Walking the Camino del Norte: My first Camino
The Camino del Norte has always been on my " I MUST GO THERE" list, so when I was asked to head out in June for my Staff Familiarization trip my flights were booked within days. Since I worked with the trip, and spoke to customers and suppliers daily I had already made up my own pre-assumptions on what to expect.
My first assumptions of the Camino del Norte: The most challenging Camino, the most Coastal route, with unpredictable wet weather. Where they correct?
Is it the most challenging?
I haven’t done any other Camino trip however I can genuinely say half way through this itinerary I was already planning my next leg. Although I haven’t completed any other Camino trips I have done plenty of other long-distance treks including the West Highland Way in Scotland and the Via Francigena in Italy. Surprisingly the last few days of the Camino del Norte reminded me very much of the WHW. To answer the question, there is nothing technically difficult about this route however it is tough on the legs since there is continuous ascent and descent involved, along with varied terrain and you are often faced with the elements. As soon as you reach the next town, check in to your accommodation, and enjoy an ice-cold beer your legs instantly forgive you. My boyfriend hadn’t really trained for this trip (I did warn him) and he had an incredible time. However, I would highly recommend to train for at least a few months before-hand so that you can really enjoy the experience.
Is it the most Coastal?
It is indeed one of the most Coastal Camino trips which we offer (we also offer Camino Portugues Coastal Way) that said, its important to note that the scenery is varied and it's not following the Coastal Path entirely, in-fact the majority of this particular section is in-land. On this itinerary, the first 2 days of walking follows the Coast, with overnight stops in charming fishing villages. Once you reach the Coastal town of Deba you say goodbye to the coast for a few days and head in-land to Bilbao, surrounded by the beautiful Basque countryside. I found the varied scenery a real highlight of the trip, it was incredible walking with the Coast to my right and the mountains to my left, immersed in nature. Top tip: If you love Coastal walking, Stage 2 of the Camino del Norte is the most coastal section.
Does it rain as much as Scotland?
I don’t know if we were one of the lucky ones, BUT… it only rained for the first 2 days. We did have some short showers in the evening throughout the trip but overall, we had beautiful sunshine-y weather. If you are doing this trip with guaranteed sunshine in mind it might not be the best choice as it is known for its changeable weather. However, if you are there to enjoy amazing views & food, pack a light rain-jacket and you might be one of the lucky ones too. Good News, it does not rain as much as Scotland!
Sunshine on the Camino del Norte
If you are thinking of taking on the Camino del Norte, you won't be disappointed! There are a few things I wish I knew before going.
Good to know:
- It's not like the popular Camino trips such as the Frances, don’t be surprised if you only see only 1 or 2 walkers each day.
- It is very well-way marked. I barely used the maps or guidebook. It's my favourite kind of walking when you can zone out, and embrace nature.
- Spend an extra night in San Sebastian and Bilbao if you have time, they are incredible cities and 24 hours really isn’t enough time for the sights, food & wine.
- Treat your post-walk tummy to Pinxtos, usually served between 5-7PM it’s the perfect appetiser before dinner. It's basically small bites of bread topped with cheese, meat, fish etc. displayed beautifully across the bar. They range from 1-3 EUR it’s a great way to sample the local cuisine.
- Learn a little Spanish. I put my hands up and admit I wish I was better at learning languages however on this trip I really tried and surprised myself. Not everyone you meet especially in the rural towns speaks English if you can ask for your food or your bill they really appreciate it. (You will survive without it though)
If you are ready for a challenge, looking for an alternative Camino, or just want to tick off this incredible Camino del Norte route contact our team of Specialists here at Macs Adventure. We will be happy to discuss the itineraries which we offer, and find the right one for you. Buen Camino!