Pilgrimage walking vacations advice

Temple etiquette

Temple etiquette

Jeremy Spencer from our supplier Oku Japan:
“The Japanese attitude to religion is quite helpful in that temples are not forbidding places and there might well be Japanese visitors who are there to take photographs, just as much as to participate in religious devotion. This means overseas visitors don't need to feel excluded or worry unduly about behaving inappropriately. Compared with walking on the Nakasendo Trail (which is essentially a commercial route), the pilgrimage aspect of the Kumano Kodo and the Shikoku 88 Temple trails add another cultural layer to the experience, and the temples (or shrines in the case of the Kumano Kodo) represent great markers or targets for the walks.”
Packing tips

Packing tips

Rasmus Pedersen, from our supplier Spain is More:
“I normally tell our guests to wear what they normally would use. If you walk three to six weeks, boots or really good hiking shoes are recommended, but if you walk fewer days, running shoes, trekking shoes or even good sandals in the summer can be as perfect. It depends a lot on the route, time of year, weather and your shape – and if you are a fast or a slow walker.”
Shikoku services

Shikoku services

Jeremy Spencer from our supplier Oku Japan:
“On reaching each temple, it's good to ring the bell in the traditional manner. It's a small way to connect with the pilgrimage tradition. When you stay overnight in a Shukubo pilgrim lodging, there is often an early morning service to attend inside the temple itself. The other people attending are always friendly and helpful at showing you what to do.”
Camino highlights

Camino highlights

Rasmus Pedersen, from our supplier Spain is More:
“I have several favorite parts. I love the coastal route after Comillas and the five to six stages ahead. The first part of the Primitivo is really beautiful as well. On the French Route, I love the last part – from Rabanal onwards. It’s such a cool atmosphere, you meet so many wonderful people and the landscape is really beautiful as well. But I could mention a lot more favorite parts. One of my single stage favorites is probably from Finisterre to Muxia. It’s really beautiful.”
Foot care

Foot care

Melanie McAnaw, walking vacation expert from our supplier, Headwater:
“I always carry a small amount of talcum powder. It might sound strange but it’s good for reducing friction and redness if you find yourself with any blisters, chaffing or heat rash. It can also help your feet stay dry and keep your thighs from chafing over long distances if you use a little before (and after) your walk. A small roll of adhesive bandage/plaster (and something to cut it with) can also be a lifesaver if you do feel yourself developing a blister. It can sometimes make the difference between a nice walk and a painful slog!”
Bears & bells

Bears & bells

Jeremy Spencer from our supplier Oku Japan:
“Bears do live in the mountains of Japan. I'm not sure any of our clients has ever actually seen one. Some hiking trails in Japan have fixed bells that you come across along the way and can ring. Some walkers also like to carry small bells of their own, which can make a gentle continuous sound as they move and are just enough to alert the bears and allow them to head away from humans.”

Our top Pilgrimage walking Vacation

Pilgrims Way self guided walking tour, England

Pilgrims Way self guided walking tour, England

Discover Kent's history, its landscape and its people

From £649 6 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and adapted to your requirements
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Pilgrimage walking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Tips from our vacation reviews

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Pilgrimage walks vacation tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your backpack.
Everything was memorable: The temples, the people we met, the landscape, the food, the places we stayed at.
– Annatina Monnier on the Shikoku Pilgrimage
“This was a wonderful vacation, with all arrangements in place. The operator did a fantastic job of managing logistics, getting us hotels which were brilliantly located and which carried their own history (in a number of cases).” – Chandra Kant Sharma on walking a section of the Camino de Santiago

“Carry as little as possible – all the ryokans and hotels provide sleepwear and toiletries and you really need very little. Layers are essential if you go early spring - it went from 27 degrees (sunhat needed) to 12 degrees and windy. In the villages they are still very traditional and covering shoulders is appropriate so t-shirts not vest tops. Take a small pillow. Japanese pillows are often filled with grain and hard to get used to. Choose your level – I did 'active' but could have done 'challenging - however the leisurely pace allowed for lots of photos'. Do bother to learn a few japanese phrases - it is so appreciated. Be chilled about seeing the cherry blossom – nature is fickle… so make sure that there are plenty of other things you want to get from your vacation.” – Ruth Patterson on walking the Nakasendo Trail

Be prepared to walk pretty seriously all day and have a good sense of direction. We found that following the maps and guide book was challenging, but very satisfying and added tremendously to the experience.
– Carol R. Mehler on a self-guided walking trip on the Pilgrims Way
“Book accommodation ahead, not too bad when I did the trip in April/May, but the major towns do seem to be full during religious festivals such as Easter. Also, as you get closer to Santiago, and especially from Sarria onwards the available spaces in hostels and hotels tends to fill very quickly from early afternoon onwards. Train for it by doing a lot of road walking with a lot of hill work. I met people who had trained in a gym and they had problems with the grim reality of the actual experience of road walking. Wear a good pair of boots with thick soles… there are many sections of rough stony track and trainers will not pass muster on it. Water bottles most important and can be filled at fountains en-route and keep one empty for the wine fountain at the Irache monastery.”– Philip Francis on walking a stretch of the Camino de Santiago

“Walk only 20-25 km. Any more is too much. Have your pack transported between hotels and carry a day pack, it does make the journey easier. And go with the flow – no early starts in Hotels in Camino Norte, earliest breakfast was at 9am. It doesn’t get dark until late and you have all day to walk. I was told the Finistère was the most beautiful part – but most of Camino Norte was just as beautiful and quieter – so if doing this again, I would stop the journey at Santiago.”– Wendy Williams on walking a stretch of the Camino de Santiago

“Be prepared to walk pretty seriously all day and have a good sense of direction. We found that following the maps and guide book was challenging, but very satisfying and added tremendously to the experience. We were in some rather small, out-of-the-way places that may not have many "tourists." Our lunches were exclusively local foods, and very tasty. There were some 5 star moments. "Reborn" is a bit hyperbolic, but there were some real highs -- surreal moments walking through a field of rape in bloom and seeing nothing but yellow, and the woods full of bluebells. We have travelled quite a bit over the decades, and this experience was quite special.”– Carol R. Mehler on a self-guided walking trip on the Pilgrims Way
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Mario Cales] [Konrenji Temple, Kira, Japan: atsushi masegi] [Walk in misty Spain: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero ] [Temple bell: Mike Kniec] [Primivito: Carmen Escobar Carrio] [Hiking boots: Grant Ritchie] [Bears and bells: Maria Belfort] [Downhill hike: Ben+Sam] [Iya Gorge: Kimon Berlin] [Pilgrims way: Mikael Leppä]
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