Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles
It take 7 to 9 hours if you walk it in one day
Saint Jean Pied de Port – Km 0
The French Way – the Camino par excellence, the mother of all the Caminos to Santiago – we start at the medieval bridge over the Nive river. Thus we access the rue d’Espagne, a neighborhood of merchants and artisans that has hardly changed its appearance over the centuries. We cross the street from one end to the other to cross the ruined walls of the old wall and reach a wooden post. Pinned to it, next to a shell and the red and white GR 65 marking, is a sign indicating Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle. Shortly after, a sign indicates the other itinerary through Arnéguy and Valcarlos, which deviates to the right.
A terrible slope greets us then and we should approach it very slowly, thus facilitating the gradual warm-up in a stage that will require a lot of effort and that must be taken very calmly. What’s more, to avoid excessive suffering and even a probable scare, it is recommended to come well trained. Going up the rural road, we pass intermittent neighborhoods of houses, such as Iruleya and Erreculus, always surrounded by green meadows. The sections where you can catch your breath fade like a mirage and soon the fearsome ramps that will bring us closer to the core of Huntto arrive again.
Huntto (Hostel) – Km 5
After Huntto, the road gives us a small truce and a path takes its place that wins the game on the slope with a succession of horseshoe curves. Back on the asphalt we pass next to a fountain and an orientation table. It is located in an excellent viewpoint where you can get a panoramic view of Saint Jean Pied de Port and the gentle orography of this area of French Aquitaine (Km 6.4). One kilometer later is the Orisson hostel and bar-restaurant, one more alternative to spend the night, especially for the traveler who has started the stage in the afternoon.
Orisson (Hostel-Bar-Restaurant) – Km 7.5
We continue advancing along the mountain road, surely in the company of Manech sheep and robust horses insensitive to the rigors of the climate. About four kilometers further on, about a hundred meters and to the left, the carving of the Virgin of Biakorri can be seen on a rocky ridge, adorned with flowers, necklaces, crosses, shells and other pilgrim offerings (Km 11.3).
After walking for twenty minutes, we pass the detour that goes down to the French town of Arnéguy and two kilometers further on, we finally arrive at the key point of the day. Next to the right shoulder there is a milestone with a carved wooden sign with the inscription Roncevaux/Orreaga (Km 15).
It means leaving the D-428 road and continuing through the mountain. We immediately pass next to the Thibault cross, also full of objects and flaps, and we ascend between two hills, leaving a rescued stone refuge on the right (Km 15.6). Under the slopes of the Leizar Atheka peak we cover the short kilometer that remains until the Bentarte pass, where the Roldán Fountain is located, which recalls the officer of Charlemagne defeated by the Basques together with his army in the year 778 (Km 16,5). A robust stone milestone announces our entry into Navarraand, shortly, a triple wooden signal encourages us to continue to the right. Under a dense beech forest and a clearer section we reach the Izandorre refuge, located between beacons 43 and 44 and vital in case of emergency (see the difficulties section). The stony track hardens until it reaches the Lepoeder pass, the highest point of the stage at 1,430 meters above sea level (Km 20.5).
Here are two options to continue, well marked on a wooden post. The one on the left is the shortest (3.6 kilometers to Roncesvalles), with the handicap that it descends steep slopes. It is a beautiful stretch through the forest of Mount Donsimon. The option on the right is four hundred meters longer and passes through the Alto de Ibañeta, where the chapel of San Salvador is located. matter of taste We choose the longest and go down the paved track, making short cuts on many occasions thanks to the red and white GR markings. The views are spectacular and lead us to discover the landscape of tomorrow’s stage: beech forests and Roncesvalles opening the doors to Burguete and the Erro valley. Thus we arrived at Ibañeta, where the peaked chapel of San Salvador is located, built in memory of an old monastery that rang its bell to guide medieval pilgrims (Km 24.1). The stage is only a breath away and, after passing by the Bird Migration Center, our itinerary goes into the forest to go down to Roncesvalles, represented by the Gothic Collegiate Church of Santa María. The first building that comes your way is the Pilgrims’ hostel.
Roncesvalles (Hostel-Bar-restaurant-Tourist Office) Km 25.7
(Mandatory from November 1 to March 31.)
Saint Jean Pied de Port – Km 0
We remind you that this variant is mandatory from November 1 to March 31. To take this variant, once we cross the Porte d’Espagne, we continue straight ahead for about a hundred meters, once there we turn right onto the Chemin de Mayorga, which will take us to the D 933 national road, which we take for about 750 meters, turn to turn right to cross the river Nive d’Arnéguy Riviere by a bridge and continue to the right of the river and the road to Ventas Arnéguy where we cross into Spain. Here we have bars, shops and restaurants. In front of Venta Peio we take a track that will take us to Arnéguy in a kilometer and a half.
Arneguy – Km 8.2
Once in Arnéguy we cross the Luzaide river and the border, entering France again to continue along a paved track, this time leaving the river and the road on our right, we continue for about three kilometers until we reach Valcarlos where we cross the river again. and re-entering Spain.
Valcarlos – Km 11.5
We leave Valcarlos, a town with all services, including a pilgrims’ hostel, along National Highway 135 to turn left after about two and a half kilometers along a local road to the Gainekoleta neighborhood. Once there, we take a path that leads to Once again on the 135 national road, which we take again, after continuing for about two kilometers on the national road, we turn left again to descend next to the river, a perfectly signposted detour, and from there start a steep climb that will take us back to the national one but this time only a few hundred meters to take a path that will always lead us uphill to Puerto de Ibañeta.
Port of Ibañeta – Km 22
once in the port (1057 meters high) we descend by path until we reach Roncesvalles in a little less than two kilometers, a town that we enter at the height of the pilgrims’ refuge.
Roncesvalles – Km 23.7
- Continuous ascent from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Collado Lepoeder: The first 20.5 kilometers are a continuous ascent that climbs 1,265 meters of altitude and requires a lot of effort. In case of fog, extreme precautions should be taken. It is even advisable to opt for the Valcarlos variant, since it runs close to the national highway and passes through towns with services. To avoid injuries, it is highly recommended to arrive in good physical condition and take it very easy. It must be remembered that the Camino de Santiago is a long-distance race and it is not finished by the strongest but by the most sensible.
- During winter or in bad weather, always follow the route through Arnéguy and Valcarlos: The alternative route that goes through Arnéguy and Valcarlos (hostel) can be done whenever you want. It exceeds 895 meters of unevenness instead of 1,265 and in winter and in case of anticipating bad weather, you must always opt for it. The route is taken shortly after passing the wall, in a detour to the right. A yellow sign indicates it in green as option 2. From November 1 to March 31, the itinerary along the Napoleon route is closed for security reasons: it is mandatory to go through Valcarlos. The fine for non-compliance with this rule can reach 12,000 euros.
- Reinforced signage with numbered posts in Navarra and the Izandorre refuge: Since 2010, once in Spain, the stage signage has been reinforced with more than 80 numbered posts to facilitate positioning in case of loss. The Government of Navarra also built the Izandorre shelter in Lepoeder, where the Navarra Emergency Agency has set up a direct communications system with room 112-Sos Navarra. To communicate you have to activate a button that is in the shelter and that has coverage thanks to the network of TETRA stations. The shelter is quite neglected but in an emergency it is vital. In January 2013, after a heavy snowfall, five Korean pilgrims who ignored the warnings, saved their lives thanks to this shelter, where they were rescued by a team of firefighters.
- There is a bus between Pamplona to Saint Jean Pied de Port until the 1st of November. It leaves the Pamplona bus station at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. It is daily and costs 22 euros. The return from Saint Jean Pied de Port is at 19:30. Out of season check schedules and availability. The ticket can be purchased online from the international section of http://www.alsa.es and http://www.movelia.es
- The rest of the year to get to Saint Jean Pie de Port the best option is to take the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalles. To check schedules at the following link: https://www.autocaresartieda.com/?scc=roncesvalles. By paying a supplement, bicycles are allowed to be transported. Telephone: 948 30 02 87
- Once in Roncesvalles, there is a taxi service waiting for pilgrims who want to go down to Saint Jean Pied de Port. If someone travels on a Sunday, they can take a taxi from Pamplona. The Teletaxi telephone numbers are 948 23 23 00 and 948 35 13 35.
- In Place Floquet, Saint Jean Pied de Port, there is a shop called Direction Compostelle, similar to the Sarria Pilgrim Library. It sells equipment for the pilgrim, from clothing, guides, boots, raincoats, socks, etc. It also has an Internet point with several computers.
- Remember that in Roncesvalles there is NO longer an ATM, they removed the one in La Posada. The first is in Burguete.
- In Saint Jean Pie de Port, the Association of Friends of the Pyrénées Atlantiques Way, (39 rue de la Citadelle, tel. +33 559 370 509) register the pilgrim from the public hostel, stamp and issue the credential throughout the season.
What to see, what to do
Saint Jean Pied de Port
Saint Jean Pied de Port, in Spanish San Juan Pie de Puerto, owes its name to its strategic location at the foot of the mountains bordering Spain. It was founded in the 12th century and since 1234 it was the capital of Ultraports, one of the six merindades of the Kingdom of Navarra. At the end of the 16th century it became part of France and today it is a canton located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, in the Aquitaine region of France. Saint Jean Pied de Port still exudes a medieval aura thanks to its citadel perched on the high, the cobbled and commercial streets of the Citadelle and d’Espagne, the complex formed by the church and the bridge over the Nive river, and the traffic of the thousands of pilgrims who come walking from the center of Europe or arrive from Spain to start the pilgrimage.
With dimensions of 600 x 150 meters, the fortified Citadel of Saint Jean Pied de Port was designed by the military engineer Vauban during the 17th century. It took the place of the old medieval castle and from its location you have unbeatable views of the town and the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Puerta de Santiago
Located in the upper part of the town, it brings pilgrims from northern and central Europe into Rue de la Citadelle, one of the renowned streets of the historic center. The European pilgrims from the Turonense, Lemovicense and Podense routes arrive at Saint Jean Pied de Port, but not those from the Toulouse route who enter Spain through the Huesca port of Somport and join the other pilgrims at Puente la Reina.
Church of Notre Dame du Bout du Pont
Gothic fortress temple located, as its old French name indicates, at one end of the medieval bridge over the Nive river. It is now known as the Church of the Assumption. It has a large nave with two sideways and two choirs and presents a set of red stone pillars and columns. Attached to its structure is the Notre Dame Gate, which going down the Rue de la Citadelle gives access to the Rue d’Espagne, an old neighborhood of merchants and craftsmen.
After crowning the Lepoeder pass, the end of the continuous ascent of the first stage, the yearning four-kilometre descent begins that leads to the Ibañeta hill. Here, at more than a thousand meters above sea level, stands the peaked chapel of San Salvador, inaugurated in 1965 and which recalls the existence of an ancient monastery that provided assistance to medieval pilgrims.
In Roncesvalles there are guided tours and the entrance price is 4.20 euros and the price for children is 2 euros. You visit the museum, the chapel of Santiago and the Charlemagne silo and its duration is about 45 minutes. The ticket includes access to the cloister and the chapter house. The hours are as follows: from April to October from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.; from November to March from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; from the end of the December bridge to February 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and closed on Wednesdays. There are no visits in the entire month of January after Christmas and also on September 8, December 25 and January 1 and 6. Groups must book in advance. More information at the Roncesvalles Tourist Office located in the old mill. Telephone: 948 76 03 01.
Collegiate Church of Santa María
A clear example of French Gothic in Spain, the church of Santa María began to be built between 1215 and 1221 under the patronage of the Navarrese king Sancho VII El Fuerte. Due to its state of abandonment and deterioration during the following centuries, a large part of the temple was rebuilt during the 17th century. It has a floor plan with three naves and in the presbytery stands the sculpture of the Virgin of Roncesvalles, carved in wood and bathed in silver in Toulouse in the 14th century. In the Collegiate Church complex, the cloister also stands out, with a square floor plan and built during the first half of the 17th century.
Chapel of Santiago
Small Gothic construction from the 13th century. It was a parish until the 18th century and was restored in the 20th century.
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Also known as Silo de Charlemagno, it is the oldest building in Roncesvalles. It is from the 12th century and pilgrims have been buried there.