While the most popular time to explore the Camino de Santiago is undoubtedly between April and October, more and more pilgrims are choosing to brave the cold and trek this unique trail in winter time.
Pilgrims walking the Camino in winter will discover the trail in a completely different light: the peace and quiet of the trail this time of the year gives walkers time to reflect and take in the fascinating surroundings without the hustle and bustle of the Summer months.
To help you prepare for your adventure, the CaminoWays.com team has compiled some useful winter Camino tips:
1- The best route? Camino Frances
The last section of the famous Camino Frances or French Way, from Sarria to Santiago, is the best route for the winter months. This is by far the most popular section of the Camino so winter time will allow you to experience it in a more relaxed way, avoiding the Summer crowds. It takes walkers across Galicia’s rolling countryside so the terrain is not too challenging. In addition, since this is the most popular stretch of all Camino routes, many services will be still open to pilgrims in winter. This section can be completed in just a week, allowing you to experience the camaraderie and unique culture of the Camino.
*If you’d like to walk a different Camino route in winter, please contact our travel specialists for advice on your specific requirements. Make sure you book your trip in advance as some properties, especially those in small villages, may close over the winter months.
2- Mild temperatures
Galicia enjoys a mild Atlantic climate throughout the year, with temperatures rarely falling below 10 degrees Celsius in November and December. This makes the region perfect for walking in winter. Galicia (apart from the mountain regions, such as O Cebreiro) doesn’t get extreme weather: it is not unbearably hot in Summer and it doesn’t get too cold in Winter but you should always be prepared to deal with a bit of rain. After a day’s walk, you can reward yourself with delicious Galician comfort dishes like empanada and caldo galego.
3- Avoid trekking mountainous regions
Such as the Pyrenees, Montes de León and O Cebreiro on the Camino Frances. These can be treacherous in winter mainly due to snow fall. The mountain section from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles across the Napoleon Route will be actually closed from November to March (from this winter).
4- Take the right gear
Pack high-quality gear to ensure you are comfortable no matter what the weather may be. It’s best to wear layers of clothing, which can be removed depending on the conditions. Bring a decent waterproof jacket (and trousers) in case it rains and make sure you wear in your walking shoes before you go.
5- Enjoy the peace
Over 4,800 pilgrims arrived in Santiago in November last year, just under 2,000 in December and only 1,200 in January 2015 in comparison to nearly 55,000 in August 2015. While you will still encounter a few fellow pilgrims on the way, the winter Camino experience is more about your own personal journey and less about socialising.
6- Start early
Walking in winter you will have shorter walking days so make sure you start early, as soon as sun rises if possible, to make the most of the daylight. In Galicia you should still have about 10 hours of daylight in November for instance.
7- Taste Santiago
November is time for the tapas festival in Santiago, as well as the city’s best loved film festival Cineuropa lasting for the whole month. Stay a couple of extra nights in Santiago to explore this fantastic city, enjoy its cosy cafes and comforting cuisine. Kick back with a hot chocolate with churros to treat yourself after your trek. If you can, stay in the magnificent 5* Parador dos Reis Catolicos, which was built over 500 years ago as a pilgrim hospital.
When and Price: You can walk the last 100km of the famous Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago in just a week. Price from €560pp for a 6-night walking trip from Sarria to Santiago, staying in CaminoWays.com selected accommodation. Price includes: Half-board accommodation, luggage transfers and holiday pack with practical information. Does not include: Flights, transport and insurance.
Winter walking tips
Be sure to wrap up in the cold. Make sure to bring a pair of gloves and a warm hat if you are planning a walking holiday during the winter months. Water proof walking shoes and shoes with gripping soles are always a good idea for anytime of the year but especially in the winter months when you might expect to experience some rain. Always check the weather forecast in advance of your trip. If ice is forecast it would be a good idea to bring extra layers of clothing and a face mask. Walk with your hands out of your pockets. If you slip on an icy patch your hands will be the your protection.
Why we love Winter walks
Crisp, fresh air mixed with peaceful walking trails and charming Spanish towns. This sums up the winter Camino experience. Depending on the time of year some of the facilities and services may be closed so it is always best to check with our Camino travel experts in advance of your trip.
To check weather averages per Camino route and town, see our interactive Camino weather map here: Weather on the Camino de Santiago.
You might also want to read our blog post: What are the busiest months on the Camino?
For more winter Camino tips, advice on the different Camino de Santiago routes and to book your Camino trip, contact our travel specialists