- Photo Essays
Since the release and unexpected success of the film The Way, it seems that walking the Camino de Santiago is on everyone’s travel bucket list. When I first walked the Camino back in 2003 it was little known to travellers outside of Europe and we felt quite the intrepid adventurers revealing our plans to walk across Spain.
So when my cousin and I decided to walk the Camino again in 2009 we thought we’d up the ante and do the 780km crossing in winter: a winter pilgrimage!
Apart from a bone-chilling week walking across the Meseta – an entirely flat and somewhat bleak wilderness of wheat fields and scrub land – this winter journey was sensational!
At the time it was by far the most challenging and fulfilling thing I had ever done. (I’ve since explored Iceland, and photographed polar bears in the Arctic so this winter pilgrimage on the Camino is now on par with those experiences!)
Sure, there were ups and downs, as with anything, and dear God it was chilly at times but…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?
Did my feet hurt? Yup….but sometimes they didn’t.
Was it cold? Hells yes…but often it was bright and sunny.
Were there times I felt like giving up? Absolutely…but mostly I was very happy to get up each morning and power on.
At the time about 100,000 people were walking the Camino de Santiago every year. Most would walk in summer and a smaller portion in Spring and Autumn.
We didn’t want to walk with the masses and we were well aware of the possible difficulties awaiting us, but we decided we were up for the challenge that a winter pilgrimage would offer!
The solitude that comes with walking the Camino de Santiago at this time of year is also really lovely. While there were usually about 5-10 of us at any given time staying in the pilgrim hostels, there were times when my cousin and I were the only ones on the trail: just you and the road.
Even with the icy-cold Meseta, I would still say this is the most rewarding and beautiful time of year to walk the Camino. We had no regrets!