Food and Culture on the Camino de Santiago

Besides the pure excitement of walking the Camino de Santiago trail and the pleasure you’ll find in grasping the immersive landscapes of Galicia, the journey will bring you so much more.

The truth is, walking and walking for miles a day will make you tired and hungry, and you will need to pause, eat, and rest along the way.

Fortunately, this will open up a wide range of opportunities for you to take in the local atmosphere, learn about cultural differences and characteristics, and try out the delicious local cuisine and gourmet delights, altogether making this journey genuinely unforgettable.

The People of Camino de Santiago

Photo by Caleb De Marco

Santiago is located in the Galicia region of Spain, which it’s quite different from the other parts of the country.

Iberian Celts were the original people that lived in this area before Roman times. They arrived in Galicia from Northern Europe around the 6th century BC, bringing their tradition and symbols that are still present today.

Later on, throughout history, the Romans, Visigoths, and Muslim empires all left their traces by contributing their tradition and customs to the local heritage.

Mostly because of a strong Celtic cultural heritage, but also because of the predominantly green mountains and rainy climate, Galicia is often referred to as the “Spanish Ireland.”

Surrounded by mountains, this part of Spain took longer to develop. With infrastructure and access to roads built a lot later, people mostly turned to farming and agriculture for a living.

On the other hand, younger generations most commonly leave their villages for education and usually choose to stay in the cities.

However, pilgrims and hikers are always welcome and treated with tremendous respect and care. 

Interacting with the locals, doing what they do, and going to the places they go, will help you connect with this destination more deeply.

To better immerse in the journey, get in touch with locals, and genuinely feel the atmosphere, basic knowledge of Spanish and Gallician can be quite useful.

Meals You Have to Try

Pilgrims in Santiago De Compostela taking a break at a local café in Rúa das Carreras. The cathedral is the goal of the long pilgrimage done on foot on routes from Spain, Portugal and France. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström

During the Camino de Santiago, your body will demand that you feed and hydrate yourself well, so answering your body’s needs will also be an essential part of your journey.

The hydration part can be easily solved with backpacking water filters, which will give you peace of mind whenever you need fresh and safe water.

As for the local cuisine and delights part, you’ll most definitely enjoy your meals with all five of your senses.

One of the most famous traditional dishes in Galicia is Pulpo – octopus, either boiled or grilled, served with some smoked Spanish paprika. And it’s always delicious. Pair it with a glass of some good red wine, and there you have it – quite a blissful experience!

Pimientos de Padrón is a meal that is also specific to the Galicia region. It’s made from one particular variety of green peppers, fried in Spanish olive oil. Pimientos are pleasing to all senses and so deeply satisfying – salty, not very spicy, and somehow smokey.

Another must is the blood sausage of Burgos. There are different variants of it, but it’s unforgivable not to give it a try. The same goes for Jamón Ibérico, the most delicious cured meat you’ll find.

You can take a chance with Pilgrim’s menus and experience something new every once in a while. A pilgrim’s menu usually consists of bread, appetizer, main dish, dessert, and wine.

The Things You’ll See

Photo by Jon Tyson

If you follow the scallop shell, one of the most iconic symbols of Camino de Santiago, or the marking of the yellow arrow, your route will be quite easy to navigate.

Depending on where you choose to start your journey, you will have a chance to visit various villages, towns, and cities across the route.

Many pilgrims choose a tiny but magical settlement, Roncesvalles, for their point of departure or their first stop.

Throughout history, the town served as a gateway to the Iberian Peninsula from neighboring France. It was used by the Celts, Goths, and the Moors centuries after its creation and has many legends attached to it.

Pamplona is the first major city on your journey, with the beautiful old town and the Cathedral at only a short distance from the main albergue. If you’ve forgotten anything from your essentials packing list, there are many shops in the city, so you can purchase whatever you need.

Plaza Sta. María, Burgos, Spain Photo by richard hewat

Burgos, Leon, and Ponferrada are magnificent too, with so much to see and to do. Burgos is home to one of the most visited museums in Spain – the Museum of Human Evolution and the world heritage site El Cid, or the Cathedral. 

In Ponferrada, there is an old Templar castle you have to visit.

Santiago de Compostela, one of the finest Spanish cities, is the end of the route for most of the pilgrims. 

Santiago Cathedral and its square, made of golden granite, are an incredible sight. When the pilgrims stand before the Door of Glory, they know they’ve reached the journey’s end.

No matter why you’ve chosen to walk the Camino de Santiago – your faith, the need for self-discovery, or a challenge, make sure you enjoy it each step of the way. 

Connect with your surroundings, interact with locals, get to know their culture, and taste their cuisine – it’s an experience you’ll cherish forever!

About the Author: I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.

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