The Camino de Santiago is an old pilgrimage route to the tomb of Apostle St.James. The history of the Camino goes back to the 9th century when the actual tomb of the Apostle was discovered. The first officially documented pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was made by the king of Asturias and Galicia Alfonso II in the 9th century on the Camino Primitivo or the Original Way from Oviedo to Santiago. In the Middle Ages popularity of the Camino increased significantly which resulted in building new bridges, marking the route and general improvement of the infrastructure.
The popularity of the Camino started decreasing in the 17th century by the 19th century the pilgrimage became basically non-existent. The Camino de Santiago started gaining back its popularity in the middle of the 20th century. According to the statistics from the Pilgrim’s Attention Office in Santiago in 2018 327 000 pilgrims arrived in Santiago de Compostela, 88 000 of them started in Sarria.
Walking the last 100km on the Camino Francés vs walking the last 100km on any other Camino
Sarria is not the only option of walking the required minimum of 100km to Santiago in order to get the Compostela, in fact, you can walk this 100km on any other Camino route e.g. Camino Portugués, Vía de la Plata, Camino Inglés, Camino Primitivo or Camino del Norte (the last two merge with the French Camino in Melide and Arzúa respectively).
For those who want to walk the last 100km on the more off the beaten track Camino here are some options;
- Valença/Tui on the Camino Portugués – 124km to Santiago
- Lugo on the Camino Primitivo – 102km
- Baamonde on the Camino del Norte – 102km
- Ferrol the starting point of the Camino Inglés – 116km
- Ourense on the Via de la Plata (Camino Sanabrés) – 105km
If you are not too worried about finishing in Santiago and getting the Compostela you can start in Santiago and walk to Finisterre (89km) or Muxía (86km) or both (115km), total distance will be just over 100km (depending on which one you walk). You won’t get the Compostela for this route but you can get the Finisterrana in Finisterre and Muxiana in Muxía.
If I had to choose a route to walk the last 100km I’d go for the Camino Inglés from Ferrol. Its total distance is 116km which is exactly the same distance as from Sarria to Santiago, the main difference here is that you actually get to finish the entire Camino. The scenery on the English Way is very similar to the last part of the Camino Frances; Galician forest, fields, and hills but there are fewer people. There are municipal and private albergues, hotels, restaurants on the way, the route is well-marked and it’s possible to arrange luggage delivery service.
Need to know about the Camino from Sarria
For the last 100 km you need two stamps per day in your Credential, one stamp you get at the place you stay (it can be an albergue or a hotel every place on the Camino has its stamp), the second stamp you can get in a cafe, restaurant, bar or a church on the way. If you want, you can put more stamps in your Credential there are no limits.
This part is the busiest and the most crowded on the Camino de Santiago in season be ready to see hundreds of pilgrims.
It’s possible to walk the Camino without a backpack you can send it every day from albergue (hotel) to albergue using a delivery service. A standard price is 4-5 Euro per backpack per stage.
Don’t forget to try local specialties on the Camino; Pimientos de Padron (fried green peppers, not spicy), Pulpo a la Feira or Pulpo a la Gallega (cooked octopus tentacles) and Tarta de Santiago (St.James’ cake). You can find these dishes in most restaurants on the Camino.
If finding accommodation of the way and arranging luggage transfer by yourself sounds like too much of a mission you can always book the Camino through a company and they’ll arrange everything for you, it’ll be more expensive but easier.
Spain like most European countries has 2 round pronged outlets (Type C/F) if you come from the US, Canada, UK, Australia or New Zealand you’ll need an adapter to charge your devices.
If you want to buy a guidebook for the Camino we can recommend A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés) 2019 by John Brierly we used his guides for several routes, they’re easy to use, very detailed and helpful.
Best time for walking the last 100km
Heat is not the biggest problem in Galicia it might be quite warm in July and August. From our experience rain is more of a problem here May to September weatherwise is the best period for walking. The end of August the beginning of September is the busiest time on the Camino Frances. The second half of May and June are probably the best months for walking; the weather is nice (it might still rain), the days are long and there are not too many people.
If you walk this route off-season October – April you might get quite a lot of rain and even snow in January – February.
Cost of the Camino de Santiago
Accommodation. The cheapest option is municipal albergues a bed in one of them costs 5-6 Euro. Private albergues are more expensive 10-12 Euro per bed but they’re smaller and more comfortable. A single private room costs 25-30 Euro, a double room – 35-40 Euro.
Food. Menu del Día or Pilgrim’s Menu is the most popular set meal on the Camino you can get it for lunch and sometimes dinner. It’s a set menu that includes a starter (usually soup, salad or pasta), the main dish (meat, chicken, fish, vegetarian, egg and bacon, etc.), bread basket, a drink (beer, house wine, cooldrink or water) and dessert or coffee. The average price is 10 Euro. Breakfast (coffee, juice, croissant/sandwich/toast) is between 3 and 4 Euro.
Shopping. It’s cheaper to buy food in a supermarket and cook for yourself, especially if you’re a couple of people cooking together, just make sure the place you’re going to stay has a kitchen. To buy food for lunch and dinner will cost 6-8 Euro per person average.
Luggage transfer. 3-5 Euro per backpack per stage, for 5 days it’ll be more or less 25 Euro per person.
Transport. Train Madrid to Santiago 33 Euro one way. One way flight to Santiago from Madrid with Ryanair (if you buy it in advance) is about 15-20 Euro without check-in luggage. It’s more expensive and longer to get to Santiago from Barcelona, by train it takes about 10 hours, there are some flights for 20-30 Euro one way.
Laundry. 3 Euro per load for washing, 3-4 Euro per load for drying. The machines are quite big you can share a load between two or three people which is cheaper and better for the environment. I personally washed socks, underwear, and shirts by hand every day and every 4th or 5th day did a machine laundry (I used dryer only once).
My detailed budget breakdown for the last 116km/5 days
- Accommodation (5 nights) – 84 Euro, 3 nights in dormitories and 2 nights in private. If you stick to dormitories the cost can be as low as 50 Euro.
- Eating out – 45 Euro, 1 Menu del Día, many sandwiches and tortillas
- Food shopping – 47 Euro
- Coffee, wine, beer – 10 Euro
- Laundry – 3 Euro
- Transport – 72 Euro; train Madrid-Santiago-Madrid – 66 Euro. Bus Santiago-Sarria – 6 Euro (online discount). Note! I took only Santiago-Madrid train I arrived in Sarria walking as I started the Camino in St.Jean Pied du Port.
Total: 261 Euro or 52 Euro per person per day including transport, accommodation, food, etc. If you use luggage transfer add 5 Euro to your daily budget.
Accommodation on the Camino
There are different types of accommodation on the Camino you can stay in shared dormitory rooms which will be the cheapest option or in private rooms in hotels or guest houses/pensions depending on your budget. Special hostels for pilgrims on the Camino are called albergues, they can be municipal (subsidized by the municipality, the cheapest option) or private (a bit more expensive but usually with better facilities).
Albergues usually have one or two big rooms with several bunk beds each, shared toilets and showers and a shared kitchen. Sometimes more expensive private albergues have normal single beds instead of bunk beds. An albergue is basically is hostel with dorm beds and shared facilities. Municipal albergues are exclusively for pilgrims to be able to stay there you have to present your Credential (pilgrim’s passport). Private albergues let anybody stay; pilgrims, tourists, students, etc.
Municipal albergues facilities
- Hot shower
- Kitchen (usually)
- Washing machine (sometimes)
- Blankets (usually but not always)
- Wi-fi (usually)
Private albergues facilities
- Hot shower
- Kitchen (usually)
- Washing machine (usually)
- Blankets (usually)
If you rather stay in a private room than in a dormitory there are many hotels and guest houses or pensions along the Camino. It’s more expensive but definitely more comfortable. When we walk the Camino we try to mix albergues and hotels and stay once or twice a week in private, It might be not a big issue if you walk for less than a week but when you walk a longer route that takes a month you get pretty tired of staying in dormitories.
My advice if you’re planning to walk the Camino in peak season from May to September book private accommodation at least a couple of days in advance. In my experience of walking in September, sometimes it was difficult to find a private single room on arrival everything was fully booked.
What to pack for the Camino de Santiago
A very important thing to remember is not to pack a lot of stuff if you’re planning to carry your backpack yourself. The lighter it is the easier the walk is. Take only the necessary things that you’re definitely going to need. If you’re planning on using luggage transfer service you can pack as much as you wish (note that usually your luggage is limited to 20-25kg per person). You can find a detailed packing list for the different seasons for men and women in THIS POST.
Luggage delivery service on the Camino
It’s possible to arrange luggage transfer from door to door every day. There are a couple of companies that deliver luggage on the Camino from Sarria e.g. Correos, Xacotrans, Pilbeo, and others. It’s a very simple system in the morning you put your backpack/suitcase at the reception area with an envelope that contains the address of your next place, your name, phone number and 4-5 Euro for delivery. Courier comes in the morning to pick up the backpacks. Usually by the time you arrive at the next place your luggage is already there. Note! Usually, you have to phone or ask at the reception to phone the night before to arrange the delivery.
Getting to Sarria
Madrid is probably the best city to fly into, there are many transport options from there. If you’re starting the Camino in Sarria the best option will be to fly to Santiago. A return flight from Madrid with Ryanair will cost from 30 Euro (if you book in advance especially in season), this fare doesn’t include check-in luggage. A train ride from Madrid to Santiago is 30 Euro one way, it can be booked online. There are flights from Barcelona as well for about 50 Euro return. A train or a bus from Barcelona to Santiago is not the best option, it takes 10-12 hours – an exhausting journey (we did it once).
From Santiago you can take a bus to Sarria, it takes 2h45min. and costs 12 Euro sometimes they have special discounts if you buy online (6 Euro). There are many flights to Santiago from different cities in Spain and Europe. If you have an international flight you can fly to Madrid or Barcelona first and then catch a local flight to Santiago.
Accommodation in Sarria
If you’re going to walk the Camino in the peak season (May-September) and going to arrive in Sarria after lunchtime I’d recommend booking a place to stay beforehand. There are many albergues, hostels and guest houses in the town but I’m sure you’ll be able to find a bed to sleep but if you want to stay in private booking in advance is highly recommended.
Albergues and hotels in Sarria
- Budget | Obradoiro | Albergue San Lázaro | Pensión-Albergue Puente Ribeira| Pension Escalinata |
- Middle price | Pensión O Camiño | Albergue La Casona de Sarria | PENSION SERRANO | Pensión Casa do Gallo Sarria |
- Luxury | Hotel Novoa | Hotel Alfonso IX | Casa Baran |
Where to get the Pilgrim’s Passport (Credential) in Sarria
Every pilgrim needs the Credential with stamps (two stamps per day for the last 100km) from albergues, hotels, restaurants or churches to get the Compostela in Santiago. You’ll need it as well as a proof if you’re planning to stay in municipal albergues as they’re exclusively for pilgrims. Private albergues and hotels don’t require it. You can get a Credential in Sarria in Church of Santa Mariña de Sarria, Monastery La Magdalena, some private albergues sell Credentials as well.
Arriving in Santiago
The Camino finishes at the Cathedral de Santiago on the Plaza Obradoiro.
You’re not allowed inside the cathedral with a backpack you can go to your hotel and leave it there or go to the luggage storage which is 5min. away from the square in front of the Pilgrim’s Office, there you can leave your backpack for 24 hours for 3 Euro.
Pilgrim’s Mass takes place every day at 12 pm in the Cathedral. Note! As for October 2019, the cathedral is under renovation and the Mass takes place in Iglesia de San Francisco at 12 pm.
To get the Compostela you have to go to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office located on Rúa das Carretas street, 5min. walk from the cathedral. You go there first and take a number depending on the season you might wait for 30min. to a couple of hours. You don’t have to sit and wait there you can follow the queue online.
You’ll need your Credential and passport or ID (for EU citizens), it’s free. The Compostela contains your name and the date it was issued.
If you want more personalized paper you can get the Certificate of Distance (both can be obtained at the same time) which has more personal details e.g. how far you walked, where you started etc. It costs 3 Euro.
Walking stages on the Camino Francés from Sarria
- Total distance – 116km
- The time required – 5 days
- Walking surface – 45km asphalt, 71km footpath/gravel road
- Total ascent (over 5 days) – 2373m
- Total descent – 2587m
- Average cost – 25-30 Euro per person per day (if staying in albergues in dormitories), 40-45 Euro pp. per day (is staying in hotels in private rooms).
- Accommodation options – municipal and private albergues (hostels), hotels, guest houses.
- Route marking – yellow arrows and shells painted on trees, walls, ground, etc. and distance poles that show how many kilometers are left to Santiago.
Day 1. Sarria to Portomarín
- Distance – 22km
- Time – 4h20min.*
- Walking on asphalt – 13km
- Walking on the road – 500m
- Ascent – 496m
- Descent – 570m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
*All given times don’t include stops on the way, it’s pure walking time. I walk quite fast I’d suggest adding 1-2 hours to my times (depending on your fitness level).
If you start in Sarria and it’s the first walking day for you I strongly recommend to take it easy, stop for rest on the way, drink enough water and don’t try to chase after other walkers. There will be some pilgrims who have been walking for weeks and they are definitely in better walking shape since they are already used to it.
On the way, there will be a couple of places (farms) selling local home-made products like jams, bread, cheese etc. everything is very fresh and tasty.
- A nice and peaceful countryside scenery; chestnut and oak forest, small farms and villages, wheat fields.
- A beautiful town of Portomarín with its cozy streets, inviting restaurants, an interesting church and stunning views over the lake Embalse de Belesar. A very interesting thing about the town is that in 1963 it was completely flooded, some historical buildings like
San Nicolás Church or Chapel de la Nieves were moved higher uphill where you can find them nowadays.
- An easy walking day with several short ascents and descents mostly in the first half.
- A rocky and steep descent just before Portomarín.
Accommodation in Portomarín
I stayed in a private room at Pension Perez after being for 4 weeks on the Camino and mostly staying in albergues I really wanted to have some privacy. The pension is a bit away from the center, about 3min. walking. The room was nice, clean and comfortable with a great view over the river and the town.
More accommodation options in Portomarín
- Budget | Municipal albergue de peregrinos | PortoSantiago | Ultreia | Albergue Aqua Portomarin | Albergue Ferramenteiro |
- Middle price | Pensión Aqua Rooms Portomarin | A Fontana de Luxo | Casa Ribeira Sacra Portomarin |
- Luxury | Casona da Ponte | Guest House El Padrino | VISTALEGRE HOTEL |
Day 2. Portomarín to Palas de Rei
- Distance – 25km
- Time – 4h30min.
- Walking on asphalt – 3km
- Walking on the road – not really walking on the road but quite a lot of walking on the gravel path next to the road
- Ascent – 580m
- Descent – 431m
- Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
It was a nice walking day a bit tougher and longer than Day 1 with many places on the way to stop for lunch or coffee. Most of the route goes through the forest and fields sometimes next to the road with very few cars.
- Beautiful Galician forest.
- A couple of stalls with fruit, snacks and cool drinks for a donation.
- 350m ascent during the first half of the day.
- A couple of stretches of walking next to the road on the gravel path.
Accommodation in Palas de Rei
I stayed in Albergue Zendoira, it’s a private albergue with good facilities. The bunk beds here are really big, each bed has curtains (which gives you privacy), personal light and power sockets. Your bed is almost like a small private room. They have private rooms as well. The albergue is about 400m away from the Camino but close to the supermarket and a couple of restaurants.
More accommodation options in Palas de Rei
- Budget | Municipal albergue de Peregrinos | Albergue Outeiro | Albergue a Casina di Marcello| Pensión Restaurante Casa Camiño II |
- Middle price |Pensión Residencia Barcelona | O Castelo | Pensión Palas |
- Luxury | Casa Carla | Pensión As Hortas | A Casa do Avó |
Day 3. Palas de Rei to Arzua
- Distance – 29km
- Time – 5h30min.
- Walking on asphalt – 11km
- Walking on the road – 0km
- Ascent – 588m
- Descent – 724m
- Difficulty level – 3 out of 5
It’s the longest day on the Camino from Sarria to Santiago if you don’t feel strong enough you can split it into two days, walk 15km to Melide, stay there, eat pulpo, rest and the next day walk the rest 14km to Arzúa.
- Melide a pretty big town compared to the other places on the way. It’s famous for its pulpo a la Feira (cooked octopus’ tentacles served in olive oil and spices). It’s a must-try here, there are a couple of pulperias (restaurants that specialize in the pulpo) right on the Camino you won’t miss them.
- Ribadiso de Baixo – a tiny village about 2km before Arzúa, might be a good option to finish the day if you don’t want to stay in a bigger and busier Arzúa. There are a couple of albergues here including one municipal.
- Many shorts ups and downs throughout the day.
- Quite a lot of walking on asphalt, about 11km.
Accommodation in Arzúa
I stayed in Albergue Ultreia, the albergue itself was good but the Menu del Dia here was the hit, it was one of the best Menus I had on the Camino in the whole month. The facilities were good, the place was clean and quite comfortable, it’s located right on the Camino.
- Budget | Municipal albergue de peregrinos | O Albergue de Selmo | The Way Hostel Arzua | Abergue O Santo | De Camino |
- Middle price | Albergue Pensión Cima do Lugar | Pensión Casa Frade | Pensión Begoña |
- Luxury | Pensión Luis | La Casona de Nené | HOTEL ARZÚA |
Day 4. Arzúa to O Pedrouzo
- Distance – 20km
- Time – 4h.
- Walking on asphalt – 7km
- Walking on the road – 2km next to the road
- Ascent – 341m
- Descent – 468m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
To be honest we’ve walked this part from Arzúa 3 times (the end of three Camino routes is the same) and never walked this last part in two days. We usually walk in one day from Arzúa to Santiago but I know it’s very far and not many people want to torture themselves like this. So I split this day into two.
Right at the exit from Arzúa, there is a split the right route continues along the road, the left goes into the forest, we´ve always taken the left one to be away from the busy road. A couple of kilometers after Arzúa the distance marking disappears you´ll see the word Complementario instead, don’t worry about it you’re still on the right way you’ll start seeing distances again after 2km or 3km.
Most part of the day you walk through the forest from time to time the Camino goes next to the road but not for long. There are many restaurants and cafes on the way to stop.
Some pilgrims in order to make their last day shorter walk all the way to Monto do Gozo which is just 5km outside of Santiago and stay there for the night. We’ve never stayed there but from what I’ve heard from my friends who stopped there for the night it wasn’t nice, there were cockroaches and mice and it was kind of dirty. The place doesn’t look great from the outside either we’ve never felt like staying there.
If you want to walk an extra distance I’d suggest walking to Lavacollas which is 9km from O Pedrouzo, the total distance from Arzúa will be 29km and your last day will be only 11km to the cathedral.
- Beautiful forest, small villages, fields.
- Several ups and downs on the way though nothing steep nor long.
Accommodation in O Pedrouzo
- Budget | Municipal albergue de peregrinos | Albergue O Trisquel | Albergue O Burgo | Albergue Mirador de Pedrouzo | Pension Javier Pedrouzo|
- Middle price | PR Una Estrella Dorada|Pension 23-Vinte e Tres |
Pensión LO | Pension ARCA |
- Luxury | CASA SANTAIA | Pensión Residencial Platas | Apartamento Cefas |
Day 5. O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela
- Distance – 20km
- Time – 3h50min.
- Walking on asphalt – 11km
- Walking on the road – 3km along a very quiet road with no cars
- Ascent – 368m
- Descent – 394m
- Difficulty level – 2 out of 5
Many people start the last day very early to make it to 12pm Pilgrim’s Mass if you start from O Pedrouzo at about 7.00-7.30am you’ll make it in time. The very beginning of the walk is beautiful; green dense forest, no cars, no houses, very quiet.
The second half from the airport and after Lavacollas is not my favorite part on the Camino there is one long stretch between Lavacollas and Monte do Gozo along the road that feels like it takes ages to walk 4-5km. Once you’re at Monte do Gozo the last 5km go very fast, you start walking through the city and don’t really notice how you reach the cathedral.
- Forest at the beginning of the day.
- Arriving at the Cathedral with the sounds of the Galician bagpipe (from morning till late evening there is always a musician playing at the Palace Arch (El Arco de Palacio) a small tunnel that leads to the Obradoiro Square and the cathedral, keep some change ready to tip the bagpipe player.
- There are a couple of ascents and descents at the end of the walk, some of them are quite steep but not long.
- A stretch between 10 and 15km a bit monotonous, it always feels long but after Monte do Gozo you enter the city and the last 5km are very fast.
Accommodation in Santiago de Compostela
There are many places to stay in the city but many of the cheaper places are located outside the historical center. When you book a place, make sure it’s not too far from the cathedral if you’re planning to do some sightseeing or go out at night. We’ve been to Santiago 7 times and every time we stayed in different places (we like trying new things).
Our favorite places to stay in Santiago de Compostela
- Hospedaria Seminario Mayor a special place for pilgrims to stay in Santiago
A symbolic place for pilgrims in Santiago, it has special rooms for pilgrims for 25 Euro for a single room and 35 Euro for a double. The rooms are quite modest and old fashion; a bed, a table, and a bathroom but it’s an experience on its own and you won’t be able to find a cheaper private accommodation so close to the cathedral. Buffet breakfast is included in the price and it’s quite good. It’s better to book it at least 2 weeks beforehand as it’s usually fully booked. In peak season (September, May) I’d suggest booking it even earlier. I booked my room 3 weeks ahead in September. The easiest way to book it is via e-mail, they reply very quick (in a couple of hours).
2. Albergue Santiago KM0
The location of this place is great, next to the cathedral, on the same street as the Pilgrim’s Office (3 houses away) and at the starting point of the Camino Finisterre. The albergue is very comfortable; several rooms with a couple of bunk beds and an attached bathroom, a lounge area, and a small kitchenette. Each bed has its own light, power socket, USB charger, and a locker. The staff here is very helpful and friendly. Book here.
3. Pensión Residencia Fonseca
If you want to stay in a private cozy and budget-friendly place right next to the cathedral this is the perfect option. The location is great, the place is small, only 6 rooms, very clean and comfortable. There are two shared bathrooms, a small lounge area with a microwave. I stayed here for 3 nights after the Camino Francés and absolutely liked it. Pay attention to their check-in hours, it’s somewhere between 10.30 am and 3.30 pm. Book here.
More accommodation options in Santiago
- Budget | Albergue Seminario Menor | Albergue The Last Stamp | Albergue O Fogar de Teodomiro | Pensión Mar Azul |
- Middle budget | Hotel Alda Algalia | PR Fornos | Casa Douro | Casa Celsa-Barbantes |
- Luxury | Hotel Praza Quintana | Hotel Altaïr | Hotel Virxe da Cerca by Pousadas de Compostela | Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos |
Things to do in Santiago after finishing the Camino
Of course, celebrate the end of the Camino. If you want to go out to celebrate, Rua do Franco is one of the best streets in the city for it. There are several tapas bars with a huge variety of tapas and drinks. For those who love seafood and fish I can recommend tapas bars Petiscos do Cardeal and Taberna do Bispo they have some delicious tapas. It’s not expensive I usually paid between 6 and 7 Euro for 3 amazing tapas and a glass of wine.
Do a day trip to Finisterre & Muxía from Santiago. If you still have a couple of days in Santiago, a trip to “the end of the world” is highly recommended especially on a nice sunny day. Both places Finisterre and Muxía are located on the Atlantic coast and offer some great views over the rugged cliffs and sandy beaches.
Visit the cathedral and its museum with a guide and get to know more about the history of Santiago de Compostela. The tour takes about 2 hours and includes entrance tickets to the museum.
Go on a day trip along the River Arousa and Rias Baixas. Visit the charming towns of Pontevedra, Combarro, A Lanzada and try local wines and mussels. Visit of a local wine farm and wine tasting is included. The entire trip takes about 10 hours, it’s a great way to spend a day enjoying the best of Galicia.
Recommended books and guidebooks for the Camino
- A Pilgrim’s guide to the Camino de Santiago; Camino Frances by John Brierley. Paperback.
- Camino de Santiago Maps by John Brierley. Paperback & Kindle.
- The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. Paperback and Kindle.
- Ordinary Magic; Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago by Cameron Powell. Paperback.
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