What is the Best Time to Walk the Camino de Santiago

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Camino de Santiago in the Winter

What is the Best Time to Walk the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago in the WinterThis is one of the questions I get asked most frequently, what is the best time of year to walk the Camino de Santiago. Usually though people are asking about the Camino Frances to Santiago, and for that reason that is the route this post refers to.

January and December: unless you are located the other side of the equator January and December are winter.  Winter in Spain can sometimes be fairly cold, in 2008 there were snow blizzards in what was the worst winter for 15 years – last year, (2015), there was again lots of snow on the hills after Leon, however 2011/2012 was a warmer winter all over Europe.  So you can plan in advance but in the winter be prepared and check the forecast before heading up any of the hills, especially from St Jean Pied de Port.

Apart from the weather the other main problem between the end of Oct and the start of Easter is that some places are closed, especially between 15th December and 15th of January.  If you are walking at this time of the year make sure your guide book has updated information on what hostels and albergues are open.

I would not make the choice to walk at this time of the year, however many don’t have a choice due to time constraints.  Here are some threads from the forum about preparation for winter walking and some people walking this winter.

Also this post on Sil’s blog has loads of good advice from someone who has actually walked the Camino during the winter.  http://amawalker.blogspot.com/2009/10/walking-in-winter.html

October, February and March:  these months are much wetter than the rest of the year so be prepared with rain gear.  It can be fairly cold in the mornings, however if you are lucky often the sun will burn off the frost and you will have mild days. That said the last 100km into Santiago can be wet at any time of the year, I have been caught in rain that lasted two days while walking in September.

April, May, June and September:  these are likely considered the best months to walk any of the Caminos  to Santiago.  During these months the weather is generally warm or hot, everything is open, and the routes are not as busy as the main summer months.

July and August:  these are the most popular months on the Camino.  I would try and avoid starting on July 25th from Roncesvalles – the feast day of St James, as it can be a very busy day.  The same is true if you plan to arrive in Santiago during the week before and after the 25th July.  If you are arriving in Santiago at this time be prepared for the hotels to be harder to book and more expensive, additionally the albergues will be very busy.

There is a Spanish public holiday on the 15th Aug, (the Assumption of Mary), again I would avoid starting from St Jean or Roncesvalles on this date.  I once stayed in Roncesvalles overnight at this time and it was very crowded, the hostel needed overflow tents to accommodate everyone.  But the worst, for me, was walking the next day.  I find in general the Spanish extremely helpful along all the Caminos, however I am not used to the noise when there are many Spanish walking nearby talking on their phones, sorry Spain.  This is a local problem in every country due to the availability and cost of mobile data, while at the top of Ben Nevis in Scotland I over heard many Brits calling friends with the start of the call being – guess where I am…

Below are the weather charts for Bilbao, Leon, and Santiago.  Notice how wet Santiago can be, and it is generally a bit colder in Leon.  I will be updating the packing list page shortly to include additional walking gear for the winter – however not much more is required.

Above photo courtesy of Amawalker

Santiago Weather

Leon Weather

Bilbao Weather

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Comments (57)

  • David McWilliams Reply

    I walked the camino starting from Barcelona last November, and although I’ve never walked it at any other time I thought that winter was one of the best times to walk — as long as you’re prepared with good warm clothing and a thick sleeping bag!

    It was great, though, because there were very few pilgrims, and the modern, commercialized aspects of the camino were decidedly subdued. I saw one other pilgrim in my first three weeks, and the solitude was powerful. Other people may not be looking for this, but for me it was exactly right. My fellow pilgrims tended to be the more spiritually-inclined, as well.

    Although there were a lot of difficulties with albergues being closed. I had to sleep outside a few nights in Aragon and Calunya, which was decidedly chilly.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:03 pm
  • Jenny Reply

    You do not mention April. Any thoughts on whether April is a good time for Camino Frances

    February 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm
    • admin Reply

      Thanks for pointing that out.

      April is very changeable, a bit like anywhere in spring. Last year, 2012, it rained most of the month and there were some floods – that however was a bit unusual. Be prepared in April for a mixture of rain and pleasant spring days – but no real heat, which is good when walking all day.

      March 7, 2013 at 11:48 am
    • Cindy Maddox Reply

      Jenny,
      I walked the Camino from Roncevalles to Santiago last Spring. I started the middle of April and finished the middle of May. It could not have been better. We had little rain, the temperature was great and the colors were amazing. Everything beautifully green with Spring flowers in every color imaginable. I had read it could be very rainy so I had rain gear but ended up sending it home and only used a poncho. It was a
      truly amazing.
      Cindy

      November 9, 2014 at 11:04 am
  • Walter Bosshard Reply

    Hi,
    I started hiking from Sarria Feb. 23 2013.I had planned on hiking 27 km. but was informed upon arrival they were closed and to go 4km further. The same happened there. Fortunately I am fit enough to do a “bonus 10km”. I would recommend checking if your planned accommodation is open as there were so few travelers at that time of year. I saw no one from km 89 to km 35.
    Walter

    March 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm
  • Janet darwell Reply

    I plan to walk the full camino starting around the middle of may 2014 .having read all the comment on weather conditions this seems about right . Thank you everyone.Janet D

    October 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm
    • Cindy Reply

      You will love it. Just be prepared for the weather to turn hot. I finished the middle of May and it was getting quite warm in the middle of the day. The higher elevation will keep you cooler in the first 1/3.
      Buen Camino
      Cindy

      February 11, 2015 at 1:22 pm
  • Cindy Maddox Reply

    I am planning to start the second week of April and walk the entire camino. I plan to stay in the hostels each night. I’d like to finish in around 4 weeks. Any advise on how far to walk each day to complete it in 4 weeks? Thank you, Cindy

    December 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm
    • Sandra Reply

      Hi did you walk on your own

      November 8, 2014 at 1:38 am
      • Leslie Reply

        I started on my own. But did not finish on my own as I met many others along the way.

        November 9, 2014 at 7:43 am
  • Laura @ RoamFarAndWide Reply

    I walked in May 2013 and although it was cold and rainy quite a bit, the wildflowers and green fields were stunning.

    January 25, 2014 at 8:17 am
  • gustavo luna Reply

    good morning all @cindy I too am planning on walking the whole thing starting late April possibly third week of april well into Nay maybe we’ll cross paths.

    January 27, 2014 at 8:32 pm
    • Cindy Maddox Reply

      I have recently read several books on the Camino. The one I’m reading now, written 20 years ago, mentions pilgrims being robbed. Since I am coming alone should I be concerned?
      Gustavo, I hope we do cross paths.

      February 8, 2014 at 1:16 am
      • Leslie Reply

        No.

        The Camino is safer than any town or city I have been in. Which doesn’t mean you stop being sensible, check out the forum for any concerns like this – http://www.caminoforums.com/

        February 17, 2014 at 8:45 am
  • hildegardsgarden Reply

    I am planning on walking the Camino March 16, 2014. Wondering what the weather will be like? any suggestions….thanks, Karen

    January 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      You can never tell. Last year it was very bad and it rained non-stop according to most reports – but that was unusual.

      February 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm
    • Ashna Maharaj Reply

      Hello Hildegardsgarden
      Did u eventually walk from 16 March – if you can u contact me with the experience. I plan to start around 19/20 March 2017 and will be happy to learn about the weather & accommodation if open during Easter.
      Thank You

      May 29, 2016 at 12:40 am
  • Anya Reply

    Any advice on walking in March? I’ve heard mixed things on whether the hostels will be open or not. I’m planning to walk in either March or May, I can’t decide. Also, does anyone know anything about storing extra traveling gear at the start of the Camino? I’m planning to travel around Eastern Europe for 4 months after finishing the trail and need to have more stuff in order to do so.
    Thanks for the help and safe travels to all!

    January 30, 2014 at 1:02 am
    • Leslie Reply

      Most, if not all, of the hostels will be open.

      There are some places in Santiago that will store some gear for you to collect at the end, best find the info on the forum – http://www.caminoforums.com/

      I live in Prague, you should make sure it’s on your travel itinerary – it is great.

      February 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm
  • Stfán Jónsson Reply

    Hi. Thanks for all the good tips. I´ll be walking in June,2014. I´m wondering how many days, it takes to walk the Camino. I´ll be starting in St Jean Pied de Port, going to Santiago and then on to Finisterre. I´m used to walking, mountain hiking etc. I´m determined to enjoy the Way, and not to hurry. But I´m just concerned about, when to book the flight back. Is it a month, a bit more or less? I know this depends on many factors, but some tips would be great to get. All the best, Stefán.

    February 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      Each time I have walked it has been about 30 days. You can get more personal information on the forum – http://www.caminoforums.com/

      February 17, 2014 at 8:38 am
      • Del Reply

        What’s the best guide book to purchase?

        March 2, 2014 at 12:48 am
  • Kim Reply

    I’m thinking of doing the Camino hopefully very soon, however I am unable to do the whole route due to work commitments, I believe you can join the route and still have your Camino passport stamped at Santiago but unsure where along the route I can join that still counts. Any ideas please.

    April 20, 2014 at 6:45 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      If you walk 100km you can get the Compostela at the end. Many people start from Sarria because of this.

      April 23, 2014 at 1:41 pm
      • Kim Reply

        Thanks Leslie. I shall bare that in mind

        April 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm
  • Jim Cushing Reply

    what is the general cost for the whole trip from France to Compostela? i may have to stay at hotels rather that hostels due to my CPAP machine, i can get a miniature machine. what can i expect to pay for a 30 day pilgrimage for room? for food? what is the best way to go to Fatima from there?

    April 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      Hi Jim, for details like you ask about you would be better getting answers on the forum – http://www.caminoforums.com

      April 24, 2014 at 5:11 am
      • Cindy Reply

        Hi Jim
        I’m walking the French route now and have stayed several times in single rooms at the alburgues or hostels. The cost has been 22 to 28 euros for the room. Food, meals and break snacks is costing me just under 20 euros a day. I have not tried cooking at the alburgues since there is always a wait to get to the stove. Spring is wonderful, beautiful but a little wet. The weather has been cool which is great for walking. I have learned to try to make reservations at the smaller stops since even now the beds fill up quickly. I do not want to race to the next stop to get a bed but prefer to go at a rate I can totally enjoy and soak up the beauty and energy of the Camino.
        Blessing to you and your journey.
        Cindy

        April 30, 2014 at 6:12 am
      • Jim in Orlando Reply

        thank you…and that is for a single room. so i can figure about 45 euros or $55 per day or about $1800 for all. i hope to fly over to Fatima at the end of it.
        God luck with your journey.
        Vai com Dios.
        Jim in Orlando

        April 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm
  • jenniferhofmann Reply

    I agree that time of year is a frequently asked question! What I appreciate is how thoroughly this post answers the question – and the one underneath it (Will I be safe in the weather for my preferred season?”) Thanks so much for a thoughtful response.

    February 11, 2015 at 7:58 am
  • gwen07 Reply

    It is official — A friend and I will be leaving the U.S.A. September 22 and arriving in Lisbon on the 23rd. 2015. We plan on beginning our trek to Santiago in Tui on the 28th – This gives us a few days of roaming Lisbon and a few points in between by foot, bus, train. I too worried about the right time of year but something tells me — especially the posts above – that any time one chooses is the right time for the Camino. If there are any suggestions as to what NOT TO MISS on our Portuguese route — please let us know — we will be two healthy, not-ready-for-the-rocking-chair middle-aged former college roommates who still have a few miles left in our radical, protest-marching shoes.

    Bien Camino,
    gwen

    February 11, 2015 at 1:49 pm
  • Maria E Padilla Reply

    I am planning to be in Madrid to start my journey May 6th from St Jean Pied de Port to Santigo. I am have been planning for 3 years and hope all goes well. Buen Camino, Maria Elena

    February 13, 2015 at 4:18 pm
  • gustavo Reply

    I have yet to make my camino.. was going last spring plans didnt fall through planning again for this spring early summer once more.

    February 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm
  • Richard Reply

    Has anyone walked in September? Camino Frances that is. Thinking of doing it this year or next! Thanks ver much

    March 4, 2015 at 12:36 pm
    • Justme Reply

      Did it September 2012 and 2013. Both years the weather was wonderful. Warm and very little rain (mostly in Galicia). Many people and in some towns had difficulty finding a bed. Best time in my opinion.

      May 29, 2015 at 4:51 am
  • Marjeta Reply

    Hi everyone! I’m starting from SJPDP on aprtil 22.
    Have some questions, but most of all – what’s the best guide to take with? Would appreciate the latest version with all the albergues, groceries and usefull info on. If possible to get on pdf to use on Kinde – that would be…beyond everything. 😉
    What are your experience?
    Thank you all, and – Buen Camino to all goers! 🙂
    Marjeta

    March 30, 2015 at 7:52 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      I am finishing my guide book right now, but it won’t be published till the end of this month or mid May – a bit late for yourself. Check Amazon there are quite a few there.

      April 1, 2015 at 8:02 am
  • Karen Reply

    Hi. I want to do the short route, 110 miles, with my son who is not a walker. Does anyone know of a book who gives advise on how to prepare for walking the trail? Any information on how to plan the trip, booking places to stay, etc. would be really helpful.

    April 23, 2015 at 3:36 pm
    • Leslie Reply

      Hi Karen,

      I have just published my guidebook for the Camino that answers all of these questions. It is on every page of the blog now.

      Thanks

      April 25, 2015 at 2:39 pm
  • Rickie Reply

    What would November be like to hike Via de la Plata? It’s the only month I can’t find in the articles and forums.

    May 11, 2015 at 4:45 am
  • Ashna Reply

    I will be starting SJPDP mid-March hoping to finish around mid-April to celebrate my 50th birthday. Starting preparations & getting tips for the trip. I like prepping in advance getting the best resulting in a once-in lifetime experience. I am a keen experienced hiker & high altitude climber so will relish this adventure. Need to know how much in advance to get pilgrims passport. I bought a book in Barcelona in 2010 and at the back are pages with shells on them. Is this the passport? Is this where u collect the stamps? My fiance will join me for the last two weeks and he will need to get his own passport – where do we apply?

    May 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm
  • Dee Reply

    Is it manageable to complete the camino in a wheel chair with a friend?

    October 24, 2015 at 4:58 am
    • Leslie Reply

      I have see at least one person do this, but it is fairly difficult. You either have to use the road like road bikes do or at times be carried over very rough ground.

      October 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm
  • Antonee Reply

    Completely lost in life, currently living in southern Spain, starting from St Jean in may with no planned dates I look forward to bumping into you all, hoping to find myself on the trail with stories aplenty to tell

    November 30, 2015 at 7:06 pm
  • Natalie Valdiviez Reply

    I am in planning stage for a Early June start on Camino Frances-starting in St. Jean Pied De Port. The more I investigate these websites/forums-the more drawn to Spain I become! I am a teacher and although I plan to walk alone-it would be comforting to know that others start same time and we meet at the end of day.

    January 1, 2016 at 2:46 am
    • Cheryl Reply

      Hi Natalie
      I am a retired teacher planning to walk alone also but would like the peace of mind that I could start out with someone and maybe meet up each night
      Cheryl

      January 20, 2016 at 10:37 pm
      • Leslie Reply

        One of the best places to meet some people before you go is the forum – http://www.caminodesantiago.org.uk/

        But if you are walking the Camino Frances there will be a lot of other pilgrims around.

        February 2, 2016 at 5:59 am
  • Chris martin Reply

    I do think that if you over plan you are missing much of what the Camino has to offer Don’t worry the way will look after you Chris

    February 2, 2016 at 5:51 pm
  • Audrey-West Virginia Reply

    I plan on starting my walk next year. Maybe around August or early September. I am giving myself time to save the money, and collect items I’ll be needing. I’ll be on a (shoe-string) budget. And, plan on getting some what fit before the walk. So, please, keep the post coming with up dated information on the Camino!

    February 27, 2016 at 8:14 pm
  • Marg Quan Reply

    Like Audrey-West, I’m planning on doing the complete walk next fall (preferably Sept not so hot) and would love to see this post going. There maybe a group of going but I’m not sure whose will be doing the complete walk. I’ll budget on staying in the hotels rather then the hostels.

    June 7, 2016 at 12:53 am
  • Ted Stek Reply

    I just finished from SJPDP, starting on May 23 and finished on June 28, and had fairly good weather. We did have four days or rain and three days in the mid nineties. I went with my 23 year old daughter and had a great experience. I am now having the Camino Come Back Blues, so, I am actually planning to trek it again this September. I am not sure if I will do the same route again? I understand that September may be similar to May and June, so I will definitely bring my rain gear and be prepared for some hot days. On the Camino you never know. Maybe I will see you there?

    July 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm
  • Matt McClanahan Reply

    I did the Camino October 9th through November 9th of 2015 from St jean pied de pore to Santiago. I really enjoyed this time of the year. Yea it was cold in the morning walking. Probably around freezing when I would start walking around 7-730. But by the time I started going and it got to around lunch time, the weather was fine and my body was completely warm by then. I encountered rain only around 2-3 days out of 31! And I can’t compare it to doing the Camino in May June or July. But I had a friend who did it during these months and he said it was very hot and that their are a million people. The best part about the fall is that there are less people, but still enough where you can really form some strong friendships. My buddy told me they had to beat other people to get a bed at some of the stops in the albergues during the summer. During the fall, you can go at a leisurely place, and walk with the same people every day. But, regardless of when you do it, it’s going to be amazing. But September and October would be my recommendation based off experiencing it then.

    March 1, 2017 at 5:38 am

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