El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

General Description and History

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Camino Frances

This is the most popular route by far and is also the one with the best infrastructure for accommodation and refreshment. However, in the busy season, the numbers on the Camino can overwhelm the facilities and your enjoyment of the way can be spoilt by having to sprint from one location to another looking for somewhere to stay for the night.

The scenery is varied with several mountainous regions to cross and a great deal of agricultural land in between. It can get very hot crossing the meseta and cold and wet in the mountains and in Galicia. Nothing is particularly extreme and a reasonably fit person should be able to complete the route in four to five weeks.

Over the PyreneesOver the Pyrenees
St. Jean There are two routes over the mountains; a high route which goes via the Collado Lepoeder at 1,440Mtrs, and the road way via Alto de Ibañeta which only reaches 1,057Mtrs and is not so interesting. I have included in this section the foothills of the Pyrenees as far as Pamplona. (My divisions of the route do not stick to political boundaries but I have chosen to divide the sections according to the changes in scenery.)
Puente la Reina This takes us from just beyond Pamplona to Logroño which is in Rioja. There are hills and rivers to cross but it is not so strenuous as the previous section. The countryside is agricultural with a wide variety of crops and vineyards.
La RiojaLa Rioja
Cirueña This section covers the Camino from Logroño, across the farms and vineyards of Rioja and part of the province of Burgos. The area is not entirely dominated by vineyards and there are some interesting towns and villages along the way.
Eastern MesetaEastern Meseta
Near Sambol From Burgos to Sahagun we cross the mainly treeless meseta where the temperature can rise to over 40C for days on end. Carry plenty of water and take advantage of any shade you may find. The countryside is by no means flat and level because several rivers cross the land leading to some short steep climbs and descents.
Western MesetaWestern Meseta
Astorga From Sahagun to Astorga. This is much like the previous section but the journey is enlightened by the cathedral cities of Leon and Astorga.The area is full of historical sites such as the bridge at Hospital de Órbigo.
El BierzoEl Bierzo
Ponferrada There are steep climbs in the mountainous areas at the beginning and end of this section, but in between is the lovely valley of El Bierzo which, although it lies within the province of Leon, has some of the feel and customs of Galicia.
Eastern GaliciaEastern Galicia
Morgade I have started this section with the climb out of El Bierzo to the mountain village of Cebreiro. From here the route climbs over a ridge then drops down through the country lanes of Galicia which has a dairy based agriculture with small farms and dry stone walls.
Final Section to SantiagoTowards Santiago
Santiago From Portomarin the countryside is similar to the previous one but the villages are closer together as we near Santiago.