camino de santiago: top 10 most memorable

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It’s almost been a year since we embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

Before we started the Way of St James (also known as The Way or the Camino de Santiago), we had no idea what impact it would have on us; almost 365 days on, we can tell you.

Each and every day since we returned, we still think about our time walking the 790-odd km from the south of France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Anything related to the Camino still pulls at our heartstrings and stirs up the urge for us to return.

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We may have completed it but it never leaves us, not even for a moment. Today we read an article over at Camino Adventures where the author shared his top 10 things about the Camino de Santiago. And maybe it’s because we are almost celebrating our Camino anniversary that we shed a tear.

We were inspired by that post to share our 10 most memorable things:

  1. Fellow pilgrims – hands down – our Number 1 most memorable! Being on the Camino is like being on an alternate world. A world where kindness is normal and so is sharing blister stories. The camaraderie along the way is like nothing we have experienced before. People do the Camino for all sorts of reasons, come from all different backgrounds and have different beliefs and values yet on the Camino everyone can get along. The tales of friendships and generosity are not myths.
  1. Sunrises – waking up and starting the walk before the sun came up meant we were able to witness some striking sunrises. We were always sunset fans but after the 40 days of walking, sunrises mean so much more to us.

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  1. Crossing numerous medieval bridges to enter and leave the villages – we are big FANS of anything historical so to enter a village looking for the basics, usually food and water, we felt like pilgrims from back in the day. It truly felt like we had been sucked into a time warp. The bridges also proved to be stunning structures for photographs.

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  1. Burgos and Leon Cathedral – as we pass through so many villages and towns, we see plenty of churches. Most are part of small villages or towns and are rather modest. Burgos and Leon Cathedral, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They are lavish and are the centre pieces of their cities. The constructions of these cathedrals would be a history lesson in themselves. Plus the added bonus of seeing Burgos Cathedral on our wedding anniversary is a memory for us for always.

Burgos Leon

  1. Beautiful countryside – not a day went by where we weren’t in awe with the scenery around us. Every single day we would soak up everything around us. We captured what we could on camera so we could relive it afterwards. We do that often still to this day. There were mountains, rolling hills, green fields, fields of sunflowers and vineyards. There was NEVER nothing to look at.

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  1. Feeling free and humbled – it was just us and the path. Our biggest concern was when we would eat next. Other than that, we had no worries and nothing to stress about. We did a lot of soul searching and reflecting. We learned a lot about ourselves and about life. We were so humbled to think that we were walking in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims from hundreds of years before us. We were also walking on ancient Roman roads. It really put lots of things into perspective.
  1. Little surprises along the way – we went rather unprepared for the Camino. We trained little and we read very little because we didn’t want to experience the Camino before the Camino. When we stumbled across fiestas, we were excited. When we stumbled across the many different snails, we were excited. When we stumbled across a yellow rubber ducky race, we were excited. There was plenty along the way that we will never forget. Camino12Camino3
  2. Clam shells and arrows – these were creatively displayed along the way to point out where we were to go. Sometimes they were found in the most unassuming places. Seeing a shell or arrow during our lives before this long walk meant nothing, but seeing them nowadays means a completely different thing. It immediately serves as a reminder of our time on the Camino; that we are never lost and that we should always look for the signs, that we should have faith in ourselves and what we are capable of doing.

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  1. The hills – crossing the Pyrenees was meant to be the hardest day of all the Camino; 20-something km all uphill on Day 1. It was unforgiving and brutal but we would do it again in a heartbeat. You see the Camino does this to those who have walked it. It keeps drawing us back no matter how hard it felt. Every day felt like we had a hill to climb up or down with varying gradients. They’re not all hard but they did test our endurance! But yes, we will go back to climb every one again.

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  1. Entering Santiago de Compostela – after 40-odd days of walking through dramatic scenery, a maze of streets, roads and “civilisation” welcomes us. It’s nothing like we imagined where the clouds open up and sing “Hallelujah”. The feeling of arriving at our destination; the cathedral of St James is one we can never truly describe. It was one of sheer disbelief that we walked almost 800 km. It was one of pure happiness and such a sense of achievement. It was also a feeling of the reality that our journey had come to an end. With this much overwhelming emotion, what does one do? One cries! And that is what we did: we hugged each other and cried!

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This journey helped us grow in so many unimaginable ways. We are different because of it! We see life and the world through different eyes. We will go as far as to declare it our BEST travel experience ever. We will walk it again some day.

If you are interested to see any more of our photos from the Camino, check out our photo essays: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Have you walked the Camino? What would your top 10 be?

Leave us your comments.

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82 thoughts on “camino de santiago: top 10 most memorable

    Turquoise Compass said:
    November 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    This must have been a memorable trip. I know one other person who has done this treck!
    Jessica, Turquoise Compass

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      November 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Jessica!! How are you? Congrats on the wedding once again.

      Yes, it was an amazing trip and one we will never ever ever forget. We still think about it every day… wishing we were back on that walk 🙂

        Turquoise Compass said:
        November 3, 2015 at 12:45 am

        Hello there! It feels like it has been so long since we were chatting together in Australia. Thank you so much. How long did it take you to do the walk?

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          November 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

          It does seem like ages…. hmm… it took us about 42 days but that included about a week worth of rest days 🙂

            Turquoise Compass said:
            November 4, 2015 at 1:19 pm

            Wow! That’s awesome! I’d like to do it. I bet you met a lot of amazing people along the way!? Were you walking really fast?

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            November 5, 2015 at 9:17 am

            It was amazing in so many and we certainly met some incredible people 🙂 The walk was life-changing.
            We were walking rather casually… about 3-4km/hr – it is all dependent on you, as the walker how fast you want to go!

            Turquoise Compass said:
            November 5, 2015 at 10:21 am

            I’d like to do the walk (I don’t know about the whole thing), but I want to do something like that (and do yoga along the way of course).

    Laurie A. Ferris said:
    October 19, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Reblogged this on The Camino Provides and commented:
    Sharing a great Camino reflection by Aussies who walked the Camino Frances last year. I love their top 10 list of memorable things about the Camino – from pilgrim camaraderie and feeling humbled – to medieval bridges and a surprise rubber ducky race. I can see why they have been thinking about the Camino since their return! #CaminodeSantiago #TheCaminoProvides #BuenCamino

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      October 20, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Thanks Laurie so much for sharing our post 🙂 Three days ago it was a year since we finished our Camino. It’s amazing how much those 4o-odd days and 800km changed our lives.

    davidnoelsmith said:
    October 9, 2015 at 4:42 am

    Reblogged this on David Smith: Lost for Words and commented:
    I love reading people’s Top 10 memories after walking a Camino. This one from Le & David brings back lots of memories. Looking forward to going back soon.

    AnnaJ said:
    September 15, 2015 at 6:09 am

    So beautifully written! Makes me wanna do the Camino … beautiful pics too.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      September 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂 We hope you get to do the Camino one day.

    GirlAstray said:
    September 12, 2015 at 6:35 am

    I walked in 2010. Thanks for bringing back some memories 🙂 I hope to walk the portuguese camino at some point…but there´s so many places to go!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      September 14, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment. We want to walk the Portugese Camino one day too…. one of these days 😉

    Kamila Pala said:
    September 10, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Absolutely great virtual tour! I enjoyed a lot and thanks for taking me there! Bye. Kamila

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      September 11, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks Kamila! So glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

    SK said:
    August 28, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    I have officially added the Camino to the list of must-go places 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 31, 2015 at 7:58 am

      We hope you do get to experience it one day… 🙂

    AndysWorldJourneys said:
    August 27, 2015 at 11:10 am

    i hadnt considered it to be honest. Then I read your post, and saw the photo of the bridge. I’m a sucker for a good bridge. I need to research up on this walk!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 27, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Andrew, there were plenty more bridge pics we could’ve shared! All medieval and full of charm! Hope you will do some research into doing the Camino 🙂

    mm4214 said:
    August 27, 2015 at 9:02 am

    It is so hard to stop at 10 memorable moments. It was all so good and the way it just crept up to seep into your psyche, was what really struck me as a memorable feeling. For me it happened at the Iron Cross when the spirit of the journey rocked me to my core.
    Needless to say, I’m an addict now. I yearn for the quieter days of wandering and pondering the world.
    In less than a month we will be walking the start of the Norte. Unfortunately we only have 12 days to recapture the spirit before returning home. But ever positive, it is a journey that will be memorable as this time I walk beside my husband of thirty years. I can’t wait to watch the essence of St James creep into his character and shine.
    Buen Camino 😊

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Wow! Lucky you to be returning to soon… We want to do the Camino Portuguese next but we wouldn’t mind doing Camino France’s again.
      Wow – to be able to experience this with a newbie. Now that will be unforgettable!
      Buen Camino! You are inspiring us to look into Camino-ing again.

    the eternal traveller said:
    August 26, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    My goodness, that year has gone fast. You both have wonderful memories of this fantastic experience and I enjoy seeing your photos.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Yep! Almost one year ago… how time has whizzed past! Thanks so much for joining in the experience with us 🙂
      You must be counting down now til your getaway??

        the eternal traveller said:
        August 27, 2015 at 6:08 am

        Not quite counting yet, still lots to be done in the next three weeks.

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          Only three weeks… That’s about 15 days in the office, right? 😉

            the eternal traveller said:
            August 27, 2015 at 7:53 pm

            Now who’s counting? I must admit I’m starting to look forward to our adventure.

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            August 27, 2015 at 10:01 pm

            We are totally counting!! We are off to NZ as soon as term ends 😉

            the eternal traveller said:
            August 28, 2015 at 5:46 am

            Yay! I’m looking forward to reading about your trip. We loved NZ.

    Geraldine said:
    August 26, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Lovely post…and I can relate to a lot of it.
    How great that you got to experience it together, too. It will unite you for the rest of your lives!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks Geraldine! So glad that you can relate…. what are a few of your most memorable moments/things from the Camino?
      The Camino has definitely united us for life 🙂

    Yuna said:
    August 26, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Those rubber ducks, so cute and lovely. ❤
    Sounds like a really beautiful and harmonious place. I'd love visiting someday. Amen. 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      Oh Yuna! If you have the opportunity, it is something worth experiencing. The people you will meet, the things you will encounter and the places you will see… It does change you!
      Thanks for your lovely message. Hope you are well 🙂

    Shelley @Travel-Stained said:
    August 26, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Aww, I can feel your emotion in that last pic. I dare say I even teared up a little looking at it (though I might be a bit emotional from pregnancy) 🙂 This is definitely on our travel wish list. One day we’ll do it…I guess with a little one in tow. 😀

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks a bunch for your lovely comment. We still get teary when we think of our time on the Camino. Especially when we see other people’s photos or hear their stories!
      Congrats again on the pregnancy! When are you due?
      And you can definitely do the Camino with the two of you and a plus 1 😉 We saw families along the way….

        Shelley @Travel-Stained said:
        August 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

        Well, it looks like a truly amazing experience! Lol…maybe we’ll do it, when the little one can do most of the walking on her own. 😉 We are due sometime in mid-November. Creeping up on us FAST now. 😮

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 27, 2015 at 1:05 pm

          Oooh November baby like Le! Home stretch now for you. All the best 🙂

    Mabel Kwong said:
    August 26, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    One year already! Time flies. What beautiful pictures in memory of your 40-day walk. Really like the shell one. Who would have thought you could see such beautiful shells when you’re not at a beach 🙂 That snail shot looks so pretty too. Beautiful rolling mountains and awesome cloud cover too. And of course, the sunrises are exquisite. Congrats on the effort once again and, dream on for the next adventure 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks Mabel! Time has just flown 🙂 We look back at our pictures to this day and still remember where we were and what happened that day! It’s crazy…. We took plenty more different shell pics 😉 How have you been? Is Melbourne warming up? And have you been taken a well earned break from writing with the first draft done?

        Mabel Kwong said:
        August 26, 2015 at 10:00 pm

        Very good skill taking photos while slugging out the walk. They turned out very nice 🙂 It hasn’t been as cold in Melbourne, hooray. I am back at work this week, so that is keeping me occupied at the moment. Hope your week is going well 🙂

    Yvonne said:
    August 26, 2015 at 10:51 am

    What an experience for you two young people. You’ll have to go far to match this one, I reckon.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Very good point Yvonne! We certainly will have it tough to top this one 😉

    CrazyChineseFamily said:
    August 26, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Wonderful pictures, didnt realize its been so long time already since you had that journey!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks Timo 🙂 Time is passing us by, right?! We still remember when you were counting down 8 months until your trip… look at you now! Countdown is over!

        CrazyChineseFamily said:
        August 27, 2015 at 1:24 am

        Oh well…countdown is over and I am still in Germany. Went to airport, checked in and through security check. Flight to Helsinki delayed by two hours = no chance to catch the flight to xi’an. Airline then re-books everything so we should fly from Hamburg to Frankfurt then to Beijing and then to xi’an, problem is that when we get the info about it we only have 20min to get to check in etc, so we missed that one as well. Next we got a new flight which we missed again as an urgent luggage piece got lost in between and now after 9hours of running in the airport we sit again the bus back to my hometown 😦
        Now we got a flight for Friday and I hope there is no delayed arrival anywhere!

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          Oh dear! Sounds like a bit of an ordeal for you! Hope that next time we hear from you.. You are in China!
          Safe travels and we wish you a great trip!

            CrazyChineseFamily said:
            August 27, 2015 at 5:53 pm

            Thank you and I hope it will work when we once again travel to Hamburg Airport

    Vicki starmer said:
    August 26, 2015 at 6:29 am

    I’d cry to if I was wearing those orange gaiters.
    Almost a year for me too, and it does keep pulling you back. There is a lasting bond with the people that you connect with along the way. I think it was my most amazing achievement. And yet does stay with you everyday.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Hahaha – we were in Santa Domingo when it was raining and we needed to gear up. And these were the ones…. we met a lot of people who were able to spot us out or recognised us because of the fluoro and boy did we need them in those last 2 days 😉
      Vicki – it was a pleasure to have met you too along the way!!
      For anyone to walk/cycle the whole Camino or part of the Camino, it is an achievement that is worth remembering!
      So when are you going back? 😉

    davidnoelsmith said:
    August 26, 2015 at 4:23 am

    After nearly 2 caminos walked, here are my favourite things (in no order)..
    1. Meeting and walking with Pilgrims from all over the world. I know many still to this day.
    2. Watching the sun rise as you leave each morning
    3. Arriving at your albergue after finishing your day’s walk
    4. David who helps pilgrims close to Astorga
    5. The meseta!!
    6. Walking down from the Cruz de Ferro
    7. Tomas in Manjarin – a gentleman and a scholar!
    8. Eduardo in Boadilla del Camino – the definition of kindness
    9. Leon – its Cathedral. its streets and restaurants
    10. and Santiago…the Cathedral, the Botufemiero and being with other pilgrims whom you have walked with.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:42 am

      Hello David!!
      While we never got to meet up to walk the Camino together with you (because we were behind you by about 3 days)… you will know WELL the things we mentioned 🙂
      Yes!! We remember Eduardo at Boadilla del Camino and David before Astorga… and many of the other Camino angels along the way!!
      Actually to only do top 10 is very hard and we should’ve made it top 50 😉

        davidnoelsmith said:
        August 27, 2015 at 4:41 am

        That’s right..we were only days apart! At least we got to experience the same weather 🙂 I could list off a few more favourites alright.

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          Plenty of favourites! Are you heading off again soon for another Camino leg?

            davidnoelsmith said:
            August 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm

            I hope to return in September next from outside Ponferrada to the coast, an easy 320km over 2 weeks. I have a few other things that need doing that restrict me traveling at my preferred time of May. 🙂

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            August 27, 2015 at 10:03 pm

            Sounds exciting! And there must be a divine reason why you are meant to walk in September instead of May.

            davidnoelsmith said:
            August 27, 2015 at 10:13 pm

            Less people maybe? 😆

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            August 27, 2015 at 10:58 pm

            Could be 😉 Who knows, right? The Camino works in mysterious ways….

        postcardtraveller said:
        August 31, 2015 at 10:12 pm

        I actually met davidnoelsmith on my camino at Boadilla de Camino and we shared a drink together. Six degrees of separation now reduced to one. The world is indeed a small place. Happy camino anniversary.

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          September 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

          Wow!! It really is a small world 🙂 How cool that we were all on the Camino around the same time!!

    AnnaKristina said:
    August 26, 2015 at 3:44 am

    You’ve actually managed to make it even more appealing than it was before! Sounds incredible!
    Great blog post guys, and happy El Camino anniversary!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:37 am

      Awww – thanks AnnaKristina 🙂 The Camino somehow keeps becoming more appealing once it gets on your radar! That’s what we found….

    Drew said:
    August 26, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Great list! Brings back a lot of fond memories!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Thanks Drew – any fellow Camino walkers would totally understand 😉

    kabeiser said:
    August 26, 2015 at 2:01 am

    No mention of the vineyards?

    Someday I need to do this. I have done most of the PCT so the physical part isn’t a concern but rather getting away from working but still having money. Plans are being made.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:33 am

      Definitely the vineyards.. we put that under the point regarding countryside 🙂

      As we said in response to another post, people say, “You don’t choose to do the Camino, it chooses you!” So you may NEVER know when you will be called so strongly that everything happens to fall into place for you to be able to do it sooner! That is what happened with us – it was always on our list and we had made a pact that if we hadn’t done it by the time we turn 40, that we have to do it for our 40th. Somehow, after a whirlwind of events, we ended up doing it within 18 months of our pact. The world works in mysterious ways 😉

    Gypsy Bev said:
    August 26, 2015 at 1:50 am

    While I have never been there, I enjoyed your adventure and your highlights of the journey. I always love the little surprises along the way wherever I go. They are sometimes more exciting than what I had planned.May the spirit of adventure continue for your whole life.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:38 am

      Thanks so much Gypsy Bev 🙂 We are sure you have experiences and adventures in your life that will stay with you the same way the Camino has stayed with us!! Happy Wednesday 🙂

    CompassAndCamera said:
    August 26, 2015 at 1:12 am

    Great post! I’ve heard/read a lot about this journey, but have never seen any photos from the walk. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, images and memories. Wonderful to see it through your eyes.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Thank you for your kind comments. We could never imagine how much we would change as people – the way we look a life and live our lives. We are so pleased to have been able to share some of this experience with you 🙂

    Kim swift said:
    August 26, 2015 at 12:22 am

    as I read this, my heart beats faster and tears fill my eyes. Thanks for being part of my journey.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:28 am

      Thanks Kim for being part of our Camino. Our lives will be irrevocably linked 😉 We must cross pass again sometime xx

    sabretoothedchickenstour said:
    August 26, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Wow. Excellent post. Sounds like it will be one of those things you two talk about when you are old. 🙂 That’s what is hard to make people understand… that these experiences change you, shape you, bring you together… they are more than what they seem and help you become more than you thought you were. So happy for you both that these memories, these moments will be, forever yours. Simply wonderful. 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:26 am

      Yes – that is beautifully said. The Camino is an experience of a lifetime. They do say “you don’t choose to do the Camino, it chooses you.” 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and writing such a wonderful comment!! Happy Wednesday!

    Ayla said:
    August 25, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    I can’t believe it’s been a year already! I remember following along with your adventures and loving all your photos then. How time flies!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:23 am

      It is crazy how time flies… And we still remember it like yesterday 🙂 Hope you are well and enjoying your week more this week!

    Elizabeth said:
    August 25, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Wow, love and love this post. The camino is in my plans, I’ve a friend that is doing it right now, I told her to post lots of photos. I’ve read many books about it, but I agree that being there is what matters. Checking out the other photos right now. Thanks for such a lovely post.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2015 at 6:22 am

      Thanks Elizabeth for stopping by and reading. We truly hope that you get a chance to experience it one day yourself, it really is like nothing else we have done! We are positive your friend will return with plenty of stories herself! We are so glad you enjoyed this post 🙂

    Retired2Travel said:
    August 25, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    I forgot to say, amazing photos. Thank you for sharing!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 25, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment 🙂 We are so happy to share and hope we inspire!

    Retired2Travel said:
    August 25, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    What an awesome experience. El Camino doesn’t sound like it’s for the faint hearted. Congratulations on starting and finishing it!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 25, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks 🙂 It was such an achievement and we will never forget it! It really is for everyone – we met people from all ages along the way. People in their 70s… everyone with varying degrees of fitness 🙂

        Retired2Travel said:
        August 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm

        A great achievement indeed. Good on you both for giving it a go and completing it 🙂

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