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.
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. to get a feel for the Le Puy read out this blog post.
The distance to Conques is about 220km.