Essential Tips for Walking the Camino de Santiago with Kids

The northernmost Camino route hugs the Galician coastline. Photo by nomadkate/Adobe Stock

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Spain‘s famous Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, comprises a network of ancient pilgrim routes dating back to the 9th century, all culminating at the tomb of St. James the Greater. His relics are believed to be held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in the Galicia region of the country’s far northwest. An important religious pilgrimage during medieval times, when Spain was mostly under the control of the Moors, the Camino is very much part of the foundation of Christian Europe.

Today, a variety of visitors still walk the Camino, whether for spiritual, fitness or other purposes. The most popular route, which is about 500 miles, starts just over the Spanish border in southwestern France; it’s also possible to begin in Portugal. Families that choose to visit and traverse portions of the Camino — typically 12 miles a day, with overnight stops at local hotels and inns — will get deep cultural and historical immersion while also bonding together upon completing such an incredible adventure.

Walking the Camino de Santiago with Kids
The grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the endpoint of the Camino de Santiago, is believed to house the relics of St. James the Great. Photo by milosk50/Adobe Stock

Our vetted travel partner in Spain shares more about what walking the Camino with kids entails. If you’re ready to experience it for yourself, contact our Family Travel Advisor team — we can facilitate an amazing Camino trip tailored just for you.

Tips for Walking the Camino de Santiago with Kids

Q: What are some reasons for families to do the Camino?

A: There are several reasons to do the Camino, but the most compelling for a family traveling there is really the bonding experience. Once you’ve walked along this historic route together for one week or 10 days, as a family, you have such a collective sense of achievement.

Another reason to do the Camino is the authenticity — you’re going to part of northern Spain that is not heavily visited. You’re going through meadows, pastures, villages, seeing the way people in rural Spain live.

Of course it’s very good exercise too and a chance to disconnect from our hectic daily lives, from work, university, school. It’s a chance to get back in nature. As long as you have kids who are open to being active, they will see some different things, taste different things.

And it’s not just Spaniards and Americans walking the Camino — people from all around the world walk the Camino, for many different reasons. Maybe they are mourning someone or celebrating someone. It’s a route that’s been trodden for centuries. One can’t escape the feeling that they are treading this historic path.

The joy of the Camino is that you don’t know how you feel until you’ve finished it.

Walking the Camino de Santiago with Kids
The various parts of the Camino are marked by distinctive signage that includes yellow arrows and, often, scallop shell icons (the symbol of St. James). Photo by Joaquin Corbalan/Adobe Stock

Q: Do you have a suggested family-friendly route that fits within a week to 10 days?

A: For families, we don’t expect anyone to be doing three, four, five weeks. So how to do it? The way we set up trips is not the way the hardcore Camino walker would do it; we are trying to give people an authentic experience of the Camino, but also include some nicer accommodations and lovely meals along the way.

We have created a Camino highlights itinerary that gives families a flavor of different regions, different landscapes, different cuisines. Spain is a very regional country with different traditions in each place. This way, families can still walk every day, but they are doing it in a way where they are seeing the most picturesque parts of Camino. It’s not the way the Camino is devised, but it’s a way that makes it enjoyable.

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Also, our itinerary includes a driver and guide that accompany the family (not all the time, but available to them whenever they might wish for some support). Our guides make it easy to figure out where to have lunch. They can take families to historic sites they might have missed … the guides are there to make sure it is a seamless, fun experience so the family can focus on the walking, the eating, the journey.

The driver is there as a backup as well, to take the family, or even just one or two members of the family, to the starting point or from the end point to the hotel if desired during the day. Having the driver allows the family to have flexibility so they don’t have to walk every step of every segment of the itinerary. The drivers and guides are all professional and they play the role that family desires.

Q: What should families expect along the way as far as meals and accommodations?

A: You’re walking through small towns and small villages. This is not a part of the world people are going to for luxury hotels, but that said, there are some more upscale properties between the French Pyrenees and northern Spain that we have been able to include that are very much on the Camino route. Our job is to customize the trip and imbue as much authenticity as we can while also keeping in mind the family’s preferences. The food in northern Spain is some of the best in the country. It’s more about the local produce, local seafood.

Walking the Camino de Santiago
The northernmost section of the Camino hugs the Galician coastline. Photo by nomadkate/Adobe Stock

Q: What is the ideal age group for this kind of family trip? Certainly, everyone needs to be fit enough to walk long distances.

A: The idea would be a long walk during the morning for 4 or 5 hours and then finish by lunchtime. But you’ve always got the backup driver with you as an option. Your guide can call the driver and set up a pickup if needed. The Camino isn’t a test of endurance; it’s to enjoy the walk, enjoy the scenery. But if they are too tired to carry on, it’s okay to call the guide and driver. That said, this trip is really ideal for kids 11 years old and up if they are going to walk most of the distance each day. Most families that come to us to do the Camino are generally active-minded.

Q: What is the best time of year to go?

A: The best time to go is May, June and the first half of July. It’s not ideal with school, but September and early October are wonderful too.

Walking the Camino de Santiago with Kids
Santiago de Compostela’s Old Town is atmospheric and charming. Photo by Lux Blue/Adobe Stock

Q: What is there to do in the Santiago de Compostela area other than the cathedral?

A: Santiago is an ancient city over a thousand years old. Of course, the town is so religiously significant, which is why pilgrims walked there, but it’s also a big university town that’s lively, with music, great restaurants and some of the best seafood. You can do day trips to the coast, if you wanted to extend your trip, to Cape Finisterre — the westernmost point of Spain, called the end of the world by the Romans. It’s also possible to access some of Spain’s wine country from Santiago if you wanted to do that.

Q: Given that the route ends in an off-path corner of northwest Spain, how do travelers get home from there?

A: You can take a flight back to Madrid and then connect to your international flight. You also have the option to go to Porto, Portugal, which is about 3 hours by car, and fly home from there.

Relevant Links:

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This is a challenging time for our clients given the uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus, particularly for those with near-term travel plans in impacted areas. We’re working with our suppliers on being flexible with their booking conditions, and enabling families to postpone travel to a later date without a penalty, when possible. Likewise, given the unpredictability around destinations that may be impacted in the future, we’re helping clients planning new trips and understand ways that they can protect themselves until the situation improves. We are ready to help our clients work through questions and concerns.

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