Camino Holiday Gift Guide

Is 2018 your year to join the illustrious rank of Camino pilgrims?

Or maybe you’ve already completed a Camino and are working on convince a loved one to undertake the trek… or plan an encore for yourself! Either way, you’ll want these items on your wishlist for the Camino de Santiago!

 

Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances: St Jean – Santiago – Finisterre (Village to Village Guide)

First things first, a reliable guidebook is the perfect gift for planning and dreaming about the Camino. We may be biased but we think the Village to Village Guide to the Camino Francés is top-notch, and our 4.6/5 star rating on Amazon seems to agree! Be the first to buy our 2018 edition! Order Direct


Camino Portugués: Lisbon – Porto – Santiago, Central and Coastal Routes (Village to Village Map Guide)

Maybe you’ve walked the Camino Francés or prefer to start with a lesser-walked route. Take our new Camino Portugués Map Guidebook for a spin! Hot off the press 2018 edition now available. Order Direct


Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set  

Ultralight sil nylon packing cubes keep your gear organized. Versatile for the Camino and any other travel on your agenda. Bonus if you give them pre-packed with other travel goodies. 

Darn Tough Vermont Hiker Boot Full Cushion Sock

Everyone loves new socks, and cushy merino wool hiking socks will keep anyone comfortable and blister-free on the Camino.  

PETZL E+LITE Emergency Headlamp

A minimalist headlamp helps you locate your stuff in the early morning hours at the albergue and won’t weigh you down at just 27 grams. 

Buff Headwear

These versatile neck gaiters are perfect for keeping the sun off your face, keeping your ears warm on chilly days, and covering up your hair on bad hair days. 

Sunland Microfiber Towel

Bath towels are heavy and take forever to dry, a lightweight quick-drying microfiber towel is a must on the Camino and any travel experience. 

CamelBak Chute 1L Water Bottle

An inexpensive lightweight water bottle that is easy to clean and comfortable to drink from, consider filling with individual packets of Gatorade to make your gift a little extra.

Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Pocket Knife

This is a classic pocket knife, perfect for slicing up an apple or fresh baguette along the Camino. Remember to carry in your checked bag on your flight! 

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack

A super light packable sil nylon daypack is great for keeping your valuables on you at all time, but allowing you to leave your heavy pack back when you go out in the evenings. Also perfect if you plan to use bag transfer service to be able to carry your essentials. 

European Plug Adaptors

make a great stocking stuffer at less than $1 each

Band-Aid Friction Blister Block Stick

Another inexpensive but much appreciated stocking stuffer for a blister-free Camino.

Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles

These lightweight hiking poles folk down tiny but provide helpful support to knees and other joints on a long-distance trek.

Camino Art

A pair of shell earrings, necklace, or hiker medal may be the perfect gift for a stylish Camino aficionado.

Tastes of the Camino

A bottle of Rioja wine with Manchego cheese and chorizo will take you right back to evenings on the Camino, resting and rejuvenating with other pilgrims after a long day of walking.

Tastes of the Camino cookbook will be a welcome addition to any Camino gourmand bookshelf.

Camino Inspiration

Consider an inspiration read like I’ll Push You or Pilgrim Strong for feel-good holiday reading with a Camino flavor.

Camino del Norte Days 43-45: Arzua to Santiago de Compostela

We made it! We arrived yesterday morning in Santiago de Compostela along with my mom and received our Compostela certificates.

After a night with very little sleep in the Arzua Xunta albergue, we took the bus back to Palas del Rei and checked into Albergue Buen Camino. We were among the first to check in, so were able to get a three-bed room just for us. The facilities were very nice and we were able to combine our dirty clothes to do a big load of laundry. It felt great to have clean and dry clothes!

We utilized the little kitchen to make a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup, spinach salad and hamburgers with fried red peppers and cheese. A bottle of red wine and a pint of chocolate ice cream finished off the meal perfectly. We slept well in our little room with no snoring, though we were right next to a bathroom which shared a window with our room so the light shone into our room whenever someone went to the bathroom.

The next morning we were using the wifi downstairs to Skype call my dad, when the owner came in and told us we had to leave! She pointed to the door and said “closed.” The sign on the door said it closed at 8:30, and it was only 8:15, but they  made us leave and then cut off the wifi when we tried to use it outside!

Dave used the day to get some work done while my mom and I walked to Melide. We had a beautiful walk of about 15 km. I was glad to learn there was a new albergue in Melide, since I have never been a fan of the huge Xunta albergue there and the one private albergue has pretty bad reviews. The new albergue, O Cruceiro, costs €12 and is only about 1 month old. The installations are new and quite nice. We were given a room for 4 to ourselves. There is a nice laundry room, big clean bathrooms, and a dining room with a microwave.

My mom and I went for a stroll around town and soon after returning discovered that my mom’s camera was missing. She remember laying it down on the counter at a shop we went to, so we went sprinting back. I asked the fellow behind the counter if he had happened to see a camera lately, and he happily produced my mom’s camera with a smile. Crisis averted!

We went to Pulperia Ezequiel for dinner for the obligatory octopus meal. We enjoyed two hearty raciones of Pulpo Gallego, some Galician soup and a bottle of chilled Ribeiro wine. Delicious!

The next day, my mom and I walked from Melide to Salceda, about 26 km, while Dave took the bus to Boimorto to walk the final alternate stage of the Camino del Norte for our book research. The trails come back together near Salceda, so we reserved 3 beds in the small 8-bed albergue the is part of a rural tourism complex. It’s a heavenly little place with a grassy lawn and reclining lawn chairs by the fish pond. We had a pilgrim menu that was quite tasty, with cream of vegetable soup for a starter and a grilled hake fillet with vegetables followed by flan. We had a good night, though some of our bunkmates didn’t come to their beds until 3am… None of them were up by 8am when we finally turned on the lights…

The next day we walked about 23 kilometers to Monte de Gozo. These final days to Santiago have some pleasant scenery, but overall I find them rather boring, so this day took some perseverence. The cloudy sky threatened rain, but held back until just as we arrived at the massive Xunta albergue in Monte de Gozo. This complex resembles a military barracks, with rows of pilgrim accommodations and its own cafeteria, self-service laundromat, gift shop, hotel and camping area. In spite of the utilitarian building, I rather like staying here. The rooms are small with only 8 beds, the bathrooms are separated by gender and have doors, and the kitchen is well-equipped.

We carried food from Arca to cook our own dinner in the albergue. With the windy rain raging outside we were glad not to have to venture our for our meal. Dave made our pasta with garbanzo bean sauce, which was delicious and filling. Mom and I ventured out to the cafeteria to check our email on the wifi.

Yesterday morning we prepared our coffee in the albergue kitchen and began our triumphal entry (only 4.7km) to the city of Santiago! We headed straight for the cathedral and then went to the Pilgrim Office. Usually I have had to wait in line quite a while to get my certificate of completion, but this time we didn’t have to wait at all. We had a celebratory second breakfast at a cozy cafe, then went to the cathedral for the pilgrim mass. We arrived around 11:30 for the noon mass, but all the seats were already taken! We managed to find one seat and sat through the rather long Mass. We got up to leave at the end, as it didn’t seem they were going to swing the huge censor (called a Botofumeiro, or smoke-belcher). So we left and took a look around the Cathedral gift shop. We decided to poke our heads back in, just in case they did use the botofumeiro afterall, and saw it just as it was losing momentum and coming to a stop! We were a bit sad to miss the whole show, but were also glad to get away from the crowds of people.

We slept that first night in Santiago in the Seminario Mayor San Martin Pinario. Dave stayed here five years ago with a group, and remembers it being quite rustic, with nuns serving bowls of coffee for breakfast. Apparently, the hotel has been privatized as it’s a rather slick operation nowadays, but they still offer simple pilgrim rooms for €23 (single), €40 (double) or €60 (quad) including a large breakfast buffet. Our little room was not the cleanest with a rather moldy bathroom, but it was still a treat to have our own room and we really enjoyed the buffet breakfast with unlimited coffee!

This morning we asked if we could book another night, but it was already booked full so we went around the block to Pension Santa Cristina, which has rooms with shared bath for €30 for a double, €25 for a single. Much of today we have spent working on our research and other upcoming projects, as well as purchasing our train tickets to Madrid for tomorrow night. We had intended to travel to Finisterre for a night or two, but the weather has been so dreary that the seaside doesn’t sound all that appealing.

I’m proud of my mom, who walked over 250 kilometers from Astorga to Santiago!

Camino del Norte Day 42: Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzua

This morning, several pilgrims in our room began rustling about and shining flashlights around 6:20am (a full two hours before sunrise…) We couldn’t beat them, so we joined them and were up around 7. One fellow had a bright Maglite flashlight turned on and lying on his bed, illuminating the whole room, and he just left it on when he left the room for breakfast! I took the liberty of switching it off for him.

We found a café open early and had café con leche and wrote some emails before heading out into the cold, misty morning. The path was mostly on paved roads today and, together with the dreary and rainy weather, we didn’t especially relish this last day on the Camino del Norte! When the rain began to come down harder we luckily found a little restaurant serving food (mostly what we come across are bars that only serves drinks, not food). We plopped down and ordered two greasy platos combinados and enjoyed every hot bite of meat, eggs and fries!

We arrived in Arzua around 3pm, certain that the cheaper municipal albergue would be full, but we found it still had about 20 beds left. We have two top bunks in a room of 32 beds. Since it is wet outside, many people are hanging their wet clothes in the room and the smell of stinky pilgrims was quite strong (of course, we ourselves add to this scent…) We have been trying to prop open windows and doors to get some air flowing, but people keep closing them. We have found that there are firmly two camps of pilgrims when it comes to fresh air. Those that always want the window open and fresh air to flow, even when that air is cold (we are among this camp), and those that constantly CLOSE every window and seem to think that a few breaths of cool, fresh air will make them sick. Many nights there is a bit of a passive aggressive scuffle at the windows as they are closed and opened by various parties. We normally try to claim a bed near a window in order to guard its open status, but here the beds are assigned.

This day wraps up our Camino del Norte research, though we will check all of our previous research on the last two days to Santiago. Tomorrow I plan to take the bus back to Palas del Rei on the Frances route to meet up with my mom. Dave will stay in Arzua and get some more work done. We are on schedule to arrive in Santiago October 7.

Camino del Norte Day 41: Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes

As we have become accustomed to sleeping in until around 8am (since the sun comes up at 8:30) we were rather surprised to have the lights turned on by the hospitaleros at 7am. Actually, this did not even wake me from my deep slumber, so I awoke at 7:30 rather shocked to see almost everyone was already out of the dormitory. I stumbled to the kitchen for coffee and managed to grab one piece of bread before they ran out. The weather was very cold and a thick fog blanketed the countryside. We loitered around as long as we could, but finally went on our way around 8:15, bundled up in all our layers. The fog was unbelievable and the remote landscape extremely beautiful. The tops of the pine trees looked like eerie ghosts towering above us in the morning silence.

That was the best part of the day, the rest of the day was mainly along a paved road. While the scenery was pleasant, we find ourselves becoming impatient with the monotonous landscape and antsy to arrive. After two days with almost no services, it was nice to arrive to Sobrado, which has grocery stores, restaurants and all major services. We arrived at the impressive 10th c monastery about 10 min. after 2pm. The building is truly massive and awe-inspiring. However, we sadly learned that reception is closed from 2pm until 4:30pm, so we had almost 2.5 hours to wait before getting a bed and shower. Luckily, the warm sun was shining and I lay down on the soft grass and took a long and lovely nap. Dave, every industrious, got out the computer and wrote some emails, then we headed to a café for some wifi and two cañas of Estrella Galicia (the local beer).

The albergue finally opened and we got our bed and I went to the grocery store to get our dinner supplies. We cooked another pasta feast in the well-equipped kitchen. While the dorm is a bit crowded here, the ambiance of the historic building is really cool.

Tomorrow, we finish the Camino del Norte! We will arrive in Arzúa and join the Camino Francés for two days to Santiago. I am planning to take the bus back to Palas del Rei to walk two extra days with my mom, while Dave plans to stay in Arzúa and get some work done for his upcoming work contract.

My mom arrived to Sarria today, and has completed 150km with about 100 to go!

Camino del Norte Day 40: Baamonde to Miraz 16km

We made our own coffee and cereal at the albergue, but then saw most of the other pilgrims having a coffee at the cafe next to the albergue, which had wifi, so since we had no reason to hurry today we sat down for a second coffee in order to check email.

The first few kilometers of today’s walk were on a two-lane paved road, not very inspiring, but there was also almost no traffic at all, though we did see a Renfe train speed by on the parallel tracks. At right around the 100 km mark (left to Santiago), we turned off over a historic stone bridge and past a beautiful stone chapel in the forest. From here, the path was really beautiful, through thick shaded woods with shafts of sunlight breaking through.

As we walked through one small village, a woman was walking down the street with a plate of cake. She offered us each a piece and said they were preparing for a Romería later that day. We also saw the beginning of a Romería the previous day, so it must be the season for having parties.

Shortly after, we came across a loose dog, which always makes me a bit nervous, but this one was extremely friendly and began to follow us, sprinting ahead, then loping back. He must have followed us about 5km until he finally became distracted chasing chickens at one of the farms.

Miraz is a lovely little hamlet, with some very cool historic stone buildings. The albergue here is run by the Cofraternity of Saint James in England. Last year we stayed at the CSJ albergue in Rabanal on the Camino Francés and loved it, so we were excited to stay at a second CSJ place. The building was recently restored (it was the priest’s house historically). We had a very warm welcome from the English and Australian hospitaleros (there was even Vegamite in the kitchen for any Australian pilgrims wanting a taste of home…)

The warm sunny weather inspired me to wash almost all of our clothes, which have been rather damp through much of the past week. Some friends we have seen almost every day for the past month decided to hurry on today and walk the 40 km from Baamonde to Sobrado dos Monxes. We’ll miss them!

We are really on the home stretch, with only 4 days to Santiago. In two days, we will stop in Arzua and go back to meet up with my mom, who is in Triacastela tonight.

Camino del Norte Day 39: Vilalba to Baamonde 23 km

We woke up this morning at our usual time of around 8am (the sun doesn’t come up until 8:30 and we’re in no rush…) We packed up and went down to the kitchen to make coffee and have some cereal for breakfast. Around 8:30, several police officers arrived and seemed surprised that everyone was still in the albergue. They pointed out that the official rules say we must leave by 8am (all the Xunta albergues have this rule posted, but no one has enforced it with the sun coming up so late) and asked us to leave as soon as possible. At least half the people were still sleeping up in the dormitory, so the policement went to rouse them and hustle them back out onto the Camino.

This was a really beautiful day with perfect sunny weather and cool temperatures. The Galician countryside was verdant, with green moss growing on the all the ancient stone walls lining the path. We stopped for lunch along a stone bridge and soaked up the sun while feasting on tuna, tomatoes and cookies (I apparently forgot to buy the bread, though…)

Baamonde albergue is beautiful, with room for over 90 people. There are rooms of 4, 6 and 8 on the ground floor, and the second floor is a loft with many beds. There is a large kitchen (though only one of the burners worked), a very comfortable dining room with several tables and chairs as well as comfy couches. There’s a pleasant green garden area outside with well-tended plants. The grocery store is about 2 min. away, and there are two bars and a pharmacy.

We went to the store to buy dinner supplies as well as stock up for tomorrow (not only is it Sunday tomorrow but we will be sleeping in Miraz, a town without a proper shop or restaurant, so we will carry all our food). The shop was very reasonably priced for a such a small one and we were able to find everything we needed.

The weather turned very cold in the evening and the albergue turned on the heat! I don’t think I’ve ever been in an albergue with the heat on, it was quite toasty and handy for drying wet clothes. Dave and I were quite tired, so headed to bed around 9:30pm. Some of our fellow pilgrims were up talking until well after midnight (in the common room, since it was so cold outside, so we could hear everything and the room had no door to close against the sound. In spite of the noise, we slept great.

Camino del Norte Day 38: Gontan to Vilalba

We slept really well in Gontan’s very pleasant albergue. We passed through the town of Abadín and out into the countryside. The weather alternated between cloudy and sunny, though the temperature stayed quite chilly most of the day.

The trail twisted again back and forth over the main road, connecting quaint villages and farmland. Overall, the day was fairly unremarkable but pleasant.

We arrived to the Xunta albergue in Vilalba, which is a huge industrial building with a dark stone exterior. It’s an amazing place, but kind of an odd use of space with all the dorms on the third floor, bathrooms on the second floor, a lobby and kitchen on the ground floor, and half of the building is open all the way up all three floors.

The albergue is located in an industrial area just before Vilalba, so I ventured the 2km into town to get groceries. I came back with fixins to make beef strogonoff, one of Dave’s favorite meals. Unfortunately, the kitchen had no pots, pans or cutlery, so we had to utilize our small titanium pots. I made the sauce in the larger pot, and boiled the pasta in three separate batches in the smaller pot. Very tasty with a cool bottle of white wine!

We were feeling quite tired, so turned in early and watched an episode of a TV show on our laptop. I know, I know, not a very pilgrimy thing to do, but so relaxing and fun.

 

Camino del Norte Day 37: Lourenzá to Gontan

It’s nice to be back in Galicia, with its many rural farms and rustic hamlets, full of stone houses with slate roofs. I love seeing cozy spires of smoke coming from the chimneys. Services are few and far between, so it’s important to bring enough snacks and water. The sun was finally shining today, but the temperatures were still pleasantly cool. We passed a Romeria along the way, which is a yearly festival where the people of small towns do a procession to their local church or hermitage and have a big fiesta, with lots of food and LOTS of alcohol. We wandered about a bit, looking at the intricate pastries for sale and admiring the racks of ribs and boiled octopus on offer.

Most of today was gently uphill through a green valley with mountains towering on either side. We hardly saw anyone else all day. The Gontan albergue is quite lovely, with24 beds, a kitchen and even wifi! As in all Xunta albergues, we were issued a disposable fitted sheet and pillow case.

We took advantage of the sunny afternoon to finally get our laundry dry and enjoyed another delicious pasta dinner with supplies from the nearby village shop. Two Spanish guys who we had seen for the last few days arrived quite late after having stopped to eat at the Romeria. Sadly, all the beds were full and the hospitalero sent them to check at the sport center, which was closed. For legal reasons, they were not allowed to sleep on the floor of the albergue, even though there was plenty of space and even several couches in the dining room. There were no hotels within walking distance and the next albergue was more than 20km away.

Finally, a Czech couple offered the use of their tent and we offered the use of our sleeping pads, so the two were allowed to camp in the yard outside. It was a very cold night, so I hope they were able to keep warm!

Camino del Norte Day 36: Ribadeo to Lourenzá

We got a fairly early start this morning, making instant coffee and toast in the albergue. However, since we weren’t sure when we would be in a bigger town again, we decided to stop by a café to use the wifi. We also had a hard time figuring out how the route goes through Ribadeo because it is not marked at all, so we had to explore and find our own way. I’m not sure why some cities just do not mark through town—there were plenty of signs for hotel and all kinds of things, but not one Camino arrow or shell.

The weather had looked brighter, but became increasingly cloudy and we were deluged with rain as we entered Vilela. We had heard there was a new albergue there that we wanted to visit, but we didn’t see any signs to it. We asked several people, who sent us in different directions. Finally we found it, right behind the only café in town, but even the building itself did not have any sign outside. It was a beautifully restored building but unfortunately was very dirty with only one shower that was covered in mold. It’s hard to understand why a community would take the time and expense to renovate their old school into an albergue, but not take the simple next step of putting a sign out!

The rain let up rather suddenly, and we enjoyed some sunshine to dry us off. It didn’t last long, however, as were socked by an even stronger downpour, which drove us to seek shelter under an abandoned barn roof. We thought of stopping in the albergue of Gondán, which had a lovely kitchen, but there are no shops or restaurants nearby, and we didn’t think we had enough food for the evening. The albergue also has the toilets and showers outside of the building and I didn’t relish the thought of running out in the rain to use the bathroom… There was no one else at the albergue yet and we would have had to call for someone to drop off the key.

We continued on to the next town, San Xusto, and were surprised to see a new albergue there! With only 10 beds (including a room of only 2 beds), it looked quite nice and there was no one there yet at 5pm, so we would likely have had the place to ourselves. Quite tempting, but we decided to press on to the larger town (2,600) of Lourenzá in order to cook a more substantial dinner. We arrived a little after 6pm, and the 18-bed albergue was almost full. We grabbed some food from the grocery store and made up a tasty pasta dinner. None too soon, as there was hot competition for the one stove burner and two pots available at the albergue…

I had a nice hot shower and did laundry in the dark, though our clothes will likely not dry tonight. The weather report says sun for the next 5 days, so we hope they are right! I have been surprised that this route has much fewer washing machines than the Francés, where it was possible to pay a few euros to wash every few days. I really get tired of hand washing, especially the arduous task of wringing things out… and no amount of hand washing seems to rival the cleanliness a machine wash affords.

My mom has also been experiencing rainy, cold weather on her route. She has completed two days already and seems to be doing well!