El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France


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Estella to Los Arcos

19 May 1993 and 4 June 2002

From Estella to Los Arcos is less than 20km but on both my trips I decided to take this as a short day. The only problem with arriving at your destination early is finding somewhere open to clean up or have a siesta.


Less than 3km from Estella is the monastery of Irache and, equally famous, the Fuente del Vino attached to the local bodega. Here there are two taps set into the outer wall of the bodega, one supplying drinking water and the other red wine. It was far too early in the day to indulge in a lot of wine but our party all lined up for a sample. There is a web cam here to discourage people from filling their bottles with the free wine.

1993. I missed the Fuente del Vino this year because I was talking so much to a guy from Brazil and we took the alternative route, bypassing the monastery. The route is not very arduous and passes through woods and fields and a couple of small villages. The agriculture around here seems to be mainly asparagus and grapevines. About half way to Los Arcos is a medieval fuente which is dug into the hillside and accessed by a set of stone steps.

Los Arcos

The refugio at that time was in an old school house and in a bad state of repair with old wallpaper peeling from the walls. When eventually we gained access to it we had to discover how to light the water heater so we could have a warm shower. The church was the gathering place for people waiting for the refugio to open and many went off to the Hotel Ezequiel which had reasonably priced rooms and a decent restaurant.

Much of the afternoon and evening was spent dodging heavy showers and trying to get our laundry dry.

2002. Apart from visiting the Fuente del Vino This walk was much like the one nine years earlier. On reaching Los Arcos there seemed to be a “turf war” going on between the official refugio and a couple of private ones at the entrance to the village. We decided to view the refugios before choosing one and discovered that the refugio in the old school house had been modernised and now opened at 1pm. This coupled with the inclement weather encouraged us to stay in this more central location.

A pilgrim’s lunch was taken in the Bar Mavi in the main square and, once again, we had to move our laundry indoors because of heavy rain. Our shopping trip was also disrupted by rain and we wound up playing table football in a bar until it eased enough to dash back to the refugio.