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Full Camino Frances: St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago  The Natural Adventure

Full Camino Frances: St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago

Overview

The Camino Frances is the most famous Camino route, walked by millions of pilgrims from all over the globe since the Middle Ages. But, more than just a pilgrimage, the Camino is a unique social and cultural experience and a truly memorable adventure.

Follow in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims, walking the full Camino Frances from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, where St James is believed to be buried. Completing the full Camino Frances, you will enjoy an incredible sense of achievement and build a wonderful camaraderie with your fellow pilgrims.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Saint Jean Pied de Port

Today you will arrive in the pretty town of St Jean Pied de Port, at the foot of the Pyrenees, in the French Basque Country, the starting point of the famous Camino Frances. Overnight in Saint Jean Pied de Port.

Day 2: St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles | 25 km

This is one of the most challenging but beautiful parts of the route, especially if you take the ‘Napoleon Route’ over the Roncesvalles Pass. 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! An alternative route is available along the valley for those who prefer a more gentle option.

Day 3: Roncesvalles to Zubiri | 21 km

From Roncesvalles, the Camino 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 bridge ‘Puente de la Rabia’ over the river Arga.

Day 4: Zubiri to Pamplona | 21 km

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 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.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Europa or similar in Pamplona

Day 5: Pamplona to Puente de la Reina | 24 km

From Pamplona, you will leave this beautiful city behind you as 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-degree 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.

  • Walking for the day: 24 km, 5-6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Bidean or similar in Puente de la Reina

Day 6: Puente la Reina to Estella | 22 km

From Puente de la Reina, the Camino de Santiago route continues along peaceful tracks for most of the day to Estella. You will walk along rolling farmland, passing small towns and villages nestled among olive groves, cereal crops and vineyards. Estella-Lizarra is your finish point for today, a nice historic town with plenty to do and see.

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Yerri or similar in Estella

Day 7: Estella to Los Arcos | 21 km

From Estella, your Camino journey continues to the town of Los Arcos. Just outside Estella, you will find Bodegas Irache, the Wine Museum and its free wine fountain; stop for a rest and sip of the local Rioja! Today, most of your walk will be along nice tracks, among vineyards, olive trees, and cereal fields. From Villamayor de Monjardín to Los Arcos, you will cover approximately 12 km without passing a single village, so make sure you have plenty of water and a few snacks.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Monaco or similar in Los Arcos

Day 8: Los Arcos to Logroño | 28 km

From Los Arcos, you will continue your Camino on a very enjoyable trail across rolling countryside, leaving Navarra and entering the world-famous winemaking La Rioja region. You will pass the dramatic ruins of Clavijo Castle before entering the city of Logroño, capital of La Rioja and home to some of the best tapas scenes on the Camino. Head for Calle Laurel to sample the local Rioja-style specialities.

  • Walking for the day: 28 km, 7-8 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Murrieta or similar in Logroño

Day 9: Logroño to Nájera | 29 km

From Logroño, you can expect a long day, but it should not be too challenging. Leave Logroño by the old pilgrims’ gate ‘Puerta del Camino’. The first part of the day takes you out of the city, but you will eventually get back to the vineyards of La Rioja. Your first stop is Navarrete, a 12th-century town built by the ‘Knights of the Holy Sepulchre’. You will finish the day in Nájera, another medieval town with a history with a strong link to the Camino, where you will enjoy get great panoramic views of the whole region.

Day 10: Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada | 21 km

After your night in Nájera, your Camino takes you along some quiet country roads with the La Demanda Mountain to the South. You will pass the small village of Azofra, dedicated to the La Rioja patron: La Virgen de Valvanera. Azofra is also the starting point for the ‘Monasteries route’, off the Camino de Santiago route, but it is worth visiting if you have additional days, particularly the Yuso and Suso monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla, considered the birthplace of the Spanish language. You will finally arrive in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a town with a beautiful Medieval centre.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Pedro Primero or similar in Santo Domingo

Day 11: Santo Domingo to Belorado | 22 km

From Santo Domingo de la Calzada, you will be walking on uneven terrain through woodland and then crop fields. Part of today’s trail runs parallel to busy main roads. As you get closer to Belorado, you will start catching a glimpse of the Oca Mountains, the last mountain range before the Meseta (the central Spanish Plateau). Your stop for the night is Belorado, a small and pleasant village in the Burgos province. Visit the Santa María Church, where you will find images of St James.

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Casa Verdeancho or similar in Belorado

Day 12: Belorado to Atapuerca | 30 km

From Belorado, most of your journey today will be along earthen tracks and peaceful trails on your way to the little town of Villafranca Montes de Oca; the Camino weaves its way through gorgeous woodlands of fragrant oak and pines. Next, pass through the hamlet of San Juan de Ortega, where you can visit its famous mausoleum before continuing onto Atapuerca, famous for its UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric caves where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known hominins in Western Europe have been found.

On request: You can split this long day into two stages of 11 km and 18 km with an overnight in Villafranca Montes de Oca.

  • Walking for the day: 30 km, 6-7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Papasol or similar in Atapuerca

Day 13: Atapuerca to Burgos | 20 km

After your night in Atapuerca, you will continue following your Camino trail to the town of Burgos. Take some time to explore Burgos: admire the beauty of its historic centre, enjoy a stroll along the magnificent promenade by the river and taste delicious local tapas in the old town. Burgos has been referred to as the Gothic capital of Spain, and the city’s cathedral is probably one of the most impressive in the country.

  • Walking for the day: 20 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Cordon or similar in Burgos

Day 14: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino | 21 km

Take some time to explore Burgos: admire the beauty of its historic centre, enjoy a stroll along the magnificent promenade by the river and taste delicious local tapas in the old town. Burgos has been referred to as the Gothic capital of Spain, and the city’s cathedral is probably one of the most impressive in the country. After your night in Burgos, your Camino will continue along earthen tracks, among the immense crop fields of the region. On your way to Hornillos del Camino, you will cross small woods of holm oak and conifers, but in general, there is little shade along this stretch of the Camino de Santiago, so make sure you take enough water with you, as well as hat and sun cream. Hornillos del Camino, with only 70 inhabitants, is a classic Camino village of medieval origin.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel La Consulta de Isar or similar in Hornillos

Day 15: Hornillos to Castrojeriz | 20 km

From Hornillos del Camino, you will continue walking in the peaceful vastness of the Meseta, with only nature and huge crop fields around you. After leaving Hornillos, the Camino de Santiago gradually climbs up a plateau before descending to the valley of the River Bol and the pretty town of Castrojeriz. In Castrojeriz, you can visit the 9th-century hilltop castle, recently reopened to visitors.

Day 16: Castrojeriz to Frómista | 25 km

From Castrojeriz, your Camino will leave the plains of the Burgos region and reach the highest point of the Meseta: Alto Mosterales. After crossing the Pisuerga River, you will enter the Palencia province and the vast plains of ‘Tierra de Campos’, the Land of Fields, and you will soon understand why. Stop to visit the 14th-century church ‘La Asunción’ in Boadilla, famous for its Gothic architecture and the gorgeous carved baptismal font. Approaching Frómista, you will walk along a stretch of the Canal de Castilla, an 18th-century canal.

  • Walking for the day: 25 km, 6 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel San Martin or similar in Frómista

Day 17: Frómista to Carrión de Los Condes | 19 km

Visit the beautiful 11th century Church of St Martin in Frómista. After your night in the town, your Camino trail takes you along a track parallel to the road, but you can take an alternative, more scenic route at Población de Campos, via Villovieco, along the peaceful banks of the Ucieza River. You will rejoin the Camino at Villalcázar de Sirga and finish your day’s walk at Carrión de Los Condes.

  • Walking for the day: 19 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel La Corte or similar in Carrión de Los Condes

Day 18: Carrión to Calzadilla de la Cueza | 17 km

After your night in Carrion de Los Condes, visit the impressive San Zoilo Monastery. Then, for 13 km, your Camino will follow natural tracks along the old Roman road called ‘Via Aquitania’ and along a stretch of the original paved road. The ‘Via Aquitania’ used to link Bordeaux and Astorga and was frequently used by French pilgrims on their way to Santiago.

  • Walking for the day: 17 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Camino Real or similar in Calzadilla de la Cueza

Day 19: Calzadilla to Sahagún | 22 km

After your night in Calzadilla de la Cueza, your Camino today is full of ‘cuezas’ or little valleys, so parts of the walk may be slightly tougher than the previous days. The Camino route moves away from the road and continues along nice peaceful oak woods before emerging to cereal fields. You will cross the river Valderaduey into the León province and head to Sahagún, where the church of San Lorenzo is well worth a visit.

Day 20: Sahagún to El Burgo Ranero | 18 km

From Sahagún, the Camino continues across cereal and grain crops, taking pilgrims to the plateau of León. Today, you will pass the pretty village of Reliegos on your way to El Burgo Ranero. Also, on this section of the Camino, you will have the opportunity to take the ‘Vía Traiana’, another trail to Santiago, starting in Bordeaux.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Piedras Blancas or similar in El Burgo Ranero

Day 21: El Burgo to Mansilla de las Mulas | 19 km

From El Burgo Ranero, an easy walk awaits you today. Your path continues through the village of Reliegos before descending slowly into the town of Mansilla de las Mulas.

  • Walking for the day: 19 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation: Albergueria del Camino or similar in Mansilla de las Mulas

Day 22: Mansilla to León | 19 km

From Mansilla de las Mulas, you will walk past crop fields before spotting the first signs of industrial activity further on as you approach the city of León. From Portillo Hill onwards, you will be able to spot the beautiful city of León ahead.

  • Walking for the day: 19 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Conde Luna or similar in León

Day 23: León to Villadangos | 20 km

After your night in León, your Camino will continue through the beautiful Spanish countryside. The Camino from León is pretty flat and easy. You will walk along crop fields, and you will see pretty apple orchards along the way to Villadangos.

  • Walking for the day: 20 km, 4-5 hours
  • Accommodation: A family-run hotel in Villadangos

Day 24: Villadangos to Astorga | 28 km

From Mazarife, with the suburbs of León city long behind you, you will start a pretty hike along footpaths and dirt tracks towards one of the prettiest villages on the Camino: Hospital de Órbigo, where you will cross the famous and picturesque ‘Puente de Órbigo’ bridge, before continuing onto Astorga.

  • Walking for the day: 28 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel Astur Plaza or similar in Astorga

Day 25: Astorga to Foncebadón | 26 km

From the lovely city of Astorga, you will gradually make your way up towards the stunning León Mountains and the lush Bierzo region, taking paths surrounded by broom, heather and oak trees.

  • Walking for the day: 26 km, 6 hours
  • Accommodation: A family-run hotel in Foncebadón

Day 26: Foncebadón to Ponferrada | 27 km

Today is one of the most rewarding days ahead on the Camino as it climbs to Mount Irago. Stop at the Iron Cross on top of the mountain, one of the most special places on the French Way, where you can place a memento and visit the St James chapel before descending to the lush area of El Bierzo. On your way to Ponferrada, pass through the lovely town of Molinaseca. Once in Ponferrada, you should explore the old town, its impressive 12th century Templars Castle, and make sure you try the local specialities, such as botillo and some of Spain’s most delicious cured meats.

  • Walking for the day: 27 km, 7 hours
  • Accommodation: Hotel El Castillo or similar in Ponferrada

Day 27: Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo | 24 km

After your night in Ponferrada, the Camino takes you across the heart of the lush region of El Bierzo, nestled in the mountains. Take the opportunity to taste the local delicious cherries if you are travelling in summer, exquisite cured meats and other regional delicacies. In Villafranca, known as ‘the little Compostela’, visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years.

  • Walking for the day: 24 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Casa La Llave Rural or similar in Villafranca del Bierzo

Day 28: Villafranca to Vega de Valcarce| 16 km

After your night in Ponferrada, the Camino takes you across the heart of the lush region of El Bierzo, nestled in the mountains. Take the opportunity to taste the local delicious cherries if you are travelling in summer, exquisite cured meats and other regional delicacies. In Villafranca, known as ‘the little Compostela’, visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years.

  • Walking for the day: 16 km, 4 hours
  • Accommodation: A family-run hotel in Vega de Valcarce

Day 29: Vega to O Cebreiro | 12 km

After your night in Villafranca, visit the garden of the Iglesia de Santiago, St James Church. The church has a ‘Forgiveness Gate’, Puerta del Perdón, that only opens during Holy Years. Your route passes by the ranges of ‘Os Ancares’ and ‘Serra do Courel’, and it should be noted that this stage to O Cebreiro holds a steep climb in only a few kilometres, but the views are truly spectacular.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 3 hours
  • Accommodation: Casa Rural Carolo or similar in O Cebreiro

Day 30: O Cebreiro to Triacastela | 21 km

From the village of O Cebreiro, you will walk the ‘Serra de Ranadoiro’ (Ranadoiro Mountains) and reach Alto do Poio where you will encounter the pilgrim statue and enjoy fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. From the Alto, you will start descending into the village of Triacastela.

  • Walking for the day: 21 km, 5 hours
  • Accommodation: Complexo Xacobeo or similar in Triacastela

Day 31: Triacastela to Sarria | 18 km

From Triacastela, you have the choice of two Camino options; the ‘San Xil’ Camino offers scenery that will lift your spirits. It has many ‘corredoiras’ (narrow forest tracks) with paved pathways through native Galician oak woods. If you wish to visit the impressive Samos Monastery, you will walk across the valley of the river Ouribio to reach Samos and continue to reach the town of Sarria.

Day 32: Sarria to Portomarín | 22 km

Setting off for Portomarin, you pass Sarria Castle, walking mainly along small country roads and a few pathways. Most of the roads are tree-lined and will provide good shade in the sun. There are hamlets every kilometre or so. Visit the beautiful Romanesque church in the village of Barbadelo.

Day 33: Portomarín to Palas de Rei | 25 km

Walk downhill along Portomarin’s main street; leaving Palas de Rei, the Camino crosses the Minho river and steadily climbs upwards before passing through Gonzar and Castromaior, where the tiny Romanesque Church of Santa Maria is situated. Continue along country roads edged by bright yellow gorse, pine and oak trees to reach the high point of today’s walk at Sierra de Ligonde (750 m), then descend to the old hamlet of Ligonde, once a popular resting point along the Camino.

Day 34: Palas de Rei to Melide| 14 km

Hike in the direction of Campo dos Romeiros, an important meeting point for pilgrims, then on to Leboreiro, a pleasant hike through lush forests to finally cross a medieval bridge to reach the Melide river. Melide is where the Camino Primitivo merges with the Camino Frances.

  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 3 hours
  • Overnight in hotel in Melide, breakfast included

Day 35: Melide to Arzúa | 15 km

Much of the day is shaded and shortly after Melide, you will walk through oak and eucalyptus forests. The Camino crosses several streams and follows a forest track bringing you to the village of Boente and the church of Santiago. Next is the pretty medieval hamlet of Ribadiso and finally the town of Arzúa, famous for its local cheese where you should visit the churches of Santa María and A Magdalena.

Day 36: Arzua – A Rua | 19 km

Upon leaving Arzua, perhaps pick up some delicious cheese for lunch; then continue through the old quarter of the town as the walk leads past sturdy oak trees, which give way to lush meadows.  Visit the medieval shrine at Santa Irene and the Baroque fountain of healing waters. While not as spectacular as on the previous day, today’s walk will enable you to make many new friends among the pilgrims going to Santiago.

  • Walking for the day: 19.3 km, 4-5 hours, ↑200 m ↓225 m
  • Overnight in a country hotel, breakfast included

Day 37: A Rua – Santiago de Compostela | 19 km

Your final stage! You will walk mostly through rural settings and eucalyptus groves. At Monte del Gozo, pilgrims historically make one last stop at the spring in Lavacolla to wash face and feet before presenting themselves before the Saint. Enter the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela and relish the end of your journey at the Cathedral.

  • Walking for the day: 19.4 km, 5 hours, ↑175 m ↓175 m
  • Overnight in Lux Santiago or a similar in Santiago de Compostela, breakfast included

Day 38: Departure

Arrange extra nights in Santiago or enjoy breakfast and then make your way to Santiago Airport. If you have time, explore the old city of Santiago de Compostela before you leave.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming country inns and comfortable hotels (ranging from 1-star to 3-star), located close to the Camino route. You will always have a private room and an en-suite (attached) bathroom. The hotel in Santiago de Compostela is 1-star but located in Santiago de Compostela’s historic centre and in front of the Cathedral, and it has been welcoming pilgrims since the late 16th c. The accommodation places have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. Below you can see some samples, but please note that the Camino is a very popular destination. Therefore, the hotels in your final booking confirmation may be different from those pictured below. Extra nights can be booked at any of the accommodations along the way.

Click to view default hotels

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is included (usually a simple buffet breakfast/coffee and toast/bread/croissant) on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Where no dinner is included, most places serve hearty pilgrim menus – you can get a 3-course dinner including wine and water for about GBP 10-15 pp.

Difficulty & terrain

This walk is graded moderate because walking for so many days in a row in itself is a challenge and there are also a couple of longer days (read more about difficulty grades). Bearing this in mind, ascents and descents are fairly small and the terrain is mostly easy. You will follow a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths. The routes are perfectly waymarked with yellow painted arrows and a yellow shell on a blue background, and the itinerary is very easy to follow. We will provide you with maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.

When to go

This trip is available to depart from 1 March till 15 November; the best months to visit are April – June and September – October, as in the summer months it may become too hot (and crowded). The flexibility of self guided walking holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice about France and Spain

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By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this tour is Biarritz; alternatively, you can fly to San Sebastian. The recommended departure airport is Santiago de Compostela. An alternative departure airport is A Coruña.

By train or bus

Arrival in St Jean: From Biarritz, you should take the bus from outside the airport to Bayonne rail station (20 min) and then from there take the mountain railway up to St Jean (1.5 hours) which you can book in advance with SNCF.

Departure from Santiago: There is a shuttle bus to the airport of Santiago from the centre of Santiago with different stops in the city (check www.empresafreire.com) or you can book a private transfer with us.

Inclusions

Included

  • 37 nights in private en-suite rooms
  • 37 breakfasts
  • Maps
  • Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (1 pc up to 20 kg per person)
  • Galician cheese tasting in Santiago (Monday to Saturday)
  • Guided Tour in Santiago de Compostela (old town)
  • Pilgrim pass and scallop
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes & entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room / single use of a double room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights

Compostela/Pilgrims Passport

You need to get your passport stamped in churches, restaurants or hotels along the way. At the end of the walk in Santiago de Compostela, you can obtain your Compostela Certificate (only if you have walked the last 100 km, finishing in Santiago).

Important: Due to the large influx of pilgrims during summer, and to avoid long waiting times, the Pilgrim Office in Santiago has installed a numbered ticket system for issuing pilgrim certificates (the Compostela). This new system allows pilgrims to collect their tickets and, using a QR Code, to check the status of the queue and estimated waiting time to obtain the Compostela. However, the number of tickets per day is limited, so on days with high numbers of pilgrims arriving, there is a possibility that not all pilgrims will be able to collect their certificate on the day of arrival and will have to return for it on the following morning.

Therefore, if obtaining a pilgrim certificate is important to you, and if you plan to undertake the Camino between April 15th and October 15th, we recommend that you arrange the return travel in such a way that you will be in Santiago de Compostela during the morning after your arrival. Better still, we encourage you to book a second night in Santiago so that you can collect the certificate without rushing and enjoy the charms of the city!

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