Ask GoMad Nomad: Is it Safe to walk the Camino de Santiago alone as a Woman?
I am going to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain around late June / early July and I know you’ve done it. The only thing is, I’m going at it alone, and I am little nervous as a lone female walking through the Spanish countryside! Are there groups where people can hook up to walk together?
Becky from the U.K.
Walking the Camino de Santiago has been one of the best experiences of my life. I had such an amazing first pilgrimage that I went again three years later, along a different route to Santiago de Compostela. Although I’m not a woman, I will try to answer your question to the best of my ability.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the Camino de Santiago is an ancient Pilgrimage which culminates in Santiago de Compostella, in the far northwest of Spain. Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims from all over Europe have been following these various paths to Santiago. Luckily, for modern pilgrims there is a good network of albergues, where pilgrims can spend each night for only a few Euro. The Way is also well-marked. Although the Camino de Santiago is traditionally for Catholics journeying to the relics of Saint James, people of all faiths (and no faith) walk the Camino today for many reasons other than spirituality or religion.
My gut tells me that the Camino would be safe for a solo woman. You will meet lots of other pilgrims along the way. (You may even make some of the best friends of your life–I did!) I met plenty of solo woman as I walked. As a general rule, pilgrims gather and relax at the albergue together, take meals together, and even walk together. I stayed together with some folks for a number of days, and even though we usually walked in solitude, we would gather together each evening for a meal or a coffee in the morning. Trust me, it will not be difficult to meet good people along the way.
There aren’t too many desolate stretches that should worry you. There are usually villages and towns every couple of kilometers. I don’t think assault on women is especially high in Spain and I didn’t remember seeing any warnings to women hiking alone. I hope any woman reading this that have walked the Camino would leave a comment here to better prepare you.
I also think that if you exercise common sense like you would do anytime you’re not in your hometown, that you’ll be safer. It’s also worth noting that you’ll probably only be hiking during daylight hours, unless you get up before sunrise as some pilgrims do. The accommodation is always dormitory style, so pilgrims can watch out for one another during bed time.
A few quick tips. Pack light. I mean seriously light. Try to cut it down to 5-10 kgs. Every extra ounce on your back will mean more blisters on your feet. Also get yourself a guidebook. That will help you know what terrain to expect each day and where you’ll find an albergue at each day’s end.
Besides a personal test of your own physical and mental endurance, the Camino de Santiago will be a journey through the bucolic countryside of Spain and a glimpse of its historical towns and villages along the way. Walking is a beautiful way to experience a place and help simplify your life. Setting off on a camino is a time for most people to reflect on their past, live fully in the moment, and set a positive course for their future.
Get a pair of walking poles, strap on your walking shoes, and go have the experience of your life!
Buen Camino, Becky!