Camino de Santiago – Guided or Self Guided?

Camino de Santiago – Guided or Self Guided?

Many people from around the world come to walk the Camino de Santiago and this number is growing each year. People choose to walk in various different styles for their Camino journey. Some pilgrims decide to throw on a backpack and walk right out their front door. Whilst others spend time choosing a guided Camino tour to suit their needs. We think the Camino de Santiago is a personal journey. Whoever you are and however you want to do the Camino; we want to enable you to do it your way. There are no judgements – it is everybody’s Way.

Some people are very clear about the way they want to walk the Camino, while others are unsure. We are often asked “what´s the difference between a guided (or fully supported as we like to call it) Camino trip and a self-guided Camino trip?”    Here are the main differences between our guided tours and a self guided tour! 

Support

Guided trips:
All of our guided Camino trips have at least 1, though normally 2 English/Spanish speaking guide/s (the number is dependant on trip size). Generally, on these trips we aim to have one guide walk along the trial when possible. Although this does not mean the guide will be walking next to you.  Whilst these are small group trips, we do not walk all together! We encourage you to walk at your own pace and enjoy the journey. Our other guide drives our support vehicle doing checkpoints along the trail.
At these checkpoints we provide water to refill your bottle, healthy snacks (fruit and/or nuts) and sometimes unhealthy snacks (usually the best pastry items we can find at the bakery before we head out of town). You also have the chance to  change your boots or clothes that you can leave in the support vehicle. If needed, you can always take the opportunity to catch at ride in the van to the next checkpoint or to the lunch spot!
Our guides know the Camino like the back of their hands.  Each day they will  give you a daily map and overview of the walk ahead. This map will include information such as the daily terrain, checkpoint locations, lunch spots, highlights to see along the way,  and other important items such as the best place to get a fun stamp! If you need support with anything, from asking for something in Spanish to getting to a doctor, we will be there to help.
guided tour
Some of our awesome guides!
Self guided trips:
 On all of our self-guided Camino tours you have our phone number if you need it.  However, you don´t have a guide with you walking or in a support vehicle. We ensure all of our self-guided pilgrims have a welcome pack at their first Camino hotel.  This package is full of information to ensure you Camino walk goes smoothly. It has your full itinerary with hotel information, daily maps of your Camino stages, maps on how to find the hotel at the end of the day, bag tags/information on how your bags get to your next hotel, etc. This package also has an abundance of general useful information for the Camino including things like Spanish phrases on how to order coffee!  Although you do not have a guide with you, in general, the Camino de Santiago is a pretty friendly, helpful, and safe place to be!  Knowing you have a place to stay at the end of your day (and your bag will arrive safely and securely) means you can relax and take as long as you like to get there!

Food

Guided trips :
We include all breakfasts, many lunches and almost all of our dinners (this is dependant on trip length).  We provide gourmet picnic lunches prepared by your Andaspain guide/s on the Camino, weather permitting. Our picnics include fresh salads and lighter options, all taking into consideration any food allergies or lifestyle choices as vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, etc.   We use local products so you are always tasting the typical foods of the area. We also ensure you are discovering any fresh vegetable and/or fruit that are in season at the time of  your Camino walk.  Being big foodies ourselves, we ensure your bellies are full for your walking days!
Guided picnic
We also provide water and snacks at our “checkpoints.”  This means you do not need to carry lots of water or fill up from the public fountains. (We do not know how often the fountains are treated, thus we do not advise to drink from them.)
Normally, we have dinner in our accommodation.  You get a wide variety of dinners on our guided Camino trips from a family-style dinner from a local organic garden with their homemade wine and liquors; to a home-made dinner prepared by the owners of our Casa Rural of authentic paella, either seafood or vegetarian.  One night you may even dine in our Pazo‘s high-end restaurant. On nights we do not eat at our hotel, we take you to our favourite local restaurants. One of our favourite restaurants is owned by pilgrim Pepe who previously was a butcher but opened a restaurant on the Camino to provide organic local cuts prepared on order. (He also serves a wide range of items including fresh fish and vegetarian/vegan options.)
Self guided trips:
We include breakfast every day.  Lunches and dinners are not normally provided.  However, we can add on dinners in some of the Casa Rurals or Pazos. You can easily pick up lunch ingredients at a local supermarket for your own picnic along the trial. Or you can stop at any of the cafes along the trail. In general these cafes provide lunch options as salads, sandwiches and sometimes a hot 3-course meal during the lunch hour.  Similarly with dinner you can find a reasonably priced 3-course “pilgrim´s set meal” for around 12€. We also provide some dinner recommendations along the Camino in your welcome pack.

Accommodation

Guided trips:
We try to use a mixture of accommodation – modern hotels, boutique hotels, beautiful farmhouses (Casa Rurals) or manor houses with gardens (Pazos). All of these places allow you to relax after a long day of walking.  Just to clarify, staying in Casa Rurals and the Pazos (we sometimes use the term B&B) does not mean you are actually staying in someone’s home. Yes, they are family owned and run but we aren’t sleeping in a house that a family used to or currently lives in. These places are usually old manors that had a main house, stables, dining areas etc which have now been converted to what is called a rural hotel. Due to the myriad of hotel classifications in Spain, it’s not as trustworthy to count on the stars as it may be in other parts of the world. We ensure you, all of our accommodation are up to a certain standard!
On our guided Camino tours, we often finish a day walking and then shuttle a short distance away from the Camino into the surrounding countryside to ensure the best possible local places to stay.
guided or self guided
Self guided trips:
We normally find you good quality but simple accommodation on the Camino itself.  We know you don´t want to walk extra kilometres to find your place to stay!  In your welcome pack we provide Andaspain maps with the address, phone number, photo, Google map and, if needed, directions on how to get to your hotel or pension. All the accommodation we book for you will have en suite bathroom facility. If you are happy to stay off the Camino and taxi at the end of the day, we can try to book you into our favourite Casa Rurals and Pazos that we use on our guided Camino tours.

Walking Stages

Guided trips:
 We tend to walk similar “standard” Camino stages like you see in the various guide books. For our standard guided Camino tours, we have already set the walking stages. However, because we have the luxury of a support vehicle, we can shorten/lengthen/even out the walking stages as required.  If it is raining and we want to cut the day shorter, we can return to where we finished the next day.
Self guided trips :
We offer a “standard” itinerary for the whole Camino Francés/Camino Portuguese and for the Last 100km of the Camino Francés/Camino Portuguese. These trips follow the usual stages of the Camino.  However we can tailor-make your walk and adapt the walking stages as you wish. You could make your walking days longer, shorter, add in some rest days, and generally adapt the Camino to suit your needs.  So from that point of view, a self guided trip can be very flexible for individual needs.  However, once we have booked your accommodation, it is unlikely we would be able to change your itinerary once you start your walk. This means you are set into your pre-set walking stages, making it a bit more challenging to adapt to any potential daily difficulties. Of course, we will always try to assist with this in an emergency.
Private guided Camino tour
Private Camino tour on the Camino del Norte.

More Camino tour options

Andaspain can also arrange private guided Camino tours or large group self guided Camino tours along our standard itineraries, as well as many other variants of the Camino de Santiago!  Just ask us for an itinerary!  Get in touch at camino@andaspain.com or check out our website!
All of our team are in love with the spirit of the Camino. We would enjoy nothing more than to share it with you on either a self-guided tour or on a fully-supported tour with a group of other fellow pilgrims. Over the years we have gotten to know the best places, people, food, wine and other delights the Camino has to offer. Whether you choose to do a guided tour or a self guided tour, you won´t need to worry about details such as logistics, bags or where you will sleep that night. We take care of that and you just soak up the journey each day.
However you decide to do it….¡Buen Camino!

 

Kate Goad

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