Camino de Santiago at Christmas: Tips on how to do it

Is it advisable to backpack at this time of year, and how much planning do you need to do before setting off on an adventure?

Camino de Santiago | Foto de Alexandre Balenous

Camino de Santiago | Foto de Alexandre Balenous

Although Christmas is undoubtedly the most important period of the year to gather around the home, see more of our loved ones and make family life, every year more and more pilgrims decide to throw their backpacks on their backs, although it is still not something very common. It is less and less unusual to find walkers at this time that either seek to isolate themselves from the absorbing Christmas montage walking in search of privacy, or take their loved ones to the Camino de Santiago to live an alternative Christmas that they will never forget.

However it is a fact that the hardness of the Camino de Santiago at this time increases and requires the pilgrim more preparation and planning, without leaving as many loose ends as in the high season. Today we will talk about the motivations that can lead you to the Camino de Santiago at Christmas and the considerations you should take into account if you dare to take the backpack.

Flor de Navidad - Pixabay

Flor de Navidad - Pixabay

✔ Camino de Santiago at Christmas: Why do it?

There are many reasons that can lead you to the Camino de Santiago in these special dates; many of those who make the decision do so seeking reflection and intimacy, they walk it alone or with a companion, mostly having completed the Camino on previous occasions and well aware of what they can find on their journey. For this reason pilgrims who walk during these dates (as in other particularly cold months) do so with the necessary equipment, always checking the weather information and with the accommodation generally reserved.   

1. To disconnect from the Christmas routine

One of the main reasons that can move us to do the Camino de Santiago at Christmas is to get away from the hustle and bustle and conventionalisms of these dates so marked, take a break for once from the usual every year and take advantage of the holidays to try a different experience. Doing the Camino at Christmas is for those who are looking to get completely out of the comfort zone, for those who seek solitude and reflection and do not mind the discomfort of walking with low temperatures, little light and no company for many kilometres. In exchange, the Camino will offer us the great hospitality of its people, who know how to recognise the effort of the walkers who venture out during these dates. 

2. Enjoy a Camino de Santiago with unrepeatable landscapes.

Whoever manages to overcome the discomfort and inconvenience of doing the Camino de Santiago at Christmas is faced with a gift for the eyes: incredible snowy winter landscapes that seem deserted, just for our eyes, although in high season they are occupied by floods of pilgrims. The Camino de Santiago at this time of year is the closest thing to what the first medieval pilgrims must have experienced on their solitary journey full of excitement to Santiago, to pay their respects to the apostle.  

3. For spiritual reasons

Whether for religious reasons fulfilling a promise by visiting the apostle Santiago or seeking to put peace within ourselves walking in silence, the Camino de Santiago at Christmas is a perfect framework for reflection, to take stock of what has given us the year that has already left us and to look ahead, starting the new year with renewed spirit of strength at the end of this magnificent experience. 

4. For a personal challenge

Some routes of the Camino de Santiago at Christmas time can be a real challenge for pilgrims. Rain, snow and cold weather in general opens the door to multiple challenges that can only be overcome with the right equipment. It is also an experience in which we can come away empowered; at the end of the journey we can feel more than satisfied with our exploits. In short, Christmas can be the perfect time to prove to ourselves that we are capable of anything.

Camino de Santiago en invierno - Envato

Camino de Santiago en invierno - Envato

✔ What conditions do you have to face if you do the Camino at Christmas?

We insist, as happens in the coldest months of the year to walk the Camino de Santiago at Christmas is not an easy task; it requires some experience and a lot of planning. What the Camino offers us in return more than compensates, but you have to take into account some drawbacks to go well prepared.

1. Many accommodations are closed

As you probably already know, most hostels and lodgings that live on the Camino de Santiago open during the months with the largest influx of pilgrims. It is usual that they begin to give service around Easter and close their doors in October / November, when the bad weather scares away the last groups of pilgrims. There are accommodations (not always hostels) that also provide service during these months, although it is much more difficult to find a bed to spend the night than the rest of the year, so it is essential to book and make sure which businesses we can use at these times.

2. Harsher conditions than the rest of the year

In the northern half of the peninsula, December can be quite a tough month for walking. You should be informed at all times of the weather conditions for the following day, prevent possible storms and act with common sense by not putting yourself at risk if the day looks very bad. It is advisable to shorten the walking distance per day compared to what you usually walk in warmer months; take advantage of the hours with more daylight to walk, when temperatures are not so low. Finally, we strongly recommend that you always carry a guidebook with a map with you so that you have a clear route to follow and that you carry a fully charged mobile phone.

Which route is best to do during this time of year?

  • Camino de Invierno: This is the very well signposted variant that pilgrims have been using since the Middle Ages to avoid the snowfalls of O Cebreiro. With its starting point in Ponferrada, it runs through the valley of the river Sil and the Ribeira Sacra in the direction of Santiago. 
  • Portuguese Way: This route runs along the coast, crossing Pontevedra from south to north in the direction of Santiago. Temperatures are milder than on the French Way or the Northern Way. 

3. You will need special equipment

If you are going to walk the Camino de Santiago at Christmas you should be thoroughly prepared with appropriate clothing. Warm clothes are heavy, so you need a bigger backpack than you would carry in warmer months; think about a backpack of between 50 and 60 litres to avoid space problems. As for footwear, while we recommend trekking shoes for the rest of the year, in winter it is almost essential to have good hiking boots that cover your ankle.



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