Stage 1: St Jean Pied de Port – Roncesvalles Distance 24km
St Jean Pied de Port
St. Jean Pied de Port is a small picturesque walled town close to Ostabat in the French Pyrenean foothills, where three pilgrim routes, Tours, Le Puy-en-Velay and Limoges, converge.
The main street is the cobbled Rue de Citadelle which runs downhill past the Eglise Notre Dame de St Jean Pied de Port which has a fountain decorated with scallop shells outside and the Porte Notre Dame, the town gate.
Continuing on you will come to a bridge crossing the river Nive. From the bridge, there are beautiful views of the old houses with balconies overlooking the river.
At the top of the Rue de Citadelle you can visit what remains of the 17th Century Citadel which has now been converted into a college.
Pilgrim Passport / Credencial
You can get your pilgrim passport / credencial from the pilgrim office Accueill at Rue de Citadelle 39
Tel: (0033) 0559 37 05 09. It is open all day except at lunchtime.
Tourist Office, Place Général de Gaulle 14. Tel: (0033) 0559 37 03 57
Opening: Jul & Aug Mon–Sat 9am–12.30 & 2–7pm; Sep–Jun Mon–Sat 9am–noon & 2–7pm;
For more information on Saint Jean Pied de Port
Heading out of St Jean down the Rue de la Citadelle passing by the pilgrim office and through the archway, cross the bridge and onto Rue D’Espagne. At the Porte d’Espagne, an ancient gateway to Spain, you will see a sign post point out two possible routes.
The two routes are the Route de Napoleon which makes it’s way over the Pyrenees, and the Valcarlos route which takes the lower roads making it a popular route for cyclists.
The Valcarlos route is clearly marked and starts off along the River Nive along the D933.
After 8km you’ll come to Arnéguy on the France – Spain border. If you plan to stay here you can check the Arnéguy website for more details on accommodation. Most pilgrims will continue on for another 3km to Valcarlos.
Crossing the N135 onto the smaller road on the other side. Continue on through Óndarolle down a steep hill across a bridge up to Valcarlos/Luzaide.
Valcarlos/Luzaide is made up of historical family villas and farms. The family homes are traditional with many whitewashed exteriors and family crests or coats of arms on the exterior.
Many of the locals have turned their homes into bed-and-breakfast style lodgings for the growing rural tourism industry in the Basque Country.
There is a modern monument to the pilgrimage road near the city hall representing a recumbent pilgrim.
According to the locals Luzaide/Valcarlos is the true starting point for pilgrims in Spain who are traveling to Santiago.
Leaving Valcarlos head up hill along the N135 until you cross the Río Chapital. Then turn left towards the small village of Ganecoleta. After walking a further 2 km along the side of the road take another left then climb up a steep hill through the beech forests. After a further 2km you will return to the road turning left to reach Puerta Ibañeta where you will join the Route Napoléon.
Route de Napoléon
From the sign at Port d’Espagne follow the sign for Chemin St Jacques passing a water fountain. The path climbs steeply along a country road. After 5km you will arrive at Huntto.
If you plan to stay here you can stay at the Ferme Ithurburia Quartier Huntto which has 18 beds Tel: (0033) – 0559 37 11 17.
Leaving Huntto, turn left along a grass track which climbs steeply until it joins the road. Turning left continue on till you pass a fountain on your right. The camino levels out a bit and offers great panoramic views of the Pyrenees.
After a further 5km you come to Auberge Orisson which has 18 beds for €30 including dinner Tel: (0033) – 0559 49 13 03.
Passing Auberge Orisson keep going uphill until you come to Vierge d’Orisson where you’ll find statue of The Virgin / Vierge d’Orisson. Keep going along the road until you come to a memorial cross on the right side of the road. The path now heads up a track onto a woodland path.
Follow the signs to Fontaine de Roland after which you will pass a stone marker at the French – Spanish border. You are now in the Navarra region of Spain. The camino takes you through scattered beech forest for a couple of kilometres until you reach Col de Lepoeder.
From here you have another choice to make. There are two routes to Roncesvalles.
1. Puerta de Ibañeta Route
A longer route but a little kinder to the legs than the Roman Route, the Puerta de Ibañeta follows the sign at Col de Lepoeder to the right running along the road for 4km until you come to Puerta de Ibañeta. From here head downhill for another 1.5km till you reach the Abbey in Roncesvalles.
2. Roman Route
A more direct path, the only problem being it does tend to get very steep. Follow the path left from Col de Lepoeder, cross a small country road and keep a straight path downhill through the largestbeech forest in Europe. Some 3km later you will arrive at the Abbey in Roncesvalles.
Roncesvalles is a small village/hamlet with a population of around thirty.
It has no shops apart from a bookshop, although it does have two hotels, a couple of bars, a tourist office,a monastery and the church. Pilgrim Mass is held every evening at 8pm during the week and 6pm on weekends.
You should try to book your evening meal at one of the bars before the evening service in the church.
The service in the church is conducted in a few languages and a blessing is given for all pilgrims setting out on their Camino to Santiago.
In the old mill behind Casa Sabina
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