Le Puy Camino Overview

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The Le Puy route, in France, is one of the three main routes that meet shortly before St Jean Pied de Port and then continue along the French Camino to Santiago de Compostela. The French I met on this route told me that they really consider the Vezalay to St Jean Pied de Port as the main route in France “the real Camino” as someone said.  The other route to St Jean is from Paris which travels down the western side of France through Tours.  The fourth route is from Arles, this joins the Camino Frances at Puenta la Reina after joining the Camino Aragones to pass from France into Spain.

From Le Puy to ConquesMy day by day description will only cover the route from Le Puy to Conques which we walked in June of 2012.

This route is not suitable for mountain bikes; it is very rocky in some parts with seriously steep down hills that would be impassable on a mountain bike.  Often there are roads nearby that can be followed, but I do not cover them here.  However we did meet 3 men on mountain bikes covering small parts of the route and stood back one day to let them pass, one fell from his bike before reaching us; we sat around the same dinner table that evening and he was a bit embarrassed about his fall – no need the route was tough.

The distance from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied de Port is 736km.  The first part of the route from Le Puy to Figeac is contained within the Massive Central; that alone will give you an idea of the walking terrain.

If you have walked the Camino Frances you will find this route very different.  There is less infrastructure and fewer places to sleep, eat and get water and food.  It is also much harder under foot and hillier.  I really make it sound like fun; but I did find it hard going.

Be prepared to cover less distance and take a bit more time walking this section.

I tell people in the Camino de Santiago forum not to pack too much, to keep the weight in your rucksack to less than 10% of your body weight; I did not do this myself.  Because I run this site and a few other walking sites I had taken along a min-computer to write things up each day but also to check the websites.  The result of this foolishness was having my bag carried by a company each day and I carried only a day pack – I lasted five days carrying 12kg, crazy man.

There are few bag carriers along the route and most people seem to use them.  This is also perhaps down to having to book accommodation every night in advance, often you will not get somewhere to stay if you have not booked ahead.

We used the Mian Mian Dodo for the complete and up to date list of Gites, (hostels in France), and small hotels.  It is in French but easy to understand.  Most of the providers speak some English so you will get by without French, but you will not meet many native English speakers – it is 99% French on the route.

There is a tourist office in Le Puy where you can get a free printed guide, it covers the route to Figeac, the length of the track within that region.

See the page on travel for information on getting to Le Puy, getting home, getting back to Le Puy, flights, and baggage carriers.

The distance to Conques is about 220km.

14 comments on “Le Puy Camino Overview
  1. Abby says:

    Given the terrain, how many days does it typically take to hike from Le Puy to Conques? And, are any of the Gites more historical than others?

  2. Patrick Dupont Charles says:

    just completed the GR 65, the description here is quite accurate, just make sure you have an idea of how French society functions as far as work play eat go, it is vastly different to industrialised societies, France is an agrarian society and doing this GR will make you aware of this, it is only a partially industrialised society.
    rural and small town France is the main GR 65 experience.
    and there are ghosts from Aubrac to Espalion, in fact France is full of ghosts.

  3. paul wroblewski says:

    Hi Leslie, having completed the Camino Frances last year, my wife Kathryn and I decided to tackle the Le Puy route from Le Puy to St Jean. We both work and as such are governed by when we can take leave, so we have to do the route in sections. This Easter we covered Le Puy to Conques, and this summer we will walk from Conques to Eauze, then Eauze to St Jean in the Autumn.
    Firstly, I would recommend booking ahead, Miam Miam Dodo is invaluable as is Booking.com, if you want some home comforts. Another good tip for getting from Lyon to the start at Le Puy, is to use BlaBlaCar.com, this is a car sharing site, widely used in France, and at 8 – 10 euros per passenger, works out cost effective aswell, and a great opportunity to practise your French.
    We covered this section of the route in nine days, and were lucky to have the most beautiful weather. The terrain is reminicent of walking in the Yorkshire Dales meets the Brecon Beacons meets The Peak District. In short, it is beautiful.
    That said, some of the paths are no more thatn sheep tracks, but the route is well signposted. The French are even building eco friendly toilets in the more remote areas.
    We met dozens of people of all nationalities walking, some going all the way to Santiago.
    In a nutshell, The Le Puy route ( so far ) feels like the Camino Frances must have been like ten or fifteen years ago. We have been met by nothing short of the most warm and genuine welcome by hosteliers, auberge owners and hotel owners along the way.
    The choice of places to stay, sleep and eat are less abundant than in Spain, but are very well organised. Needless to say, being France, the food is outstanding, they should call this route “The Way of Michelin Stars”.

    On a spiritual level, the Le Puy route has landmarks to rival Cruz de Ferro, all along the route. Every Church, chapel and landmark is open.

    If anyone is thinking of walking this route, then we can highly recommend it.

    Bon Chemin

  4. kenny taylor says:

    Paul that was a good description of the route, and i look forward to my walk in September, thanks for the info..

    • Jim Grace says:

      Kenny,
      I walked this route in September a few years ago. The weather was OK but often cool; I took a fleece and was glad I did. Going over the Aubrac Plateau I experienced cold lashing rain. Check the weather forecast before you set out and go prepared. Jim

    • Paul says:

      Hi Kenny, we have since completed the route as far as Eauze. It continues to be beautiful and full of hidden and secret gems, enjoy.

      Paul

  5. kenny taylor says:

    thanks Paul for that, cant wait to get there..

  6. paul wroblewski says:

    Hi, since my last post, we finished the route. From Eauze to St Jean Pied de Port. We were fortunate enough to have some great weather, even at the end of October.
    The whole route is a joy to walk, and the last five days the Pyrenees beckon in the distance. Each trip we have met some really interesting pilgrims from all across the globe, even quite a few who were walking all the way to Santiago. The French are, as they should be, very proud of the Le Puy route, and as such, everyone we met was very welcoming. The communal meals in the Gite’s are several notches above the ones on the Spanish Camino.
    It is worth learning a little French before embarking on this route, by no means essential, but it does help and the French appreciate you trying.

    We did meet very few British walkers on this route which surprised us, as this is such a gem .

    Finally, it was a joy to walk into St Jean Pied de Port and view it as a destination rather than a starting point.

    For anyone who has walked the Camino, then the Le Puy route is a great next adventure.

    Next year, Via Francigena.

    Bon Chemin

    Paul

  7. Jim Grace says:

    Paul,
    Were you ever in the Navy? I remember someone with you name.
    Jim Grace

  8. paul wroblewski says:

    Hi Jim, no i was never in the Navy. We walked the route in sections, between April and October this year.

    Paul

    • Jim Grace says:

      Paul,
      Thanks for taking the time to reply.
      My son and I have walked the Le Puy route in stages over five years; we finished our last stage by walking into Pamplona this year.
      Buen Camino
      Jim

  9. paul wroblewski says:

    Jim, myself and my wife did consider walking to Pamplona after finishing at St Jean because we enjoyed the city so much when we walked the Camino last year. But sadly didnt have enough time.
    Well done, a great thing to do with your son.

    Buen Camino

    Paul

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