Walking El Camino de Santiago, there will be a lot to experience. These are just a few of the things not to be missed, but to make the most of this adventure just listen to your heart and body.
10. Put a scallop shell on your backpack
The scallop shell has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago and it is quite common to see pilgrims with shells on their packs on their way to Santiago. You can get them all the way along the Camino Frances – from shops, roadside sellers, albergues, some cafe-bars and tourism offices. The shells generally have two holes drilled in its corners and has a string threaded through so you can tie it to your backpack. In the past the scallop shell served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago – for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl. The scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which comes together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela.
9. Speak Spanish
For sure, you can manage to walk El Camino without saying not even one word in Spanish, but come one, where is the fun in that. You can start with some simple greeting words such as “Buenos dias” and “Que tal” and maybe somewhere along the way you can try to order a beer. Don’t be shy, nobody expects pilgrims to be fluent Spanish speakers, but people do respond well if you make some kind of effort, so why not trying?
8. Drink free wine from a fountain
A spot not to miss on Camino is the fountain “Fuente del Vino” shortly after leaving the main part of the town of Estrella. Many pilgrims stop here and try the local wine for free.
7. Eat an octopus
During the Camino de Santiago you will discover gastronomic delights awaiting along your route – from simple tapas to classy seafood dishes as stuffed crab and freshly-caught shellfish. However, the most delicious (they say), or at least the most famous and traditional food is the galician octopus. It is a must-eat.
6. Take a part in a public event
I am sure there is no person who haven’t heard about the Spanish “fiestas”. Yeah, Spanish people like to party, they like to party loudly and in public. It could be a big national holiday, a small town event, or just a regular Friday night, they will make it count. Even if you miss the famous San Fermin festival in Pamplona, you can always join other event, you wont regret it.
5. Notice the little things
Walking El Camino will make you appreciate all the little things we take for granted. Even more, once forgotten about all daily stuff that trouble your mind, you will start notice things that you haven’t notice before. Camino is the best place to truly open your mind to universes’ beauty.
4. Cook and have a diner with people form different nationalities
Camino is all about discovering yourself and your nature, about achieving self-awareness. However, is also about the others – learning from them and sharing experience. There is no better way to bond with group of stranger than to cook and share a meal together. Dining with people from 20 different nationalities is for sure an experience you wont forget.
3. Burn your clothes
It is a tradition for pilgrims to burn their clothes or boots at the end of their journey. Is a way to get rid of the material things and start a new life. The ‘burning ritual’ take place at Cape Finisterre – one of the most beautiful and, in my opinion, spiritual places on Camino.
2. Sing with the nuns
I had my best night on the Camino in Carrion de los Condes – a place I will never forget. We checked into the Santa Maria albergue run by five nuns, and it looked like to be a normal albergue (if there is such a thing as “normal” on Camino) until we all gathered to say a little prayer. Or we though it would be a prayer. It turned out to be a singing performance. It was those few nuns who showed us what it meant to have a gentle hear, to “believe in the light while you have the light” in you.
1. Take a rest in front of the Cathedral of Santiago
It is the Cathedral of Santiago that marks the end of El Camino. However, they say, the real Camino starts after you finish your trip, it is different camino – is the camino of your life. Taking a moment to rest before starting this new journey is a must-do.