If you’ve exhausted the many long distance walking trails in Ireland or simply want to walk in a place where the elements aren’t going to constantly test your resolve then it’s time you considered doing a Camino.
Ready yourself for a splash of colour, culture, new cuisine, fresh faces and most importantly an epic adventure that may well change your life. There are a ton of Camino routes to choose from, the most popular amongst them being the French Way, the Northern Way and the Portuguese Way. Choose one of them or go hardcore and pick one on the fringes. Walk or bike it, do a small section or extend it all the way to Fisterra. Just do it, the Camino is waiting.
Here are five reasons why the Camino should be your next adventure.
1. It’s adventure with a safety net attached
Usually when undertaking long distance walks you’ll need decent navigation skills, maps, compasses, the whole lot. But the Camino de Santiago is waymarked (properly waymarked not like some of Ireland’s ‘waymarked’ trails). This makes it a hassle-free undertaking and takes a load off your mind. All you have to do is follow the yellow arrow. It is all either off-road, on pathways or along quiet country roads.
You don’t need to carry a ton of equipment like tents and stoves. All the routes are set out in manageable daily distances so you always end up with accommodation near the end of your walk. It’s the ideal first adventure for those who want to dip their toe into a challenge without getting bogged down in the logistics. Or a great training challenge before doing a big expedition.
2. Room to just breathe
When was the last time you had the time and headspace to just be alone with your thoughts and not have your head consumed with work, family, money, drama etc.? The Camino is the perfect way to pare things right back and simplify your life for a few weeks. All you have to do is concentrate on putting one step in front of the other. Breathe in the fresh air, switch off your gadgets, escape from reality for a while and just walk. Take the time to revel in the burn in your legs, the heat on the back of your neck and take in the panoramic views surrounding you.
3. Embrace the culture and scenery
Most of you will have been to mainland Europe before whether to laze on a beach resort along the coast or to visit the tourist hot spots, but the Camino offers you a chance to visit the real country. Meet the locals, try the cuisine, all the good stuff! The weather is typically better than at home and the views will not disappoint. Think undulating hills, dirt paths, vineyards, red terracotta tiled roofs, whitewashed walls and several carafes of wine.
4. The Camino traditions
There are a few traditions on the Camino that make the whole experience that bit more magical. One of our favourites is the pilgrim passport. You pick it up at your start point and get it stamped in the shops, restaurants and top spots along the way. It will also get you discounted meals in many of the restaurants en route that offer a pilgrim menu. It’s such a unique token to take home as a souvenir of your time.
If you manage to make it beyond Santiago and all the way to Fisterra, another tradition is burning your clothes or boots at the very end. Or for the more eco and safety conscious among you, a swim in the waters of Langosteira beach is a must. The symbol of the Camino is the scallop shell, another keepsake to take home with you. You might be lucky enough to spot one on the beach or else you can buy them for a few quid along the route.
Finally, you’ll notice from day one people greeting you with the words ‘Buen Camino’. This is a lovely tradition that will make you feel instantly at ease and welcome in your new environment. You will meet people young and old, from every background, all with their own story to tell. You can go with a gang or by yourself. Whatever you choose, you’ll make friends for life.
5. Reaching Santiago
There is nothing quite like the end of a long journey. You will remember that moment when you walk into Santiago de Compostela for the rest of your days. The crowds and the atmosphere are just electric and all the Camino routes merge here so there is a constant flow of people. The cobbled streets of Santiago fill up with pilgrims taking pictures, hugging, sipping a beer at the side of the road, pulling off their hiking boots and socks and letting their feet breathe. It’s a pretty special sight to behold and be a part of.
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