Sarah Wilson | Destination Expert

For many walkers, receiving the Compostela when they reach Santiago is one of the highlights of the Camino.

What is a Compostela?

The Compostela is the traditional pilgrimage certificate issued (in Latin) to walkers who have walked at least the final 100km of the Camino de Santiago.

How do I earn my Compostela?

Part of the fun and the journey of walking the Camino is to receive at least two qualifying stamps in your passport per day in your pilgrim’s passport (credenciales de peregrino). Most pilgrims will get stamps from their accommodation and wherever they stop for lunch. Sometimes you may be fortunate enough to come across a roadside stall that provides stamps or sello for your passport, with a traditional wax seal and a small charm. It is a fantastic souvenir to bring home for your trip.

As well as presenting the qualifying stamps, to obtain your Compostela you need to state the reason for your pilgrimage: spiritual, religious or looking for resolution or peace. If you walked purely for the challenge that a long-distance walk provides, you can obtain a distance certificate for a €3 fee.

How do I obtain my Compostela?

Head to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, a short walk from the Cathedral in Santiago. We suggest arriving early in the morning before the pilgrims for that day begin arriving in town. At RAW Travel we usually build a day of leisure in Santiago into your itinerary so you have plenty of time to get your Compostela.

Take a ticket from the machine at the entry of the Pilgrim’s Reception Office. It will have your number in the queue, as well as a QR code. If you have a QR code scanner/app on your phone, you can find out your position in the queue.

 

With ticket in hand, either wait in the grounds or the waiting room of the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, or you check into your hotel, explore Santiago, find something to eat or grab a celebratory drink. However, make sure you don’t go to far away, as if you miss your number you will have to start in the queue again. If your ticket number is less than 50 away from the number displayed as next to be served, make your way to the office. If it is less than 30 away, make sure you are back in the Pilgrim’s Reception Office building.

There are vending machines in the Pilgrim’s Reception Office waiting room for refreshments while you wait. 

The day that I received my certificate—in late October—over 1000 pilgrims checked into the Pilgrim’s Reception Office. However as I was there early in the morning by Spanish standards (around 9:30am), I didn’t have to wait long. There’s a restricted number of queueing tickets issued per day—on busy days the cut-off of issuing tickets can be as early as midday. During pilgrim season (April to October) the office is open daily from 8am to 8pm.

When your number is called, an official will ask you to fill out a form with your details (name, country of origin, place where you started your pilgrimage, reason for pilgrimage etc…). They will check you have the minimum of two stamps in your pilgrim’s passport for the last 100 kilometres on the pilgrimage route that you have taken, or 200 kilometres if you have completed it by horse or bike. 

The daily pilgrim’s mass

Once your pilgrimage is recorded, the details are collated and the nationalities, starting points and number of pilgrims are read out at the daily pilgrims’ masses held at midday and 7:30pm.

RAW Travel provides you with a pilgrim’s passport as part of your travel documents.  Read more about the pilgrim’s passports and Compostela.

How to qualify for the Compostela

The following RAW Travel trips will qualify you for your Compostela:

Full Camino – French Way – 41 days

Camino Highlights –  French Way – 15 days

Sarria to Santiago – French Way – 9 or 11 days

Lisbon to Santiago – Portuguese Way – 38 days

Porto to Santiago – Portuguese Way –  15 or 18 days

Baiona to Santiago – Portuguese Way – 10 days 

Read more about preparing for your mind and body for a long distance walk.