Oh, that’s definitely a very important question you should think about.
I made my three Caminos with a friend/friends and one Camino I made alone, fortunately, that one was just from Porto to Santiago de Compostela which I made in 8 days.
I think you can consider a few options:
- Go alone.
- Go with your life partner
- Go with your friend
- Go with a group of friends
- Go with a big organized group
Do it all alone
Indeed, going alone has its pros and cons.
I think the biggest advantage is that you do not depend on anyone. You do all that you want, you hike every day as much as you want, no one is pushing you, no one is asking you anything, no one is stopping you, no one is asking to slow down or hurry up.
If you are a big loner and can’t stand to adapt to other people’s needs, that’s the way for you. You may think that if you go with the same fitness level person and you will get along just fine all the time, you walk the same pace, you feel great all day and so on – that’s not going to happen. Believe me. People are different in many ways, fitness here is just one part. Maybe a big part, but not the most important.
So if you can’t stand adapting – do it alone.
The bad thing while doing it alone, you will definitely feel lonely, especially if you have to sleep alone in Albergue or there are no people who are interested in having a conversation. If you walk just 20-25km a day, you will have plenty of time to spend in Albergue, and to spend that time alone is not that fun. So you must really like being alone most of the time.
Another thing is that you may not have anyone to go with you. And it’s not because you have no friends. It’s simply hard to find people to do such a thing, walking day after day or even find free time to do that. That’s not so easy to get one month vacation.
And if you are alone not because you want so, you may feel a need to find friends. And let me give you a suggestion: the best time to find friends are on the first days from Saint Jean Pied de Port because people are very open on the first days, they want to know other people, if they are tired, they are still excited and so on. That doesn’t happen too much later on as people meet so many other people on Camino, they are not interested anymore to know everyone so much. Yes, you may find your best friend on day 25 or on day 30, but it’s much easier to find them on the first days.
On my first Camino Frances, we met some people with who we walked for the next 14 days. Just later on we had to split as we had to hurry up and walk faster to get on time to Santiago de Compostela and my friend’s flight back home.
Further reading: Which Camino is the best choice for beginners?
Another thing is that on the first days most people walk the same distances: from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, then to Larrasoaña, then to Cizur Menor (right after Pamplona), then to Puente la Reina and so on. So you meet the same people day after day and you definitely start talking and get to know each other.
Later on, after 10-15 days, people do not usually walk the same distances and you start to meet people just for one day. You may walk 35km the next day, they walk 25km and you will never meet again.
So the first days are the best to make friends. Some people even make all Camino Frances together even though they didn’t know each other before.
Go with your friend or a life partner
That’s two totally different things: go with your friend, go with your life partner (wife, girlfriend, husband, and so on).
I hear that some people do Camino de Santiago to challenge their relationship: if they can do that together, they can definitely get married.
You may do that if you think that walking every day shows weak or strong spots of your relationship, but sincerely, I think life is more than that. First, I think you should see that your partner is fit for you before doing such a thing. Second thing, it’s really important to know what is a “no-no” for you when talking about a successful relationship.
Further reading: How long does it take to walk Camino de Santiago?
Of course, you or your partner get tired when walking so much each day. Of course, you or your partner may not want to help immediately when the other one is more tired and asks to carry his/her own bag. Of course, you may get angry the other part is talking shit about the whole trip. Of course, you or your partner may not want to cook every time in the evening. There are many things that can go wrong, but it definitely doesn’t show the whole picture of the other person’s personality.
Yeah, maybe some crazy things may happen that are totally unacceptable to you (leaving you with your ankle twisted or not giving you food, because you walked to slow that day and so on) and that would be a win situation to you as you would see that another person is definitely not for you. But if no such crazy things happen, I think you should take small fights very lightly.
Picking a friend
I think here you have to consider that your drinking buddy or your BFF with whom you make amazing selfies may not be the person to walk 25km every day. While drinking beer and get hammered on Saturday evening is fun, it’s not very fun to do so every day on Camino and walk 25km the next morning.
I think you have to choose a person who is at least a little bit adventurous. If you go with a person who thinks that spending weekends in the supermarket or playing video games is the most fun thing to do, he’s not a good fit for this challenge. Your friend should like outdoor activities, he/she should walk 20km at least once in their lives, your buddy shouldn’t have any problems sleeping in one room full of strangers and he/she shouldn’t have problem with a lower level of hygiene and so on and so forth. There are many things to consider. Because if they do not adapt to Camino’s rules, they will be a burden for you. They will cry, they will complain and that will drive you crazy.
Further reading: Everything about Albergues in Camino de Santiago
The second thing to consider is as well your and your friend’s fitness level. They should be similar. If you walk easily 35km and your friend dies after 20km (or vice versa), it’s not a good fit. It won’t be fun for any of you to wait all the time (or rush all the time). You both should be able to make the same distances every day.
The third thing to consider is bad or bothersome habits. If you hate smoking and your friends smoke like a chimney, it will drive you crazy after a few days. If your friend gets hammered every night, it’s not fun to walk with a hangover person in the morning and so on. Just consider that.
And lastly, your friend has to be a fighting person. I mean that he/she shouldn’t be the one who gives up very easily. You will definitely have some bad days and some very bad days and if your buddy is the one who gives up very fast, don’t take him with you. You both must know what the pain is and you both must motivate each other to reach your final destination.
Go with a group of friends
I have never done that, but few times I saw that the groups of 3-7 friends walk together.
I think it may be much fun as with more people, the energy (especially bad energy) spreads across more people and you shouldn’t fight that much. You can get more help, you will never get lonely, you can share the responsibilities (some people go to buy food, some cook, some clean the dishes), you can have nice chats in the evenings and so on.
Further reading: Preparation process for Camino de Santiago
But I think that there are some cons as well.
It can get hard to organize a bigger group as people often have so many different opinions. Some people will want different foods, different drinks, even want to walk different distances each day. Some people complain a lot, some people do not do anything, and so on.
I think it’s a great thing do to with a group of friends, but you have to consider similar things I mentioned when picking your friend, although, in a bigger group, some people’s bad habits won’t drive you so much crazy as you won’t be the one to deal with that.
Go with a big organized group
I have never met one big group walking together, but I know that some companies or especially churches organize big groups of 15-20 people to walk Camino de Santiago.
It may be good because, I assume that they have one leader of the group who takes care of stuff like every day’s destination, cooking/buying food, takes care if you are in pain, and all other small details. That’s pretty cool.
But in a big organized group, your voice can be pretty small and if you do not really like how they do things, there’s not much you can do.
If they decide to walk to a specific destination, you kind of must do that as well. If they decide to rest for an hour or more, you kind of do the same.
In such big groups, there can be very different people who you do not really know and you have to share everyday stuff with them and if those people are not very nice, it can ruin the whole trip.
You may consider this option, it may get cheaper than doing it alone or with a friend, but I think it’s better to be at least a little independent.
So there are many things to consider as you see.
I myself wouldn’t do it alone, because it’s always better to share your experiences with other people. To walk alone, eat alone, cook alone, rest alone.. day after day, is not much fun.
If you are lucky enough to have friends who can do it together with you, definitely invite them to this amazing trip! It can be your childhood friend, your partner, or even your sister/brother/mother/father. You will have time of your life!