sore muscles and blisters. I offered him ibuprofen to minimize his pain and he graciously said no. He said, if I take them I will not know how my body feels. Where my pain is and how to lovingly treat those areas. Wow!
I met a girl who’s mother passed 30 days before she chose to do the Camino. She knew she wanted to do the Camino yet she had a 16 yr. Old brother who would be left at home. She and he made an agreement that she would go and at any time he couldn’t do his life without her he would reach out and she would return to him. Along her journey he continued to thrive. He rose to the occasion so she could have her Camino experience.
I share this with you because I am absolutely sure if I were traveling with a partner I would have been engaged with them. I would have been engaged with my Camino buddy and not an acute observer to engage with others.
You decide for you. However you can encourage peace to your family that you will return bigger and better and completely safe in every moment. I felt safe 100% of the time. So grateful for my Camino experience. I am changed forever.
Me too! Alone, it’s your camino.
Grateful for the experience
Hi there, just drawn to respond to your post. I will be leaving for the Camino shortly am 57 years old and will be walking alone. I can let you know how it goes when I return to alleviate your families fears if you like? Good for you! It is a calling.
I did it myself and allways felt safe .
Tip 1 allways wait your turn for laundry and showers .
Tip 2 start off early as you can to beat the sun in the morning starts getting realy hot from 11 am so try and get in 4 hrs walking in the morning then 2-3 hr rest in the shade recharge (coffee sugery chocolate dohnuts , a full coca cola ) give a great boost for walking in the afternoon for 2 -4 hrs depending on the length of the stage but there are some great smaller villages to bunk down for the night and usually cheaper than the msin stops on the guide .
I walked alone at 61 and made a point of walking with others nearby .I only once walked in the landscape alone but soon saw another walker which made me feel happier.There are always pilgrims you wil be fine , just keep in company.
I am 63 and did the Camino alone but was embraced by so many other pilgrims!! I would do it again and alone.
On our three Caminos we have always ended up with a family. Perhaps the most unique was on Caminho Portuguez, where I was the only male with five women, all from different countries; my wife USA, Ireland, Slovokia, Estonia, South Africa.
I did my first Camino riding a trike, all the way from France. I thought I would be alone when I started, but that really almost didn’t happen. Even while riding I had company, on a bike or on a scooter. In the evening, when I had reached my milestone for the day, there has always been somebody to talk to and share the meal.
As I made rest days once a week, I even arrived in front of the cathedral only a few minutes earlier than a scooter driver I had met and talked with in Pamplona ten days before! We had some very good talks and a great evening at the “Gato Negro”!
Nobody should be afraid to “make” the Camino, be it by bike, walking or whatever means you prefer. You will meet nice people on the way.
Is the Napolean route over the Pyremeis usually open around mid March?
I usually always walk alone so I can meet other people. I have been walking since my 50s and into my 60s and have a little rule book, like don’t go out drinking by yourself (no brainer). Number one rule: Know your space. While it is so lovely to zone out, always keep half a brain about you. If something doesn’t feel right, leave; your instincts are always right.
This is from a New Yorker who went to Pratt Institute in the 1970’s, as close to hell an experience as I can remember!
At the age of 64, though I was not a long-distance walker, I left Australia to walk the Saint-James’Way (Camino in Spanish), alone, from Vezelay, a village in Northern Central – France to finish 100 days at Muxia (Galicia- Spain). It took me 8 weeks to cross France and arrived at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Then I climbed the Pyrenees and walked the full Camino Frances to Santiago-de-Compostela. Once there, I could not stop so I kept on walking to Finisterre, then Muxia. I never had any problem. In France, I met my first pilgrim on the path on day 18. If you like solitude this path will be for you. The Saint-James’ Way is very safe. It is one of the best things I have achieved during my lifetime as I returned anew and discovered the real me. If your heart is telling to walk it. Do it. Have no regret. I am a volunteer in Palliative care “End of Life” one of the regrets patients have at the end of their life is: “I wanted to do this, I wanted to do that, out of fear I did not do it, now is too late. I wish you a Buen Camino. Live it to the fullest and return anew. Ms Claude Tranchant.
I am 52 in 3 days and am going to walk Leon to Santiago for two weeks in June. My family are worried about me walking alone, I am nervous too but the previous entries all fill me with hope for a safe but wonderful experience…
I think that this question is mostly asked by Americans. Most places in Europe are safer than those in America. It is highly unlikely that you will be unsafe on the cammino, when I walked it alone the question never entered my mind.
I set out alone, a small woman aged 52 with a huge backpack. I met some lovely, helpful, interesting people, two of whom I travelled with on several days and even shared a tent with one night. I had experiences where mutual help was given and taken; most people were kind and considerate towards others. I still maintain regular contact with a German friend I met on the camino. I would go again, alone, even though I am now in my 70s.
Yes! I am a woman, and walked half the Camino Francais in 2019 and hope to do the other half this year or next. I will be 71.
I’m 60, recently retired, and am going to walk the Camino Frances in a couple of months. I’m setting out alone, for all the reasons mentioned above, but will be joined for some of the trip by a friend who I’ve met 35 years ago in China, while also travelling alone. We haven’t seen each other since and will meet now for the first time since and share the road for one week. Our initial meeting had been possible thanks to the fact I travelled alone. This time around I’ll combine some alone and some together time. The journey is an inner path as well as a trip over outer terrain, but then again – one is never really ever alone…
I walked a less traveled route in late spring at age 64. I encountered fewer than 10 pilgrims during the 100 km, but I saw these people several times! For most of the walk I could see houses, so I never felt isolated. The only safety issue is crossing the highways and walking along highways…
I walked the camino for two weeks alone in 2019, when I was 67. Walking alone, you’re more likely to find out things about yourself. Yes, I met many people along the way and was surprised by the companionship and comfort that this offered. Yes, I was lonely a couple of times. It’s all part of the experience. I hope to complete the rest of the french camino, and I will walk that alone, too.