Le Puy Camino – Via Podiensis and the GR65

The Camino Le Puy route (730 km) is one of France’s three main Camino de Santiago routes that meet shortly before St Jean Pied de Port. It is also known as the Via Podiensis and the Chemin du Puy. It is also waymarked as the GR65. The route then continues along the French Camino to Santiago de Compostela (If you are walking all the way to Santiago, it is around 1,500 km).

Le Puy Cathedral

Officially the Camino starts at the Notre Dame du Puy Cathedral, which is a world heritage site. You can collect a credential/pilgrims passport from the office. The office is located just along the road to the left of the cathedral when you are facing it. We had our own credentials from Dublin, so we just went there to get our first stamp. There is a pilgrims’ blessing each morning at 7.30 am.

Le Puy en Velay Quick Overview

The city was one the main pilgrimage sites in France around 700/800 AD.

  • the cathedral contains one of the many Black Virgins of France (built in the 12th century)
  • Charlemagne vitited in 772 and 800
  • the shrine on Mons Anicius dominates the skyline

Today it is a small beautiful town/city with a well-preserved old town that is worth taking a little time to walk around. We did this in the evening after arriving while looking for somewhere to eat. There are lots of restaurants. If you are interested in history, best check Wikipedia.

Map of the Camino Le Puy

The best way to find maps for this route is on your favorite hiking app. There are few maps available when searching for Camino, it is better to search for GR65 on any hiking app.

Map of the Camino Le Puy
From Le Puy en Velay to Saint Jean Pied de Port

Elevation Map

The elevation map below gives a good indication of how hilly this route is at the start. There are many deep gullies to trek down and back up without traveling much distance. I found this start more difficult than any section of the Camino Frances.

le puy camino elevation map

Camino Le Puy Itineraries

At 730 km, you will need between 4 and 5 weeks to walk the whole route to the Pyrenees in the south of France. Most of the route is on hiking paths and not gravel roads. I estimate that only about 20% is on gravel or tarmac.

The camino on the plateau

Le Puy to Conques or Figeac 10 to 12 Days

This is the most popular section of this Camino. Many take 10 or 12  days and walk only to Conques or Figeac. Conques, as it is a relatively easy 10 days and finishes in a medieval village, and Figeac, as there is a train station.

The first part of the route is not suitable for mountain bikes; it is very rocky in some parts, with seriously steep descents that would be impassable on a mountain bike.  Often there are roads nearby that can be followed, but I do not cover them here.

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 volcanic region very different.  There is less infrastructure and fewer places to sleep, eat and get water and food. Be prepared to cover less distance and take a bit more time walking this first section.

  1. Le Puy to Saint Privat-d’Allier – 24 km
  2. Saint Privat-d’Allier to Saugues – 23 km
  3. Saugues to Domaine du Sauvage – 21 km
  4. Domaine du Sauvage to  Les Estrets – 25 km
  5. Les Estrets to Finieyrols – 24 km
  6. Finieyrols to Aubrac – 23 km at this point you are on the plateau
  7. Couvent de Malet, Saint Come d’Olt to Estaing 18 km
  8. Estaing to Golinhac – 22 km
  9. Golinhac to Conques – 30 km
  10. Conques to Decazville – 20 km
  11. Decazville to Figeac – 33km

Some of the above sections were tougher than expected, it is easy to break up the distance.

Conques
Conques

Figeac to Moissac 7 Days

At this point, you are a few days into the Lot Valley, it really does not feel like it until after Figeac (the area is called the Lot Valley due to the river Lot running through it). By this point, you will have walked down from the highest point of 1363 meters to around 300 meters. The Camino is easier underfoot but has many small ascents and descents.

  1. Figeac to Cajarc – 31 km
  2. Cajarc to Limogne-en-Quercy – 19 km
  3. Limogne-en-Quercy to Le Pech – 27 km
  4. Le Pech to Labastide-Marnhac – 23.5 km
  5. Labastide-Marnhac to Montcuq – 22 km
  6. Montcuq to Lauzerte – 14 km
  7. Lauzerte to Moissac – 27 km

Moissac to Aire sure l’Adour – 7 Days

This area has many small fortified towns on small hilltops, rural bullrings, and vast undulating fields of crops. this is the old Armagnac region famous for its brandy.

  1. Moissac to Auvillar – 21 km
  2. Auvillar to Lectoure – 32.5 km
  3. Lectoure to La Romieu – 19 km
  4. La Romieu to Condom – 14 km
  5. Condom to Eauze – 33 km
  6. Eauze to Nogaro 20.5 km
  7. Nogaro to Aire-sur-l’Adour – 28 km

summer on the Le Puy en Velay Camino

Aire-sur-l’Adour to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port 6 Days

Now you are in an area of almost entirely flat unremarkable landscape until you near the Basque country. From Saint Jean le Vieux at the foothills of the Pyrenees, the architecture begins to change to more Spanish.

  1. Aire-sur-l’Adour to Arzacq-Arraziguet – 34 km
  2. Arzacq-Arraziguet to Arthez-de-Béarn – 30 km
  3. Arthez-de-Béarn to Navarrenx – 32 km
  4. Navarrenx to Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby – 19.5 km
  5. Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby to Ostabat-Asme – 24 km
  6. Ostabat-Asme to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – 25 km

Accommodation on the Camino Le Puy

We booked accommodation most nights in advance. The private gites are booked very quickly and unless it is a town you can find yourself in the middle of the countryside with nowhere to stay.

Gite albergue on the route

There are four main types of accommodation:

  1. Gîte d’Etapes
  2. Gîte Privées
  3. Chambre-d’hôtes same as Bed & Breakfasts
  4. Donations: I use this as a catch-all for religious type albergues and monasteries.

We stayed in a Gîte d’Etapes once, and it was poorly run and had no curfew. That resulted in some youngsters having a party. That was our first and last experience of that type. Cost between €10 and €15.

Most of the time we stayed in 2 and 3 above. The experience was somewhere between good and great, if going again, this is the type of accommodation I would book again. The cost was between €30 and €40 for 3 and around €20 for private gites. One time we splashed out on a lovely place at €50. They all included an evening meal and some included breakfast, where breakfast was extra it was about €7.

Once we stayed in a convent called Couvent de Malet, it was great. It is located just outside of Saint Come d’Olt on the way to Espalion. And once we tried to stay in a religious Albergue. We left before they checked us in, it was evident from the check-in that they were not very relaxed.

The best list of accommodations along the Camino Le Puy is on the Wise Pilgrim website. They also have an app.

And we are going downhill
And we are going downhill, but still not smiling

Camino Le Puy Guidebook

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 even if you do not speak French. They also have an app for phone use. 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.

One problem I have heard with the Mian Mian Dodo is that they charge accommodation providers for listing in the book. I do not know if this is true, but it would mean that other places are not listed.

The Way of St James by Alison Raju, a Cicerone Guide. This guidebook is in English though it was last published in 2010. I suggest buying a second-hand book as it has excellent descriptions of all the towns, villages, and historical monuments along the way.

LightFoot Guide to the Via Podiensis by Angelynn Meya. I have not used this guide, many speak highly of it, it was last updated in 2016.

There is a tourist office in Le Puy where you can get a free printed guide, it covers the route to Figeac, which is the length of the track within that region. They also sell route guides to the GR65, which is the exact same route as the Camino from Le Puy to Saint Jean Pied de Port.

As in Spain, each local administrative region you pass through has its own tourist office and will provide information for that section. I found all the tourist offices very helpful.

How to Get to Le Puy en Velay

We landed at Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport and used the Rhone Express to travel into Lyon. The current 2023 cost is €15.30 one way, it takes less than 30 minutes. It is cheaper to buy a return ticket if you are flying out from Lyon. There are other options listed on the airport website for travel into Lyon.

There are trains from Paris to Lyon. The cost is around €60; the journey takes between 3 and 5 hours depending on the train and the time of day.

SNCF is the French rail operator, they run trains from Lyon Part Dieu to Le Puy en Velay. The cost is around €40 depending on how far ahead you book and what time of day you travel. The train journey takes just over 2 hours.

Our aim was to land in France and travel to Le Puy that day, so we could start walking the next morning. It went very smoothly, and we arrived in Le Puy at 7 pm that evening. We had pre-booked a hotel for the night.

Travel to Aumont-Aubrac: train from Paris to Figeac and then local bus.

To Cahors: Train from Paris (Website). Coach from London.

To Decazeville and Figeac: train from Paris.

To Moissac or Aire sure l’Adour, or Orthez: Train from Paris Austerlitz line.

Travel Back to Lyon: see baggage carriers below.

Baggage Carriers on the Le Puy Camino

La Malle Postale is the main baggage carrier between Le Puy en Velay and Lectoure. The backpack must weigh less than 13kg, if it is more, it must be split into two and will be charged as two bags. You can book up to 7 pm the night before. They collect bags at 8 am and will deliver them before 5 pm. Note they do not deliver to accommodations like Airbnb, only places that are open all day. They have a complete list of all accommodations on their section of the Via Podiensis route.

La Malle Postale runs a shuttle service taking people off the Camino to the nearest train station. This is the service we used to return to Lyon, where we enjoyed two nights’ rest before our flights back to Dublin.

Transport Claudine transport bags and people between Conques and Saint Jean Pied de Port. The maximum bag weight is 14 kg, and the changes vary between €7.60 and €8.50. All details on their website.

The Compostela Bus is a passenger service between Le Puy and Conques. The service operates between the middle of April and the middle of October, the cost is €35 to travel the full distance, but you can also travel part of the way.

One year I drove to Roncesvalles and left my car in the car park for a month. It was an old car, I’m not sure I would do the same with my current car. In Le Puy, you can leave your car at Place du Breuil in Le Puy en Velay car park, it has security and is underground. Apparently, there is a preferential rate for pilgrims.

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