These are the responses to frequently asked questions about the Ignatian Camino:
1. I am wondering what would be the best month in which to undertake Ignatian Camino? — especially in terms of the heat and the weather.
The best season may be April or the end of September, beginning of October.
2. Is the Ignatian Camino safe for women to undertake?
Yes, especially if you are walking in a group.
3. Is the Ignatian Camino well-marked?
Yes in Catalunya. In other parts the way is the same as the Catalunyan way to Santiago, except you are walking in the opposite direction. The Basque sections are not well-marked yet. However, the descriptions on the official website are very specific.
4. Is there a guide book in English on the Ignatian Camino (as there is for the Camino Frances)?
Yes. It is written by the Jesuit priest who pioneered the Ignatian Camino, Josep Lluis Iriberri SJ, and the American author Chris Lowney. The English edition can be purchased on Amazon.
5. Could we join in with another group of other pilgrims?
Maybe, if there are others walking.
6. What numbers are walking the Ignatian Camino each year?
Very few at this stage compared with the 200,000 or so who walk the Camino de Santiago each year.
7. Are there farmacia (pharmacies) along the way for the treatment of blisters and other ailments?
No problem about that. Plenty… but you should buy a blister kit at the beginning of your pilgrimage… in Barcelona or in San Sebastian.
8.If someone wants to set off early in the morning before breakfast, could the guesthouses/hotels prepare breakfast packs for people to take away with them? Could the whole group do this at some/all places?
In some places, yes, it will possible. Depends what time you request it. Breakfast usually starts at 08:00 am in Spain, though in many cases you can get breakfast at 07:00 am. Any earlier will be difficult! The 3 and 4 star hotels are more adaptable and flexible and more likely to pack breakfasts to take with you. Some of the more humble guesthouses won’t be able to do this, as they don’t have the staff starting earlier than 07:00 am (in fact, some won’t have fresh bread delivered until 07:00 am) and also considering that their breakfast is “continental”, e.g. toast/croissants, jams, butter, juice, coffee, it is harder for them to pack a lunch. We encourage pilgrims to get onto the “Spanish rhythm” (breakfast at 08:00am, lunch around 14:00pm, dinner at 20:00 pm). In September it’s still light until quite late (the sun sets between 20:00 – 20:30 pm).
9. Are there lunch places (cafes/restaurants) on offer every day?
Every day pilgrims will walk through at least one village or town (sometimes more). In the final information we prepare we will indicate which towns/villages have restaurants/bars etc. Most bars serve “bocadillos” (filled bread rolls, baguette-style) or restaurants offer the ubiquitous “menu del dia” — a three-course meal including starter, main, dessert, water, wine and coffee (often no more than 12 € or so). Where there is no restaurant or bar on the trail before lunch hour, we will advise the day before, so that pilgrims can buy supplies in local shops in order to make up their own bread rolls. Most of the inns and hotels can also prepare bocadillos. We recommend pilgrims also carry their own snacks (e.g. fresh or dried fruits/nuts, energy bars etc.). These can all be purchased in supermarkets/small stores on the Camino.
10. Are there toilet facilities on the trail?
There are no toilets on the trail (e.g. Port-a-loos). Obviously in the towns and villages pilgrims can use the toilets in the bars and restaurants. If you do, it is always best to purchase at least a coffee or bottle of water when you use the toilet in a cafe or bar. Otherwise, on the trail you will have to find a tree or bush to go behind!
11. What portion of the Camino is paved/path as opposed to unpaved?
It’s a real mixture (like the Camino de Santiago). There are dirt trails that traverse the mountains (particularly during the first week in the Basque country); wide dirt farm/agricultural tracks (the type that a 4×4 or even a car can follow) and also paved roads that connect villages and towns. Approximately 70% would be on dirt/gravel roads. The trail is never dangerous (e.g. exposed, where you can fall off a mountain into a ravine etc!).
12. What portion of the Camino is signposted?
The Camino Ignaciano is not uniformally signposted. It is a new initiative. The Camino Ignaciano Association <http://www.caminoignaciano.org/> is trying to get governments of the 5 different “Comunidades” (Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Aragon and Cataluña) to uniformally mark the trail, but it is going to take time. The section in Cataluña is now fully signposted, with orange arrows painted (and also signposts with a metal plaque with “Camino Ignaciano” on it. In Cataluña the trail is shared with the Camino de Santiago so often the post is for both trails (Camino Ignaciano and Camino Catalan or “San Jaume”), though obviously pilgrims going to Manresa walk in the opposite direction to those walking towards Santiago. The Association has plans for the Camino Ignaciano in the Basque Country to be painted with the orange arrows. In other areas, walkers will follow PR (Pequeños Recorridos) or GR trails (Grandes Recorridos) for small sections; painted respectively with yellow/white and red/white paint (e.g. from one town to another town). We also provide print outs from the Camino Ignaciano website – instructions & maps that must be carefully followed. Each pilgrim needs to be responsible for route-finding (people walking the entire Camino Ignaciano are still pioneers!). It is not as easy to follow as the Camino de Santiago where there are yellow arrows painted throughout its entirety (in all Comunidades). The best information is on the official website, which is continually updated.
13. How hilly is the terrain?
The first week is the most mountainous section, in the Basque country. You will climb up around 2000 metres. After that, you will follow the course of the Rio Ebro and the terrain is gentle (through La Rioja, Aragon etc.). Around Montserrat it gets hillier again.
14. What if someone gets lost?
If you get lost, you’ll get found!! There is always a chance on any self-guided walking tour that people get lost. However, you are not walking in extremely isolated or dangerous mountain ranges. Most days you walk through villages and/or towns. To avoid getting lost we recommend that no-one walks alone (best to have a buddy system!).
15. What do you recommend in terms of mobile phones?
You should bring a mobile phone. As Global Roaming is expensive, we recommend that you bring your mobile phone and purchase a SIM card from a Spanish provider (in Barcelona for example) or even purchase a cheap mobile phone (with a SIM card) in Spain so that it doesn’t cost you too much.
16. How many days does it occur when the minibus needs to shuttle people from the end of their day’s walk to the village where the accommodation is?
There are 9 days (Day 5, Day 7, Day 11, Day 15, Day 20, Day 22, Day 26, Day 27 and Day 28) when we will use a mini-bus at day’s end to transport pilgrims from the end of the day’s walk to the accommodation.
17. What happens when people finish the walk at all different times? Is it possible that someone who finishes the walk 2 hours before the others may have to wait 2 hours for the bus to take them to the evening’s lodging?
We have provided costing based on one direct group transfer from end of walking stage to the accommodation. You can easily “kill time” exploring the village…visiting a church; having a beer or coffee in a bar, having a siesta under a tree etc. Otherwise, if you are anxious to get to the next hotel you can get a taxi. We will calculate how long the walk will take and organize the coach transfer time accordingly. If, for example, the entire group arrive earlier in the town or village than the organized pick-up time, the group leader can call ahead to the bus driver and ask him/her to come a little earlier. Most days pilgrims can choose to have a shorter walking day by finishing up in a village or town – for example – half way along the trail. Here, you can organize a taxi to take you to the next hotel. What we will have to do is have these pilgrims stay in touch with the leader by phone (so that he or she knows that they won’t be on the coach transfer, if there is one, at the end of the day). As mentioned previously, the leader will have to be on top of all these details!
18. How many trips back and forward could or would the minibus do to ensure people don’t wait around too long?
As mentioned, we have costed on one transfer for the entire group. This is not a fully escorted tour with a coach available all day and with this kind of flexibility.
19. How big is the minibus that you have quoted on? Would it fit all 22 passengers?
Where we have transfers from/to the trailhead/hotel the coach is big enough to cater for the entire group in one transfer.