New Guide: Ruta Dragonte on the Camino Francés

We’ve written a mini-guide to the beautiful Ruta Dragonte, one of the three options from Villafranca del Bierzo on the Camino Francés. There isn’t much info available on that option so we’ve prepared this guide to help those interested in exploring the route. It’s a challenging, strenuous route that isn’t for everyone, but it is also a peaceful, very scenic one that offers a wonderful glimpse of rural Spain not always visible on the rest of the Francés.

The guide includes an overview, elevation profile chart, multiple annotated maps (overview plus sections), walking directions, and a few lame jokes (sorry!).

PDF and ePub versions are available:

PDF ePub

Of course, you’ll find most of the same content in our free TrailSmart app (along with all of the helpful geo-location functionality that TrailSmart can provide, making the content more ‘intelligent’).

Autumn Pleasures

I guess everyone can agree now that the summer has ended. Even though the weather in many places is still surprisingly pleasant, the summer heat is going away. And so does the summer desire for adventures. But you cannot let it tie you to your office chair. Now is the time to enjoy the autumn views, hackneyed pumpkin dishes, sweater weather and the best way to do that is travelling. Or at least planning the travels.


A nice 540 km walk in Turkey on the Lycian Way, stunning 104 km long the Great Ocean Walk in Australia, historical 164 km Cotswold Way and so many other longer or shorter adventures are waiting for you to come. Now is the time to fight the seasonal depression buying flight tickets, booking hotels and B&B’s and researching the places you want to see.

But there’s a lot of things you do not need to plan, such as downloading TrailSmart app. Just do that now, start reading and explore the infinite ways of making your hikes easier. Remember, it’s free and takes only a minute to get to your phone.

So please, enjoy the pumpkin spice latte, plan your upcoming adventures, embrace the free help TrailSmart offers and just have a great autumn!

P.S. Picture is here:

Passing time in Cappadocia

If you’ve read more posts on this blog, you’ve probably (I really hope so!) been thinking about going to Cappadocia. The natural beauty is stunning there, but that’s not it. The amazing hot air balloon flight is definitely a must there, but again, that’s not it. The highly developed tourism sector has way more to offer even to the pickiest traveler.

Fancy restaurant, impeccable views, “natural” museums and the culture. Check it all out in this amazing video and decide which thing are going to do first!

Practice Your Spanglish

Have you ever met a native Spanish speaker whose English is not fluent? You’ve probably noticed then those certain (and usually the same) mistakes, like (e)smart, (e)study, ‘win’ money (instead of earn) and so many others. The thing you can do here is to be a bit obnoxious and think that by now everyone should speak at least basic English. Or… you can imagine how your Spanish sounds to all those people. And believe me, it usually sounds terrible! As neither Spanish, nor English native speaker I can say, that English accent on Spanish is quite terrible. But this time we aren’t here to talk about the imperfections of one or other accents. The main idea for this post was to emphasize the common flaws everyone speaking two or more language has and to encourage to try to use your broken Spanish, French, Portuguese or any other language as often as you can.

There are so many situations travelling where your English may be worthless, you could be surprised. Let’s take Camino de Santiago as an example. Imagine yourself going to a small village in a rural Spanish area where probability of finding a fluent English speaking person is almost the same as probability of not drinking wine in the evening (it exists, but it’s awfully low). This is the moment you must use your Spanglish. Even if you’re too shy to do that, this is worth doing simply because it will make the things go faster and after a long day of hiking, you want the things to go faster.


Another language you shouldn’t forget, is signs! Even though we’re all fluent at telling people to go…  themselves, saying this I was not expecting you to be fluent in any of the sign language systems. I was talking about that special bond people with no common language find when they need it. Showing numbers on the phone/calculator/writing them down, simply showing the signs of food or sleep and many other tricks usually sound so terrible and shameful. And yet, it also makes things go faster. You may think you’ll be wiser than me and will use Google Translate or any other app. And I salute you for this thought, but just in case you don’t have internet and need to show something to the foreign staff member – remember this post.

This is the place where I say goodbye and remind you to download TrailSmart app before planning any hike!

P.S. Picture is here:

To Hike or Thru-Hike?

Whichever trail you choose to hike on, you always have two more options about it – to hike it or to thru-hike it. The difference is simple – you can hike parts of the trail or you can do all of it from the beginning to the end.

The reasons behind both of the approaches are rather simple. Thru-hiking is usually the first thing everyone plans: to hike from A to Z, face all the upcoming adventures and challenges, meet all the people there and find the inspiration you were looking for. But usually no one plans the really hard challenges and physical distress which is a never leaving companion of every hiker. If the pressure is what you needed to feel better and alive again, you should enjoy and keep hiking. It (almost) always gets better and then you think it wasn’t that bad.


But if you’re not one of those people and constant pressure and tiredness is something that makes you feel less of a human being, you may want to consider taking a short break or even skipping parts of the trail. Stay in a hostel one day longer, explore the new city and enjoy the new views and new people. But if this does not make you feel better, take a bicycle, a train or a bus and get straight to the next stop planned. You may forget the hike was so hard. And of course there’s always an option of finishing earlier. Since the only person you are hiking for is yourself,  you only have to consider your needs, well-being and feeling. If somewhere deep there’s a worm whispering ‘this is it’, maybe it is right. Pushing yourself helps to find unexpected qualities in yourself, but pushing yourself too hard may make you never go on a hike ever again.

And even though the opinions about hikers and thru-hikes are usually controversial in the hiking community, you cannot let it affect your decisions. Again, you are only hiking for you.


P.S. find the picture here:


Preparing for the Hike: Exercising

Remember all those cliché ideas about cute summer body? If yes, you should also remember all the sad posts surrounding you in late spring when people realise that simply talking is not helping to get yourself ready for the summer. I am terribly sorry to tell you this, but the same goes for hiking.

You may love walking short and long distances and do that every day to work, city park, shop or anywhere else. But the truth is that hiking with a fully loaded backpack is different from this. It is not always incredibly hard and you may finish it just moderately tired. But if the path is rough and you’re not prepared, your adventure may turn into something you never want to remember. In order to avoid this you can do two things – prepare physically and for the beginning choose an easier trail.

Get those sneakers ready for some pre-hike exercising.

Get those sneakers ready for some pre-hike exercising.

Physical exercises sometimes remind of gym and school, but in this case you can actually enjoy it (as long as you enjoy walking)! It has been said you should start training at least 3 months before your hike begins. First you have to start with simple cardio, be it jogging, cycling, dancing or anything else you enjoy. Don’t push yourself too far, but think how good will you feel fit on the trail whenever you want to stop exercising. Do this at least 3 times a week and you’ll get way closer to your ‘hike-goal’.

Next in: strength. In order to carry around your happy or sometimes miserable self and the backpack, which, trust me, is never too light, you need to build some strength. For this part I’d suggest looking for new ideas on Youtube – you will be surprised how many free and fun lessons you can find there. Do this at least 2 times a week and you’ll avoid the silent crying moments on your hike (cannot promise avoiding that due to sadness though).

Stretch, strength, cardio, yoga... Whatever you're looking for, try Youtube.

Stretch, strength, cardio, yoga… Whatever you’re looking for, try Youtube.

And lastly: practicing. Pack your backpack and go for a long long walk. Go to a store with a backpack, visit friends, hike around. This is the part where you actually feel the hike is close and you are ready.

As for the part of choosing the trail better suited for you – check out Trekopedia site and download the free TrailSmart app. Promise, they are well described, thus finding a trail will not be the hardest part.

So, since you are going to be well prepared physically and know the adventure which is waiting for you, nothing will stop you. And one more thing – it is way nicer to remember 3 hard days out of 15 rather than 10. So just get prepared so that nothing could scare you off of that beautiful adventure ahead.


P.S. Pictures taken by:

Boots, Backpack and a Book

The list for successful preparation for a long-term hike is rather simple: comfortable boots, light but large backpack, depending on a trip – tent and sleeping bag, clothes, maps, etc. You know how this list goes. But what about those short and precious moments of silence and rest? May I offer you a book? Well, a book or a eReader.


Daily hiking agenda is easy to follow – hike, rest, eat, sleep. But in those short moments of rest before you fall asleep a book is just what you need to refresh your mind. If you want to take your mind away from the hiking routine, you will probably choose some completely different genre sci-fi, mystery, detective or anything else will help to do it. But just in case you wanted to get from hiking as much experience as possible, hike stories are probably what you need to read.

“A Walk in the Woods” (by Bill Bryson), “The Pilgrimage” (by Paulo Coelho) or “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” (by Cheryl Strayed) already are well known hiking stories, but just after 1 minute on Google you can find hundreds of new unread books. If you have an eReader, it’s even better – you can fill all the books you wanted to read into one and never worry about it. But if you don’t, a lot of the hostels have book exchange sections, so don’t you worry – there are more options than the one you’ve chosen.

So good luck choosing and hiking.


P.S. Thanks for the picture, Jim:

Great Glen Way along Scotland

There are more than 30 long distance walking trails in Scotland, each from 30 to few hundred kilometres long. So the beautiful historical region could easily be visited in a pace you enjoy the most, be it rough intense hiking, or slow laid back walking (or should I say wandering). Great Glen Way is also on this list and is one of the better known trails, linking Fort William and Inverness, the regional capital. It is considered to be a perfect trail to get used to long distance hiking and to get to know Scotland.

Great Glen Ways


2542315498_61f4e9660d_bGreat Glen Way is usually divided into 6 stages (each from 12 to 30km), but undoubtedly you can hike less or more than you are supposed. Being a great introduction to Scottish history, Scotland itself and long distance hiking, I hope you decide that Great Glen Way is the best way to spend the upcoming holidays.

Since words are not always enough, I hope pictures will be.

P.S. you can find them here:





How to Carry the World on Your Shoulders?

Since you are planning (I hope!) your big adventures, you are probably thinking what should you carry in your backpack. As you have to be prepared for everything on a hiking adventure, most likely you will carry the world there. Or at least a small part of your world. And so, you can do few things to make it easier – pack wisely (lite/smart/both) and choose the best backpack.

Depending on a trail you’ve chosen depends the size of a backpack you need. The thing you always want to consider is the weight of the backpack itself. And if the weight difference is not too big, you should move on to choosing the capacity. You may think the bigger the better, but not always. If your backpack fits a lot of things, it may lead you to carrying too much. Where a smaller backpack may be just enough for the beginning but too small for the final parts of your hike. What I would say is useful if you are not sure what size of a backpack to get is to pack most of the stuff and then buy a backpack just a bit bigger than all of that (because you’re always forgetting something until the last minute).

However, if you have a backpack already, but you aren’t sure it’s a good fit, try it out at home, try if you feel comfortable with it. If you do – well done, you will save another hundred dollars to spend during your hike. But if you decide you need a new one – use the opportunity wisely and buy the best backpack you like.

Even though choosing the backpack is not the same as choosing clothing and does not mainly depend on taste, your preferences are really meaningful when deciding about it. Mixing this with a research about the best backpacks will let you choose the best one for you.

Check out few videos on how to choose THE backpack and start looking for it.

Things to Do in Santiago de Compostela

If you plan to go on Camino de Santiago you will definitely finish your hike in Santiago de Compostela. A city in northwestern Spain is really well known as the destination of Camino de Santiago, but this is not the only reason why you should visit Santiago. So what should you do in Santiago de Compostela?


  1. Visit the Cathedral. This Romanesque building with Gothic and baroque attributes is often called the heart of Santiago. This church is actually the fourth building standing in this place as the predecessors were torn down by the time. The stunning huge building will strike you with the majestic sculptures and architecture. All in all – it’s a must if you’re going to Santiago.
  2. Praza de Obradoiro. If you’re going to visit the Cathedral, you will also visit Praza de Obradoiro – the grand square in front of the cathedral. Area is free of restaurants and traffic, so don’t forget to take some water with you before visiting this spacious beauty. Take the walking map with you so you could walk around the courtyards open for visiting and see some more private part of the square.
  3. Catedralicio Museum. Again another thing you must visit once visiting the cathedral. Religious art as well as some well known paintings are definitely worth seeing.
  4. Mercado de Abastos. A local and lively food market is something you don’t want to miss. Fresh food made in front of your eyes and some really local vibes will remind you why you should love Spanish cuisine and lifestyle.
  5. Casco Historico. The historical center of the city is usually the place you want to wander around at. Find your favorite place to take pictures, have a coffee and just imagine how the life used to flow around and inside these old buildings.
  6. Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago. The museum of pilgrimage and Santiago is probably a place you want to see if you were a pilgrim yourself for the last few weeks. Exhibition of everything related to Santiago, the person and city and pilgrimage traditions sounds like something interesting!
  7. Café-Jardin Costa Vella is just a local restaurant known for its delicious breakfast served with nice views around.
  8. Abastos 2.0. An original restaurant, which could also be called a canteen is the place for you if you want to enjoy company and food. And of course, if you prefer sea food – this place is a must to see.


If you don’t have a lot of time to enjoy this historical city, you may want to try any of the free walking tours. It usually starts around midday in one of the central squares and takes you all around the best known places explaining the history and secrets of it.

So good luck and enjoy Santiago de Compostela! You deserve that.

P.S. find the pictures right here: