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Duration
12 days
Activities
  • self guided walk
Accommodation
  • 11 nights in guesthouses or simple hotels
Meals
  • 10 Dinners
  • 11 Breakfasts

Price

$1540USD

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Overview

Trip Code: USJ

Trip highlights


  • Experiencing one of the prettiest sections of the trail - marked by magnificent architecture, crosses, statues and grain silos
  • Exploring the interesting town of Le Puy-en-Velay and Conques
  • Enjoying the camaraderie of fellow hikers and pilgrims
  • Learning about the tale of the “Bête du Gévaudan” (Beast of the Gévaudan).
  • Viewing the contrasting landscapes and architecture between the volcanic plateau of the Velay and the granite plateau of the Gévaudan

Traverse the centuries of time and the borders of Europe on the medieval pilgrim trail of Compostela. In the 9th century, the tomb of the apostle St James was unearthed in Compostela. The site became the focus of a pilgrim trail beginning in France, and crossing northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. This journey, along the Via Podiensis, the French Way of St James, takes pilgrims from Le Puy en Velay to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port. The route passes a multitude of churches and monasteries, resembling a travelling museum of Romanesque art. Seven stages of this historic trail are included in our self-guided walking program in France. This section begins in the centre of France, on the Central Massif at Le Puy-en Velay where many trails from across Europe converged en route to the tomb of St James in Spain. The trail ascends the volcanic highlands of Margeride in the Haute Loire before continuing through the traditional granite villages of the Lozere. Continuing through the Aveyron, the final destination is the enchanting town of Conques. The presence of stone chapels and the unique crosses are symbolic of the pilgrimage and a continual reminder of the religious significance of the trail, whilst the pretty villages, rolling countryside and strong gastronomic traditions make this one of the best walks in France.

Trip Grading

moderate

More info about grading system

Arrive in historic Le Puy-en-Velay, a pilgrimage centre since the Middle Ages. This ancient town is surrounded by a volcanic landscape dominated by rocky peaks rising from the valley floor. We recommend that you allow at least half a day to explore its narrow streets and warm up your walking legs climbing the 267 steps to the Chapel of St Michael d'Aiguilhe. Built by Godescalc after his pilgrimage to Santiago in AD951, you'll have great views over the town and surrounding area. You can also visit some of the many museums and the striking Romanesque Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

Meals:  Nil

The cathedral at Le Puy is the starting point for your walk. As you follow the trail, there are great views over the whole area. Through rural landscapes you'll ascend rapidly from the Puy Basin. Crossing the Velay Mountains past fields of the famous green lentils, you enter the heart of the volcanic chain of the Deves before arriving in the small village of St Privat d’Allier, where you're picked up and taken to a gorgeous B&B in the valley with beautiful views.

Meals:  B,D

Most of the day is spent crossing the valley. You will pass through the village of Rochegude, famous for its St Jacques Chapel, where a descent to the river at Monistrol will follow. Whilst the trail is easy to follow, the following ascent is quite sustained (500m over 11km) just beyond Rognac, from where the route leads you to the historic village of Saugues, known for its mushrooms and a meeting point for pilgrims coming from the Auvergne.

Meals:  B,D

Today is very picturesque as you cross the Margeride Plateau. With vast grassy plains and moors of broom and heather, this part of the trail is relatively easy going - although gently ascending most of the day. Amongst the most interesting sights are St Roch Chapel or L’Hospitalet du Dauvage Chapel, founded in 1198 as a hospital for pilgrims and travellers. Overnight in St Alban/Les Faux (26km/16.1mi) or St Alban/Le Rouget (29km/18mi), dependent on availability.

Meals:  B,D

From Les Faux or Le Rouget the trail continues to the town of St Alban then descends into the Truyere valley. You then traverse the vast plain of the Margeride before reaching Aumont-Aubrac. On the way, admire the Roman church of the Estrets, reworked several times and surmounted by a bell tower wall with three openings supporting a small steeple. Set at 1043m, the town of Aumont-Aubrac is in the heart of Lozère and is an important point on The Way of St James. There is a statue here of the “Bête du Gévaudan” (Beast of the Gévaudan), the man-eating wolf-dog that terrorised the Lozère area in the late 1700s and as a werewolf has inspired literature and popular culture since the mid 1800s.

Meals:  B,D

From Aumont-Aubrac in “Terre de Peyre” (land of stone), the Way of St James crosses some beautiful pine forests before joining the Aubrac plateau, a vast expanse of pastures punctuated by “burons” (in the Auvergne region this is a shelter where the cowherd lives and makes cheese during the summer). Here you are in the country of the famous Laguiole knife, an indispensable tool to cut the cheese of the same name. Arrive at your hotel/guest house in Nasbinals.

Meals:  B,D

This stage takes you through the heart of the Aubrac plateau, where the ancestral rite of transhumance is still practiced (the transhumance fair is on the Sunday nearest 25th of May). At lunch time, you can try the regional specialties at a buron or country inn, where local dishes are available such as the “aligot” (mashed potato with cheese and garlic), assorted cooked meats from the mountain or a good crepe omelette. In Aubrac you can see remnants of an ancient “Domerie” (name given to the hospital in Aubrac in medieval times). Overnight hotel in St-Chely d'Aubrac.

Meals:  B,D

We leave the country of the “Boraldes” (name given to the brooks descending from the Aubrac) to reach the Lot valley. Here you are near St-Côme d’Olt, listed among the “most beautiful villages of France”. There are remnants of numerous bridges constructed over the Lot river which made the pilgrims' crossings easier. Walk via St-Come d'Olt to Espalion and your hotel. Espalion's lovely old stone bridge is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meals:  B,D

The walk continues on the Way of St James following the stream of the Lot river to the lovely village of Estaing, with its Gothic bridge and imposing chateau. The annual St Fleuret fair has been held here since the 14th century (on the first Sunday of July). On this occasion, a great procession travels through the village in period costume. Overnight hotel in Estaing.

Meals:  B,D

We leave the Lot valley at the village of Golinhac, remarkable for its church. The church preserves the Roman foundations of a Benedictine priory, which was dependent on Conques abbey. At the entrance of the village of Golinhac, there is a stony cross with a small sculpted pilgrim erected on it. In Espeyrac in 960, according to the tale, a pilgrim who became blind after a mugging, recovered sight by making an invocation to the patron saint of Conques. Overnight hotel in Golinhac.

Meals:  B,D

The walk to Conques is very often one of the favourite stages for pilgrims as the view over the village is breathtaking if you come from the east. While descending into the deep valley of the Ouche, you will arrive near the Dourdou river (which flows into the Lot river, to the north) and discover this village with pointed roofs over which the towers of the Romanesque Abbey-Chruch Sainte Foy dominate. You can also admire the village's portal, a real treasure from Roman times. Relax in one of the many bars to experience the atmosphere of this lovely town.

Meals:  B,D

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

  • 11 breakfasts, 10 dinners (no dinner in Le Puy en Velay): Breakfasts are usually continental inclusive of breads, cheese, ham, tea, coffee & juices. Dinner will consist of 2-3 courses, usually starting with a salad, followed by a chicken, red meat, fish or pasta dish & finishing with a dessert of fruit or cakes or cheese.
  • 11 nights in guesthouses or simple hotels on a twin share basis, generally with ensuite facilities - on occasion facilities will be shared with one or two other rooms (upgrade to comfort hotels available - supplement applies)
  • Information pack including maps and walking guide (per room booked)
  • Visitor tax
  • Baggage transportation (max 1 bag of 15kgs per person - additional bags can be transported if supplement paid in advance, max 15kgs per bag)

  • Travel to Le Puy en Velay and from Conques
  • Drinks, lunches daily and one dinner
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Entrance fees
  • Tour guide – this is a self guided walking trip
  • Transfers
  • Travel insurance - mandatory
  • 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 will be refused. A supplement applies for excess baggage. Please ask our office for details.

Grading

moderate  

Daily walks are between 11 to 29km on well marked trails over diverse terrain – from relatively flat to mountainous. There are some reasonable hills and part of the route is on paved surfaces. This is a well worn path where route finding is straight forward (refer below for further details on self guided adventures). The main areas to concentrate on route finding are arriving and leaving towns. The accent is on keeping a steady pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. You will need a good level of fitness to participate fully in this adventure.


Departure dates

Daily from 1 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

$1540USD

Options & Supplements*
  • Single Supplement - standard hotelsUSD$410
  • Single Traveller Supplement - standard hotelsUSD$430
*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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