The first question would be how much actual time do you have? If you have a couple of weeks or 10 days, you won’t be able to do all the Camino as even for the toughest hikers it takes at least 15-20 days to make it.
But if you have a month or more, it’s time to think about your daily mileage.
If you have the luxury to buy tickets back to your home at any time during the trip, do not worry then too much about it as you will see in the middle of Camino how far you can go each day and then you are going to get to Santiago de Compostela.
If you do not have such luxury, let’s make some calculations.
You have to be pretty honest with yourself and determine how much can you walk a day. If you do not know, take a walk with a backpack (not necessarily full, but you can put a couple of full bottles inside) and see how you feel after 10km, 15km, and 20km. That will give you a very good idea of how much can you walk quite easily. If you are very tired after 15 or 20 kilometers, do not think to walk 25-30km each day on Camino, at least for the first week as it will kill you after few days.
You will have so much pain in your feet, back, shoulders and so many blisters that you will want to quit pretty soon. So do not overdo. Take it easy. It’s much better to make it slow than not to make it at all.
Most of those leaflets you are going to get at the beginning of Camino de Santiago suggest to make all the way to Santiago de Compostela in 30-33 days and it is quite a clever way to do it as you won’t walk too much every day, so you won’t get tired and you will have plenty of time to enjoy bigger cities or local attractions each day.
I did my first Camino in 29 days, second in 23 days. I did the second Camino much faster because I came in prepared and I avoided many painful experiences. I almost had no pain in my feet, back, or shoulders during my 2nd Camino, but it was very different my first time as my back, feet, and shoulders were killing me almost every day.
BUT if you are strong enough to walk 30-40km each day, it’s a different story for you.
When we did our second Camino de Santiago and after a few days we felt that walking 35+ kilometers a day is quite comfortable and we decided to do so every day. The biggest reason for us to do so that when you come in too early to Albergue, you do not have much to do there.
Let’s say if you start at 8 am and walk for 5 hours (which is quite a plenty of time to do 20km), you come to Albergue at 1.00 pm. Ok, what to do?
Of course, you go to some shops to buy food, then you make the food, but it takes two hours at most. Not more and you still have plenty of free time. You can as well go to local churches (if you are sleeping in a big city), maybe a museum and so on, but you must really like that stuff to do it daily. Or read a book, but if you read a book 6 hours a day, it can be as long as “War and Peace”, you are going to finish it pretty soon.
Some people do very long stops during their daily hikes which helps as well to avoid too much free time in Albergue or watch movies on their tablets or phones in albergues.
As we noticed this “problem” of free time we decided to come to Albergue later every day.
So this is how our day goes:
- we get up at 7 am and start our trip at about 8 am;
- we make at least 6km which is about one hour, and stop for a coffee and eat a few croissants in a bar which takes half an hour;
- after making 20km we start to look for a restaurant or eat whatever we have in our backpacks;
- after lunch the time is already 13.30-14.00;
- after lunchtime, we walk 15 kilometers more and come to Albergue at around 17-18.00 which is a very good time to make dinner.
- After dinner, it’s around 20.00 and it’s the perfect time to go to your bed, read a book, watch a movie, read the news and go to sleep.
I must inform you that such a schedule wouldn’t work if you decide to do Camino de Santiago in the summertime. That is simply because of the weather in Spain in the summer. It is so hot during the day, it goes up to +40 degrees Celsius, so the majority of pilgrims avoid walking in the sun after 11.00 or 12.00.
Most people get up as early as 5 am, start walking at 6 am, and finish their day at 12.00 (they can easily walk 25km in 6 hours).
You may still walk in the sun, but the problem is that if you come to Albergue, let’s say 5 pm, there may be no free beds for you and you have to walk more and more or go to the hotel. Summer is still the most crowded period and most of albergues are full each day.
So how much time do I need?
As we tracked with GPS, the route from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela is around 830 km (I must say that one day we took the longer route, as on some days they give you options to choose different ways to reach your destination). In most leaflets and information boards you will see that the whole route is 800km or 790km, but we tracked it each day from Albergue to Albergue and it is 830km.
p.s. Before heading to your first Camino, be sure to figure out all the equipment and gear you’ll need for a successful walk.
So if you divide it by 20km each day, you will get to Santiago de Compostela in 41-42 days. Which shouldn’t be hard at all even if you struggle to walk 20 km first days. You will definitely get stronger in a week or so.
But if you can walk 40km or so each day, you will make the whole route in 20-21 days. And you are still going to have a very good time.
If you do not feel like walking 25-40km a day, take your time, take it easy and enjoy Camino, do not rush, do not overdo it as too many kilometers can stop you for good.
It’s definitely not a competition. There is no first or second place. Most important thing is to reach the final destination no matter how many days. It’s better to make it slow than not to make it at all. Walking 830 km sounds pretty cool no matter what.
I hope this article will help you to decide your daily mileage and Buen Camino!