Know Your Caminos I: The French Way

Want to walk the Camino but confused by the number of routes out there? Well, you wouldn’t be the only one…

It’s true that more and more Camino walking routes are opening up, which is brilliant of course, but it might sometimes feel a little overwhelming for would-be pilgrims. To shed some light on your Camino options, we’ve decided to bring everything back to basics in a series of blogs explaining the main routes of the Camino de Santiago.

Starting with the heaviest hitter:

THE FRENCH WAY

The French Way (otherwise known as The French Camino, or Camino Francés) is the oldest and best known Camino route of all. This is why, more often than not, when people talk about “the Camino” or the “Camino de Santiago,” they are talking about the French Way.  So, at a stretch you might say the French Way is the Camino.

But it comes in different guises:

I. The Whole Lot

The total length of the French Way is around 780 km. It traditionally starts in the French village of Saint Jean Pied de Port, located just inside the French border on the foothills of the Pyrenees, and finishes, like all Camino routes, in Santiago de Compostela. Undertaking the entire Camino de Santiago is a hardcore test of body, mind and spirit. It takes around 40 days to walk the full route, though times can vary greatly depending on individual schedules and experiences along the way.  The Full French Camino takes you right across northern Spain, through culturally distinct regions such as Navarra, La Rioja, Castille y Leon and Galicia.

II. The Final Stretch

Many people walking the Camino for the first time and seeking a trail-taster can do the “Final Stretch,” from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. This is a lovely and very popular, 112 km jaunt across the rolling Galician countryside, which many argue best captures the true spirit of the Camino experience. Remember, just because it can be walked in a week doesn’t mean it is easy. The task of unrelenting daily walking should never be underestimated.

III. Crossing the Pyrenees

The opening section of the French Way is also popular. You set off from the traditional starting point of Saint Jean de Pied de Port and walk as far as Estella, taking in the great city of Pamplona along the way. The opening hike up the steep slopes of the Pyrenees is an early highlight, as is the journey westwards across the beautiful landscape of Navarra. These may be among the most demanding moments of the entire Camino, but they also count among the most memorable.

IV. Section by Section

People often decide to walk the Camino section by section, covering a different region every year. Start off with the opening “Crossing the Pyrenees” section, described above; the following year, walk from Estella to the great city of Burgos; next, traverse the flat plains of the Meseta as you walk from Burgos to Leon. Then its onwards to the Galician frontier and, finally, Santiago de Compostela. Remember, you’re not tied to any particular section; any itinerary can be adapted according to the amount of time you have available to travel. Anything works – it’s up to you.

 

If you’d like more information or advice, get in touch with us here at CaminoByTheWay and we’ll help you plan your ideal Camino holiday.

 

In the next blog, we’ll shed light on the next most popular Camino route: The Portuguese Camino.

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