Best time to walk Camino Primitivo – My personal experience




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Camino Primitivo belongs now to the most popular pilgrimage routes in Spain. Relatively short (you can do it within 2 weeks, so no need to take a month holiday or a sabbatical), and offering an interesting variety (nice forests walks, couple of days in the “mountains”, a few beautiful cities–especially Lugo, one big water dam, and several interesting pilgrim hostels), it attracts more and more pilgrims each year.

But what is the best time to walk it nowadays, considering the weather, the crowds, the opening of the pilgrim hostels, and many other factors? I will try to find the answer on the following lines, looking at each season at the Primitivo and what it has to offer to a pilgrim like you. Let’s dive into this!

* Do not forget to check also: Camino Primitivo Guide, stage by stage, in 12 days. Maps, elevation profiles, distance between towns, places worth seeing, alternative routes, and much more… Free and online, no need to download anything.


Spring on Camino Primitivo (Mid March – May)

In contrary to some other pilgrimage routes in Spain, virtually all pilgrim hostels are open in mid-march already on Camino Primitivo. Which means that you won’t have to stay in hotels or camp outside, even if you start on 10th March. The number of pilgrims is relatively small, especially until mid April when it starts to rise sharply. But starting in mid March or beginning of April, you basically do not have to worry about making any reservations. You can just walk, and listen to your body to know where to stop, or perhaps when the clouds give you such a signal :).

Speaking about clouds, the weather on Camino Primitivo is quite rainy in spring. However, the character of rain is very different to the typical Galician rain in winter! While it may rain almost every second day in March, April, and even May, the rain is rarely persistent. We speak here more about typical short spring downpour, coming suddenly, falling heavy, and leaving almost sooner than you manage to put your rain poncho on :). And then in twenty minutes the same scene may repeat… Speaking about temperature, the mornings can still be quite cold (it isn’t unusual for the temperature to drop below 5 degrees Celsius in the morning), but on a nice day you can already feel the warmth of Spanish sun. Considering everything, however, you cannot do Primitivo in spring packing ultra light, since the weather is changing really quickly, and you need warmer clothes and everything.

Speaking about beauty of the way, in my opinion, Camino Primitivo is nicest in April and May. The mountains you pass over are full of bushes with colorful flowers, and even the drier parts of this Camino is relatively green in spring. If your main goal of walking is enjoying the Spanish nature, and you do not mind these spring rain showers, spring it probably the best time of the year to do Camino Primitivo for you!

– The famous “Les hospitales” route, Camino Primitivo, in late August. While still nice and magical, you won’t see all those yellow and red and purple flowers that decorate these Galician mountains in spring…


Camino Primitivo in summer (June, July, August, first half of September)

As a rule of a thumb, all northern caminos in Spain get the busiest in summer months. And Primitivo is not an exception to the rule. This happens from a few reasons:

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  1. Summer is a time when student have holidays (and also teachers, always a numerous group on any Camino is summer), so they head out to explore the world and have a blast in Spain :).
  2. It generally rains less on this Camino, especially in July and August (though with climate changes these patterns that were valid for dozens of years aren’t guaranteed anymore).
  3. People just love Spain in summer, with everything that belongs to it.

What does it all mean for walking the Primitivo route in summer? Well, first of all, with the immense growth of popularity of this route and limited accommodation capacities (you will pass mostly through small villages on the Primitivo), it may become problematic getting a bed in the albergues.

You can either wake up super early (some pilgrims start as soon as 4:30 on Primitivo in summer), and be among the first to arrive to one of the many pilgrim hostels on Primitivo that still do not accept reservations (they work “first come first served” style). Yeah, the typical race for beds, something I personally hate :). Or you can make reservations.

However, I want to point out that even though locals are trying to make things better for the pilgrims (and also for themselves ;)) and some new hostels and hotels open along the Primitivo every year, it still isn’t enough for the demand. Hence from June to September if you are unlucky to do the Camino Primitivo in the wrong time (when simply too many pilgrims made the same decision), you may not get a bed even if you try to reserve every day. In such a case, you either have to make reservations many days in advance, or call it a day and take a bus to some other, less crowded Camino.

Walking in summer has its pluses though. If you’re lucky, you may have your entire Camino without a drop of rain (or with one or two thunderstorms, common in the mountainous parts of this route), and you can definitely pack light, since even though the temperature may still drop below 10 degrees in the morning, with the summer Spanish sun the temperature rises quickly and cold certainly isn’t a problem–heat is :). Speaking about nature, Camino Primitivo is still very green in summer and autumn, and you will still see some bushes flowering, but the colorful splendor of spring is gone by the end of June already… As you can see, walking Primitivo in summer has both pluses and minuses, and it can be the right choice for you.


Camino Primitivo in autumn (second half of September, October, first half of November)

Let me start with the good news. On Camino Primitivo, almost all pilgrim hostels are open until mid November at least. And since the owners see the pilgrims coming even later, the season is sort of prolonging each year… Second half of September is especially good in my view, since the number of pilgrims already drops a lot, but the rainy days are still rather rare, and the temperature doesn’t drop that much at night.

Having said that, the countryside can be very dry, especially after a long and relatively dry summer, your boots and legs covered with dust at the end of every day, and the nature doesn’t have the charm it has had just a month or two ago. Also a good point to remember is that when you come close to Santiago and join the French way in Melide, the shock you experience may be almost overwhelming, since on Camino Frances (the last 100 kilometers) September and October is as busy as it gets!

One thing to keep in mind is the approach of the Galician rainy season. Well, some people say it always rains in Galicia, and though there is some truth to the claim, the type of rain is different in each season of the year. Typically mid-October (but can be earlier or later) the dreaded rainy gloomy patch of Galician weather arrives.

This isn’t like in spring–where it rains heavily for 5 minutes, sometimes with hail, and than the next half an hour you have sun above your head. The autumn and winter rains in Galicia can easily last for days on end, and the sun may remain hidden behind a thick layer of clouds for weeks. This is something to consider when you deciding about the best time to walk Camino Primitivo. If you opt for November for example, the chances of walking the entire Camino in wet shoes are quite high :).

– The beauty and mystery of foggy Galicia that you can experience especially in early autumn on Camino Primitivo


Walking Camino Primitivo in winter

If you’re a lonely wolf, or perhaps the only time when you can head for your Camino is winter, or perhaps a sudden impulse or event in your life makes you to pack your backpack and head out, seeking a Camino therapy out there in plain winter, you may wonder whether it is actually possible to walk Camino Primitivo in winter months, and what it is like. If that’s the case, let me start with good news.

The goods news is that the number of pilgrim hostels open all-year round on Camino Primitivo is surprisingly high. As a rough figure, I’d say that 60%-70% of all pilgrim hostels on the Primitive way are open all year long. In some cases the rules change–for example the check-in time is later, or you have to call in advance (so somebody actually arrives to open you and check you in). But you can stay in pilgrim places all the way to Santiago, just perhaps you need to do a bit of planning or walk a bit more (or less) miles daily, in order to stop in places that have the hostels open.

As far as the number of pilgrims goes, I cannot speak here from first hand experience, since I’ve never walked on Camino Primitivo in winter. But if I am to judge by the numbers of pilgrims on other northern Caminos in winter, I’d say it will be quite a lonely walk… Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it always makes the rare meeting of another pilgrim even more special.

Last but not least, let me touch on the subject of snow. Though many people call Camino Primitivo a mountainous Camino, this isn’t really the truth. There are just about 2-3 days “in the mountains”, and we do not talk here about really high mountains. Actually the highest point of this Camino is just 1,200 meters above sea level. Having said that, you can have a bit of snow on Primitivo, on one or two days, especially in second half of January and first half of February. But do not expect hordes of snow you won’t be able to cross. Imagine more of a bit of powder (up to an inch perhaps), falling at night, that will change to water quickly during the day :).


Final thoughts on best time to walk Camino Primitivo

As you can see now (or at least I hope so :)), something like a generally best time to walk Camino Primitivo doesn’t exist. You can walk this Camino year-round, and which season you choose depends on your preferences, and what you are looking for on your Camino. Company, or solitude. Nature, or connection with people. Hot Spanish sun, or magical chilly foggy mornings. Light showers or thunderstorms. Peace of mind, or stress and drama (like when you struggle to get a bed every day)…

Good news is that Camino Primitivo is a beautiful Camino, and you an do it anytime of the year. Hope you will enjoy it, and I wish you a buen camino!


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