Pretty often on the Internet, the question is posed if doing the Camino alone is safe. I am deeply annoyed by over-optimism, that yes, of course, it’s safe, no problem at all, it’s like going to the shopping centre. Let’s be honest – it is moderately safe.
So, nothing doing my dear friends, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was and always will be full of adventures. The author of the 12th century guidebook lost his horses, in the same book the Pope excommunicates those who attack pilgrims; meanwhile a German pilgrim from the 15th century writes about nasty tax collectors who in one of the cities went through his baggage with a fine-tooth comb and robbed him with the full sanction of the law. Human nature doesn’t change. In the Middle Ages, the Templars watched over the pilgrim’s safety, today Guardia Civil have taken over. However impressive their efforts, they are not able to cordon off an 800 km long trail off.
I would like to emphasize that most pilgrims assess the Camino as very safe. But unpleasant situations crop up. I will quote only my personal experience: I met an exhibitionist while walking alone in the middle of nowhere, my bicycle along with several others was damaged by vandals, I spent a sleepless night with thieves in an albergue and never mind attracting unwanted attention while testing an alternative route for cyclists. Saying this I would like to underline that I came out of all these accidents unscathed and the deeper sense of the events was rather inspirational. However, while it was happening it was traumatizing.
So if you are going to Santiago alone, be sensible. Trust your senses and if something seems to be dodgy it quite possibly is dodgy. Don’t set off cycling too early or finish too late. It is good to be flexible – sometimes it is worth joining others even if only for a few kilometres or stay somewhere for the night and set off a day later.
In this guide, I have stressed that it is better not to be in certain crucial places alone in the evening. But it doesn’t mean I listed them all – ultimately big parts of the Camino are empty spaces. And I love it but I have to admit that sometimes while cycling a lonely trail in the middle of nowhere I sighed with longing for the Templars.