The French Way (Camino Francés)

Exhausted pilgrims (c) Rupert Parker

In latest years the pilgrimage route from St. Jean Pied de Port, in France to Santiago de Compostela, within the North West of Spain, also called The French Way or Camino Francés, has turn into more and more in style. Ironically most individuals are tackling the Camino de Santiago, not for non secular causes however somewhat to check themselves or simply merely to get away from all of it. And the excellent news is that you simply get a certificates displaying you might have accomplished the stroll on the finish.

The “Way of St James”

In English, it is called The Way of St James, because the bones of the disciple are supposedly buried within the cathedral of Santiago, however to the hikers, it’s simply the Camino. In truth, there’s not only one route, however many coming from throughout Europe, and the preferred is The French Way. It climbs the Pyrenees, winds its means throughout Navarre, Rioja, Castile and Leon, earlier than getting into Galicia and arriving in Santiago. With a good wind behind you, it takes simply over a month.

I wish to get a style of the route, with out doing the entire trek. In truth, many individuals don’t have the time to do the whole thing, so return yr after yr to do their lacking sections. Accommodation varies from dormitory beds in Albergues, usually costing a couple of Euros, to luxurious rooms in Paradors, with quite a lot of selection in between. There’s at all times meals alongside the best way with most locations providing a three-course pilgrim menu for round ten euros.

Learn the whole lot you’ll want to know concerning the Apostle St. James the Greater right here.

The Pyrenees

The path climbs steeply because it traverses the Pyrenees and this is among the hardest sections of the stroll. It reaches 1050m earlier than dropping into Spain and reaching Roncesvalles, the place there’s an enormous abbey church and the primary in a single day cease. Even although it’s April, there are already lots of people on the path, all plodding purposely ahead and, in comparison with me, utterly overloaded.

St Jean Pied de Port (c) Rupert Parker

In the following few days, there are some lovely sections, significantly as I stroll down from Roncesvalles, by way of beech and oak woods, passing by way of immaculate Basque villages, homes all in white with crimson or inexperienced shutters. But there are a variety of huge cities, like Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and Leon the place the tramp by way of sprawling suburbs on the aspect of busy highways is barely gruelling.

Burgos Cathedral (c) Rupert Parker

However, the rewards come within the form of magnificent cathedrals, ruined castles and medieval streets, to not say glorious foods and drinks.

Walk the Camino Francés


We advocate utilizing Follow The Camino to help you in planning your strolling vacation on the Camino Frances. Follow The Camino gives customised itineraries to swimsuit you. You resolve if you’d like a guided or self-guided package deal, when to go, what distance you wish to cowl every day, and if you wish to journey solo, in a gaggle, or with household or associates.

Trials of the Meseta

After leaving Burgos there are the trials of the Meseta, a barren tableland at 800m, with no shade and howling winds. There’s little respite till town of Leon the place the panorama begins to vary and snow-capped mountains loom on the horizon.

Iron cross (c) Rupert Parker

You start to climb and eventually attain the very best level on the Camino, marked by an iron cross. You’re supposed to go away a stone you’ve carried from residence at its foot which, in concept, will absolve you of a few of your sins.


At Sarria, in Galicia, I’m simply 100 km from Santiago and it will get even busier. For those that need a certificates, they will begin right here, stroll the final 5 days and nonetheless qualify. It’s a chilled part of the stroll, by way of inexperienced rolling hills and broad meadows, the wooded pathways offering loads of shade.

Galicia wooded pathways (c) Rupert Parker

I start to sense muted elation among the many pilgrims since they’re close to to reaching their ultimate vacation spot. Some of them appear to be warfare veterans, with {couples} supporting one another as they limp ever additional forwards.

On my final day, I arrive in Santiago simply in time for the noon pilgrims’ mass within the Cathedral. At the tip of the service, eight red-robed males swing the well-known Botafumeiro, an incense burner weighing 80 kg.

incense burners in Botafumeiro (c) Rupert Parker

It flies by way of the air meting out holy smoke to the multitude. For these medieval pilgrims, it will need to have been heartening to know you’d halved your time in purgatory by going the gap. For me, although, I’m simply glad that I don’t must stroll any additional.

Fact File

Tour operator: Follow the Camino provides customised/versatile strolling and biking vacation packages on 9 primary routes to Santiago and gives snug non-public en-suite rooms, baggage transfers, 24/7 assist, airport transfers, breakfast & dinners, and different add-ons like meals & wine excursions, excursions, premium lodging and so forth.

Fly: Ryanair flies to Biarritz, the nearest airport to St. Pied de Port, from London Stansted. EasyJet flies from Santiago to Gatwick.

Disclaimer: this text was sponsored by One Foot Abroad

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