Between here and Roncesvalles there are two routes. The (lower) RIGHT route goes through Valcarlos, and the (higher) LEFT route goes through Orisson. If you're walking in winter it's important to ask in the Pilgrims Office about weather conditions. Both routes are difficult in snow or high winds and the LEFT route is OFFICIALLY CLOSED from the beginning of November until the end of March (ignoring this may lead to legal sanctions). Remember that in mountainous areas such as this, weather conditions can change very quickly.
Leaving Saint-Jean walk down rue de la Citadelle, under the arch of Porte d'Espagne and up rue d'Espagne, continuing straight under another arch and up a hill for about 100m until you reach a junction with a small sign on a lamppost indicating where the two routes divide.
At the junction turn right on to Chemin de Mayorga and continue straight until you come to the main road which you follow to the left. After about 600m turn right on to a small road, clearly signposted Valcarlos / Luzaide and Roncevaux (French for Roncesvalles).
8km to the Spanish border, marked by a gaudy shopping centre and petrol station. Walk towards the petrol station and continue straight.
1km to Arnéguy, shops, cafés and restaurants. The Camino crosses the river into France again and continues on a minor road through the village of Ondarrola where it crosses the river back into Spain.Valcarlos
Follow the main road for 2km until the Camino veers left on to a minor road and passes through the village of Gañecoleta before rejoining the main road after 2km. It then follows the main road for another 2km before veering left on to a lane. From here on it's wooded, mountainous terrain to Ibañeta, apart from one place where it briefly meets the road again. Off-road parts of this route may be difficult in snow, in which case it's advisable to stick to the road.
Welcome to Spain and Navarra!
There are two options when descending into Roncesvalles, the one to the left is quite a steep descent through the forest, while the one to the right is slightly longer, descending more gently along an unpaved road via the church at Puerto de Ibañeta.
3kmto Burguete, cafés, bank, pharmacy - however, most things will be closed if you're passing through early in the morning. Several cafés on and near the Camino open for breakfast. One, in the village a little after where the Camino turns right, is also a bakery.
The Camino takes an abrupt right turn at the red Santander sign.Espinal
5km to Viskarret, new café before the village and the traditional Bar Juan on main square with its amazing tortillas. Shop on your left at the end of the village.
2km to Linzoain, after that 8km to Zubiri with a steep descent into the valley of the river Arre.
The Camino continues straight along the riverbank and doesn't go through Zubiri which is on the other side of the bridge.ZubiriIlarratz
The Camino bypasses Larrasoaña. If you want to visit the village you'll have to cross the bridge.LarrasoañaZuriainZabaldikaVillava
It's suburban streets from here to Pamplona. The Camino turns right shortly before a roundabout with a fountain in the middle and crosses a main road and turns right again. When you see a 'zig-zag' footbridge over the river, this is the quickest way to Casa Paderborn, otherwise continue straight along the riverbank to Puente de la Magdalena.Pamplona
If you get lost leaving Pamplona head for the Ciudadela fortress at the corner of Avenida del Ejército and Avenida del Pio XII. The path beside the park, with the fortress to your left, is the Camino. It's clearly marked. Several cafés around here are open early.Cizur MenorZariquiegui
Steep descent on loose gravel which must be tackled with care, to...UtergaMuruzábal
From Muruzábal you can make a short detour to visit the church in Eunate, it's signposted from the Camino. From Eunate you can rejoin the Camino in Obanos, adding approximately 3km to your Camino.Obanos
There are two routes to get to Puente la Reina. Leaving Obanos you'll come to steps leading down left on to a slightly meandering (ie. longer) path away from the road. Alternatively, if you choose to continue straight ahead you can follow a path parallel to the road passing Albergue Jakue.Puente la Reina
Surprisingly steep 100m climb before arriving in...MañeruCirauqui Lorca Villatuerta Estella
To leave Estella continue past the Municipal Albergue on Calle la Rua, then straight until you come to a roundabout where you continue to another roundabout where there is an Avia petrol station. Here the Camino continues uphill on a footpath. You can also continue walking along the road, Calle de Carlos VII, which rejoins the Camino after 500m, on this road is a small Decathlon (outdoor shop) and several large supermarkets.Ayegui
The Camino splits shortly after Bodegas Irache. Distances are from Ayegui.
12km through open country with very little shade to Los Arcos
The left route passes through beautiful forested countryside and the village of Luquín.Luquín
11km to Los Arcos, very little shade.
Entering La Rioja (although if you stray a little to your right you can pass through a tiny corner of the Basque Country)Logroño
Supermarkets and fruit and veg market on the Camino on the way out of town (not open at the crack of dawn). Mostly concrete to Navarrete!
7km café La Parada del Peregrino. Watch out for squirrels begging for (and possibly stealing) food, and rabbits.Navarrete
The Camino follows the road for a while before swinging away to the left shortly after the Ermita de Santa María de Jesús.
4km to turnoff for Sotés which is about 2km off the Camino.
Private (8, 15[EURO]) Albergue San Martín, on Calle San Miguel, in Sotés. Kitchen, laundry facilities. Best to phone before making the detour. Tel 650 962 625 Open 12:00
A sign-posted alternative route allows you to bypass Ventosa.Ventosa
After passing under a main road don't miss the left turn towards Nájera (unless you actually want to visit Huércanos - not recommended).NájeraAzofraCirueña
Extreme care is necessary when crossing the main roads in Santo Domingo!Santo Domingo de la CalzadaGrañón
Entering Castilla y León. The border is marked by a 'megalith' which is rumoured to have appeared in the dead of night during a violent thunder storm. Local Albergue owners are rumoured to offer it a blood sacrifice every new year's day in the hope of plentiful big spending pilgrims and possibly a sequel to The Way.
The main road at Redecilla can be busy.Redecilla del CaminoCastildelgado
It is not advisable to walk along the side of the very busy main road.Viloria de la RiojaVillamayor del RíoBeloradoTosantosVillambistiaEspinosa del CaminoVillafranca Montes de Oca
Ascent 200m over 3kmSan Juan de Ortega
There are two routes from here to Burgos. The alternative one is waymarked but little-used and devoid of pilgrim accommodation. It passes through the following villages: Santovenia de Oca, Zalduendo, Ibeas de Juarros, Castrillo del Val, San Medel, Castañares and then to Burgos. Parts of it are along the side of a main road.AgésAtapuercaCardeñuela RíopicoOrbaneja Ríopico
There are two routes when entering Burgos. They divide after Orbaneja, shortly after crossing over a motorway where there are houses and recycling containers on the left. The right route has little shade and passes through Villafría (cafés) and an endless industrial zone. The left route follows the perimeter fence of the airport to a village called Castañares (cafés) and a major road which you can cross at the pedestrian crossing to your left. Continue straight through a small park with a children's playground to your left and a basketball court to your right, straight along a small road which crosses a stream and swings right at the entrance to a factory. Continue until you cross a footbridge over a river. Now turn right and follow the path between the river and a busy road, turning left to pass under the road. Now you can follow the river for a pleasant, shady walk all the way to the city. There's a beach where you can swim (although the water's freezing). This route passes through a little-frequented nature reserve and some people may feel uncomfortable on their own. Both routes are approximately the same length.Burgos
Finding your way out of Burgos can be a bit complicated. Exiting the municipal albergue turn right and continue past the cathedral along Calle Fernán de González for about 800m until you come to the city wall. Pass through the arch and turn left down the steps and straight on to Calle Emperador as far as Calle Villalon, where you turn left. This will bring you to the river which you cross on a footbridge (Puente Malotos) straight in front of you. After the footbridge you'll see a statue of Santo Domingo and the entrance to a park at the corner of Paseo de los Comendadores. You can either walk through the park or veer right on to Avenida de José Maria Vilacián Rebollo and then straight on to Calle de Villadiego, then veer right on to Calle de Benito Pérez Galdós (sign pointing to Los Guindales). From there follow the yellow arrows.TardajosRabé de las CalzadasHornillos del CaminoSan BolHontanas
For several kilometres after Hontanas the Camino runs parallel to a quite country road. In bad weather walking the road is by far the better option.San AntónCastrojeriz
In case you were expecting the Meseta to be flat, there's a massive hill about 1km after Castrojeriz. Ermita de San Nicolás is in open country about 1km from the village of Itero del Castillo which is bypassed by the Camino.Itero del Castillo
Entering the Province of PalenciaItero de la VegaBoadilla del CaminoFrómista
Just before Población on the left is the Romanesque Ermita de San Miguel with a nice shady wooded area.Población de Campos
After Población, just before crossing a small bridge, the Camino divides to rejoin in Villalcázar de Sirga.
4km to Villovieco, café. After Villovieco the Camino crosses the río Ucieza and continues alongside it for 5km until a bridge with a large house over to the left, here you turn left and follow the paved road for 1km to Villalcázar. This route is a quieter and more pleasant option than the left route.
This route goes along the side of a road.
4km Revenga de Campos. Café.Villarmentero de Campos
4km to Villalcázar de Sirga
You should not leave Carrión without enough food and water for a long walk.Calzadilla de la Cueza
Take care crossing the main road here, traffic in infrequent but fast.Lédigos
Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to direct you right along the main road after Lédigos. For the real route of the Camino cross the main road and continue down a side road for about 200m until the Camino branches right on to an unpaved road.Terradillos de TemplariosMoratinosSan Nicolás del Real Camino
Entering the Province of LeónSahagún
The Camino de Madrid joins the Camino Francés in Sahagún.
4km after Sahagún, at a road junction near a motorway just before Calzada del Coto, the Camino divides and continues on two separate paths until Reliegos. Much overpainting of arrows at this junction. The right route was a Roman Road whereas the left route is the original Camino Francés.
500m to...Calzada del CotoCalzadilla de los Hermanillos
18km to Reliegos or 24km to Mansilla via an alternative route which branches right after 16km (signpost often vandalised). Don't set off without adequate supplies for a long day's walking. There is no possibility to stock up on the way. The route runs entirely through open countryside parallel to the León - Madrid railway line. It is possible to cross over to the left route in several places. You should not cross the railway line unless you want to join the other route.
For the left route continue straight at the road junction where the right route goes right, then veer right on to an unpaved road. Many parts of this route are gravel path along the side of a quiet road (So called Senda).Bercianos del Real CaminoEl Burgo Ranero
13km to Reliegos.
It's no longer necessary to cross the road bridge over the river Porma before Puente de Villarente, the long-awaited footbridge is now in operation.Puente VillarenteArcahueja
It's mostly suburban from here to León.León
The official Camino winds its crooked way around the tourist attractions of León. Don't worry if you end up lost! The easiest way to find your way out is to find the river and walk upstream until you come to the footbridge, Puente San Marcos, which is just beside the magnificent Hostal de San Marcos. Cross the river here and follow the yellow arrows out of town.
Several cafés do breakfast in Trobajo del Camino south of the river. There are also several supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries and banks along the Camino (however they don't open until late morning).La Virgen del Camino
Cross the main road at the church and turn right. 100m further on the Camino divides. The right route runs along the side of a busy main road. The left route passes through open countryside. The two routes rejoin in Hospital de Órbigo. The right route follows the Roman road and is considered the original Camino.
There is a lot of confusing signposting at this junction.
2km to San Miguel del Camino, shop, cafés. Then 8km to...Villadangos del PáramoSan Martín del Camino
7km to Hospital de Órbigo
2km to Fresno del Camino, café.Oncina de la Valdoncina
7km to Chozas de Abajo, café about 200m off the Camino to the left. Then 4km to...Villar de Mazarife
Villavente can be bypassed by continuing straight on the road.Villavante
4km to Hospital de Órbigo.
Leaving the village the Camino divides. To the right it passes through the villages of Villares de Órbigo and Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias. The left route mostly follows the main road. These two paths join again before San Justo de la Vega.
5km to David's refreshment stand, still operating, with or without its creator.
3km to San Justo de la Vega.
This route is slightly shorter however it follows a busy main road for most of its course.
San Justo de la Vega, cafés, bakery and further on on the right a shop and a pharmacy, all on the Camino. Café Bar Oasis is a friendly place and claims to have the best tortilla in the world (it just might be true!)
4km to Astorga.Astorga
Leaving town is a bit confusing so pay close attention to the waymarkings. Following the Camino through town, with the cathedral main façade to you right veer left down Calle Leopoldo Panero and then at the end turn right. Continue straight across a road junction on to Calle de San Pedro (past the unusual modern Iglesia de San Pedro) until you arrive at the main road called Avenida Madrid-Coruña, which you cross on the pedestrian crossing to the right before continuing on to Calle de los Mártires. Follow this and it's straight all the way out of town.ValdeviejasMurias de Rechivaldo
Castrillo de los Polvazares is not on the 'official' Camino. To get there from Murias follow the road rather than the Camino. It's to the right of the road across a bridge at a place where there's a small carpark.
Castrillo de los Polvazares is 3km off the Camino.
Municipal (12, 5[EURO], April to October) Albergue Municipal de Castrillo de los Polvazares, on Calle el Jardín in a tradition village house. Contact details on the door. Kitchen. Tel 691 221 058 Open 12:00
Castrillo has several popular restaurants and is a good place to try Cocido Maragato and other local specialities - although the restaurants, not being pilgrim establishments, keep normal hours.
Architecturally Castrillo de los Polvazares is considered the jewel among Maragato villages and is well worth a visit.Santa Catalina de SomozaEl Ganso
The climb to Cruz de Ferro begins in earnest after El Ganso, however, the ascent is mostly pretty gradual.Rabanal del CaminoFoncebadón
If there's snow on the mountains you can walk on the road all the way to Molinaseca.
2km after Foncebadón you will come to the Cruz de Ferro.Manjarín
After the highest point you will descend 856m between here and Molinaseca (14.8km). The path may be slippery in places, especially in winter. It is possible to follow the road all the way.El Acebo
The Camino after El Acebo has recently been diverted to follow the road for most of its course.Riego de Ambrós
There is a long, steep and difficult descent into Molinaseca. An easier alternative if you don't like descents or in poor weather, is to walk along the (quiet) road.Molinaseca
From here, unfortunately, you'll be walking on hard surfaces most of the way to Las Herrerías.
There are two options when entering Ponferrada. Either continue on the main road all the way (the right route) or follow the longer 'official' Camino to the left through a series of meanders to arrive at the municipal albergue crossing the river Boeza over a Roman bridge (the left route).Ponferrada
Getting out of Ponferrada is a little complicated, follow the Camino to the castle and then turn right. The Camino leads you through the new part of town.ColumbrianosCamponaraya
The Camino in Camponaraya runs along a busy road the length of the village and out the other end, then at the gates of a factory it veers up to the left beside a picnic area.CacabelosPieros
Shortly after Pieros there are two options, either right through the village of Valtuille de Arriba, where there's a café, or left along the road (slightly shorter).Villafranca del Bierzo
Shortly after crossing the bridge in Villafranca the Camino divides. The right route goes up a narrow, steep street by Peluquería Ana (Hairdresser). It may not be signposted due to vandalism. This route passes through beautiful mountainous countryside before rejoining the left route in Trabadelo. It has a steep ascent and descent and yellow arrows are scarce at times. Once at the top follow the unpaved road, at two points you will come to junctions where yellow arrows urge you to go right towards the village of Pradela which is a short distance off the Camino. If you don't want to go to the village just ignore them and veer left.
Descend towards Trabadelo on the road until, in a left-hand curve, there's a marked track branching right, follow this, it crosses the road twice before arriving in Trabadelo. It's a bit of an adventure but much more beautiful than the valley route and worth the slog (in good weather).
Pradela is about 500m off the Camino on the right route.
Private (10, 6[EURO], March to November) Albergue Lamas, in the village of Pradela. Laundry facilities. Communal evening meal. Breakfast. Café / restaurant. Tel 677 569 764 Open 11:00
Pradela has a Café.
The left route continues straight ahead after crossing the bridge in Villafranca and follows the road along the flat valley floor beside the Río Valcarce. Passing through Pereje.Pereje
5km to Trabadelo
The climb to O Cebreiro begins here. In the next 9km you'll climb 600m.La FabaLaguna de Castilla
There are few municipal albergues in Galicia however, in their place are Xunta albergues. These are funded directly by the Government of Galicia (the Xunta). They always have kitchens but for reasons which will not be speculated upon here, their kitchens are rarely usable. ie. The cooker doesn't work, there are no utensils, etc. For this reason Xunta albergues which have unusable kitchens (which is most of them) are listed here as having no kitchen.O Cebreiro
Leaving O Cebreiro there are two options, you can either walk past the municipal albergue and through the forest, or walk down to the road before you come to the municipal albergue and follow it to the left (currently, for some inexplicable reason, being pushed as the 'recommended' route).LiñaresHospital da CondesaAlto do PoioFonfría
2km to Biduedo, caféFillobalTriacastela
In Triacastela, at the end of the main street the Camino divides. The right route goes through Calvor and on to Sarria. The left route goes through Samos.
8km to Furela, café Bar Franco does good food, especially empanadas and Caldo Galego (see under O Cebreiro) although only in cold weather.
2km to Pintín, caféCalvor
1km to Aguiada
Follow the road for 4km as far as San Cristovo do Real where the Camino branches to the right.San Cristovo do Real
2km to Renche, café.Samos
10km to Aguiada. There are two routes from Samos to Sarria. Both begin by following the main road for about 2km until there is a signposted split. Go right to follow paths through open country to arrive in Aguiada after 8km. This route passes through beautiful countryside and the localities (you can hardly call them villages) of Pascais, Gorolfe, Veiga, Sivil and Perros. The left route follows the road all the way to Sarria.
2km to Café Serra.Molino de Marzán
2km to Peruscallo, café.
2km to A Brea, café.MorgadeFerreiros
1km to 100km from Santiago waymarker. Shortly before A Pena.A Pena
Shortly after A Pena, As Rozas, café in a farm yard.Mercadoiro
2km to A Parrocha, café
1km to Vilacha, café. At the time of publication (late 2019) Casa Banderas was closed but due to reopen in April 2021. Please check their website for more up-to-date information www.casabanderas.com
After Vilacha there are two possible routes. The 'official' Camino follows a busy road for some time until it veers on to a narrow path between high stone walls. This path is steep and can be dangerous, especially after rain. The old route (pre 2015), which branches right and follows a quiet country road, is still signposted.
If you're not stopping in Portomarín and you don't feel like climbing all those steps you can turn left just after the bridge, walk along the road and rejoin the Camino where it crosses a bridge to the left.PortomarínGonzarCastromaior
The Camino route has recently been redirected away from the road for a short distance after Castromaior.
1km, café.Hospital da CruzVendas de Narón
2km, café.LigondeAirexe de LigondePortos
1km to Lestedo, café.
3km, café.Palas de ReiSan Xulián do CamiñoMatoCasanova
This is the point where the Camino Primitivo (which starts in Oviedo) joins the Camino Francés. The junction is at the church.
2km left turn for detour via Penas, there's very little to chose between the two routes except that the right route has a nice stone bridge.
2km / 30hr, café.Boente
1km to where the Camino divides briefly. There is little difference between the two routes.CastañedaRibadisoArzúa
Arzúa is where the Camino del Norte joins the Camino Francés.BebedeiroAs QuintasOuteiroSalceda
You'll need to cross the main road several times between here and O Pedrouzo. Extreme caution is advised, this road can be very busy at times!A Brea
2km to O Empalme, cafés.Santa IreneA Rúa
The official Camino passes through the outskirts of the town of O Pedrouzo, to get to the town centre where the albergues and most business are turn left on to the main road at a place where the Camino crosses it just after A Rúa. WARNING: lots of people miss this junction!O Pedrouzo
To get back to the Camino continue along the main road and turn right at the Casa do Concello.
4km café.A Esquipa
1km to Vilamaior, café.
3km to Camping San Marco, café. Then about 3km to...Monte do Gozo
It's urban walking from here on. Lots of cafés, etc.San Lázaro
Although treated as a separate place here, San Lázaro is really just a suburb of Santiago.
It's surprisingly easy to get lost on the way into Santiago. If in doubt aim for the cathedral.Santiago de Compostela
Copyright © Gerald Kelly 2020. All text and photos.