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Compact Camino Frances - how to choose which etapas to walk vs bus

WHAT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ETAPA OF THE CAMINO FRANCES?? (top 3)

  • Pamplona

    Votes: 6 54.5%
  • Logroño

    Votes: 5 45.5%
  • Burgos

    Votes: 4 36.4%
  • Sahagún

    Votes: 1 9.1%
  • Leon

    Votes: 3 27.3%
  • Ponferrada

    Votes: 4 36.4%
  • Sarria

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Due to limit on # of answers, OTHER.. please add note!

    Votes: 1 9.1%

  • Total voters
    11

jessumss

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
future: camino frances (2020)
Hi (future) fellow peregrinos,

This March will be my first time going on the camino and really my first time in the north of Spain (excluding Barcelona). I live with my boyfriend in Sevilla, going on 4 years now! Finally finding the opportunity to take a break from real life and escape to the camino. Unfortunately, we are not 100% sure we can dedicate 30+ days to do the full camino frances.

Can someone please recommend must sees for walking camino frances versus a few etapas we could get by taking the bus and not feel like we didn't get the full peregrino walking experience? We will have at least 14 days, potentially 20 for perspective, starting from Pamplona.

My suggestion to my boyfriend was that we could take a bus on rainier days, but he wants to guarantee we don't opt to bus on etapas that are an essential walking etapa. I hope I am explaining myself well. I have researched which etapas have bus availability - that is NOT my question. My question is how would you rank each etapa from most beautiful to least- is that even possible??

Appreciate any and all insight!
 

alhartman

346 joyful days in Spain and France since 2005
Camino(s) past & future
Hope so!
Camino is not easily planned by picking/missing individual stages--every stage has its interests and fans. You can catch a taxi at anytime and often buses and sometime trains. Pamplona is a wonderful starting point so start there and go 14-20 days which can get you as far as Ponferada if you have no wish for the Compostela of the last 100km
And most of us get caught in the fellow pilgrim experience (camino family) as the main part of the 'experience'.
Go, you will have a wonderful time, but do not get involved in a lot of overplanning.
My two favorite sections are Pomplona to Logrono, and Astorga to Portomarin. But the meseta is also magical for just walking walking walking.
buen camino
 

Rick M

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
April ('16,'18, '19)
and not feel like we didn't get the full peregrino walking experience?

My question is how would you rank each etapa from most beautiful to least- is that even possible??
From my point of view, a pilgrimage on the Camino is not looked as as a series of sight seeing events. If your goal is to see sights, then a tour through the cities of Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon, towns like O Cebreiro, Astorga, or Ponferrada, and a few bridges like the one in Hospital d'Orbigo or the monastery in Samos would make a nice tour.

But if getting the full pilgrim walking experience is your goal, pick a starting point, and walk however many days you have. Rain or shine, historical or modern, beautiful or ugly. Pilgrimage is also about the journey through your own self, and this journey is best taken with a minimum of distractions and interruptions. It is also about the friends you make along the way, and share the joys, insights, and hardships with.

Buen Camino
 

CdnDreamer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (12, 15 & 18) San Salvador (18), Portuguese (19)
One of the most memorable days we had on the camino was a rainy day. I would not have wanted to miss that for the world. My friend and I still talk about that rainy day in 2012 when we couldn't stop laughing. We were absolutely soaked, freezing and happy!

I agree with the other posters. Pick somewhere and walk for the time you have. Enjoy every day and enjoy meeting people from all over the world. It really is magical.

You may find once you start walking, checking the guide book etc that there are sections you are ready to skip. You may want to catch up to another pilgrim, or get ahead of someone. Decide if you want to get the compostela - if you do then start somewhere around Leon depending on how many days you end up being able to walk. If you can do the Frances in stages then start in Pamplona and see how far you get. The camino will wait for you and it can become a yearly event until you finish. Lots of Europeans do the Frances that way.

Buen Camino. And happy planning!
 

doctorherman

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances*3, Ingles, Primitivo, Finisterre, Baztan, and Portuguese
It sounds like you are quite young and as you live in Spain doing what many people have done would surely be feasible. That is, why don't you get yourself to St jean or Roncesvalles and start walking until the end of your available time and then at some point in the future, just continue from where you left off. You can use the same credencial until you eventually get to SdC.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
The most beautiful etapa (stage) or the most beautiful city?
Because that does make a difference in the answer.
For instance, I would not miss Burgos Cathedral but the walking stage beforehand isn't exciting to me.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
All answers you have gotten are very, very good.

Buen Camino!
 

doctorherman

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances*3, Ingles, Primitivo, Finisterre, Baztan, and Portuguese
The most beautiful etapa (stage) or the most beautiful city?
Because that does make a difference in the answer.
For instance, I would not miss Burgos Cathedral but the walking stage beforehand isn't exciting to me.
I didn't like the older stage from Santovenia through Ibeas, along the N129, nor the later more popular way along the N1 once Villafria was reached.

However, the newer way with a slight detour is really lovely. Everyone now knows the river route, but with just a small detour to the monastery of Cartuja de Miraflores (originally a hunting lodge, later converteed to a monastery - not waymarked, but an easy slight detour all in the same direction towards Burgos) is hugely rewarding. If you look at the map on OpenStreetMap you can easily see the path you need to divert to.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
The most beautiful etapa (stage) or the most beautiful city?
Because that does make a difference in the answer.
For instance, I would not miss Burgos Cathedral but the walking stage beforehand isn't exciting to me.
This goes double for Leon.

The answer will really depend on what you are looking for. The places you list are all very nice (with the possible exception of Sarria, which didn't strike me as so special, but that might have just been my mood that day). Other really nice places that you missed which are "landmarks" on my caminos include: Alto de Perdon and Puente la Reina with its beautiful bridge, Estella with some nice medieval churches and the wine fountain just afterward, Santo Domingo de la Calzada with the poultry in the cathedral, Fromista with my favourite romanesque church of the Camino, Astorga, the Cruz de Ferro, Villafranca del Bierzo (does a Camino Frances really count if you don't pass through at least one Villafranca?), O Cebreiro, Portomarin with the steps up past the bridge at the fortress of a church....

But I am with the people who say that a Camino is much better if you just keep walking day after day and save the faster transport for the trip home (or elsewhere) afterward. I speak from experience, having done it both ways. I would recommend either: (a) Start somewhere like Leon and walk to Santiago. If you have extra days at the end, you can continue to Finisterre and/or Muxia. or (b) Start in Pamplona (or Roncesvalles) and walk until you are done. Then return another year and walk some more.
 

Rosemary Boyd

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
future
It sounds like you are quite young and as you live in Spain doing what many people have done would surely be feasible. That is, why don't you get yourself to St jean or Roncesvalles and start walking until the end of your available time and then at some point in the future, just continue from where you left off. You can use the same credencial until you eventually get to SdC.
This is the perfect solution. Getting to St. Jean France is part of the journey. Heading up over the Pyrenees, summiting and heading down into Spain is an important part of the experience.
Rosemary
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Start at wherever the beginning is for you. Then start walking. I agree 1000000% that a camino and a pilgrimage is not a sightseeing adventure. The places you want to see is your heart and spirit and that happens when you walk and walk and open and open. The most beautiful and most memorable spot on your camino may just be where you are standing or sitting at a special moment in time. Trust me you may think you know what is special but you do not have a clue to what a special pilgrimage moment is until you walk. That is what is so special.
 

Rosemary Boyd

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
future
Start at wherever the beginning is for you. Then start walking. I agree 1000000% that a camino and a pilgrimage is not a sightseeing adventure. The places you want to see is your heart and spirit and that happens when you walk and walk and open and open. The most beautiful and most memorable spot on your camino may just be where you are standing or sitting at a special moment in time. Trust me you may think you know what is special but you do not have a clue to what a special pilgrimage moment is until you walk. That is what is so special.
Find a quiet place to sit. I recall sitting at a lovely cafe for breakfast and someone had cut their toenails. Vomit. Another time I sat on a rock in the shade after a huge climb only to discover that someone had left "greenies" and my feet were in them. Puke! Buen Camino!
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Find a quiet place to sit. I recall sitting at a lovely cafe for breakfast and someone had cut their toenails. Vomit. Another time I sat on a rock in the shade after a huge climb only to discover that someone had left "greenies" and my feet were in them. Puke! Buen Camino!
I have no clue to what a greenie is but I am sure I have stepped in as bad or worse over the years. You can puke, or you could just laugh.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
All of the above answers, as @alexwalker notes, are really good. My own suggestion, if you must skip anything, is to bus from Logroño to Burgos. However, as you're in Spain, just walk part of the Francese one year, and finish it another. But who knows how you'll feel, or whom you might meet, as you go along; this will likely be more important.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Use your imagination lt56ny lol!
I looked up Greenie in google under slang words.
The only one I knew was what we used to say in the United States that a greenie was a type of amphetamine.
In Wyoming it is a derogatory word for tourists from Colorado. Colorado license plates are green.
In Australia it is a derogatory word for an environmentalist.
It is also short for Greenhorn. Someone who is naive about a certain subject. But I never heard it shortened to Greenie.
I would have to think as I continue to search my brain that it is stepping in some kind of s#*t!
I am exhausted!!!!
 

Rosemary Boyd

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
future
I looked up Greenie in google under slang words.
The only one I knew was what we used to say in the United States that a greenie was a type of amphetamine.
In Wyoming it is a derogatory word for tourists from Colorado. Colorado license plates are green.
In Australia it is a derogatory word for an environmentalist.
It is also short for Greenhorn. Someone who is naive about a certain subject. But I never heard it shortened to Greenie.
I would have to think as I continue to search my brain that it is stepping in some kind of s#*t!
I am exhausted!!!!
I just laughed out loud! Thank you for that! A greenie is coughed up from the depths of a persons bronchial passages and lungs.There was a time that a person could be fined for this. Doing this in a public sitting area is very low class behaviour!
 

SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
This is the perfect solution. Getting to St. Jean France is part of the journey. Heading up over the Pyrenees, summiting and heading down into Spain is an important part of the experience.
Rosemary

For some but please do not generalise this.
Saint Jean Pied de Port is " just " a possible start.
You do not miss something " important" when you start at Roncesvalles or Pamplona when walking the Camino Francès. In fact most Spaniards do not go into the trouble travelling to Saint Jean to start this particular Camino.
 

Rosemary Boyd

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
future
For some but please do not generalise this.
Saint Jean Pied de Port is " just " a possible start.
You do not miss something " important" when you start at Roncesvalles or Pamplona when walking the Camino Francès.
Indeed but St. Jean Pied de Port is the beginning of the trail.
 

SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
Indeed but St. Jean Pied de Port is the beginning of the trail.

Sorrry but it is not! It is because lots of guides tell it is.
Medieval pilgrims started from home.
Saint Jean is just a recent " starting " point.
There are lots of threads here in this forum regarding this topic.


I could not have said it better than our distinguished members @annakappa and @JohnnieWalker did years ago in this thread.

I blame it on the movie " The Way".
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Indeed but St. Jean Pied de Port is the beginning of the trail.
Which is what I thought on my first Camino. In discussing this with a Brazilian/Danish pilgrim, he annoyed me greatly by saying that the beginning of the trail was one's front door. However, after some thought, I saw his point. For some the Francese begins in Vezelay or in Paris, for others in Pamplona, or in Roncesvalles. It's just a beginning, albeit an extraordinary and spectacular one, and one which I would not recommend missing provided that the weather be good.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Indeed but St. Jean Pied de Port is the beginning of the trail.
Only for those who start in St. Jean Pied de Port.

For those who start in Roncesvalles, it is not part of the trail. The same for those who start in Arles and cross through the Somport pass. For those who start in Le Puy, St. Jean Pied de Port is another town halfway (or so) through their journey. For those in who start in Switzerland or Poland, it is much further than halfway along.
 

Elin_B

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
14 days on CF may 2019: first 6 and last 6 days.
Me and my friend walked last may/june, we had 14 days and we very much wanted to cross the pyrenees, so we started in SjPdP, but we also really wanted do arrive i Santiago... So: we walked from Sjpdp to Pamplona, where we took the bus to Logrono. From Logrono we continued with night-train to Lugo, where we spent a rest- and sightseeing-day. Then we continued from Sarria and walked the last part to Santiago. For us it was perfect! :)
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
It is best, really, not to take any bus at all, and skip nothing -- and so start from however far from Compostela corresponds to how far you can walk in the time that you have.

Especially for a first Camino !!

The Way of Saint James is about the bad with the good ; and correspondingly the good with the bad, the good in the bad, and the bad in the good.

It's best to take it as it comes rather than try and impose your own self and your own desires onto it ; let it surprise and challenge you !!

Facing that challenge is a huge, indeed essential part of what it is to walk the Camino, and if you skip that challenge you could miss out on what it can reward you with.

The Camino is not primarily a hiking trail, and it is better when you do not treat it like one.
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
I definitely think that choosing the starting point based on the time you have is a better choice than skipping ahead. As others have mentioned, this isn't a hiking trip, but a pilgrimage. For a lot of people, a big part of the experience is the continuity - the act of walking from here to there over a series of days and weeks. Busing ahead to skip things interrupts that process. Also, the people you meet can be a big part of your experience - the shared experience as you make your way toward Santiago - if you jump ahead, you'll leave people behind.

To figure out where to start, I'd multiply the number of walking days I had by the average distance I plan to walk each day and find the closest convenient city or town and just start walking from there. I like to plan for 1 rest day a week - the rest day can either be a real rest or a combination of 2 half days, whichever you like best, but having the 1 day per week buffer helps.

So, if you have 14 days total, that's 12 walking days. If you average 20km/day, that gives you 240 km total. Ponferrada is about 220 km from Santiago and has good transportation options, so it would be easy to start there. If you think you'll walk more like 25km/day, that's 300 km - Astorga is about 280 km from Santiago, so it would make a good starting point in that case.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
For a lot of people, a big part of the experience is the continuity - the act of walking from here to there over a series of days and weeks. Busing ahead to skip things interrupts that process. Also, the people you meet can be a big part of your experience - the shared experience as you make your way toward Santiago - if you jump ahead, you'll leave people behind.
Perfectly said
 

Elin_B

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
14 days on CF may 2019: first 6 and last 6 days.
Let me just say that "skipping ahead" (or travelling some parts in other ways than by foot) doesn't mean that you don't experience the walk or the beauty of the Camino - inner and outer, spiritual and cultural. To each his own, right? I understand that walking the whole of the Camino Frances is a totally different experience on many levels than walking for two weeks. But let me tell you this: we cried when we entered the big square in Santiago, overwhelmed by feelings. And those feelings were in no way diminished by the fact that we also went by train for one night.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
You can start wherever you want.
And continuity is better than a patchwork.
There's beauty and ugliness everywhere. The camino is deeper than that. It's the continuous walking that the magic happens - even when you're bored, uncomfortable, or otherwise sick of the whole enterprise.

So if you have 2 weeks, walk from Sahagun or Leon on the Frances. Or get that map of all the caminos and stick a pin in 2 weeks out from Santiago on any other route. If you're looking for pretty...start in Astorga or Ponferrada and take the Invierno to Santiago instead of the Francès. Or walk the Primativo from Oviedo...

(And I didn't vote. Those are cities, not etapas.)
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
But let me tell you this: we cried when we entered the big square in Santiago, overwhelmed by feelings. And those feelings were in no way diminished by the fact that we also went by train for one night.
I don't think that people are saying you have to walk every step of the Camino for it to be meaningful. Plenty of people end up taking some sort of transport during their Camino - due to time contraints, injury, and whatnot. I think what people are saying is that approaching the Camino as a series of must-sees is a lot different than approaching it as a pilgrimage. The Camino is scenic, but certainly not the most scenic place to walk, and it has much more road walking than most people would choose for a place to hike. It's the pilgrimage aspect that makes it so special to people.
 

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