In May 2019, my brother and I walked from Ferrol in the north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela – the Celtic Camino. This is no ordinary Camino as we follow a large number of Irish pilgrims who have made their way to Santiago all the way from medieval times. They came in boats from Ireland and England to the ports of northern Spain, mainly A Coruna and Vigo.
To complete the Celtic Camino, one can walk the first 25 km in Ireland. There are a selection of routes in Ireland on the Camino Society Ireland website. I was interested in this journey since hearing about it first in 2017 when the Mayor of A Coruna visited Dublin. Since then, I walked from Bray to St James Church in Dublin in June 2017. You can read about it here. My brother walked from Bray the next year and we thought May 2019 was the best time to walk to Santiago.
This route has been promoted by the Galician Tourism Board in memory of the many pilgrims who traveled to Santiago from Ireland and in recognition of this history, we walked the same route. The Camino Inglés has two legs – one leg starts in Ferrol and the other starts in A Coruna. From Ferrol, we walked for two days to the beautiful Celtic town of Betanzos. From there, we traveled to A Coruna and began our Celtic Camino to Santiago de Compostela.
But the Celtic Camino does not exceed 100km, I hear you say? Aha, a good question. The Cathedral in Santiago have kindly agreed to issue a compostela to those who walk from A Coruna provided they walk a pilgrim path of more than 25km in another country and have certification to prove it. In June 2017, I walked 30km along the Dublin coast from Bray to St. James’ Church in Dublin and gained a Celtic Compostela. There are other pilgrim paths in Ireland to walk but this was the most accessible for me.
With Celtic Compostela and credential in hand, we travelled to Santiago.
The flight wasn’t as early as last year’s one. I could take a sleep-in, as long as we were both in Dublin Airport before 12.30. I was back on the Camino with my brother again, mi hermano! And this time we would tackle part of the Ferrol leg of the Camino Ingles before travelling back to A Coruña. From there, we would walk to Santiago and then on to Finisterre. It feels strange writing about it now as I am removed from it. But I will try to give my best account of the few days away.
We were both excited. In fact, that is an understatement. We had received our Celtic Camino certificates the previous year and walking from A Coruña would provide us with a Compostela…my 3rd, and Ray’s 2nd. I hoped for some good weather but the forecast was looking grim. We had come prepared, however, and no amount of rain was going to stop us from this walk.
Dublin Airport was bustling. It always is. Terminal 2 is like a microcosm of Dublin, people always on the go. We head straight for security and look for our gate. Our flight was to Santiago de Compostela, I should have said. I had hoped to fly to Vigo but there was no flight available on this particular date. Not that I’m complaining. The flight was full of pilgrims, groups, and businessmen. You could tell the pilgrims by their zip off trousers and rain jackets. I seem to have gained an ability to spot a pilgrim from a mile off, even in an airport.
The flight was perfect and having a window seat made it all worthwhile. Looking down over Howth as we take off, I wonder when I will walk that great looped walk next. There is talk of a 30km Fingal Coastal Way but it is at the planning stage at the moment. However, the future is bright.
We arrive in Santiago at 4.30pm Spanish time and after the usual confusion switching from Irish to local time. we grabbed our backpacks and headed to the doors. The very handy Empresa Freire leaves outside the Airport every 30 minutes for the Bus Station. We took one and naturally enough we met folks from Ireland bound for Ferrol. At the bus station, Monbus travels to Ferrol quite regularly and I had a good chat with Lar from Co. Meath. He had walked the Camino Francés from Burgos last year and wanted to walk something different while earning a Compostela. A good choice.
After 90 minutes, we arrived at the Estacion de Autobuses in Ferrol. We said our goodbyes to those who we met on the bus, hoping that we would see them the following day. We had booked a hostel not far from the bus station, Hostel La Frontera and here we watched the first half of the Liverpool v Barcelona semi-final.
But before that, we took a walk to the start of the Camino Ingles. The Way is very well waymarked from the off with arrows and stone markers. It starts on the Paseo Mariña where there is a large stone marker. From there, I and Ray took a few photos before following the arrows back to the hostel.
I was eager to start the first day but I had the rain gear close to hand ready before we started out. Most of the folks we had met were stopping short of Pontedueme, preferring Narón, Fene or Neda. I hadn’t thought of stopping short which I suppose was a little bit selfish on my part. Nevertheless, we had a hostel booked in Pontedueme and we would take it easy.
Day 1…Boom! Let’s go! After a great rest in Hostel La Frontera, we woke up early and left to start walking. You will find the Camino right out of the door of the hostel. We started early as this was going to be a long day, probably our only one – roughly 30 kms. It seems like a lot for a first day, but we had a nice place booked in Pontedeume so we were in no hurry. There was rain threatening, but it was still dry and we had rain gear at the ready. I was looking forward to get out of the city and into the country but it would be a while before that would happen.
It takes a while to pass the naval base as you leave Ferrol. It’s probably not a wise idea to take any photographs or do anything silly. Just keep walking. It did take a while to find the first arrow out of Ferrol but once found we were on our Way (no pun intended!) The first 10km to 15km is on the flat and is mainly on pavement. We didn’t find it too challenging. In fact, we found it quite pleasant. I had good company with Ray and he seemed to manage well with his backpack (it was his first Camino). Obligatory selfie beside waymarker included below!
The Camino hugs the coast on this first stage. And if you are looking to avoid the sea, that won’t happen today! We arrived at our first church after 5km – Ermita de Santa Maria de Caranza. A nicely designed chapel, placed in a perfect spot. We stop for a few minutes to see if it is open but I move on after a while once we see that it is closed.
Onwards we walk and talk until we come to the top of the Ria de Ferrol. It is still early morning and we see the Albergue de Neda so we knew that we are more or less 40% of today’s stage done. However, this is when the rain started. It isn’t persistant rain; it isn’t heavy rain, it is just enough to get wet. So we stop and put on the rain gear.
The San Martiño de Xubia monastery was declared a national historical monument in 1972. We spent a bit of time here before walking into Neda.
Stopping in Neda, gave us time to rest and recharge. One cafe con leche for me and a Coca Cola for Ray and a tostada con jamon y queso por Ray and a tostada con queso por migo. Loads to see and do in Neda, but I saw three pilgrims waiting to get into the albergue. Walking from Ferrol to Neda can be considered a stage, it all depends on the pilgrim.
The terrain gradually rose on leaving Neda but it was nothing to write home about. On arriving in Fene, 3 kms later, there were more cafes and we decided to stop for a break. Cafeteria Lembranza on the main street had just said goodbye to a group of pilgrims so it was empty. It was a good place for a stop as going forward is all uphill. A nice welcome to the Camino Inglés.
Leaving Fene, the terrain becomes more ‘pilgrimy’ – with less pavement and more ground and gravel to walk on. I enjoyed this. Ray was happy to have purchased walking poles in Ferrol. They suited them on the uphill. I just go with the flow, still keeping my eyes out for pilgrim folks to chat to. For someone who is used to the Camino Francés, the Camino Inglés is one of the quietest Caminos I have walked. But I have faith – we are on day 1 and I keep an eagle eye for other pilgrims to talk to.
A great thing I saw today was the chance to own a shell for your pack. There were a number of these boards dotted around the stage offering pilgrims shells for a donation. I took one (for a small price) with the year 2019 on it. I haven’t seen something like this on any of the other Caminos – so I suppose this makes this Camino this little bit special. Volunteers in the area need to be thanked also for providing refreshments in parts where you might need them. For example, we both climbed a particularly steep ascent and there was a cool box filled with water refreshments. Just what we needed. So we rested, drank the water, gave a donation and kept walking. Always grateful!
It was a straightforward walk once we reached the top. I remember walking in and around the stems of dual carriageways. We walked through a nice bit of forest as we came close to Pontedeume and I remember seeing the bridge from the forest. Just a shame I didn’t take a picture. Hmm. We arrived at Pontedeume after 3pm and aimed for the hostel – Casa Pension Apillidera. There was a large sign on the outside “Si estamos cerrados, llama a Jose” with his number. So I called him. He arrived in a flash. Super nice guy and a super nice place. We didn’t stay long. We were hungry after all that walking.
The stay in Pension Casa Apilladeira was super. We left with a filling breakfast and excitement for the day ahead. Even though the skies were overcast and the rains were never far off, I left the rain gear off to start. I was eager to get to Betanzos – a town rich in medieval history.
We didn’t leave as early as the day prior but early enough to see the sun rise. As soon as you leave the town square, you are faced with a sharp incline and it is uphill for the next half an hour or so. But it is not as bad as it it sounds. We both took our time and after every few minutes, we stopped and enjoyed the views of the bay.
It was good to use the views as motivation to keep moving. The climb got the blood pumping. I enjoyed today’s walk because the route took us along more rural areas and grassy paths than along roads. The Camino took us inland along a golf course at this stage which was pretty random! We arrived in Mino after a few hours and had our usual 2nd breakfast. On entering the cafe, we noticed the owner and three other people sipping away on their drinks. Every single one of them welcomed us. That peaked me up! The owner was delighted to see us and wished us a Buen Camino as we marched on. ut the rain bottoms on just yet, although Ray had them on from the start! The Camino brings you back to the coast after Mino for a while with rolling hills.
Horreos are ever present throughout Galicia and today was no exception. This was one of the more well maintained ones I had seen.
Downhill again after Mino, the Camino brings you right out to sea level. And the rain gets heavy. But we have signs to give us that extra lift.
We pass through A Ponte do Porco and we move away from the sea again. We meet a giant overhead by-pass above us that I assume is taking travellers to A Coruna. That would be us the following day, I thought. But moving away from the sea means you start to climb and this was certainly the case as we climbed a set of stairs to the main road and again back to safety on a forest path.
The next set of photos put a smile on my face. I saw them underneath the by-pass. Whether they are classed as graffiti or artwork, I will let you decide but they brightened up this Camino path and it made this pilgrim chuckle.
We met more pilgrims today than yesterday. Pilgrims from Denmark and Germany. It was great to walk and talk to one German pilgrim from Munich. I found more solo pilgrims today who wanted to be by themselves and that is entirely fine. The three of us walked the last 5 km into Betanzos together and to be honest I had a new lease of life. I cherish the company of strangers on the Camino so walking these quieter routes is a challenge for me.
Arriving into Betanzos after midday was great and unexpected, considering the weather. We were enjoying the chat. We walked in to find 5 people queuing outside the municipal albergue. Our friend from Germany was the 6th pilgrim and at that stage, the albergue was completo. Before we left Ireland we knew that there would be limited beds there, so I booked ahead. It’s good to have a back-up plan!
Tomorrow we leave the Ferrol leg and take a trip around A Coruna.
We had decided that we would spend some time in A Coruña to see the sites, so today would be a travel day. We left Betanzos at 10 am after having some breakfast. We agreed to take the train at Betanzos-Infesta train station. The evening previous, a quick search of the times showed there was a train just before 11 am. We decided to make our way to the station so see if we can buy tickets there and if there was anyone there? After a 20 minute walk, we learned that the station was a) closed and b) the train was no longer due to stop at that station. After a few seconds of sighing, we starting walking back to town to the bus station where we just managed to catch the bus to A Coruña.
A quick 45 minutes trip later, we arrived in A Coruña on what was a beautiful day. The sun was out and there was no rain for one. Could this be a sign? We took a quick walk to our hostal – Hostal Palas and checked in.
While Ray went to the supermercado, I looked after the laundry. A laundrette was easy to find on the main road. Once this was done, we had some food and decided to walk to the old town. It is a decent walk to the old town, probably over 30 minutes, so it is worthwhile catching a taxi if you are based near the train or bus stations.
The weather took a major turn for the better with only a sea breeze affecting us. On arriving at the old town, it wasn’t long before we started seeing the familiar yellow arrows. And then we arrived at the Puerto de A Coruña. Ships lie here docked and this is the very place that the Naomh Gobnait docked before her crew made their way to Santiago.
Across from the Puerto de A Coruña is the Plaza de Maria Pita. The Maria Pita square is probably A Coruña’s main city plaza and takes its name from the town’s heroine, Maria Pita. Maria Pita herself came to notoriety as a result of her role in Sir Francis Drake’s attack on A Coruna in 1589 and she is credited with playing a critical part in reducing the losses of the people of A Coruna during this assault.
Further on from the Plaza on Rua Santiago is the Igrexa de Santiago, St James’ Church. This is the start of the A Coruna leg of the Camino Ingles. Walking down Rua Santiago, we saw a waymarker before we saw the church so we knew we were going the right way.
The Church of Santiago dates from the 12th to 13th centuries and is probably A Coruna’s oldest church. The front door shows Santiago Matamoros on horseback. The church is only open before Mass at 7pm daily.
We still had the Tower of Hercules and Breogan to see, so we walked on. We passed some great artwork on the way to the coast.
The Tower of Hercules is the oldest Roman lighthouse in use today. Until the 20th century, the tower itself was known as the “Farum Brigantium”. The structure is 55 metres tall, was built in the 2nd century and renovated in 1791. A large statue of Breogan stands before the Tower. Breogán is a character in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, a medieval Christian history of Ireland and the Irish He is described as an ancestor of the Gaels. The Lebor Gabála purports to be an account of how the Gaels descend from Adam through the sons of Noah and how they came to Ireland.
We take a taxi back to the hostal to get ready for the next morning. Next stop Sergude and the 1st day in Spain of our Celtic Camino.
The official first stage on this leg is 32 kms in distance to Hospital de Bruma. However, we both thought it would be a good idea to split this stage in two. 19 kms into the first stage is the town of Carral – Sergude, which doesn’t have much – a municipal albergue, a cafe and a panaderia. I’ll talk about them later on.
We leave A Coruña as the sun rises, having walked to the Church of Santiago the evening before. Our day would start just shy of the bus station and we instantly saw our first waymark. 68 km to go! The one thing to note today is 95% of the walk today is on pavement so this is something to be prepared for. Another thing to be prepared for is the scale and size of A Coruña. It’s a long way before you can truly switch off. We found ourselves tuned in to the guidebook hoping that we were not taking a wrong turn.
The Avenida de Monelea is long but it is quiet. We pass Iglesia de Santa Maria de Oza, one of the more beautiful churches on this Camino. The Camino starts to rise as we move away from the sea but that rise is gently gradual.
Arriving at Portazgo can be tricky and you are required to negotiate a busy main road (N-550) before reaching the Centro Commerical Alcampo. Be careful as you walk along the side of the road.
O Burgo was different..we had reached a large park with a lake, seats, swans. There were people out walking, running, doing their daily business. It reminded me of the reservoir outside of Najera on the Camino Frances, peaceful and serene. We slowed our pace here and took our time, watching people come and go. There were no other pilgrims, just us. A quick refill of our water bottles. We came across the Bridge of Burgo, from medieval times.
On our way around the airport, you are making an ascent. We arrived at a number of small villages. In Almeiras, you reach the top of the hill. Here, there is an information board and a statue to Cabellero of Almeiras.
Passing through Alvedro and Culleredo, we stayed on quiet rural roads. The trail is well waymarked and the weather was perfect. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – the opposite of the previous few days. There was hardly any traffic to contend with. However, my feet cried out for a bit of grass or trail to walk on!
The next few towns re-acquainted me with Saint Anthony. Now, that is not someone you would hear mentioned on the Camino but in Sigras de Abaixo, there is a shrine to the saint. Just in case you lose anything and need to be found. On the shrine it says, “si buscas milagros, mira” or “if you are looking for miracles, look!”. The church at Sigras was closed when we arrived but I always love a photo opportunity.
Up and up until we arrive at our albergue in Sergude. I was clearly enjoying the day but Ray could have done with less of the “up”. Before we arrive at the town, we discover a panaderia and buy something sweet to devour while waiting for the albergue to open. It opens at 1pm.
Just after 1pm, a flustered hospitalera ran in and apologised. We told her not to worry in broken Spanish. She had zero English. This albergue is brand new, it has 30 beds and is just perfect. I didn’t expect anyone else to be there and I was right. Myself and Ray were the only pilgrims there.
After a shower and washing our clothes, we went to the local cafe, Casa Adolfo where we were treated like royalty. The owner sat us down and brought us out a large plate of mixed salad, followed by a handsome meal. For €8 each. This is the Camino!
Back to the albergue to prepare for our next day on the Celtic Camino
The first few hours were to ourselves. It was dark but there was a method in our madness. The A Coruna leg joins the Ferrol leg of the Camino Ingles a few kilometres before Hospital de Bruma. We were expecting to see more pilgrims later on in the day, and we were right. Far more pilgrims walk the Ferrol leg so I thought it would be a good idea to leave a little early so as to secure a bed in the municipal albergue in Hospital de Bruma.
The second day of the Celtic Camino in Spain started off with a gradual climb, however, even taking our time, we managed to cover the distance in a few hours. I was delighted to meet pilgrims later on in the day and at the albergue. There were quite a few destined for Meson do Vento, a village beside Hospital de Bruma with private accommodation.
One thing to note before you start your day is there are no stores before Bruma so you will need to rely on cafes and restaurants for snacks or fruit during this day. I really enjoyed this day. The sun was out, it was warm. We actually walked off the pavement for a bit and I liked the variety of the ascent as well as descent in places. The scenery in this part of the world is stunning. We were walking through country lanes with trees lining the hills, passing the odd random house. We were in touch with nature today. Such a change from the urban chaos the day prior.
Arriving at Sarandones after an hour, we visited the Capilla de San Juan and the house where Felipe II stayed on his way to A Coruna to sail to England to marry Mary in 1554.
As the day progressed, so did the incline and Ray was using his poles more. But we had plenty of time. It was early morning, the sun was out and we were in no hurry. I needed to borrow his sun cream as I forgot to buy some in A Coruna. Yes, I do burn!
Travesas would be our next stop and a good stop it was. It has Capilla San Roque and Bar Avelina. The owner of this cafe was first class. On first inspecting the closed San Roque we stopped in for some light refreshment. We were recognised as pilgrims and she provided us with stools to lay our feet on. Now, this wasn’t necessary as we had only walked for a few hours, but the intention was clear. The Camino had spoken. We received two sellos here, thanked the owner and went on our way. As we were leaving, more pilgrims arrived in to receive the same treatment.
Leaving the cafe, we walked along the AC-542, passed an electrical power plant, before arriving at a Repsol station. This would be our turn off for Hospital de Bruma.
Shortly after, we arrived at a large field. Now that’s a fairly normal sentence and one that I would write time and time again. However this field summed up my day. It just glowed..and I needed to capture it. I asked Ray to take a shot while I walked into the dew-covered flowers. After 3 attempts, I had the below photo and a pair of soaked pants. It was worth it!
Not too far away was the municipal albergue in Hospital de Bruma. It would open at 1pm and it was midday. We were first in line. Well…it’s better to be first, than last. We were shortly joined by pilgrims from Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Ireland. And it wasn’t long before the albergue was full.
The albergue in Hospital de Bruma is run by a local couple and has 30 beds. It is basic but it has what a pilgrim needs. If you are looking for private accommodation, Meson do Vento is 2 kilometres away and has a number of options.
Myself and Ray had a pilgrim meal with our German pilgrim friend in the nearby Casa Grana. He was considering walking to Santiago the following day while we were going to walk to Sigüeiro.
On reflection, this was one of the better days of our Camino so far. Not a car in sight, just the Galician countryside to enjoy. Two more days to Santiago!
Another great day and one with far more people to talk to. On the whole, we were descending from Bruma, but there were many rolling hills to navigate. The sun was out again, which made the first 2 days a distant memory.
The albergue cleared out very early and we were on the road before 7am. The only folks left were the Spanish pilgrims. Our German friend was always in front of us. He must prefered his own company, taking long strides to ensure there was space between his own thoughts and those of the next pilgrim. We walk along quiet country roads listening to chirping birds and barking dogs. The odd passing tractor breaks the silence.
We are left bemused on seeing the statues and models after Cabeza de Lobo, yet take photos of the many attractions there. There is a large dinosaur, a tractor and a large stone statue of Santiago. It definitely was something to write home about and pilgrims seem to like it’s uniqueness.
Second breakfast was at A Rua, after passing through a number of sleepy villages. I swear I want to move here once I win the Lottery. The scenery is enough to win the coldest of hearts over. We caught up with our German friend, and an Italian, with a Danish girl too. All were drinking coffee and eating the last bits from a tostada. We made our order and wished them a Buen Camino. We knew we would see them again. Just beside the café, you pass by the 18th-century church, the Igrexa de San Paio de Buscas which contains the statue of San Paio.
There was plenty of walking in wooded areas as well as in the open. Waymarkers brought us off main roads into dark forest paths. With the day that was in it, I was glad to have some shade for a few minutes.
Our next stop was in A Calle. We had been told to keep an eye out for Bar O Cruceiro here as that would be the last bar for 12 kilometres. It was well advertised in advance, however, it was closed on arrival. We moved on with little else to do.
The scenery as you come closer to Sigüeiro is not what you call spectacular. In fact, if there was an etch-a-sketch of the Camino, I would erase this bit out as well the walk into Burgos. Walking by a motorway is far from attractive. It wasn’t long before we arrived at Sigüeiro and checked in at Albergue Camino Real. There are no municipal albergues in this town so it is advisable to book ahead. There are a good range of options on gronze.com. One more day to Santiago!
A short day – just 16 km to Santiago, but there were a few climbs which made the day interesting. You could be in the Praza do Obradoiro before midday if you wanted to. We decided to aim for a midday finish as I had planned to meet with someone, but I will come to that later on. We left Sigüeiro just after 7am, on learning that it would be another beautiful day.
Leaving the town, the Camino crosses the River Tambre and hugs the N-550. The final stage of the Camino Ingles follows the N-550 but rarely intersects it until closer to Santiago. It isn’t long before the Camino turns off uphill to the right and it is a welcome reprieve. Away from the road, the Camino takes you through quiet country lanes and forest paths.
We stop at the town of Marantes for a cafe con leche and coca cola. We are about 1/3 of the day done and I’m looking forward to finish. For the first time, I had planned to stay an extra day in Santiago before walking on to Finisterre. I wanted to do many things this year while in Santiago as I knew it would be a while before I arrived back here again.
Back on the trail, it was good to catch some shade in the forest. The ancient eucalyptus trees have been there for God knows how long and their smell makes their presence known. Another coffee and sello opportunity presents itself at Formaris. Hotel Castro is located right beside the Camino and we are greeted by Santiago himself.
We don’t have that long left now and the big city is a stone’s throw away. Things start to get a bit more industrial now as we leave the forest and veer back on the road. I suppose we were expecting it. Our 2nd to last sello would be at the church of San Caetano just outside of Santiago old town. A very helpful priest who looks after the church gives assistance to pilgrims passing by. Do visit if you get a chance. It would be one of the few churches I visited on this Camino. I was surprised how quickly I saw the spires of the Cathedral once I arrived in Santiago. We arrived on a different side to the French way or the Portuguese Way. With the French way, I just followed the crowds…on the Portuguese Way, we got lost and needed to use directions but it was easy on the Camino Ingles despite the lack of pilgrims.
I was delighted to arrive in the Praza before noon with a big smile on my face. I was in Santiago again and what a glorious day! I dropped my bags and asked the nearest pilgrim to take a picture of Ray and myself.
I had been in contact with Linda from Somewhereslowly.com throughout the day. She had started her Camino from Rabanal del Camino on the French Way a number of weeks prior and by chance, our dates of arrival would collide. So I would wait for her in the Praza until she arrived. Luckily enough, I didn’t have to wait too long and she walked in with the sun beating down. Naturally enough, I was delighted for her and we celebrated by finding the nearest place of shade and some cool drinks.
Later in the evening, we ate out in Tapas Petiscos Do Cardeal, on Rua do Franco and had a cold beverage afterward. We managed to catch the Tuna do Derecho band afterward. They play every night in the Praza do Obradoiro and have great audience interaction. It’s not often a pilgrim sees the Cathedral lit up at night – most albergues have curfews. I was lucky enough to be staying in Santiago KM.0 who let you come and go as you choose.
Click on the links below to bring you to the albergues’ location and the booking information. I hope this proves useful.
It was at this stage that we changed to the A Coruna leg of the Camino Inglés.
I was delighted to have stayed in this particular albergue in Santiago. I usually choose the San Martin Pinario but on this occasion, it was booked up. Albergue Santiago KM0 is on the same road as the Pilgrim office, 2 minutes from the Cathedral. It is really central. And the owners were great. I think I have just found my new albergue of choice in Santiago!
The following day, we made our way to Finisterre over the course of 3 days and stayed in the below albergues. I have stayed in 2 before when I made my way to Finisterre in 2016.
Accommodation on the Camino Inglés is plentiful, however Ferrol, A Coruna and Sigüeiro does not have municipal albergues. Booking in advance might be helpful but then again, once we arrived at these places we found there were beds still available. And that was May! For Santiago, booking in advance is the first thing I do. Accommodation in Santiago goes quick, especially in the Summer months.