Now, you are determined to become a Pilgrim. The popularity of the Camino has increased in the last 25 years; therefore, you are likely to find pilgrims on the trail all year long. Keep in mind that winter months will witness the fewest pilgrims and the trail can be extra challenging due to weather; also, many restaurants and accommodations may close in the wintertime, especially in the more rural areas. The summer months has the highest pilgrim volumes since this time of year coincides with summer vacations and college breaks. Beware: the summer months can be very hot, especially on the treeless portions of the Camino in Castilla-Leon- and because of increased pilgrim volumes, it can be difficult to find accommodations along the way. By contrast, the Spring and Fall months typically offer more hospitable weather and somewhat fewer pilgrims.
Where to begin your Camino? and, how much time you need in order to get there? For the Camino Frances, the two most popular traditional starting points are the tiny villages of St. Jean Pied de Port (on the French side of the Pyrenees) and Roncevalles (on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees). Other popular starting points on the Camino Frances include the cities of Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, Astorga and Ponferrada, where those who wish to walk the minimum distance required to obtain the Compostela credential by bicycle typically start the Camino (approximately 200 km from Santiago).
Travel time and distances vary widely among pilgrims. Moreover, there is not a “right” or “wrong” starting point on the Camino – you can begin your journey from wherever you wish – you simply join the trail at that spot. If you want to ride the 500 kms (350 miles) stretch called the Camino Frances, you should budget 7 days. If you are in relatively good condition, you can expect to be able to cover an average of 50 kms per day.
Depending on your point of origin, you will typically require air, bus, and/or train travel to get you to your starting point. Larger cities are easier to get to than some of the smaller towns.
In order to prepare physically for the Camino, you should attempt to ride as much as possible, along varied terrain and in varied weather conditions. For best results, ride with your panniers on and filled with all of the things you will take – and wear the same gear you will wear on the Camino. Doing this will give your body a chance to adjust to the strain well in advance of your trip. Also, by sampling equipment and clothes early, you can make adjustments if something does not fit or feel right.