The Camino de Santiago is one of the most important pilgrimage routes in the world. Its origin goes back to medieval times, specifically to the 8th century, when the hermit Pelayo found the remains of the apostle St. James in “Campus Stellae”, today known as Santiago de Compostela.

You can imagine the commotion caused by this discovery in a society as religious as that of the Middle Ages. People from all over Europe set out on pilgrimage, forming the different Jacobean routes that reach us today. In this post we tell you everything about the French Way, one of the most popular pilgrimage routes.

History of the French Way

The history of the French Way goes back to medieval times. It is linked to the development of the Romanesque period linked to the rise of the Order of Cluny in France and the advance of the Reconquest in the Iberian Peninsula.

The first pilgrimage route that existed was the Primitive Route, which started in Oviedo and passed through Lugo to reach Santiago. At that time, the power was in Oviedo, but with the passing of time and the advance of the Reconquest against the Arabs, the power was progressively tilted towards the south. León gained weight and importance, and the French route became the most important of all.

The French route served as a motor for the social, cultural and economic development of the Peninsula. Thanks to this route, European advances arrived in our territory through France. Furthermore, the route of the French route has left behind the best examples of Romanesque and Gothic art in our country. Such is the quality and quantity of its heritage that this route was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Peregrinas llegando a un albergue

Itinerary of the French Way

The French way has a total distance of 773 kilometres. You shoud know, official route begins in Saint Jean Pied du Port (France) and ends in the magnificent Obradoiro square in Santiago de Compostela.

The route is made up of a total of 31 stages that cross the territories of France, Navarre, La Rioja, Castile and Leon and Galicia. Some of the most emblematic stages are the first, from Saint Jean Pied du Port to Roncesvalles, or Sarria Portomarín. In addition to emblematic points of our geography such as Pamplona, Puente la Reina, Logroño, Burgos, Atapuerca, León, O Cebreiro or Arzúa.

What is the most usual division into sections?

In order to achieve the Compostela, the last 100 kilometres of the route must be done on foot, or the last 200 if it is done by bicycle. For this reason it is common for pilgrims who walk to do the last stretch of the route: from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, which runs entirely through Galicia. As for “bicigrinos”, for the same reason, they most often do the section from León to Santiago.

Senderos por donde caminar

Taking the road on foot as a reference, the most common thing is to divide the French road into the following sections:

Saint Jean Pied du Port or Roncesvalles – Logroño

Logroño – Burgos

Burgos – León

León – O Cebreiro

O Cebreiro – Sarria to Santiago de Compostela

This is a good way to divide the more than 700 kilometres that make up the French route, and to make one of the sections in every break we can.

All the routes of the Camino de Santiago

Is the French Way difficult?

The French route is not really complicated. There are only two points with a greater degree of difficulty in the Pyrenees pass, in the first stage, and at the entrance to Galicia via O Cebreiro. Otherwise, it will be a walk!

When is the best time of the year to do it?

The truth is that the French route is the most demanded and frequented of all the Jacobean itineraries. For this reason, summer is usually the time when there are most pilgrims. Depending on your tastes or interests when doing the route, you can opt for the summer if you want to be accompanied by many people, or if you prefer more privacy, the equinoctial seasons: spring and autumn.

For us, spring and autumn are the best times to go on this route. In spring the landscape is very pleasant, there are few people and the weather is good without excessive heat. On the other hand, in autumn the temperatures are also mild and the vegetation is at its most exuberant point of the year.

Finally, we do not recommend doing this route in winter for several reasons. At this time the temperatures are low and frosts are frequent along the northern plateau. Moreover, there are two mountain passes in the Pyrenees and in O Cebreiro that will be covered with snow, making the pass difficult and dangerous. To conclude, you should bear in mind that the services in this resort are minimal, as most accommodations choose this season to close for holidays.

signal french way

What are the infrastructures and signalling like?

You don’t have to worry about anything in this area. The signs on the French route are perfect at each and every stage. Moreover, as it is a very busy route, you will always feel safe when you meet more pilgrims.

As for the infrastructure, there is a wide range of tourist accommodation to suit all tastes. You can stay in hotels, hostels or hostels, depending on your tastes and budget. Refreshment points, bars and restaurants are frequent throughout all the stages. You will never be without.

If you still have doubts about embarking on this adventure, you can consult our article on 5 reasons to do the Camino de Santiago. Ultreia [email protected]!

All the trips to do the Camino de Santiago with your dog