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Walking the Camino de Santiago with Your Kids

The Camino de Santiago, also known in English as the Way of Saint James, is a network of ancient pilgrim routes which span across Europe and come together in Northwest Spain at the tomb of St. James. It is one of the world’s most popular long-distance trails and millions have walked its rural paths.

During the Middle Ages, the Camino de Santiago was one of the most important Christian pilgrimage. It is said that Saint James’ remains were transported by boat to Northwest Spain via Jerusalem, where he was buried in a city now known as Santiago de Compostela.

Packing your bags and walking the Camino de Santiago is an extraordinary thing to do and is something which you will remember for a lifetime. In fact, if planned properly, it can be a great family trip and a breath of fresh air from the usual trips to the beach or Disneyland. Although many people today participate in a pilgrimage alone, it is not impossible to bring the family along.

As a family, walking the Camino de Santiago is a brilliant way to bond and see some of Europe’s most breath-taking sights and, if your family holds the Christian faith close to heart, it is perhaps the greatest thing you could do together. Plus, if you are on a budget, it is a cheap way to see some of Europe and can cost as little as $5 per person per day.

The most popular route on the Camino de Santiago is the Camino Frances (‘The French Way’), beginning at Saint Jean de Port near the Pyrenees. This is an epic 780km trek which takes five weeks to complete on average. Other routes include –

  • Via de la Plata which is the longest route at 1000km, running from Seville in the south of Spain. This route is great infrastructure-wise and is the best route to take if you have never completed a pilgrimage before or are not an avid walker.
  • The Northern Route runs along the coast where there is a lovely cooling breeze and ample opportunities to go for a dip in the sea. The terrain on this route is a lot rougher and is recognized as the most challenging. All in all, the route is around 820km.
  • The Camino Ingles can be started in either Ferrol or La Coruna in the north of Spain. This is one of the shorter routes: Ferrol is around 110km from Santiago; and La Coruna 75 km away. These routes are great if you are looking for a miniature or more child-friendly version of the pilgrimage and aren’t too bothered by earning your Compostela Certificate.

What to Take on the Camino de Santiago

When it comes to an epic pilgrimage such as this, it is super important that you pack properly, especially if you are bringing your kids with you!

Here are four key items you simply cannot do the Camino de Santiago without –

  • A Backpack

You will definitely need a backpack, but many people don’t consider this so important and will just bring any old bag. This just won’t do the trick. You will be carrying everything in your backpack over long distances each day, where the weather can be unpredictable. When looking for a backpack, choose one which is at least moderately waterproof and can be easily adjusted with straps.

  • Shoes, Socks and Underwear

Since this is a pilgrimage and you will be doing a lot of walking, picking the right shoes and spending a good amount of money on a sturdy pair is the wisest thing you can do. You don’t want to spend the latter half of your pilgrimage wincing in pain each time you take a step, because you are wearing unsuitable shoes which have caused blisters, do you?

Socks and underwear are important too. Good socks are just as crucial for preventing blisters as good shoes are, and loose-fitting underwear will prevent chafing. If you really want to avoid chafing, pack some baby powder too!

  • A Cap and Sunglasses

In Spain and the South of France, the sun can be particularly harsh. To protect your skin and eyes from being damaged by the strong sun, pack a decent pair of UV sunglasses and cap which you can easily scrunch up and store away. Ensure that you are regularly applying sun screen to your arms, neck and other exposed areas of skin, though.

  • A Good Sleeping Bag and Stuff Sack

If you are going to be spending time camping out on the Camino de Santiago – as most people do – you should choose a good quality sleeping bag which is well-insulated and can keep you warm. Although Spain and the South of France can have hot and unforgiving sun throughout the day, by night the temperatures can plummet and if you haven’t packed a good sleeping bag, you’ll be wishing that you had the blistering hot sun beating down on you again!

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