Pilgrimage and the environment

The year-on-year increase in the number of pilgrims, particularly on popular routes such as the Camino Francés, does inevitably affect the environment negatively.  However, all pilgrims can do their bit to minimise their impact.

  • Stick to the path to avoid eroding the surrounding area.
  • Keep a plastic bag with you to carry all rubbish, including fruit peels and cores, to the next bin.  Even if it is natural it takes a long time to break down.  Recycle if you can.
  • Always take the opportunity to use toilets as there may be a distance to the next one. If you do get caught short, try to find somewhere discreet with bare earth and bury any faeces.  Used toilet tissue should be bagged and disposed of appropriately.
  • Don't collect flowers/seeds/vegetation/rocks/shells or introduce such material from outside the area.  Leave wildlife, livestock and local pets undisturbed and do not feed them.
  • If you are intending to camp, only use official campsites, or land with the permission of the owner. Wild camping is not permitted in Spain.  Use a camping stove where permitted not a ground fire (Spain has very strict rules on starting fires).  Using albergues or official campsites puts money into the local economy which can help to maintain the environment for all.
  • Respect churches and historic monuments.  Keep silent, particularly during services or if people are praying, and dress appropriately (take off hats, no bare upper arms/shoulders or micro shorts).  Avoid flash photography, walking on raised areas (normally designates holy spaces) and touching any artefacts.  Consider donating as generously as you can as building maintenance is a heavy burden for small villages. Talk to any attendant; they will appreciate your interest and will usually be glad to offer you a stamp in your pilgrim record.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Playing music or loud conversation will not be always be appropriate.  Particularly be aware of the disturbance caused to others late at night or early in the morning by head torches, rustling bags or the tapping of metal walking poles through sleepy villages.

For more detailed information on how to Leave No Trace see: https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

With many thanks to a pilgrim who wishes to remain anonymous.


Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela

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