As an alternative to walking the most popular Spanish section of the Camino de Santiago, walk through rural France to St Jean Pied de Port (instead of from it!).
Finish in St Jean Pied de Port, at the start of the famous Spanish section of the Way of St James.
In a nutshell
Get back to the authentic roots of the world renowned journey of body & mind, walking the Camino le Puy Route (also known as the Via Podiensis).
Distance: 742km / 461 miles
Grade: Moderate. Suitable for most walkers of average fitness, but bear in mind some sections have more ascent (for example once you get into the foothills of the Pyrenees in the final stages)
Begin in the historic city of Le Puy en Velay, which is in a pretty spectacular location in a volcanic plateau, before walking through a variety of fascinating landscapes and some of the designated "most beautiful villages in France" (for example St Côme d’Olt and Auvillar).
Experience the culture and geography changing as you move through the Béarn and the French Basque regions towards St Jean Pied de Port, which is at the foot of the Roncevaux Pass across the Pyrenees into Spain. There, enjoy the exciting atmosphere as travellers and pilgrims from the world over who are both beginning and ending their journeys gather for their purpose.
Visit historic French towns. The medieval heart of Auvillar pictured here, is at the centre of one of France's designated "most beautiful villages".
Why Walk Here?
Because it's a beautiful route!
We've already mentioned the villages and volcanic landscapes. You can also expect vineyards, meadows, tranquil farmlands, the backdrop of stunning mountain-scapes... One of the most fascinating things is seeing how rural France changes and evolves as you make your journey towards the border. Many walkers do describe the Le Puy route as a prettier section of the Camino, and it certainly offers the perfect sensory experience (yes, including taste!) of rural France.
Because of the history!
"Camino de Santiago" (route to Santiago) does not just refer to the most well known "Way of St James" or "French Way" across Spain from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago. There are in fact a network of pilgrim routes Europe-wide (and beyond), from many different origins. This route is one of the most popular ways to reach the famous Spanish section of the Camino, and to really achieve something great, it is possible to walk the entire Le Puy Way, then continue on over the French/Spanish border to Santiago (after a mere extra 480 extra miles).
Follow the Way of St James (St Jacques)
The origins of the Camino are French, and the route was originally known as the "French way" because most of the original pilgrims came from France. The history of this particular route dates back to the 10th Century, when the bishop of Le Puy en Velay set off towards Santiago. This is a quieter route than the Spanish section, but you really feel part of the historic significance of those "original" pilgrims. Pilgrimages are not just for the religious, they are a journey of meaning for many purposes. A way to clear your mind, heal your soul, achieve something great, and even enhance your understanding of humanity.
Historic Le Puy en Velay's volcanic rock formation.
Planning and preparation
We offer self guided walking holiday itineraries on the full Camino le Puy route, or in more manageable sections, including accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis in charming small hotels and guest houses, and baggage transfer each day. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.