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The Albergues

Albergues, also called 'refugios', are pilgrim's hostels which occur every 10-20 kilometers along the camino. They are a superb resource, first because they make hiking much easier. On the Camino, the hiker does not need to carry a tent, cooking equipment, or a heavy-duty sleeping bag.

And second, albergues are great because they encourage comaraderie along the trail. Because of the spacing of the albergues, you will often run into the same fellow pilgrims over and over as you hike the trail. The albergues become places where these connections and meetings take place.

Note that there are both public (government sponsored and run) albergues and private ones. The public ones tend to be cheaper and most frequented by pilgrims on the trail.


What's in an Albergue?

Most albergues have a common set of services that are available to pilgrims on the trail.

The Hospitalero/a - Is paid by the Spanish government and runs the albergue. The hospitalero does everything from checking in pilgrims (and stamping credentials), to cleaning and handling emergencies. For example, the hospitalero drove one pilgrim to the Red Cross when they got sick with strep throat. In some albergues, the hospitalero can also provide food. We had home-cooked paella in one albergue, and noodle soup in another.
Dormitory-Style Beds - Most beds are bunk beds and most rooms hold anywhere from 8 to 16 people. Matresses are provided, and sometimes pillows. Sometimes matresses will be provided for pilgrims to sleep on the floor, if all beds are taken.
(no image available) Bathrooms - All albergues have bathrooms with showers, toilets, sinks, drinkable hot and cold running water, and sometimes toilet paper. On occasion, the bathroom will be really nice and may be decorated with flowers, etc., but usually they are pretty functional (two toilets, two showers, two sinks). In some albergues both men and women use the same facilities. This turns out to not be much of a problem because either 1) the bathrooms are small and so only one person can use the room at a time, or 2) the albergue is smaller and threrefore less crowded.
Telephone - All of the albergues we stayed at had pay phones available.
Clothes lines - All albergues have outdoors clothes lines for hanging wet, recently washed clothes.
Common Areas - The common areas are great for putting your feet up, chatting with other pilgrims, having a snack, writing postcards, or playing card games.
Kitchens - Most (but not all) albergues have a kitchen. Kitchens will usually have a working stove, a sink, pots and pans, cooking utensils, and eating utensils.

Other amenities which I've seen in albergues, from time to time:


My Favorite Albergues

While most albergues are modern, functional buildings, some of them are quite beautiful -- made from restored stone buildings and placed in pastoral locations. The following albergues are among my favorites:


Triacastela

Ribadiso Do Baixo

O Cebreiro at sunset

Olveiroa

Negreira (no bunk beds!)

The private albergue at Sarria