Stages of the French Way of St James Camino, Explained
The French Way of St James is often described as the most beautiful of all Camino routes, and because it stretches across the scenic villages of France, it's easy to understand why it deserves this title.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about the French Way of St James
. Learn about the different stages of the trail, the different names used, and the highlights of each section. Of course, if you would like further information or advice, just get in touch
with our friendly team of experts.
What is the French Way of St James?
Pilgrims seeking to walk the Camino de Santiago
across Spain needed a route to get to the start point in St Jean Pied de Port, Spain. For pilgrims coming from countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland, they needed to walk across France. So the French Way of St James was established. It is also known as the Way of Le Puy or the Via Podiensis.
The earliest recordings of pilgrims on this way dates back to 950AD, the popularity of the Via Podiensis today can be traced back to more recent times when the long distance GR65 hiking route was created in the 1970s. As more modern day travellers began to seek ways to Santiago, the French Way of St James stood out as the most spectacular, taking in some of the most scenic parts of France.
Where does the French Way of St James route go?
This Camino journey takes pilgrims across France, beginning in a beautiful French town called Le Puy en Velay. The route then travels across the high plateaus of the Massif Central, the volcanic highlands of Velay, through rustic villages, past impressive castles, quaint villages, a myriad of monuments and through the picturesque French countryside. For today’s travellers, the Via Podiensis provides one of the most beautiful of all the ways. Unlike the Camino Francés, it avoids major cities and towns.
Once pilgrims arrive in St Jean Pied de Port near the border of Spain. they have finished the French Way of St James. They can then continue on to the Camino Frances, or French Way, to reach Santiago de Compostela. This is the most popular of all Camino routes.
How can I walk the French Way of St James?
We've broken the French Way of St James into 7 sections. These are:
Which Stage of the French Way of St James Camino is best for you?
While each section of the French Way of St James has plenty of beauty and local charm to offer - and really the best experience is eventually walking them all - we've highlighted the standouts for each stage.
Stage 1: Le Puy to Aumont Tour
On this 5 day self guided walk you experience one of the prettiest sections of the trail - marked by magnificent architecture, crosses, statues and grain silos. Plus you will learn about the tale of the “Bête du Gévaudan” (Beast of the Gévaudan).
> View the Le Puy to Aumont stage of the French Way of St James.
Stage 2: Aumont to Conques Tour
Enjoy the camaraderie of other pilgrims on this self guided, 8 day walk. Cross the rugged countryside and the Aubrac plateau, the oldest European volcanic massif and walk through picturesque towns, past the roadside crosses, chapels, and looming fortresses that marked the way for the faithful in centuries past.
> View the Aumont to Conques stage of the French Way of St James.
Stage 3: Conques to Cahors Tour
From the pretty town of Conques, traverse the Lot Valley and cross vast limestone plateaus covered in forests of oak, chestnut, boxwood and Montpellier maple and dotted with megaliths and other historic relics. The plateau, cut by the Lot and Cele rivers, is home to interesting villages and a rich gastronomic tradition. Explore the Champollion museum in Figeac and tempt your tastebuds at local markets brimming with local culinary specialties on this inspiring walk through timeless scenes.
> View the Conques to Cahors leg of the French Way of St James.
Cahors to Lectoure Tour
This part of the French Way of St James journey takes you across limestone plateaus cut by small valleys, then on to the plain of the Garonne. The trail is lined with ancient stone walls. After Moissac, the landscape changes to rolling hills and lush valleys where fields of corn and sunflower are intermingled with plum orchards. This is a 7-day self-guided walk.
> View the Cahors to Lectoure section of the French Way of St James.
Lectoure to Aire sur l'Adour
This stage between Lectoure and Aire sur l'Adour is through the heart of the Armagnac region. Leaving the limestone coloured landscapes surrounding Lectoure, the trail weaves through the Gers with its open farmland interspersed with historic villages dominated by their cathedrals and churches, bullrings and bastides. Markets with an abundance of local products and fields of corn and vines lay testament to the areas deep connections to the land and the strong gastronomic traditions of the region.
> View the Lectoure to Aire sur l'Adour stage of the French Way of St James.
Aire sur l'Adour to the Pyrenees
Walking from Aire sur l'Adour offers an insight into the contrasting Béarn and Basque regions of France which have a unique culture, language and cuisine. The landscape is inspiring as you walk between woods and open fields, past a multitude of chapels and historic sights and take time to absorb the history of the villages passed, once resting points for thousands of pilgrims during the Middle Ages. Arriving into St Jean Pied de Port through the Porte Saint-Jacques is a highlight and a rewarding end to the journey along the Via Podensis.
> View the Aire sur l'Adour to the Pyrenees final section of the French Way of St James.
Do you want to cycle the French Way of St James?
If you're a cyclist, you can cycle the entire Le Puy route in just 16 days on our The Way of St James by Bike tour
. This 16 day self-guided journey takes pilgrims from Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port, passing a multitude of churches and monasteries, resembling a travelling museum of Romanesque art. With some steep climbs, followed by fast descents, this trip is ideally suited to fit cyclists keen to extend their experience to an iconic route. At night your hosts in the guesthouses and small hotels will ensure that you are well fed and immersed in their particular region with its culinary specialties.
Do you love food?
Who doesn't love food! Given the popularity of divine French cuisine and the equal popularity of pilgrimage walking in France, we've created the Food Lover's French Way of St James tour.
Beginning in Le Puy en Velay in the Auvergne, the journey on foot is a rich sensory experience taking in the best sections of the Camino between Le Puy and St Jean Pied de Port, including time in the historic and beautiful towns of Conques, Rocamadour, Saint Come d'Olt and Saint-Cirque-Lapopie. The foodie highlights are endless, with tastings of delectable cheeses, wines and truffles, interspersed with the rustic cooking style for which the region is renowned. From lunch at a small 100 year old family restaurant, to wine and Armagnac tasting, market visits, truffle hunting demonstrations and fine dining, this is a full-bodied experience.
> View the Food Lover's French Way of St James tour.
More Information about the French Way of St James
Are you inspired to do the French Way of St James? Let us know which section takes your pick in the comment section below.