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.

36 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

      • Gregg Grinspan says:

        Jim—Where did you guys stay? I’m walking Le Puy to Conque with my wife and 24y old daughter in July. Need to start structuring where we’ll stop and where we’ll sleep. Don’t really want to walk much more than 15km a day. In no hurry and feet hurt too much in Spain in 2010 on the way to Santiago.
        Thanks for any help.
        Gregg

        • Leslie says:

          There is a Guide book by mien mien dodo, it is only in French, but basically a list of Gites = hostels.

        • Jim Grace says:

          Gregg,

          For the first leg I booked through a company called “One Foot Abroad”. I did have a few problems with luggage transfers and the like, but in general they were OK. The next year I did all the booking myself and found that to be dead easy.
          We generally covered between 20 and 25 kms a day so our itinerary probably wouldn’t suit you. For the record we stayed at Privat d’Allier, Saugues, Les Faux, Aumont Aubrac, Nasbinals, St Chely, Espallion, Golinhac and finally Conques.
          Try this website for excellent choices of accommodation:- http://www.chemindecompostelle.com
          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

  10. Gregg Grinspan says:

    Am going to walk Le Puy to Conque and then back again to Le Puy with my wife and daughter in July, 2015. Very excited about it. Walked from St. Jean to Santiago in 2010 and much in my heart was able to find the space and the peace to bubble up into my consciousness. A miraculous trip. A question for any of might know.
    1. How early should I try to get over night reservations for three?

    • Leslie says:

      We booked the day before for each stop apart from a few that we knew would be okay.

      Why not join the forum and get more help? http://www.caminoforums.com/

      • Gregg Grinspan says:

        Joined the forum. will chart a course and will try to find the time along the way to pull out my paints and write something about it for the rest of your/our crew when I return. Probably start walking July 10, 2015.

    • paul wroblewski says:

      Hi Gregg, depending the type of accomodation you want to stay in, and particularly that time of year, i would book as far in advance as you dare. The Le Puy route is becomming very popular. Not so much with people walking the whole route at once, but a lot of people breaking it up into sections. Le Puy to Conques, as Leslie has said, is probably the toughest part of the whole route, beautiful, but tough. Miam Miam Dodo is a brilliant giude, and the 2015 issue is now out. Its in French, but very easy to follow. When i get a moment, i will post all the places we stayed at between Le Puy and Conques. There are some gems.

      Best

      Paul

      • Gregg Grinspan says:

        Paul—many thanks for your assistance. I’d prefer to stay in small hotels rather than large albuergues as I did in Spain. Too much noise. I’m old and need my sleep for the next day’s traveling. There will be three of us. My wife, daughter, and myself. We’ll be in no hurry.
        Another question. I thought because the Le Puy to Conque route has been described as so beautiful that we’d just turn around and walk back to Le Puy once we’ve gotten to Conque. From my experience in Spain, there is a level of relaxation that takes at least a few weeks of walking in order to allow for more quiet spiritual feelings to emerge. It is these feelings that I want to revisit. Does the route as it moves past Conque towards St. Jean have as much appeal as between Le Puy and Conque? If so, perhaps we’ll just keep walking toward St. Jean.
        Again many thanks,
        Buen Camino, Paul
        Gregg

  11. Paul wroblewski says:

    Hi Gregg, no problem. Sounds like we stayed in the same places. Doing the Spanish Camino, myself and my wife stayed in a mixture of Hostels/ Casa Rurals and Paradors, ….one Parador.

    I would continue from Conques onto St Jean as the route has a varying profile throughout and never gets boring. We finished our first leg last Easter in Conques, then returned in the summer to complete the route, and I remember at Easter leaving behind some great companions, and a twinge of envy as we heard those friends ringing the bell at the small chapel on the opposite side of the valley as they continued on their way.
    Carry on to St Jean.
    There are many things along the way that rival The Camino.

    Buen Camino

    Paul

  12. Gregg Grinspan says:

    great talking to you, Paul. I’ll realign my thinking and we will proceed southwest after reaching Conque. Merci.
    g

  13. Gregg Grinspan says:

    Jim,
    Many many thanks for your insight. I found the same when I walked form St Jean to Santiago in 2010. I called ahead to accommodations I found in my guidebook and was always able to find a place for the night. My concern was that I’ve read that the Le Puy route, while not being nearly as busy, has a relative dearth of the type of accommodation we’d like. So, calling ahead and lining them up makes sense.
    Buen Camino,
    Gregg

  14. Gregg Grinspan says:

    Peter—I walked from St Jean to Santiago in May-June of 2010. On May 4, we got 5 inches of snow as we climbed the northern tier of the Pyranees toward Roncasvalles. The early leafing of the beech forest was an immature green, lighter and more luminescent than they would be 3 weeks later. The play of the white snow on this dense early Spring forest was magical. By early June on the high plain it was hot and dry during the day. Never unbearably so, though. Traveled very light and had a light weight headset with music in my iPhone. There is a stretch of miles and miles when the walk is on a graveled smooth path maybe 10-15 feet wide. It winds through plains that are covered with green (wheat?) at this time of the year. I comment on this piece of your journey because the path is lined during this period with red poppies and other white and blue flowers for what seemed like a hundred miles. Beethoven’s 9th in my ears, the sun high, nothing but the periwinkle blue of the sky, the sopranos reaching in the final movement while at the same time the stems of the flowers were all reaching for heaven. Just way too much for me. Broke down into shoulder shaking weeping. More snot in my mustache than I knew what to do with. These pictures are to give you a short heads up at the majestic inspiration that awaits you. Buen camino.
    Gregg

  15. Bill says:

    I’m planning on walking in April this year- the route from Le Puy all the way to Santiago-was thinking of taking a bivi bag as back up-do many folk camp on the Le Puy route at all?

  16. Heather says:

    I walked from St. Jean to Santiago in September 2010 and wanted to begin in le Puy until I discovered it was equally as long as from St. Jean to Santiago. 800 km was enough to begin!
    Walking the Camino was definitely one of the highlights of my life – spectacular. I am planning on returning to do the le Puy route in September of 2016 when I will turn 70. (it honeslty does not feel like me writing that, but I was born in 1946 :) This discussion has been wonderful, because it is the first time I have had the route fleshed out in some detail, and I thank you all for this very helpful information. It also might stimulate me to brush up on my French now. I discovered my limitations on my previous Camino experience which left me disappointed that I couldn’t engage fully in discussions – and often those were with French Canadians – a travesty for me as I live in British Columbia, Canada and should have a better facility with French.
    During my walk in 2010, I carried a pack with 15 lb. I started staying in Refugios but I slept so little I began staying in hostals and small hotels – thankfully because bed bugs became a huge issue for those staying in the refugios. Only during the last 100 km. did I start booking places in advance with it being a Holy year and a national holiday. It is interesting to hear many have bags carried on the le Puy route (a necessity or good marketing?) as well as having to book ahead. This discussion has excited me about planning for real for September 2016. Thankyou!

  17. Paul says:

    Hi Heather, firstly, you will enjoy this route as it has such a varied landscape. I lost count of the times we stayed in beautiful villages, only to find the next day, we would walk into another beautiful village, saying ” wished we’d stayed here” In other words, you are spoilt for choice. The Le Puy route feels like the Spanish Camino must have done about 20 years ago, not over populated. And as I put in my comments, it’s great to walk into St Jean as a destination. Brushing up on basic French is a great idea. Enjoy, you will love it.

  18. Heather says:

    Thanks Paul,
    I can feel the momentum building and a definiteness of purpose that wasn’t always there before. I am talking about September 2016!

    • Jim Grace says:

      Heather,
      I have walked from Le Puy to St Jean but in one week stages and at different times of the year. I started fro Le Puy in September. The weather was generally fine but I had two or three days of rain going over the Aubrac plateau. Don’t underestimate this place; it is one of the highest points of the whole journey and very exposed. I was pretty cold on some days. One of the advantages of having your luggage transported is that you can take clothing appropriate for a variety of weather conditions. Have a good trip, memories of my own journey will stay with me forever.
      Jim

  19. Gregg Grinspan says:

    Good to hear about your trip, Jim. My wife, daughter, and I will be walking Le Puy to Conque or further in July. Anyone with any experience on the way during that period?

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