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 https://godesalco.com/plan/podense
Weather/When to go. The route is normally doable (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.
Accommodation. Plentiful, at convenient walking distances along the way, and of all types: campsites, gîtes d’étape, chambres d’hôte, 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.
Guide books: There is a selection of up to date guide books available in our online shop.
* http://walkinginfrance.info/pilgrimages/the-way-of-st-james/ a very informative website maintained by two Australian pilgrims.
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.
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.
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