About The Camino Frances
The Camino Frances is the route of the Camino de Santiago par excellence. It is the most traditional and most popular route. The Camino Frances is the most well-known path in the world, to a large extent because it is recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Camino Frances crosses the north of the Iberian Peninsula from Saint Jean Pied de Port, the last French village, to Santiago de Compostela. A total of 760 kilometres divided into 33 stages of approximately 25 kilometres each.
Although at the end of the Camino de Santiago is, of course, the tomb of the apostle James the Elder, the beginning of the pilgrimage can be made from any point of the route. Each pilgrim chooses a starting point depending on the time he or she has or on their physical capacity.
Both Saint Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles, the first Spanish town on The Camino Frances, after passing through the Pyrenees Mountains, are considered as traditional starting points. However, Burgos, León, O’Cebreiro or Sarria are also common starting points among the pilgrims who travel along The Camino Frances.
In this guide of The Camino Frances, we will talk about the most important aspects of this route, as well as the main reasons why it is widely recognised as one of the most demanding for those who want to live an unforgettable experience.
We’ll specify what their stages are, how long they are and what points of interest are especially noteworthy. Follow closely if you want to know everything there is to know about The Camino Frances.
Why choose The Camino Frances?
Without any doubt, if you had to highlight the main reason why it is worth choosing The Camino Frances is that of its popularity. Indeed, from all possible routes, The Camino Frances is the one that brings together more people.
This means that it is the most likely route to meet people who, in many cases could accompany us throughout our lives.
It must also be said that, as a consequence of the fact that it is the busiest, The Camino de Santiago Frances is the best prepared in terms of infrastructure, superior to the rest of the routes. It also has eight alternative routes with which we can put together a path to our liking.
It is also true that it is the one that has more hostels along its route and that, in general, more facilities are available. It is also necessary to say that it is the oldest one since its origin (like most suggested routes) responds not only to religious motives but also to commercial ones.
That’s why from the time of the early Middle Ages it became a busy and popular route throughout Europe. Thus, another point in favour of this route is its historical baggage represented by an urban, rural and cultural heritage that comes from several centuries ago.
Information about the The Camino de Santiago Frances route
The Camino Frances has a total distance of 760 km. It begins in Saint Jean Pied de Port and in the municipality of Roncesvalles, in Navarra. As we have said, The Camino Frances arose in the period we know as the early Middle Ages. Specifically, between the 9th and 10th centuries.
It all begins with the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle of Christ, James. Apparently, after his death, his disciples would have moved him from Jerusalem to a place called the Sacred Peak.
This was the beginning of a route that not only gathered the faithful who wanted to go to Santiago as a sign of penance or the quest to fulfill any promise they had made to the apostle.
It was also a trade route that made the whole of Europe prosper because it granted a relatively safe path in the turbulent times of the Middle Ages. This indicates that the route of The Camino de Santiago Frances is a route with a great Gothic and Romanesque heritage.
The quietest ways of The Camino Frances
If you do not know, we want to tell you that, when walking on a route linked to Santiago there are several alternatives. Of course, The Camino Frances is the most popular. However, we would like to clarify at this point which are the quietest ways by those who wish to take advantage of some of these unforgettable routes.
The Journey of The Camino Frances
During its complete journey through the Iberian Peninsula, The Camino Frances crosses nine provinces of Spain: Navarre, Huesca, Zaragoza, La Rioja, Burgos, Palencia, León, Lugo and A Coruña. Throughout the journey, you can follow the traditional route or take alternative ones.
Basically, eight large alternative routes can be targeted. These are: Port of Ibañeta via Valcarlos, Cirueña via San Milán de la Cogolla, Burgos via Olmos de Atapuerca, Burgo via Santovenia de Oca, Carrión De Los Condes via Palencia and La Mansilla De Las Mulas via Vía Trajana.
Along The Camino Frances, pilgrims can visit Benedictine monasteries and Templar castles with Gothic and Romanesque styles. It will cross lush forests and rivers that whisper in its path. You will pass through numerous charming towns and be enveloped by medieval legends and Celtic magic.
Map of The Camino Frances to Santiago
Below, we have attached a map which would be necessary for The Camino Frances to Santiago:
Profile of The Camino de Santiago Frances
The Camino Frances is highly difficult. This is due in large part to its unevenness and to the areas that it crosses where, if the climatic conditions are not favourable, it can become a hard passage. It has to be said that it also is very long.
It has a total altitude of 3000 metres, that is to say, along with its various stages we will encounter high mountain passes.
This information is especially relevant for people who want to take the Camino on a bicycle because it will require a high-intensity training programme before completing it.
There are, however, many incentives to do it because despite the challenge it implies it is an unforgettable experience that gives us wonderful landscapes and a very special connection with what surrounds us and with ourselves.
Since it is the route that has more tradition, it is the itinerary of the Camino de Santiago that has better infrastructure and is better signposted.
It has a wide network of public hostels, private accommodation and accessible services. In addition, many of the provinces have improved signals in recent years.
At the same time, as it is the most famous itinerary, it is also the busiest. Fortunately, the route is quite long so that, although the rhythm of each person is very different, the presence of other pilgrims on the way does not spoil the religious or spiritual meaning for anyone.
It is true that, sometimes, due to the overcrowding of The Camino Frances, many pilgrims forget the essence of the Camino de Santiago, which is to enjoy the tour and enter a long-distance race for accommodation.
That means starting the day in the small hours or not enjoying the beautiful landscapes and urban areas that cross the route.
At this point, you should not forget that The Camino Frances has an extensive accommodation infrastructure. Both the network of hostels and the tourist accommodation are of the highest quality.
Enjoy the incredible experience of touring this medieval route should be the only concern of the pilgrim who chooses to make this itinerary of the Camino de Santiago. If you wish you can book with us and we will take care of all the travel logistics.
Stages of The Camino Frances
How long does The Camino Frances take?
It must be said that this answer depends on several aspects. To know how long it takes to walk The Camino Frances, you first have to think that you can start from the point you choose.
At the same time, it will also depend on the kind of experience we want to live. For some people, enjoying nature is a priority, which makes them more recreational along the way and, consequently, take longer to complete a stage and all of the way in general.
It also depends on other factors such as age and physical endurance. On average, as seen above, the stages are about 25km. This is not to say that we have to complete them all. We can stop when we’re tired. However, that will add more stages and finally not be between 31 and 33.
Either way and as it is to enjoy, the ideal thing is that each pilgrim will mark his rhythm. At first, fatigue will be very noticeable. However, as we become more experienced it will be easier and we can walk longer distances without getting so tired.
As an estimate, we can say that each stage involves six hours of travel that in some cases can reach eight if more stops are made or we sit down to enjoy a specific environment. Thus, one of the main advantages of The Camino Frances and the Camino de Santiago, in general, is all the freedom they give us.
Best time of the year to complete The Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela
While it is true that the Xunta de Galicia’s hostels are open all year round, it is also true that many private ones do not open for long periods of the year. That means that The Camino Frances and, in general, the Camino de Santiago is also seasonal.
Also, it must be said that in a time when there are not too many pilgrims will bring us advantages and facilities that we would not find in times of high occupancy.
Spring has the advantage of offering us beautiful views and rather benign weather because it is a climate that, in many sections, covers areas of oceanic climate with mild temperatures. The main disadvantage would be unstable weather, having more rain.
Summer is the most popular time of the year because it coincides with July 25th, the day of Santiago the Apostle, The city of Santiago’s celebration day par excellence. It will depend on what your preferences are because spring and autumn are seasons with very changeable weather, which always implies a risk.
The autumn tints some places with wonderful colours where the majority of trees are deciduous. Browns, yellows and greens will be present all the way. It is certainly an ideal time to walk The Camino Frances to Santiago, although we must take into account unstable weather.
In winter we have the advantage that the road will not be very crowded or busy. This is especially important in the case of The Camino Frances, which is the busiest of all. In addition, we will be able to enjoy all the advantages that an unbeatable landscape environment has during this season.
Guide to places that you must not miss on The Camino Frances to Santiago
We want to talk to you now about the most beautiful and interesting places on The Camino Frances. They are corners, municipalities and landscapes that you cannot miss and that, surely, will make you love even more of the wonderful route of The Camino de Santiago from France. These places include points of interest, places to eat and places to sleep.
Points of interest
Puente La Reina
The Aragonese and Navarro route join in this wonderful medieval bridge that crosses the River Arga. It is one of the most important enclaves of The Camino de Santiago and, by extension, the whole history and the European cultures.
A long time ago there were two lands in which the pilgrims had to pay a sum of money if they wanted to continue their journey.
Estella is one of the most impressive villages in Navarre and one of the most important enclaves in the history of Spain. It was, in fact, the capital of that which came to be called the “Carlist Spain ” and a very important point during the homonymous wars of the nineteenth century.
The municipality of Astorga, in León, requires a lengthy stop to enjoy its wonderful heritage. The Cathedral and the Episcopal Palace, the latter, work by Antoni Gaudí are two of the points that you cannot miss and that will certainly amaze you.
Another of the most spectacular municipalities is also located in León. Its’ wonderful medieval castle stands out in what was the heart of the entire region of Bierzo.
Where to stay – The best lodgings
From Santiago Ways, we offer you the best variety in hotels so you can enjoy your deserved rest after the stages of The Camino de Santiago Frances. Everything, so you can be taken care of in the best possible way.
Where to eat – The best restaurants
Roncesvalles – Casa Sabina
Open from 7.00 am, this restaurant offers all-day dining. Several specialities at a very cheap price with an average price which is below 10 euros (for a full meal).
Astorga – La Peseta
In Astorga we find the restaurant La Peseta, a restaurant with a price somewhat higher than the other recommendations we give that, having said this, you won’t stop visiting it if you are going to walk The Camino Frances.
Arzúa – Casa Chelo
In the municipality of Arzúa, already very close to Santiago, is the Casa Chelo restaurant, with fairly affordable prices and with a popular and very appetizing cuisine with multiple specialities.
History of The Camino Frances
The origin of The Camino Frances is the discovery of the remains of the Apostle James the Elder in the 9th century. According to the traditional narrative, the discovery was made by Bishop Teodomiro, from the Diocese of Iría Flavia, in the year 813.
In the place where the remains of the Apostle Santiago were found, the Asturian monarch Alfonso II (The Chaste) ordered the construction of a church, which was later converted into the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
From that very moment, many Christians decided to travel on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to offer their respects to the saint. This devotion prompted people to come from different places, crossing the lands that surrounded the heart of Galicia.
Alfonso II, who needed an element that would give cohesion to his kingdom, transformed the apostle into a symbol against the struggle of Islam. The image of Santiago Matamoros was born, which was spread quickly among the pilgrim community on the route and the Christian community in general.
The Origin of The Camino Frances
The Camino Frances has its origin in the Middle Ages and in the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago.
However, it also had very important strategic functions to serve as a frontier at the time of the Reconquista between the Muslim and the Christian sides and, at the same time, to promote a trade route that contributed to revitalize the whole area and that in a large part explains the patrimonial richness of all the municipalities on The Camino Frances.
Although at first, it was not very safe (as were all roads and trips in the 10th century) the monarch Sancho III was the one who, by means of the implantation of a mark that separates the Christian territory from the Muslim contributed to its development. The Codex Calixtinus contributed to increasing its popularity by describing its main routes and encouraging not only the popular European classes to travel on this way with the desire to fulfil promises and penances, but also to great characters who were included in all layers of medieval society.
Nowadays, The Camino Frances to Santiago is the busiest. That increases the chances of meeting people with the same concerns as us. And the popularity that it has responds to the great beauty of the places it crosses, as well as to the great amount of cultural, historical and artistic heritage that exists.
It is, without a doubt, one of the best alternatives to enjoy the experience of the Camino de Santiago.
Codex Calixtinus: The written testimony of The Camino Frances
The Camino Frances is the most documented route. The book V Manuscript of the Codex Calixtinus, which dates from the year 1135, already accurately indicates the four main roads of The Camino Frances.
Three of the roads (Lee Puy-Conques, Vézelay-Limoges and Paris-Tours) enter Spain by St. Jean Pied de Port, a French locality close to Roncesvalles, in Navarre. While the fourth route (Arles-Toulouse) enters by Somport and continues to Jaca, in Aragon. This last route joins the three previous ones in Puente La Reina, in Navarra.
This written testimony also includes the use of expressions by pilgrims to greet each other at that particular time. In the book appears “Ultreia Et Sus Eia! Deus Adjuva nos!” which means “Let’s go further and go higher! God help us! “
“Ultreia” is a greeting among pilgrims who also used to cheer themselves up. Its origin is in the Latin word “ultra”, which means “beyond”, and “EIA”, interjection to “move”.
It seems that the pilgrims of the time were greeted saying “Ultreia, Suseia, Santiago” which means “Keep going, beyond, further up, is Santiago”. It could also be that when one pilgrim greeted another, he said “Ultreia” (“Go beyond”) and that the other answered, “Et Suseia” (“and we go Higher”).
The time of splendour and its decline
Until the 13th century, the most brilliant stage of the Camino de Santiago unfolded, and which witnessed the passage of all kinds of pilgrims, who came from any Christian region of Europe to Santiago pushed on by various interests, both religious and economic. It was also in that century, in 1211, when the present Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was inaugurated.
But The Camino de Santiago was not just a pilgrimage route. The development of The Camino Frances also had an important social, cultural and economic impact between the connecting regions.
Thanks to the movement of people between the Iberian Peninsula and Europe, different literary and artistic influences came to Spain, as well as different ways of thinking and behaving. This flow also occurred in reverse and the European countries gained access to Hispanic cultural heritage.
The kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula that were crossed by The Camino Frances suffered a strong impact on an economic and social level. The lively life on the road encouraged the arrival of many groups of merchants and artisans, basically foreigners, who ended up permanently settling in various localities on the way.
The settlements of these foreigners, who were called popularly “francs”, although not all of them came from France, they received the name of “Burgos”. The inhabitants of these new centres received great privileges in the jurisdictions of their cities. Thus the bourgeoisie was born, and The Camino Frances witnessed numerous anti-state riots.
On an artistic level, the Camino de Santiago had a very important role. Through the route, the international art movement entered Spain. The Romanesque, mainly its French version, was materialized prominently in places such as Santiago, León, Frómista or Jaca.
In parallel, Muslim elements came to Europe that were transmitted through The Camino Frances. During the 13th century, the Camino de Santiago was the gateway to Gothic art.
From the 14th century onwards, the flow of pilgrims visiting Santiago de Compostela suffered a setback. The schism of the Christian world in 1378, the frequent wars, the proliferation of the Black Plague, among other reasons, considerably reduced pilgrimages to Santiago.
The Camino Frances today
At present, The Camino Frances is, in all ways, not only the most popular but also the one that enjoys the greatest recognition, both at national and international level. However, although its fame goes back in centuries of history, it is not until 1993, that The Camino Frances becomes an important tourist attraction.
The Holy Year of 1993, supported by the declaration of the French Road as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and of the first European itinerary of Cultural interest by the Council of Europe, triggered a very important boom in this itinerary.
In 2004, it received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord for being qualified as an example of co-existence between people and cultures; And for their role in the development of the European origins of Christianity. Every year, travelling on The Camino Frances, almost 300,000 pilgrims arrive in Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino Frances with Santiago Ways
Ideal footwear for the Camino Frances
Sections of the Camino Frances
- St. Jean Pied de Port – Pamplona
- Pamplona – Logroño
- Roncesvalles – Logroño
- Logroño – Burgos
- Burgos – Sahagun
- Sahagun – Leon
- León – Ponferrada
- Ponferrada – Sarria
- Sarria – Santiago de Compostela
Other users’ opinions about the Camino Frances
We want to show you the opinion of other users so that, through their own experiences you can know first-hand what they think about The Camino Frances.
Photos and Videos of the Camino Frances
Below, we offer some photographs of the Camino de Santiago from France and some videos that will make you enjoy the most unforgettable experience of your life. Enjoy the Camino with Santiago Ways and focus on living it!
The Camino de Santiago with Santiago Ways
Other Caminos de Santiago
- Camino Frances
- Camino de Santiago Portugues
- Camino de Santiago Portugues coastal route
- Camino de Santiago del Norte
- Camino de Santiago de Finisterre
- Camino de Santiago Ingles
- Camino de Santiago Primitivo
- Camino Lebaniego
- The Way of Lighthouses
- The Via de la Plata
Here you can see all the stages of the Camino de Santiago.
In Santiago Ways, we will advise you on which route of the Camino de Santiago is the best fit for you.
Other ways to complete The Camino de Santiago
- The Camino de Santiago in an organized group
- The Camino de Santiago with a dog
- The Camino de Santiago on bike
- The Camino de Santiago as a couple
- The Camino de Santiago at Easter