8 Fascinating Statistics About the Camino de Santiago

In researching supporting information for my new book Sunrises to Santiago I have come across some fascinating statistics about the Camino de Santiago. Some made it into the book but many fell to the red ink of my editors. The Camino continues to grow and attract people from all over the world. Whether you have already completed your journey or are currently in the planning stages, I hope you find these statistics as fascinating as I do.

1.) There Are Many Ways to Santiago – Of the 237,886 souls who completed the Camino de Santiago in 2014 (myself included), 88.67% walked, 10.65% used bicycles, .64% rode a horse and here is what I was delighted to find: .04% completed the Camino de Santiago by wheelchair. If my math is correct, this means that 95 inspirational pilgrims made it to Santiago via wheelchair, dismantling notions of what can and can’t be done. (Source: Pilgrim’s Welcome Office)

2.) Deaths on the Camino de Santiago – 17 people died while attempting to complete the Camino de Santiago in 2014. This is up from 9 who passed away in 2013. (Source: Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago: Federacion Española)

3.) Where Pilgrims Come From – Pilgrims truly do come from all over the world. In 2014 47.76%, or 113,624 pilgrims where from Spain. The rest were from another country. The most popular countries represented were those from Italy (16.29%), Germany (13.15%), Portugal (9.38%) and the United States (9.32%). (Source: Pilgrim’s Welcome Office)

4.) So What Do You Do for Work? – Many pilgrims, like myself, were searching for purpose and direction in Spain. But we still were asked our professions when we arrived in Santiago to collect our Compostela. In 2014, 45, 223 people defined themselves as students. Teachers were numerous (yea summer break!) with 17,342 completing the trek. 5,222 souls described themselves as housewives. Artists represented well with 2,190 claiming this as their profession. (Source: Pilgrim’s Welcome Office)

5.) Road to Redemption: Oikoten – In researching the book I came across this peculiar word. I speak Spanish and had no idea what it means so I decided to find out. 45 teenagers completed the Camino de Santiago in 2014 and described themselves as, Oikoten. But what does it mean? “Thirty years ago, a group headed by Pol Symons and Luc Couvreur sought permission to take two teenagers out of prison and walk with them to Santiago, inspired by a similar practice that they had seen in the US. If they arrived, the teens would be free to go.” This tradition has continued and each year teens who have gone astray are offered a road to redemption along the Camino. More lives changed by this amazing journey. (Sources: Pilgrim’s Welcome Office and New Internationalist Magazine)

Descent from Clouds Camino de Santiago
Descent from Clouds Camino de Santiago

6.) The Botafumeiro – This is the giant ‘smoke spreader’ they swing inside of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela during pilgrim mass. Unfortunately they swing it less and less nowadays but you may get lucky and see it swinging through the air. Everyone who enters the Cathedral will see this giant metal object hanging from the ceiling. Originally it was used to cover up the sometimes awful smell of ancient pilgrims who arrived after a long and shower-less journey. When it does swing above the crowd burning with aromatic incense it reaches speeds of 70 MPH! (Source: Pilgrim’s Welcome Office)

7.) Kill That Bed Bug – Gross yes, but you may get bitten by a bed bug or two on your journey. I certainly did. For things you can wash, like your sleeping bag and everything in your pack, “research shows that…washing in hot water for 30 minutes OR tumble drying for 30 minutes on high will kill all stages of bed bugs. Also if you are lucky enough to find a freezer (not likely) you can place your items in a freezer at 0 degrees F for 8 hours to kill the lot. (Source: Texas A&M)

8.) Hiking Poles – Our walking sticks helped immensely. Studies have shown that hiking poles or trekking poles, if used properly, can reduce stress on your knees by 12 – 25%. (Source: Sports Science 1999 and Medical Science Sports Exercise 2007.

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