Walking the Camino, an age-old tradition for quite literally centuries, is reaching fever pitch as the Spanish town Santiago de Compostela prepares for a Holy Year in 2021.
The first in 9 years, as it is celebrated when the 25th of July, St James Day, falls on a Sunday. This 'holy' or 'xacobeo' year culminates in the St James Festival in Santiago de Compostela with Pilgrims taking in the fanfare and fireworks on 31st July.
But there is so much more planned for the upcoming milestone.
Traveller24 recently attended the third edition of Fairway, an annual Forum of the Camino de Santiago, held in the Palacio de Congresos de Santiago last week, between 10 and 12 February.
The niche trade fair saw detailed workshops, congress sessions, training programmes and an investment forum - with attendance by the tourism councils of A Coruña, Lugo and Ourense or Correos – all looking to showcase the latest offerings of the Camino.
In 2018 a total of 327 378 pilgrims registered for the Camino, while no clear figure is available of the specific number of South Africans, some 162 542 men and 164 836 woman partook in the iconic hike.
Speaking to Traveller24, local operator Yolandi van der Wath of Tours to Israel & Beyond, confirmed that bookings from South Africa for the Camino have been increasing steadily.
To put this in context Yolandi says, "Whenever St James's day falls on a Sunday, the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela declares a Holy or Jubilee Year. Normally the number of pilgrims double during a Holy Year. The most recent one being in 2010 brought 272 135 pilgrims to walk The Way. This means that 2018 exceeded the previous Holy Year by 50 000 pilgrims. Projections are that between 500 000 - 600 000 pilgrims will flock to Santiago during the next Holy Year - 2021!"
"The Camino de Santiago has become one of the most famous hikes and is by far the number 1 pilgrimage worldwide," she states.
"Young and old, some single and others in small groups, some pilgrims visually impaired or by wheelchair, while others tackle the routes by bicycle - have been following these ancient paths for centuries. "They aim to arrive in Santiago de Compostela and receive their Compostela (Pilgrims Certificate) on arrival at the breathtaking Cathedral where the remains of St James is said to be buried."
Take a look at some of our interactions at the Fairway19 Forum:
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