The Camino Francés | French Way

The French Way, or Camino Francés, is the most popular and sociable route of the Camino de Santiago walk. It is the itinerary chosen by 60% of pilgrims, and there are many books and movies showing it, like “The Way”.

Featured travel packages for the French Way

Camino Francés últimos 200 km en bici
203 Km
5 Etapas
6 Noches
desde 730 €
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Camino Francés Fácil
106 Km
10 Etapas
11 Noches
desde 870 €
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Camino Francés en bici
700 Km
15 Etapas
16 Noches
desde 1935 €
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Camino de Santiago Superior
106 Km
5 Etapas
6 Noches
desde 750 €
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Camino Francés Pet Friendly
111 Km
6 Etapas
7 Noches
desde 870 €
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Camino Francés completo
740 Km
St. Jean P.P.
34 Etapas
35 Noches
desde 2765 €
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El Camino Francés | Sarria a Santiago
106 Km
5 Etapas
6 Noches
desde 470 €
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This route was the first itinerary of the Way of St. James to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the first European Cultural Itinerary. It is where most of the medieval European pilgrimage routes converge, being the route of greatest historical relevance and the one most pilgrims travel each year. Approximately 50% of pilgrims on the Camino follow this route.

Pilgrims in the Camino frances

The route of this ancient pilgrimage route starts in the French city of Saint Jean de Port and crosses the Iberian Peninsula for 800 km from west to east until it ends in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela.

This route is characterized by its  landscape variety  and its extraordinary monumental wealth and its route leads us from the Pyrenean landscapes of the north to the plains of the middle zone where beech forests, cereal fields and vineyards will be part of this extraordinary journey.

The history of the French Way

The origins of the French Way date back to the year 812 of the ninth century in Santiago de Compostela, when the shepherd Pelayo saw a shower of stars on a hill for several days.  Some days later, Pelayo had a dream in which the apostle St. James appeared to reveal to him that those stars indicated the place where his grave was located.

Thus, Pelayo removed the soil, found his remains and proceeded to inform the bishop of Iria Flavia, who in turn informed King Alfonso II El Casto. The latter travelled from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela on foot (today this route is known as the Primitive Way) to verify the facts. He is considered to be the first pilgrim.

After verifying that the remains belonged to the apostle, construction began on a small church on the site of the tomb, which over the centuries would become the Cathedral. After this, the settlement where he was found became the city of Santiago de Compostela (in Latin Campus Stellae), referring to the shower of stars that indicated the location of the apostle on a hill.

This discovery attracted the attention of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, who began to travel to the capital to visit the grave of the saint via an ancient Roman road.  In this way, the French Way established itself as the main pilgrimage route during the Middle Ages, assuming an important channel of cultural, intellectual and commercial exchange between pilgrims and local communities.

Although the French Route suffered various ups and downs due to social changes, wars or epidemics, it has always managed to recover thanks to the institutions dedicated to its promotion and preservation. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in the world, as thousands of pilgrims walk its paths every year for various reasons such as religious, spiritual or cultural.

Most popular starting points of the French Way

This route starts in the French town of Saint Jean Pied de Port, located in the Pyrenees, and crosses the Iberian Peninsula from east to west on its way to Santiago de Compostela. The route covers a total of 800 kilometers and passes through the autonomous regions of Aragon, Navarre, La Rioja and Castile-León until it enters Galicia.

Although many pilgrims choose this French town as their starting point, others begin the Camino from intermediate points such as Burgos, León or Sarria. Other pilgrims decide to complete the entire French Way in several years, an ideal option for those who do not have enough time to complete the route at once.


Saint Jean Pied de Port

This small fortified medieval village is one of the most popular starting points on the French Way. It is located in the south of France, close to the Pyrenean border with Navarre. Its narrow, cobbled streets and emblematic architecture led to this citadel being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For centuries, many pilgrims have chosen to begin their pilgrimage here, adding a sense of historical continuity and tradition to this place. In addition to its Jacobean importance, a few kilometers away is Ostabat, the point at which three of the main routes through French territory converge, those from Le Puy, Limoges and Tours…


Roncesvalles is a town in the north of Spain, in the Navarrese Pyrenees, near the border with France. The scene of epic battles and a prime example of French Gothic architecture, it has now established itself as one of the main departure points for pilgrims.

During the Middle Ages, Roncesvalles became an important territory on the French Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela. A hospital was established to provide assistance and accommodation for walkers along the Way; and the church of Santiago, also known as the “Church of the Pilgrims”, which houses a sculpture of the apostle St. James inside.


Pamplona is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Navarre in north-western Spain.

Located in the heart of the Pilgrim’s Way to Compostela, Pamplona is the first city since Roncesvalles. In this city you can visit Ultreia, a Pilgrim Reception and Interpretation Centre on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago, which presents the history of the city and its relationship with the Pilgrim’s Way through interactive and audiovisual resources.

In addition, as a curiosity, Pamplona was chosen by the writer Ernest Hemingway as a place of residence during the Spanish Civil War in search of inspiration for several of his reports and novels, in which he wrote about its San Fermín fiestas.


Logroño is the capital of La Rioja and one of the most important stops on the French Route. It was founded in Roman times and has witnessed important historical and military events over the centuries, such as the Conquest of the Visigoths and the War of Independence.

In the Middle Ages, it became an important point for the production and trade of wine, which continues to be an essential part of its economy today. In addition, this city has been chosen on numerous occasions as one of the cities where its inhabitants live the happiest lives.


The city of Burgos is a city in the autonomous region of Castile-León whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. There you can visit numerous historic buildings and castles as well as its Cathedral, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a symbol of Spanish Gothic architecture.

It is one of the most important towns on the French Route. Such was the importance of the city of Burgos in the first centuries of pilgrimage that it is estimated to have had as many as 32 hostels for pilgrims, making it the most hospitable city in Europe.

All its religious institutions and buildings, including its Cathedral, revolved around the pilgrims. If you like history, you will find it everywhere in Burgos. The city evokes a host of historical figures through its monuments and corners, where the figure of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador, born nearby and whose remains rest in the capital’s Cathedral, stands out.


It is the capital of the province located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most popular starting points among pilgrims when starting their journey on the Camino de Santiago. Arriving or starting in this city means having completed almost half of the route, as it is located halfway between Saint Jean Pied de Port and Santiago de Compostela.

It has a valuable historical and artistic heritage and is home to countless stories and legends. Of particular note is the Royal Convent of San Marcos, now a Parador de Turismo, which was a former pilgrims’ hospital and a prison where the writer Francisco de Quevedo stayed for almost four years.


Astorga is a municipality in the Maragatería region, one of the most emblematic places in the province of León for its history, artistic heritage and gastronomy. A city on the French Way of St. James, here the French Way converges with the Silver Route to share the same route to Santiago de Compostela.

It is considered the city of art, having been declared a Historic-Artistic Site, where the Cathedral of Santa María, which encompasses various architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque, and the Episcopal Palace of Astorga, the work of the Catalan architect Gaudí, among others, stand out.


Ponferrada is a municipality and city in the province of León, capital of the region of El Bierzo. Surrounded by mountains and located in the heart of the Camino de Santiago, it is also known as “The city of the Templars” because of its castle, one of the most spectacular fortresses in Spain, declared a National Monument. It is said that one of the reasons why the castle was modified on numerous occasions was in order to provide greater security for the route and for pilgrims passing through the city.


Located in Lugo, Galicia, it is one of the most popular points on the French Way of St. James. Here thousands of pilgrims decide to begin the pilgrimage every year to make the popular route Sarria-Santiago de Compostela. This Galician town is about 100 km from Santiago de Compostela, the minimum distance required to obtain the Compostela.

In Sarria you can visit dolmens and petroglyphs around the town that show the human presence in the area since prehistoric times.

Places and Monuments you can’t miss on the French Route

Following the iconic yellow arrows of the French Way you will discover monuments, architecture and natural sites that are part of the historical heritage of Spain and Galicia: churches and monasteries; religious symbols such as crosses; or archaeological sites such as necropolises, medieval bridges…

We recommend the following points along the route that you should not miss along the way.

Virgin of Biakorri

About 12 km after leaving Saint Jean Pied de Port and about 14 km before reaching Roncesvalles, at the top of a rocky ridge, stands the Virgin of Biakorri with the Child Jesus in her arms. Protector of shepherds and pilgrims, she is adorned with flowers, necklaces and shells by the locals and walkers, as a result of their faith and devotion. So if you pass by here, don’t forget to leave a souvenir of your time on the Camino!

Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja)

This is one of the most important points on the Pilgrim ‘s Way to Santiago de Compostela in La Rioja. It is located on the banks of the River Oja and was the site of a hostel for pilgrims seeking rest in the town. This is where the curious legend of the cockerel and the hen was born, one of the best known and most popular stories in the region. This fable tells how a pilgrim was saved from the gallows after the rebirth of a roasted rooster and hen that were ready to be eaten.

Catedral de León

Leon Cathedral

As you pass through León, you will come across one of the monumental jewels of the French Route, its Cathedral. This Gothic basilica dates back to the 13th century and is one of the city’s most important points of historical relevance and interest. One of the treasures of this cathedral are its stained glass windows, one of the most outstanding collections of Gothic art in Europe, which create a mystical and luminous atmosphere inside. An unforgettable visit for pilgrims.

Cruz de Hierro

Also known as La Cruz de Hierro, Cruz do Ferro or Cruz de Fierro, it is located between the villages of Foncebadón and Manjarín, in the province of León. It is a mound of stones deposited by the pilgrims who pass through this place during their pilgrimage, and is crowned by a large wooden mast.

It is located in the highest region that pilgrims pass through on their way to Santiago and marks the beginning of the final stretch of the Way, which is why it is considered an important landmark on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Castillo de los Templarios

Templars' Castle

Approaching the end of the route, we arrive at Ponferrada. Situated on a hill, we find the Templars’ Castle, a Romanesque-style building dating from 1187 and one of the wonders of the Middle Ages, declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and a National Monument.

This historic site has a special relationship with pilgrims. During the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar were known for their work protecting and lodging travellers on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Galicia’s lush forests

This route passes through a diverse range of landscapes including rural areas, mountains, meadows and mixed forests. Each section has unique characteristics, so pilgrims can enjoy these natural landscapes while making their way. In its last kilometers, the Pilgrims’ Route to Santiago passes through lush native forests of oak, chestnut, pine and eucalyptus trees. These groves have a special atmosphere, with a distinctive aroma and a different appearance to the rest of the native vegetation, providing shade and protection from the wind and a unique visual and sensory experience.

Other places of interest that you can visit if you walk the French Way are: The Royal Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles, the Roman Bridge of Puente La Reina, the Cathedral of Burgos, the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña in Aragón or the Church of San Martín de Frómista in Palencia.

Alternative places to discover on the French Way

Las Médulas (León)

Las medulas in the French Way

Las Médulas is a landscape environment formed by an old open-pit Roman gold mining operation located in the vicinity of the region of El Bierzo. This area was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1996 for its archaeological interest; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Natural Monument in 2002.

Although it is not directly on the French Way route, many pilgrims choose to visit this impressive site for its historical importance and natural beauty.

Atapuerca (Burgos)

If you are a lover of history and archaeology, you must make a stop in Atapuerca on your way through Burgos. This archaeological site, the cradle of the oldest human beings in Europe, is located in the Atapuerca mountain range and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Despite not being a common place to visit for pilgrims on this route, many of them choose to make a detour to visit this important palaeontological and archaeological site.

If you wish to visit Atapuerca, you should take into account that the site is located about 15 kilometers east of Burgos, so it will require additional time. To get there, you can consider taking public or private transport from Burgos, such as a bus or taxi.

What is the level of difficulty of the French Way?


Doing the complete French Way is one of the most difficult routes, especially because of the physical demands of walking 800km for approximately 35-40 days.


Most of the route takes place on the plateau, which is straight and flat.

The route through the plateau offers a unique experience to pilgrims, as they can enjoy wide horizons and open landscapes that stretch for miles. This geography facilitates walking along well-defined and, for the most part, flat paths, which allows for a more comfortable and fluid progress.

Although the plateau can be hot in summer and cold in winter, the weather is generally stable and conducive to walking.

However, as the route approaches the last stages in Galicia, the topography changes, becoming more undulating and mountainous, which adds an additional challenge to the route. The paths are channeled through lush green forests, rivers and streams crossing on small stone bridges, and charming Galician villages of stone and tiles.


The French Way is varied, including hills, valleys and mountains. It has a total gradient of 3,000 meters, which means that some stages have steep slopes, especially in mountainous areas such as the Pyrenees and Galicia. However, the effort will be worth it, as the views from the top (at these altitudes) are spectacular.


The climate along the French Way varies according to the season and the region you walk through. Here is a summary of the weather conditions and some advice for pilgrims:

1.Spring (March to May): The weather in spring can be variable. Temperatures tend to be mild, with pleasant days and cool nights. However, there can also be occasional showers. Fields are green and landscapes are in bloom, making it a popular time to walk the Camino.


  • Wear clothing suitable for layering, including a light mackintosh.
  • Pack warm clothing for cool evenings.
  • Make sure you have waterproof and comfortable footwear

2.Summer (June to August): Summer can be hot, especially on the plateau. Daytime temperatures can reach high levels, especially in the southern regions. However, in Galicia, the weather tends to be milder due to its proximity to the ocean.


  • Start walking early to avoid the intense midday heat.
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Book accommodation in advance, as this is the busiest time of year.

3.Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another popular season for the Camino. Temperatures are pleasant, and the landscapes become golden and beautiful. Rainfall can also be frequent, especially in Galicia.


  • Pack warm clothes and a good rain jacket.
  • Wear suitable footwear for walking on wet and slippery surfaces.
  • Enjoy the colours of autumn, but be prepared for changing weather conditions.

4.Winter (December to February): Winter can be cold, especially on the plateau, where temperatures can drop below freezing. In Galicia, it is wetter and milder.


  • Take warm clothes, gloves, scarf and hat to protect yourself from the cold.
  • Consider shorter stages due to limited daylight hours.
  • Check that accommodations are open, as some may close during the low season.

Regardless of the season you choose to walk the Camino Francés, it is essential to be prepared for various weather conditions. Checking the weather forecast before setting off and carrying the right equipment will help you to enjoy this unforgettable pilgrimage experience.

How many stages are there on the French Way of Saint James?

If you want to do the complete French Way you will have to walk 732 km from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela in approximately 35 stages, and about 150,000 pilgrims walk it every year.

The full French Way on foot consists of approximately 35 stages.

If you are worried that the stages are too long or if you prefer a more relaxed pace, we can split them in two or add extra nights for you to rest. Remember that the Camino is not a race, but a unique experience. Enjoying the journey should be the main concern of the pilgrim on this route of the Camino de Santiago.

The total number will depend on the preferences of each pilgrim. Most choose to walk between 6 and 8 hours a day, approximately 20 km, which means completing the route in 4 or 5 weeks.

There are several starting points for the Camino, but among the most popular are the following:

  • From Saint Jean Pied de Port – 773 km – 30 to 35 stages.
  • From Roncesvalles – 750 km – From 28 to 32 stages
  • From Pamplona – 685 km – From 26 to 30 stages
  • From Burgos – 500 km – From 18 to 22 stages
  • From León – 306 km – From 12 to 16 stages
  • From Astorga – 254 km – From 9 to 12 stages
  • From Ponferrada – 200 km – From 7 to 10 stages
  • From Sarria – 100 km – From 4 to 6 stages

What is the best time of the year to do the French Way?

Our recommendation is to do the French Way in spring or autumn. At these dates the influx of pilgrims is less than in summer and tourist services are working at full capacity and finding accommodation and transport will not be a problem.

In spring, temperatures tend to be more pleasant and milder than in summer, which will also allow you to carry lighter luggage. The autumn months, especially September and October, are also increasingly chosen by pilgrims to do the Camino. Temperatures are milder than in summer (18ºC- 25ºC), making it easier to do the long walks.

Tips for walking this route of the Camino

Hydration and nutrition while walking the Camino is key to maintaining a good state of health and energy. It is advisable to drink water every 15-20 minutes and eat five high-energy, high-protein meals.

Clothing should be light, breathable and insulating. As for footwear, we recommend waterproof trekking boots with good cushioning and not wearing new ones to avoid chafing.

Bring a raincoat. The weather conditions in Galicia are variable at any time of the year, so we recommend that you always carry a raincoat in your backpack. It takes up hardly any space and is very light, so you won’t feel any extra weight.

Lightweight luggage. Organizing your backpack for the Camino is a challenge, especially if you are going to carry it on your back. The ideal is to carry luggage that does not exceed 10% of your body weight and organize the inside of the backpack properly, to prevent your joints from suffering. If, on the other hand, you have neck problems, or if you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of carrying so much weight while walking, we have a luggage transport service that will take your backpack or luggage from accommodation to accommodation. This way, you can fit everything you want in your backpack without worrying about carrying it for so many hours.

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