Updating a page with this title in 2020 is a misleading exercise!

2020 is going to be an outlier in Camino numbers for years to come. Next year, 2021, is a Holy Year on the Camino (where St.James’ feast day of July 25th falls on a Sunday) and in the past, numbers have tended to spike in Holy Years. Who knows how 2021 will pan out?

The increase in pilgrim numbers over the last decade and a half has been as steady as it goes – to the point where the accommodation infrastructure struggles to keep up! The previous Holy Years of 2004 and 2010 show a clear spike but maybe this type of graph will need a reset this year.

In 2019, 94% of the 347,548 pilgrims arrived in Santiago on foot, with 5.5% cycling. The tiny remainder was made up of 406 on horseback, 243 sailors and 85 in wheelchairs! Women outnumbered men (51%-49%).

An incredible 202 countries are listed – while the definition of ‘country’ differs slightly from place to place, this truly is the hallmark of a global phenomenon. A quick look at the list of countries with the most pilgrims shows Ireland in 9th position (we have been up as far as 7th in recent years). The USA (4th) really grew after the release of the film “The Way”, while South Korea’s growth in numbers has been a reasonably recent trend.

All of these numbers come with an asterisk though – they only represent pilgrims who arrive in Santiago and claim their Compostela certificate. Those who don’t bother with a cert aren’t included therefore, nor are people who walk different parts of the various routes but don’t arrive in Santiago.

Nobody can tell for sure how many people there are, but some research was done on accommodations along the routes that indicates that the real number may be up to 4 times the registered number. It’s safe enough to imagine that over 1 million people walk along a recognised Camino route normally.

What the “new normal” brings (Eoin’s note – I hate that phrase!), we will have to wait to see..

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