Camino Frances

*** Fully Booked ***

From the French Pyrenees to the Spanish Navarra

10 Days | 14 April 2022 to 23 April 2022 | 395€

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 | 14 April | 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, the room is just for us and has bunk beds for 8. We’ll meet in the afternoon and check-in to our accommodation. After we can continue to explore the village or perhaps stop off at the pilgrim’s office and collect our first stamp in our credentials. We’ll meet for dinner in town and toast the start of our adventure!

Day 2 | 15 April | 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!

There are a couple of place to stop for refreshments today; we can pause for drinks at Hunto and have lunch at Orisson, a fabulous auberge with a terrace overlooking the mountains.

Our accommodation tonight will be in a small dorms with single beds and a privacy curtain. This is a new albergue, our group last year were one of the first to stay and it’s the perfect spot for breaking the long mountain stage. Lets hope for clear skies so that we can make the most of the views of sunset and sunrise… they really are spectacular!

Day 3 | 16 April | 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 | 17 April | Roncesvalles – Zubiri (22km)

Pilgrim accommodation in our own dormitory with ensuite bathroom | Breakfast included

The alarm goes off at 6:00am in Roncesvalles but no worries as hopefully you will have slept well! You can choose to have breakfast at Roncesvalles or walk on to one of the following small villages before choosing to stop. 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 where we’ll stay overnight in a private albergue and we’ll have our own private room just for the group. Breakfast is included and they also offer a communal pilgrim dinner.

Day 5 | 18 April | Zubiri – Pamplona (21km)

Shared Private Apartment for the Group

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. As we’ll be walking at differing speeds perhaps we can arrange to meet in Plaza Mayor at Hemingway’s favourite haunt, Café Iruna. We have beds reserved in a very nice apartment near the centre of town. Meals aren’t included here but I know a fabulous restaurant where we can meet for dinner!

Day 6 | 19 April | Pamplona to Puenta la Reina (23.5 km)

Private Ensuite room

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 on the edge e of Puente La Reina. This is both a hotel and pilgrim albergue and we each have our own rooms tonight. There is an excellent restaurant in the hotel with an equally excellent pilgrims menu!

Day 7 | 20 April | Puente La Reina – Estella (22km)

Shared pilgrim accommodation | Breakfast included

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. We’re back in an albergue tonight but I love this place! The bunks have crisp white cotton sheets, the mattress is super comfy and each bed has a privacy curtain and the showers and bathrooms are spotless… and we have a room for 8 so just our group.

Day 8 | 21 April | Estella – Sansol (28 kms)

Large private dormitory

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. Today is our longest day but the terrain is easy and we’ll be feeling strong after our week on the trail.

Our accommodation tonight will be in a beautiful old building that has been renovated and turned into a glorious pilgrim albergue. We have a dormitory for 10 but just for our group, and we have our own bathroom.

Day 9 | 22 April | San Sol – Logrono (21km)

Private ensuite room in small hotel

Today say goodbye to the Navarra region and walk into Rioja. 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 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 | 23 April | Home

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!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

  • 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 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. I have tried to book a room for the group in the albergues. 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 7€ a day. Tell me if you’d like to use this service.
  • I have already reserved and confirmed all of the accommodation as shown in the description. But, COVID has affected many of the businesses along the Camino and if an albergue doesn’t open it’s doors in 2022 then I will exchange the accommodation for another of equal quality
  • Finally – these are difficult times and COVID restrictions maybe in place.

THE ABOVE PRICE INCLUDES :

• Assisting with booking luggage transfer (if you are not keen on carrying your backpack) allow approx 7€ per day.

• 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

• Zoom chats to meet the group and ask questions

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.

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