Weather: When to Walk the Camino
There are two main factors that should influence your decision on the time of year to go on the Camino: weather and the peak summer holiday season. Choosing the right time of year can have a huge impact on your experience.
Hotter weather means lighter luggage!
Going into my second Camino I was determined to keep my backpack as light as possible. The dream is just to bring two sets of clothes: one you wear, and the other is for washing/drying when you reach the albergue. In the hottest summer months you can get by with just two light shorts and two light tshirts! Having said that, a warm fleece, waterproofs and good pair of trousers is always advisable for cold mornings before the Sun rises or those wet foggy days.
Aside from your clothes, hotter weather allows you to bring the lightest possible sleeping bag. I brought just a silk sleeping bag liner, which felt great and weighed next to nothing. For example this one here on amazon, although you can probably find it cheaper in a local camping outlet. I used my extra clothes under the hood of the liner to make a pillow, and really appreciated the luxury of an extra layer between me and the albergue beds!
The weather can vary quite a bit between different places on the route, so we’ve chosen three main points, marked with burgundy circles on the path below:
Bilbao – warm summers and mild winters with a higher than average amount of rainfall:
León – warm, dry summers with cold winters:
Santiago de Compostela – relatively cool, dry summers with cool, wet winters.
Overall, the general consensus is that the best weather is from April – September excluding the heat of August. Personally I would aim for June or September!
The Peak Holiday Season
July and August is the peak holiday season in Europe, and the only real opportunity that university students have to make the full pilgrimage during the year. On the Camino Francés, in the last 100km before Santiago de Compostela there are literally thousands of people walking during the peak season. While it’s nice to meet lots of different people, you miss some of the peace and tranquility of the environment. However, the biggest downside of overcrowding is the rush for albergue spaces! It starts to feel like a bit of a race, and people get up far too early just to have a head start to get to the next stop.
If you have to travel during August, it’s still an amazing experience so don’t let anything put you off! I walked the Camino Francés during August and was always able to find a space in an albergue. Another option is to walk a less popular route which has less people. My second pilgrimage was the Camino Portugués. Again, I walked this during peak season but just met one other couple walking on the whole of my first day!
If you do decide to walk during the height of the summer, take full precaution against the sun. Bring sun screen, tablets for lost salts from excess perspiration, a good hat and sunglasses. Buy sunglasses from an official camping outlet – those fake ray-bans you bought in the market in Madrid will do more harm than good! Keep on top of forest fire warnings – I directly encountered the aftermath of these while walking on the route through Portugal and heard some pretty scary stories.