How to go about volunteering along the Camino de Santiago

How to Volunteer on the Camino de Santiago

Posted: | Updated:
Reading time: 16 minutes

How to Volunteer on the Camino de Santiago

Posted: | Updated:
Reading time: 16 minutes

Simon Kemp Camino de Santiago author

By: Simon Kemp, Editor

How to go about volunteering along the Camino de Santiago

Your Guide to Volunteering on the Camino

The Camino de Santiago , a network of ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe converging at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, has captivated the hearts and souls of countless travelers for centuries.

As the popularity of this transformative journey continues to grow, so does the need for dedicated volunteers to support the ever-increasing number of pilgrims embarking on this spiritual and cultural odyssey.

Volunteering offers a unique opportunity to live the traditions, landscapes, and camaraderie that define this iconic pilgrimage.

Beyond the chance to give back and lend a helping hand to fellow travelers, the experience promises personal growth, cultural exchange, and a profound connection with the essence of the Camino itself.

In this comprehensive guide, we look into the various avenues for volunteers along the Camino routes, providing practical insights and invaluable tips to ensure a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

From assisting in the operation of pilgrim hostels to maintaining the trails and supporting local associations, the possibilities are as diverse as the landscapes that unfold with each stride.

Decide on the Type of Volunteering

There are a diverse array of volunteering opportunities, each providing a unique way to iexperience this pilgrimage. Whether you’re drawn to hands-on assistance or prefer to contribute behind the scenes, there’s a role that aligns with your interests and skill set. Here’s a closer look at the various options:

Volunteer RoleDescriptionPopular Locations
Hospitalero (Hostel Volunteer)Assist in running albergues (pilgrim hostels), duties include check-in, cleaning, basic maintenanceSarria, O Cebreiro, Portomarín (Camino Frances)
Volunteer for AssociationsTrail maintenance, pilgrim support, event organizationVarious locations
Spiritual/Religious VolunteeringAssist at churches, monasteries, pilgrim massesCathedral de Santiago de Compostela

Hospitalero (Hostel Volunteer)

  • Embrace the heart and soul of the pilgrim experience by volunteering as a hospitalero in one of the many albergues (pilgrim hostels) that line the Camino routes.
  • As a hospitalero, you’ll play a vital role in ensuring weary travelers have a comfortable and welcoming place to rest their heads after a long day’s journey.
  • Your duties may include managing check-in procedures, maintaining cleanliness and order within the albergue, providing basic maintenance and repairs, and offering a friendly face and helpful advice to pilgrims from all walks of life.
  • Some of the most sought-after locations for hospitalero volunteering include Sarria, a bustling town on the final stretch of the Camino Frances, the picturesque village of O Cebreiro perched high in the mountains, and the charming riverside town of Portomarín.

Volunteer for Associations

An elderly couple volunteer on the Camino
Age is not a disadvantage when volunteering
  • Lend your time and energy to esteemed organizations like the Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago, details below dedicated to preserving and promoting the pilgrimage routes for generations to come.
  • As a volunteer for these associations, you’ll have the opportunity to contribute directly to the maintenance and upkeep of the Camino trails, ensuring they remain accessible and safe for pilgrims.
  • Tasks may include clearing overgrown vegetation, repairing signage, and participating in larger-scale trail improvement projects.
  • Additionally, you may assist with providing support and guidance to pilgrims, answering questions, and sharing valuable insights about the route and local customs.
  • These associations often organize cultural events, festivals, and celebrations, offering volunteers the chance to get involved in promoting and showcasing the rich heritage of the Camino.

Spiritual/Religious Volunteering

  • For those seeking a more spiritually inclined experience, consider working as a volunteer at the numerous churches, monasteries, and during pilgrim masses that punctuate the Camino routes.
  • A prime example is the opportunity to serve as a volunteer at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, the final destination for countless pilgrims after their arduous journey.
  • Assist with religious ceremonies, provide spiritual guidance and support to fellow pilgrims, or contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of these sacred spaces.
  • Volunteering in a spiritual capacity allows you to delve deeper into the religious and cultural significance of the Camino, fostering a profound connection with the traditions that have shaped this pilgrimage for centuries.

Whichever path you choose, the act of volunteering promises to be a transformative and enriching experience, offering a unique perspective on this age-old journey and the opportunity to forge lasting connections with fellow travelers and the local communities that line the way.

When to Volunteer

Timing plays a crucial role in your volunteer experience on the Camino de Santiago. The season you choose can significantly impact factors such as pilgrim traffic, availability of opportunities, and the overall atmosphere you’ll encounter. Here’s a closer look at the different periods:

Peak Season (July - September)Highest pilgrim influx, lively atmosphere, high demand for volunteers
Shoulder Seasons (May - June, September - October)Moderate pilgrim traffic, pleasant weather, more availability
Off-Season (November - April)Fewer pilgrims, opportunities for trail maintenance/renovation projects

Peak Season (July - September)

Young woman volunteers in an Albergue kitchen
A young woman enjoying her volunteer experience
  • During the summer months, the Camino routes experience their highest influx of pilgrims, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere.
  • This is the busiest time for volunteers, as the demand for assistance at albergues, information centers, and along the trails skyrockets.
  • Volunteer work during the peak season offers an unparalleled opportunity to throw yourself into the energy and camaraderie that define the Camino experience.
  • However, it’s essential to secure your volunteer role well in advance, as spots fill up quickly due to the high demand.

Shoulder Seasons (May - June, September - October)

  • The months leading up to and following the peak season offer a more moderate level of pilgrim traffic, making it an ideal time for those seeking a slightly quieter Camino experience.
  • Availability for volunteer positions is generally higher during these periods, allowing for more flexibility in securing roles.
  • The weather during the shoulder seasons is often pleasant, with mild temperatures and fewer chances of extreme heat or rainfall.
  • This can be an excellent time for outdoor volunteering, such as trail maintenance or assisting with events and celebrations.

Off-Season (November - April)

  • The cooler months of late autumn, winter, and early spring see a significant drop in pilgrim numbers, offering a serene and tranquil atmosphere along the Camino routes.
  • While volunteer opportunities may be fewer during this period, there is often a greater need for assistance with tasks like trail maintenance, renovation projects, or administrative roles within organizations.
  • Volunteer during the off-season. This allows you to experience the Camino in a more intimate and peaceful setting, free from the crowds of the peak months.
  • Be prepared for potential weather challenges, such as rain, snow, or cooler temperatures, depending on the region and specific time of year.

Regardless of when you choose to volunteer, each season offers its unique charms and experiences along the Pilgrimage routes. Consider your preferences, availability, and the type of work you’re interested in to determine the best timing for your journey.

Imagine working nearby or in a city like A Coruña at Christmas , it could be a thoroughly memorable experience.

How to Apply

Mature volunteers working as Camino companions
Older experienced volunteers can work as Camino Companions

Securing a volunteer position requires advance planning and a proactive approach. With the growing popularity of the pilgrimage, many sought-after roles fill up quickly, so it’s essential to start your application process well in advance. Here are the primary avenues to explore:

Online Platforms

  • The internet has become a valuable resource for connecting prospective volunteers with organizations and associations along the various Caminos.
  • Websites like Camino Volunteers ( and the Camino de Santiago Forum ( serve as dedicated platforms for posting and searching volunteer opportunities.
  • These sites allow you to filter positions based on location, dates, specific duties, and your preferences, making it easier to find the perfect fit.
  • Many organizations and albergues utilize these platforms to advertise their volunteer needs, providing detailed descriptions, required qualifications, and application instructions.

Directly Contact Associations/Organizations

  • In addition to online platforms, you can reach out directly to local associations and organizations that operate along the Camino routes.
  • Groups like the Asociación Galega de Amigos del Camino de Santiago (Galician Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago) details below , often have volunteer programs and can provide information on upcoming opportunities.
  • Research and identify the specific organizations aligned with your areas of interest, whether it’s trail maintenance, cultural events, or spiritual/religious activities.
  • Direct communication allows you to inquire about their volunteer needs, express your interest, and potentially secure a position that aligns with your skills and availability.

Apply Well in Advance

  • Due to the high demand for volunteer roles, especially during peak seasons, it’s crucial to begin your application process several months in advance.
  • Many popular positions, such as hospitalero roles in highly sought-after albergues, fill up as early as 3-6 months before the desired period.
  • When applying, provide detailed information about your availability dates, relevant skills and experience, language proficiency, and any specific preferences or requirements you may have.
  • Be prepared to provide references, undergo background checks (if required), and participate in interviews or additional screening processes, depending on the organization’s policies.

Regardless of the application method you choose, it’s essential to approach the process with patience, persistence, and a genuine commitment to the Camino’s values and traditions. By securing a volunteer role well in advance, you’ll not only contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the pilgrimage but also ensure a deeply rewarding and meaningful experience for yourself.

List of Camino Volunteer Associations

Here is a list of Camino volunteer organizations that I will update as new ones come to my attention:

Asociación de Amigos del Camino de SantiagoSpain[email protected]Calle Ruavieja, 3 (bajo), 26001 Logroño, La Rioja (España)+34 941 245 674
Asociación Galega de Amigos del Camino de SantiagoSpain[email protected]Albergue de Peregrinos San Antonio de Herbón, Rego da Manga, nº 56, Padrón, A Coruña, C.P. 15915+34 679 460 942
Camino de Santiago
American Pilgrims on the CaminoUSA[email protected]120 State Avenue NE #303, Olympia, WA 98501-
Australian Friends of the CaminoAustralia[email protected]PO Box 321, Burwood NSW 1805-
Canadian Company of PilgrimsCanada[email protected]507 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1G1+1 (416) 366-5840
Confraternity of St. James (UK)UK[email protected]27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY+44 (0)20 7928 9988

Disclaimer: While I have tried my best to verify the information, it’s always recommended to double-check directly with the organization’s website for the most up-to-date contact details.

There are other organizatons and “Camino Companion” volunteer projects in various countries. Try a Web Search for “Camino Volunteers” and a Country name to find them. (e.g. “Camino Volunteers Portugal”)

Preparation and Tips

A young woman volunteer in an Albergue along the Camino
Volunteering in a Spanish Albergue

Volunteering is a rewarding experience, but it also requires proper preparation to ensure a smooth and fulfilling journey. Here are some essential tips and considerations to keep in mind:

Learn Basic Spanish

  • While many pilgrims and volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, Spanish is the predominant language along the Camino routes.
  • Having a basic grasp of Spanish will not only facilitate better communication with local residents and fellow volunteers but also enhance your ability to assist and interact with pilgrims from Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Consider taking Spanish language classes, utilizing language learning apps, or investing in a phrasebook or dictionary specifically tailored to the Camino experience.
  • Even a basic understanding of key phrases and vocabulary related to hospitality, directions, and common pilgrim needs can go a long way in making your volunteer experience more rewarding.

Familiarize Yourself with the Camino Culture

  • The Camino is steeped in centuries of rich history, traditions, and cultural nuances that make it a truly unique experience.
  • Before embarking on your volunteer journey, take the time to research and familiarize yourself with the history of the pilgrimage, the significance of various landmarks and locations, and the etiquette and customs observed by pilgrims.
  • Read books, watch documentaries, or engage with online resources to gain a deeper understanding of the Pilgrimage’s spiritual and cultural significance.
  • This knowledge will not only enhance your appreciation for the experience but also better equip you to provide informed guidance and support to the pilgrims you encounter.

Pack Appropriately

  • As a volunteer, you’ll likely be spending a significant amount of time outdoors, walking or engaging in physical activities.
  • Pack appropriate clothing suitable for the season, including comfortable walking shoes, moisture-wicking layers, and rain gear for potential inclement weather.
  • Don’t forget essential personal items like sunscreen, a hat, and any necessary medications or first-aid supplies.
  • If you’ll be working at an albergue or other accommodation, inquire about any specific items you may need, such as bedding or towels.
  • Ensure you have all required documentation, such as a valid passport, travel insurance, and any necessary volunteer credentials or paperwork.

Be Prepared for Physical Work

  • Many volunteer roles involve manual labor or being on your feet for extended periods.
  • If you’ll be assisting with trail maintenance, be prepared for tasks like clearing vegetation, carrying tools, or working outdoors in varying weather conditions.
  • Hospitalero roles may require lifting and moving luggage, cleaning, and standing for long periods.
  • Consider building up your endurance through training or even attempting a portion of the Camino as a personal pilgrimage before your volunteer stint.
  • Proper physical preparation will not only make your volunteer duties more manageable but also enhance your overall experience.

By taking the time to properly prepare, both mentally and physically, you’ll be better equipped to fully embrace the unique challenges and rewards that come with volunteer work on this ancient pilgrimage route.

The Cost of Volunteering

A Volunteer administers first-aid to a pilgrim
Administering first-aid to a Pilgrim

While the experience of volunteering is invaluable, it’s important to factor in the associated costs to ensure a well-planned and financially sustainable journey.

Expenses can vary significantly based on factors such as your travel origin, accommodation preferences, transportation needs, and the duration of your volunteer stint.

From airfare and ground transportation to accommodation, food, language instruction, and essential gear, every aspect of your pilgrimage requires careful budgeting.

However, with proper planning and a realistic understanding of the potential costs involved, you can ensure that your volunteer experience is not only enriching but also financially feasible.

Here are some potential cost estimates:


  • Albergues (Pilgrim Hostels): €5-15 per night for a basic dorm bed
  • Private Hostels/Pensiones: €25-60 per night for a private room
  • Hotels: €60-150+ per night, depending on location and amenities


  • Pilgrim Menus: €8-12 for a set multi-course meal
  • Groceries: €5-10 per day for basic supplies to self-cater
  • Restaurants: €15-30 for a moderate meal


  • Bus from Madrid to Sarria (Camino start): €15-30 one-way
  • Train from Barcelona to Somport (Camino Aragonés start): €50-80 one-way
  • Flight to Santiago de Compostela from US: €600-1000 roundtrip
  • Rental Car: €30-60 per day plus insurance/fuel

Language Instruction:

  • Group Spanish Classes in Spain: €120-250 for 1 month of intensive courses
  • Private Spanish Tutoring: €15-30 per hour
  • Language Learning App Subscription: Free - €12 per month

Travel Insurance:

  • Basic Plan for 1 Month: €25-50 (covers medical, theft, cancellation)
  • Comprehensive Plan for 2 Months: €50-120 (higher coverage limits)

Gear and Supplies:

  • Quality Hiking Backpack: €80-250
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes: €60-180
  • Trekking Poles: €30-80 per pair
  • Moisture-Wicking Clothes: €100-300 for basic activewear
  • Waterproof Rain Jacket/Pants: €60-200
  • Sleeping Bag (optional): €50-150
  • Camping Gear (optional): €100-400 for tent, sleeping pad, stove etc.
  • Guidebook/Maps: €15-40
  • Miscellaneous (socks, first aid, etc): €50-100

Here are the potential costs in a table with prices in Euros and US Dollars:

ExpenseCost in Euros (€)Cost in US Dollars ($)
Albergues (Pilgrim Hostels)€5-15 per night$5.50-16.50 per night
Private Hostels/Pensiones€25-60 per night$27.50-66 per night
Hotels€60-150+ per night$66-165+ per night
Pilgrim Menus€8-12 per day$8.80-13.20 per day
Groceries for Self-Catering€5-10 per day$5.50-11 per day
Restaurant Meals€15-30 per day$16.50-33 per day
Bus (e.g., Madrid to Sarria)€15-30 one-way$16.50-33 one-way
Train (e.g., Barcelona to Somport)€50-80 one-way$55-88 one-way
Flight to Santiago de Compostela from US€600-1000 roundtrip$660-1100 roundtrip
Rental Car€30-60 per day$33-66 per day
Language Instruction
Group Spanish Classes (1 month)€120-250$132-275
Private Spanish Tutoring€15-30 per hour$16.50-33 per hour
Language Learning AppFree - €12 per monthFree - $13.20 per month
Travel Insurance
Basic Plan (1 month)€25-50$27.50-55
Comprehensive Plan (2 months)€50-120$55-132
Gear and Supplies
Hiking Backpack€80-250$88-275
Hiking Boots/Shoes€60-180$66-198
Trekking Poles€30-80 per pair$33-88 per pair
Moisture-Wicking Clothes€100-300$110-330
Waterproof Rain Jacket/Pants€60-200$66-220
Sleeping Bag (optional)€50-150$55-165
Camping Gear (optional)€100-400$110-440
Miscellaneous (socks, first aid, etc.)€50-100$55-110

Note: Currency conversion based on €1 = $1.10 USD

The costs can vary significantly based on travel style, accommodation preferences, gear needs, and luxury level. Having a buffer of €500-1000 for unexpected expenses is recommended, especially for longer volunteer stints.

Be Prepared: The Pitfalls of Volunteering

Young woman is rewarded by her hard work as a Camino Volunteer
Enjoyable but hard work as a Camino de Santiago volunteer

While this is an opportunity to contribute to the experience of countless pilgrims while gaining valuable personal and cultural insights, it’s important to go in with your eyes wide open. This work can be physically demanding, and there are cultural and emotional challenges to navigate.

The Physical Demands

  • Long hours on your feet are the norm.
  • Be prepared for daily walks and standing for extended periods.
  • Repetitive tasks like cleaning and laundry are part of the daily routine at albergues (pilgrim hostels).
  • Limited personal space is a reality in most albergues, so be prepared for communal living.
  • Carrying luggage for pilgrims (if applicable to your role) can add an unexpected physical strain.

Language and Cultural Barriers

  • Spanish language skills are a huge asset, especially in smaller towns.
  • Misunderstandings with pilgrims can occur due to language barriers.
  • Patience and clear communication are key.
  • Cultural differences in work ethic and expectations exist.
  • Be adaptable and open to new ways of doing things.

Emotional Challenges

  • Dealing with tired, frustrated, or injured pilgrims requires empathy and patience.
  • Witnessing the emotional highs and lows of the journey can be draining.
  • Potential for isolation, especially in the off-season, is a real possibility.

Unexpected Responsibilities

  • Adapting to unexpected situations is part of the volunteer experience.
  • Be flexible and resourceful.
  • Learning new skills on the job is a common occurrence.
  • Embrace the opportunity to grow.
  • Potential for dealing with emergencies requires a cool head and the ability to follow protocols.

Finding the Right Fit

  • Research different albergues to find one that aligns with your values and preferred work style.
  • Match your skills and interests to the volunteer role.
  • Setting realistic expectations for the experience is crucial for a positive outcome.

Potential Drawbacks of Volunteering

Here is a table of things to consider when working as a volunteer:

Physical DemandsLong hours on feet, repetitive tasks, limited personal space
Language & CultureMisunderstandings, basic Spanish recommended
Emotional ChallengesPilgrims’ emotional states, potential isolation
Unexpected ResponsibilitiesAdaptability, learning new skills, emergencies
Finding the Right FitResearch albergues, match skills and values
  • Be prepared for long hours on your feet, repetitive tasks, and limited personal space.
  • Language and cultural barriers can lead to misunderstandings. Basic Spanish is a plus.
  • Dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of pilgrims and potential isolation requires resilience.
  • Adaptability and a willingness to learn new skills are essential for unexpected situations.
  • Research and choose an albergue that aligns with your values and skillset for a positive experience.

Go! Embrace the Camino Spirit

Volunteering promises to be a truly life-changing adventure. As you prepare to lend a hand along this ancient pilgrimage route, know that you’ll be doing far more than just assisting others. You’ll be immersing yourself in history, culture, and a community that has drawn travelers for centuries.

Whether supporting weary pilgrims, maintaining the trails, or celebrating the Camino’s spiritual traditions, your role will be vital to preserving this extraordinary journey. But the real reward lies in the connections you’ll forge, the personal growth you’ll experience, and the unforgettable memories you’ll etch into your soul.

So get ready to embark on an adventure like no other. Connect with the community, learn from those who have walked before you, and let the enduring wisdom of the trail be your guide. The journey awaits, one step at a time, beckoning you to discover the depths of your own strength and the boundless potential of the human spirit.

Camino Volunteering Video