Although taking a long pilgrimage such as the Camino de Santiago might seem like too much for families with children, in reality, walking the Camino de Santiago has been made possible for multiple generations, with children from year-old babies to young school-aged children to teenagers.
Of course, walking with children is a whole different experience than walking with a group of people. You have to lower your ambitions when it comes to the pace you’re walking at, and perhaps tolerate some grumpy behaviour. But most children do surprisingly well, especially if they have the company of their siblings. It’s like something in them opens up to nature and creativity when they get to spend their time walking through gorgeous landscapes, while spending quality time with their parents.
Family-friendly Camino Routes
There is a number of Camino de Santiago trails you can successfully complete with children. As a general rule, the “Ways” that are suitable for children are not overly lengthy, they don’t feature rough terrain and they have good infrastructure to take care of your needs while travelling.
One of the most popular routes among pilgrim families is the Camino Portuguese, and not only because it’s one of the shorter ones, but because it’s really picturesque – usually starting at lively Porto, and leading you through coastline, forests, and ancient villages. The kids really appreciate changes of scenery. As a downside, since nothing is perfect, this path might be a bit short of infrastructure when compared to some other options.
Good infrastructure is the main reason why some recommend the Camino Frances as the best option for families. The last part of the route – 100 kilometres from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela – is very well equipped in this sense. The road is easy to walk and, since this is the most popular Camino de Santiago route, your kids will have some company, so maybe your family experience could become a multi-family experience.
Tips for a Camino de Santiago Family Walk
Never, ever allow yourself to run out of water. Fortunately, the sources of drinkable water are quite common along the Camino de Santiago, especially if you’re walking the Camino Frances. Spain might get really hot, especially in the summer, so take that into consideration when planning your water supplies.
Always have snacks. But not your movie-time kind. High energy snacks such as special energy bars, dried fruits and chocolate easy to carry will give your kids and you instant energy. Food can also serve as a motivation when they run out of it – you could invent a game in which you “put fuel (food) in the car (your little one), so they can start again and get going”.
Inform yourselves about where you can stay in advance. Some albergues (pilgrim hostels) don’t allow children. This is not particularly strange – albergues take in a lot of people, and those people are usually really tired from the road – and not in the mood to have cute but noisy little fellows around. Many private accommodation options offer family rooms with 3 or 4 beds, which can be a more cosy and economical option for a family.
Allow your kids to rest as much as they need. Taking on such a long journey is not the time to “toughen up” or set unrealistic goals. It’s better to go at a slower pace than to risk injury, over-exertion, or getting ill, which will slow you down significantly anyhow.
Travelling the Camino is fairly safe – it is perhaps one of the safest walking routes in general, with a low number of people-related incidents. But you should watch out for domestic animals, such as dogs and cows, when you pass through the picturesque villages.
If you need more tips, Follow The Camino has an excellent article on the subject, and can also book you the very best Camino de Santiago family experience, with your needs minded – from advising on when to book, to helping you choose the right Camino trail for your specific family needs.