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Camino de Santiago for seniors

Hello fellow pilgrims, my husband and I are planning to walk the Camino Franćes in mid April. Our entire trip is a bit over 10 weeks. We're in our late 60s, but pretty active (just did 11 mi. in 3 hours along a flat stretch of coast) and are hoping to complete the 500 mi. journey in 5 weeks. Since we've never done this (or anything this long,) we need some advice from the community.

Here are a few questions: What should we look for in shoes (low top, high top hiking?) What type of socks and poncho are best? We plan on staying in small hotels and want to explore baggage transfers... any suggestions? How long should we plan to stay in St. Jean Pied de Port and Camino De Santiago and what shouldn't we miss?

ANY TRAVEL TIPS APPRECIATED

Thanks in advance for all your help.

Posted by
1075 posts

We did the Camino from the Porteguese border to Santiago in 2017 and were in(and still are) in our 70's; there's tons on advise, however, we used Caminoways.com t help us with our itineraries. We averaged about 12 miles(20k) daily so believe you could be a little agressive at about 14m daily. You are looking at averaging 7 m in the morning and another in the afternoon with no breaks for 5 weeks. Caminoways.com could be a great resource for you because they know the terrain you'll be covering and can arrange hotels, Paradors, meals and so forth for any budget. Remember, it's not a bucket list item but a chance for you and spouse to connect with each other and your faith. I wish you well, and Bon Camino!

Posted by
2662 posts

There are forums and Facebook groups dedicated to the Camino, and you’d probably get more responses on one of them. Last September I walked the last 115km from Sarria to Santiago. The daily walks ranged from 12 to 18 miles. I wore cross-training shoes that provided some tread for traction, but there were no mountains; plenty of hills, but no mountains. I wore merino wool socks. I had a rain jacket that covered my backpack when it was on (but it wouldn’t zip since it wasn’t meant to cover a backpack) and my wife had a lightweight poncho she bought on sale at Eddie Bauer. We got lucky and only had sporadic light rain. The day after we finished there was an all day downpour. We stayed in Santiago de Compostela for 2 nights after we finished the walk, but we had been to Santiago on 2 previous visits to Spain. If this is your first visit there, I’d recommend 3 nights. I highly recommend hotel Rua Villar that is located very near the cathedral. If you wanted to treat yourself, then I recommend the Parador. We stayed at it in 2017, but it is expensive.

Upon completion of your Camino you’ll need to pick up your Compostela at the pilgrims office near the cathedral. It opens at 8am and only 1,000 Compostelas are given out daily. If you don’t finish your walk in the morning and get to the office by about noon, you will need to return the next day. We were in line at 0800 and were still number 167 in line. After opening, you’ll walk through the office and down some stairs to get a number. You’ll also get a link to a site that will tell you which number is currently being served. That way you can walk around while waiting. Ensure you return to the office when it is about 30 numbers away from yours so you don’t lose your place. If you do miss your number, you’ll need to get a new one.

While I haven’t walked the entire Camino, ensure you stop at Bodega Irache, west of Estella. Rather than a water fountain, it dispenses wine. We drove the Camino in 2017, before knowing we’d walk part of it, and there are plenty of beautiful sights along the route. Many can be seen in the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. We planned our 2017 trip based on many of the places seen in that movie. If you wanted to see photos from my Camino let me know in a private message and I’ll send you the link to my website.

A website with all the stages and information about them is: www.pilgrim.es/en

Posted by
645 posts

I recommend a book called Camino De Santiago Maps by Anna Dintaman and David Landis (Village to Village Press). It charts daily walks on the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

Posted by
214 posts

As @jamileesablo mentioned there are a number of terrific forums for learning about the Camino Frances and for information regarding equipment, accommodations, sights, etc. My favorite is the: Camino de Santiago Forum https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/
I have used a several different travel agencies to assist me in managing lodging and luggage transfer; if you PM me I will be happy to share my experiences with you. Ditto for equipment (boots, sox, walking sticks, and ponchos).
Buen camino,
Craig

Posted by
2 posts

My husband and I are also headed down that path, starting early May. I found an interesting book by Mark O'Sullivan called Backpacks, Boots & (No) Blisters. He was in his late 60's when he first walked the Camino.
We are using a company called Santiago Ways to arrange our accommodations and also transport our luggage (1 small suitcase each) from place to place. I don't know if it is the best one, but there are others who provide the same service. So far, they have been easy to work with.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
7640 posts

Have walked parts of the Camino Frances 2 times and the Portuguese Camino from Porto. Will be 65 this summer and carry my own back-pack which weighs 6.5kg without water. Heading back to Burgos in Oct. for my next Camino.

Yes, check out the Camino forum that was already mentioned. It is invaluable. As to shoes, boots, or sandals, that is personal. Ponchos or raincoats get the same personal opinions.

My poncho has an extra pocket on the back that fits over my back-pack nicely so the poncho doesn't blow around and everything stays dry, even in the pouring rain and high winds. Meindl boots are my choice and I wear nylon knee highs with wool socks (both turned inside out if they have seams) and have yet to get a blister.

Every Albergue and hotel has envelopes for you to use to transfer luggage. This isn't something you need to plan ahead too much. Many albergues also have private rooms so that you can still be with other pilgrims at meals, etc.

Recommend booking your bed in Orisson and Roncesvalles as soon as possible.

Personally, I like to keep my daily walk to about 20km. This allows me to get to the albergues in time to shower, wash my clothes, have a bit of lunch, etc. Dinner is usually at 19:00 or 20:00, get my pack ready for the next day with my clean laundry, and then collapse in bed at 21:00. Up early, get coffee or breakfast and head out to catch the sunrise.

In Santiago, plan a few days at least. Go on the bus tour to Muxxia and Finesterra. Tour the cathedral. Train back to Madrid or bus to Porto, whichever is best for you to get home.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I walked the Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela in the Fall (starting in early September) and it was hot the first few days and cold the last few. We walked for 39 days, (10-12 miles per day) plus spent one extra day in Leon sightseeing (recommended). We stayed in the refugios and carried our packs but neither were over 20 pounds plus water and snacks. We were 63 and 74 but very active. We did train for several weeks beforehand, working up to 11 miles a morning. We did not have much rain and had bought good raingear and covers for our packs. There is usually more rain and wind in spring. We also bought hiking poles and new hiking boots, which were quite expensive (over $200) but worth it. I never had blisters but my husband did and finally had to wrap his toes and bottoms of his feet in duct tape. He also had toe bang. I bought my boots a full size larger and we also bought merino wool socks. We took fleece sleep sacks. We had ordered silk sleep bags but they didn't come in time. We had one change of clothes each plus something to sleep in, a light jacket and balaclava for our heads and neck as it got quite cold before we finished. We also took sandals for the refugios to give our feet a rest. We did spent several days in Santiago. There's a great museum there. I understand that you're staying in hotels and having your baggage transferred but I think you will miss something of the experience. We started walking early each morning, only stopped once for a cola cow hot chocolate or fresh-squeezed orange juice, stopping about 2 so we could wash clothes (take large pins for hanging on the line), and eat before the restaurants closed at 3. We didn't eat an evening meal as we only eat two meals a day and had no trouble sleeping. Be prepared to lose weight. Both of us are thin and my husband lost 18 pounds and I lost 8. It was a wonderful experience and very insightful as we walked alone most of the time, as our paces do not match. We are very happy that we did it.

Posted by
331 posts

What is the approximate cost for walking the entire roughly 500 mile route? If a tour company that arranges for hotel rooms and transports baggage is not used, are there problems finding rooms?