Walking the Camino de Santiago is quite an undertaking, requiring strength of mind, body and spirit in order to complete it. Perhaps this is why it continues to be labelled as one of the most significant religious pilgrimages in the world. So, you may have prepared yourself mentally for this journey, and you should definitely have bought a sturdy pair of walking boots and a backpack, but what are you going to eat? Your body needs fuelling correctly along the way if you’re going to have the physical energy to keep going. Despite your best intentions, you cannot complete the walk on just willpower alone.
It can be difficult to know what to eat on such a long and arduous journey, especially if you are visiting from another country and are not familiar with the local dishes found along the route. You may not be experienced with long trail walks if you are visiting more for the pilgrimage aspect than the walk for its own sake. In this guide, you will learn about some of the tastiest and most energising local foods found on the trail as well as about some great trekking food that can be picked up from pretty much anywhere and carried with you.
We’ll make a start with some of the most delicious local foods that you can find on the Camino de Santiago. As most of the pilgrimage passes through Spain, you will mostly find yourself trying classic Spanish dishes. There is even something called the Pilgrim’s Menu which appears in many restaurants and eateries close to the various routes. This consists of cheap but satisfying meals, with an emphasis on rebuilding strength and restoring energy.
You simply cannot visit Spain without trying paella. Traditionally the dish of Valencia, paella is now eaten as a staple all over the country and is a great meal for walkers. Filled with rice, fresh vegetables, beans, protein and plenty of seasoning, it’s both delicious and satisfying for hungry bellies.
Tortilla de patatas or tortilla Española
Another Spanish classic, the tortilla de patatas packs a serious punch when it comes to refuelling. Consisting mostly of eggs (protein, vitamins, fats) and potatoes (fibre, antioxidants, starch), just one slice of this heavenly, fluffy creation will make you feel like a new person. They store well and are often eaten cold so make a great meal to carry with you on your journey.
Tarta de Santiago
For those with a sweet tooth, or just craving a treat after days of walking, the tarta de Santiago is a must-try for pilgrims. It’s named after St James himself and carries the cross of the Order of Santiago on its face. The cake or pie is made with ground almonds, lemon zest and a sweet wine or brandy, all encased in either shortcrust or puff pastry. The perfect accompaniment to an afternoon rest or the end of a difficult section of road.
On a long walk you need different types of food at different times. Whilst it is important to have sit down meals in order to replenish your energy reserves, you also need to keep snacking along the way. When you’re taking a time out, make sure to fuel up with a high protein snack, and perhaps give your brain a bit of a work out too. Playing WordsWithFriends, reading a book or visiting PokerStarsCasino for a spin or two are all great ways to keep your mind sharp and active, even when your body is feeling weary. Honestly, just 20 minutes spent pursuing one of these activities will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to go again.
These come in all shapes and sizes these days – vegetarian, vegan, protein rich, sweet, savoury, gluten-free – and should be an essential in your backpack at all times. If you’re ever flagging a little or don’t have the time/stomach to eat breakfast, open up an energy bar and get your metabolism going again.
Nuts and seeds
Ideal for snacking on along the way, high quality nuts and seeds can be picked up anywhere for a low price. Don’t bother with highly processed ones; the naked nut carries all the proteins, good fats and vitamins that you need without unnecessary salt or sugar. If you prefer, you can carry sachets of nut butter which taste divine when combined with slices of fresh apple or a plain rice cake.
Dried fruit is another perfect snack for nibbling on throughout the day. The sugar will give you an immediate boost but it’s the proteins, vitamins and fibre that will keep your energy levels stable and your belly happy.
Of course, figuring out what to eat on your journey will always be a personal choice, but it’s good to bear in mind what has worked for others in the past and to take advantage of what’s around you. Along the most popular paths, local people are very used to pilgrims passing by and needing to refuel for a reasonable price. As a pilgrim of the Camino de Santiago, you will always find others willing to help you on your way; you just need to make sure that you’re getting the nutrition your body needs to see you through to the very end.