The Camino de Santiago closed in March 2020 because of CoronaVirus, but the hopes and aspirations of the pilgrims and other travellers remain alive. So when will El Camino re-open?
For those walkers, pilgrims and other travellers hoping to travel this famous route some time soon, the general message coming out of Spain at the moment is: “Pilgrim – now is not the time . . The Camino can wait.”
When will LOCKDOWN end along El Camino in Spain?
Here at The Good Luck Gift Shop we are keeping a careful eye on what is happening in the news coming out of Santiago de Compostela. For example, at the time of writing this article, both the Cathedral and the Pilgrim Office remain closed.
The Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Way of Santiago is asking that everyone interested in walking the Camino should take “Individual Responsibility” and continue to follow the recommendations of the health authorities and “Stay at Home” with respect to COVID-19 CoronaVirus. They have produced a little video of many people connected with the Camino repeating the mantra: “Me quedo en casa – I am staying at home”. Indeed, the message throughout Spain is “Quédate a casa” (stay at home!) Now is not the time to walk El Camino de Santiago (anyway it is “closed” and you would receive a fine if you attempted it (that is, assuming you could even get into the area which is, like the rest of the Spanish peninsular, in “lockdown”. All the hostels, hotels, albergues and other “shelters” have been closed on all roads to Santiago.
So, “dear Pilgrim,” as the Authorities in Galicia say, “please calm your longing for the Camino until everything returns to normal” It is better to travel safe than sorry.
BUT, people ask: When will that be?
When will El Camino re-open? When will flights resume to Spain?
If you want a realistic answer to this question, it looks like September at the earliest. “El Camino puede esperar” they say – but can you?
Well, for one thing, there is a lot to be said for walking El Camino in the Autumn or September:
– It is less crowded
– There are milder temperatures than in the popular months of July and August – although good weather is no longer assured
– There is more accommodation available
So, as they say in Spain: “Ultreya!” (the response is Suseia!) (Onward! > Go further!)
In the meantime, “en solidaridad con los caminantes” we have produced a good luck necklace with the Yellow Arrow marker symbol of Camino de Santiago . . which could be given as a little gift of support for a disappointed friend who had to cancel their trip on El Camino this year (or postpone). We sell it at cost price (only the postage needs be paid):
More information about the feasibility of the Camino de Santiago route will be posted here as it becomes available.
Ultreya! Et Suseia! Buen Camino! El Camino WILL open again
Trip cancelled? Help friends and loved-ones keep the dream of walking El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James) alive
The Spanish Government has announced major measures against the Coronavirus which will impact heavily on those planning or wishing to walk El Camino de Santiago this year. And, in effect, at the moment, El Camino is closed.
Camino de Santiago closed?
In consequence of the spread of this COVID-19 virus, the hostels, albergues and other shelters along much and many parts of the Camino de Santiago are closed – as indeed is the Cathedral de Santiago itself, and the associated Pilgrim Office.
But most pilgrims and other travellers are keeping their faith and planning to achieve their goal of doing a Camino – and friend / relatives are busy consoling them and wishing them good luck in achieving their goal at a future date.
If anyone wants to send a small gift of condolence to a friend or loved-one who has had to cancel their long-planned Camino, we offer some little items in our shop online that could perhaps help them to keep the dream alive .
There is no escaping the fact that, even if someone is still intending to travel along Spain’s famous Way of St James, it would be extremely difficult at the moment – if not actually impossible. At the very least, the spread of COVID-19 over the Iberian Peninsular is causing a distinct lack of support services such as accommodation, as well as the issue of personal and community or social health and wellbeing.
Considerable alarm has now overcome the country, and especially in the northern regions of Spain which traditionally attract foreign visitors onto the Camino at this time of year (peaking after Easter) from all parts of the globe.
The overall situation will be reviewed again at the end of March – but things are unlikely to improve because the virus will not have run its full course – according to the experts. In fact, it could be at its height in April.
Pilgrims and other travellers or walkers who want more information about the feasibility of a journey along all the different routes should check with regional offices. (The Spanish health system’s Twitter accounts are also a good source of information).
Disappointment for Camino travellers – and Spanish hosteleros
To say that the Spanish are sad about the inconvenience this has caused to the pilgrims who are currently travelling (or who had planned to travel on a trip in the future) is an understatement.
And of course, the travellers or pilgrims themselves are also very upset by this latest news but, judging by the forums online, people are taking the news with some stoicism, realising that the decision has been taken for their own (as well as others’) safety.
Much of the infrastructure of the Camino routes is being shut down and attempting to walk using the traditional routes would now be almost impossible. In effect, all such journeys are cancelled at the moment.
FICS issues official warning
FICS – La Fraternidad Internacional del Camino de Santiago issued an official notice on Thursday 12th March stating that “in the face of the recent events of the Coronavirus, and also of the responsibility we have to our pilgrims and volunteers, we advise all pilgrims not to undertake the Jacobean pilgrimage at the moment nor until the situation is normalised . . and to heed the warnings of the health authorities without question.”
On Saturday 14th March, the Spanish Government went a stage further by limiting the circulation or the presence of persons or vehicles at certain times and in certain places and limiting or rationing the use of services or the consumption of essential items. This is, in a word, lockdown, as we have already witnessed in Italy.
In the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to the regions that the Spanish Ministry of Health has designated as an area of community transmission of the Coronavirus.
The famous Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is now officially closed, as is the attendant Pilgrim’s Office, and those arriving to receive their Credencial are being asked to leave a completed application form in a box outside. Cathedral Mass in English has been suspended until the Pilgrims’ Centre re-opens . . and nobody knows when that will be.
Keep the Camino dream alive
On a more positive note, many of the comments on the forums (in particular the caminodesantiago.me run by Ivar), have been more upbeat:
“Santiago will still be there in a couple of months!” says another. “This is not a disaster, disappointing sure, and inconvenient, but this too will pass. Santiago will wait” “The Camino isn’t going anywhere, it will be here waiting for a better time to walk.” The Camino has existed for over a thousand years and will still be waiting for us in years to come.
But disappointment is palpable too: “I read this (news) with a very heavy heart as the older I get the less time I have to wait!” said one commentator.
If anyone wants to send a small gift of condolence to a friend or loved-one who has had to cancel their long-planned Camino, we offer some little items in our shop online that could perhaps help them to keep the dream alive . Also see gifts to help achieve goals in our online shop.
I read this news with a very heavy heart as the older I get the less time I have to wait
The English Camino is called St Michael’s Way and it is in Cornwall, UK. It is not the same as El Camino Inglés which is a short Camino across the northern tip of Spain.
The English Camino was used by early Christian pilgrims (as well as other travellers) coming from Wales and Ireland who wanted to travel to Santiago de Compostela, but to avoid the treacherous and unsafe waters off the English coast at Land’s End, and thus arrive safely in La Coruña in northern Spain. They would leave their boats on the north Cornish coast near St Ives, walk the relatively short route across the peninsular to St Michael’s Mount and re-embark on other ships or boats to continue their journey by sea to northern Spain (and southern France).
Throughout Europe there are several pilgrim routes which lead to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela, North West Spain – the third most important and religious place of Christian pilgrimage in the world. These are all collectively known as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. But unknown to many is the St Michael’s Way Trail, in the county of Cornwall, on the southwestern tip of England, which is also one of these routes.
Safe travels – avoiding shipwreck!
This ancient path was used by travellers (and later by pilgrims and missionaries) to avoid crossing the dangerous waters around Land’s End, a notorious area off the Cornish coast said to contain more shipwrecks than anywhere else in the world. This overland route of early Christian travellers was one of the reasons behind the early conversion of Cornish people to the Christian faith.
Little steps – a small adventure on the Cornish Celtic Way as an introduction to a full Camino
The St Michael’s Way (also known as the Cornish Camino or Celtic Way) is the only pilgrimage route in Britain that is officially part of a European Cultural Route, and it is a genuine British leg of the Camino to Santiago. It is only about 12 miles long but it connects five churches, four holy wells, two hill-forts, two standing stones, and two disappeared chapels, and is set in incredible scenery and unique countryside deep in the heart of Cornwall.
The Cornish Camino – a great introduction to a Spanish Camino
Walking the 20kms of St Michael’s Way now counts towards the 100km minimum required to receive one of the famed Compostelas (Pilgrim Certificates) in Santiago, when walkers arrive in the Pilgrim Office at the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (where, it is said, lie the remains of St James the Greater . . hence the other name of this famous route: The Saint James Way). Once ashore in northern Spain, travellers can walk (or cycle) the relatively short Camino Inglés (from La Coruña into Santiago).
The English Camino – the Cornish Celtic Way
The British-based part of this Camino stretches across the Cornish peninsular from Lelant (near St. Ives in the north) to Marazion (near Penzance in the south) and covers around 12 miles of beautiful landscapes and spectacular scenery (including Carbis Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site). As is the norm in Spain, Portugal and southern France, the correct route to follow in the UK is indicated by the traditional Pilgrim’s symbol of a Scallop Shell (the symbol of St. James, because his remains, when discovered, were said to have been covered in these shells that are so common on the northern coast of Spain). In fact, a sort of stylised shell based on the Council of Europe’s sign for pilgrim routes is used with directional arrows in yellow for footpaths, blue for bridleways and red for byways.
Why not wish safe travels to a friend or loved-one going on a special journey, with a gift of Scallop Shell jewellery from our online shop, as well as other GIFTS FOR LUCK and GOOD FORTUNE TRAVELLING on a trip. It has deep sigificance that is based on the real history of the Camino.
As for St Michael himself, after whom this English Camino is named (as opposed to St James in Spain), more can be read here on our website: GUARDIAN ANGELS and St. MICHAEL ARCHANGEL . St Michael is one of the Guardian Angels (an Archangel) that is said to be a protector. He is also the patron Saint of Cornwall (as well as of the military and police too) and also, evidently . . of high places, which tends to explain why, if you ever discover a Church called Saint Michael, it is invariably located on the top of a hill.
St Michael protect us on our travels
You can also source jewellery and charms for protection with the symbol of ST MICHAEL Guardian Angel, in our shop.
Planning a full Camino de Santiago adventure? Good Luck!
Eventually, as you wind your way down to the coast and off the St Michaels Way, you arrive at your journey’s end in Marazion (before embarking for Spain, if that is what you plan to do). Here you will find yourself overlooking St Michael’s Mount (the Cornish counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France), an 8th Century monastery subsequently given to the Benedictine religious order of Mont Saint-Michel by Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century. Your English or Cornish Camino has come to an end – but it could be the beginning of something much grander – a full Camino de Santiago de Compostela . . in Spain!
PS: There is, in fact, another Camino in England: A 110km-long route from the ruins of Reading Abbey (founded by Henry I in 1121, and the centre of the cult of St James in England in the Middle Ages), to the port of Southampton, from where pilgrims also used to sail to France or Spain on their way to the tomb of St James at Santiago de Compostela. But this is even less well known than the St. Michael’s Way!
Walking El Camino de Santiago in winter – and giving Camino gifts at Christmas
The gift of Christmas on the Camino? To many, Christmas and Camino are two separate entities: No one in their right mind would consider walking El Camino at Christmas, right? “Bueno” . . as they say in Spain, “nada es imposible”. No doubt, the most popular time of year to walk the Camino de Santiago is between Spring to Autumn. But winter walkers are on the up and increasingly we see people asking about walking El Camino at Christmas . . and even planning to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve).
But Christmas also means gifts – for friends, family / loved-ones. And what better gift to give a fan of the Camino than a little present from Galicia, Santiago, Asturias . . or somewhere else along this famous route: Perhaps a little memento or souvenir relating to this epic journey / pilgrimage – or simply a “good luck and best wishes” type of present.
A winter trip on Spain’s Camino over the Christmas period can be an exhilarating experience . . especially if you plan to arrive in Santiago de Compostela on Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day). But there are things to consider that are different from planning a normal Camino trip:
The weather in winter on El Camino:
This is the most important factor: Weather in Northern Spain, particularly in Galicia, is uncertain even in summer! The dreaded rain which can dampen the spirits of even the most ardent Camino traveller is quite common in Galicia and Asturias.
Having said that, travelling in winter can have its advantages in this respect too: Some of the landscapes can be spectacular in their winter shroud: The Meseta in particular can make for a stunning and enthralling backdrop at any time of year, but in winter it can be dramatic and breathtaking.
The Meseta or Inner Plateau of Spain is the high plain of central Spain – it is large and expansive, flat and vast: It’s in the heart of the Iberian peninsular, and ranges from 610 to 760m in height and is surrounded by mountains. From the Camino point of view, the Meseta is always an “experience”. The Camino Frances traverses the northern part of the Meseta for over 200km, and in winter it can be windswept and cold, wet and miserable for walkers.
So this leads on to the next consideration:
The route – which Camino to choose (after all, there are several):
People considering travelling the famous Way of Saint James are aware of the different routes that make up the so-called “Camino”: They have to choose one to suit themselves, and through which parts of Spain, France and/or Portugal they want to walk, hike or bike into Santiago de Compostela. We have 7 or 8 main options: Camino Frances, Camino Portuguese, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo (the original or Primitive Way), Via de Plata (the Silver Way), Camino Finisterre-Muxía, Camino Inglés (the English Way), and Camino Invierno (the Winter Camino).
Courtesy CORREOS (see below)
But which is going to be most suitable Camino to do in winter?
The Via de la Plata route travels through the western part of the Meseta for around 180km. In winter, it can be snowy. Yes . . snow! In winter you will encounter snow on many of the Camino routes and/or stages of those routes. Perhaps a small amount of snow is acceptable, but there can be danger too after heavy snow falls or when it drifts in the wind. At the very least, you will need to avoid any mountainous areas like the Pyrenees or O Cebreiro. In fact, for this reason alone, many of the ‘etápas’ (sections or stages) of the various Caminos are actually CLOSED in the winter. In fact, a great many things along the Camino route are closed in winter.
So this leads to another factor to consider:
Accommodation along the Camino de Santiago in winter
Spain’s Post Office ( CORREOS ) has a great website to help travellers along El Camino – offering advice on accommodation, safety and their own services to help transport extra luggage and backpacks which can be especially helpful in the somewhat rougher winter months.
They say that when the number of pilgrims fall in the winter months (and especially around Christmas), many hostels on the Camino decide to close their doors. And, as ‘Navidad’ in Spain is celebrated through until Los Reyes Magos (The Kings) on 6th January, the Christmas inactivity can be extensive. This might be a problem for those winter pilgrims who, not planning ahead or without prior knowledge, are not prepared, especially considering that they will be facing the cold, rain and, at many times, snow. Luckily, Correos keeps an updated list of hostels that remain open during this period. Of course, however prepared you are, it is always recommended to contact the hostels first, to avoid any problems. You can find the telephone numbers of each hostel at each stage of every Camino on the CORREOS WEBSITE . There is little problem finding accommodation in the bigger towns like Santiago de Compostela, Ferrol or Vigo, but in the small rural and isolated areas, where accommodation is limited, yes, it can be tricky.
So this brings us to:
The sheer feasibility of doing the Camino in winter as regards personal fitness, carrying your stuff and avoiding the mud!
It can be lonely and at times bleak in northern Spain in winter: In Bierzo, for example, it can be very harsh. But in general, winter walkers are not out to punish themselves . . and so during this time of year it is acceptable to get help along the way. For example, CORREOS offer a service to transfer your luggage / rucksack day by day at all times of year. This costs around 4 Euros per stage.
This has not always been the case: In years gone by, devout pilgrims would set out to travel the Camino as a form of penance or atonement. Some were even sent to do just that, as punishment for their sins. But these days, there are other ways to lessen the burden of a winter Camino – like occasionally catching a bus!!! (past the really bad bits), or getting Correos to transport some of your luggage from place to place at the start of each day. In general, their services continue as usual, except that in some cases they are limited in terms of geographical coverage or hours open to the public. Once again, the website has details.
They also offer a locker service in Santiago de Compostela (the ideal location to leave your backpack before visiting because of its proximity to the Cathedral). This remains open from Monday to Friday with the same hours as the rest of the year. The only change to this service is that Saturdays it will be open from 9:30 to 13:00, while closing on Sundays and holidays.
So, in conclusion . .
Which Camino de Santiago route is best in Winter?
The general consensus is that travelling from Sarria into Santiago de Compostela would be a good option. It is about 100km into the capital. You could walk a few of the sections before Sarria but you would have to avoid the most mountainous area around O Cebreiro. This is part of the Winter Way (or Camino de Invierno) from Ponferrada which used to be used in centuries past by those seeking to escape the ‘real’ world. It is also part of the French Way. You will probably experience a very quiet trip at this time of year – but with amazing landscapes, especially as you enter Galicia through the winter vineyards of the Ribeira Sacra. Alternatively, you could start a bit further south at Monforte de Lemos.
Either way, at Christmas time, this will be a special experience and you will be able to spot many wonderful Nativity scenes or Beléns in the villages, hostels and bars that you encounter.
Finally, we come to OUR part in this whole story:
Camino Christmas gifts
At this time of year we start to see enquiries and orders for Christmas Camino gifts. Although we cannot offer gifts of a trip on the Camino (or even gift tokens), we can certainly offer great suggestions for Camino Christmas presents.
Every year we see what is popular, and we see some of the special messages people send to each other relating to their Caminos – or wishing them well on a future trip. Many people like to give Camino-related Christmas gifts to friends and loved-ones for a journey that they are planning in the forthcoming year: And the journey is not always related to El Camino de Santiago itself. We find people giving Camino gifts (particularly Camino Jewellery – Joyas del Camino) for loved-ones going on a Gap Year for example, a holiday trekking in the Far East, or even to someone going on a business trip. The fame of Spain’s Camino is worldwide and the related souvenirs have significance to travellers the world over . . especially to wish safe travels. In particular, jewellery that features the Cross of St James, la vieira concha Scallop Shell symbol, the Waymarker sign and the Tau Cross (all available in our shop online), are the most popular.
Clearly, no self-respecting Camino travellers (especially walkers and bikers) want to be burdened on their actual Camino de Santiago with anything large or heavy or difficult to carry, but we can offer small items (especially Camino jewellery like earrings, necklaces and bracelets) that are suitable. Failing that, we can also supply items that are meant as souvenirs or mementos of someone’s actual Camino trip / journey – a reminder perhaps of the journey they undertook. We also stock a range of other items that are suitable as Christmas presents for someone who is PLANNING to walk the Camino de Santiago in the future – in particular, gifts that have a “Safe Travels” theme, religious and Christian items that say “Have a good trip”, Good luck on your journey”, “Buen Camino” and so on, even if only in a symbolic way.
These are Camino Christmas gifts with real meaning and many are actually hand-crafted by goldsmiths and silver-working artisans in Galicia and Asturias.
Our gift shop was established in Spain over 10 years ago (and we now have an online store based in the UK too) . . .
Tonight’s the night . . in Santiago de Compostela! Ten interesting facts you didn’t know about Camino de Santiago and St James
On the evening of 24th July, in the Plaza del Obradoiro (the main square of Santiago de Compostela old town, to the west of the Cathedral), there is a mass display of fireworks (Fuegos del Apóstol) to mark the start of the main part of the fiesta dedicated to Saint James in, Galicia, Spain.
Santiago or Saint James, is the Patron Saint of all Spain. The annual Feast of Saint James (Día de Santiago) takes places in Santiago de Compostela on 25th July and is a public holiday in Galicia. The city is one of the most symbolic in Spain and, whenever you visit, you can be sure to see many pilgrims – religious ones as well as those who simply enjoy the scenic journey along the Camino de Santiago (mostly across northern Spain).
Many of the walkers or journeymen (or women) will carry the traditional walking staff and/or one of the three main symbols of “El Camino” – the St James Cross (Cruz de Santiago), the Scallop Shell (la Concha de Vieira) or the yellow Waymarker symbol).
Each year, some 200,000 people travel the Camino from all over the world: Some walk, others travel by bike. Many travellers choose to do the Camino for personal, rather than any spiritual or religious reasons – taking time out from their busy modern lives and perhaps finding inspiration along the way, whilst reflecting on their life in a supportive environment. Everyone experiences the journey in a different way.
Souvenir of Camino Santiago and Jewellery with meaning
At the journey’s end, when they arrive in the capital city of Santiago de Compostela (and more especially, at the Cathedral) most will hope receive their “Compostela” – the official recognition from the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that they have successfully completed the Camino.
Many visitors will try to arrive in Santiago in the days leading up to 25th July, which is both the Día de Santiago and the Día de Galica, Galicia’s regional day.
Saint James is believed to have visited Spain to preach Christianity and, when he was martyred in the Middle East, his body was thought to have been transported by boat to the Galician coast. His remains were discovered around 800AD, by a hermit following the path of star into a field – thereby giving us the name ‘Compostela’ (literally, the field of the star).
So, if you are lucky enough to be in Santiago today or some time soon, don’t forget to look out for the “Botafumeiro” – a huge incense burner that is swung back and forth down the Cathedral aisle during official masses like the one today which is usually attended by members of the Spanish Royal family and the Galician government. It weighs around 80kg and it takes eight people to swing it!
Souvenir of Spain
If you are unable to bring back a souvenir of this great experience (both a souvenir of Spain as well as a souvenir of Camino de Santiago), or perhaps you would like to give a little memento of Camino de Santiago to a friend or loved-one, we have many such gifts in our shop online: See some CAMINO de SANTIAGO GIFTS in our store.