If you are thinking of going in winter, remember that the meseta is on average 800m above sea level, and that the passes over the Pyrenees, the Montes de León and O Cebreiro on the Camino francés, and the passes of A Canda and Padornelo on the Via de la Plata all reach about 1,400m. It can be very cold, foggy, wet, and windy, and you can meet deep snow.
Accommodation may be less plentiful, since not all the albergues operate in the winter. Those that are open may have little or no heating so a good sleeping bag is essential.
However, with sensible planning and precautions, winter pilgrimage is feasible. Please follow these guidelines:
If you are starting at St Jean Pied de Port, ask for advice about weather and conditions at Acceuil Saint-Jacques but remember not all volunteers here are local and check the local weather websites:
Meteo France for St Jean Pied de Port
Aemet.es for Roncesvalles
If in any doubt at St Jean Pied de Port, always go by the lower road, it is less attractive than the higher-level route, but since it follows along the road in many places and goes through villages, much safer in bad weather.
Click here for an interview with a pilgrim who walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago November - December 2009.
Click here for a 1996 article "Winter Pilgrim" by Alison Raju.
The Confraternity also has a booklet Winter Pilgrim, also by Alison Raju and filled with practical advice, available in the shop.
PLEASE NOTE: The Route Napoléon which passes over the Pyrénées between St Jean-Pied-de-Port and Roncesvalles is closed until 31 March 2016. All pilgrims will need to take the lower Valcarlos route, and even that can be difficult in foggy, windy or snowy weather. Take local advice before setting out on this route.
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
Orders are sent out Monday-Thursday every week. Dismiss