2010 is the 84th Compostela Holy Year
(or the 118th depending on who you prefer to believe! See: http://amawalker.blogspot.com/2008/06/holy-years-in-santiago-de-compostela.php )
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are planning to walk a camino route next year you might be a little concerned about over-crowding and about the possibility of not finding accommodation. The heaviest traffic will be in Spain and although there is bound to be an increase in the number of pilgrims on the French routes as well, this post is aimed mainly at those planning to walk the camino routes in Spain.
How many pilgrims will there be?
It has been estimated that 250 000 pilgrims will earn the Compostela next year. This does not take into account the many, many thousands of pilgrims who will walk parts of the caminos with no intention of reaching Santiago.
The Sociology department of the Cathedral estimates the number of pilgrims on the Camino at any one time by using the registration in albergues, the data given when the credential is obtained, and other sources, such as the tourist information offices throughout the Camino. They estimate that only 1-out- of-5 pilgrims actually receives the Compostela. Theoretically, this means that there could be 1.25 million pilgrims walking a camino next year!! The biggest headache for the authorities is where to accommodate all the Holy Year pilgrims.
Where will they all sleep?
Although most of us prefer to sling our backpack on our backs and start walking, stopping when we are tired, happy to queue up outside an albergue for a bed, this might not work next year.
2004 Holy Year:
Avoid the rush for beds:
One way to avoid the masses and the rush for beds is to pre-book as many rooms as you can ahead of time. You cannot book beds in the pilgrim shelters run by the church, municipalities or some confraternities, but many private albergues allow pre-booking and there are many fondas (inns) hostales, pensions, casa rurals and hotels along the way. If you want to do it on your own, you can search the many websites for accommoation, or look up hotels/hostals etc in the guide books.
Booking ahead might be the answer to avoiding the Holy Year crowds. Not only will you have peace of mind - knowing that you have a bed waiting for you at the end of the day - you won't have to join the rush for beds in the morning, you can start walking after a leisurely breakfast, sightsee on the way and take your time getting to the next stop. And, you can bet that there will be hundreds of pilgrims doing the same thing so you won't be alone in the hotels at the end of the day.
For B&B's, Chambres and Gites go to: http://www.chemindecompostelle.com/Selection/CartePuy25.html
The first few days of this route will be extremely busy and even in May 2002 I had to sleep on the floor in Larasoana because all the beds were taken by early afternoon.
You can book a bed at Orisson, about 10km from St Jean Pied de Port email@example.com
Many pilgrims start in Roncesvalles so chances are it will be choc-a-block by the time you get there. You could book a bed at the 'Posada de Roncesvalles'. We sent them a fax and our beds were confirmed by return fax. http://www.laposadaderoncesvalles.com/posada.htm
In Larasoana you could stay at the Pension del Peregrino - firstname.lastname@example.org There are dozens of small pensions and hotels in Pamplona.
Red Albergues is a "network of private hostels on the Camino de Santiago": a non-profit organization founded December 8, 2001. Its aims as follows:
- Developing proposals to the various administrations to create a uniform legal framework for the Pilgrims' Hostel of the Ways of Santiago.
- Defend the rights of Pilgrim Hostels, especially the private hostels.
- Advice for people who want to create a private Pilgrims' Hostel.
- Hospitaleros training and preparation of volunteers.
- Formulation of proposals on the location of new shelters and their characteristics.
- Promotion of cultural activities related to the Camino de Santiago.
- Collaboration with guilds, associations and public or private entities of similar purpose.
The brochure includes some email and web addresses as well as names of transport companies that will transport your baggage for you between albergues. You will need a 'credencial' (pilgrims' passport) to stay in any of the albergues - be they church, municipal or private. Many of the private albergues can be pre-booked and you can have luggage transported to them by taxi or transport company.
Booking into private albergues might be the best thing for cycling pilgrims who traditionally have to wait until quite late to get a spot in an albergue.
Another organisation that will cart your backpacks, post stuff ahead, provide support to cyclist etc is Jacotrans: http://asantiagosinmochila.blogspot.com/