The winter months on the Camino de Santiago
In the winter months (December to March), the Camino de Santiago becomes a little-travelled route. Few pilgrims venture to Compostela in the so-called low season. However, the Camino de Santiago in winter is a route that continues to be alive and has many wonders to offer, including its tranquillity.
During the winter, the silence and solitude of the landscapes and villages are undoubtedly the main protagonists. Doing the Camino de Santiago during the winter months can be a wonderful experience.
Is it advisable to do the Camino de Santiago in low season?
The Camino de Santiago can be done at any time of the year. Some people think that it is not possible to do the Camino de Santiago in winter or that it is even irresponsible to try. However, we do not feel the same way.
Obviously, a pilgrimage to Compostela during the winter requires more planning, as you will find fewer services and the weather will be much harder than during the rest of the seasons. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or unrecommended.
After all, how many people are mountaineering and climbing in winter, how many people don’t go out on mountain trekking tours during the colder months of the year? Lots of them! Cold, rain or snow don’t make life stop. If you like nature, winter is also a fantastic season to enjoy.
The only thing to keep in mind if you do the Camino de Santiago in winter is that you should be more cautious, be more foresighted, and choose the right route for you. In this blog post we give you some tips for preparing the Camino de Santiago during the cold months.
Who can do the Camino de Santiago in winter?
The Camino de Santiago is an experience suitable for everyone. What happens is that not everyone likes to give up the heat of their home during the winter to go out and deal with adverse weather conditions, such as cold and rain.
Although it may surprise you, there are pilgrims who, without being great mountain lovers, would never do the Camino de Santiago in the summer, because of heatstroke among other reasons. There are people who prefer the cold and who only consider doing the Camino de Santiago in winter. Cruel winter or hard summer? It’s a matter of taste.
After all, the necessary physical conditions are almost the same, except for the fact that the winter backpack is usually heavier because you need to keep warm. That’s why we say it’s an experience for everyone.
In winter, as in the rest of the seasons of the year, there are many routes on the Camino de Santiago that can be adapted to the needs of each pilgrim. For example, if you are going to complete one of the routes that run at high altitude and on which, in all likelihood, you will find snow on the route, it is advisable to be used to walking in those conditions.
However, not all routes have these characteristics. The Portuguese routes on the Camino de Santiago, for example, run at very low altitudes, so they are optimal for winter, even for those with little mountain experience. The Vía de la Plata can also be a suitable itinerary for this season of the year.
Reasons for doing the Camino de Santiago in winter
In this article, we want to tell you some reasons that make the Camino de Santiago in winter an attractive destination. Every time the Camino de Santiago is done, we face a new experience, but we assure you, that doing the Camino in winter or summer, are two completely different experiences.
Less pilgrims: more peace and quiet
During the winter, the different routes on the Camino de Santiago are transformed. Gone are the roads with a large influx of pilgrims.
The months of April to the end of September is the time when the vast majority of people decide to do the Camino de Santiago. Therefore, in the winter months, you will find the tranquillity that many look for when they make their pilgrimage to Compostela.
More time for reflection
It is true that sometimes finding other pilgrims with whom to share a few kilometres is appreciated, but many people leave the pilgrim path without having found the opportunity to be on their own. If you decide to do the Camino de Santiago in winter, that will not happen to you.
We are not saying that in winter you will not find other pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, but that the numbers will be much smaller and therefore you will have more time for reflection. We assure you that you are not the only pilgrim who is thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago in winter!
The pleasure of silence
Since the routes of the Camino de Santiago are quite unpopulated in winter, along your path, you will be able to enjoy intensely the pleasure provided by the silence, both that of the route and that of the villages. The pace is much more leisurely.
More authentic towns and villages
With high season on the Camino de Santiago, some towns acquire an air that is not the one they genuinely have. Therefore, doing the Camino de Santiago in winter also involves discovering the villages in a much more authentic way.
In addition, during high season on the Camino de Santiago, the locals that inhabit the villages that cross the pilgrim routes, especially those of the Camino Frances, see such a volume of pilgrims pass before their eyes, that it is difficult to share time with them. During the winter, the landscape changes radically and the residents of these towns welcome with open arms all those who venture to do the Camino de Santiago in winter.
An experience closer to that of the ancient pilgrims
Doing the Camino de Santiago in winter brings you much closer to the experience of those ancient pilgrims during the Middle Ages. With much quieter roads than nowadays and with fewer services on offer too. They also walked in winter!
More time for your hobbies
In our blog on what to take on the Camino de Santiago, we told you that many pilgrims decide to carry with them some extra weight which allows them to enjoy their hobbies (reading, photography, drawing, writing, etc.). The problem is that at the time of greatest influx on the Camino it is sometimes difficult to find the time and tranquillity necessary to enjoy them.
In winter on the Camino de Santiago, you will have the opportunity to do it. The shorter days give you many quiet moments where you can enjoy your favourite hobbies and explore all your creativity.
It’s not cold, you’re just not covered up
Actually, on the Camino de Santiago it is not cold, what happens is that you are not well covered up. If you’re going to prepare your backpack properly, you shouldn’t really get cold.
Also when you start walking, you will warm up quickly. In fact, walking during the winter is the best way not to feel the cold.
Landscapes are one of the main rewards of making the Camino de Santiago in winter. At that time of year, the landscapes are radically different.
Depending on the route you choose, you will find snowy landscapes and the colour of the fields will not be the same. Nor rivers, which at that time of year tend to flow faster.
You’ll enjoy the gastronomy even more
When you do the Camino de Santiago in spring or summer, there are many traditional stews that pilgrims do not try because it is very hot or because they are typical of winter months. Doing the Camino de Santiago in winter will allow you to enjoy all the gastronomy of the summer and, in addition, the winter dishes.
To the above, it should be added that if you decide to do any route that crosses wine regions, such as the Camino Frances or the Camino Portugues, for example, you will enjoy red wine much more reds in low temperatures than if it is hot. A glass of red wine by a fireplace is the best plan for winter nights!
You don’t have to get up so early
It is true that in winter there are fewer hours of daylight, but enough to complete a stage of 20 or 25 kilometres. Many of the pilgrims who do the Camino de Santiago in hot seasons get up very early to avoid the high midday temperatures, some of them even start walking before dawn.
To complete the Camino de Santiago in winter it is not necessary to get up so early since heat is not a big problem. In fact, unlike during the summer, walking during the midday hours is recommended, because it is when the temperatures are at their highest.
Fewer services but less demand
Contrary to popular belief, accessing services (accommodation, restaurants, etc.) during the winter could be even easier. It is true that you will find many of them closed and that is why more planning is advised when doing the Camino de Santiago in winter, but those which are open will have much less demand.
This means that you will have no difficulty finding accommodation, among those that remain open during the winter. In fact, what does close are the public hostels, but within the category of hotels, cottages, etc. you will find a lot on offer.
The same goes for restaurants. There’s nothing worse than spending an hour waiting for service. This is common during some stages on the Camino de Santiago, but in winter, even in the busiest stages, you will not have to form long queues.
Do you feel like doing the Camino de Santiago in winter?
Now you know that doing the Camino de Santiago in winter is not dangerous. The important thing is to walk with common sense and pay close attention to the weather forecast.
Don’t fear the winter, because it is actually an experience that you can enjoy, in the same way as climbers, mountaineers and many other lovers of winter sports. The effort is certainly worth it.
Are now you now more encouraged to go on the Camino de Santiago in low season? If the answer is yes, don’t hesitate to contact us, we can advise you and help organize your Camino, taking care of the time of year in which you pilgrimage.