Hey there! This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please see my legal page for more details.
This guide with the Camino Frances Stages is being updated as we walk!
We started our journey on August 12th from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. We have 45 days to walk all the way to Santiago with an add-on walk to Cape Finisterre.
This is the second pilgrimage on “The Way” for my walking pal, Lizz, and me. The first time we walked the Camino del Norte route. You can read my stage-by-stage guide for the Norte here. You can also read (and download) my Camino de Santiago packing list here.
This time, for these Camino Frances stages, we anticipate more bed racing because we are walking during a busy time (the month of August during a Holy Year). We also anticipate challenges with heat and the lingering pandemic. But we trust that the Camino will provide!
Stay tuned for updates on all the fun and all the drama. (And we do tend to have some drama…check out this story from the Norte when someone stole our walking poles!)
Disclaimer: Please forgive typos. I am writing this as we go and from the road. Links, photos, videos, and proper editing will be done after Santiago!
Without further ado, let’s start walking!
Getting to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
The first step on the Camino pilgrimage is the journey to the starting place. For us, that began in Málaga, a beautiful town in Andalusia that served as a nice place to rest and gear up before we started north to France.
We opted to fly to Bilbao from Málaga (€70). We took an ALSA bus from Bilbao to Bayonne (€25) and the train from Bayonne to SJPDP (€10.50).
We booked in advance at the albergue Beilari. (€40 per night including dinner and breakfast). We stayed for two nights.
I can’t say enough about Beilari. Staying here was such a beautiful way to begin our journey.
At the communal dinner each night, Joseph asked us to share our stories. We laughed and cried and made new friends. AND the food was DELICIOUS (and vegetarian, too!)
Camino Frances Stage One: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles
This is famously the hardest stage on the Camino Frances. So, yep, right out of the gate (literally a 15th-century, UNESCO World Heritage gate), you get the most physically demanding stage out of the way.
This means hiking over the Pyrenees Mountains. Yep. BUT it’s so beautiful.
We set out from Saint Jean Pied de Port at 6:30 in the morning. The sun was still rising over town.
The walk was as grueling as it sounds. The Way follows the route that Napoleon chose in order to maintain the element of surprise. Because who would choose to walk over a mountain except the sheep?
Oh, right. We would. On a more serious note, the route was also used by the French Resistance during WWII to smuggle people out of Occupied France and into Spain.
When you hear that there is NO SHADE on this particular stretch of the Camino, take heed. There really is no shade.
We melted a little in the 101-degree F/33 C heat and the relentless sun. But the views were sweeping and the occasional breeze was everything.
We fueled up the cafe in Orisson at the five-mile/eight-kilometer point, since it’s the only cafe on the route and it comes after a long climb.
Somewhere after Orisson, I realized that my brand new water bladder was leaking in my bag (human error, noting wrong with the device).
Oddly, the water got only on my socks. Nothing else. It could have been worse, but…
The MOST important thing to me is dry socks! I am blister-prone, so I change my socks every time my feet get wet.
Luckily, they dried on the hot pavement in no time. On the first day and the hardest stage, my worst fear happened. And I pushed through. The Camino does test you!
There really isn’t other food options in this stage, though we heard there was a food van near the summit. (We missed the food truck because we took so long to climb!)
After refilling our water at the blissfully cold Roland Fountain near the summit, we began our descent and our entrance into Spain.
We were thrilled to finally walk into Roncesvalles just shy of 16:00 where we were welcomed by the lovely volunteers at the Roncesvalles/Orreaga Albergue.
Friends we met back at Beilari in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port helped us get settled in the massive Roncesvalles Albergue (183 beds!).
Then we joined a communal dinner that the albergue organized at a restaurant in town. Lucky for us, our friends from Beilari and SJPDP were there, too!
We went to bed early, tired, and happy.
- Stage miles: 15.3 miles/24.7 kilometers
- Actual miles walked: 15.9/25.5 kilometers
- Total miles walked for all Camino Frances stages so far: 15.3/25.5 kilometers
- Total euros spent for this stage: 43 – Breakfast and dinner included in albergue price (35). 4 euro on early lunch. 4 euro on laundry (wash AND dry!)
Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Day two has historically been a hard day for me. Lizz and I really hurt on our Day two on the Camino del Norte.
So we set out ready for a little pain. First, though, we snapped that famous picture by the Santiago/790 sign in Roncesvalles.
This time, Lizz was just fine, but I struggled a bit at the end of the route.
For the most part, this stage is mostly a gentle slope downward with a few short ascents. The views are not sweeping, but they are plentiful. And there is forests and shade.
We walked through the town of Burguete/Auritz where Hemingway once stayed, and had a Hemingway-inspired moment with beers on the side of the road.
We saw plenty of cafes along the route for food options, and grabbed a simple sandwich in Espinal.
For me, the trouble came at the end of the stage with the descent into Zubiri. The rocky, slippery path hurt my aching feet and ankles.
But I made it! And I found a smiling Lizz at the bottom of the hill.
We booked the Zaldiko Hostel via email while enjoying those beers back in Hemingway’s haunt, and there we found more friends that we met back at Beilari in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port!
Note: Zubiri is a bit grumpy. The town is really the only well-positioned stop on Camino Frances stage 2, and our impression was that the town knows that and, therefore, doesn’t much care to make pilgrim life easy.
The path into Zubiri is treacherous (local communities maintain the route), and there is only one cafe offering limited tapas in town by a surly bartender. And the only grocery store closes at 13:00.
The upside is that all pilgrims join together at that one cafe and commiserate over Spanish-style hot dogs and tortillas. The mood gets a bit festive, even!
The festivity for pilgrims ends at 22:00, but (at least on Saturday) begins about that time for the kids of the town. They screamed and yelled around town until midnight, and when one pilgrim asked them to quiet down, an adult shooed her away. And the kids started breaking glass outside our window.
Hey, it’s their town, and we’re just passing through. BUT…if you can skip “no sleep Zubiri,” skip it.
Pro Tip: Fuel up before Zubiri with food. And the only cafe is closed on Monday. If you can find an albergue with a communal dinner in Zubiri, that would solve the food problem. Also ear plugs!
- Stage miles: 13.5/21.8 kilometers
- Actual miles walked: 14.7/23.6
- Total miles walked for all Camino Frances stages so far: 30.6/49.2 kilometers
- Total euros spent for this stage: 43 – 10 for lunch. 16 for albergue. 10 for dinner. 7 for wine.
Camino Frances Stage 3: Zubiri to Pamplona
We were happy to leave Zubiri after getting very little sleep due to a party the town’s kids held outside our window! (It was Saturday night, though.)
This stage flirts with the Arre River and the highway and cruises through quaint towns (with no provisions) along the way.
At about the halfway point, the Zurian Cafe welcomes hungry pilgrims as an oasis of sorts. We had a beer and a tortilla with all of our friends from the previous stages. (The cafe was even open on Sunday!
Then it was back into the woods. At the end of a dusty climb, we stumbled on a food truck just outside of Trinidad de Arre. We joined our friends again and fueled up before walking into Trinidad de Arre where cafes abound.
From there, we walked into Pamplona where we are staying for two nights. We want to enjoy the city…and we sprung for our own room at the Ronces Hostel, which is a beautiful and clean hostel in the town center (with excellent wifi!)
I was delighted to learn that a fellow pilgrim, who was inspired to walk the Camino by this very blog, had just arrived in Pamplona to start her journey to Santiago.
We splurged on a fantastic dinner with Jennifer from Jennifer Darling Abroad and enjoyed lots of laughs.
Buen Camino, Jennifer! We hope to see you on the way!
- Stage miles: 13.5/21.9 kilometers
- Actual miles walked: 14.5/23.3 kilometers
- Total miles walked so far: 45.1/75 kilometers
- Total euros spent for this Camino Frances stage: 57 – 30 for a room of our own. 5 for lunch. 2 for a coke at the food truck. 20 for a fancy dinner out.
Stage 4: Pamplona to Uterga
During our rest day in Pamplona, we planned our next three stages, breaking the traditional stages into smaller walks.
This part of the Camino Frances is supposed to be very beautiful, so we thought: why rush?
While the traditional stage is Pamplona to Puente la Reina (15.1 miles/24.4 km), we chose to cut it short and stop Uterga.
“Just” 10.4 stage miles with one steep uphill climb. Plus, our friend texted in advance to tell us that the Casa Baztan Albergue offers a beautiful communal dinner with free laundry, and a sprawling garden.
Sign us up!
The walk out of Pamplona is serene. We strolled through the university campus (pro tip: there is a credential hub where you can get a stamp on the way out of town!), and made our way into the hills.
It gets a bit dry and dusty after that. But then we walked into the oasis of Zariquiegui, where a pilgrim store waited with fresh orange juice and sandwiches.
Then we climbed. The passage of Perdón, or Alto del Perdón, dates back to the medieval times when there was a pilgrim hospital here.
Today, there are windmills, works of art, and memorials to greet you at the top.
The hydroelectric company that owns the windmills also built the steel pilgrim statue that welcomed us to the summit.
The line of pilgrims is meant to represent the first medieval pilgrims all the way to the modern pilgrims, with the caregivers and merchants in the middle.
There is a also a moving memorial to 92 people killed during the Spanish Civil War.
We admired the view and then started the 2.2 mile/3.6 km descent into Uterga.
The rocky descent is painful on the sore feet and ankles, but the views are just beautiful.
And then we made it to the albergue! We were welcomed warmly, and the communal dinner was just as promised: delicious. EVERYONE cleared their plate.
We are ready for tomorrow!
- Stage miles: 10.4/16.7 km
- Actual miles walked: 11.3/18.3 km
- Total miles walked so far: 56.4/90.7 km
- Total euros spent for this stage: 33 – 3 for breakfast, 4 for lunch, 2 for an end-stage beer, 12 for a bunk in the albergue, 12 for communal dinner, (laundry was free at the albergue!)
Camino Frances Stage 5: Uterga to Cirauqui
We started this stage with a detour to Eunate where the Iglesia de Santa Maria de Eunate sits in the middle of nowhere.
The bell tower one was lit with lanterns to guide pilgrims! We couldn’t go inside because we arrived before the 10:00 opening time, but the detour was worth it for the beauty of the church and the shade of the benches.
We had a coffee in Obanos, a beautiful town that has long welcomed pilgrims. There is even a (questionable) legend surrounding the town’s historical role as a place for pilgrims. (See video explaining the legend here.)
Then we, finally, reached Puente la Reina, which is the traditional end of the Camino Frances stage from Pamplona.
The town of Puenta la Reina (Bridge of the Queen) is named for a bridge commissioned by the Queen of Navarre in the 11th century to help pilgrims cross the Arg River.
This wasn’t the end of the stage for us, so we kept walking through fields and vineyards to Cirauqui.
I highly recommend staying in Cirauqui! This beautiful hilltop town is enchanting (despite the translation of Cirauqui, which is “nest of vipers” in Basque).
It is an especially good stop if you can stay at Casa Maralotx where Juan will greet you warmly with a beer.
Then he dons his chef’s hat (he really does have a chef’s hat!) and cook the most amazing food!
Our communal table held seven nationalities (and copious vats of wine!) We all bonded over one shared language: The language of “The Way”.
- Stage miles: 9.14/14.7 km
- Actual miles walked: 11.2/18 km (we took a detour to Eunate)
- Total miles walked so far: 67.6/108 km
- Total euros spent for this stage: 37 – Breakfast was included at the albergue. 3 for coffee. 16 for a bed. 13 for communal dinner. 5 for an extra carafe of wine to share with new friends.
Stage 6: Cirauqui to Irache
The day of the wine fountain…or not.
We scheduled a shorter day for this stage so that we could stay near the legendary wine fountain in Irache.
I mean, how often do you come across a fountain offering free wine?
We were pretty excited as we started out, following the well-marked path through the vineyards and fields to Lorca where we stopped for coffee.
In the beautiful town of Villatuerta, we were greeted by people lined on either side of a bridge to cheer pilgrims across the Iranzu River.
I needed that pick-me-up. My feet HURT. I love the boots that I brought, but I just need to alternate my shoes when walking these kind of miles.
Despite all of the sock changing and foot care, I have four blisters that are just murder on my feet.
We lunched in Estella with a pilgrim menu at Namaste (delicious), and strolled the streets before heading for the wine fountain.
But it was empty! Oh, the disappointment! We arrived about 14:00 and we heard it ran out about 13:30. Bummer.
But since we’re staying nearby at Casa Luisa in Irache, we’ll be there at 8:00 tomorrow morning!
- Stage miles: 10.53/17 km
- Actual miles walked: 12/19.3 km
- Total miles walked so far: 79.6/128 km
- Total euros spent for this stage: 62 – Breakfast was 4 euro for a take-away bag from the albergue (but someone gave us there bag for free). Second breakfast at the cafe was 5. Lunch was 12 for a pilgrim menu that was delicious. We got a room of our own at Casa Luisa for 45.
- Also…I bought a new pair of shoes and inserts for 100 euro. And this is a good time to share my running total for Compeed (blister care), which is 22 euro.
Camino Frances Stage 7: Irache to Torres del Río
Coming August 19
Stage 9: Torres del Río to Logroño
Coming August 20
About the Author
Hi! I’m Jen!
I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.