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If you asked people who have walked the Camino de Santiago what their reason for going is, you would hear many different reasons. We may not be able to write about them all, but we’ll explore five popular reasons why people walk the Camino de Santiago in this article.
Overall, we think walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is a once in a lifetime chance to contemplate what really matters. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: walking the Camino is amazing! So, if you’re on the fence about going or just wondering why on earth anyone would want to walk miles and miles (or kilometers) across Spain with nothing but a backpack, stay tuned for this post on why people walk the Camino de Santiago!
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Why do people walk the Camino de Santiago?
So, why do people walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain? Here are five interesting reasons.
1. Spiritual or religious reasons
Originally Catholic in nature, there’s no denying there’s a deeply spiritual aspect of the Camino de Santiago, which is called the St. James Way in English. It’s believed that the remains of St. James are enshrined at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and pilgrims have been walking to his tomb for centuries.
In 2019, upwards of 89% of pilgrims stated they were walking the Camino for either “religious reasons” (40%) or “religious and other” (49%). Other reasons can encompass any of the other reasons we list in the article, or more. You’ll see in your credencial that you simply need an “attitude of search” to walk the Camino and receive your Compostela.
In any case, whether people are Catholic, exploring their own relationship with God, or meditating on other aspects of their spiritual lives, religion and spirituality is definitely a popular reason why people walk the Camino. It’s a time to quiet whatever is going on in your head and work it out on the pavement.
If you are so inclined, there are pilgrim’s masses held at various cathedrals and churches along the Camino. All pilgrims are invited to attend these Catholic services to pray, meditate, and receive a blessing for your journey. Whatever your faith or reason for walking, we encourage you to attend at least one mass. They are usually short and in Spanish and are very encouraging!
2. Touristic & cultural reasons
Whether people are fans of Spain or just love the idea of a thru-hike, finding out what the Camino de Santiago is all about is a worthy pursuit when it comes to tourism.
The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route itself has lots of history behind it with roots stretching back to the 9th century (some say even earlier). Because of this, there is a lot to see and learn about along the Camino. From old churches and monasteries to hospitals to several Camino museums, you’ll find no shortage of information that will help you better understand the Camino’s significance in Spanish history.
In addition to historical information, of course there’s a rich culture in Spain to experience. Moreover, the Camino itself has a culture all of its own, even with its own special terms and symbols. Along the Camino, pilgrims can enjoy local cuisine and wine, practice their Spanish, attend pilgrim’s masses at various Catholic churches, and so much more. It’s really no wonder that the Camino has entranced so many over the years!
Lastly, of course, the scenery is gorgeous. From old Roman bridges to Gaudi’s palace to the hórreos of Galicia (granaries), there is something amazing to see around every turn. Amateur photographers will love it!
3. Enjoy nature & physical exercise
Nature lovers love the Camino de Santiago. What’s more, you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to enjoy the trek. Anyone who likes to walk, hike, or run and get outdoors has the chance to do so on the Camino.
And we do mean anyone. We’ve seen everyone from couples with strollers to 80-year olds out walking the Camino, and enjoying every minute!
All in all, enjoying physical activity in the outdoors is a popular reason why people walk the Camino. Each day, the Camino terrain will change ranging from flat fields to mountains to roadside walking and everything in between. Your body will change, too, as you adapt to your new routine of daily walking.
Undoubtedly, crossing through the terrain and actually experiencing it change in front of your very eyes — along with changes in season, your body, food, local customs, etc. — leaves you feeling more connected to the land and the people in it.
In an increasingly digital world, it seems like we are constantly bombarded with content from all angles. And as much as we say we’d like to disconnect or take a break, it’s a bit harder to do so in reality.
The Camino for many offers a chance to totally unplug. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons that drew me to my first Camino — I just wanted to sit in quiet and hear my own voice.
Unplugging can be a powerful experience, and it does truly feel like you’re in another world on the Camino de Santiago. With nothing to do but walk, do laundry, and eat, you realize how easy it can be to unplug, afterall.
Many (if not most) take this mindset back into their daily lives, learning to slow down and disconnect from technology on a regular basis. Honestly, with this built-in break from the world, why wouldn’t someone want to walk the Camino in Spain?
5. Experience healing
There is something that happens out there on the trail. Maybe it’s the click clack of your trekking poles mixed with sheer determination. But, we don’t see how walking out whatever is on your mind and heart can’t be healing!
Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, healing from the pain of divorce, or even coming to grips with your own health struggles, you can find healing while walking on the Camino de Santiago.
I met so many people with stories to tell, and a lot of them were recovering from a particularly difficult time in their life. Whether it had been years or days, they wanted the solitude to think through everything they had been through. Plus, actually talking it out with new friends can be extremely helpful for your mental wellbeing.
Last Words on Why People Walk the Camino
As you can see, the reasons why people walk the Camino are varied, yet mainly centered around mental, physical, cultural, touristic, and spiritual aspects. Just ask pilgrims why they are walking, and you’ll get a range of answers from, “I’m grieving a loved one who wanted to do this” to a straightforward, “I was in Porto and saw the signs, so I bought a backpack and started walking.”
Whatever the reason you stopped by our page today, we highly recommend getting onto the Camino de Santiago route and seeing with your own eyes what it has to offer!
More Camino de Santiago Inspiration
Find more inspiration on walking the Camino de Santiago with these articles.
- 22+ Great Camino de Santiago Books to Inspire You
- 7 Best Camino de Santiago Movies: Uplifting Stories
- 48 Camino de Santiago Motivational Quotes
- Best Camino de Santiago Gifts: Camino Gift Guide
- Camino de Santiago Symbols