Women Walking Alone on the Camino de Santiago

Le Puy Camino

I have written before about walking the Camino de Santiago alone, but I didn’t specifically address the topic of being a woman and walking alone.  This topic has become news after an American woman, Denise Thiem, went missing in April of 2015.  She apparently left Astorga and was never seen again.  There are no actual sightings of her having left Astorga, and I truly hope that she turns up alive and well at some point.

Le Puy Camino

Since then it has been advised that women do not walk alone on the 24 km section from Astorga.  This area, however, is now being patrolled by Spanish mounted police to ensure the safety of pilgrims’.

I have always had a lot of questions about the safety of a woman walking and walking alone on any of the Camino de Santiago routes. I am not female and therefore I asked Sue who has her own site to write something for me about walking the Camino de Santiago for women.

Women Walking Alone by Sue Kenny

“I have walked sections of the Camino alone on three different occasions. The first time was in November/December 2001 when I walked the Camino Frances. Then in 2004 I walked part of the Portuguese Route and in 2005 I walked the English Way.

As a woman walking alone, I always felt relatively safe on the path, but I took precautions just in case. I carried a walking stick and I made sure that my money belt was always tucked under the waistband of my pants. I never talked about how much money I had to anyone. One thing that gave me a sense of comfort was that I always let people know that I was walking alone. That way they would know to keep an eye out for me.

At night I always travelled with another person if I could. I talked to the people in the villages; in the churches; at the bars and in the albergues. I found that word travels fast on the Camino and the villagers for the most part, are very concerned about the welfare of pilgrims. Once they knew that I was alone, they made other’s aware of my status and before I knew it I had people offering to feed me and care for me without any prompting.

One time I was in a small village and I was the only pilgrim in the Refugio. The hospitelera told me to be sure to lock the door at night, and she left me with the key. After I unpacked and had a shower, I went to the village bar to have something to eat. It was cold at the Refugio, so I stayed and wrote in my diary. She came in later on and told me that a strange man, who said he was a pilgrim, had arrived in the village looking for a place to sleep. She put him in the village church to avoid having him sleep in the Refugio with me, alone. I was very grateful to that woman. They say, you are never alone on the Camino.”

Sue Kenny is an international author, speaker, and inspirational leader, for more information visit Sue’s site at http://www.suekenney.ca/

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Both times I walked the Camino I started on my own and finished with others. Walking the Camino de Santiago I believe is a very safe place to be. There are from time to time some reports of incidents, but it does appear to be very few. Considering there are more than two hundred thousand people walking the Camino each year some incidents are likely to happen.

I was one of the unfortunate ones, I had a wallet stolen from the Albergue in Pamplona, to some degree my own fault. I was naive and left my wallet in my rucksack, I did not at any time consider that on the Camino something would be stolen.

Compared to pilgrims of the past we have almost nothing to worry about. It would have been quite normal for pilgrims to have been robbed and beaten; it was definitely a more arduous journey than now. Consider, if the way does not go into a small village that is only a few kilometres off the Camino, why? Probably not too safe in times gone by.

However please remember that walking on the Camino de Santiago is safer than visiting any city in the World.

 

13 replies
  1. betty S.
    betty S. says:

    Thank you for your experience walking alone. I too, am planning on walking the Camino in mid-April-May and wil be alone, until I have new friends. It reassures me that by being “smart” I too will have a great experience. Good luck and blessings to you. Betty S.

    Reply
  2. mtman100
    mtman100 says:

    My wife and I walked from SJPDP to Santiago June 18 to July 17, 2015, this year and heard about Police patrols and Police presence in the Astorga area. However, we never saw a single officer in the Astorga area and only saw one on the entire 800km journey except in large towns and on the major roadways.. We offered to accompany and did walk with some single female walkers. So, don’t depend on the Police. Pair up with other Pilgrims whom you have developed a relationship.

    Reply
  3. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I just finished my Camino & there where parts of remote sections where due to my pace I was alone. I liked the peace & time to think, but I knew that some people were somewhere behind me & some ahead, even if I couldn’t see them. I carried a stick & a whistle. If there was any danger I was sure the sound of the whistle, which carries much farther than a scream would bring someone to check on me. I never did need it, but the point is to be prepared .
    Buen Camino!

    Reply
  4. Carlos Bentancor
    Carlos Bentancor says:

    Hi, everybody it was to start my camino in September 2, but I’ve to postponed it till Sep.16, from SJPDP, I’ll be arriving to BCN, on 12, spend 2 days there and travel to Pamplona on 15, in the afternoon, if arrive there with time enough to catch the bus to SJPDP, I’ll prefer to continue, if not I’ll overnight in Pamplona. As I going at my pace I anyway I hope to meet somebody on the way !!!

    Reply
      • Carlos Bentancor
        Carlos Bentancor says:

        Maybe we’ll met there by chance Fiona, I want to get the pilgrim credential before starting my camino in SJPP, it will be nice meeting you, I’m worry with the weather it’s starting to change very fast and we have to expect some rainy days ahead,
        so we have to hurry to cross the mountains after that I think I’ll feel more comfortably.

        Carlos B.

        Reply
  5. Janetdarwell
    Janetdarwell says:

    Good luck to everyone walking the camino .2014 my sister in law and I walk the French route 2015 we walk the Portuguese route fantastic on both occasions

    Buen camino

    Reply
  6. Josee V
    Josee V says:

    I walked the Camino 4times,.,and it was so difficult walking with some one .,,the last time I did it all by myself and it was the best thing ever ,.,.,.I made many friends .,,I walked happy,.,and I wish to do it again ,.,the Camino is the best ,.,

    Reply
  7. Marietjie
    Marietjie says:

    A friend (78) and I (61) plan to walk part of the Via de la Plata and then also part of the last 115km to Santiago in the second half of September 2017. I walk 200km in 2011 and never felt unsafe. Do we have to worry about walking that late in season?

    Reply

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