How Hard is the First Day of the Camino de Santiago?

walking the camino

The Camino de Santiago, a centuries-old pilgrimage route that traverses through Spain and other parts of Europe, is a journey that captivates the hearts and souls of thousands of travellers every year. Among the many questions that pilgrims-to-be ponder, one commonly asked is: “How hard is the first day of the Camino de Santiago?” Let’s delve into this query to offer some clarity and guidance.

Different Starting Points

Firstly, it’s crucial to note that the Camino de Santiago is not a single path but a network of routes. The difficulty of your first day will largely depend on where you start.

For example, the French Way (Camino Francés) begins in the Pyrenees at St. Jean Pied de Port, presenting a challenging uphill climb on the first day. On the other hand, the Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués) starts with a gentler, flatter terrain. Research your chosen route to get a better sense of what to expect.

Camino de Santiago Routes
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Physical Preparation

Your level of fitness can greatly influence your experience on the first day. If you frequently engage in physical activities like walking, hiking, or cycling, you’ll likely find the initial day a manageable challenge. However, if you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle, investing some time in pre-trip training is advisable to build stamina.

It’s essential to understand what you’re preparing for. The Camino involves walking long distances daily, often over varied terrain. The length and difficulty depend on which route you choose, but it’s common to walk about 20-25 kilometres or 12.5-15.5 miles per day. We cover the average time frame you’ll need to complete the various routes in our blog post ‘How Many Days Does it Take to Walk the Camino de Santiago?’. Read our Camino Fitness eBook to discover workout routines, useful exercises and a step-by-step workout plan to help prepare for your Camino adventure.

Emotional and Mental Aspects

The Camino is not just a physical journey but an emotional, and spiritual journey. The first day can be emotionally taxing, filled with excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. Prepare mentally by setting realistic expectations and being open to the experience, come what may. Read more about your emotional and mental Camino preparation.


Weather Conditions

The season in which you embark on the Camino plays a role in the day’s difficulty level. Summer can be scorching, requiring ample sun protection and hydration, while spring and fall offer milder conditions. Winter walks, although peaceful, can be harsh due to cold and, sometimes, snow. See here for the weather on the Camino.

Each month on the Camino offers a unique perspective on the landscapes and local cultures along the various Camino routes. We cover a month-by-month guide in our blog ‘Which Months Can You Walk the Camino?’

Packing Wisely

A common mistake is over-packing, which makes the first day tougher than it needs to be. Stick to essentials, remembering that every extra pound you carry can make the journey more strenuous. Many services offer luggage transfers, so you can walk with just a day pack, making your first day (and every day afterwards) more enjoyable. Read our Camino packing ebook.

Support and Community

One of the magical elements of the Camino is the sense of community among the pilgrims. If you find the first day a struggle, rest assured that you’ll meet others who can offer emotional support, guidance, or even some useful Camino hacks to make the journey easier.

Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body’s cues during the first day is essential. If you feel worn out, there’s no shame in taking short breaks or even deciding to cover a shorter distance than initially planned.

Tips for the First Day:

  • Start Early: Make the most of cooler morning temperatures and give yourself ample time for rest.
  • Stay Hydrated: Carry a refillable water bottle and drink frequently.
  • Snacks: Pack energy-boosting snacks like nuts and fruits.
  • Foot Care: Use comfortable, worn-in hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks to prevent blisters.
  • Slow and Steady: The Camino is not a race. Maintain a steady pace to enjoy the experience fully.

The difficulty of the first day on the Camino de Santiago is a subjective experience influenced by multiple factors, such as the chosen route, physical fitness, weather, and emotional state. Preparation is key; physically and mentally equip yourself to make the most of your journey. By doing so, you set the stage not just for a memorable first day but also for a life-changing pilgrimage.

To talk to our team of specialists about the Camino de Santiago routes or book your adventure, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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