How to prepare for the Camino

Home How to prepare for the Camino

Whether you decide to travel alone or in a group, on this page you will find all the relevant information about how to start your own pilgrimage across Slovakia.

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Who can do it
(fitness, health, age)

Note: On the most popular route to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino Francés, you will meet pilgrims between 5 and 87 years of age, with crutches, limping, and many other physical disabilities.

Can I do it? This is one of the first questions many pilgrims ask themselves. Do not worry – every healthy person in an average condition can manage any part of it. Important is to di-vide it into stages according to your individual possibilities. You decide how fast you want to walk, the number of stages and the type of terrain, how often and long your breaks are, etc. Just keep in mind that walking the Way of St. James is not a sports race.

On the other hand, if you have never been on a longer hike (e.g. you have never walked 10 km), it is time to try it and test not only your strength, but also the shoes you will be wearing.

You really don’t need to worry. The route leads through civilised territory, so you can inter-rupt your journey at any time and resume it later on, let us say the following year. This is what pilgrims actually do, mainly those who do not have enough time to walk the entire route at once.

When to go

You can set off any time of the year but, in terms of weather, the most suitable months are May, June, September and October.

It is also possible to set off during the summer months, i.e. July and August, but to avoid the heat peaks and afternoon storms you will need to get up early in the morning, so that you arrive at your destination around 1 p.m.

Days are shorter the rest of the year, so this time is more suitable for experienced and physically fit pilgrims who can cope better with bad weather, demanding terrain and heavier backpacks. Do not forget that not all accommodation facilities are open all year round.

Alone or in company

This decision is very subjective. Some prefer to walk alone while others favour to have one or more companions. Both ways have their advantages.

Walking alone gives you more time and opportunity for contemplation and prayer, to pro-cess your thoughts in silence, and to look inside yourself and at the country around you un-disturbed. You do not need to adapt to the pace, needs and plans of others. It is also easier to find accommodation. A person traveling alone has more opportunities to meet new peo-ple and make friends along the way. When two lone pilgrims meet, they often end up walk-ing part or even the rest of the journey together. In this case, language skills are a great ad-vantage.

Walking in pairs or groups also has a lot to offer, though. If you do not want to approach the feeling of loneliness and insecurity as a personal challenge, the company of other people will provide you with mental well-being and a sense of safety. Not only will you find out whether you are ready to adapt to the needs of others and reconcile their needs with your own, but you will also discover the beauty of shared silence and dialogue. Sharing thoughts, feelings and knowledge with others is very enriching in all circumstances.

You will probably feel most comfortable if you know your companion well, know that you get along and that you have no problem adapting to each other.

Remember, however, that traveling with a group of people you have met for the first time is a unique opportunity to develop mutual respect and tolerance. In that case, even if different members of the group have different motives for walking the Camino, it does not need to be an obstacle. We go on a pilgrimage to find mutual understanding, share our opinions with others and make our lives richer.

Choosing the route

Tip: As the route passes through many shrines, you might consider choosing your stages to match important religious festivities or Sunday services.

At this moment, Slovakia has one properly marked route, from Košice to Bratislava, where it joins the Hungarian and Austrian routes of the Way of St. James.

You can choose whether you want to walk the whole route at once (approx. 650 km) or just one of its sections, which usually consists of a few stages. Select the part that suits you best based on the difficulty of the terrain, its length and, perhaps, some religious events taking place along the way.

Finding your way

The Way of St. James usually copies official hiking and cycling trails. In some parts it goes off these trails, too.

Despite the fact that it is relatively well marked, it is a good idea to use a map, guidebook, or smartphone navigation.

Map

You can use any of the commonly available hiking maps.

Guidebook

Guidebook is a tool worth having with you at all times. Besides the map overviews, it contains other im-portant information for the pilgrim, e.g. accommodation, restaurants, route description, and the like.

Guidebooks for the different sections can be ordered on this website in the shop section or purchased at some information offices and pilgrims’ houses.

Itinerary

We are preparing downloadable one-page itineraries for the different sections and stages containing a brief summary of the information you will need down the road.

These are being prepared and are not yet available.

Smartphone navigation

is nowadays the most practical, accurate and popular way to keep you on the right trail. For this reason, it is described separately.

Bivouacking

TIP: Booking accommodation in advance is the best way to avoid having to sleep outdoors.

Even when you have planned everything in advance, especially on longer journeys, things might not go according to plan and you may suddenly find yourself without a bed to sleep in. Providing for these cases and packing a sleeping bag and mat in advance is a good idea, as this can be your last chance to spend the night in some comfort.

There are numerous shelters, sheds or, for example, a building under construction some-where outside a village that will serve well as an emergency camp. Sometimes you just need to ask a local if you can sleep in their garden gazebo or terrace. Few will reject a pilgrim. Some cottages and hostels will also let you stay overnight if you have your own sleeping bag.

Camping possibilities in the wild are limited. Slovak legislation is clear in this respect and must be complied with.

Slovakia is divided into 5 vast zones with different environmental protection levels. Of these, only zones with protection level 1 and 2 allow unrestricted movement and camping. Outdoor overnighting in areas with a higher protection level (e.g. national parks, national reserves, natural monuments, etc.), is strictly prohibited. However, national parks allow you to sleep at specifically defined places in line with the visitor rules of the park. In these areas you are only allowed to transit between sunrise and sunset and only along marked hiking trails. We would like to ask pilgrims to always get familiar with the rules valid in the area in which they plan to overnight outdoors, to respect these rules and help to protect our beautiful country.

Dangers on the way

Everyone setting off on a journey like this needs to be aware of certain risks and minimise them.

The right equipment, a first-aid kit and monitoring the weather are some of the basic measures that minimise these risks and make your way as smooth and safe as possible.

More questions regarding your pilgrimage?

If you have more questions, do not hesitate to post them in our official Facebook group. There you can receive advice and feedback from more experienced pilgrims.

If your question is still not answered, do not hesitate to contact us.