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2016: a Holy Year for pilgrims

porta-santa-santiago-de-compostela-caminoways2016 will be an important year for pilgrims to Rome and also Santiago de Compostela, as the year has been declared a ‘Holy Year of Mercy’ by Pope Francis; and special events will be taking place in both cities. Santiago Cathedral officials have also confirmed the Holy Door of the cathedral (Porta Santa) will be open for the Year of Mercy.

So what the Holy Year means for pilgrims planning a Via Francigena or Camino de Santiago trip for 2016:

What is a Holy Year?

Holy years, or Jubilee years, only take place every 25 years, unless the Pope requests an extraordinary Holy Year to highlight a specific topic. In this case, Pope Francis has declared 2016 a Holy Year of Mercy.

In Santiago de Compostela, a year is considered holy or Jacobean if 25th July, Saint James Day, falls on a Sunday. The next Jacobean Holy Year will take place in 2021. On such years a special door to the cathedral: the Holy Door (Porta Santa) is opened to pilgrims arriving in Santiago.scallop-shell-camino-frances-holy-year-caminoways

The 2016 Holy Year of Mercy will be officially starting on 8th December 2015 and finishing on 20th November 2016.

What happens during a Holy Year?

During the Holy Year the Vatican will be hosting special celebrations and millions of pilgrims will be arriving in Rome. The number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago are also expected to increase.

The entrance to St Peter’s Basilica known as the ‘Holy Door’, as well as ‘Holy Doors’ to other cathedrals in Rome, will be opened for pilgrims for the year. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral has also confirmed the Porta Santa will be open for pilgrims from 13th December; not due to reopen again until 2021.

Other Camino cathedrals such as Lugo, on the Camino Primitivo; Tui, on the Portuguese Way, Ourense on the Via de la Plata and Mondoñedo on the Camino del Norte, and cathedrals such as Le Puy en Velay and Cahors, on the Le Puy Camino route in France will also have a Holy Door open for the year.Rome-history-vatican-holy-year-2016-francigena-caminoways

If you are planning on travelling to Rome or Santiago de Compostela for special dates such as Easter and other important religious events during the Holy Year of Mercy, you should plan your trip well in advance to secure accommodation.

Self-guided tours depart at any time during the year and guided tours depart on selected dates. has a guided tour to Rome departing on 19th March (Easter time) and has many departure dates for guided tours, from March all the way to the end of October.

For more information on the Camino routes to Santiago de Compostela and to Rome or to book your walking or cycling holiday for Holy Year 2016 contact our Travel Specialists.


  1. By Maria

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Siobhan

  2. By Siobhan Stephenson

    So Looking forward to going Please God this year -possibly May/June have to book yet but soon – to give thanks for a beautiful healthy granddaughter Mariza born 5 wks early on 15/12/2015. Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy & Holy New Year 2016.

  3. By Maria

    Hi Joseph, pilgrims to Santiago during Holy Year 2016 will be able to gain a plenary indulgence as well, as during Jacobean Holy Years. I hope this helps! Wishing you a Happy New Year.

  4. By Joseph Walsh

    Will we be able to get an indulgence from the Vatican during the Holy year of Mercy as you would in any other Jubilee year, like in 2021? Thank you

  5. By Maria

    Hi David, thank you so much for your note. It is difficult to estimate the number of pilgrims on the Camino for 2016. While it will be a Holy Year, it is not a Jacobean Holy Year (which is specific to the Camino, when St James Day falls on a Sunday) but a Holy Year to Rome and other important pilgrimage destinations. A Jacobean Holy Year would have a greater impact on the number of pilgrims on the Camino. We expect the number of pilgrims will increase as the Holy Door in Santiago Cathedral will be open for the year but not as much as on a Jacobean Holy Year. However, it is worth picking quieter months: or opting for other less-known Camino routes, instead of the Camino Frances: I hope this helps. Let us know if you need any additional information, we are always happy to help!

  6. By Lisa

    Hi Jas, thank you for your comment. Yes, June is a good month to do the Camino. It can get warm in the summer months but it is a popular time to walk. The busiest months on the Camino are usually May and September but all of the summer months can be busy as it is the time when most people will be able to take time off work. If you would like more information I can get one of our travel specialists to send you some details. Kind regards, Lisa.

  7. By David

    How will this Holy Year impact the number of pilgrims on the Camino and the ability to navigate the route?

  8. By Jas

    Hi !
    We are a family of four planning to travel from India . Is June a good month for the camimo ? Would it be a very busy season ?

  9. By Lisa

    Hi Sharon, thank you for your comment. Yes we include luggage transfer as part of our package including accommodation. I have asked one of our travel specialist to send you the details of the luggage transfers and itineraries. Kind regards, Lisa.

  10. By Sharon Lee

    Do you arrange backpack to be transported from one destination to next destination?
    What is yr cost?

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