From the French Pyrenees to the Spanish Navarra
2 September 2021 – 11 September 2021 | 370€
The Camino de Santiago, or the way of Saint James, is not one but many paths that lead to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it is said, the Apostle James is buried. There are hundreds of routes across Europe and five that lead directly into Santiago. The Camino Francés (French Way) is what most people think of when you mention the camino and is perhaps the most famous walking route in the world. In recent times, since its resurgence in the late 1990’s, the Camino Frances starts in the French village of St Jean Pied de Port and leads pilgrims over the Pyrenees into the Navarra region of Northern Spain and the incredible Pilgrim albergue and Monastery at Roncevalles.
Our Camino will follow one of the most beautiful sections of the Camino Frances and offers us a genuine taste of this most famous walk. We’ll start our adventure in St Jean Pied de Port in France and end in Logrono, the capital city of the Rioja region of Spain, full of fine restaurants, cafes, shops, museums and tapas!
Day 1 | 2 September | St Jean Pied de Port
Shared Pilgrim Accommodation | Breakfast Included
We start our camino in the historic pilgrim town of St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque region. St Jean is a stopover point for three ancient Jacobite routes which converge here; it’s also the starting point for most modern pilgrims wishing to cross the Pyrenees into Spain.
We have beds booked in a pilgrim albergue in the centre of town. After we’ve checked in and explored the village and stopped off at the pilgrim’s office we’ll meet for dinner to toast the start of our adventure!
Day 2 | 3 September | St Jean Pied de Port to our Pyrenees Albergue (9km)
Shared Pilgrim Accommodation | Dinner and Breakfast included
We’ll leave St Jean after breakfast, we can take our time today as we meander our way into the foothills of the French Pyrenees; we’ll walk on quiet country roads but always climbing upwards. We can stop as needed to soak in the incredible views and to take many, many photos.
It’s important to remember to walk at your own pace. We may start as a group, but we’ll spread out as the day continues and you should remind yourself to walk at your own pace. Today’s stage is short, but it is steep in places. Some say that this is the hardest stage on the Camino Frances but regardless we have all day to walk 9 kilometres; there is absolutely no rush. This is one of my most favourite sections and I can’t overstate how glorious the views are!
At the 5km mark we can stop for refreshments at Hunto; cold drinks, boots off and rest before the steepest 3km of the day. I’ll stress again, don’t worry if you feel tired and wish to stay a little longer. We can take our time. At 8km we’ll reach the famous auberge at Orisson. This is a great place but sadly offers no cancellation option so we’ll not be staying here. But it has an amazing terrace with fantastic views so we can stop for lunch and rest and admire the mountains. Once we’re rested we can continue on for our last kilometre to our little mountain retreat.
Our accommodation tonight will be in small dorms with 4 single beds in each. This is a new albergue and it’s the perfect spot for breaking the long mountain stage, and making the most of the views of sunset and sunrise… they really are spectacular!
Day 3 | 4 September | Pyrenees – Roncesvalles (17km)
Shared Pilgrim Accommodation | Dinner Included
We’ll wake early and make ready for the day ahead, breakfast is included so once we’ve eaten we’ll be able step out of our mountain retreat and continue onwards to Spain. We’ll follow the road up and up for a while before turning on to a trail through the mountains and the beech forests. Hope for a clear day as the views are majestic. If we’re lucky we’ll walk by wild horses, cows and sheep, whilst watching buzzards and Pyrenean vultures fly overhead. Today is not as steep as yesterday and we can afford to linger; our beds are reserved so there is no need to rush. I’ve walked this stage many times and it always looks amazing; it’s a glorious walk and you will want to savour every moment.
Our day ends at the stunning monastery albergue at Roncesvalles. This beautifully renovated building is pilgrim heaven; semi-private four berth bunk-beds, the hottest of hot showers and you can even arrange to have your laundry washed for you. If you wish you can attend the evening pilgrim mass (all are welcome), or you may simply prefer to retire to the bar. We’ll enjoy a communal dinner with our fellow pilgrims before bed (you can dream of your walk over the mountains)!
Day 4 | 5 September | Roncesvalles – Zubiri (22km)
Shared Twin or Triple Rooms with private bathrooms
The alarm goes off at 6:00am in Roncesvalles but no worries as hopefully you will have slept well! Today we’ll walk a short distance for our breakfast; it tends to be very busy at Roncesvalles at breakfast but much quieter in the next village. We walk through the glorious Spanish Pyrenean foothills, and meander through forests and open countryside and beautifully kept Basque villages. There will be plenty of places to stop today and the group will inevitably drift apart as we walk (and stop) at our own pace.
We’ll cross streams and pass pastures and we’ll watch the scenery change as we walk away from the mountains and on through Navarra. There are a few ups and downs en-route, as we’re still in the foothills of the mountains but our beds are booked and we can take our time. Our stop is in the pilgrim village of Zubiri. We’ll stay overnight in a private albergue. Meals aren’t provided but we’ll be in the centre of the village with a choice of bars for our pilgrims dinner.
Day 5 | 6 September | Zubiri – Pamplona (21km)
Shared Pilgrim Accommodation
Today we continue away from the mountains and into Navarra, following a river through more glorious countryside and if you wish, you can make a small detour to climb a church bell tower for even more majestic views. I’ve walked this path in spring and autumn, in rain, snow and sunshine… it’s always beautiful. There are more little villages and plenty of opportunities to stop before we reach Pamplona.
We enter this most famous city through its enormous fortress like walls. We can check into our accommodation as we arrive in town and as we’ll be walking at differing speeds perhaps we can arrange to meet later in Plaza Mayor at Hemingway’s favourite haunt, Café Iruna. We have bunk beds reserved in a very nice pilgrim’s hostel right beside Pamplona cathedral. Meals aren’t included here but I know a fabulous restaurant where we can meet for dinner!
Day 6 | 7 September | Pamplona to Puenta la Reina (23.5 km)
Shared Twin or Triple Rooms with Private Bathrooms
We’ll leave Pamplona through the old town, on through the modern city, passing beautiful parks and the grounds of the university before finding ourselves in open countryside. Twelve kilometres after Pamplona, besides fields that in spring will be a riot of greens and yellows, we’ll catch sight of the hill ahead; Alto del Perdon. We’ll walk it’s long, steep (but gently so) trail up to its iconic summit and enjoy the amazing panoramic views from the top.
At the top we’ll find amazing views and the Alto’s famous iron statues. The figures are inscribed: Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas — where the path of the wind crosses with that of the stars. And, like countless pilgrims before us, we will probably pose amongst these huge figures and then stand and gaze out at those incredible views; Pamplona and the Pyrenees behind us and Navarra and the Arga Valley ahead of us.
After we’ve rested we will carefully pick our way carefully down the hill and travel on through the small villages of Uterga, Muruzábal and Obanos and even more beautiful countryside before we reach our accommodation in the centre of Puente La Reina.
Day 7 | 8 September | Puente La Reina – Estella (22km)
Shared Pilgrim Accommodation
Puente la Reina, called the crossroads of the ways, is a medieval town where two main pilgrim routes converge and its name comes from the stunning XIth century stone bridge that we cross when leaving town. The constant transit of pilgrims, scallop shells and walking sticks all form part of the landscape of this town.
The trail today is a little more gentle, though there are always ups and downs and a bit of a steep hill after leaving town. We follow yellow arrows on Roman roads that wind through the farmland and forests of the Navarra region. There are plenty of small villages dotted along the way for refreshments. Cirauqui, is one such hilltop village whose name means nest of vipers in Basque (in reference to the rocky hill on which the town was built). The village still retains much of its medieval character and is the ideal spot for a pause.
Our end stage today is Estella, a large town with Plaza de los Fueros being the centre of activity with several cafes and restaurants; a very pleasant place to rest weary feet. After checking into our accommodation it’s entirely possible that we’ll end up here for drinks and dinner!
Day 8 | Estella – Sansol (28.6 kms)
Twin and Quad Rooms in a Private Casa Rural | Breakfast Included
Today we walk through wine country, dotted with olive trees, cereal fields and of course vineyards. Leaving Estella we’re faced with a small climb, but hills are always easier in the early morning and this one is made even easier because near the top is the Bodegas de Irache. Under a carving of Santiago there are two taps; from one flows water and from the other free wine – yep! Free wine!
On we walk through more beautiful countryside through Villamayor de Monjardín and continue on gravel tracks surrounded with great views along gently sloping trails. We’ll reach Los Arcos in time for lunch and a good rest before we’ll continue on to the little village of Sansol and our beautiful little casa rural. Today is our longest day but the terrain is easy and we’ll be feeling strong after our week on the trail.
As we leave Los Arcos we pass a cemetery. The inscription on the gate reads “Yo que fui lo que tu eres, tu seras lo que yo soy” translated “I was once what you are, and you will be what I am”.
Day 9 | 10 September | San Sol – Logrono (21km)
Twin or Single Hotel Rooms
Today say goodbye to the Navarra region and walk into Rioja. We’ll have breakfast together in our little casa before our last day following the arrows. We have more beautiful villages today, including Torres del Rio after just a few kilometers. This small sleepy village contains one of the architectural jewels on the Camino Frances, the Romanesque Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The origins of the church are not well documented but it is thought that the foundations are 12th century. Due to the octagonal shape it is also believed the church was built by the Knights Templar.
On we walk with expansive views of Viana and Logrono on the horizon. Viana, perched up on a hill, had a turbulent history as a defensive garrison town. In the centre we pass numerous fascinating houses and churches that demonstrate the magnificence of the town between the 16th and 18th centuries. Viana is the last Navarrese town on the Camino Frances, surrounded by fields of cereals, vines, almond and olive trees and it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch. Once rested we continue on into Logroño; a walk on comfortable terrain (albeit with plenty of tarmac). En route we’ll leave Navarra and walk into the autonomous community of La Rioja (of which Logrono is capital)
Tonight we have a hotel not far from the cathedral. Logrono is a large and wonderful city, rich in history and traditions. We can spend the remainder of our day exploring her streets and enjoying one last pilgrims dinner together in the celebrated tapas area where we can celebrate the end of our Camino adventure.
Day 10 | 11 September | Home
After breakfast today we’ll check out of our hotel and bid farewell to the Camino Frances. I hope that our little adventure has given you a glimpse of this wonderful path and that you perhaps wish to return. You’ll already know that every day is different … so maybe this isn’t so much goodbye as au revoir!
- Long distance trail walking is a physically active sport. You should seek advice from your doctor before embarking on this adventure. Those walking with me will receive a training schedule to help ensure that you’re ready for your camino.
- You should have full and adequate travel and health insurance before you start your camino.
- I am not a holiday company. I am a pilgrim helping other pilgrims. When you book with me you are accepting that you do so entirely at your own risk and that it is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit and able to participate. I will reserve beds along the route on your behalf; whilst some can be cancelled not all can and I cannot guarantee refunds.
- Our group will be between 6 – 8 people in total, including myself. Whilst we start and end our days as a group, you should walk at your own pace and at a speed that is comfortable for you.
- The costs includes shared pilgrim accommodation in albergues, where bunk beds are standard. When meals are included it is shown in the description. You should allow for additional food and drink throughout the day.
- If you prefer to not carry your rucksack, luggage transfer can be arranged; you should allow 6€ a day. Tell me if you’d like to use this service.
THE ABOVE PRICE INCLUDES :
• Assisting with booking luggage transfer (if you are not keen on carrying your backpack)
• Pilgrim accommodation and meals as listed above
• Myself as an experienced pilgrim to offer guidance
• Pre-camino information pack with guidance on clothes, equipment, training and budgets
• Pilgrims passport and credential
THE ABOVE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE :
• Health or travel insurance
• Travel to and from the camino
• Upgraded accommodation
• Additional expenses for drinks and food
• Bus, taxis or transfers unless specified
And just to re-iterate; I’m not a holiday or travel company. I’m a pilgrim and I offer a hand holding service, helping other pilgrims. If you’re seeking the services of a travel agent, there are a number of companies that operate along the Camino Frances and I’m happy to provide details for you.