How it Works:
Navigating the Trail
The first time I walked the Camino in 2005, I did so without a guidebook. Why? Because one had not yet been written in English! Instead, when I checked into my first albergue, I was given a two-sided paper with a visual elevation and distance chart of the trail, from Roncesvalles, Spain, to Santiago de Compostela.
The man who gave me the chart took me outside, pointed to a sign with an arrow and a scallop shell on it, and asked, ‘Do you see that?’ I nodded. He replied, ‘Go that way.’ He told me to follow the arrows, and I would eventually arrive into Santiago.
Would you believe me if I told you that you can still walk the entire Camino Francés without a map or a guidebook? You can. You don’t have to, but you can!
Trail Markers on the Camino de Santiago
There are two principal symbols used to trail-mark the Camino de Santiago: the scallop shell and the yellow arrow. These two symbols are used throughout the entire Way to direct pilgrims to Santiago. Most are easy to find and follow; sometimes, though, you have to keep a sharp eye out for them. And occasionally the arrows will direct you towards a bar or albergue that is slightly off the trail, rather than onwards to Santiago.
If you ever feel as though you have missed a trail marker and are headed in the wrong direction, it is easy enough to ask someone if you are on the right path. You simply say to the next person you see, ‘Hola! Camino?’ Say this while pointing in the direction you are walking, and your local guide will steer you in the right direction.
Tip: The trail markers seldom disappear for more than a kilometer, so if you have been walking for more than 15 minutes without seeing a marker or another pilgrim, it’s time to ask if you are on the right path.
The best way to get a sense of the trail markers is with photos.
Would you believe that’s it?
Yellow arrows, scallop shells, pilgrim figures, a few special words. All spaced along the Camino to show you the way to Santiago de Compostela.
You just need to walk. . . that way. . . your Way. . .
Want to learn more about how it all works? Click here to go back to About the Camino.