Camino Frances: The Classic Pilgrimage Route to Santiago

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Camino Frances: The Classic Pilgrimage Route to Santiago
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Santiago de Compostela is well known to everyone. For over 1,000 years pilgrims have walked to this place to visit the tomb of the apostle James in the cathedral. The Camino Francés is the most popular route to complete this journey. The Camino Francés starts in France and has a length of 784 kilometres. To complete the trek in its entirety, you need a lot of time! That's why in this blog post we focus mainly on the last 100 kilometres of the route, the distance required for a compostela. Curious? Bookatrekking.com tells you everything you need to know about the Camino Francés!

The Camino Francés is one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela and, as mentioned, the most frequently chosen variant. The route starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and takes you across the Pyrenees to Spain. Along the way, you pass cities such as Pamplona and Burgos and walk along elongated paths. Surrounded by lavender and wheat fields and perhaps a snow-covered mountain peak, you can let your mind wander to finally bring your journey to a close in Santiago de Compostela.

Camino Francés, Camino de Santagio, St James’ Route, Pilgrim’s Route?

There are several Caminos (roads), which in this case do not lead to Rome, but to Santiago de Compostela. Names you may come across besides Camino Francés are Camino, Camino de Santiago, St James' Way or Pilgrims' Way. All names refer to the long-distance journey you make on foot to Santiago de Compostela, starting points of the route are in many places in Europe. The Camino Francés forms part of the overall route and is one of its most famous sections. The Camino Portugués is another well-loved section.

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Start and End Point of the Camino Francés

The full route of the Camino Francés is 784 kilometres long and runs from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The route is composed of 32 stages, plus a few extra to walk on to the Atlantic coast after reaching Santiago. In this blog, we further explain the stages starting from Sarria, a distance of 117 kilometres. More than the required distance of 100 kilometres to get your compostela. Further on in this blog, we will tell you more about the compostela.

Start and End Point of the Camino Francés

Historical Background of the Camino Francés

Pilgrims have been flocking to Santiago for more than a thousand years because, according to tradition, the remains of the apostle James were found here. The discovery took place in the ninth century, after which the small city of Santiago soon began to attract pilgrims. Good money could be made from these pilgrims, people noticed over the following centuries. On the other hand, investments were made to ensure the pilgrims kept coming, by improving the infrastructure and encouraging pilgrims to stay permanently after their journey, among other things. This is how even new towns came about, among other things.

From the 11th century, the Camino Francés was the most direct route to Santiago from western Europe and therefore the most popular. During the 12th century, more than 500,000 pilgrims came to Santiago de Compostela every year, making it the most important destination for pilgrims after Rome and Jerusalem.

From the 16th century, a pilgrimage to Santiago and thus the Camino Francés became less popular, it was not until the 20th century that the routes returned to the map. After the publication of the first guidebook in 1969 on the Camino Francés, pilgrims slowly returned, only to return in large numbers from the early 1990s onwards. Today, the cathedral in Santiago again welcomes more than 300,000 pilgrims every year.

Is the Camino Francés Something for Me?

The Camino Francés is technically not difficult and is easy to walk. You do not have to be an athlete to have an enjoyable trek, but it is important that you prepare yourself well for the fact that you will be walking a good number of hours every day. In the weeks before the trek, try to walk a few hours a day and try to wear the same shoes as during the trek so that you don't get blisters or hurt your feet. Another good idea is to walk with a backpack on your shoulders so that your back can get used to the weight.

Is the Camino Francés Something for Me?

What Is the Best Season for the Camino Francés?

The location of the Camino Francés in Spain means that the route is easily passable all year round, though you have to take into account the different seasons which all have their advantages and disadvantages. Bookatrekking.com recommends walking the Camino Francés in spring (March - June) or autumn (September - October). Temperatures are not as high (anymore) during these periods and the big summer crowds have passed or are yet to come. Hotels and other accommodation are ready to receive pilgrims and there is usually always a table in a restaurant.

In July and August it is very busy on the road and in accommodations, besides it can be very hot. During the winter months, the weather can be unpredictable and not all accommodation and restaurants are open either.

What Are a Credencial and Compostela and How Do They Work?

While walking the Camino Francés, it is useful to have a so-called Pilgrim's Passport (credencial). This document gives you access to many accommodation addresses for pilgrims, you also need a credencial to claim your certificate (compostela), for which you must have travelled at least 100 kilometres.

The Pilgrim Passport gives the traveller the status of a pilgrim. It contains the walker's personal details, space for stamps and useful information about the route, including maps. You can get the pilgrim passport from one of the many Pilgrim Societies, hotels, churches or in one of the Brotherhoods of the Apostle James.

The passport is full of empty boxes, into which various stamps must be placed to prove that you have travelled through the various places on the route. These stamps can be obtained at hostels, pilgrim associations, parishes and also at the post office in each town. To prove that you have covered the required 100 kilometres for a certificate, you need to collect at least two stamps per day in the passport.

In Santiago, on presentation of your Pilgrim Passport, you can collect your certificate. Your name will be translated into Latin for this purpose, making it a special souvenir.

What Are a Credencial and Compostela and How Do They Work?

Camino Francés: Route and Stages

The total route of the Camino Francés is 784 kilometres long, in the itinerary below we have described the stages starting from Sarria. You cover a total distance of more than 100 kilometres, spread over six days. The route can be covered in five days, Bookatrekking.com recommends walking the total distance in six days.

We have divided the long third stage from Palas de Rei to Arzúa into two stages, this way the distances are balanced better and you can fully enjoy the whole trek.

Day
1

Arrival in Sarria

You arrive in Sarria the day before you start on the Camino Francés. This contributes to a relaxed start of the trip.

DP Cristal (Sarria)

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DP Cristal (Sarria)
Day
2

Sarria - Portomarín

Duration: 05:10 h
Distance: 23.2 km / 14.4 mi
Ascent: 370 m / 1214 ft
Descent: 440 m / 1444 ft
The tour starts with a gentle route from Sarria to Portomarín. Along the way, you will walk through small villages, beautiful landscapes and past Romanesque churches. Also, near Ferreiros you will pass the mark indicating that it is exactly 100 kilometres to Santiago, popular for a short stop. At the end of the stage, you will arrive in Portomarín, one of the most beautiful villages on this part of the Camino Francés.

PortoSantiago (Portomarín)

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PortoSantiago (Portomarín)
Day
3

Portomarín - Palas de Rei

Duration: 05:40 h
Distance: 25 km / 15.5 mi
Ascent: 520 m / 1706 ft
Descent: 320 m / 1050 ft
After the start, you soon hike up through dense forests, the route taking you through many picturesque villages and along stone paths. Along the way you will pass Castromayor, among others, where you will find remains of an old fortress and a Romanesque church. At the end of the stage, you will arrive in Palas de Rei, one of the most characteristic places on the Camino Francés.

Pensión Palas (Palas de Rei)

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Pensión Palas (Palas de Rei)
Day
4

Palas de Rei - Melide

Duration: 03:20 h
Distance: 14.9 km / 9.3 mi
Ascent: 220 m / 722 ft
Descent: 320 m / 1050 ft
Today you have a beautiful stage ahead of you, covering 15 kilometres this day. You will walk over an old medieval bridge after a few kilometres, which may even have survived from Roman times. The trail takes you along ancient paths, trees and green meadows. The finish today is Melide, popular with pilgrims for its many facilities. You can also see the medieval remains of the town there.

Pension Esquina (Melide)

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Pension Esquina (Melide)
Day
5

Melide - Arzúa

Duration: 03:00 h
Distance: 14 km / 8.7 mi
Ascent: 240 m / 787 ft
Descent: 310 m / 1017 ft
Today the route continues along gravel paths, several old bridges and the medieval town of Ribadiso, just before Arzúa, one of the pilgrims' favourite places. Once you arrive in Arzúa, we recommend tasting the typical local cheese!

Hotel Arzúa (Arzúa)

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Hotel Arzúa (Arzúa)
Day
6

Arzúa - O Pedrouzo

Duration: 04:30 h
Distance: 20 km / 12.4 mi
Ascent: 280 m / 919 ft
Descent: 390 m / 1280 ft
Today is a relaxing hiking day, nice after the effort of the previous day. The walk takes you through eucalyptus forests, charming villages and along small rivers. We highly recommend visiting the chapel of Santa Irene, a popular attraction among pilgrims. According to legend, James' body was meant to be buried in the tomb of this church instead of Santiago, until it was discovered that dragons lived on nearby Pico Sacro. Who knows what else you might encounter along the way...

Pensión Residencial Platas (O Pedrouzo)

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Pensión Residencial Platas (O Pedrouzo)
Day
7

O Pedrouzo - Santiago de Compostela

Duration: 04:30 h
Distance: 20 km / 12.4 mi
Ascent: 300 m / 984 ft
Descent: 310 m / 1017 ft
The last walking day of the Camino has arrived. From the top of 'Monte do Gozo', you have a view of Santiago de Compostela and its magnificent cathedral. A special moment. When you arrive in Santiago, don't forget to go to the Pilgrims' Office for your final stamp and official compostela. A special journey is complete, now you can explore Santiago and perhaps attend the pilgrim mass at the cathedral.

PR Campanas de San Juan (Santiago de Compostela)

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PR Campanas de San Juan (Santiago de Compostela)
Day
8

Departure from Santiago

Your Camino has come to an end, today you will leave Santiago to travel home or to another destination.
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Where Do I Stay During the Camino Francés?

The options for accommodation along the Camino Francés route are endless. From simple to chic accommodation; everything is possible. This means that you can walk the Camino Francés on almost any budget. Below is an overview of the most common accommodation options.

Albergues

These 'hostels' cater to pilgrims and offer simple accommodation, at a low price. You usually spend the night in dormitories, smaller or private albergues sometimes offer private rooms. Bathrooms almost always have to be shared with other guests, nor is self-catering in an albergue always possible.

Hotels

Along the Camino Francés you will also find hotels, hostals and guesthouses. Here you will mostly (in some hostals and guesthouses not) have a private room with private bathroom. Some hotels and hostals also have their own restaurant to grab a bite to eat in the evening.

Habitaciónes and casas rurales

In these two types of accommodation, you stay in rooms (habitaciónes) of, for example, a large house or a guesthouse. A casa rurales is a holiday home, large or small. Here you can often cook for yourself.

Camping

Another option is to camp along the Camino Francés, although you will need to bring more of your own belongings. Wild camping is not recommended, as there are simply too many pilgrims who would then pitch their tents in places not meant for camping. Moreover, it is illegal to wild camp in Spain if an area is not designated for it.

Where Do I Stay During the Camino Francés?

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Food and Drink During the Camino Francés

Viva España! While walking the Camino Francés, there's no need to go hungry and thirsty, after all, you're in Spain. For the hungry pilgrim, there are plenty of options along the way, from a daily snack to local specialities.

When staying in an albergue or hotel, breakfast is often included. So you won't set off on an empty stomach. Along the route you will regularly come across cafés and restaurants where you can have lunch. As there is plenty of choice to eat on the way, most pilgrims choose not to take too much food with them during the day.

In the evening, many restaurants offer a so-called 'menú del peregrino', a pilgrim's menu. This is a two- or three-course menu at a fixed price; many pilgrims take up this opportunity. In some albergues, there is also the option of joining a communal dinner for a fee, or cooking in the communal kitchen.

Food and Drink During the Camino Francés

Camino Francés: Arriving and Departing

The places around the Camino Francés are easy to get to, depending on your plan and itinerary, you may take a little longer to get to your starting or departure point. The Camino Francés starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Sarria is the place where Bookatrekking.com starts the journey of over 100 kilometres to Santiago.

Starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

The nearest airport here is Biarritz, from the airport you can take a bus or taxi to Bayonne station. From here you can continue by train to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and then start the entire Camino Francés.

Starting in Sarria

If you start from Sarria, Santiago airport is the closest. From Santiago, travel to Sarria by bus or train to start your Camino Francés. There are also good train connections to Madrid and Barcelona, you can also fly into one of these airports and travel on to Sarria by train.

Departure from Santiago

From Santiago, you can go in different directions. By plane, train or bus, you can travel home or to another destination. The airport is easily accessible from Santiago city centre and flies to many European destinations.

Camino Francés: Arriving and Departing

Packing List for the Camino de Santiago

No matter where you go hiking or for how long, bringing the right equipment is of utmost importance. For your hike, the first thing you need is a good backpack. The size of it will depend on the number of days you will be trekking, the season and the clothes you take with you. If you have luggage transport, the comfort level of your daypack is most important. We have compiled a packing list with a few essential items of clothing you should bring and some extras you might find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

Do I Have to Carry My Own Luggage on the Camino Francés?

You can carry your own luggage during the day, but you don't have to. There are several companies that will take your luggage to your next overnight address every day at a small cost. Your bag should weigh a maximum of 15 or 20 kilos and you drop it off at the lobby each morning. While you are enjoying your hiking day, your luggage will be transported to the next location and will be ready when you arrive in the afternoon. Convenient, right?

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your accommodation and luggage transport, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Camino de Santiago, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

How Do I Find My Way on the Camino Francés?

The Camino Francés is well marked, with yellow arrows and shell symbols to guide pilgrims during the stages.

How Do I Find My Way on the Camino Francés?

Safety tips for the Camino de Santiago

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Camino de Santiago is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Camino de Santiago. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Camino de Santiago and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Camino de Santiago.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Camino de Santiago?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Camino de Santiago and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations, organizing luggage transportation and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Camino de Santiago not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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