The Camino de Santiago’s Ugly Side

May 25, 2012 29 Comments »

ugly camino trail

Walking along the highway entering Leon wasn’t very pretty

The Camino de Santiago trail is gorgeous – but like any beautiful creature it also has it’s ugly moments. It’s easy for you to sit and look at all of my Camino de Santiago photos and be swept up into the stunning landscapes and simplicity of life along the Camino; however before you book your ticket to Spain and buy your hiking shoes you should know about the not-so-pretty parts of the Camino too. I wouldn’t want you showing up in Spain thinking that this whole 500 mile trail is simply beautiful vista after beautiful vista and then getting here and being disappointed when you are walking through an industrial area sucking in car fumes.

You should know that the Camino trail was not created for tourism – not in the least. This is an ancient pilgrimage trail that dates back thousands of years ago way before there were highways, cars, or bikes. The trail was created since it was the most accessible, and easiest way across Spain to Santiago for trade and religious reasons. As the years have gone by the infrastructure ‘Gods’ have also recognized that this is the easiest and best way across Northern Spain, therefore roads sprouted up along the trail.

Camino de Santiago Guides that Can Help You Plan or Inspire Your Trip

The Camino de Santiago’s Ugly Side

Back when they were building roads I doubt anyone planned for 150,000 modern day pilgrims to be walking the trail each year, they simply built roads. So, when you walk the Camino, be prepared that about 30% of the time it’s not pretty – in fact it can be down right ugly and unpleasant.  Many times you are walking on the busy roads where there isn’t even a shoulder. Sometimes you are walking through major industrial zones between factories. Sometimes the smell is horrible.

The entrances and exits to big towns such as Burgos and Leon can be mind numbing as you walk along and under/over major highways as well as past industrial parks. So, if you are in the market for buying a car or a lovely piece of furniture – you may be happy that you are walking through such places, but most likely you will hate it.

Sometimes you are bombarded with marketing along the trail – however I have to admit that this was much, much less than I expected. Maybe it’s my American culture that expects much more marketing to such a ‘hungry’ group of tourists – but I was pleasantly surprised that Spain hadn’t yet let this take over on the trail.

See my Essential Camino de Santiago Packing List

Boots vs. Tennis shoes, rain gear needs (don’t forget your camera protection!), laundry supplies, the best ear plugs, and more. Before you go, make sure you have all of these items on my Camino de Santiago packing list!

However – it’s all part of the Camino – the good and bad – just like life. In fact – some people don’t mind the ‘ugly’ parts – I certainly didn’t. I just felt like it was all part of the journey.

camino trail through cities

The trail leading out of Leon between buildings and over roads

camino trail reality

The trail on the shoulder goes around the Burgos airport runway

ugly camino trail

Walking by industry outside of Santo Domingo

camino trail underpass

Sometimes you go under the highways through lovely tunnels

camino trail burgos

The trail along the road in Burgos

camino trail gas station

Gas stations along the trail

ugly camino

Walking by power plants in the near Los Arcos

camino trail overpass

Crossing over the train tracks near Astorga


Trail views of industrial businesses near Leon

camino marketing

Multilingual billboards line the trail outside of Villefranca

camino factory

Walking past a potato company near Santo Domingo

Be inspired before you go with these cool Camino items you can take with you!

View all of the ‘Ugly’ Camino photography I’ve been collecting

See the other 70% – the Beautiful Camino Frances!

Week 1 Photography

Week 2 Photography

Week 3 Photography

Week 4 Photography

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