The Camino Francés is the most popular route of all – extending 775km back from Santiago to St Jean Pied de Port (and beyond into France – thus the name).
St Jean is what many Irish people see as the “starting point” though there is no such thing in reality. Walking from St Jean to Santiago will typically take something between 30 and 35 days, how many it takes you all depends on how fast you walk!
Many take this on in stages, or indeed do the final stage first to get a taste of what’s to come and then start anew in St Jean. That’s up to you and how much time you can spare.
Public Health Warning! Take all measurements of distance between places with a pinch of salt – no matter what any author might claim. The Pilgrim Office in Santiago lists 775km on its certificates as being the distance from St. Jean to Santiago, yet guidebooks proclaim otherwise (John Brierley – 785km / Cicerone – 778km / Sergi Ramis – 677km). The truth is that nobody is certain, nobody knows precisely from a scientific measurement point of view and to be honest, nobody should care!
Recent years have seen a lot of work done in upgrading signs in Galicia, so that once you cross regions on the approach to Cebreiro you should now see stone waymarkers at almost every junction, indicating the distance remaining to Santiago in metres.
The distances below roughly add up to that 775km and allow you to get an indication as to how you might break up the journey into segments.
Roughly speaking, walking at a brisk pace on even ground, you can expect to cover about 5km an hour. This reduces dramatically when climbing steeply, such as into O Cebreiro, at the Alto del Perdón or approaching the Cruz Ferro while different people walk at different paces.
While we are suggesting 32 stages as a possibility here, we also have a few suggestions as to how you might shorten or lengthen the walk, depending on the time available to you. Burgos and León are good transport hubs with high-speed rail links to Madrid, Logroño also has good public transport links.
Finally, the stages and stopping points below are completely subjective – stop where you want and when you want. These stages allow for stopping in the largest towns and cities on the way, by and large, while trying to keep the daily distances evenly balanced. Half of the fun is plotting your way as you go and the most delightful treats often present themselves when least expected. Walking in 2014, we weren’t going to stop in Foncebadón (day 22) – but upon arriving in Rabanal del Camino (the previous village) we just decided to keep going a bit more and ended up high up in the mountains with stunning views, no wifi, an albergue owner who wouldn’t let us watch the World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Germany, but ended up sharing a group dinner involving the most amazing paella ever cooked, the evidence of which is in the photo on the right! (Hint – use monkfish bones and shrimp heads when creating your stock!)
Shortening or lengthening your itinerary
There are many different ways of mixing up your itinerary – we can assist you, depending on your requirements.