The towns, villages, and cities along the 780km of the Camino Frances that you will walk or cycle through are quite diverse and typical of Northern Spain.
Some places are great to rest in because they are quiet and other like Leon or Burgos because there is so much to see and do.
So far we have some details about the following places on this site:
St Jean Pied de Port – this is a vibrant French town in the Pyrenees. St Jean is the typical starting place for anyone who wants to complete the whole camino Frances. You can collect your Pilgrims Passport in the Pilgrims office here. They will also give you a list of hostels and albergues for the whole way. It is the best place to get the weather forecast from as it is advised not to walk over the top and take the Road Route in bad weather. In St Jean you are able to pickup last minutes items that you have forgotten or did not want to carry with you – like walking poles or a walking stick.
Roncesvalles – the monastery and the pilgrim’s mass. There is little else, Roncesvalles is tiny. There are only two places to eat in Roncesvalles and you have to book, if you don’t book you run the risk of not having any food that evening. If you want to start your Camino in Roncesvalles, as many do, you can collect a Pilgrims Passport here at the Pilgrims office.
Pamplona – this is the first major city on the Camino. Try the tapas, I think they are the best in Spain. I stayed in Pamplona once and the other time I walked right through. The first time I had to stop here as my boot were hurting my feet so badly I put them in a bin and bought new walking shoes. The shoes were great and lasted me longer than just the Camino. As you likely know you can start the Camino anywhere and if you have less time than a month here or the next cities are good places to start as they are easy to get to. You can get a Pilgrims Passport in any of them.
Burgos – this is the next major city after Pamplona, it is about 220km from Pamplona to Burgos. Burgos is home to El Cid, the Cathedral which is an world heritage site and home to the Museum of Human Evolution on of the most visited museums in Spain.
Leon – this is a magnificent city. The Camino Frances goes right by the cathedral a must for anyone. In Leon there are two main and a few smaller hostels. Each time I have preferred to stay in the local YMCA as there is no lockout time in the evening. Whereas the main albergue closes at 10 pm – and it is 10pm sharp, if you are locked out that’s it you are out for the night.
Ponferrada – the old castle is a must see, you will pass right by it away. This is the last major city before Santiago 200km later. You need to have some cash when leaving here. Ponferrada holds a special place in my heart – I met up again with Anna here who I had met earlier on the Camino Frances – since then we have been together, at the time of writing this nearly 9 years.
Santiago de Compostela – the end of the road for most and a chance to catch up with friends made along the way. this is the destination for us all, for many routes from all over Europe and therefore as you might imagine it is busy. After walking in the countryside for so long the city noise can be shocking, but I was so happy to have got here and walked into the local tourist office and asked where the nearest Burger King was – I had been dreaming about it for a few days. But the best restaurants in Santiago serve fish and there are a lot of them.
Finisterre – many pilgrims chose to continue to walk to Finisterre, however most will go here and stay for one night and watch the sun set. It is quite beautiful and worth the bus journey if you do not walk.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.