The French Way French Way Pyrenees 1st Week
- 6 Nights
- 100 km
- Tour Type:
The French Way, Camino Francés, starts in St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque Country. This is one of the most challenging but beautiful parts of the route, especially if you take the ‘Napoleon Route’ over the Roncesvalles Pass (1450m). The ‘Napoleon Route’ starts with a steep climb past country houses before reaching mountain meadows, the cross and some spectacular mountain views. The views of the Pyrenees are worth the effort!
You can split the long walking stage from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles into two stages of 12km and 13km, if you would like to walk at a more relaxed pace. You would stay overnight in the village of Valcarlos. We would recommend taking this option during the winter months when snow can make the higher route impassable.
Roncesvalles (‘Orregaga’ in Basque) is a popular Camino starting point for Spanish pilgrims. Here you should visit the St James chapel, as well as the Royal Collegiate Church of Saint Mary. From Roncesvalles, the Camino de Santiago French route continues through beech and oak woods before entering Espinal. You will also cross two mountain passes: Alto de Mezquiriz and Alto de Erro. You will then descend towards the village of Zubiri and its medieval ‘Puente de la Rabia’ (the Rabies Bridge) over the River Arga.
From Zubiri, the Camino de Santiago follows the river Arga to the town of Larrasoaña, an important stop for pilgrims in Medieval times. The second half of the day will get busier, as you approach the bustle of Pamplona city. Famous for its Running of the Bulls festival, San Fermín, taking place in July, Pamplona has many other attractions to visit. Explore the city’s medieval streets, visit the cathedral, taste some of the fantastic local food and wine and Hemingway fans can go for a coffee in one of the writer’s favourite haunts in the main square: Plaza del Castillo.
Leaving Pamplona behind, the Camino takes pilgrims towards the ‘Alto del Perdón’ (Hill of Forgiveness) pass. Get your picture taken with the photogenic pilgrim sculpture at the ‘alto’ and enjoy fantastic 360 panoramic views of Pamplona and the valley. From there, you will begin your descent towards Puente la Reina (Queen’s Bridge) with its quaint medieval alleys and impressive 11th century bridge over the River Arga.
The Camino de Santiago continues along peaceful tracks for most of today, from the towns of Puente la Reina to Estella. You will walk along rolling farmland, passing small towns and villages nested among olive groves, cereal crops and vineyards. Cirauqui (Zirauki), perched on a hilltop, is a pretty little village of winding medieval streets where you will find one of the best preserved stretches of Roman road. Estella-Lizarra is your final point for today, a nice historic town with plenty to do and see.
The town of Estella or Lizarra as it is known in Basque was founded in 1090 and is a historic city on the pilgrim route. Formerly known as Estella the elegant, the city is known for its beautiful buildings, churches, palaces and stately homes. The city offers visitors history, art, good shopping, great food, and a wide range of cultural events throughout the year. Some of the best attractions to see in the city include the Palace of the Kings of Navarre and the church of San Pedro de la Rua.
We have handpicked our hotels on the Camino de Santiago based on their character, facilities and comfort. You will usually arrive at your accommodation in the afternoon giving you plenty of time for a refreshing shower and a visit to the local village, or maybe just to unwind and relax yourself. Please note: Accommodation is subject to availability.
Standard Hotel & Guesthouse
We have hand-picked family-run hotels and guesthouses along the Camino for their character and warm hospitality. Up to 3-stars, you will be staying in the centre of town and close to your Camino trail.
Country Cottages or ‘Casas Rurales’ are beautifully restored country homes and farmhouses in the heart of peaceful rural communities. Our Country Cottages are renowned for their exceptional food, unique settings and personal touch.
Stay in the best hotels on the Camino. We have selected luxurious 4 and 5-star hotels, boutique guesthouses, relaxing country homes and stunning heritage ‘Parador’ hotels so you can feel pampered.
How to Get There
Live information on Rome2Rio. We can also arrange private transfers if you prefer, just ask us.
Saint Jean Pied de Port
Biarritz Airport 55km: You can take a shuttle bus from Biarritz Airport (25 min approximate travel time) to Bayonne Gare (station). From there, you can take a train to St Jean Pied de Port five times a day (approx. total journey time. 1h40 – 2h25 in total). See www.voyages-sncf.com and http://en.biarritz.aeroport.fr/. Alternatively, contact the team for airport transfers.
Pau Airport 90km: Airport Shuttle bus is available from the airport to the town’s train station every hour (except Sundays and public holidays). See http://www.pau.aeroport.fr/. From the town you can take a train to St Jean (up to 5 times/ day; not on Sunday), with a change in Bayonne. Travel time is about 3h-5h, depending on the time you need to wait in Bayonne. See: www.bonjourlafrance.com/.
Bordeaux Airport 235k: Shuttle bus to the train station (45min), then train to St Jean Pied de Port via Bayonne See www.voyages-sncf.com.
Biarritz Airport 103km: Train from Pamplona to Biarritz airport (2:15min) http://alsa.es
Santander Airport 253km: The Burundesa bus company links Pamplona with Santander (2h) with 2 departures a day. From the bus station in Santander, simply get a direct city bus to the airport (20min), and Ryanair operates flights from there. See: http://laburundesa.com/pamplona-santander-2/
Madrid Airport 391km: Train 3h renfe. Metro to the airport (45min)