When to go?
The Camino Ignaciano covers nearly 400 miles, including the hilly and often wet Basque country and the arid region known as Los Monegros. The point? Because you will be exposed to different sub-climates during different parts of the trek, there is no perfect time to go. That said, spring and fall are the best seasons to travel the Camino Ignaciano.
Zaragoza region has a semi-arid Mediterranean continental climate typical of the Ebro Valley. Average rainfall is just 310 mm, falling mainly in the spring with a pronounced summer drought. Temperatures are high in the summer reaching 40 °C on some days! Temperatures in winter are low (0 to 10 °C), either due to fog or the presence of the cierzo, the cold, dry wind blowing from the NW. In winter, snow would be the biggest obstacle in the first part of the Camino, from Loyola to Logroño.
Our recommendation is to give a look to the Spanish local meteorology and check the region you are going to walk (you will find the information in all the languages of our web site).
How much will it cost?:
As of this writing, the Camino Ignaciano is, unfortunately, a rather more expensive proposition than the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which is serviced by countless shelters charging only 6 Euro (or so) for a bunk bed and a shower. Many of these “refugios” sprang up over the last fifteen years as the volume of pilgrims grew and grew and grew. We fervently hope that readers of this web-guide (and others) will walk the Camino Inaciano as part of a movement that will likewise spur an increase in the number of pilgrim accommodations and thus a lowering of the cost.
Pilgrims should consider the following in their calculations:
- Transport to the starting point and transport home from the end of the pilgrimage.
- Plan on anywhere from 30 to 50 € a day, depending on how focused you are on minimizing expenses. You can do it for less than that and for much more: it’s up to you. Specifically:
o Lodging: something in between 6 and 18 € if you find a place in the “refugios”, public or private, and something in between 25 and 45 € if you go to a small hotel (often called a “hostal” in Spain). By the way, if you sleep in a field… it’s free of charge! This is certainly economical, but might not always be relaxing (or safe)!
o Evening meal: In many towns and cities, a tourist menu may be available for as little as 10 €, a meal that will include a salad or soup, an entrée, a dessert, and often wine as well. Some pilgrims may avoid restaurants and buy their food in small shops in order to save money for accommodations. But don’t expect to find a kitchen or utensils available in lodgings: the number of “refugios” with kitchens is very limited.
o Breakfast and lunch present an opportunity for the pilgrim to splurge in style or to save money. You should buy provisions each afternoon for the next day’s breakfast and lunch, which might cost 3 or 4 Euros. Sitting down for proper morning and midday meals would likely cost 14 € a day. In any case, bear in mind that cafes offering coffee and croissants don’t open at the crack of dawn.
o Water: Tap water is generally safe. If you buy it at supermarkets you should add 2 €. And reserve at least a little money for some of the wonderful Spanish delicacies and treats you might like to taste all along your pilgrimage!
A bank card is useful: You should carry enough money to last two or three days and refresh your supply at the ATM machines, which are plentiful throughout Spain. But contact your bank beforehand to figure out what extra fees you may incur for withdrawing Euros. Some banks charge nothing extra; others will punish you with exorbitant fees.
Before you go:
Fitness: Some simple preparations will greatly increase the chances of a happier, pain-free pilgrimage. Specifically: Walk! Take a number of long distance walks in the shoes that you will wear during the pilgrimage to be sure that your walking shoes are well broken in. Carry your backpack on practice walks, loaded with the approximate weight you will carry on your pilgrimage. You should carry no more than 10% of your body weight. Use that figure as the maximum, and be sure to include the substantial weight of a filled water bottle in your 10% limit. Recall that you will have plenty of stores to shop for anything you may need along the way.
What to bring/Equipment: You can’t prepare for everything, and if you try to prepare for everything, you will be loaded down with so much junk that you’ll quit after a day. The trick is to make the most sensible possible choices and to accept the spirit of pilgrimage: that is, trust! Things will happen.
The most important thing is your walking shoes. Buy shoes that are light yet provide sufficient support. You should take into account the season you have chosen for your pilgrimage: winter time would be cold and wet in the Loyola region; summer time would be pretty warm and very dry in the Zaragoza – Lléida region.
Backpack: Some backpacks are designed to lug a maximum amount of gear over short distances. You want the opposite: a lightweight pack that is well designed to distribute weight to your waist (not just your shoulders). Pay attention to the various compartments. Some packs are needlessly cluttered with more compartments than a space shuttle; you’ll never be able to find what you’re looking for. Other packs are so poorly designed that you’ll feel like you’re burrowing to the bottom of a dark, deep well for anything you need. Don’t forget to take a rain poncho that will cover you and your backpack. Buy a lightweight model that takes little space when folded up.
Rain Poncho: big enough to cover your backpack.
A small towel: it doesn’t take too much space in you bag and dries better.
Sunscreen: Spain’s sun can be a very “hot” friend, and parts of the Camino Ignaciano are not well shaded. Also bring a tube of sun-blocking lip balm.
Floppy hat: to protect you from the sun, ears included.
Bandana: protect your neck from the sun, mop up the sweat.
Sunglasses: protect from the sun.
First Aid: some gear for the fine art of blister treatment (some kind of so called “second-skin”). Apply a dressing as soon as you feel a hot spot developing. Don’t wait for a full-blown blister! Bring a small supply of an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen. You will find that Spain has pharmacies everywhere. You should bring something to stop up your ears during the snoring nights at the “refugios.”
Water bottle: indispensable.
Headlamp: to wake up early in the morning and don’t disturb others. To walk at night. To read when the lights are switched off!
Toilet paper: It is always useful and it is even truer if you think that you are going to sleep outdoors at least one or two times!
Sandals or “flip flops” for evening wear: the lightest weight the better. Think about the time you have chosen for your pilgrimage: it could be too cold for a light “flip flop.”
Sleeping bag: Again a tricky call that will depend on the season for your pilgrimage and the type of accommodation. If you stay in B&Bs or hotels, they will, of course, have bed covers. Some pilgrims bring their own pillowcase. Depending on the weather, you can use just a wool sleeping bag liner in place of a sleeping bag.
Socks and underwear: three (one to use, one to change and one if the first one has not dried in time!).
T-Shirts: three (one to use, one to change and one if the first has not dried in time! Try to find quick drying shirts). Long sleeves protect your skin from the sun.
Walking shorts: two. If you are walking in summer time, it is good to have one long trouser to protect your legs from the sun. It is recommended to bring one pair of lightweight, zip pants for your “evening attire” and likewise one shirt.
Clothespins: to hang drying clothes on lines or on your backpack while walking.
A fleece or long-sleeved running pullover: Something lightweight yet sufficient to warm you up. Again you must take into account the weather when trekking in winter time through the hilly parts of the Basque country or the cold region of Monegros.
For your personal care: Toothpaste and Toothbrush, a bar of soap (a hard soap like Ivory that will last), razor, deodorant… but remember: the rule must be the minimum and the lightest! You can buy anything in the Spanish towns.
Some utensils: dish, glass of water, fork, spoon, knife. They must be very light. A rag or dishcloth is always useful. You can bring a small bottle of liquid soap for your washing.
A pilgrim’s staff: it can be very useful for support, for hanging clothes, or to ward off unwelcome dogs …
Books: We recommend you to bring photocopies of the steps that you want to walk. Bring a journal for your reflections and a bible (the smallest version!).
A phone card or international cellular phone.
Your passport and other identity papers.
The Credential of Ignatian Pilgrim: look at our website the places where you can get one of this “passports” for the pilgrims.
Camera: A small, simple one.
Ipod/MP4: Some favorite music can help you through the last three miles under the hot sun. But do yourself a favor: don’t bring one if you’re an ipod-aholic. If you listen to it five hours a day, you will have wasted your pilgrimage, perhaps the only extensive chance in your life to listen carefully to your own heart and soul rather than to the world’s clatter.
What not to bring:
Pyjamas: you can sleep with your shirt! If you need to bring one, it must be light!
Shaving cream: don’t bother. Ignatius Loyola survived without it, so will you. Soap will work OK. Or just wear a big beard!
Shampoo: Don’t bother. Get a very short haircut before you go. Your body soap will work.
Blow dryer: Are you kidding me?