It’s anywhere where pilgrims along The Way can stay if they present their Camino passport that has stamps they have collected along The Way.
The word is pronounced all-bear-gay if you are from the US, and more like all-ber-gee if you are from somewhere else, but with that said there are many variations spoken.
Albergues tend to fall into three categories municipal, private, and parochial. Other than walking along with someone on the trail, the albergues are where you meet other pilgrims, they are a significant part of the heartbeat of the Camino. If you don’t stay in at least some albergues, you’d be missing a big part of the experience. Think big rooms with lots of bunk beds, and bathrooms like a fairly nice campground and you will get close. Snoring is a big part of albergue life.
In any albergue, getting your clothes washed and dry before the next day is a major activity. Most of the time it’s hand washing in an outside sink and line drying, but more albergues are installing machines you can use for 3 Euros. It can get competitive for clothes pins. Wish I had brought a few.
Municipal albergues are run by the town they are in. They are usually centrally located in the town, are the cheapest option, and provide just the basics. They run from 5-8 Euros and tend to be the largest, holding anywhere from 50 to 200 people, depending upon the popularity of the stop. I have stayed in several. The community feel is high and there is a lot of information sharing and camaraderie. Given the number of people all in one room, the chances of an uninterrupted night’s sleep is slim to none.
Private albergues are generally a step up from municipals and cost around 10 Euros. They tend to be a little nicer and often have a bar or restaurant attached. Beer, wine, and sangria flow freely, and a pilgrim’s meal is usually offered. If you are lucky they will have a nice place to hang out while yours clothes dry.
The parochial albergues are all run by a church or monastery. They operate by ‘Donavita’, which means ‘pay what you can, take what you need’. They will usually have a service, or pilgrims blessing before a community dinner, although there is no one method they all use. Last night I stayed at the albergue of Santa Maria de Los Condes run by 4 nuns of the St. Augustine order. There was vespers at 5:00, intros and singalong at 5:30, and mass at 7:30. Very nice, and quite a different feel from the Municipals!
There are also small to mid sized hostels, which are basically clean hotel rooms with a private bath, but what fun would that be?
Enjoy some photos from the Meseta section of the Camino!
People who don’t snore.
Enough sun to line dry clothes
The cooler nights and mornings in Spanish October