This first stage is usually walked in 8 days. Your first steps on the Camino de Santiago are along both French and Spanish parts of the Basque Country and Navarra. You will cross the outstanding Pyrenees, visit Pamplona and you will eventually arrive in La Rioja, a region well- known for its food and red wines.
We may follow this itinerary:
- Day 1: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
St Jean Pied de Port is the traditional starting point for the Camino Frances, the most popular Camino route which also has the best infrastructure. It is a nice village in the French Pyrenees. You will be able to enjoy the typical Basque houses and the Nive river with stone bridge. The pilgrims’ office will welcome you with the Credential (Pilgrim Passport) and information on the route ahead with an updated lists of hostels, it is placed at the top of the main street, 39 Rue de la Citadell. Do not hesitate to go there and you will be officially registered as a pilgrim. It is also advisable to check here for any last minute information.
St Jean Pied de Port it is a beautiful bustling French market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees which separates France and Spain. In St Jean you can buy most last minute items you may have forgotten.
The first day on the Camino Frances is the hardest of the whole route. It is the first day, and your body is probably not used to walking all day carrying a rucksack, if you have packed more than 10% of your body weight you will know about it quickly. The route from St Jean is steep and climbs from 200 meters above sea level to just above 1,400 meters then descends steeply back down again into Roncesvalles at 900 meters, which can be hard going on your knees and shins.
- Day 2: Roncesvalles
After 25 km (16 miles) of pilgrimage, which will include crossing the Pyrenees, in the middle of the mountain you will reach Roncesvalles. This Pyrenean stage, the starting point for may pilgrims, is undoubtedly the hardest and most spectacular of all the French way. Although the walk up the Pyrenees is difficult, it is immensely rewarding. The peace and silence is a precursor of the times ahead on the Meseta. Roncesvalles is considered one of the earliest pilgrims’ hospices. It also became one of the most wealthy receiving endowments from all over Europe. The monastery also contains a museum which houses the Charlemagne Chess-set, along with other valuable pieces.
- Day 3: Zubiri
The Camino is starting to descend. On the kilometer 22 (13 mile) you will reach a Zubiri valley. At this stage the route runs alongside the river Arda, following it closely from Zubiri until reaching the doors of Pamplona. After the two previous demanding routes, this day is a welcome break and time to enjoy the journey to Santiago. At Larrasoaña, a small location in the valley of Esteríbar, there is a medieval bridge which is more commonly known as “de los bandidos”(the bandits´ bridge). According to legend, this used to be the meeting place for a gang of thieves who, disguised as pilgrims, would steal from the real pilgrims.
- Day 4: Pamplona
Pamplona is the first major city on the Camino. World famous for its fiesta of San Fermín (A celebration involving the running of bulls), the capital of Navarra combines tradition and modernity. It has around 200,000 inhabitants. Throughout the year tranquillity reigns over its streets, but during the week between the 7 and 14 of July, the city becomes the party capital of the world. Prices multiply and finding a bed becomes a mission impossible. Of course, fun is guaranteed.
- Day 5: Puente la Reina/Gares
The name of this town means “The Queen’s Bridge” and indeed, upon entering the town you will cross the bridge built in the 11th century. This is a short part of the journey yet difficult to climb. You can see fields with olive trees and vineyards on the way and you can also pass beautiful places like Cirauqui. This part of the Camino follows an old Roman road full of medieval bridges and dark legends tamed by the Codex Calixtino.
- Day 6: Estella/Lizarra
You will cross medieval villages, old taverns and for a while you will even walk through original Roman road. Furthermore, this part of the Camino goes through forests, mountains and an almost half desert. The hardest step is the ascent to Monjardín.
From this point and until the end of the stage the route is on good ground, but on hot days the absence of shade makes it difficult to take a break.
It is worth stopping in Villamayor, since it is impossible to buy a drink in the last 12 kilometres . In Ayegui visitors can enjoy a good glass of wine thanks to the Bodega of Irache. In Azqueta, pilgrims are required to stop and chat with Pablito, now an institution on the pilgrimage route.
- Day 7: Los Arcos
After a little climbing around Villamayor de Monjardín the Camino becomes easy again. A small village Los Arcos will be your last stop in Navarra region. This is the region that boasts the best wines in Spain. The route becomes a little hard from Torres del Rio to Viana in summer, due to the lack of shadows and a long and constant uphill climbing.
- Day 8: Logroño
Last and longest day of your pilgrimage. There will be 28 kms (17,5 miles) to walk to reach Logroño. Logroño is the capital of the La Rioja – famous wine producer zone. It would be great to finish the pilgrimage with a glass of excellent red wine in the heart of La Rioja.
The pilgrims arrive to the second largest city on the French Way and the first major river on route. The famous Stone Bridge, where there is an Information Point for Walkers, helps them to cross the river Ebro and approach the monumental town of Logroño, which for centuries was the border between the kingdoms of Navarra and Castilla and lived through the boom of the Camino of Santiago. A pleasant city to stay in, with more than 150,000 residents, it is home to half of the population of La Rioja. Here the pilgrims will find everything they need to spend the day and night and, to enjoy its food and wine. A visit to the historic area evokes many Jacobean memories.
The Camino Frances is considered to be the main street in Europe, it is without doubt the most historic Jacobean route. The richness of its landscape and artistic qualities attracts pilgrims from all over the globe, no less than 150 counties.
Enjoy the Camino Frances. Buen Camino, amigos!