Camino Francés – Camino de Santiago

Forrest Mallard

The French Way (Camino Francés) and the Routes of Northern Spain are the courses which are listed in the World Heritage List by UNESCO.






Camino Francés

Camino de Santiago

St Jean-Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela
(769 km)

Camino de Santiago Background

One of the greatest characteristics of the Way of St. James is that of uniting people of quite different generations, nationalities and motives. Besides a spiritual and religious motivation there can be a great many other reasons for walking the path which is over 1,000 years old: thanks to excellent local services with well marked paths and a dense network of overnight accommodation on offer, the Way of St. James is the ideal long distance walk for anyone who would like to experience for the first time the adventure of a long journey on foot. Its architectural and cultural monuments make it a unique passage through the history of Spain.

Connoisseurs of Spain as well as newcomers can gain insights into another unfamiliar area of Spain that has absolutely nothing in common with the clichés of flamenco, bull fighting, paella and beaches. The path offers you some interesting encounters with nature whether in the mountain region of the Pyrenees, along the endless barren wastes of the Castilian plateau, or in green Galicia right up to the bleak Atlantic coast Not to be forgotten are the meetings and exchanges with fellow hikers who all have the same goal, but quite different reasons for achieving it.

Equipment Needed

Footwear, clothing and rucksack should be carefully chosen and prepared.

After all, you will be carrying everything about your person for about 770km or more, i.e. about 190 hours or in other words, eight full days!

Take advice from a specialist shop when buying your footwear and be sure not to set off with hiking boots that have not yet been walked in. If, when wearing them in, you already experience some problems, consider buying new boots or if the pain persists, even making a visit to an orthopedic doctor. Boots that are too old are to be avoided as well as they will probably no longer withstand the strain. Special trekking socks are a good idea for keeping your feet dry.

Clothing should not be new either, to avoid rubbing. Specialist light walking gear that can breathe is ideal. Special hiking trousers with legs that can be zipped off are practical and weight saving. Choosing a rucksack in consultation with a specialist is also worthwhile. Size and shape should be determined by your objective. When packing, consider carefully what you really need and what you don’t. A weight between nine and eleven kilos is ideal

If you have no previous experience of hiking lengthy distances with a rucksack, you should try out the weight of the packed rucksack and its effects on the shoulders, ankles and feet by going on a trial hike.

Opinions are divided as to whether Nordic walking poles are a good idea. If you can’t do without them, you should put rubber stoppers on the metal ends out of regard for fellow pilgrims to avoid making a noise on tarmac.

Where do you sleep?
The Camino Albergues Explained

The network of pilgrim hostels (in Spanish albergue/refugio/hospital de peregrinos) is becoming more and more dense. Together with hostels run by religious institutions or societies, and some community run ones, there’s an increasing number of private hostels describing themselves as tourist hostels (Spanish Albergue Turistico) which, especially outside the pilgrim season, also accept non-pilgrims. On offer is a range of basic sleeping hostels to classy hostels with a comprehensive range of equipment (washing machine, drier, internet, kitchen etc.). Amongst those people running the hostels you will find many former pilgrims to whom the care of pilgrims is a matter of the heart, but also normal business people who have a rather more commercial focus. Therefore many new and modern hostels have emerged which leave nothing to be desired as regards the furnishings, space (more and more often with double and single rooms at hotel prices too) and cleanliness, but which unfortunately lack something in atmosphere. In other words: you can be very comfortable even in a basic hostel provided there is the opportunity to enjoy the harmonious company of other pilgrims with mutual tolerance and respect.

The prices for an overnight stay in 2012 were between 5 and 15 . Some hostels are financed by voluntary contributions (donativos) which should reflect the usual prices for accommodation. In Navarra and Castilla y Léon the grading of pilgrim huts (eg. the number of beds – mostly bunk beds, in Spanish ‘litera’ -space per pilgrim) and the prices are now regulated by law.

In Castilla y Léon insignia with one to three shells denote the following categories: non-profit making hostels (sin ánimo de lucro) with a basic standard have one shell and are not allowed to charge more than 5 (rather misleading description by the legislator as donativo – donations). Hostels with a higher standard (for example, a bit more space per person) have two or three shells and can set their prices correspondingly higher.

Particularly municipal and religious hostels allow only one overnight accommodation unless there are health problems. Private (tourist) hostels are often not so strict and more than one night is possible, for example, in Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre. As a rule, larger groups of travelers or pilgrims with accompanying transport are not accepted, especially at peak times, and pilgrims on foot are not always happy to welcome these ‘cheats’. Many private hostels offer reservations which can be particularly useful on the last 100km.

Most of the hostels open in the afternoon (possible change to opening times), and there should be no noise after 22/23.00. Should you want to get up early in the morning, so as not to disturb the other pilgrims, pack your bags as far possible in advance and put them in a convenient place so that you will be able to leave the dormitory quickly and quietly.

Pilgrim hostels are generally safe, nevertheless you are advised never to leave any valuables lying about (mobile phones, cameras, personal documents) and on the whole to carry only the necessary cash with you. Places with banks and cash dispensers are indicated in this guide.

History of The French Way

This route, which crosses the north of the Iberian Peninsula, became a set itinerary in the late XIth century thanks to the efforts of monarchs like Sancho III the Greater and Sancho Ramirez de Navarra y Aragon. The main routes of the Camino Frances in France and Spain were described in detail around 1135 in Codex Calixtinus, an essential book on Jacobean cultural tradition. This book is a bona-fide medieval guide describing the pilgrimage to Santiago. It enumerates the different stretches of the French Way from the lands of Gaul and offers detailed information on the sanctuaries found along the camino, including comments on the hospitality, the people, the food, natural springs, local customs etc.

This guide, attributed to the French cleric, Aymeric Picaud, reveals the political and religious interest that was behind promoting the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela and making it easily accessible, yet it also bears testimony to the demand for this type of information.

Over the centuries and with the political and religious avatars in Europe, the physical route of the Camino Frances lost the clout it once had. It was not until the end of the 19th century that a new interest in Jacobean matters arose, continuing into the second half of the 20th century, with the progressive recuperation of the old itinerary, internationally recognized as one of the historical symbols of European unity.

Camino Route Waymarking

The waymarking along the route is, in general, extremely good. In France, the route from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port is part of the long-distance GR65 footpath, and is marked by the red and white flash of the GR network.

There are separate red and white to indicate changes of direction, and a red line crossed with a white one to indicate that you have taken the wrong turning. In Spain, the official mark is the stylized scallop shell on a blue background, which is often placed on the walls of houses well above eye level to indicate the route through villages and towns. In open country one frequently encounters these signs are often found embedded in small concrete pillars.

There are also signboards with this mark at the top, a pedestrian sign in the middle, and a direction arrow at the bottom; these are much used at road crossings. The red and white GR flashes are also found from time to time in Spain. However, the most common mark is a yellow arrow, which may be painted on trees, rocks, kerbstones, storm water gutters etc. Sometimes a yellow stripe is painted on trees as a continuation marker for reassurance. Some other waymarks incorporating the scallop shell can be found in the photographs.

Camino Francés Stages

01 – Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port > Roncesvalles – 24.2km
02 – Roncesvalles > Zubiri – 21.4km
03 – Zubiri > Pamplona – 20.4km
04 – Pamplona > Puente de la Reina – 23.9km
05 – Puente de la Reina > Estella – 21.6
06 – Estella > Los Arcos – 21.3km
07 – Los Arcos > Logroño – 27.6km
08 – Logroño > Nájera – 26.2km
09 – Nájera > Santo Domingo de La Calzada – 20.7km
10 – Santo Domingo de La Calzada – Belorado – 22km
11 – Belorado > San Juan de Ortega – 23.9km
12 – San Juan de Ortega > Burgos – 25.8km
13 – Burgos > Hornillos del Camino – 21km
14 – Hornillos del Camino > Castrojeriz – 19.9km
15 – Castrojeriz > Frómista – 18.8km
16 – Frómista > Carrión de los Condes – 18.8km
17 – Carrión de los Condes > Terradillos de los templarios – 26.3km
18 – Terradillos de los templarios > Bercianos del Real Camino – 23.2km
19 – Bercianos del Real Camino > Mansilla de las Mulas – 26.3km
20 – Mansilla de las Mulas > León – 18.5km
21 – León > San Martín del Camino – 24.6km
22 – San Martín del Camino > Astorga – 23.7km
23 – Astorga > Foncebadón – 25.8km
24 – Foncebadón > Ponferrada – 26.8km
25 – Ponferrada > Villafranca – 24.2km
26 – Villafranca > O Cebreiro – 27.8km
27 – O Cebreiro > Triacastela – 20.8km
28 – Triacastela > Sarria – 18.4km
29 – Sarria > Portomarín – 22.2km
30 – Portomarín > Palas de Rei – 24.8km
31 – Palas de Rei > Arzúa – 28.5km
32 – Arzúa > Pedrouzo – 19.3km
33 – Pedrouzo > Santiago de Compostela – 19.4km

Camino de Santiago Routes

Known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups.

Camino Francés
Camino Portuguese
Camino del Norté
Le Puy Camino
– Finisterre Camino
– Arles Camino
– Geneva Camino
– Camino Catalán
Camino Mozarabe
– Chemin de Paris et de Tours
– Camino Inglés
– Camino to Fátima
Via De La Plata
– Camino Primitivo
– Vezelay Camino
– Via Appia
– Cluny Camino


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