The Best Camino Frances Guide book

Which is the best Camino Frances guide book to help Pilgrims walking their own pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela ? What should you look for when choosing the right one for you.

In my opinion the best guide book for walking The Camino Frances is the guidebook by John Brierley called “A Pilgrims guide to the Camino de Santiago

This guidebook has everything you need to walk the Camino Frances sometimes called The French Way.

If you’re planning to hike the Camino Frances, you have a lot of options when it comes to your guidebook. With so many different publishers and authors out there, how can you be sure that you’re making the right choice? 

Here are some key points to keep in mind when choosing a guidebook, as well as some recommendations based on my own experience hiking the Camino Frances. 

I have walked The French route of the Camino de Santiago multiple times so I know a thing of two about walking this amazing journey and how to navigate along the way. 

the most famous sign on The Camino Frances

Table of Contents

Do I Need a Camino Frances Guide book ?

I am always being asked this question especially by pilgrims planning for their first Camino. Unless you have ever walked a Camino it can be a bit of a mystery and hard to understand how each day unfolds especially when thinking about which village to stop in and which albergue to stay at.

If you are an experienced long distance walker and have walked The Camino before you can get by without a guidebook quite easily and just follow the yellow shell camino symbols. There are 1000’s of walkers that do this every year wanting to let the ‘camino spirit’ take them along the path. I have done this before and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

But if you are like the majority of new pilgrims who undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela you will want to know some of the following things every day:

  • How far is the next stage ?
  • What is the elevation gain ?
  • Where is the next cafe ? 
  • Is there an Albergue at my destination ?

If this is you then having a guidebook is an absolute must and getting the best one is really important.

Knowing where your next Cafe con leche is coming from is crucial to some people. I know, as it’s important to me !

A lot of the amenities are only listed in the guidebooks so it can be really important to read and plan the journey each day.

TOP TIP I normally do this after I have arrived at my destination, had a shower in the company of a cold beer. Depending how I feel ( and how my feet are doing) I will decide how far I want to walk and plan out my next stage.

As a result, getting your hands on the best Camino Frances guidebook can reduce stress as well as being a great talking point with other pilgrims who will be planning their next day too.

What makes a Good Camino Frances Guide book

If you’re planning on going on a Camino de Santiago pilgrimage anytime soon, it’s important that you find the right guidebook. The French Way is an excellent choice because it has all of the information that pilgrims need to prepare themselves spiritually, physically and logistically before embarking on their journey.

There are multiple guidebooks to the French Camino and the other routes of the Camino de Santiago, and they all have their merits. The types of information available varies and totally depends on the user. The key bits of information I look for includes:

  • A Camino guidebook that is easy to navigate and read
  • The guidebook should have detailed maps
  • Includes detailed elevation profiles
  • Distance details
  • Stage by Stage profiles
  • Ave Temperature information
  • Cafe / Bar and Supermarket locations
  • Chemist and Bank information
  • Some information on the villages, towns and cities
I also like my Camino guidebooks to be compact and lightweight. You have to carry the guidebook with you in your backpack so think about this when purchasing.
 
Having a section with helpful Spanish phrases is also a good addition for Pilgrims that can’t speak any Spanish. 

What is the Best Camino Frances Guide book

I have detailed below the best guidebooks I believe will help you on your way to enjoying the best The Camino de Santiago has to offer especially when walking the French route.  Buen Camino  

TOP CHOICE
A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés)
9.7/10Our Score

St. Jean Pied de Port - Santiago de Compostela - Finnesterre

  • No 1 Camino Frances rated guidebook
  • Great elevation and map profiles
  • Comprehensive stage by stage details
  • Historical and cultural information
  • 19.9 ounces
  • 288 pages (4.63 x 0.38 x 7.5 inches)

My personal favourite and recommended guidebook.

Welcome to El Camino that leads from the foothills of the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia – a distance of over 800km (500 miles). During the past ten years the Camino has witnessed an amazing revival to regain its place as the most popular Christian pilgrim route in the world.

The guidebook includes route planners plus daily stage maps and detailed town plans to help pilgrims with all the advance preparation they need.

The maps feature contour guides to help distinguish the terrain that will be crossed each day, while full information on all pilgrim albergues and hostels, as well as details for alternative accommodation.

What really impressed me about this Camino Frances guide book was that John Brierley included not only every place where food or lodging is available but also every church, museum, hospital or other noteworthy site on the route from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Check out the book review

Village to Village Guide by Dintaman & Landis

This Village to Village Guide to the Camino de Santiago is a comprehensive guidebook to walking the Way of Saint James from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela.

  • 288 pages
  • Weight – 10.2 ounces

This Camino guidebook includes full-color detailed topographical stage maps of each day’s walk with free interactive GPS routes online; 135 detailed stage, city and town maps (now easier to read); essential practical information on transport, accommodations and services. It includes detailed listings of pilgrim  accommodation in each town, including prices, amenities, number of beds, contact information, open times and more

Cicerone Camino Guide and Map Book

This two-volume set of guide book and map book makes an indispensable companion to planning and walking the 784km Camino Frances pilgrim route from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, sometimes known as the French Way.

  • 320 pages
  • Weight – 18.7 ounces

Divided into 6 sections, the guidebook includes an additional section from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia on the Galician coast. Each section is broken down into detailed stages with easily customisable start and finish points due to the amount of accommodation available en route. Over 500 of these pilgrim lodgings are listed within this guidebook, including all public and private albergues, with contact details and a description of facilities available.

The accompanying map book offers detailed, stage-by-stage maps and profiles of the route as well as over 120 town and village maps that helps you find the exact location of accommodation and other sites important to pilgrims. The small size allows you to keep the map book in an accessible pocket for use throughout the day.

More Camino Frances Guide Books

There are numerous other guide books to the Camino Frances as detailed below and all worth checking out dependant on your needs:

Pros and Cons of using a Camino Frances guide book

Pros

  • Really detailed information
  • Great elevation profiles
  • Detailed information
  • Historical and religious content
  • Pages for Notes

Cons

  • You have to carry the book
  • It has to be packed away
  • Getting it out of your backpack whilst walking isn’t ideal

Camino De Santiago apps

Its easy to get a camino de Santiago guide book but some Pilgrims I have talked too recommend turning to apps. On my last trip I spent 9 Days walking the Camino Frances and used different apps to see how they work.

There are so many different walking apps out there, so it can be a bit overwhelming and difficult to find the perfect one to use. 

I have tried to find the best camino de santiago app for your needs. My recommended 2 apps out of the list are the Camino Ninja app which is free and the Wise Pilgrim app which is relatively cheap at $4.99. Both work a treat and I wouldn’t hesitate to use either of them again. The details are below:

Camino Ninja App

I have used this extensively and it works a treat. It’s easy to use, shows good detail when searching your stage distances. It’s 100% free and the maps work offline just in case you get lost. Cost – FREE

Camino Ninja

Wise Pilgrim App

This Camino app is packed full of detail, elevation profiles, Albergue details and off line maps. There is a small charge but well worth the cost. Cost – $4.99

wise pilgrim

Other notable Apps

  • Buen Camino App – Interesting app but takes a bit of operating. FREE
  • Camino 360 App – Lots of info and videos. FREE
  • Camino Assist App – Multiple languages, lots of information. FREE

My personal choice would always be to walk and take it as it comes but both of my recommendations offer a good alternative to guidebooks. 

Watch this video to see how the Camino Ninja app works.

Pros and Cons of using a Camino App

Pros

  • Technology led approach
  • You don’t have to carry them
  • GPS Mapping as well as offline modes
  • Quick and easy to use

Cons

  • The connection with technology is never broken
  • The app may not be up to date

Camino Frances FAQ

Can a beginner walk the Camino Frances ?

The Camino Frances is totally accessible for anyone to walk this amazing pilgrimage although there is some preparation and fitness needed. A guide book would be a good accessory for a beginner.

Should I use a Camino Frances Guide Book ?

A Camino Frances guide book isn’t compulsory and the walk to Santiago de Compostela can be achieved by just following the Camino symbols along the route. Having a guide just helps with information especially when looking at distances and elevation.

Should I use an app instead of a Guide Book ?

In my opinion I would use the John Brierley guide book as a starter as the information in the book is really helpful. I use the app as a backup to the guide book information but its totally each Pilgrims choice. 

Summary

I know some Pilgrims that use no Guide book or app and just walk the Camino one a day at a time, totally disconnecting from their daily work and personal life.

My advise would be to use a guide book as an accompaniement to your walk and enjoy the experience. I personally still use my first guidebook from 2016 when I walk the Camino Frances, enjoying my notes and details from each walk. The memories are amazing.

Buen Camino

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