Learning from the Cathedral of Santiago’s Statistical Pages

Fig. 1 -- Numbers of pilgrims by route on the Camino de Santiago

Over the last couple of days — partly out of a desire to rest some from a busy Easter season — I’ve been poring over statistics offered by the Cathedral of Santiago about numbers of pilgrims. It’s a fascinating bunch of raw data and I’ve learned a lot about when people go and which routes have grown most.

As you can see in Fig. 1 pilgrimages on the camino have steadily increased during this time, with a big bulge coming in the 2010 Holy Year. There’s no reason not to think that this steady increase will continue for the foreseeable future until the next Holy Year, during 2021, sets another new record.

It’s interesting, too, to see which pilgrim routes are growing the most. As you can see, the second most-popular route is the Camino Portugues, followed by the Camino del Norte, which was about half as popular as the Camino Portugues in 2011.

Fig. 2 - March totals 2005-2012

From November through May the Via de la Plata has more pilgrims than the Camino del Norte, but in June through October the Camino del Norte doubles the Silver Way in pilgrimages. This makes sense since the southern route is much hotter in the summer, while the northern route is too cool for comfort in the winter and spring. It’s interesting, too to see the effect of Easter. In the years 2005 and 2008 Easter was in March, hence the large increase of pilgrims in March of those two years in Fig. 2. Otherwise March shows the same steady increase as other months have since 2005. Note, too, how the Via de la Plata is much more popular than the Camino del Norte during this springtime month.

Fig. 3 - Month of August 2005-2012

Another interesting chart is for the month of August. Note in Fig. 3 how the Camino del Norte exceeds the Via de la Plata in size, nearly doubling it during this summer month.

Fig. 4 spells this out in some detail. Over 60% of traffic on the Camino del Norte happens in July, August and September. See too how the Via de la Plata is quieter in the high summer months.

Each of the charts shows that the Camino Frances is by far the largest, but that its growing popularity is matched proportionally by the other camino routes. An encouraging sign is that the capacity developed for the 2010 Holy Year presumably can accommodate a continued influx of pilgrims until the point at which normal growth reaches the 2010 level.

Fig. 4 also shows that it might be best to enjoy the Camino del Norte in a month other than August, that all routes are very quiet in the winter, and that if the heat of summer abates by that time, September and October might be good months on the Via de la Plata.

Fig. 4 - Percentage by month of the top four routes.

A big thanks to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for its great statistical info. It was fun to sort through the raw data and see what it says about the best months to take the various routes and also to see the enormous expansion of the Camino de Santiago over these last years.

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