Pilgrims Walking the Camino

 Camino francés: Part 1

saint Jean Pied de Port, france ⇒ burgos, spain

With over 60% of all Pilgrims walking this Way to Santiago, Camino Francés is, without any doubt, the most well-known, historically significant and iconic of all the Caminos. Paolo Coelho’s bestseller “The Pilgrimage” and Martin Sheen’s Movie “The Way” are set on this Camino, and its unparalleled diversity of landscapes, superb infrastructure and fantastic comradery of Pilgrims from allover the World make walking this Camino a truly unique and amazing experience.

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pilgrims 2019

the Highlights

Starting on the French side of the Pyrenees and continuing into Spain across the Autonomous Communities of Navarra and La Rioja and the Province of Burgos, this Tour has it all! Pilgrims who walk it very quickly become immersed in the depths of history and the pilgrimage tradition. Numerous masterpieces of human design along the Way are complimented by the stunning beauty of nature, and the local culinary diversity and rich wine-making traditions lend this part of the French Way a particular, unique appeal.

Although some of the parts of this Tour traverse moderate-to-challenging terrains, the stages are planned so as to be suited for people of average, reasonable physical fitness. Because of this Tour’s length as well as the vast number of historic masterpieces and attractions along the Way, it is advisable to consider inserting one or more resting days into the itinerary.

Read More about the Camino Francés ⇒

The French Way, or Camino Francés, is the most popular of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Saint Jean Pied de Port – a charming town on the French side of the Pyrenees – is the beginning of this fascinating 800 km. (500 mi.) long journey across Northern Spain.

The French Way leads you across the majestic Pyrenees mountains into the charming hilly countryside of Navarra and on into the fertile wine region of La Rioja. Then, pilgrims enter the vastness of the wide-open Meseta: its endless grasslands and dramatic cloud movements in the sky allow for some epic, panoramic vistas. Having crossed the Meseta, the Camino now winds up the passes of another mountain range – the Montes de León, with the enchanting El Bierzo region lying in its valley. The last ascent summits at O Cebreiro and also demarcates the entry into Galicia – the land of strong Celtic tradition, mystical forests, foggy mornings and an absolutely unique, mysterious feel.

The French Way became the main route for pilgrims in medieval times and, to this day, its historical and cultural riches never seize to fascinate thousands of pilgrims from around the World. Picturesque villages and towns of medieval charm, vibrant, contemporary cites and countless tales and legends of miracles – all of these complement the natural landscape diversity along the Way. Blended with the superb infrastructure and – last but, most definitely, not least – the great comradery among Pilgrims, these make the Camino Francés an absolute highlight.

In the 11th century, the first waves of pilgrims reached their height, and King Sancho III of Navarra established a Way over the Pyrenees to Nájera – the ancient Capital of Navarra. The Royal Cities of Pamplona, Burgos and León became connected by the Camino Francés, and thousands of pilgrims contributed to these regions’ economy and left their lasting cultural imprint.

The medieval pilgrims impacted the regions of Northern Spain very strongly, and many traces of that time can still be found along the French Way. When foreign traders, craftsmen and artists settled along the Camino Frances, many Spaniards would simply refer to them collectively as “Franks”, although certainly not all settlers belonged to that ethnic group. But the term stuck – and that is how the Camino Francés got its name.

It is true, however, that especially the superior Frankish craftsmanship and architectural knowledge shaped many cities along the Camino. The movement of pilgrims also rendered a strong economic stimulus. Bridges and other aspects pf infrastructure were put in place, and numerous hospitals were founded along the way to treat pilgrims that had gotten ill. Cities like Logroño, Burgos and Santo Domingo de la Calzada owe their size and prestige partly to their location along the Camino Francés. Over time, many towns along the way acquired Christian relicts and constructed churches, while also more and more miracles were reported to have been witnessed in various locations.

The French Way has remained the most popular among the routes to Santiago to this day, with over 60% of all pilgrims to Santiago walking this trail. In 1993, the Camino Francés became inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage for its historic and cultural significance.

tour details

Tour Type: Self-Guided

Availability: March through October

Details ⇒
  • March 01 – June 15: Regular Season
  • June 16 – August 15: High Season
  • August 16 – October 31: Regular Season
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Duration: 15 Days Total / 13 Days Walking

Total Distance: 287.4 km. (178.6 mi.)

Average distance: 22.4 km. (13.7 mi.) / Day

Prices (per person):

Double Room:
Starting at € 940

Single-Occupancy Room:
Starting at € 1,310

What’s Included:

14 nights in single / double room

En-suite facilities

English-speaking emergency assistance
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Your full digital Travel Info Package
Details ⇒

We are proud to be working together with hand-picked, high quality and mostly locally owned and operated service providers.

Your journey will be booked through, and your Travel Package will include all the information you will need to access your lodging locations and to process your check-in.

Optional Add-ons:

Luggage transfer on walking days

Breakfasts (subject to availability)

Lodging for additional night(s) stays

Airport transfers
Details ⇒

If you wish to walk your Camino Stages with a light backpack, carrying only the basic necessities, we will be happy to arrange for your luggage to be forwarded from one hotel to the next on your walking days.

Breakfasts are not available everywhere, and they are often served late, starting around 8 am. However, if you wish to include brekfasts, we will be happy to do so, where possible.

Spending an extra night in a given town throughout your journey is often a good idea: you give your body a rest, relax and enjoy exploring the town. In Santiago, two nights are included in most of our Tours by default as we believe it’s the least a Pilgrim would need to enjoy the City; however, you have the option to opt out of it.

We will be happy to arrange for an airport shuttle transfer for you from your airport of arrival to the starting point of your journey. The same goes for the departure, unless you end your journey in Santiago and fly out of Santiago Airport. In that case, a taxi can be easily arranged for the time of your choice directly at the Reception Desk at your Hotel.

What’s NOT Included:

Flighs

Travel Insurance

Tour guide

Meals
Details ⇒

We do not book flights, nor organize any rail or commercial busline travel. However, if you need assistance in deciding how to get to and back from your Camino Tour, we will be happy to give you assist you with tips and ideas!

We strongly recommend to all our travelers to get a Travel Insurance; however, we do not sell any such policies. For our international clients, it is best to get a policy in their country of residence, as some countries offer insurances only to their own residents.

This is a date-flexible tour; therefore, it is self-guided – no Tour Guide will be accompnying you. If you are interested in joining a Group Tour with a Tour Guide, please check our Guided Tours page. (Note: our Guided Tours take place on set dates that are planned ahead.)

tour itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in St Jean Pied de Port

At last, your travels bring you to Saint Pied de Port – the charming town on the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and the starting point of the Camino Francés. Check in at your hotel, and enjoy the rest of the evening!

Day 2: St Jean Pied de Port – Huntto • 5.4 km. (3.7 mi.)

Take your time to enjoy your morning in Saint Jean. Visit the iconic sites of this scenic town and, if need be, take advantage of the option to make any last-minute purchases in one of the numerous Pilgrim gear shops. If you haven’t done so already yesterday, stop by the Pilgrims’ Office and get your Credencial – your Pilgrim’s Document, which will entitle you to receive your Compostela (Certificate of Pilgrimage Completion) once you reach Santiago – as well as your very first stamp in it! Then, lace up your boots: your Camino is about to begin! Today’s first hike is a short one: out of town and up to Huntto. The elevation gained today will make tomorrow’s climb over the Napoleon Pass shorter and easier. Your accommodation here is in a historic Casa Rural in the mountains – check in, spend the afternoon and evening enjoying the beautiful Pyrenees and get good rest for tomorrow’s challenge.

Distance: 5.4 km. / 3.7 mi.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Day 3: Huntto – Burguete • 22.9 km. (14 mi.)

This is one of the most strenuous days of entire French Way – but also one of the most rewarding: the breath-taking panoramic vistas of this Napoleon Route make the physical challenge well-worth it! The total elevation gain of 950 m. (3117 ft.) is significant, but the ascent is steady and the terrain – passable. Across the Summit, the Camino descends steeply across forests toward the iconic Monastery of Roncesvalles. The remaining 3.5 km. (2.2 mi.) to Burguete are easy, and your accommodation is in the historic hotel, in which Hemingway once wrote parts of his novel “Fiesta.”

Distance: 22.9 km. (14 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Day 4: Burguete – Zubiri • 18.9 km. (11.7 mi.)

Compared to yesterday’s physically demanding trek, today’s hike is both a bit shorter and less strenuous. Across forested hills and past charming little villages and over the pass of Erro, the Camino unfolds the genuine beauty of Navarra. On entering Zubiri – today’s destination – you will walk over the medieval Bridge “Puente de la Rabia” (“Rabies Bridge”) – your first of many epic medieval bridges along the French Way, and with one of the uncountable tales and legends encoded in its name.

Distance: 18.9 km. (11.7 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate

Day 5: Zubiri – Pamplona • 20.2 km. (12.6 mi.)

For much of the today’s hike, the Camino runs as a charming, forested path right alongside the River Arga, all the way to the village of Zabaldika. Here, the beautiful Romanesque church is home of the oldest bell in Navarra which – when open – the Pilgrims are allowed to ring: climb up the bell tower, make a wish and ring the bell, sending the echo across the picturesque valley below! From here, you can return to the path along the river, or go over the hills – both paths will eventually converge and lead you into the heart of Navarra’s Capital and your first city of the Camino – Pamplona. Walk its streets, and catch yourself imagining what it’s like here during the Running of the Bulls at the time of San Fermín.

Distance: 20.2 km. (12.6 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy

Day 6: Pamplona – (Eunate) – Puente la Reina • 22.4 / 24.9 km. (13.6 / 15.5 mi.)

Leaving the hustle and bustle of Pamplona, the Camino traverses grassy hills, gradually but steadily ascending to the summit Alto de Perdón (Hill of Forgiveness) with the epic Pilgrims Monument and spectacular vistas: looking back at Pamplona and the Pyrenees, and forward into the vast valley that lies ahead. After a sharp descent, the Camino continues across hilly fields. At Muruzábal, the Way splits into two, offering the option of an easy 2.5 km. (1.5 mi.) detour to the stunning Templarian Basilica Santa Maria de Eunate. Both Ways re-merge in the next village of Obanos, and the Camino continues on into Puente la Reina. Spend some quality time on the lawn beneath this town’s iconic Bridge – a true masterpiece of medieval human design – and be sure to also see it at twilight.

Distance: 22.4 / 24.9 km. (13.6 / 15.5 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate

Day 7: Puente la Reina – Estella • 21.9 km. (13.6 mi.)

After Puente la Reina, forested hills eventually give way to vineyards and olive groves, interrupted by frequent, charming villages. Mid-way lies picturesque Cirauquí – a town planted perfectly on the slopes of a hill. Cross the still-standing Roman (!) bridge, and you will find yourself stepping on the stones of the Via Trajana – the road paved and trodden by the Roman legions in the 3rd Century. Traversing more pretty villages and green hills, and crossing medieval bridges, the Way leads you into the lovely town of Estella with its many historic churches, which are well worth exploring.

Distance: 21.9 km. (13.6 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Day 8: Estella – Los Arcos • 21.6 (13.4 mi.)

Some of the absolute highlights of today’s stage comes soon after leaving Estella: the famous Wine Fountain (Fuente del Vino) nested in the Irache Winery, and the adjacent Monasterio de Irache – one of the oldest monasteries in Navarra. Have a break and a drink before you carry on. The Camino dives into and out of pockets of forests and winds up and down the pleasant rolling hills until Villamayor de Monjardín, where it loops around the base of an imposing hill with ruins of a medieval castle upon it. The remaining half of this day’s journey is almost completely straight, continuing – first, alongside vineyards and thereafter, amidst vast grass fields – towards Los Arcos – the “Town of Arches.” Those interested can receive a Pilgrims’ Blessing offered after the Pilgrim Mass in the magnificent Church of Santa María.

Distance: 21.6 (13.4 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Day 9: Los Arcos – Logroño • 26.7 km. (13.4 mi.)

The first 8 km. of today’s longer journey are almost entirely straight: crossing grape fields, you enter Torres del Río famous, gorgeous chapel. Passing some rolling hills, a few pockets of forest and more wine country – and the Camino reaches the charming town of Viana. The last, easy 9 km. have two highlights: the border-crossing into the La Rioja and, just before reaching Logroño, the lovely little stop-and-rest nook for Pilgrims called “Higas y Amor” (“Figs and Love”). The tradition of aiding pilgrims out of her own house was started by Felisa – one of the many Angels of the Camino – years ago, and is now continued by her grandson. Today’s stage ends in Logroño – the Capital of La Rioja and a city with a rich cultural heritage,  many churches and the culinary fame for its Vino & Tapas.

Distance: 26.7 km. (13.4 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy terrain, but moderate to challenging distance

Day 10: Logroño – Nájera • 29.5 km. (18.3 mi.)

(Tip: in order to shorten this stage’s walking distance and to avoid walking the busy streets out of Logroño, you may wish to consider taking a taxi for the first 5 km. (3.1 mi.) out of the city center to the Park La Grajera.) Today’s journey is also longer; however, with only a few hills to roll over, it is mostly an easy walking day. You are in the world-famous wine region of La Rioja, and today’s scenery, whichever way you’ll look, will remind you of that. Passing by many vineyards, you will reach the charming town of Navarrete. Afterwards, you will be walking in the middle of more and ever more grape fields until, before the journey’s end, you will get on top of some hills to enjoy truly magnificent vistas of this epic wine country, nested in a vast valley and rimmed by far-away mountains. You will then reach Nájera – a truly charming small town with very proud history: it was once the Capital of the Kingdom of Navarra, and it is home to the medieval Monastery of major significance – Santa María la Real. Wind down and relax by the river or in one of the pretty bars down the narrow streets of Nájera’s Old Town. 

Distance: 29.5 km. (18.3 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy terrain, but moderate to challenging distance

Day 11: Nájera – Santo Domingo de la Calzada • 22 km. (13.7 mi.)

After the first couple of hours of walking, you will start noticing a change in scenery: the vineyards will gradually begin to give way to gentle, grass-clad hills, which will render picturesque panoramic views. With rather few villages in-between as well as fair terrain, you will soon find yourself reaching today’s destination: Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Visit its famous cathedral and learn about the miracle of the “Hanged Innocent” that (supposedly) took place here, and you will find out why the Cathedral houses a massive bird cage with living chickens inside. Consider also going up the bell tower right across from the Cathedral, and soak up some amazing 360 views of the surrounding countryside.

Distance: 22 km. (13.7 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy

Day 12: Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Belorado • 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)

The first 7 km. (4.4 mi.) of today’s journey are the last ones in La Rioja – soon after leaving the lovely little town of Grañón, you will be crossing the next border: into the Province of Burgos, the first province inside the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León. The Camino will now continue running over smooth hills and sunflower fields, and traverse a number of typical little Castilian villages. Your eyes will by now have gotten used to seeing medieval churches just about everywhere you walk as the Camino, following its deeply-rooted Pilgrimage tradition, almost always passes next to them. This day’s easy journey in the middle of genuinely pleasant countryside will eventually lead you into the town of Belorado. Enjoy the quaint main plaza as you spend your evening exploring the compact town center.

Distance: 23.5 km. (14.6 mi.)
Difficulty: Easy

Day 13: Belorado – San Juan de Ortega • 24.6 km. (15.3 mi.)

The first half of today’s stage has a similar look and feel to it as the last day’s: more wide-open spaces with smoothly-rolling hills with fields of corn, sunflowers and wild grass, and more small villages to walk across and take a break in. However, the scenery will change both quickly and radically as you leave the village Villafranca: you will be gaining 200 m. (600 ft.) of altitude over a steady ascent as you enter the Montes de Oca (Goose Hills). After numerous days of crossing fields and vineyards, you will find yourself walking in the forest again, all the way until you reach the tiny village of San Juan de Ortega. Make sure to visit its famous monastery and enjoy the genuine peace and quiet for, tomorrow, the stage’s destination will be as different as it can be: Burgos, the largest City on the entire Camino Francés.

Distance: 24.6 km. (15.3 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate

Day 14: San Juan de Ortega – Burgos • 25.3 km. (15.7 mi.)

This morning begins with a lovely forest walk – the last one for quite some time – to the charming village of Agés. Then, the Camino passes by the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Atapuerca and ascends the hill to summit at the Wooden Cross La Cruz de Maragrande. Standing at this summit, take in the vast panorama of the valley ahead, with the city of Burgos lying at its bottom. The descent from the Wooden Cross is quite gradual; as the terrain soon flattens out, villages pop up one after another. At Orbaneja Riopico, the Camino splits into two options for entering Burgos, the one along the river Arlanzón certainly being the more pleasant one. Burgos offers a plethora of attractions to explore, and touring its UNESCO-listed Cathedral alone make take a couple of hours. Therefore, it is the place where many pilgrims decide to take a rest day. But, whether you spend one or more nights in this fascinating city, take a quick hike up to the Mirador del Castillo (only 7-10 min. from the Cathedral Plaza) for an absolutely gorgeous panoramic view of the Cathedral and the Old Town. And doing so at sunset / twilight may be even more rewarding than at daytime.

Distance: 25.3 km. (15.7 mi.)
Difficulty: Moderate

Day 15: Departure from Burgos

Farewell, Burgos; farewell, Camino – and safe travels on your journey back home or to your next adventure! Or, here is another option well-worth considering: to continue onto our next Part 2 of the Camino Francés, from Burgos to Astorga.

¡Buen Camino!

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Accommodation Type

Breakfast (not available in some places, sometimes served after 8 am)

Luggage Transfer (on walking days)

Additional Nights (beyond what's included in the itinerary)

tour combination options

our camino francés: Part 1 tour can be easily combined with:

Camino Francés: Part 2

Burgos ⇒ Astorga

Starting at € 850
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Duration: 14 Days

Distance: 215 km. (134 mi.)

Difficulty: easy