When you are travelling to the Camino de Santiago, whether it be St Jean Pied de Port or Sarria, the next step is finding out how you get there. This piece will give you information on how to do such a thing. Bear in mind that all information I give is as of September 2015.
For people living in the US, Canada, or Australia, the costs for flights can be expensive, up to $1000 at peak times. As we in Ireland, live that bit nearer, there are a lot more options and as a result, the price for a flight can be low if you book it in advance. I tend to book my flights around Christmas time if I am walking a May Camino. Prices tend to increase after that.
If you are travelling from Ireland, both Aer Lingus and Ryanair travel to a number of airports in Spain and France. Aer Lingus travel to Santiago, Bilbao and Madrid while Ryanair serve Biarritz, Madrid, and Santiago. They also serve Santander during the summer months.
Should you wish to start your Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, the easiest option is to fly into Biarritz with Ryanair. From Biarritz, you must catch a shuttle bus or a taxi from the airport to Bayonne Gare, then get the train to St Jean Pied de Port. There are usually four trains a day taking about 1h20m. The cost for a one-way ticket is about 10€. The shuttle bus leaves the airport regularly. The French Train company SNCF provides the rail service to St Jean Pied de Port. It is probably best to leave booking your train tickets until you reach Bayonne in case of delays.
Should your Camino start in Pamplona or Logrono, the best option is to fly into Bilbao with Aer Lingus, From Bilbao Airport, you can catch the incredibly handy Bizkaibus feeder bus to the city’s Termibus. From there, there are many buses travelling to all parts of Spain, Pamplona and Logrono being two. Autobuses La Union travels from Bilbao in under three hours to Pamplona and to Logrono with a stop over in Vitoria-Gasteiz. You have the option of flying into Madrid with Ryanair and catching a train to either Bilbao or Logrono with Spain’s national train service, Renfe. So if you are looking to get there quicker, and enjoy the sights as they zoom by, this may be a better option.
If you wish to start a little closer to Santiago in either Burgos, León, or Ponferrada, probably the best bet is flying into Madrid with Ryanair. From Madrid’s Chamartin train station, there are regular trains to all cities. You can also get frequent buses at Madrid’s Avenida de America bus station. ALSA is the national bus company of Spain.
And finally, for those wishing to start in Sarria, Aer Lingus fly into Santiago airport. From the bus station in the city, Monbus brings pilgrims from Sarria to Lugo, while Empresa Portomarin can take you to your starting point.
There are many buses that serve along the camino and you can find plenty of information in each town’s tourist office. Here are some of the bus services:
- Conda connects SJPdP and Pamplona
- La Estellesa connects Pamplona to Logroño, including Puente la Reina
- Autobus La Union connects Bilbao to Pamplona, Longrono, Belorado and Santo Domingo
- Autobuses Jiminez connects Logroño to Burgos.
- ALSA connects Burgos to Santiago via Lugo departing from the camino at Pedrafita do Cebreiro.
- Pedrafita do Cebreiro is serviced by a daily bus to Sarria via Triacastela.
- Monbus connects Sarria to Santiago via Monforte de Lemos
- ALSA (In particular Madrid and Barcelona to Pamplona, San Sebastian, Burgos, and others. Pamplona to SJPdP (international). Good coverage over most of the Camino Frances)
- Bilman Bus (Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarra, Valencia, Murcia)
I hope this information proves useful to you, but please feel free to comment if you have any questions.
There are hundreds of books and guides written on the subject of the Camino de Santiago, fiction and non-fiction. Many are written by people who have returned from Spain and have a story to tell. There are also guides, written to help future pilgrims. I usually get recommendations from Amazon and read them on Kindle. Here are some of my favourites. This list is by no means a “best of”. I am sure to have left out many others, so please let me know some of yours. I’m also searching for new reading material.
John Brierley’s Pilgrim Guide Books
The “bible” of the Camino. It has some great information about destinations, terrain, albergues. I would seriously recommend you buy this if you are starting your preparations, but don’t follow his lead verbatim. It is your Camino after all!! Not only do I own the larger edition, but I also own the maps-only guide for the Camino Frances. This can be more useful for those who are more familiar with the route. You can find details here.
Camino de Santiago – Practical Preparation and Background by Gerald Kelly
Gerald’s guides are fantastic. Not only does he provide a guide about the Camino Frances, but only on the Aragones, Baztan, and Via de la Plata. Check out his site here. You can also buy his guide in print form. He goes into great detail about history as well as how to get there and common questions asked. All he asks for in return is €2.00.
Camino de Santiago – Way of St James from the Pyrenees to Santiago – The Rother Walking Guide
I have used this guide for my previous two Caminos. It has been translated from German and it is becoming popular in recent years. Once purchased, you are provided with GPS points which can be downloaded straight to your phone. You can find details. here.
Cuaderno del Peregrino – Camino Frances
Not only is this incredibly compact (it fits in your pocket), but it provides you with plenty of pages to write notes. There are maps showing each village and a list of each albergue. I use it to take note of any recommended town or albergue for my next adventure. Recommended to me by L over on Somewhere Slowly. Details here
Buen Camino! Camino de Santiago: A Father-Daughter Journey from Croagh Patrick to Santiago de Compostela – by Peter & Natasha Murtagh
This is the story of an Irish father and his 18-year-old daughter and their 900-kilometre walk together across northern Spain along the ancient pilgrim route to the tomb of St James. Peter and Natasha’s journey starts in Ireland by climbing Croagh Patrick, before setting off immediately afterward for the Pyrenees in France. There, they start walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. I bought this a few years back on Kindle first and then in print. Details can be found here.
Camino de Santiago in 20 days – My Way on the Way of St James – Randall St. Germain.
Camino de Santiago In 20 Days tells of Randall’s journey on the French Way. His walk was not only one of personal enlightenment, but it was also a challenge. He walked an average of 26 miles for 20 days straight. He also carried a backpack that weighed about 30 pounds. This is a book about really walking the Camino de Santiago, unlike anything presently out there. I found the book funny and entertaining. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to walk the Camino in that time frame however. Details can be found on his blog www.caminomyway.com
Walk with the Sun Till Ur Shadow Disappears – Terry McHugh
This book is written over the course of two Caminos as the writer cut short his first pilgrimage due to injury. I’m a big fan of this as it is written from the heart and you can really feel it. All proceeds have gone to charity which is another great reason to buy the book. It is partly a journal, a guide, and a history book. On reading, any prospective pilgrim will find the story and information helpful. Details can be found here.
A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
Kurt Koontz thought he was well prepared for his 490-mile walking trip on the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. He was fit and strong. He had a good guidebook and all the right equipment. His pilgrim passport would grant him access to the shelter of hostels along the way. But all that, however helpful, did not begin to encompass the grandeur of his external or internal adventure. A Million Steps climbs over the high meadows of the Pyrenees, quests through the unceasing wind of the Meseta, and dances in the rains of Galicia. While following the yellow arrows that mark the route, Koontz also navigates through his personal history of addiction, recovery, and love. Details here.
I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago – Hape Kerkeling
Overweight, overworked, and disenchanted, Kerkeling was an unlikely candidate to make the arduous pilgrimage to Santiago. But he decided to get off the couch and do it anyway. Lonely and searching for meaning along the way, he began the journal that turned into this utterly frank, engaging book. Massive in Germany, the translation in English made this a worldwide hit. The film will be out shortly, I believe Details on the book here.
Pilgrim Tips & Packing List Camino de Santiago: What you need to know beforehand, what you need to take, and what you can leave at home – by S Yates.
The title tells you everything. The book is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about packing. There are also some great tips and I can’t see this book leaving any questions unanswered. You can buy it on Kindle here.
I was just putting the final touches to part of our Camino talk (which is on the 11th of September) and came across this verse. It is actually taken from a YouTube video, made by Andrew Suzuki…the same man who has created the brilliant “Don’t Stop Walking” and “Beyond the Way” series.
I thought I’d write it out for you..
The journey makes you a pilgrim, because the way to Santiago is not only a track to be walked nor a test to reach any reward.
El Camino de Santiago is a parable and a reality at once, because it is done both within and outside a specific time that it takes to walk each stage.
The Camino makes you simpler, because the lighter the pack, the less strain on your back and more you will experience how little you need to be alive.
The Camino makes you brother or sister, what ever you have you must be ready to share because even if you started out on your own, you will meet companions
The Camino breeds about community, community that greets the other, that takes interest in the other, and that talks and shares with the other.
The Camino calls you to contemplate, to be amazed, to welcome, to interiorise, to stop, to be quiet, to listen to, to admire, to bless nature, our companions on the journey, our own selves, God.
If you want to see the video, click here.
I’ve been asked to go into this in brief in the Camino talk next week so I think it’s an ideal time to post about it. The majority of people have found out about Santiago and it’s many Ways from the amazing Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez’s film, ‘The Way’. Others may have read about it in travel magazines or books, most notably, The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. However, I found out about it purely by accident.
I have the great organisation, Aware, to thank for in this case. Because if it was not for them, I would not have this addiction and urge to go back to Spain each year. In the middle of 2010, I was handed a hastily put-together leaflet telling me about their plans to “Walk the Camino”. At the time, Aware was my chosen charity and I have fund raised a number of times for them. Anyway, I read through the leaflet but put it to one side once I had finished, not giving it a second thought. It just wasn’t for me but I promised that I would advertise it where I could. A number of weeks later, I saw the leaflet and thought..”well, let’s see what’s involved first?”, and wrote an email to the organisers. Within a few days, I received a information pack giving me a little bit of information about the Camino, the plan, what to bring, costs and what was required to fundraise!
At that stage, my two feet had taken their first steps, so to speak. I had started walking longer distances and had started to fund raise for this great charity. I will never forget the Table Quiz night in a packed pub in Dublin when I raised the vast majority of funds. However, while things were starting to fit into place, little did I know what to expect when I arrived there. I had done very little in preparation for the actual Camino, spending more time on fundraising.
June 3rd 2011 – All 8 of us boarded our flight for Santiago de Compostela. It was my 1st time in Spain with 0% Spanish. We were carrying suitcases, save for one guy with a backpack. On arriving in Santiago, we met our guide, and zipped across to Sarria, some 110km westwards. He got to know us all and gave us details of our next day’s walk. We were of all ages, from all over Ireland, with various abilities. I was pretty sure I could walk 20km the next day, but for 5 or 6 days in a row..time would tell. We checked into our nice hotel on arriving in Sarria and had some dinner. The one thing I remember is desperately wanting to stick with one of my fellow walkers as I had no spanish. I felt totally lost otherwise.
The following day, we left our hotel with nothing but a day-pack, a packed lunch and some water. Within a few kms we were greeted by a whole host of people walking in the same direction..whoa!..”is it normally this crazy?” I thought to myself. I also noticed folks carrying large rucksacks. “Is this normal?”, I thought again. I’m not sure I would be able to do that, and not at the pace they were going at. I met people from the world over, quite a lot were willing to stop and chat and tell you about their first day. I learnt my first few words of Spanish also..”de donde eres?”..”where are you from? You either get a look of bemusement, which means the person in question is not Spanish, or a conversation will begin! That day I was introduced to the Camino, and I was delighted to arrive in Portmarin some 22km later. The following days were tough, I won’t lie. I suffered. But, I enjoyed my times with my walking buddies. I loved the Spanish way of life and culture and when I arrived in Santiago, I celebrated, took it all in and left. I didn’t think I would come back. For me, I had “Walked the Camino”.
It wasn’t until September of 2011, when I started looking over photographs, did I reconsider going back to Spain and walk another section. This time I wanted to walk a different Camino, I wanted to walk my Camino. I emailed Garry, the guide from the previous trip, and he sent me on great information on packing lists, albergues and great information on how to get to Leon, my starting point. At this time, The Way had just been released and there was a great increase in interest. I set off in May 2012 and I guess the rest is history. I connected with the spirit of the Camino this time, no matter how much pain I feel. It’s a great chance to strip away the layers of materials that you have in everyday life, so all you’re left with is happiness. I just wish I could walk a full Camino, but hey! ho!..that’s for another post!! 🙂
In many ways, my Caminos from 2012 to May 2015 have been different to 2011, but I will always be thankful for that hastily put-together leaflet given to me in 2010.
So how did you hear about the Camino de Santiago?
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