Do you want to do the French Way from Ponferrada? If you feel in conditions to walk more than the minimum necessary (100 km) to obtain the Compostela certificate, keep reading this post and discover more.
If you are thinking of walking for two weeks along the French Way, find out more about this 200 km route that starts in Ponferrada and ends at the door of the Cathedral of Santiago.
However, if you think that 15 days on the road are too many, don’t worry, you can choose a shorter route along the same itinerary. Check the French Way from Sarria for the 100 km route.
Ponferrada is one of the most chosen starting point for those pilgrims who want to immerse themselves in a more demanding but unique experience along the French Way.
In addition, Ponferrada can also be chosen as a starting point for the bicigrinos because it meets the minimum distance requirement of 200 km for those pilgrims who make the journey by bicycle.
The French Way from Ponferrada
Don’t forget that from Ponferrada you can choose to follow both the French Way (towards Villafranca del Bierzo) and the Winter Way (towards Las Medulas).
However, today we are going to talk about the route that goes from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela, along the French Way.
It is no secret that many of the pilgrims who decide to walk one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela are also looking for a physical challenge to test their bodies.
In fact, it is always more frequent to choose this type of experience for self-awareness away from all our worries and where we can know better our body and its limits.
The French Way in two weeks
Very often we want to achieve goals that we have set before the trip. It is true that we have to be ready for what lies ahead. Regarding this issue, at Galiwonders we want to emphasize that everyone has to be conscious of their capabilities before starting the Camino and that it is essential to have good physical conditions that allow us to enjoy the chosen itinerary.
It is also important to “practice” before the Camino, to walk longer and longer routes, with different inclinations, and to improve our endurance during a previous period.
If we feel physically ready to walk an average of 20 km every day, over two weeks, with sometimes significant differences in altitude, we have different routes from which to choose. The French Way from Ponferrada, the Portuguese Way from Porto, the Primitive Way from Oviedo and others. If you would like specific information about a particular route please do not hesitate to contact us.
The stages of the French Way from Ponferrada
Ponferrada, famous for its Templar Castle, was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument in 1924. This wonderful site represents the centuries of history and architectural styles that have shaped this fortress. It really offers much to see to its visitors.
Among its points of interest we remember: the Basilica de la Ensina, the Church of Santiago de Peñalba, the Real Cárcel (where today is located the Museum of El Bierzo), the Clock Tower and the same street, and the Baroque style Town Hall.
Its link with the Camino de Santiago goes back to the 11th century, when Bishop Osmundo of Astorga and King Alfonso VI of León ordered the construction of a bridge over the river Sil to facilitate the passage of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. To learn more about the history of the Camino de Santiago, do not miss this article.
Nowadays, pilgrims who want to start their journey here can count on very comfortable connections. Not only is the nearest airport 2 hours away (León). There are also bus, train and motorway (A-6) lines that connect Ponferrada with A Coruña and Madrid.
And now let’s look at the stages and distances that await us on the Camino Francés from Ponferrada.
- Stage 1: Ponferrada- Villafranca del Bierzo (24.2 km)
- Stage 2 : Villafranca del Bierzo- O Cebreiro (27,8 km)
- Stage 3: O Cebreiro- Triacastela (20.8 km)
- Stage 4: Two variants to Sarria:
- Triacastela- Sarria via San Xil (17.8 km)/ Triacastela- Sarria via Samos (25 km)
- Stage 5: Sarria- Portomarín (22.2 km)
- Stage 6: Portomarín- Palas de Rei (24.8 km)
- Stage 7: Palas de Rei- Arzúa (28.5 km)
- Stage 8: Arzúa – O Pedrouzo (19.3 km)
- Stage 9: O Pedrouzo- Santiago de Compostela (19,4 km)
Ponferrada, which since 1178 became dependent on the Order of the Temple by declaration of King Alfonso IX of Leon, is a beautiful medieval city. It is also the most populous non-capital municipality of the province of Castilla and Leon.
This stage is not too complicated, but it is advisable to leave early so as not to be too much under the sun, especially in summer. It has no significant slopes and the tracks are made of asphalt and
earth. The views of the surrounding mountains will accompany us on this stage.
This is the stage that will test you the most. In fact, you will find one of the most feared climbs of the whole French Way. You will walk the stage with the greatest difference in level of all the routes of the Way of Saint James in Spain.
Over 12 km, there is a 660-metre climb, but the most demanding section is between Las Herrerías and Laguna de Castilla. Just think that in only 5.7 km the accumulated difference in level is 480 metres!
However, this great effort is worthwhile. At the end of this arduous stage you will be able to enjoy one of the most emblematic villages of the Way of Saint James, O Cebreiro. The views, the people and the pallozas, its typical buildings, will enchant you.
We continue our way along a route fully immersed in Galician nature, through the Sierra de los Ancares largely above 1200 meters high. Due to the conformation of the territory we will have numerous unevenness, although moderate, until the Alto do Poio, and then a continuous descent will wait for us until Triacastela.
Before starting the next stage, from Triacastela to Sarria, we will have to decide which variant we want to cover.
We have two options: the Way through San Xil, where one of the most beautiful valleys of the whole Way of Saint James will be waiting for us. Or, the route through Samos, which offers the visit of the famous Monastery of Samos and also allows us to walk through forests of oaks and chestnut trees, a real delight!
Moreover, in Sarria begins the French Way, the last 100 km. The French Route from Sarria is without doubt the most popular of all the Jacobean routes. In 2019, of the almost 190,000 pilgrims who walked the French Route, more than 96,000 started in Sarria, 27.66% of the total number of pilgrims who got their certificate in Santiago.
If in the previous stages you had met some pilgrims on the route, from Sarria, get ready to make your journey much more social.
It is the perfect occasion to meet other pilgrims who, like you, have chosen this experience. Very probably you share the same passion for what the Way of Saint James represents for you. Do not miss this wonderful opportunity to meet people who often come from far away and who could become a friend for life.
This stage will take you to know more deeply the rural Galicia and its small villages with moderate slopes. Once you arrive at Portomarín, you will witness a very peculiar spectacle.
In the modern city you will be able to admire older buildings that were moved stone by stone from the old medieval city. The old city, in fact, disappeared due to the construction of the Belesar reservoir in 1963. The church of San Nicolás (or San Juan) is a perfect example of this incredible work of historical and cultural safeguarding. It was declared a historical-artistic monument belonging to the National Artistic Treasure in 1931 and currently counts as a Property of Cultural Interest.
We continue with a route defined by moderate slopes, although at the beginning we will have about 400 meters of ascent. In general we advance through rural areas and small villages.
This stage, which requires more effort due to the total distance and the difference in level in its second stretch, can be divided in two by making a stop at Melide. At Galiwonders we offer tailor-made routes so that you can fully enjoy the journey.
Don’t miss the octopus, cheese and wine that make this area of Galicia so famous. Enjoy!
Today, a stage without too many slopes on forest and meadow tracks awaits us. Enjoy your penultimate stage before arriving in Santiago.
You will probably notice the strong difference between the landscape you have admired until now and what you will find in this stage, much more urban and industrial. Don’t worry, the excitement you will experience once you arrive in Cathedral Square will bring back the spirit of the Camino. Once you arrive at your hotel, you can finally relax and take a nice walk through the centre of Santiago de Compostela.
Santiago de Compostela
The historic centre of the city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and the Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most important works of Romanesque architectural art in Spain.
Contact us for more information and ¡Buen Camino!