The Route. 736km long, starting in Le Puy-en-Velay, passing through Conques, Figeac, Cahors, Moissac,Aire-sur-l’Adour and Navarrenx before it reaches the border town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Takes on average 4 – 5 weeks to walk the entire route.
Waymarking. Well-waymarked throughout (in both directions) as the GR65, with the red and white balises of the French Grande Randonée network.
Terrain. Very varied but fairly strenuous and rarely flat, starting in the volcanic Velay region, with constant ups and downs, passing through the mountainous Aubrac plateau (at 1300 metres) before descending to the abbey at Conques. Continues through the causse (hilly limestone scrubland) to Cahors and then through undulating farmland to Moissac and on to the Basque country in the foothills of the Pyrenees. For a height profile of the route (as well as a list of the stages), go to www.godesalco.com/iphp/perfil.php
Weather/When to go. The route is normally practicable (though not necessarily recommended) throughout the year. There is snow in the Aubrac and the Pyrenees in winter and early spring, the central part of the route is extremely hot in summer and it can rain torrentially in the Basque country in the spring. April-June and September-October are recommended.
What to see. Important cathedrals and abbeys in Le Puy, Conques, Figeac, Cahors, Moissac plus many interesting smaller churches and other historic monuments. Many pilgrim, St. James, St. Roch and other related references, art and architecture along the way.
Accommodation. Plentiful, at convenient walking distances along the way, and of all types: campsites, gîtes d’étape, chambres d’hote, hotels, plus one or two an increasing number of pilgrim-only facilities.
Les Haltes vers Compostelle is an association formed, to ensure that pilgrims face less competition for places to sleep on the French pilgrim routes, and to promote a friendly and constructive dialogue between pilgrims and those who put them up. Membership, which is reviewed each year, depends on positive feedback from pilgrims. Most members are on the le Puy route, with three on the Arles route. Experience so far suggests that they set a very high standard. Their website is worth a visit, and the association deserves all our support.
Distinctive features of the route/General. Once a fairly quiet route this is now becoming much more popular and accommodation may be problematic at busy times, especially since many French pilgrims in particular are now doing the route in sections and so book up all their overnight stops before they leave home.
* Le Chemin de St-Jacques du Velay aux Pyrénées, by J-P Siréjol & Louis Laborde-Balen, Rando Editions/FFRP, 2011. Route description and historical material with details of accommodation and services.
* Miam-Miam-Dodo, by Jacques Clouteau, Editions du Vieux Crayon. Very comprehensive guide to accommodation and services, updated annually. Schematic presentation makes it easy to use for non-French speakers. Available in our Shop.
* Way of St. James: Le Puy to the Pyrenees – A Walkers’ Guide, by Alison Raju, Cicerone Press 2013, 214pp, £12.95 ISBN: 978-1-852824-608-4. Covers the route with route finding description and both historical and practical information. Available in our Shop.
* Way of St. James: Le Puy to Santiago – A Cyclists’ Guide, by John Higginson, Cicerone Press 1010, reprinted 2013 with updates, 108pp. ISBN: 1-85284-274-1. Covers the entire route for touring cyclists, with route finding description and both historical and practical information. Available in our Shop.
* Le Puy to the Pyrenees, by Alison Raju (Pilgrim Guides to the Roads through France #3), Confraternity of St. James. Guide to accommodation and services, 2006 version. Available in our Shop.
* Lightfoot Guide to the Via Podiensis: The Route to Santiago de Compostela in France, Le Puy-en-Velay to Ronceveaux, Angelynn Maya, EURL Pilgrimage Publications (May 2016), pp 252 ISBN: 978-2917183373. Available in our Shop.
Other guidebooks also available in French.
* http://walkinginfrance.info/pilgrimages/the-way-of-st-james/ a very informative website maintained by two Australian pilgrims.
Pictures. For pictures of the le Puy Route, visit our digital image gallery.
Cyclists. The walkers’ route is NOT suitable for cyclists, even on mountain bikes, though cyclists can ride the route (2 weeks plus) using minor roads (see Guide Book section).
Language. Pilgrims without a reasonable command of French and an ability to use the telephone to book accommodation may find this route difficult at times.
Thanks to Alison Raju, January 2005 and June 2011. Websites information updated February 2017.