Planning The Way to Santiago – where do I start?
If you want to walk (part of) The Way to Santiago you’ll probably start with gathering information from the internet. Planning The Way to Santiago is not something you get done in 5 minutes. So, if you can use a website that contains as much information as possible, it will decrease the burden of surfing around in circles.
Having created such a website myself, I thought it would be at least fair to create a Top 6 of resources where you can choose from (or combine). These resources should contain answers to a broad range of questions and providing information on all different Camino-related topics. That would be a good start for a brand new pilgrim, right?
Now, for the Dutch version of this article I had to dig deep, deeper than the first page of Google results. However, for this post I’m looking at websites in English and my oh my do you guys have resources to choose from! Checking all those resources out would be a Camino in itself! I won’t include information provided by large travel agencies or personal blogs (they score high on Google, but those websites are not aiming at providing you with all the information you need for your own planning.
I screened the most useful and came up with the list below. Yes, our website made it also to the list, but hey; we put a lot of effort in providing a broad-spectrum Camino Infosite and we put a lot of hours in it to publish it in both Dutch and English. I’m convinced we achieved our number one goal: 1 place where you can find details on every aspect of your planning and ask any questions you may have that we did not think about! We must admit we’re proud of this accomplishment :-).
International Associations of Pilgrims
They are the official associations for Pilgrims and most countries have at least one, but usually several departments. A common thing is that they are run by volunteers and have paying members who enjoy a privileged entry to some of their services (periodic newsletters, special discounts, a free (or almost free) credential, annual gatherings, etc.). Some of the associations have a very complete website with tons of information. Here are the ones that I found specifically useful for planning The Way to Santiago: I’ll count them as 1 ;-).
American Pilgrims on the Camino
Probably the first place to go for Americans. One of the best Association websites with extensive information on the Camino. What I like best of this association is the true pilgrim spirit with regards to giving access to all information for free and obtaining a credencial: “Membership in American Pilgrims is not required to receive a credential but donations are of course gratefully accepted”. Up to 10 credentials it’s even free of charge. Cheers to the American Pilgrims Association!
Their FAQ section is HUGE. Check it out!
The Confraternity of Saint James
This UK-based Confraternity has a very nice website with all the basic information. They have an extensive FAQ section and a webshop where you can buy books, guides and some camino-related items. Nice touch! They offer different credentials for both members and non-members, giving you at least the freedom of choice. If you’re a member you can get if for free, if you’re not a member you can purchase one via their website (although it does not state how much it costs). For a deeper insight into the different routes of the Camino they provide a link to a page of a CSJ member at santiago-compostela.net which also includes maps.
The Canadian Company of Pilgrims
I met several Canadian pilgrims on The Way and I must say they had something in common: a great sense of humor. The Canadian Company of Pilgrims has a focus on providing information to members only. A slightly different approach than e.g. the American Association but I’m still including them in the list for our Canadian readers, since I imagine it can add to your Camino if you’re associated to a group of fellow-Canadians, specially when you get back from yours. To obtain the credential you have to become a member ($10) to buy one for $5.
The Irish Society of the Friends of St. James
Basic information only. I imagine if you’re Irish it’s the first link you’ll visit and it does have some basic information on all routes. But 10 Euros (why not in Pounds?) for a Credencial is just too much in my honest opinion. If you want folks to ‘give something back’ or as it’s also called: ‘pay forward’ why not make it a volunteer donation? That way, people that are not able to pay 10 Euros can also have access to the Irish Pilgrim Passport… and you might even get some donations way over 10 Euros if that’s what folks want to do to show their gratitude.
The page I liked most on their website is the page with useful links. Very clear, no cluttering, but again, I don’t feel the Pilgrim Spirit on their website, which could feel daunting for new pilgrims.
Other International Associations
You can find a list of International Associations (and Confraternities) on the website of The Pilgrim’s Office. They are currently updating that section, so make sure you check back soon.
Member-ship-free ‘get all you want’ websites
This is the list where we did include our own website because, like I said, we are very proud that we were able to create this. One place where we already have A LOT of information. We’re only two ladies trying to create a place that we were searching for when we first started planning our first Camino. I think we managed very well and we’re proud of the result. We hope it may provide a lot of pilgrims an easy way to start planning the way to Santiago!
Training, planning, all stages, the most important Camino routes, history, maps and much more. If you’re completely new to hiking and don’t have the basic hiking items to put in your backpack don’t worry, we even took on the challenge of creating a small pilgrim shop where we offer good products for a reasonable price. From St James’ Shells and Pilgrim Passports to your light-weight sleeping bag or silk liner: we invested our savings in compiling the one-stop-shop for pilgrims. Don’t want to go alone because you are not able to (for whatever reason)? We walk with you and will be your humble guides. We walk the Camino several times yearly, so if that’s the only way you can get to experience this adventure, we’re there for you!
This is our favorite website. The functionality is the main reason. You can link through to printable lists of accommodations, maps, sightseeing topics and much much more. Eroski rules! You don’t even need to know Spanish to be able to navigate their website.
Our second favorite one. Also very structured and with tons of information. Very structured information on stages. A good addition to your resources. Con: only available in Spanish. Pro: click on a stage and you’ll get a detailed map + accommodations and links to them!
Hiking the Camino de Santiago
An ode to these two pilgrims who manage this portal! The site contains enough information to get you started and they manage to inspire their readers since they write from their own personal perspective: experience. I’m not a person who buys guidebooks, but if I ever would consider buying one, theirs would be way higher up the list than e.g a Brierley guide!
Check out their guide here: Hiking the Camino de Santiago – Camino Frances – St Jean – Santiago – Finisterre.
Last but not least
I want to include this website: caminosantiagodecompostela.com. Mainly because I can see from the contact form that it’s probably just 1 person that compiled the info and I know first-hand that it is a LOT of work. It includes a lot of valuable information and if you’re the type of person that likes to take in information that is presented in a blog style with amazing pictures, this site is perfect for you.
I tried to include the officials, the big ones and the little ones that make an effort to help you in planning the way to Santiago. Make your choice, it’s your Camino :-)!
Do you own a website that provides complete information so new pilgrims can start planning The Way to Santiago? Did I not include you in the lists above? Let me know in a comment and include the URL to your website. I will include your comment and the link if the site is clearly aimed at helping and informing fellow-pilgrims!
Pilgrims who used a specific website that helped them tremendously in planning The Way to Santiago are also most welcome to comment!