Introduction Unlike the other pilgrim roads through France which have followed more or less fixed itineraries for several hundreds of years, the Via Gebennensis was designed in the mid-1990s by the Association Rhône-Alpes des Amis de Saint-Jacques as a continuation of the GR65 to allow pilgrims coming from Switzerland, Germany and Central Europe to walk to Le Puy in order to continue on to Santiago from there. It bridges Le Puy-en-Velay to the rest of central and eastern Europe on largely quiet, waymarked forest tracks, old lanes, footpaths and minor roads.
The Route. 350 km long. Starts in Geneva and passes through innumerable very small hamlets, some villages large enough to have banks, post offices, restaurants and shops, but no place of any size between its starting and finishing points.
The Rhône-Alpes Amis have now opened their new route down the Rhône, connecting the Geneva-Le Puy route with Arles. This enables people to (roughly) follow the Oberstrasse (and might reduce numbers on the GR65).
Please see here for a very useful map to the various route variations (click on “Agrandissement de la carte cliquant ICI” below the map to get a zoomable and downloadable PDF version).
Waymarking. Extremely thorough throughout with small blue and yellow Council of Europe stylised scallop shells. The beginnings of a “branch line” to connect with the Arles route has now been waymarked as well.
Terrain. Very strenuous, crossing the grain of the land a lot of the time, with constant climbs and descents. A considerable part of the route passes through forest and woodland and much of it lies between 600 and 1000 m above sea level.
When to go. Any time between April and October. Avoid trying to stay in Côte-Saint-André during August as it is very busy for the Berlioz festival.
Accommodation and facilities. Not normally a problem. Hotels, chambres d’hôte and some gîtes d’étape. Campsites in several places along the route, where it is also often possible to hire a caravan for the night. There is also a comprehensive network of accueils jacquaires set up by the Association Rhône-Alpes, individuals who, with 24 hours’ notice, will provide overnight accommodation, breakfast and an evening meal for pilgrims carrying a credencial (pilgrim record) and a sleeping bag.
Features of the route. Rather solitary route where you are not likely to meet many other pilgrims at present though people living along the way report seeing at least one every day in the period April-September.
Guide books and maps.
Cyclists. Much of the walkers’ route is unsuitable for bikes (of any kind) though with the above maps it is easy enough to find alternative routes on minor roads.
French. Not impossible to follow this route if you speak no French at all but pilgrims with a level where they can use the telephone will find life much less complicated.
Thanks to Alison Raju
Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela