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The Way of Saint James in sections: the perfect option if you only have a few days to spare

The Way of Saint James in sections: the perfect option if you only have a few days to spare

Walking the Camino de Santiago in sections is a perfect option if you do not have many days. It is cheaper, more flexible and has other advantages. Read on to find out more.
Bridge of Pontesampaio, in the middle of the Portuguese Way to Santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago in sections has become one of the most common ways to do it. And there is a good reason for this: our lives are becoming more and more complicated and it is difficult to find time for such a time-demanding adventure.

In other words: fewer and fewer people can dedicate a month or more to walk the almost 800 km of the French Way, or the more than 800 km of the Northern Way. We don't even always have a fortnight to get from Oviedo to Santiago on the Camino del Norte. the spectacular Primitive Way. So today we are going to talk about the advantages of dividing the Camino de Santiago into sections.

The Way of Saint James by sections

Since the birth of the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrimage phenomenon and until its recovery in the 1960s, almost all the people who walked it did it from beginning to end. In other articles we have already said that it was done from each person's home. The idea of travelling to a place like Roncesvalles, Irún or Oporto to start walking is also a recent invention.

The Camino has adapted to modern times. And, precisely for that reason, it is very unlikely that a pilgrim who today lives in Madrid or Vienna will start walking from those cities. He or she will choose a route and take a train or plane to reach the starting point.

You may be interested in: How to get to Sarria or Tui? (updated)

In this way, the possibilities of choosing where to start are multiplied and there is the option of walking just a certain distance and leave the rest for successive occasions. When we talk about doing the Camino de Santiago in sections, we refer, in effect, to this very thing: divide the total route into parts and do them at different times, even in different years.

English Way through the mountains

How to divide the Camino de Santiago by sections?

The easiest way to proceed is decide which route we want to takeThe aim of this procedure is to obtain sections that are more or less equal in distance and that we can complete in, for example, a week's holiday, and then divide this number of stages by the number of days we can spend on them. The aim of this procedure is to obtain sections that are more or less equal in distance and that we can complete in, for example, a week's holiday.

However, in order to make a good division it is necessary to take into account a few more aspects. Firstly, we need to take into account the day of arrival at the starting point and the day we will use to return home. This means that, if you have a week, you can really only set aside 5 days for stages. Or, if you have a fortnight, the walking/cycling days will normally be reduced to 13.

Another aspect to take into account is that not all points of the Camino de Santiago are equally well connected by public transport such as plane or train, or even bus. Therefore, sometimes the sections will have to be a little longer or shorter to try to finish in a city that facilitates the arrival (or return).

Let's see it with a practical example: let's imagine that we want to do the French route of the Camino de Santiago in sections of 7 days, trying to do stages of 20-30 km per day, starting in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port and trying to make the end of the stages coincide with cities that facilitate transport. The division could look like this:

  • Saint Jean Pied-de-Port - Pamplona5 days (3 stages). 66 km.
  • Pamplona - Logroño6 days (4 stages). 95 km.
  • Logroño - Burgos7 days (5 stages). 121 km.
  • Burgos - Carrión de los Condes6 days (4 stages). 84 km.
  • Carrión de los Condes - León7 days (5 stages). 94 km.
  • León - Ponferrada6 days (4 stages). 102 km.
  • Ponferrada - Sarria6 days (4 stages). 90 km.
  • Sarria - Santiago7 days (5 stages). 114 km.

In this example, none of the sections exceeds seven days, and the only place with some difficulty to reach would be Carrión de los Condes, where a bus arrives from Palencia, about 40 km away. The rest (except Sarria and Ponferrada, which have trains) are provincial or autonomous community capitals, so you will not find it difficult to reach them. The same can be done with other routes. If you need help, do not hesitate to contact us so that we can give you a hand in the planning.

Arrival in Muxía on the Way of the End of the World
Arrival in Muxía on the Way of the End of the World

Advantages of a Camino de Santiago in sections

It is true that doing a long route in one go is mentally challenging and gives us the chance to soak up the experience better than with a shorter route. However, splitting it up into sections also has its advantages.

  1. It is an excellent way to map out a medium-term project for our free time. A project like this allows us to develop it more calmly and gives us a goal to which we will want to return constantly. With a Camino de Santiago by sections you will always have a reference for a getaway. And, in addition, planning it with time you can always have the best services.
  2. You will have more time to inform yourself and prepare for it. One of the confessions we hear most from people who do the whole route in one go is that they are afraid of not getting the most out of the experience, due to lack of knowledge or lack of preparation. By doing the Camino in sections, this will only happen at the beginning, and for the following sections you will already have a degree of experience. You will know what to look out for, what to look for, how to pace yourself, etc. In addition, spacing out the experiences will give you the possibility to internalise what you will learn in a more progressive way and thus achieve a fuller experience.
  3. It is easier to pack. This is obvious: it is much easier to make a pilgrim's backpack for 6 or 7 days than for 30 or 40. Even if you are going to use a service for transporting luggage from accommodation to accommodation, it is important to bear in mind that these usually have a maximum permitted weight, between 15 and 20 kilos per bag.
  4. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. The Camino de Santiago will involve a significant physical effort. Doing it in sections prevents it from falling into oblivion and helps to keep fit to face the next stretch in better conditions.
  5. Meet more people. One of the attractions of the Camino de Santiago is to meet other people who, like you, are on their way to Compostela. As you go along, little by little you will find that you meet more or less the same people. If you do it by sections, this diversifies, and the stories to share multiply.
  6. It allows you to opt for short stages. Imagine that you have 15 days: it is not necessary to do 13 stages of 20-30km each. By doing the Camino de Santiago in sections you can take it more slowly, covering half stages where possible. This way you will have more free time in different places to enjoy their heritage, to spend more time interacting with other people and yourself, or to escape to places of interest that are nearby, but not exactly on the Camino, and that full-stage pilgrims are often too tired to visit.
  7. It is cheaper. Or, at least, the financial effort you will need to make (meals, overnight stays, transport, etc.) will be more spread out over time, and you will have more leeway to decide whether the time is right to do it or not. After all, it is not the same to make reservations for more than a month's journey as it is for a week or a fortnight.
Guide to the Way of Saint James for beginners
More than 80 pages of information designed for walkers and pilgrims starting out on the Way of St. James.

Where to start?

One of the doubts that most people who decide to do the Camino de Santiago by sections is where to start. Again with the example of the French Way: should I start with the section between Saint Jean Pied-de-Port or Roncesvalles and Pamplona?

Our recommendation is that, if it is going to be your first Camino, you should opt for the section that reaches Santiago. In the example of the French Way, it would correspond to the section that arrives to Santiago. Sarria-Santiagowhich also allows you to fulfil the distance requirement to obtain the Compostela.

You may be interested in: Requirements to obtain the Compostela.

Do I have to use a new credential for each tranche?

Another frequently asked question has to do with the badge - do I have to use a new badge for each leg? The answer is no. The credentials can be filled in at different times, as long as there is a correct chronological and geographical line. On the other hand, if you want to obtain the Compostela (for which it is essential to present the credential), you should know that the Pilgrim's Office will only check the last 100 km, as this is the requirement established by the Church of Compostela to issue this certificate.

You may be interested in: The Compostela and other documents of the Way of St. James

On the other hand, bear in mind that the spaces available for stamps are limited, so if you're doing a full long-distance tour, you may end up needing several credentials - no problem!

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