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Duration
16 days
Activities
  • self guided cycle
Accommodation
  • 15 nights hotels and charming B&Bs
Meals
  • 11 Dinners
  • 15 Breakfasts

Price

$3350USD

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Overview

Trip Code: WSJ

Trip highlights


  • Cycling the whole route to St Jean Pied de Port, the cross roads of the "Grand Chemin de Saint Jacques"
  • Spending evenings in symbolic towns such as Saugues, Estaing, Conques, Figeac, Condom and Auvillar
  • Experiencing the culinary delights of the region and the hospitality of your accommodation hosts
  • Viewing the contrasting landscapes and architecture between the regions passed

Cycle the full length of the Way of St James in France from the Haute Loire to the rugged mountains of the Pyrenees. The pilgrimage route to Santiago has been travelled for over 1000 years by foot, donkey and more recently by bike. Offering an incredible diversity of scenery and passing through some of the prettiest villages in France, this is an epic cycling route with a spiritual theme. This journey, along the Via Podensis, the French Way of St James, 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.

Trip Grading

challenging

More info about grading system

Arrive in Le Puy-en-Velay. This is an ancient town surrounded by a volcanic landscape which is dominated by rocky peaks rising from the valley floor. We recommend that you allow at least half a day to explore. Take a stroll and visit the Chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, built by Godescalc, after his pilgrimage to Santiago in AD951. Warm up your cycling legs and climb the 267 steps for views over the town and surrounding area. You can also visit some of the many museums and the Romanesque Cathedral of Notre Dame. Make sure you purchase your pilgrim passport to have it stamped throughout the journey to St Jean Pied de Port.

Meals:  Nil

Starting from the cathedral, the route ascends quickly to leave the town of Le Puy. It goes through the Monts du Velay, where green lentils are grown, and enters the volcanic range of Devès before going down into the Haut-Allier gorges, a natural frontier before the Velay and the Gévaudan areas. The ascent of the Saugues plateau will be the last difficulty of this stage. Overnight in Saugues which is famous for its mushrooms! Elevation: ~+1150m/3773ft

Meals:  B,D

Saugues is a small town famous for its English Tower and its Mushroom Fair. Starting there, the route continues into the Margeride plateau, then winds through the Truyère high valley before reaching Aumont-Aubrac. Amongst the most interesting sights are St Roch Chapel or L’Hospitalet du Dauvage Chapel, erected on a lonely pass at an altitude of around 1200m/3940ft. Set at 1043m/3422ft, the town of Aumont-Aubrac is in the heart of Lozère and is an important point on the pilgrimage route. Elevation: ~+450m/1476ft

Meals:  B,D

From Aumont-Aubrac located in "Terre de Peyre" (meaning land of stones), the route goes through pine groves before reaching the Aubrac plateau, covered with pastures as far as the eye can see. While approaching St Chély d’Aubrac you will reach the "Boraldes" (name of the many creeks descending from the Aubrac) land. Further down, around Saint Côme d’Olt, you will discover the Lot valley and the lovely village of Estaing. Elevation: ~+950m/3117ft

Meals:  B,D

This stage takes place in very hilly Aveyron. However, if you decide to cross the Lot gorges through Entraygues-sur-Truyère and Vieillevie, the difficulty will be ascending the Dourdou valley up to Conques. In this village filled with sloping roofed houses, you will admire the Abbey-Church of Sainte Foy, with its three dominant towers and precious Roman portal. Elevation: ~+600m/1968ft

Meals:  B,D

On the Lot river, flat-bottomed boats called “gabares” used to transport charcoal to Bordeaux. The river is the connecting thread of this stage, leading you up to Livinhac-le-Haut. You will then leave it behind to reach the pretty town of Figeac, by the Célé river. This is the home town of Champollion (the 'Father of Egyptology' who first deciphered hieroglyphics) and a very important pilgrimage connecting point. Elevation: ~+650m/2133ft

Meals:  B

The route winds along the Célé Valley past several Quercy-like villages: Espagnac and its lovely 13th century church, Saint Sulpice and its troglodyte houses, Marcilhac and the ruins of its Benedictine abbey church, then Sauliac and Cabrerets. In Conduché, you will find the Lot river again and discover the gorgeous village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, perched on a rocky spur and your hotel nearby in Bouzies. Elevation: ~+375m/1230ft

Meals:  B,D

An easier day of cycling today. The approach to Cahors and its famous bridge “Pont Valentré” is via the limestone plateaus and the Lot valley. En route you will come across “cazelles” (dry-stone walls huts), crosses, as well as locks still in use for sailing. Since Celtic times, the town of Cahors has had a rich history. It is known as the centre of AOC ‘black’ wine which has been produced since the Middle Ages and exported via Bordeaux, long before that famous region developed its own viticulture industry. The choice is yours as to where you wish to dine this evening. Elevation: ~+100m/328ft

Meals:  B

The route continues to Labastide-Marnhac and Chateau de Bonnac. Typically, the houses here are built on a hill. The last part of the day crosses the “Quercy Blanc” (White Quercy, in reference to the white calcareous rocks located in the ground) up to Lauzerte. The town of Lauzerte is spectacularly located on a hill overlooking a landscape of vineyards, limestone plateaus and green valleys. Spend some time wandering the upper village with its medieval architecture, ramparts and picturesque town square. Elevation: ~+300m/984ft

Meals:  B,D

The day begins with a great descent to Moissac, a former major stage of The Way of St James, before continuing into the Lomagne or "hunchback Gascogne", an area of natural beauty. Straddling the Tarn et Garonne and the Gers, this former dependency of the duchy of Gascony is the land of white garlic, interesting houses and churches. Later you reach Auvillar, built on a promontory and classified as one of the "most beautiful villages in France". With its circular market built in 1824, clock tower and old stone houses, there is much to see around the town. Elevation: ~+180m/591ft

Meals:  B,D

Along this stage, you will leave the département of “Tarn et Garonne" and enter the “Gers” départment. The route is lined with quaint villages: Flamarens, Miradoux, Lectoure, Marsolan, and La Romieu. Leaving La Romieu, the expansive views of the open countryside of the Gers are inspiring. The area represents the transition between the 'haute' Armagnac around Lectoure (also called White Armagnac due to the limestone found through the area) and the 'bas' Armagnac around Eauze where thick black oak woods are found and 57% of the wine crops of Armagnac are located. Condom is one of the principal Armagnac towns and is located on a spur of the rivers Gele and Baise. The key attraction is the Gothic styled cathedral of St Peter's, the last built in the Languedoc style. Elevation: ~+600m/1968ft

Meals:  B,D

The cycle route this morning takes you to Montréal-du-Gers, one of the most ancient walled towns of Gascogne (1289). On the way, we recommend a little detour through Larresingle, another of the 'Most Beautiful Villages in France". Continue to Eauze, the capital of the current Gascogne. Take time to admire the slender steeple of St Luperce and the half-timbered house of Jeanne d’Albret. At the end of the day, you will come out on the Adour plain, a very open and intensively cultivated landscape. Aire sur l'Adour is separated into two parts; the lower section which is by the river and dominated by the cathedral of St Jean Baptiste, and the high town or Mas d'Aire, which is dominated by the Eglise de Sainte Quitterie where a Benedictine monastery once stood. Accommodation this evening will be in Aire. Elevation: ~+145m/476ft

Meals:  B,D

This hilly stage first leads to Arzacq-Arraziguet. En route, you will discover the church of Miramont-Sensacq as well as Pimbo, one of the most ancient walled towns in the Landes area. Further on, you enter the Béarn area and its many highlights including the village of Morlanne which is dominated by a fortified castle and has an amazing view over the Pyrénées mountain range. Continue to the village of Arthez-de-Béarn and cross the Gave de Pau river before reaching the small village of Maslacq. Elevation: ~+450m/1476ft

Meals:  B,D

Today you will transition between the Béarn area and the Basque country, in the very heart of the Pyrenean foothills. After the ancient fortified village of Navarrenx, you will cross the Gave d’Oloron. Along the way discover the Montgaston and Joantho castles before reaching St Palais, a cultural town which plays host to colourful festivals and markets. Here the street signs are in the Basque language which is typical of the region. This is also the entry point into the Lower Navarre, formerly the Kingdom of Navarre. There are a number of sights to visit including a museum containing historic pilgrim relics and a statue of St James the pilgrim. Elevation: ~+400m/1312ft

Meals:  B,D

The last spins of the wheel before the Spanish border! You will ride through Ostabat, a former important connecting point for pilgrims still housing remnants of great hospitals and ancient buildings. Not long after, the pretty pilgrimage town of St Jean Pied de Port is entered via the Porte Saint-Jacques. With its ornate Basque style houses and wealth of sights to visit (Citadelle, Prison des Eveques, museums and churches, the various Portes (doors) and bridges over the river Nive), take the time and walk around this evening. Elevation: ~+400m/1312ft

Meals:  B

Trip concludes after breakfast.

Meals:  B


Map

Elevation

The map and elevation chart are for illustrative purposes only and meant to provide general guidelines.
On self guided trips, actual route information provided before departure will be more detailed.


Inclusions

  • 15 breakfasts, 11 dinners: Breakfasts are usually continental inclusive of breads, cheese, ham, tea, coffee & juices. Dinner will consist of 3 courses, usually starting with a salad, followed by a chicken, red meat, fish or pasta dish & finishing with a dessert of fruit or cakes and cheese.
  • 15 nights comfort hotels and charming guesthouses on a twin share basis, generally with ensuite facilities
  • Information pack including guidebook and cycle maps (per room booked)
  • excellent quality rental bike with repair kit, lock, panniers, water bottle, pump & helmet (ebikes available - supplement applies)
  • Luggage transfer (1 bag of max 15kgs per person)
  • Visitor tax
  • Emergency hotline

  • Travel to Le Puy-en-Velay and from St Jean Pied de Port
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance - mandatory
  • Guide - this is a self guided trip
  • Transfers
  • Meals not noted as included - ie. lunch daily and dinner in Le Puy en Velay, Figeac, Cahors and St Jean Pied de Port - and all beverages (except at breakfast)
  • Excess baggage - arrangements can be made to carry baggage in excess of the 1 bag of 15kgs limit. Excess baggage which has not been pre organised may be refused. A supplement applies for excess baggage. Please ask our office for details.

Grading

challenging  

Closely following the GR65 (although only up to 20% is actually on the walking route) the cycle route covers daily distance of between 35 and 80km / 21.5 and 50mi over initially mountainous terrain with ascents of between 145 and 1150m / 475 and 3773ft each day. The grading is challenging (grade 5) to reflect the terrain and the distances covered on the more challenging days. Much of the route is on small country roads with some sections (around 0-30%) on dirt and gravel roads. Entering and leaving towns will require additional care due to traffic on the road. Unlike the walking route, the cycle route is not signposted and waymarked. Therefore following the route notes and maps is essential. You can also download GPS routes on your smartphone. We recommend that you prepare well for this trip to ensure you have time and energy to discover the towns and sights in the afternoon and en route. An option to rent an e-bike is available if you are not sure of your fitness. You should have good cycling experience. Preparation should begin at least 3 months before departure, with regular riding on roads over undulating terrain essential. Please speak to your UTracks consultant or travel agent for further advice on fitness preparation.


Departure dates

Daily from 15 Apr to 15 Oct

Want to organise a private group?

Fundraising events, sporting groups, family treats; learn how you can organise a Private Group from just 6 travellers.

Total Priceper person from

$3350USD

Options & Supplements*
  • e-bike supplementUSD$140
  • Single SupplementUSD$700
  • Single Traveller SurchargeUSD$750
*Prices listed are per person

Trip reviews


Why travel with us

Making Europe Affordable

We offer different levels of accommodation and comfort so that even the most budget conscious can treat themselves to active holidays on Europe's most celebrated tracks and trails. Our trips are great value for money because you only pay for what you want.  

Self-Guided Specialists

Our wide range of self-guided itineraries embody the UTracks philosophy of exploring Europe your way. We handle the logistics so all that's left for you to do is enjoy exploring Europe at your own pace. Most depart daily with a minimum of two people, meaning maximum flexibility.

Our Wide Range

With close to 400 trips in almost 50 countries, including the largest range of bike & boat holidays in Europe, we're confident that we can organise an Alps walk, Camino de Santiago or Via Francigena experience, Food Lovers' trip or a tour in a lesser-known pocket of Europe that you will love. 

Videos

Walking the French Way of St James Camino with UTracks

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