When preparing for a five-week walk, one hopes that there will be a variety of landscape and trails to mix things up. Within limit, the Camino provides. Overall, you must somewhat like humanity and the European countryside. Unfortunately, humans are rather like a fungus and we’ve spread, delightfully leaving spoor trails wherever we pass – there is no time where you don’t see SOME form of human impact, be it a dwelling or a windmill. This is a list of 10+1 general landscape details along the Camino Frances.
When someone tells you that on Day X the walking will be flat, don’t believe them! Not even on the Meseta which is supposedly tableland. There is always an incline of some sort. Which normally isn’t a problem, but when you’ve been walking for umpteen days straight with a backpack, even an anthill climb looks like a Herculean task.
The Pyrenees was the monster. Many people skip it – but I think it is worth the pain. Absolutely gorgeous views (on a clear day, of course) but the first 12 or so kilometers are hellacious if you’re not used to steep inclines. And what goes steeply uphill must come steeply down… But the views! The quiet! The peacefulness!
Not large enough to be a mountain but definitely larger than a mere hill. Clear days equal pretty views and not so clear days tend to be wet and windy!
There is more asphalt walking than one would like. A lot more. More than half the time, the Camino Frances runs across two-lane highways (watch for traffic!) and along major roadways (can be entertaining looking at people looking at you as they drive by). But sometimes the roads are more like deserted country lanes passing through idyllic landscapes and tiny villages. Those are lovely – just don’t get too immersed in your thoughts that you get run over by that randomly passing car.
Mostly made up of stones, pebbles, rocks, and/or gravel. I’m sure some kind soul wanted to make nice paths for pilgrims while preventing erosion caused by thousands of feet passing by. But these kinds of trails are very hard on the feet and they add more stress as you have to pay attention as not to twist an ankle or a knee! The worst is when going downhill in wet weather.
Walking on it is so much more romantic in theory than it is in real life. But whenever there was a choice between the Calzada Romana and the modern road, of course I took the ancient path! It was thoroughly enjoyable to walk the Roman Road while listening to the Gladiator soundtrack.
Springtime equals mud. Lots of it. It is slippery, thick, supremely spreadable/splatterable, and heavy. It accumulates quickly and is very difficult to remove – it doesn’t even flake once dried! If your pathway is pure mud, it will take FOREVER to pass through and it is exhausting work.
Villages, towns, cities, and one creepy seemingly uninhabited new development. One is never far from human life, a bar, and bathroom. So really, unless you have an overactive bladder or are suffering from the runs, there is no reason to go in the wild! None!
Green, flowers, heather, hills, fresh air. Lovely, lovely, lovely. But there is never enough of it. Humanity has spread too far for the Camino Frances to be the “commune with nature” experience for which many hikers/walkers are looking. It’s still beautiful, though!
Think of people movers at the airport. The senda is like that, sometimes running beside major roads. The difference is, the senda doesn’t move so you still gotta walk yourself.
You’ll see some of these but not all that often. However, they get special mention because you’ll drink their results every day, day in and day out! They are ubiquitous in the region of La Rioja but they are also scattered along the Camino Frances as well.