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.
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.