woman in vineyard

4 things I love about September on the Camino Francés

Don’t let the subject of this post fool you: I love the Camino at all times. I love being there, I love walking on the Camino – heck, I love just knowing that it’s there.

But two seasons have a special place in my heart, and I am going to talk about one of those today.

My first Camino was in the fall, from September 13 to October 13, to be precise. I think that’s why fall is my favorite season on the Camino, even though I gush over spring nearly every place else in the world.

Here’s why I love September into October on the Camino:

The days are getting shorter.

If you’re not a morning person, your chances of catching the sunrise suddenly go up. And then you have the chance to take part in one of my favorite Camino pastimes – walking into the sunset. Yes, that means following the sun as it makes its way across the sky and walking right up until it dips to the horizon. Cue the metaphor?

The weather is cooling off.

In a perfect world, we would have blue skies with puffy white clouds every day on the Camino, but the reality is often quite different. The worst weather for me is in the height of summer, when temperatures can reach the high 90s F and higher (high 30s and even low 40s C). By mid- to late-September, those temperatures are usually a faint memory, and the morning and evening chill of fall takes over the air. Perfect walking weather.

The grapes are on the vine.

Being outdoors for four to six or more hours a day allows us to tune into the seasons and the natural rhythms of the land. A good part of the Camino Francés passes through farmlands, and two regions – la Rioja and el Bierzo – pass through vineyards. In September, the vines are heavy with grapes awaiting the harvest, and the supermarket produce sections are bulked up as well.

The crowds are thinning out.

Peak season on the Camino Francés is from the week before Easter through September each year, and something magical starts to happen around the second weekend of September. (Okay, magical might be a bit of an overstatement, but hopefully you’ll understand what I mean.)

Historically, the first week of September has been the busiest time of the entire year at the start of the Francés route, from Saint Jean Pied de Port. But then around the middle of the month, pilgrim numbers taper off and the trail begins to quiet down. The bed race subsides, and it becomes easier to find yourself walking in peaceful solitude. Sigh.

Can you see why I love the Camino in September?

Days, getting shorter and cooler. Grapes, on the vine. Crowds, thinning out. And pilgrims finding their way as the season changes and fall settles in for the jaunt towards winter.

These are also the reasons I lead groups in September, and why my group starts when it does. This year we will meet in Saint Jean Pied de Port on September 14 and begin our pilgrimage by walking to Refuge Orisson on the 15th.

These are no ordinary groups, by the way. Find out what I mean by that here.

P.S. There is a 5th reason I love September on the Camino. It’s my birthday month! And yes, I do celebrate the entire month. Come celebrate with me . . .