Where does the Camino Frances start ? Are you thinking about walking the Camino Frances route ? If I had a week which is the best section of The Camino Frances to walk ? I have been asked these questions a lot of times.
9 Days walking the Camino Frances
Recently I spent the 9 days walking the Camino Frances route along what I believe to be some of the most beautiful stages of this amazing walk. The Camino Frances route is the most popular of the routes of the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.
The Camino Frances route map starts from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and over the Pyrenees into Spain and then onwards to Santiago de Compostela covering over 800km and can take approximately 30-40 days to complete dependant on your fitness levels, walking pace and the available.
After false starts and 2 lockdowns I was ready to set off on this fantastic journey once again after doing the whole Camino Frances walk in 2016 and also walking The Camino Ingles, Camino Finisterre and Camino Del Norte. On this hike we’re only walking the first 9 days to Burgos and trying to stay in different cities and villages than those we stayed in last time and trying a mid stage sleeping strategy whilst using the John Brierley guidebook. This guidebook is traditionally the best guidebook for the Camino Frances.
The first 9 days on The Camino French route is a truly amazing walk from France crossing over the Pyrenees and into Spain on a path Pilgrims have walked for centuries. The path then weaves its way to the pilgrim monastery in Roncesvalles and is one of my favourite walks in the world.
On this journey I have set off from my front door and walked to the train station ahead of a late night flight from London to Paris Charles de Gaule airport. If you are using this route to get to France from the continent and need somewhere to stay, we used a great hotel at Paris CDG Airport called Easy Hotel and it was only €30 euro per person per night.
We then had an early flight direct to Biarittz and after landing just after midday we took a taxi to St Jean Pied de Port. On arrival we went straight to The Camino Pilgrim office to get our camino passports and get them stamped so we could start our pilgrimage on The Camino de Santiago. This is where The Camino Frances starts…
Every pilgrim walking The Camino de Santiago needs to get their passport stamped at least 2 times per day and this is a pre requisite for the journey. This enables every pilgrim to stay in the albergues (like a hostel) along the way and becomes an amazing record of all the places you stay. Once you arrive in Santiago de Compostela this passport enables you to collect your credential at The Camino office which is a beautiful document detailing your achievement. The picture below is off the pilgrim offie in St Jean Pied de Port.
day 1 - st jean pied de port to orisson
Camino Frances Day 1 - Overview
- Distance – 8km
- From – St Jean Pied de Port
- To – Orisson
- Terrain – steep climb mainly on road
- Min/Maz Elevation – 171m/799m
- Elevation gain – 677m
We got our passports stamped and we’re now ready to walk The Camino Frances again. I believe the next 9 days is the best section of the French route and I am really looking forward to waking this stage of the pilgrimage again.
We set off at about 2.30pm as we had to get up to a hostel called Refuge Orisson which is about 8km from Saint Jean Pied de Port and is effectively straight up as we have to climb about 650m. The first hour was pretty straight forward as we made the climb to Huntto. There is an albergue here called Ferme ithurburia and is really good, we stayed here in 2016 and really enjoyed it.
From Huntto the climb gets steeper and is really tough on the legs. Once you get off road the path switches back and forth and it’s pretty tough. If you ever do this stretch of the walk be ready for your blood to be pumping in your veins and have lots of water to drink.
Eventually we got to Refuge Orisson just as the fog rolled in and totally obscured the view. I have been here before and know the view is totally amazing and well worth seeing. We grabbed a cold beer and sat out on the balcony and just relaxed. The atmosphere at Refuge Orisson is really nice and we looked out over the Pyrenees and just took it all in. What a view !
Accommodation - Refuge Orisson
The accommodation is really pilgrim friendly and is bunk beds in communal rooms. After showering and a few beers we had a communal meal with about 60 people which is included within the price. The communal meal is well known for its friendly welcome. As part of the camino dinner celebration they ask every pilgrim to introduce themselves, say where they are from and why they are doing the Camino de Santiago walk. We heard some interesting stories and really enjoyed this part of the meal which also included home made soup, roasted chicken and a lentil stew finished off with an almond tart de Santiago washed down with red wine. I recommend staying at Refuge Orisson.
Available beds – 28 beds in rooms of 6-10 beds set in a fantastic location in the hills of the pyrenees directly on the Camino Frances.
Cost – 40 Euro for bed, dinner and breakfast per person.
day 2 - orisson to Espinal
Camino Frances Day 2 - Overview
- Distance – 26km
- From – Orisson
- To – Espinal
- Terrain – steep climb up and over the Pyrenees
- Min/Max elevation – 797m/1427m
- Elevation gain – 890m
After our amazing experience of Refuge Orisson we were up early at 6am and set off walking as it was forecast to be a hot day. The first 10km was literally up hill the whole way and we were above the cloud line. There was a really strong wind coming over the hills from Spain which didn’t let up the whole way. I felt like I was walking two steps forward and one back. To say my legs felt like lead weights is an under statement.
TOP TIP – be prepared for a long hard days walk to Roncesvalles
We climbed about 1500m with an elevation gain on the day of about 900m. It’s a tough walk if your not used to hiking and climbing but some of the views were absolutely amazing.
After we had hit the crest of our climb we knew we would be crossing the border from France into Spain. The picture below is at the border crossing and there wasn’t even any passport control. One step from one country into another.
After crossing the border in Spain the path then weaves up and down through forests and up over small ridges until it’s nearly time to take the descent into Roncesvalles and the Monastery.
Since the middle ages the collegiate church of Santa María de Orreaga Roncesvalles has been a favourite resting place for catholic pilgrims walking The Camino Frances path, the most popular variant of the Way of St James. It’s the first place to have a rest after crossing the French Pyrenees. The monastery in Roncesvalles is an amazing place to stay and the albergue is fantastic. I stayed here on my 2016 Camino Frances pilgrimage and it’s well worth staying here.
After the descent into Roncesvalles we had a light lunch and watched the tourists visiting the monastery. As we had stayed here on our last trip we made the decision to push on and decided to head to a lovely small town called Espinal.
This is another 7km from Roncesvalles and is flat all the way although before we left we had to take a picture of the most famous sign on The Camino Frances !
Accommodation - Albergue irugoienea
We found a really good albergue run by an Italian couple, Natale and Zaira, and wasn’t full when we visited. They walked the Camino Frances 6 years ago and then left their jobs in Italy to dedicate themselves to Pilgrims, with their dog called Nemo 🙂
Our hosts did all our washing for us and then cooked a communal Sicilian meal for all the pilgrims staying in the albergue which was delicious. I recommend staying at albergue Irugoienea.
Available beds – 21 beds in rooms of 10 & 11 and 2 double and 1 triple room. Its situated in a lovely village environment just off the Camino de Santiago walk.
Cost – 12 Euro for a bed in the large dorm. The evening meal was another 12 euro each for an Italian meal with wine and was really nice.
day 3 - Espinal to Pamplona
Camino Frances Day 3 - Overview
- Distance – 38km
- From – Espinal
- To – Pamplona
- Terrain – up and down all day with road/path walking
- Min/Max Elevation – 416m/945m
- Elevation gain – 785m
Our walk on Day 3 is a long one as we’re heading all the way to Pamplona which is a 38km trek. The forecast was for 32C heat and its gonna be hot. Its going to be a long day.
We left Albergue Irugoienea at 6am and the first four hours walking were in the forest and in the shade which we really appreciated. We knew we wouldn’t get breakfast until we arrived in Zubiri and that was a 16km walk. Typically I only like to walk between 5km and 10km before breakfast but there was nothing in this long stretch. The views we’re really amazing.
We eventually got to Zubiri and found a bar we had used in 2016. Bar Valentin is a cracking cafe bar and the tortilla is to die for and so big ! We loved it with a quality cafe con leche.
TOP TIP – try this cafe bar if you get the chance. Here’s a picture of the tortilla.
After Zubiri we headed back into the forest and along the way we met a woman called Polly who was cycling the camino for charity. She was from the UK and doing the challenge all by herself. She had a long way to go in the next 2 weeks but what an amazing feat !
After a stop after we crossed the river at a great riverside cafe we got close to Zabaldiki and the albergue we stayed at on our original Camino Frances in 2016. It was operated by nuns so we missed it this time but you can see it on the hill in the pic below. It was a really good donativo albergue. ‘Donativo’ means donation only and you are expected to pay what you think the albergue was worth. I must clarify that ‘donative’ doesn’t mean its free !
The hot Spanish weather was kicking in and we had another couple of hours to go and we we’re struggling with the heat to be honest. Walking in intense heat is tough and we just wanted to get there. It’s been a great day but tiring.
The last 10km into Pamplona was nearly all street walking and hard on the feet especially as we were nearing 38km distance for the day. We have followed our guidebook and The Camino Frances route map so far and haven’t taken a wrong turn yet.
The walk into Pamplona is really nice as you walk around the city walls and up through the large City gate and into the old town of Pamplona. After 38km we have decided to treat ourselves to a hotel and cant wait to get there, get showered and have a few cold beers to celebrate.
Accommodation - Pamplona
There are over 200 hotels in Pamplona to suit all tastes and budgets as well as lots of albergues and hostels. We found a small hotel in a side street. The city was busy as the local football team had a home game so hotels were at a premium. We paid about 20 euro each for the room which was ok although there are better options that the one we chose.
I recommend staying in Pamplona if you get the chance. The Tapas and wine are amazing !
Things to do in Pamplona
day 4 - pamplona to puente la reina
After a momentous day yesterday we enjoyed a stroll around the old town of Pamplona washed down with a few beers and lots of tapas. There are some fabulous tapas restaurants here but the best one we found was a bar called Goucho which is famed for having the the best tapas in all Pamplona.
TOP TIP – Try Goucho for their Tapas if your staying in Pamplona
Camino Frances Day 4 - Overview
- Distance – 26km
- From – Pamplona
- To – Puente de la Reina
- Terrain – a long large climb up and over alto de Perdon
- Min/Max elevation – 349m/766m
- Elevation gain – 483m
We left at 7am and headed for a cafe on the outskirts of town where we had an amazing pain au chocolate on our previous Pilgrimage on the Camino Frances in 2016. We found it and it didn’t disappoint and set us up for a good days walk. Today we had about 24km to walk on route to Puente la Reina.
We are heading up and over Alto de Perdon which is about a 12km hike from the centre of Pamplona. The trail is an ever rising path to the crest of a ridge that has lots of wind farms and some fantastic sculptures that are famous on the Camino.
It is a fantastic walk and about halfway up there is a great spot to take a rest at a small hamlet called Zariquiegui. We grabbed a lemon Fanta and rested before the trek to the summit. The church here is well worth a look around and they also will give you a stamp in your camino passport for a small entrance fee.
Interesting fact: This is where a key scene from ‘The Way’ is filmed.
We headed off and it wasn’t long before we hit the summit and the views were amazing. The sculptures of old pilgrims here looking out over the valley are really good and we took lots of pics. I am sure its one of the most photographed spots of the Camino de Santiago French route..
After walking up the the summit it was literally back down the other side and the path is downwards through a winter stream bed of rocks and is quite dangerous. Be Careful on this section of the walk. We walked through fields of wheat and poppies for what seemed like a few hours before we came to the village of Utorga. We stopped for lunch at a bar called Camino del Perdon. Once again we had cafe con leche and tortilla with ham and cheese and it was gorgeous. I highly recommend stopping here for some lunch.
Another 7km walking through the same vista and we’re staying in Puente la Reina. It was originally one of the first main staging posts for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela and has a fantastic bridge you have to cross over called the Queens Bridge. After walking over 60km in the last 2 days we’re heading out for some cards and a meal which we hope includes lots of pasta to beef us up for tomorrows long walk.
Accommodation - Albergue Puente
We’re staying at the Albergue Puente which we stayed at in 2016. It’s clean and they do a mix of communal and private rooms with a fantastic sun balcony and chilling area. At 11 euro per night it was a cracking deal. I recommend staying at Albergue Puente.
Available beds – 40 beds in mixed and private rooms with separate shower blocks. It’s situated directly on the Camino Frances and well used by Pilgrims. I have stayed here each time I’ve passed through.
Cost – €11 Euro per person for a bed in a room of 4 beds (bunk beds)
day 5 - puente la reina to estella
Camino Frances Day 5 - Overview
- Distance – 22km
- From – Puente la Reina
- To – Estella
- Terrain – a relatively easy walking day
- Min/Max Elevation – 338m/495m
- Elevation gain – 498m
Most towns along the Camino Frances have restaurants that offer a ‘Pilgrim meal’ for a special price and last night in Puente la Reina was no different. We ate at the restaurant next to Albergue Puente and had the following for €11.5 euros
- Starter – I had spaghetti bolognaise and it was really good and much needed after a long days walk.
- Main course – I had stuffed Peppers although I was expecting mince meat but they were stuffed with something else but very nice.
- Desert – The choice was fruit, ice cream or yoghurt and I had melon. Very nice.
- Wine – unlimited red wine and lovely too.
Not a bad deal at all for the price and this is roughly the deal you can get all along the Camino to Santiago when ordering a Pilgrim meal.
We have another relatively short day today and plan on doing about 23km to Estella as we need to do some clothes washing. The walk today weaves its way through wheat fields that were blowing softly in the wind and they are all lined with red poppies along the way. It’s nearly all path walking apart from when you get to a village. You can always spot the village in the distance as the church is always on high ground. I’m sure that’s either to be closer to God or being better to defend in in medieval times. If anyone could tell me leave a comment below.
We stopped for coffee and had an amazing pain au chocolate at a cafe bar in Maneru, which is a lovely old medieval village famous in the times of the Knights Templar. We sat outside talking with Pilgrims in what becomes a daily occurrence and one I absolutely loved.
We walked on through more medieval villages at Cirauqui and Lorca. Both villages have cafe bars and well worthy of a stop to rest and refresh. As we headed into Estella we passed the old church of Iglesia del Santo Sepulchro with its amazing old main entrance.
We headed in Estella and ate at a little bar just over the bridge towards the old town. It’s was called El Bar CHE. Great beers and the salads were fantastic. We finished off with a take away Pizza and a game of cards in the room before hitting the sack early. We have a 30km day tomorrow as well as a stop at the free flowing wine fountain !
Accommodation - Apartment Gure Gambara
Available beds – The apartment sleeps 4/5 people and would be great for a travelling group and is really good value.
Cost – 80 Euro per night for the apartment
Facilities – 2 bedrooms, living room, TV, kitchen and washing facilities
day 6 - estella to torres del rio
Camino Frances Day 6 - Overview
- Distance – 30km
- From – Estella
- To – Torres del Rio
- Terrain – a pretty flat day with path and road walking
- Min/Max Elevation – 424m/675m
- Elevation gain – 574m
We left early as it was another 30km ish day and there was a possibility of rain. Our first stop was the wine fountain at the Irache winery. There is a fountain of free wine and tradition has it every Pilgrim takes a drink of the wine using their scallop shell. It was a tough task at 7.30am but I had to give it a go….
Onwards from there it was another day walking on paths through wheat fields blowing in the breeze. It’s a beautiful sight and the long distance views are to die for. I could do this all day, everyday.
Our journey today takes us through Irache, the lovely village of Azqueta before getting to Villamajor de Montjardin. Our last time on the Camino Frances we stayed in Azqueta at the lovely La Perla Negra Albergue. I recommend staying with host Elena as the food and albergue was fantastic. They have 9 beds and its €11 euro a night. Our schedule wouldn’t allow us time to stay on this camino but I’ll be back for sure.
The village of Villamajor de Montjardin was a disappointment as this was our first coffee stop and the bar was closed and the little shop in the village didn’t really do anything. We found out there was a little truck stop area a short 2 km away which we found and had coffee and a chat with other pilgrims. It was run by some guys from Viana and was a non profit business. Very good.
We walked on another 9km to get to Los Arcos where we planned to have lunch. Lunch today was bread, cheese slices, slices of tomato and a tin of mackerel. It was delicious and we ate it outside the church in the main square.
We then left Los Arcos and continued walking on The Camino Frances for another 12km passing through Sansol to our destination for the night, Torres del Rio. Torres del Rio is a fabulous village with a real feel of the Knights Templar era and somewhere we have stayed before and will again.
Accommodation - Albergue la Pata de Oca
We stayed in the Albergue Hotel Rural le Pata de Oca in the centre of the village. It’s a great old Knights Templar hotel and even has a small plunge pool to have a swim in on a hot day.
We ate at the Hotel de San Andres which has rooms and also has a plunge pool. This evenings pilgrims meal was a great tuna salad, lamb shank and desert plus free wine. All for €15 euro per person. I recommend staying and eating here as well.
Available beds – 42 beds in 8 rooms with a garden bar, restaurant and peaceful vibe.
Cost – 60 Euro for a 3 bed private room which really suited us.
The public albergue in the village is called Casa Mariella and has 70 rooms for 10 euro a night bookable on arrival. All 3 are worth staying in 🙂
day 7 - Torres del rio to navarrette
Camino Frances Day 7 - Overview
- Distance – 33km
- From – Torres del Rio
- To – Navarette
- Terrain – Up and down for most of the day
- Min/Max Elevation – 370m/579m
- Elevation gain – 614m
We have another long day ahead of us today and the first stop is Viana. This stage of the trail is known as a real knee knocker because it’s up and down all the way to Viana but the scenery is really nice. We even got to see the sunrise which was amazing.
We we’re heading for Viana but had a 12km walk to get there. Walking on The Camino Frances in the early morning is a real treat. We arrived in time for breakfast in Viana as this is the only stop. After this it’s another 10km to the bustling city of Logrono. So you have to be prepared as there is nothing in between each stop, especially making sure you pack enough water etc
After the long walk to Logrono we picked up some lunch in the city and had it in the sun on the long walk up to the reservoir as you leave the city. On the outskirts of Logrono we passed the sign stating we were entering the Rioja region of Spain. I can’t wait to sample some of the wine !
The walk from Logrono weaves its way through this fabulous Camino town and eventually the trail leads to a park and then a long 12km to the reservoir at the top of the walk.
After Reaching the reservoir at Logrono we had another 7km to get to Navarette which had an amazing cathedral style church that would grace any city in the world. Especially as this town only has about a 1000 inhabitants. I recommend taking the time to see this spectacle. The inside of the church is truly amazing!
Accommodation - Hotel Villa Navarrete
We stayed at the Hotel Villa Navarrete and had a room for 3 which was good.
We ate at the Hotel Rey Sancho. It was 15 euro a person but the food was really good and is well worth eating here. The also do rooms here.
Available beds – rooms of 4
Cost – 45 Euro for a 3 bed private room.
day 8 - navarrete to azofra
Camino Frances Day 8 - Overview
- Distance – 23km
- From – Navarrete
- To – Azofra
- Terrain – some gentle slopes throughout the day
- Min/Max Elevation – 486m/667m
- Elevation gain – 368m
We set off at 6:30 am again and after two 30km distance days and we’re pretty tired today. I’ve also got 2 blue toenails so looks like I’ll be losing those two nails shortly. Today we have 16km walk to Najera without any stops so looks like it’s going to be 10:30-ish before we get a chance to have any coffee or food.
We noticed in our John Brierley Camino Frances guidebook that there is a 1km detour off the camino to Ventosa and the coffee shop there is open. We went and I recommend going. The pain au chocolate was amazing.
Today’s walk is through fields and fields of Rioja grapes and it’s absolutely lovely. The workers are out in the fields and some are singing whilst they worked.
We made it to Najera in good time and ready for some lunch which we picked up on the outskirts in a supermarcado. We made our way to the river and there are some great cafes here and its a great place to stop and rest. We had completed 16km and that rest by the river sounds great.
TOP TIP: if you are going to have lunch in Najera, bypass all the new town areas and work your way down to the river by the old town. On a sunny day it’s lovely and there are cafes as well.
After lunch we had about 6-7 km to get to Azofra which was relatively easy flat walk through grape fields and there was mile after mile of them. We are staying at the municipal albergue tonight and it’s half full with 2 people to a room. It’s only €10 euros a night. We stayed here before in 2016 and would recommend. You can book via what’s app.
The facilities at this municipal albergue are really good. After doing a load of washing we chilled and dipped our feet in the plunge pool in the courtyard. The weather was really hot so a chance to dip our feet felt really good.
Tonight we’re eating at one of the only 2 restaurants in Azofra, Bar Sevilla. We had a full 3 course meal and wine for €12 euros. I have added a picture of the pilgrim menu we had to choose from to give you an idea of what a Pilgrim menu consists of. You see variations of these along the whole Camino Frances.
Accommodation - Azofra municipal albergue
A really nice municipal Albergue that is clean and tidy and always pretty busy. It has washing facilities, a courtyard, plunge pool and a kitchen for self catering. They have Free wifi.
Available beds – 60 beds in 30 rooms
Cost – €10 Euro per person for a share of a 2 bed room. Its not bookable but can be reserved via WhatsApp directly.
day 9 - azofra to Santa Domingo de la calzada
Camino Frances Day 9 - Overview
- Distance – 16km
- From – Azofra
- To – Santa Domingo de la Calzada
- Terrain – Easy walk with an uphill section to Ciruena
- Min/Max elevation – 539m/746m
- Elevation gain – 261m
Today is the final day of our 9 day walk on the Camino Frances and a short walk to Santa Domingo de la Calzada before we make our way to Burgos and onwards to Madrid to get our flight home.
We had another relatively early start after coffee and cake in Azofra. We have about 16km to do today with a stop in Ciruena for a mid morning coffee and that will be the end of our walk on the French route of the Camino de Santiago this year.
Ciruena is a strange place as it looks like a purpose built town purely for the plush Rioja Alto golf course that’s been built there. The golf clubhouse is really nice and Pilgrims have their own entrance into the golf club cafe as well.
Our next stop was to visit the shrine of the sacred Log of St George after which ww walked on to Santa Domingo de le Calzada. On the outskirts of the city i had a quick sneaky view of the local footy team, FC La Calzada. Time permitting it would have been good to get to watch a game, maybe next time.
Our final stop in Santa Domingo de la Calzada and we celebrated with a beer, tapas and a game of cards. It’s a lovely little town and the sun was out and it made for a great afternoon. After eating we caught a late afternoon bus to Burgos.
We arrived in Burgos after a short bus journey and found our hotel before grabbing a few beers in the late afternoon sun. This is my second visit to Burgos and I absolutely love this city. There is lots of things to do and places to visit including a visit to the tomb on El Cid ! We had a few beers in the sunshine to celebrate before heading to the Hotel Londres for some chill time.
We went out in the evening and it was busy and full of Pilgrims. We ate, drank and talked Camino all night with a multitude of people and had a fantastic evening.
Accommodation - Hotel Londres
As this is the last day of our 9 day walk on the Camino Frances we decided to treat ourselves and booked in the Hotel Londres in the centre of Burgos. The rooms have fantastic views of the busy streets of Burgos and is one of the oldest hotels in Burgos. It is situated 150 meters from the cathedral, which is absolutely amazing and a must visit for any pilgrim.
Available beds – 50 rooms with a variety of combinations (single, doubles, triples etc)
Cost – We had a lovely room for 3 people which cost 75 euro
9 days walking The Camino Frances
- Distance – 222km
- Daily Average – 24.6km
- From – Saint Jean Pied du Port
- To – Santa Domingo de la Calzada
- Days – 9
If you only have a short time to walk The Camino Frances, this selection of walking stages from St Jean Pied de Port to Santa Domingo de la Calzada is an amazing walk to do and is actually my favourite section of The Camino Frances and one I will definitely walk again.
Could a beginner do this walk ?
Absolutely ! This walk on The Camino Frances is achievable by anyone as long as you have pre planned and done some training ahead of your walk. Check out my recommended Camino de Santiago gear list.
How many hours a day would I have to walk ?
The daily distance a pilgrim traditionally walks is around 20 – 25km a day and would mean walking between 6-7 hrs each day. Planning and training are critical to make sure your camino experience is a good one
Should I book my hotels ahead of schedule
I have walked The Camino de Santiago numerous times and never really book ahead more than a day and sometimes I just let the day takes its turn and stay wherever I find myself. I have never found myself in a situation without a bed. My strategy would nearly always be:
- Finish walking for the day
- Check the guidebook over a beer
- Talk to other Pilgrims and get their advise
- Decide on the nest days destination
- Check available albergues
- If you need to, ring ahead and tell them you need X number of beds
- The Albergue will reserve them for you
- If reserved, always go to that albergue
- Its that simple