Sharp decline in pilgrims, Camino Aragonés


2018 edition Camino Guides

peregrina2000

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#1
When I walked the Aragonés a few years ago, we heard repeatedly that the number of pilgrims was declining. This article Javier posted confirms that;

http://www.heraldo.es/noticias/aragon/2017/10/26/camino-peligro-1204010-300.html

I know the pilgrims' office numbers are hardly scientific, but they are quite accurate in showing the trands since they consistently measure the same thing. They report only 49 people have started from Somport in 2017, compared to more than a thousand in 2010.

The article also points out that there will be disruption due to highway construction, not likely to boost the traffic.

I have never met anyone who didn't love the Aragonés. Starting in Somport or further back in France, it is beautiful. The albergues are great, too. And a chance to visit San Juan de la Peña, well that is the icing on the cake.
 

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nycwalking

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Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#2
But, you never hear about it. Even on this forum, route rarely pops up in discussion.
 

amancio

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Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Lebaniego-Vadiniense, Invierno (2018)
#3
I agree, Aragonés is stunning, the Pyrinees, Jaca, Arrés, Ruesta, Sangüesa are stunning places, but I guess people associate Roncesvalles more to the Camino. I did it two years ago and it was not very crowded in september, just about the right number of pilgrims until you come to Puente la Reina and then everything changes (for worse)
 

Sailor

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Frances (2017) Portugués (2018)
#5
Camino maintenance could be part of the problem [possible lack of resources?], from the article, the data is devastating and account of institutional neglect of the recent years: inadequate signage, torn posters, deterioration of steps, weed invasion. Good luck, y que la luz de Dios alumbre su camino.
 

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oursonpolaire

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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
#6
I'm not sure why it is underpopulated. It provides a nice bridge from the French routes over the Pyrenees to Jaca. It is not the most comfortable of routes with cafes on every corner, and the Aragonese pilgrim has to watch their water and food and stages have to be planned, but it's very scenic-- perhaps a good one for the wildernessey trek kind of pilgrim. It gives you a flavour of a wild west Spain, and you can see how figures such as Francis Xavier came out of it. Whether the pilgrim is an aficionado of the romanesque visiting San Juan de la Pena, or of the sybaritic, at the hot springs at Tiermas, there's plenty there.
 

frida1

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Camino Frances April 11-May 11 2014
#7
We walked the Arles/Aragones to Puente la Reina in May. I agree that it is a stunningly beautiful camino. It would be a shame if it continues to decline.
 

Rebekah Scott

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#8
It is a long, long way from Santiago. It´s not an easy Way. And it´s been plagued with political fights over the expansion of the Yesa dam project, which flooded a large part of the original Camino Aragonese and threatens to flood even more in the future. I think most contemporary pilgrims aren´t willing to invest the additional time and energy, especially when everybody else starts at St. Jean.
 

backpack45

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Camino(s) past & future
Vezelay (2017, in progress); Primitivo & Norte; Geneva/LePuy; Arles; Portuguese; Francés + more
#9
This is an wonderful route; I loved coming over the Pyrenees at Somport Pass. Not having as many people as are on the St Jean route would seem to be a major benefit to many people. We did this route starting in Arles, FR. over a three-year period finishing in Puente la Reina (where it joins the Frances) in 2010. Very different experience than LePuy (which is also an awesome route). We had no particular problem finding accommodations. Sad to hear that any large-scale construction threatens the unique landscape of this route.
2010-06-07_02-19-14_5211_P80 .JPG
 

annakappa

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Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
#12
We loved the Aragonés. It's everything and more seeped in history, if compared to the Francés as far as Puente de la Reina. The museum in Jaca with all the murals taken from abandoned churches in the area. The town of Jaca itself and....as Laurie says, the visit to San Juan de la Peña is indeed the icing on the cake. Plus the villages along the way are charming and all albergues where we stayed were excellent.
So, you're going to miss Pamplona if you choose the Aragonés, but then, we stayed over one extra day there before we started ( and what a rewarding day that proved to be - but that's another story)!
 

intrepidtraveler

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Caminos Madrid, Frances and Finisterre (2015)
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#13
This is an wonderful route; I loved coming over the Pyrenees at Somport Pass. Not having as many people as are on the St Jean route would seem to be a major benefit to many people. We did this route starting in Arles, FR. over a three-year period finishing in Puente la Reina (where it joins the Frances) in 2010. Very different experience than LePuy (which is also an awesome route). We had no particular problem finding accommodations. Sad to hear that any large-scale construction threatens the unique landscape of this route.
View attachment 37026
How is it different from the Le Puy route?Did you prefer one over the other? I am asking because the LePuy route as well as the Aragones-Frances -Salvador -Primitivo are among those I'm considering for 2018. Thank you in advance for replying.
 

intrepidtraveler

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#14
When I walked the Aragonés a few years ago, we heard repeatedly that the number of pilgrims was declining. This article Javier posted confirms that;

http://www.heraldo.es/noticias/aragon/2017/10/26/camino-peligro-1204010-300.html

I know the pilgrims' office numbers are hardly scientific, but they are quite accurate in showing the trands since they consistently measure the same thing. They report only 49 people have started from Somport in 2017, compared to more than a thousand in 2010.

The article also points out that there will be disruption due to highway construction, not likely to boost the traffic.

I have never met anyone who didn't love the Aragonés. Starting in Somport or further back in France, it is beautiful. The albergues are great, too. And a chance to visit San Juan de la Peña, well that is the icing on the cake.
What is "disruption due to highway construction" likely to look like? Route detours, lack of places to stay due to being used by construction workers,or ??? I was thinking that walking the Aragones-Frances-San Salvador -Primitivo might be an interesting route but now I'm starting to wonder. Thanks in advance for any insights you are able to share.
 
#15
This is a worrying trend. Having done this in 2011, it will always be one of my favourite Caminos. Its so beautiful. The river walk from Oloron St Marie, Climb up Samport, monastery at Pena, alburgues in Arres and Ruesta special. Foz de Lumbier is also a bit special. The problem I see as well as the disruption is that its not appealing to newbies much. Case in point on my Camino this year i met someone starting from Lourdes. (There was a few doing this aswell) and rather than crossing the pyrenees at Somport people are walking to St Jean instead. I scratched my head at the time wondering why this is the thing to do now from Lourdes.
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
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Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 1977; Frances 2012, 2015 & 2017; Finisterre 2017; Aragones 2018 (God willin')
#16
I'm walking the Aragones next May with an Amawalkers group, from Lourdes to Puente/Pamplona.

Why? Because I've already done the Frances, and more than once. I suspect that most of the folks I meet will be other Frances veterans looking for a new Camino thrill, not Camino 'newbies', all of whom are now fixated, for better or worse, on SJPdeP. As I once was.

(I look forward to walking 'backwards' over the Alto de Perdon, and into my favorite place on earth - Pamplona. :))
 
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PlutseligPilegrim

Frances-Norte-Levante-Sanabres-Portugues
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena - Canterbury - Roma
(2018)
St Olav’s way - Novgorod - Trondheim
(2018)
#17
Thx for all info given...

Could someone write up some basic info with map ref for inspiration and pre planning??

...."Camino Aragones for dummies"?

Much obliged
 

peregrina2000

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#18
Thx for all info given...

Could someone write up some basic info with map ref for inspiration and pre planning??

...."Camino Aragones for dummies"?

Much obliged
Hi, Plutselig, here is a link to some descriptions I wrote a few years ago.

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/our-camino-aragonés-june-2015.36782/

ANd here is a link to gronze's stages. https://www.gronze.com/camino-aragones

The one thing I would add to this is that LT and I did not make a detour to San Juan de la Peña because we intersected the Aragonés from the Camino Catalán, which goes through San Juan. This is an amazing site, and if you like ancient monasteries and churches you absolutely should not miss it. You can either take a day trip from Jaca or walk there with some detour planning. There are lots of people on the forum who have done both of these alternatives and can help if you want to include it in your Aragonés. It is well worth it. Buen camino, Laurie
 

intrepidtraveler

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#19

falcon269

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#20
How is it different from the Le Puy route?Did you prefer one over the other? I am asking because the LePuy route as well as the Aragones-Frances -Salvador -Primitivo are among those I'm considering for 2018. Thank you in advance for replying.
It is in Spain, so it is more similar to the Camino Frances/Via de la Plata. It is far quieter than the Chemin de St. Jacques. I like the Le Puy route better having walked each one twice.

What is "disruption due to highway construction" likely to look like? Route detours, lack of places to stay due to being used by construction workers,or ??? I was thinking that walking the Aragones-Frances-San Salvador -Primitivo might be an interesting route but now I'm starting to wonder. Thanks in advance for any insights you are able to share.
An autopista, A-10 I think, is being built along the N-240, so a couple of years ago there were bridges to nowhere and lots of interchanges being built. There is a lot of local opposition to the reservoir, but the water seemed quite far away from the route. It should not be too hard to move the route up the hill a short distance, so changes may not be large. I am walking it this winter, and will report back on its condition! Stages are fairly distinct because infrastructure has not been expanded. In the winter, there will be quite a few closings. Towns and cities are very interesting. The abandoned train station at Canfranc was the largest in Europe when it was finished.
 

LTfit

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#21
The one thing I would add to this is that LT and I did not make a detour to San Juan de la Peña because we intersected the Aragonés from the Camino Catalán, which goes through San Juan. This is an amazing site, and if you like ancient monasteries and churches you absolutely should not miss it. You can either take a day trip from Jaca or walk there with some detour planning. There are lots of people on the forum who have done both of these alternatives and can help if you want to include it in your Aragonés. It is well worth it. Buen camino, Laurie
As Laurie mentioned, we came up to San Juan de la Peña from the Camí Catalán side which is in fact easier. The downhill though was tough on the knees.

One other jewel is Eunate which you pass on the Aragonés. It was unfortunately closed when we walked by but I am so pleased that I got to visit when I was in that neck of the woods last October.

I would definitely fo the Aragonés again and be sure to stay in the Albergue in Arres run by volunteer hospitaler@s.
 

mspath

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#22
The old royal monastery of San Juan de la Peña, cloister, and pantheon are truly extraordinary and very beautiful. Cut into the rocky hillside, the site is unforgettable.
I have not walked there, but the mountain road driving up is steep; be prepared!

It has been my professional privilege and personal pleasure as an architectural historian to visit many special places, but San Juan de la Peña belongs in that unique category of sublime timeless perfection.

Don't miss it!
 
Camino(s) past & future
2001 CF, 04-6 LP, 07 Port, 08-10 Arles, 11 Mozá,12-13 Gen-LP. 00-10 PCT, 15 Norte, 16 Primi
#23
How is it different from the Le Puy route?Did you prefer one over the other? I am asking because the LePuy route as well as the Aragones-Frances -Salvador -Primitivo are among those I'm considering for 2018. Thank you in advance for replying.
If you are just considering Starting at Somport or Le Puy, I prefer the Le Puy route, as you pass through many beautiful French villages. If you are considering Arles vs Le Puy, the Arles is definitely my favorite because it has such a huge variety of scenery, from wilderness, to big city, to San Juan de la Peña, to Eunate.
 

rappahannock_rev

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Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 1977; Frances 2012, 2015 & 2017; Finisterre 2017; Aragones 2018 (God willin')
#24
Suggested "deep background" reading for the Aragones:

*** King, Georgiana Goddard. The Way of St James (New York: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1920), vol. 1.
*** Starkie, Walter. The Road to Santiago: Pilgrims of St. James (London: John Murray, 1957)

More detail about the art and monuments of Jaca, SJ de la Pena, Leyre, Sanguesa, Eunate, than most of you will need or want, I'm sure. (Much more than Gitlitz and Davidson, but also much harder to find than Gitlitz and Davidson.) And they include travel descriptions antedating the building of the Yesa Dam!
 

mspath

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Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#25
Suggested "deep background" reading for the Aragones:

*** King, Georgiana Goddard. The Way of St James (New York: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1920), vol. 1.
*** Starkie, Walter. The Road to Santiago: Pilgrims of St. James (London: John Murray, 1957)

More detail about the art and monuments of Jaca, SJ de la Pena, Leyre, Sanguesa, Eunate, than most of you will need or want, I'm sure. (Much more than Gitlitz and Davidson, but also much harder to find than Gitlitz and Davidson.) And they include travel descriptions antedating the building of the Yesa Dam!
For easy research the famous early volumes by Georgiana Goddard King are available on line. See more info in this earlier forum thread.
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...f-saint-james-by-georgiana-goddard-king.3588/

With a Google search you can find and download Walter Starkie's The Road to Santiago as a pdf file.

Happy reading!
 
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sharon w

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Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
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Aussie Camino 2016
#27
We are walking this route next year, starting in Le Puy and walking most of the way to Arles on the Robert Louis Stevenson route. From Arles we plan to walk to Santiago. We don't want to have to book ahead with accommodation from Arles on so don't want the Arles and Aragones routes to become too popular. However, it would be a shame to see albergues closing because there are too few pilgrims.
 

Saint Mike II

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Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#28
Stop; Stop; Stop! Enough of the Camino Aragones! I am barely back from my 770km trek of the Frances and now you keep throwing more Caminos for me to walk. I have the Porto to Santiago via Muxia in the program for 2019 (my 70th) and there is that alternative from Ponferrada to avoid Saria and now you are all raving about the Aragones. Please I can't live permanently in Spain or France (maybe Italy) and have Morocco and Jordan in the program for April 2018.
So cheers for now I will just have to be content to read of the adventures of others. M;)
 

intrepidtraveler

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#30
If you are just considering Starting at Somport or Le Puy, I prefer the Le Puy route, as you pass through many beautiful French villages. If you are considering Arles vs Le Puy, the Arles is definitely my favorite because it has such a huge variety of scenery, from wilderness, to big city, to San Juan de la Peña, to Eunate.
Thank you.
 

intrepidtraveler

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#31
It is in Spain, so it is more similar to the Camino Frances/Via de la Plata. It is far quieter than the Chemin de St. Jacques. I like the Le Puy route better having walked each one twice.



An autopista, A-10 I think, is being built along the N-240, so a couple of years ago there were bridges to nowhere and lots of interchanges being built. There is a lot of local opposition to the reservoir, but the water seemed quite far away from the route. It should not be too hard to move the route up the hill a short distance, so changes may not be large. I am walking it this winter, and will report back on its condition! Stages are fairly distinct because infrastructure has not been expanded. In the winter, there will be quite a few closings. Towns and cities are very interesting. The abandoned train station at Canfranc was the largest in Europe when it was finished.
Please do report back - that would be very helpful. Would also be interested in hearing about the weather in winter.
 

lunna

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Camino(s) past & future
frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy to jaca via col de somport
#32
I just recently walked the Chemin du Puy to Navarrenx, and it was fantastic. Very social, in a french way, the great majority of walkers being, well, french. I reluctantly, after talking about it for several weeks while on the Le Puy trail (plus the Vallee de Cele variant), struck off on my own and veered off the Le Puy trail over to Oloron-Ste.-Marie and then to Jaca via the Col du Somport (when I ran out of time and had to be back at work). As much as I loved the Le Puy walk, I was very pleasantly surprised and happy to have had a week and a half or so of relative solitude - something I realized I missed on the Le Puy. In fact, I would recommend this to anyone who has already walked from St. Jean Pied de Port - the mix of social (in a non-Camino Frances sort of party-hearty way) and solitary walking was just perfect. While I was sad to have to end my stroll in Jaca, overall this rates up there with some of my other favorite walks, in particular, the Via de la Plata and (but for all the asphalt), the Norte.

I think the Camino Aragones beyond Jaca would have been icing on the cake, and maybe a bit like parts of the Via de la Plata - but it is something I can easily find the time to do the next go-around or two, inshallah!
 

caminka

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#33
I walked camino aragonés twice and still think it is one of the more beautiful caminos I've walked.

I tested both descents from somport, the GR route along the left side of the valley and the 'new' (I suspect for 2010 jubilee year) route along the right side of the valley to canfranc. I prefered the GR as it was more on paths, although the 'new' route may be more on the original route as it followed some old roads. but from what I read a couple of year ago, flooding destroyed the original first part of the descent?

I walked both varians from villanúa, with the left 'alternative' being more beautiful and less on tarmac.

I visited san juan de la pena (by hitch-hiking a spanish guy with a bosnian (if I remember correctly) pal who didn't intend to go to the monastery but ended doing so anyway :)), definitely a must. once I would like to walk there.

I walked to leyre, another pilgrim-important monastery which is now stranded on the north bank of the yesa reservoir and which few pilgrims bother to visit. it was a bit tricky because of the new motorway being built, but absolutely worth it. I even got to stay in the tiny monastery's 'guest' room with a bunk bed, two mattresses and pint-sized chairs and a table.

I detoured via foz de lumbier, a magnificent canyon.

I even did a detour to sos del rey católico from undués de lerda via abandoned salt pans, just because I wanted to see this lovely town where king fernando was born (husband of isabella la católica, the ones who founded the pilgrim hospital and now parador in santiago).

on the french side, I couldn't bypass the amazing chemin de la mature cut through a 200m cliff wall. and if the spectacular scenery of somport is not enough, there is a marked camino that traverses the neighbouring valley of ossau, and you can sleep in the mountain refuge of ayous overlooking a lake in which the emblematic pic du midi d'ossau is reflecting its jaws, and the pyrenees don't get more spectacular then that. :)

so, there is plenty to walk and explore for the repeated offenders too!

it would be a real shame if this beautiful camino would deteriorate because everyone (most of pilgrims) are so determined (or ignorant) to start in sjpp.
 
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Gillean

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Seven
#34
If memory serves me correctly there are alternate routes and options from the Le Puy route - in the last week or so before St. Jean Pied de Port - that would allow you to go south to the Somport Pass and enter Spain that way.
 

amancio

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Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Lebaniego-Vadiniense, Invierno (2018)
#35
I just recently walked the Chemin du Puy to Navarrenx, and it was fantastic. Very social, in a french way, the great majority of walkers being, well, french. I reluctantly, after talking about it for several weeks while on the Le Puy trail (plus the Vallee de Cele variant), struck off on my own and veered off the Le Puy trail over to Oloron-Ste.-Marie and then to Jaca via the Col du Somport (when I ran out of time and had to be back at work). As much as I loved the Le Puy walk, I was very pleasantly surprised and happy to have had a week and a half or so of relative solitude - something I realized I missed on the Le Puy. In fact, I would recommend this to anyone who has already walked from St. Jean Pied de Port - the mix of social (in a non-Camino Frances sort of party-hearty way) and solitary walking was just perfect. While I was sad to have to end my stroll in Jaca, overall this rates up there with some of my other favorite walks, in particular, the Via de la Plata and (but for all the asphalt), the Norte.
Now that you mention it, Aragonés does remind me a bit of La Plata. When you say "I would recommend this...", which part of the route are you talking about? From Le Puy, then turning to Somport?

To me, La Plata is the most spiritual of all Caminos I have done, in springtime. It is life. Nature. Solitude. Wildlife. Landscape. All in the right measure. And Aragonés is pretty much the same. I was there 3 years ago, the Yesa reservoir rise is not having a major impact on the camino, in any case, and the motorway between the middle of nowhere and and the end of nowhere, god knows why they are building this motorway!!

Aragonés, yes, yes, yes!!!
 

lunna

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frances; portugues, lisboa-muxia; norte + to bayonne; vdlp; chemin du puy to jaca via col de somport
#36
Going off the GR 65 at Navarrenx and continuing on to Oloron-Ste. Marie and the GR 653, and on to Col du Somport into Spain, to Jaca (and beyond, if you have the time!). But I loved the main Le Puy trail too!


Now that you mention it, Aragonés does remind me a bit of La Plata. When you say "I would recommend this...", which part of the route are you talking about? From Le Puy, then turning to Somport?

To me, La Plata is the most spiritual of all Caminos I have done, in springtime. It is life. Nature. Solitude. Wildlife. Landscape. All in the right measure. And Aragonés is pretty much the same. I was there 3 years ago, the Yesa reservoir rise is not having a major impact on the camino, in any case, and the motorway between the middle of nowhere and and the end of nowhere, god knows why they are building this motorway!!

Aragonés, yes, yes, yes!!!
 
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docpam

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#37
Suggested "deep background" reading for the Aragones:

*** King, Georgiana Goddard. The Way of St James (New York: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1920), vol. 1.
*** Starkie, Walter. The Road to Santiago: Pilgrims of St. James (London: John Murray, 1957)

More detail about the art and monuments of Jaca, SJ de la Pena, Leyre, Sanguesa, Eunate, than most of you will need or want, I'm sure. (Much more than Gitlitz and Davidson, but also much harder to find than Gitlitz and Davidson.) And they include travel descriptions antedating the building of the Yesa Dam!
Amazon has the Starkie book but it too expensive for me! Maybe you will be a guide on the trip!
 

peregrina2000

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#39
As Laurie mentioned, we came up to San Juan de la Peña from the Camí Catalán side which is in fact easier. The downhill though was tough on the knees.
"Tough on the knees" doesn't even begin to describe how my body reacted to that descent. LT is more of a mountain goat than I am. I was plagued by knee pain all the way into Santiago. It was a BRUTAL descent, and I would never take a step on it either in the rain or without hiking poles.

BUT.... there is no doubt that the visits to San Juan de la Peña (and also Eunate as Lee reminds us) are simply not be be missed and add up to strong reasons to walk this route.
 

Rionajmc

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SJPP - Burgos (2012)
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#40
I'm not sure why it is underpopulated. It provides a nice bridge from the French routes over the Pyrenees to Jaca. It is not the most comfortable of routes with cafes on every corner, and the Aragonese pilgrim has to watch their water and food and stages have to be planned, but it's very scenic-- perhaps a good one for the wildernessey trek kind of pilgrim. It gives you a flavour of a wild west Spain, and you can see how figures such as Francis Xavier came out of it. Whether the pilgrim is an aficionado of the romanesque visiting San Juan de la Pena, or of the sybaritic, at the hot springs at Tiermas, there's plenty there.
Agreed on all these points! I don't know why there aren't more pilgrims on this route - it's simply beautiful, and some very unusual, special places you won't find elsewhere.
 

Pong

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Camino Francés - April - May 2016
Camino del Norte - April - May 2017
#41
I'm glad to hear about this route. In 2016 I walked from Pamplona to Burgos, then from Ponferrada to Santiago. This year I would like to go back to do the parts of the Frances that I missed. I originally thought (of course) of starting in SJPP, walking to Pamplona, then Burgos to Ponferrada. But I try to avoid crowds if at all possible. Thus, I though of the Aragonès and was led to this thread. I will be researching for sure. It sounds wonderful and just the type of walk that I like best. Thanks.
 
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