Landscape of the Camino Frances

When preparing for a five-week walk, one hopes that there will be a variety of landscape and trails to mix things up. Within limits, the Camino provides. Overall, you must somewhat like humanity and the European countryside (yes, it’s different from the North American 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.

  1. Spanish Flat – 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. Relaxing in the Pyrenees
  2. Mountains – 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! Occasional Mountain Views
  3. Alto – 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! Reached the Clouds
  4. Road – 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.
  5. Trails – 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. Little Stones Make for Crunchy Walks
  6. Roman Road – 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. Painful Roman Road
  7. Mud – 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. Mud. Enough Said.
  8. Communities – 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! Literally?
  9. Countryside – 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 most hikers/walkers are looking. It’s still beautiful, though! Hobbits
  10. Senda – 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 🙂 Unexciting Pathways
  11. Vineyards – 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.

14 responses to “Landscape of the Camino Frances

  1. my husband and i walked the Camino Frances last year at this time it was wonderful. But we were hardly ever alone on the road, looking ahead or behind there was almost always someone there. It was worth the walk, and we would like to do the Via la Plata next year, I hear there are fewer people.

  2. Oh, the Roman road looks so neat…but hard on the feet!

    What ARE those Hobbit holes?!

    As far as human influence goes, windmills are on the good side I have to say. It’s interesting looking at your pictures though, seeing the fantastic vistas right by the… well not so fantastic but necessary sights!

  3. The mud would be awful to walk in with a heavy backpack! But if those are the views you get with the mountains and alto…totally worth it!

  4. So, of those paved roads that are over half of the walk, what percentage are major roadways? I really want to do this walk, but have read a few negative things about the amount of walking on busy roads.

    • Hmm…generally speaking (excluding city walking), the paved path in relation to busy roadways, runs alongside the road so rarely do you ever have to walk with the possibility of a car passing by. Sometimes you do have to cross a road – when crossing highways 99% of the time there is now a bridge built for pedestrians. the one place where I remember crossing a larger road, there was a sign telling you that such a crossing is coming up. I have no idea how busy that road can get but when I crossed it, it was quiet! I remember once not long after Santa Domingo de la Calzada (I think), there is a huge bridge over a major highway…looked major, anyway, but no one was on it! I guess what I’m saying is that while you would sometimes encounter a bit of roadway walking, most of the time there are bridges or paths alongside them to keep you safe. In the cities, regular sidewalks are your paths! There are also some countryside roads that have that random passing car sometimes but as long as you’re not lost in thought/wearing headphones and are walking facing the direction of traffic, country road walking is lovely.

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