The Camino Frances is one of the main pilgrimage routes known collectively as The Way of St James, the others are the Camino Norte and Camino Portuges. There are also many stopping points along each route, and none are mandatory. The stopping points listed will vary for each peregrino, just as each peregrino's experience will be different. The route listings are by no means complete, but are an attempt to share information about the possibilities.
About the Camino Frances route
This route of the pilgrimage begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. Legend has it that St. James' body was taken to Galicia by boat from Jerusalem and carried inland to where Santiago de Compostela is now located. The pilgrimage is believed by some to be one of three pilgrimages for which the sins of the pilgrim will be forgiven.
In the Middle Age, the French Way or Camino Francés became the main pilgrimage route for those who wanted to go to Santiago to see St James’ grave, moved by their Christian faith. The French route became more popular and important until it was declared the most famous route worldwide, and the most important at an economic and social level. There are a lot of written references to the French Way since 1135. In Códice Calixtino on its Libro V we can find cultural, religious and touristic information about each of the stretches that separate St James’ grave from the main European capital cities of that time.
Total distance: 764kms
This walk from the French border to Santiago de Compostela on the main routes of the Camino Frances takes about a month. Speed hikers can make it in as little as two weeks (about the time bicyclists usually require), but that requires walking 40 km or more each day.
While most of the route is fairly gentle with only a few long ascents, some days can be challenging. Over the past 20 years a great deal of effort has gone into improving the walkers' route, and most of the route is now well marked, reasonably well surfaced, and separated from the increasingly heavy traffic on Spanish highways. If one begins in France, the route passes over two major mountain chains and several smaller ones. There is a joke that the Camino never meets a mountain it doesn't cross. While that is not really true, there are many ascents and descents, and some of the latter can be quite steep.
One needs to be in reasonably good condition and to have good hiking boots. If you wish to camp, you need to carry clothing and a sleeping bag in a comfortable backpack. But you can stay in hostels (called albergues or refugios) for low cost. Unless one plans to camp in the most crowded months of the summer season, it is unnecessary to carry camping and cooking gear.
Get to the starting points
Saint Jean Pied de Port
To get to this French city the best option is coming from Pamplona. You can get to Pamplona by plane, public transport or private car. Once you get to Pamplona you should take the N-153 to Saint Jean Pied de Port without leaving this road; also called D-933. You can also get there by bus thanks to Conda Bus Company. You can also get to Saint Jean Pied de Port coming from San Sebastián, San Juan de la Luz and using the GI-120 up to its link with the AP-8 (also known as A-63). Then you should go through D-918 and, finally, you will arrive there.
It is the second most used starting point in the French Way because most people want to avoid the previous stage. To get to Roncesvalles you should use the N-135, this road links France and Pamplona. If you want to go by public transport you can go by bus (Arteida Company) that links Roncesvalles and Pamplona every day, except Sundays and Holy Days. In summer, when there are more pilgrims, there are more buses and more bus frequency.
It is another place where you can start the way. There are many possibilities to get here, through AP-15 from San Sebastián, through N-111 from Logroño or through N-240 from Jaca. N-240 also takes you there from Vitoria, Galicia, and also from Madrid. If you are coming from France you can use roads N-121, N-138 and N-135.
You can also get there by train or bus. By bus from: Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Salou, Peñíscola, Gijón, Oviedo, Jaca, Irún, Jaén, Logroño, Madrid, Santander, Soria, Vigo, Zaragoza and also from many Andalusia cities. You can get to Pamplona by train from Alicante, Barcelona, Burgos, A Coruña, Irún, Hendaya, Lugo, Madrid, Ourense, Oviedo, Palencia or Vitoria.
You can also get to Pamplona by plane, located 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the city center; once you arrive you can take the bus.
Pedrafita de O Cebreiro
It is the entrance of the French Way in Galicia and one of the favorite places to start the way.
You can get to O Cebreiro coming through the A-6 or the N-6. If you are traveling in a public transport, you can get there by Alsa bus that links O Cebreiro with Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Lugo, Santiago and other cities. You can get there using a González de la Riva bus from Lugo and Ponferrada. Once in Piedrafita you should walk to O Cebreiro, approximately 4 kilometers (3 miles); you can also take a taxi that will cost you approximately 10 euros.
It is a common starting point, from here you have just 100 kilometers (62 miles) to get to Santiago de Compostela.
You can get to Sarria through the A-6, taking the exit number 488 and then going through the LU-546-Sarria. If you want to use public transport you can go from Madrid, A Coruña, Barcelona, Lugo, etc. There are lots of buses that go to Santiago and Lugo that stop in Sarria.
To earn the compostela (certificate of accomplishment) one needs to walk a minimum of 100 km or cycle at least 200 km. For walkers, that means in practical terms starting in the small city of Sarria, for it has transportation connections by bus and rail to other places in Spain.
This section is an attempt to encourage sharing practical information about travelling the Camino. Peregrinos (Spanish for "pilgrim" in English or "pelerin" in French) as they are called in Spain should feel free to use the information in this section and contribute to it. Albergues, restaurants and other accomodations all change with time, and this information should be updated accordingly.
Once on the Camino, the pilgrim has three duties: to sleep, to eat, and to walk. Those duties are made less onerous by paying attention to the quality of the path, a large number of bars, restaurants, and cafes, and the albergues.
Alternatively it is possible to walk the Camino using a number of different travel companies that take all the organisational work out (including organising your luggage transfer for you) leaving you free to enjoy the Camino in style.
The Camino Francés is divided in 33 stages and 764 km in length. The most important cities in this way are:
St Jean Pied De Port, France
This is the most popular starting point for peregrinos, as it is the first town over the border of France and Spain that is along the Camino. Peregrinos usually start here to be able to say they hiked or biked from France through the entirety of Spain.
This is the most popular starting point for Spanish peregrinos, as it is the first main town in Spain on the Camino Frances and just 27 km from St Jean Pied de Port. Peregrinos who start here usually regret it because they can't say there hiked over a mountain in the Pyrenees or say they hiked or biked from France through the entirety of Spain.
You may want to be aware of the scheduling of the running of the bulls when planning your trip.
The population of the city in 2008 was 153,736 while the metropolitan area included nearly 197,000 inhabitants. The city is a centre of the trade in Rioja wine, for which the area is noted, and produces wood, metal and textile products.
Burgos has a particular importance; the Cathedral of Burgos (declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984), seat of the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Burgos, the Las Huelgas Reales Monastery and Miraflores Charterhouse. A large number of churches, palaces and other buildings from the medieval age remain. The city is surrounded by the Fuentes Blancas and the Paseo de la Isla parks.
Leon's historical and architectural heritage, as well as the numerous festivals hosted throughout the year (particularly noteworthy are the Easter processions) and its location on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago, which is ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, make it a destination of both domestic and international tourism. Some of the city's most prominent historical buildings are the Cathedral, the finest example of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain, the Basilica of San Isidoro, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain and resting place of Leon's medieval monarchs, the Monastery of San Marcos, a prime example of plateresque and Renaissance Spanish architecture, and the Casa Botines, a Modernist creation of the architect Antoni Gaudí.
Astorga lies in the area of the Maragatos, a small ethnic and cultural community with distinctive customs and architecture. The town lies at the junction of the French route and Vía de la Plata route of the Way of St. James. Saint Turibius of Astorga was bishop of the city in the 5th century.
O Cebreiro, Spain
Pedrafita do Cebreiro is a municipality in the province of Lugo in Galicia, Spain. It borders the Lugo municipalities of As Nogais, Cervantes, Folgoso do Courel, Samos and Triacastela. Its eastern boundary borders the province of León. It belongs to the comarca of Os Ancares.
The French Way of the Way of St. James enters Galicia from León through the municipality and passes through the village of O Cebreiro. The village has some pallozas, including one that houses a small ethnographic museum. The Royal St. Mary's Church, also known as the Church of St. Benedict, was built in O Cebreiro in 1965–71 on the foundations of a pre-Romanesque church rediscovered in 1962
Points of Interest
Gothic temple, dating from the 13th century, stands out for the impressive spires of the towers
Built in the 9th century by order of the monarch Alfonso IX, it was built on Roman vestiges. It is currently a reference center for the study of the Middle Ages in Spain.
Dating back to the 11th century, it gives the landscape of Gares a unique beauty.
They are unique constructions of this municipality designed to safeguard and to conserve foods during the long winters of the zone.