Who walks the Camino . . . and Why?

shadow of pilgrim

Who Walks the Camino?

According to the statistics kept by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela, 327,378 people arrived in Santiago as pilgrims in 2018. Of those:

49.65% were women and 50.35% were men

93.5% arrived on foot, 6% by bicycle, and the rest on horseback or in a wheelchair (79 people!)

55% were age 30-60, 27% were under age 30, and 18% were age 60+

43% reported a strictly religious motivation

44% of the pilgrims were Spanish

Here are the next eight countries represented in the 327,378 pilgrims :

8.25% from Italy

7.7% from Germany

5.7% from the USA

4.4% from Portugal

2.7% from France

2.3% from each of Ireland and the UK

1.7% from South Korea

These statistics represent only those people who met the requirements of the Church to receive the Compostela – walking the last 100 kilometers or cycling the last 200 kilometers into Santiago. There were far more people on the trail in 2018 than is represented in these number.

As an example, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago reports that of the 327,378 people who completed the pilgrimage, 32,899 started their journeys 800 kilometers away, in Saint Jean Pied de Port, in France. The Pilgrim’s Office in Saint Jean Pied de Port reports that more than 55,000 people passed through their office as pilgrims, either beginning their journey there, completing their journeys there, or passing through from France into Spain.

Some estimates put the total number of pilgrims on the trail in any given year at two to three times the number represented in the statistics from the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago. If you would like to see more statistics from Santiago, say from past years or for specific seasons, you can visit their website.

Who are these pilgrims? They are individual pilgrims, who come to walk the Camino on their own. They are couples, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends, both old and new, and groups of new acquaintances. They are people just like you and me who are drawn to complete the pilgrimage for their own personal reasons.

Why do People Walk the Camino?

Statistically, most people who walk the Camino de Santiago claim some sort of religious or spiritual motivation for their walk.  In a religious context, the Camino is a pilgrimage – a sacred journey to a place known for its religious significance.

Not everyone walks with a religious or spiritual motivation, and the statistics don’t really tell you much about the individuals who walk the Camino.

Some people walk because they just like to walk, and the Camino de Santiago offers a well-established infrastructure that makes a long walk logistically feasible.

Some yearn for time in nature, breathing in the wildness of mountain air and savoring the sounds of birdsong and a babbling brook.

Others seek an understanding of how people in other cultures live and how cultures have evolved through art, music, and architecture.

Some people just like to eat well and sample new cuisines.

Others still may be looking to share experiences with other like-minded pilgrims who are on a similar mission.

And many people – many – walk the Camino de Santiago for deep meaningful, personal, or spiritual reasons.

There is no right or better reason for walking the Camino, and no one person’s pilgrimage is more or less significant than anyone else’s.  But it will be useful to clarify your motivations for walking, as why you want to walk the Camino will influence how you prepare for the experience.

Go back to About the Camino