The Coronavirus pandemic had an impact on all areas of our lives. Many things have changed, such as our ability to decide how to enjoy our leisure time and vacations. The restrictions imposed by Covid limited our freedom to travel abroad and, on certain dates, even within the mainland. For these and other reasons, the Camino de Santiago figures plummeted in 2020 and gradually rose again only in the second half of 2021.
Far from the historical record of Compostelas delivered in 2019 (347,578) we analyze the statistics of 2021 in the different itineraries of the Camino de Santiago and we summarize for you those of 2020 and 2019. In the hope of seeing again many pilgrims on route during this second Holy Year Xacobeo 2022, we wish you Buen Camino!
The Camino de Santiago in numbers
First of all, we have to specify that the Camino de Santiago (or the Way of Saint James) can be described as a network of pilgrimage routes towards the tomb of Saint James the Apostle, in Santiago de Compostela. According the the Christian tradition, the remains of the Apostle are buried there.
There are many pilgrims who take on this trip for spiritual reasons, retreat, and self growth. There are different motivations to walk the Camino de Santiago: religious, cultural, spiritual… and even physical challenges! This trail is also very popular among hiking and cycling enthusiasts, and walking groups.
Let’s find out a bit more about the key figures related to the Camino de Santiago, collected by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela. Please bear in mind that the Pilgrim’s Office only takes record of those pilgrims who get the Certificate (Compostela). These figures do not take into account those walkers who choose a different Jacobean route or section of the Camino that does not finish in Santiago; nor those who do not request the Pilgrim Certificate.
Evolution of the number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago: from 1986 to 2019
In 1986, the number of pilgrims was 1,801. Since then, this figure started to increase, particularly in 1993, because of the Holy Year and the French Way was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Even if during the Holy Years the number of pilgrims is always higher, the amount of people that do a peregrination to Santiago increases year by year.
In the last Holy Year (2010) the barrier of the 200.000 pilgrims was beaten: 272,165 people asked for the Compostela. That means that around 100,000 pilgrims more compared to the previous Holy year (2004) decided to live the experience of the Camino.
In 2018, the record was broken with 327,378 pilgrims while in 2017 there were 301,036. That means that the number increased in 26,342 in just one year.
In 2019, the Compostelas given by the Pilgrim’s Office were even more in fact 2019 ended with 347,578 pilgrims visiting the Pilgrim Welcome Office in Santiago de Compostela. In addition, 2019 was the second consecutive year in which the number of women (177,801) exceeded the number of men (169,777).
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The Camino during the pandemic: the numbers of the Camino de Santiago 2020-2021
As we all know, 2020 was a very complicated year for everyone because of the coronavirus pandemic that hit us in the most unexpected way. Obviously, the pandemic had repercussions also on those pilgrims who were forced to cancel their Camino or postpone it.
Considering the peculiarity of that year, we will briefly break down the main data for 2020 and focus in more detail on 2021 (and below on 2019).
What was expected to be a Xacobean Holy Year (2021) capable of breaking all records, was unfortunately marked by the COVID 19 pandemic. However, just for this reason, the Holy See decided to extend it for another year so we look forward to seeing how the situation will evolve during this second year of the Double Xacobean, a 2022 full of hope for pilgrims from all over the world!
Evolution and profile of pilgrims in 2020
In 2020 only 54,144 pilgrims requested the Compostela in Santiago, of which 30,221 men and 23,923 women.
91.53% (49,557 pilgrims) traveled the route on foot and 8.30% by bicycle (4,493).
The age range of those who walked the Camino in 2020 increased in favor of pilgrims between 30-60 years old (32,845) and under 30 years old (16,736), respectively 60.66% and 30.91% and decreased in those over 60 years old (4,563) reaching a total of 8.43%.
Evidently also the origin changed with respect to 2019 being 68.45% of the pilgrims (37,061) from Spain (of which 9,796 foreign residents).
As always the autonomous community with the highest number of pilgrims was Andalusia (6,843) followed by Madrid (6,366) and the Valencian Community (4,396).
The French Way continued to be the most popular, with 28,906 pilgrims (53.39%) followed by the Portuguese Way, with 10,252 pilgrims (18.93%) and the Northern Way, with 3804 pilgrims (7.03%).
As usual, the departure point most chosen by pilgrims was Sarria (14,879 pilgrims) on the French Way, followed by Tui on the Portuguese Way with 4,192 pilgrims.
As for the motivations that pushed pilgrims to undertake the Camino we find the following figures:
- Religious or other 24,789 (45.78%).
- Religious 16,259 (30.03%)
- Non-religious 13,096 (24.19%)
Evolution and profile of pilgrims in 2021
The year 2021 was also a very peculiar year. After a 2020 characterized by the Coronavirus pandemic and with only 54,144 pilgrims registering at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago, 2021 exceeds expectations considering that in the first half of the year it was almost impossible to travel due to the restrictions imposed.
The unpredictable situation of the coronavirus, the increase in cases during the different waves and the appearance of variants made it very complicated to program itineraries in advance and to give a sense of total security to those who decided to undertake the Camino. Even so, in 2021 a total of 178,912 pilgrims were registered, a success considering the general situation!
➡ How did the pilgrims get to Santiago?
So, how did they walk the Camino de Santiago?
on foot: 167,730
by bicycle: 10,781
on horseback: 199
in a wheelchair: 37
➡ Origin of pilgrims
Also, in 2021, on the Camino de Santiago, there were more Spanish (122,128 pilgrims and representing 68.26% of the total) than foreigners (56,784) due to difficulties when traveling.
Spanish pilgrims came from:
Andalusia 24,886 (14.6%).
Madrid 22,002 (12.91%)
Valencian Community 13,308 (7.81%)
Galicia 12,882 (7.56%)
Cataluña 11,575 (6.79%)
Castilla la Mancha 6,828 (4.01%)
Castilla León 4,327 (2.54%)
Murcia 3,855 (2.26%)
Canary Islands 3,478 (2.04%)
Extremadura 2,645 (1.55%)
Basque Country 2,591 (1.52%)
Foreign pilgrims came from:
Portugal 9,410 (5.26%)
Italy 7,817 (4.37%)
Germany 6,575 (3.67%)
The United States 5,668 (3.17%)
France 4,478 (2.5%)
Poland 1,841 (1.03%)
The Netherlands 1,808 (1.01%)
Mexico 1,526 (0.85%)
➡ Camino de Santiago numbers by age
Under 30 years of age 46,517 (26%)
Between 30 and 60 104,148 (58.21%)
Over 60 years of age 28,247 (15.79%)
What motivates a person to walk the Camino de Santiago? What are the motivations of the pilgrims to start walking or pedaling to reach the Praza do Obradoiro? Most of them said they do it for various reasons, both cultural and religious. In 2021, the number of people who did any of the official routes for non-religious reasons doubled compared to 2019.
- Religious or other 77,289 (43.2%).
- Religious 65,063 (36.37%)
- Non-religious 36,551 (20.43%).
➡ Which routes did pilgrims walk in 2021?
The French Way was, for yet another year, the most popular among pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela, followed by the Portuguese Way. However, in 2021 the third favorite route was the English Way, which in 2019 had been fifth.
- French Way: 98.090 pilgrims
- Portuguese Way: 34.247 pilgrims
- English Way: 10.980 pilgrims
- Primitive Way: 10,143 pilgrims
- Northern Way: 9,595 pilgrims
- Portuguese Coastal Way: 7,942 pilgrims
- Via de la Plata: 4,046 pilgrims
- Muxía-Finisterre: 808 pilgrims
- Winter Way 932 pilgrims
➡ Figures of the Camino de Santiago by TOP 10 SALIDAS
Sarria: 55,792 pilgrims
Ferrol: 10.574 pilgrims
Porto: 8724 pilgrims
Saint Jean de Port: 8.149 pilgrims
Oviedo 5.792 pilgrims
O Cebreiro: 5.000 pilgrims
Valença do Minho: 4,888 pilgrims
Leon: 3,987 pilgrims
Ponferrada: 3,704 pilgrims
Evolution and pilgrim profile in 2019
➡ Number of pilgrims by means of transport: walking, cycling or horse riding
As usually, most of the pilgrims that went across any of the official routes of the Camino de Santiago chose to do it by walk. Concretely, 327,281 people (94% of the total) walked, almost the same number than the total of pilgrims in 2018. The second favorite way to arrive to Santiago was riding the bike, with 19,563 (5.6%). The other ways chosen by the pilgrims to reach the Obradoiro Square represent less than the 1%, according to the information provided by the Pilgrim’s Office.
So, how did the pilgrims arrive to Santiago?
- By walk: 327,281 (94.16%)
- Riding the bike: 19,563 (5.63%)
- Horseback riding: 406 (0.12%)
- Sailboat: 243 (0.07%)
- Wheelchair: 85 (0.02%)
➡ Pilgrims’ Nationality along the Camino de Santiago in 2019
From the 347,578 pilgrims that got their Compostela in 2019, 146,350 were Spanish, while 201,228 came from another countries.
The Spanish pilgrims came from:
- Andalucía: 33,115 (9.53% of the total)
- Madrid: 27,683 (7.96%)
- Comunidad Valenciana: 17,830 (5.13%)
- Cataluña: 13,183 (3.8%)
- Galicia: 8,309 (2.4%)
- Castilla La Mancha: 7,855 (2.26%)
- Castilla León: 6,918 (2%)
- Canarias: 5,435 (1.56%)
- Extremadura: 4,846 (1.4%)
- Murcia: 4,618 (1.33%)
- País Vasco: 4,523 (1.3%)
- Aragón: 2,891 (0.83%)
- Asturias: 2,817 (0.81%)
- Baleares: 2,005 (0.58%)
- Navarra: 1,128 (0.33%)
- Cantabria: 1,044 (0.3%)
- La Rioja: 629 (0.18%)
- Foreigners living in Spain: 465 (0.13%)
- Ceuta: 188 (0.05%)
- Melilla: 137 (0.04%)
On the other hand, and as it happened in 2018, most of the foreigner pilgrims came from Italy, Germany, USA and Portugal. These are the most common nationalities among the people that year after year walk any of the official routes of the Way. Nevertheless, the people with Spanish nationality that make their mind up to follow any of the Caminos represent more than the 40% of the total.
According to the nationality of the pilgrims, those are the ten countries with more arrivals to Santiago:
- Spain: 146,350 (42.1% of the total)
- Italy: 27,749 (7.98%)
- Germany: 26,167 (7.53%)
- USA: 20,652 (5.94%)
- Portugal: 17,450 (5.02%)
- France: 9,248 (2.66%)
- United Kingdom: 9,132 (2.63%)
- Korea: 8,224 (2.37%)
- Ireland: 6,826 (1.96%)
- Brazil: 6,025 (1.73%)
➡ Pilgrim’s Age
From the almost 350,000 pilgrims that arrived to Santiago de Compostela in 2019, 189,505 were between 30 and 60 years old. The percentages are very similar to the ones from 2018. So, in 2019 the ages of the pilgrims that arrived to the Pilgrim’s Office were:
- Between 30 and 60 years old: 189,505 (54.52%)
- Less than 30 years old: 92,970 (26.75%)
- Over 60 years old: 65,103 (18.73%)
What inspires a person to walk the Camino de Santiago? What are the motivations of the pilgrims to walk or ride the bike until they reach the Obradoiro Square? Most of them claimed doing it because of religious and cultural reasons. Last year there was a light increase in this category, while the amount of people that had only religious reasons to follow any of the official routes until reaching Santiago decreased.
➡ Which were the most popular Caminos in 2019?
The French Way was, as usual, the most popular among the pilgrims that arrived to Santiago de Compostela, followed by the Portuguese Way. Nevertheless, in 2019 the third favorite route was the Portuguese Coastal Way, that in 2018 was in the sixth position. In this way, the path that goes from Porto to Santiago near the sea leads the Northern Way, the Primitive Way and the English Way.
According to the available information from 2019:
- French Way: 189,937 pilgrims (54.65%)
- Portuguese Way: 72,357 (20.82%)
- Portuguese Coastal Way: 22,292 (6.41%)
- Northern Way: 19,019 (5.47%)
- English Way: 15,780 (4.54%)
- Primitive Way: 15,715 (4.52%)
- Via de la Plata: 9,201 (2.65%)
- Muxía-Finisterre: 1,548 (0.45%)
- Winter Way: 1,035 (0.3%)
- Other ways: 694 (0.2%)
➡ TOP 10 STARTING POINTS along the Camino de Santiago in 2019
Choose where to start the Camino de Santiago is, sometimes, one of the most difficult decisions for pilgrims. However, year by year, the most common starting point is the same: Sarria, in the province of Lugo. Two of the reasons why this happen are that from here to Santiago there are more than 100 kilometers and it is also part of an official route, the French Way (that at the same time is the most popular). These two requirements, with the fact of stamping twice a day the Pilgrim’s Passport, are enough to obtain the Compostela. The ten favorite places to start the Camino de Santiago in 2019 were:
- Sarria (last 100 kilometres of the French Way): 96.124 (27,66%)
- Jean Pied de Port (full French Way): 33.197 (9,55%)
- Oporto (Portuguese Way): 27.924 (8,03%)
- Tui (last 100 kilometres of the Portuguese Way): 22.814 (6,56%)
- Ferrol (full English Way): 15.097 (4,34%)
- Oporto (Portuguese Coastal Way): 11.421 (3,29%)
- León (French Way): 10.505 (3,02%)
- Valença do Minho (Portuguese Way): 10.490 (3,02%)
- Oviedo (full Primitive Way): 9.531 (2,74%)
- O Cebreiro (French Way): 8.367 (2,41%)
Other popular places among pilgrims to begin this adventure were Ponferrada, Irún, Roncesvalles, Astorga, Lugo and Ourense. The rest of the starting points were chosen by less than 4,000 people in 2019.
➡ The professions of the pilgrims along the Camino
A curious information that the Pilgrim’s Office provide every year is the profession the pilgrims claim to have when they arrive to Santiago. The most common one is the employees (82,758 pilgrims), followed by the students (62,681), liberals (49,458) and the retired people (45,970).
Other common occupations are technicians, teachers and public workers. In addition, with a bit more of 6,000 people in each category, there were the housewife or househusband and the managers, followed by the unemployed and the laborer that were more than 4,000.
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