The Camino Frances route, or French Way, is the best known of the Camino de Santiago routes to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in North West Spain. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the trail has been taken by pilgrims for many centuries.
As far as the 12th century, the Codex Calixtinus described what it was like to embark on a pilgrimage on the Camino Frances. Kings and Queens built bridges, castles and hospitals to protect pilgrims on their way to Santiago, cities and towns flourished and these same places we walk and admire today when we take on this wonderful journey.
You can read more about this on our blog: History of the Camino de Santiago.
On the Camino Frances, pilgrims will encounter that special ‘Spirit of the Camino’, its camaraderie and the history that connects modern day pilgrims with those who walked those same trails, hundreds of years ago.
Where does the Camino Frances start?
The French Basque town of St Jean Pied de Port by the foot of the Pyrenees is the starting point of the Camino Frances route.
This is also the place where other Camino de Santiago routes coming from further afield in France converge with the Camino Frances route.
While Saint Jean is the starting point of the Camino Frances, pilgrims can start their journey on the Camino de Santiago from any town, city or village along the trail.
According to statistics by the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela, taking into account Compostela certificates issued each year, the most popular starting point for Camino de Santiago pilgrims is the town of Sarria, in Galicia, on the Camino Frances route.
Other popular starting points for pilgrims walking the Camino Frances are Leon, O Cebreiro, Ponferrada, Roncesvalles, Astorga and Pamplona.
How long is the Camino Frances route?
The Camino Frances is 800kms or 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.
Walking an average distance of 20 to 25kms per day, it takes between 30 to 35 days to walk the full Camino Frances route. Taking a rest day every week or so is highly recommended.
Where do you sleep on the Camino Frances?
From budget to luxury, there are different types of accommodation available to pilgrims along the Camino Frances. As the Camino Frances is the most popular Camino de Santiago route, it is also the trail with the highest number of properties and accommodation options for pilgrims. Here’s a quick overview of the different options:
-Albergues – Hostels
Albergues or hostels on the Camino Frances can be public, run by volunteers known as ‘hospitaleros’, or private.
Bunk beds on public hostels are allocated on a first come first served basis giving priority to walkers. Dorms in private hostels can be booked in advance, making it ideal for school groups for instance.
-Pensiones and Hostales – Guesthouses
They are generally small family run guesthouses. Hostales are graded from 1 to 3 stars.
There is a wide variety of hotels, from 2 to 5 stars, along the Camino Frances, particularly in bigger towns and cities.
-Casas rurales – Country homes
Casas rurales are small boutique hotels located in rural settings, generally also family run and managed. The buildings tend to have a lot of character and are rehabilitated to very high standards: farmhouses, watermills, manor homes are some of the fantastic buildings transformed into casas rurales.
Castles, Monasteries and other heritage buildings are some of the impressive luxury hotels under the name of ‘Paradores’, which is a State owned company that combines the preservations of these historic buildings with welcoming visitors so we can enjoy these extraordinary surroundings.
The most famous Parador on the Camino Frances is the 5-star Hostal dos Reis Catolicos by Santiago Cathedral, which has welcomed pilgrims uninterrupted for over 500 years since it opened its doors in 1499.
Other Paradores on the Camino Frances include the Parador de Leon on the 16th century Monastery and Hospital of San Marcos; the two paradores in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the Parador de Villafranca del Bierzo.
What are the Camino Frances stages?
The Camino Frances can be divided into ‘stages’ or walking days, but bear in mind some of those longer walking days can be split into two, staying in towns in between.
Those stages can also be grouped into ‘sections’, which tend to coincide with towns that are easily accessible by public transport. Some pilgrims walk a section each year and continue where they left it the following year, while some pilgrims might start at different points along the route. Here’s a quick overview:
SAINT JEAN PIED DE PORT TO PAMPLONA
This is a short section but relatively challenging as you will be walking across the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles.
Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles – 24.2 kms
Roncesvalles to Zubiri – 21.4 kms
Zubiri to Pamplona – 20.4 kms
PAMPLONA TO LOGRONO
Pamplona to Puente de la Reina – 23.9 kms
Puente de la Reina to Estella-Lizarra – 21.6 kms
Estella-Lizarra to Los Arcos – 21.3 kms
Los Arcos to Logrono – 28 kms
LOGRONO TO BURGOS
Logrono to Najera – 29 kms
Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada – 21 kms
Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado – 22 kms
Belorado to San Juan de Ortega – 24 kms
San Juan de Ortega to Burgos – 25.8 kms
BURGOS TO LEON
Burgos to Hornillos del Camino – 21 kms
Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz – 19.9 kms
Castrojeriz to Fromista – 24.7 kms
Fromista to Carrion de los Condes – 18.8 kms
Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 17 kms
Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun – 23 kms
Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero – 17 kms
Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas – 19 kms
Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon – 19 kms
LEON TO PONFERRADA
Leon to Villar de Mazarife – 21 kms
Villar de Mazarife to Astorga – 31 kms
Astorga to Rabanal del Camino – 20 kms
Rabanal del Camino to Ponferrada – 32 kms
PONFERRADA TO SARRIA
Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo – 24 kms
Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias – 20kms
Herrerias to O Cebreiro – 9kms
O Cebreiro to Triacastela – 21kms
Triacastela to Sarria – 18kms
SARRIA TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Sarria to Portomarin – 22 kms
Portomarin to Palas de Rei – 24 kms
Palas de Rei to Arzua – 28 kms
Arzua to Pedrouzo – 19 kms
Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela – 19 kms
You can find more details about each of the Camino Frances stages here: CAMINO FRANCES FROM ST JEAN
What is the scenery like on the Camino Frances?
The Camino Frances takes pilgrims across the North of Spain and through very different regions over nearly 800kms. You will walk mountainous areas such as the Pyrenees, the Montes of Leon and O Cebreiro, but also the wine region of La Rioja, the vast plains of the Meseta with its old medieval villages and the green pastures of Galicia, as well as lively cities and towns.
As a long distance trail, you will get stretches that are very scenic and tranquil; and some stretches across suburbs into and out of cities that are just part of the journey. It is all part of the experience.
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