French Way

33 Etapas | 768 km

The route of Camino de Santiago par excellence

This is the most internationally recognised itinerary with the best historical tradition, where most of the medieval pilgrimage routes converge.

Un gran fenómeno social, cultural y religioso que acogió a lo largo de los siglos a grandes reyes, princesas, nobles, templarios, caballeros, pobres y devotos provenientes de toda la cristiandad para arrodillarse ante la tumba del Apóstol Santiago.

Our Trips to the French Way of Santiago

Information on the French Way

Why choose the French Way?

The French Way is the route of the Camino de Santiago par excellence. It is the most internationally recognized itinerary and with the greatest historical tradition, where most of the medieval pilgrimage routes converge. A road that is characterized not only by its contrasts and variety of landscapes, but also by its impressive wealth of monuments. A great social, cultural and religious phenomenon that welcomed over the centuries great kings, princesses, nobles, Templars, knights, poor and devotees from all over Christendom to kneel at the tomb of the Apostle St. James.

If you decide to do the French route, you will enjoy the green mountains of Navarre, the vineyards of La Rioja, the immense oceans of cereal fields of the Castilian steppe and the green valley of El Bierzo to end up immersing yourself in the most authentic and rural Galicia until you reach Santiago de Compostela. A route that will also give you the chance to visit impressive monuments, castles, bridges, as well as important Jacobean cities that were marked forever with the signs of the pilgrim.

What to see and do on the French Way of Saint James?

  • Royal Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles
  • Romanesque Bridge of Puente La Reina
  • Monastery of Santa María la Real in Nájera
  • Burgos Cathedral
  • Church of San Martín de Frómista
  • Cathedral of León
  • Episcopal Palace of Astorga
  • Templar Castle of Ponferrada
  • Ethnographic group of O Cebreiro
  • Benedictine Monastery of Samos
  • Ruins of the ancient village of Portomarín
  • Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Where to start the French Route?

From Saint Jean Pied de Port or Roncesvalles

Nowadays the starting point of the French Way can be considered both Saint Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles, so both options are perfect if you want to do this complete route.

Saint Jean Pied de Port, situated on the border with France, is the second most popular starting point for pilgrims. It’s worth adding an extra day to your trip to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Pyrenees and cross the border in the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte himself. The main difficulty of this first stage are the slopes, we will accumulate no less than 1,258 meters of positive slope and 485 meters of negative slope, so it is necessary to have a good physical condition or take the variant by Valcarlos.

In Spanish territory, 24 kilometres from Saint Jean Pied de Port, we find the small village of Roncesvalles (Orreaga). It is one of the great landmarks of the Camino de Santiago and the starting point most used by pilgrims who make this French Way of St. James in its entirety. A magical town where time seems to have stopped, which preserves intact the pilgrim spirit and a deep magnetism.

Desde Logroño

From Logroño to Santiago de Compostela you will travel a distance of just over 600 kilometres, for which you will need approximately 27 days. The stages of the French Route from the capital of La Rioja are characterized by plains surrounded by fields of crops and famous vineyards. With a notable orographic change in the Montes de Oca, already in the vicinity of Burgos.

Desde Burgos

From Burgos you will go on pilgrimage for 22 days, a total of 488 kilometres until you reach Santiago de Compostela. This is one of the most authentic stretches, which still preserves the purest essence of the Jacobean route. A path for reflection that invites you to lose yourself in the vast plains of cereal fields and solitary landscapes of the Castilian steppe.

From León

León is the perfect city to start the French Way if you have 15 days, in which you will cover 308 kilometres. A fascinating journey through beautiful landscapes such as the Montes de León and the green valley of El Bierzo. With each step you will discover small medieval villages, Templar castles, imposing monuments and cathedrals, until you get into the most authentic rural Galicia.

From O Cebreiro

The small and unique village of O Cebreiro, on the border of Galicia and Castilla y León, is one of the favourite places for pilgrims to start the French Way. From here you can cover the entire Galician section of this Jacobean route in just 9 days, adding up to a total of 150 kilometres until you reach the Cathedral of Santiago.

The stages are characterized by their shady paths, which run through centuries-old forests, small villages and green pastures that show the idiosyncrasy and unique culture of the inhabitants of this Autonomous Community.

Desde Sarria

The town of Sarria is the busiest place for pilgrims wishing to make the last stretch of the French Way. From this point, you will walk the last 100 kilometres of the French Way, the minimum distance to obtain the Compostela. You will only need one week to complete it.

Sarria is loved and hated in equal parts, and it is from here that the number of pilgrims increases considerably in the summer months. You will find all kinds of services, accommodation, laundries, bars, restaurants, as well as shops and souvenir shops. In short, the atmosphere you will find in these stages is much more lively than in any other part of the French Way.

The perfect route for those who are doing the Camino de Santiago for the first time. It is ideal to meet people and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Galician countryside.

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Stages of the French Way of Santiago

History of the French Route

We briefly review the origins of the Camino de Santiago. We are situated in the years 41 and 44 after Christ. After the death of St. James the Apostle, his remains were taken by boat from Jerusalem to Iria Flavia, in Galicia. Much later, in the year 812, a very important discovery was made, the tomb of the Apostle.

The news spread like wildfire throughout Europe, the remains of the Apostle rested in a place called “Field of Stars”, known as Compostela. An event that became a symbol of Christianity in the face of the Muslim occupation of the time.
Throughout the 11th century, the influx of pilgrims intensified and the kings began an important organisational work to facilitate the transit and safety of the pilgrims.

In 1135 it appears in the Codex Calixtinus, an authentic medieval guide of the pilgrimage to Santiago. It describes the French Way through 16 stages, from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela and informs walkers of the services they will find along the route: fountains, food, sanctuaries, hospitals, local customs.

Time of decadence

In the last centuries of the Middle Ages, pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela experienced a great decline. The European wars, the Black Death and the Schism in the Christian world in 1378 caused the number of walkers to decrease considerably.
From the 16th century onwards, the number of pilgrims continued to decrease until it practically disappeared after the disentailment of Mendizábal, which led to the extinction of the hospitality that had been practised until then.

Resurgence

From the middle of the 20th century onwards, different initiatives began to emerge aimed at recovering the Way from oblivion. Thanks to a new interest of the administrations, the Pope’s visits to Santiago in the 80s, the emergence of multiple associations and brotherhoods and the declaration of World Heritage in 1987, the Way of St. James rose from decadence to become the most important pilgrimage in the Western world.
We cannot forget the figure of one of the great promoters of the revival of modern pilgrimages on the French route, the parish priest of O Cebreiro, Elías Valiña.

At the end of the 70s, Elías began to mark the French Way of St. James with yellow arrows, the current symbol of the Jacobean route. An anecdote about the parish priest in the Pyrenees became very famous. After the Guardia Civil stopped him with a pot of yellow paint in his hand drawing the striking arrows, they asked him what he was doing. His answer was “Preparing a great invasion from France”, with which he became a visionary.

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