Accommodation On The Camino : Albergue and Hotels On The Camino De Santiago

Created by Colleen Sims * 2 May 2024

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Accommodation on the Camino De Santiago

When I first walked, I thought that the only accommodation option on the Camino de Santiago was an Albergue.  In 2013 I had no idea what an Albergue was.  I just knew that it was a word everyone used when talking about where they slept.

More than a decade later, after hundreds of nights in pilgrims beds, I know better.  And I know that there are a host of accommodation choices for everyone.  Read on and I’ll explain the different options available and the differences between them.

sweeping the view of the huge green fields in Spain, walking to our accommodation on the Camino in Hornillos

Where Do You Stay When Walking The Camino De Santiago?

Where you sleep is very often determined by which route you take, your budget and your preferences.  The more popular routes such as the Camino Frances and the Camino Portuguese offer the pilgrim every kind of accommodation from bunk beds to luxury hotels.

If you choose one of the lesser-known routes or in some more isolated locations then your options are more limited. For example, when walking from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, if you wish to break the stage and stay in the mountains, both Refuge Orisson and Auberge Borda are albergue style accommodation.

However, when walking the more popular routes there are ample opportunities to find comfortable hotels if this is your preference.

Which Accommodation Is Most Popular On The Camino De Santiago?

Pilgrims choose every type of accommodation.  However, I suspect that the largest majority opt to stay in pilgrim hostels, with bunk beds, shared bathrooms and dormitories.

But, please don’t feel that this is the only way to walk the Camino.  A great many pilgrims prefer a little more comfort (Gerry included) and you will not be alone in wanting a private bedroom or bathroom.

Pilgrim Credentials or Passport identifies you as a pilgrim and allows you to stay in accommodation on the Camino

What Is An Albergue?

A reasonable translation of the word albergue from Spanish would be hostel, shelter, refuge or lodging.  Albergue often provide bunk beds, communal kitchens and shared bathrooms.

These days an albergue is associated with pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago, offering budget-friendly basic accommodation.

There are a few different types of albergue; some run by local churches or the local council and other are privately owned and managed.  Key features include :

  • Shared rooms: albergue typically have dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds, although some do offer private rooms and these are my favourite kind of albergue!
  • Basic facilities: Most, especially municipal albergue, offer a place to sleep, shower and sometimes eat.  Their focus is on functionality over comfort or luxury.  Private albergue do tend to offer a few more frills.
  • Budget Friendly:  Albergues offer excellent value for money for a solo traveller and you can find a comfortable bed for the night from as little as 8€.

It’s fair to say that most pilgrims don’t make a distinction between who owns an albergue; for most an albergue is a bunk-bed/shared dormitory kind of experience.

In every albergue you’ll probably find :

  • Bunk beds, sometimes with a locker and sometimes bedlinen but not always
  • Communal areas
  • A place to wash clothes.  This can range from a sink in the garden to a full laundry service
  • Shared bathroom, usually single sex but not always
  • Usually a kitchen and sometimes a communal meal or breakfast
  • A place to charge electronic devices
  • A hospitalero or owner on hand to offer assistance
  • Noise, lack of privacy, kindness of strangers, pilgrims

Top Tip : To sleep in an albergue you will need pilgrim credentials.  You’ll be asked to provide this when you arrive, along with your national passport or other official ID.

interior of the pilgrim albergue at Roncesvalles. The bunks are comfortable and there is room to store your gear

Does It Matter Which Accommodation You Choose?

No!  It really doesn’t.  I dislike the judgments that are made around whether you stay in an albergue or a hotel.  In my humble opinion making a distinction between the two is a pointless exercise and mistaken one-upmanship.

If your heart is telling you to walk to Santiago de Compostela then I’m pretty sure the bed that you choose will never be a defining factor in what makes you a good pilgrim or how good your heart is.

I do think that everyone should spend at least one night in pilgrim accommodation just for the experience BUT if you know that you need to stay in private rooms (for whatever reason) then that’s absolutely fine. 

Different Accommodation On The Camino De Santiago

There is a lot of terminology associated with your Camino bed, which can be confusing for a newcomer.  Keep reading for my understanding and explanations of the different accommodation that you can find along the way.

Donativo Albergue

This type of accommodation can often be simple, often includes a communal meal, (that you may be asked to help with) and usually includes heaps of amazing Camino spirit.  

Donativo accommodation is available to everyone and especially for those who genuinely cannot afford a bed. Our donations ensure they can sleep and have a warm meal. This type of accommodation relies on the donations that we make. 

Many travellers take advantage of the system and sadly Donativo Albergue are closing as a result.  Please don’t be one of those pilgrims.  Please donate to ensure that this service, which has survived for a millennium, doesn’t die in our time.

The Albergue in Granon (Albergue Parroquial San Juan Bautista) is a perfect example of a Donative Albergue.

Donative does not mean free You get to stay in a beautifully authentic traditional pilgrim hostel and you pay what you can (and more) for the experience.

Parochial Albergue

A Parochial Albergue once saved my bacon during a thunderstorm.  I’d walked from Roncesvalles and was almost in Pamplona when the fabulous little Albergue Parroquial De Zabaldika offered a bed for the night.

These are often run by a church or religious order and offer a peaceful atmosphere and sometimes will suggest pilgrims attend mass; but I’ve never found this mandatory. 

They typically offer simple accommodation and are often run by volunteers and can involve a communal meal (but not always).

newly wed couple that I met along the camino frances in 2017 in a small parochial albergue

Municipal Albergue

As the name suggests these are run and operated by the local town.  They are often very affordable and typically have larger mixed gender dorm rooms.  They provide simple facilities for pilgrims such as bunk beds, showers, and communal kitchens.

Reservations are generally not accepted, and they operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Normally baggage forwarding is also not accepted.

Often these albergue are run by volunteers (hospitalero) who give their time for free.  I’ve stayed in some amazing Municipal Albergue and also had my worst night ever in one; but I won’t name it as I know it’s had a major renovation.

On my first Camino I stayed mainly in municipal albergue and they’re a great social option, can be noisy but I have many fond memories, nonetheless.

Private Albergue

I have stayed in so many fabulous private albergue; often run by pilgrims who want to give something back to the Camino.  One of my favourites is the Agora Albergue in Estella on the Camino Frances.

Private albergue are pretty much like municipal albergue, but usually offer slightly better facilities and are also a little more expensive. Sometimes they also offer private rooms alongside bunk-beds.  Agora does as does Albergue A Reboleira in Fronfia.

the beautiful countryside of Galicia on the Camino Frances

Refugio

Prior to 2000 (and maybe even the 1990s) pilgrim accommodation was generally called a Refugio.  Those in the know say that this type of accommodation was very simple; more akin to the kind of hut you may find on a mountain pass.

In the years following the Holy Year of 1993, accommodation improved and evolved into Albergues de Peregrinos. There is little differences between the two meanings, although it’s thought that a Refugio is just that, a place of refuge and would be very basic.

Hostels

These are pretty similar to a private albergue.  They offer budget-friendly good quality accommodation but cater to a broader range of travellers beyond pilgrims.

They’ll often provide great amenities and a variety of room options but if you are looking for peace and quiet and lights-off at 10pm these may not be for you.

In larger cities they are a good choice; I LOVE Hostel Quartier León Jabalquinto in Leon and Winderful in Logrono.

Then We Walking Club leaving Leon in the early morning

Casa Rural / Guesthouse / Pension

These would be the Spanish equivalent of a bed and breakfast.  They are often family-run and provide comfortable accommodation, usually with private bathrooms.  Sometimes home cooked meals are offered too. A Casa Rural offers a taste of local hospitality and culture.

We stayed in a glorious little Casa Rural Batit in Viscarret on my very first Camino and had an equally fabulous stay in Villavante (after Leon) at Molino Galochas.

Hotels

There are so many hotel options along the Camino offering choices from budget to luxury.  Hotels are perfect for those seeking a little more comfort and privacy; Gerry will always choose a hotel.

I often choose a hotel room every few nights to give me a little break from the buzz of the albergue.  One of my favourites is in Casa Morgade, almost on the 100 kilometre mark before Santiago.  This little hotel is always chocked full of pilgrims meaning you still get that great Camino spirit.

Hospedería

A Hospederia is a Spanish word and accommodation is similar to a hotel, but it can have two meanings.  They can also mean accommodation in an historical or religious buildings such as monasteries or convents.

One of my most favourite is San Martin in Santiago de Compostela.  As a former convent, the building is glorious and they do offer a modernised hotel-style bedroom but I prefer the simple pilgrim rooms.

Hospederías tend to be smaller and more intimate than hotels. They might have a more traditional or historical feel too.  If you are looking for an English language equivalent they might be more akin to a hostelry or Inn.

hospedería san martín pinario my favourite place to stay

Posada

A Posada is another Spanish term for a small inn. They are maybe a little more basic that a hotel, but I’ve not really found this to be an issue. 

They are more often in a rural location and the buildings generally have a more rustic or traditional atmosphere. Posadas also tend to offer fewer rooms compared to hotels and may have less modern facilities such as swimming pools.

Perhaps one of the most famous Camino Posada’s is at Roncesvalles; as it’s featured in the film The Way.

Apartments

I love an apartment.  Sometimes we want to cook for ourselves and have more space to spread out.  If you plan on staying in a city for more than one night then an apartment would be a good choice.  Aloha Apartamentos in Pamplona was fabulous as is Apartamentos Jurramendi in Los Arcos.

Paradors

Paradors are very special and if you have the opportunity to stay in one whilst walking the Camino then do!  We have travelled across Spain staying in Paradors (when they have special out of season offers!)   

Paradors are luxury hotels, most often located in historical listed buildings such as castles, national monuments or palaces. They offer luxurious accommodation, fine dining, and exceptional service.

One of my favourites is in Santo Domingo del Calzada.  There are two in the town but we prefer the hotel beside the Cathedral.   The Parador in Leon is most famous because of the film The Way and it’s glorious and offers an amazing breakfast and I’ve also stayed in the incredible Parador opposite the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

These choices maybe an indulgence but they offer visitors a very unique experience and they have a pilgrim rate!

sunrise from the fortress walls of the Parador in Biaona Galicia, looking out to see and the distant hills

Monasteries

I will always choose a monastery if the option is there.  They may only offer basic pilgrim accommodation, but often the experience is very special.

The Convent De Santa Clara in Carrion de los Condes was a wonderful example and I 100% recommend staying here if you are in town.

Camping

Some pilgrims choose to camp along the Camino and there are a few campsites on the route but they are often seasonal.  Some albergue will also allow camping and the use of the bathrooms for a small fee but you need to ask first. 

Top Tip : It’s worth noting that wild camping is prohibited in Spain. 

FAQ : Accommodation on the Camino de Santiago

When running my Camino Planning Workshops I am asked so many questions about the accommodation on the Camino de Santiago. A few of those questions include :

What is the difference between a public and private albergue?

All albergue might be considered public; as in they are open to all pilgrims carrying a pilgrim credential.   I think when people refer to public albergue they mean council or municipal options.

In my experience, municipal albergue are usually more simple.  The dormitories maybe larger and the accommodation, whilst perfectly clean and tidy, is often simple.  They are also generally first come, first serve and you are not able to reserve beds or have luggage forwarded.

Private albergue often have smaller dormitories, some even have beds not bunks (but this isn’t the norm).  Some have a curtain around the bunk; I love a curtain!.  In my experience, private albergue usually offer a little more comfort but they are also a few euros more expensive.

Private albergue will often allow you to reserve (but not always) and often allow luggage transfer (but not always).

What is the difference between a hostel and an albergue?

The main difference is that a hostel is open to everyone and an albergue is generally open to pilgrims.  An albergue may have a lights-out policy at 10pm where as hostels allow 24 hour access.  You can always spend more than one evening in a hostel but some albergue do not allow this.

Pilgrims walking from St Jean Pied de Port beside one of the many hostels or pilgrim albergue available

Do you need to book an albergue or hotel in advance when walking the Camino?

The short answer is no; you do not need to book ahead.  The longer answer is that it is getting more complicated. 

  • If you are travelling in a small group then it maybe harder to find 3 or 4 beds ‘on the fly’ and I would recommend that you book at least a day or two ahead.  I know and have heard the expression that the Camino will provide but quite simply the Camino doesn’t always if you’re a group.
  • If you wish to have luggage transported then you would need to book ahead to be sure that this is possible.
  • If you wish to stay in a particular location then I really recommend that you book ahead.
  • Some places are known for filling quickly and I would definitely book my bed. St Jean Pied de Port is one such place; indeed I would suggest that you book Roncesvalles, Zubiri and Pamplona too, then relax knowing you have beds for the first few days. 
  • Places like Porto on the Camino Portuguese is a tourist destination and booking ahead is advisable; likewise Santiago de Compostela.

Booking ahead can remove some of the spontaneity but there is a middle ground.  When I am leading groups I reserve every night.  When walking solo I take a chance.  When walking with Gerry we book a day or two ahead.  I have yet to decide if any method is better or worse; I’ve loved all of these camino!

The Camino is becoming more and more popular and as a result beds do fill quickly.  If I was walking solo today I might be tempted to just walk but if you want peace of mind then at the very least call head to ensure there is a bed. 

Top Tip : If you are walking during Spanish Public Holidays such as 1 May or 12 October then I would 100% reserve my bed!

Is there luxury accommodation along the Camino?

Yes!  There are some stunning places.  Your first port of call would be the Paradors.  Leon, Baiona, Santiago de Compostela and Santo Domingo del Calzada all offer Parador Hotels.  Ferrol on the Ingles Camino has a Parador too.

Alongside these, all the major cities have all accommodation options and even some of the smaller out of the way places have some excellent hotels like the 4* Casa de Tepa in Astorga.

Booking.com is a great place to start looking for a touch of something special whilst walking the Camino.

Markers on the Camino Santiago

Which is the most budget-friendly accommodation on the Camino de Santiago?

This has to be a municipal or parochial albergue.  They offer good clean comfortable yet basic accommodation.  You can shower, do laundry and sleep for somewhere between 8€ and 14€.  Some also have kitchens where you can cook and prepare food. 

Wherever you are on the Camino, no matter what route, you’ll usually find a good local albergue!

How much does pilgrim accommodation cost?

Cost is variable and very much dependant on the options you choose but as a guide :

  • Donativo : give what you can; more if you can spare.  I’d certainly recommend that you pay the same as the last albergue you stayed in.
  • Parochial and Municipal : Expect to pay anywhere from 8€ to 15€, usually somewhere in between.
  • Private Albergue : Usually around the 18€ mark; some a little less and others a little more.

For budgeting purposes allow 5€ for a simple breakfast and around 15€ for a pilgrim menu.

Which are the best albergue along the Camino?

This is such a difficult question to answer as it really depends on you.  Some of my most treasured memories revolve around the people I walked with or the kindness of the albergue owner.

Certainly, I do enjoy staying in old buildings and monasteries and convents are ideal. I enjoy communal dinners and will also look out for an albergue which offer this.  But I also like a few comforts and sometimes this is what I’m searching for.

Often you choose where you sleep because your little group is staying there, and so it becomes the best albergue for you.  When I first walked I had a list of all the places I had to stay in.  That quickly disappeared as of course I chose to stay with the group.

Rest assured that there will be albergue that you really do not like and equally a few gems that you never want to leave!

it's easy to find fabulous little albergue along the Camino de Santiago like this one with it's own veg garden

Best Accommodation Options On The Camino?  Take A Look At Some Of My Favourites

Having walked at least one Camino every year since 2013 I know a fair bit about the accommodation choices along the way and I’ve lost count of the hundreds of beds I’ve slept in.

I am always asked what are my favourite albergue and that’s too difficult to answer.  But I am happy to list the accommodation that I’ve loved and would happily stay again.

If you’d like to read about my favourites then I have a serious of posts, covering the entire Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and the Coastal Portuguese Camino.  In time I plan to do the same for many other routes so watch this space. For now take a look at :

In addition have a look at other posts about the Camino here.  And if you have any questions then do reach out either from my facebook or Instagram pages.

Colleen, Taking a horse from Las Herrieras on the Camino de Santiago

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel overseas it’s imperative to travel with a good travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve had the mis-fortune to end up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland; every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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