Traveling solo isn’t always easy when you are a woman. Adventures such as the Camino de Santiago are exhilarating, but, when you’re constantly thinking about all the things that could go wrong when you are alone, they can also be a bit nerve-wracking.
The Camino is challenging in many ways, so no one can blame you if you find the idea of making this pilgrimage alone a bit scary.
The following guide will help you set those worries aside and make the most of your Camino.
Female travellers walking the Camino solo… Is It safe?
Spain is one of the most tourist-friendly countries in the world, and the Camino de Santiago is one of the most popular pilgrimages in Europe. Last year, around 347 thousand pilgrims walked the Camino. The women even slightly outnumbered the men (51% to 49%).
Even though many routes go through remote areas, the Camino is one of the safest trips one can make.
After all, most pilgrims walk the Camino to strengthen their faith, get in touch with their spirituality, or test their fitness levels.
You can count on support in the form of information centers and albergues (pilgrim hostels) if you decide to walk one of the more popular routes. The vast majority of the pilgrims are polite and respectful, and the locals often go out of their way to accommodate them.
After all, the Camino is their livelihood, and the towns and villages along the major routes have hosted pilgrims for centuries.
They want to make sure that every pilgrim has a joyful and safe experience, but especially those that travel solo.
You should still use common sense, as you would on any other trip, but you won’t have to worry about someone dragging you off in some dark, lonely corner.
Just to be on the safe side, here are a few preventative tips:
- Don’t keep all of your money in one place. Divide it into several pockets.
- Keep your documents and money with you at all times when you are staying at albergues.
- Don’t bring expensive items, such as jewelry.
- Make sure to always keep other pilgrims in sight when walking.
- Avoid walking at night. Most pilgrims are early birds, so, if you subscribe to the “safety in numbers” hypothesis, be sure to start your daily walks early in the morning. And, even though trail arrows are well-marked, following them at night can be difficult.
- Carry a backup phone, and make sure it’s fully charged. Have all the important emergency numbers in Spain on hand. The most important emergency number in the country is 112, but it’s not the only one.
It’s normal to feel lonely at the start of your journey
As there is no one around to reassure you that everything will be fine, it’s easy to feel super nervous and lonely at the start.
Do know that many solo pilgrims feel like this when they arrive in Spain—both male and female.
But you can always make friends when you travel solo and the Camino is one of the best places in the world to make new friends.
If you begin your Camino in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or any other popular starting point, the excitement of other pilgrims will rub off on you.
Most pilgrims are very open and full of energy. You can rest assured that you will quickly befriend someone—if you want to, of course. For many pilgrims, the Camino has been a great bonding experience.
It’s not uncommon for a pilgrim to befriend another solo traveler at the beginning of the Camino and triumphantly complete their pilgrimage with their new buddy.
There is a feeling of camaraderie among pilgrims, so even if you are a die-hard introvert, you will feel more comfortable talking to strangers on the Camino.
You will have plenty of opportunities to bond with other pilgrims and even forge lifelong friendships.
Which path to take
It’s a good idea to take one of the most popular routes, such as the Portuguese Way, the Northern Way, or the French Way, if this is your first time walking the Camino or if you are traveling solo.
All of the major routes are gorgeous, so you won’t be making a mistake no matter which one you choose.
You will have a chance to enjoy wild nature as well as bustling towns. You will come across many charming vineyards and rustic villages.
There are a lot of resources and guidebooks on the most popular Camino routes, which is one more reason why you should choose one of these three.
When you are walking the Camino solo, all the responsibilities fall on you. So you’ll have to research distances, routes, lodging, places to eat, etc.
This task will be much easier if you bring a Camino guidebook that details your entire route.
You can also download a dedicated Camino app, but do know that most of those apps are created by people who haven’t been on the Camino.
The best guidebooks are written by seasoned pilgrims and include tips that come from their first-hand experiences.
When to go
May and September offer the most pleasant weather, but most pilgrims walk the Camino in July and August.
The Iberian peninsula can be scorching hot in the summer, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you prepare well.
If you really want to enjoy solitude on your Camino, then winter is perhaps the best time for your pilgrimage.
However, some roads and albergues are closed during winter, so your Camino will require even more planning.
What to bring
No matter when you plan to walk your Camino, it’s best to pack light.
As a rule of thumb, the load you carry in your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of your bodyweight.
Buy a pair of good hiking shoes and make sure to break them in before you embark on your pilgrimage.
Get a backpack that’s light, but big enough for all your essentials.
Even though you will be staying in hostels, you should bring a lightweight sleeping bag and pillow.
Some albergues don’t provide blankets and many of them have bed bug problems. On that note, be sure to bring a bed bug spray.
Since you will probably be waiting to let your feet breathe at the end of each day, make sure to pack flip-flops or sandals.
Breathable, moisture-wicking clothing is an absolute must on the Camino.
Do yourself a favor and abandon the idea of bringing fashionable items with you on your pilgrimage.
Bring socks, t-shirts, sports bras, underwear, leggings, and trousers that are made of quick-dry fabrics.
Cotton clothing is a poor choice since it will just get heavier (and smellier) as you sweat.
Spring and fall on the Camino can get rainy. If you plan to make your pilgrimage then, you should pack a waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers.
It’s a good idea to buy a first aid kit or make one yourself. Your first aid kit should include:
- Normal bandages and blister bandages
- Sewing kit
- Antiseptic cream
- Pain relief gel
- Vaseline (for hotspots on your feet)
- Medical tape
Take advantage of the locals’ kindness
Again, the locals are very accommodating. If you are not sure where to go, what to eat, or what to do, take advantage of their kindness.
A Spanish travel phrasebook will get you far. It can really come in handy if you get lost.
On top of being fun and adventurous, walking the Camino is perfectly safe.
Don’t let fear stop you from making wonderful memories on your spiritual journey.
If you still have some apprehensions, you can join the “Buddy System for Women on the Camino” group on Facebook.
Save this Camino solo travel guide on Pinterest
About the author
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.