Search 57,387 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

A Quest of St. James, Tommy Ray, Book Cover, Image
Come follow the vivid imagery of this life-changing adventure.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

St. Jean to Roncesvalles


New Member
I understand there are two routes from SJPDP to Roncesvalles- the High route, or Route Napoleon, and the low route through the Valley of Charlemagne. Which route would you recommend?

2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Camino Magnets
A collection of Camino Fridge Magnets


Active Member
I've not done either because of a stomach problem but from what I heard the Route Napoléon is awesome (if you're somewhat physically fit).


I walked the route Napoleon and for me it was one of the most beautiful days walking of the entire Camino. I agree it is tough and long , but if you pace yourself , allow plenty of time to reach Roncesvalles ,and take food and water you will be fine. The views over the Pyrenees are the most spectacular I have ever seen.

Buen Camino



Active Member
Past OR future Camino
(2006) Roncesvalles to Leon (2007) Leon to Compostela
In May this year, I walked the Valcarlos Route (the lower one) as I'm not all that fit. This was against the advice I was given at the SJPP Pilgrim Office. It seems the Pilgrim Office prefer pilgrims to stick together on the one route, and are encouraging everyone to walk the Route Napoleon.

When I said to staff at the SJPP Office that I wanted to walk the Valcarlos Route, I was told that noone walks that way anymore and I would be alone, and I was advised no to try it.

Well, the Pilgrim Office was right, I saw only one other pilgrim on the Valcarlos Route.

I suggest that anyone walking alone on the Valcarlos Route stays on the road. There are 2 or 3 Camino signs pointing off-road. Be aware that these tracks are narrow, steep, and overgrown. I tried two tracks and turned back each time to walk on the main road, adding a few extra kilometres to my day! If anything happens when you're off-road by yourself here noone will know where to find you.[/b]


New Member
My mom and I walk from SJPP to Roncevalles last month. My mom's not used to walking in mountains at all and I was 4 months pregnant. We took the Route Napoleon but stopped at Orrison. It worked great for us. It was still hard (especially with the wind trying its best to blow us back the second day) but it was definitely doable. It was one of the most beautiful parts of the Camino we saw, too. The pilgrims' office is St Jean can give you the number of the auberge there, but make sure to book ahead! It gets full fast with us wimpy pilgrims ;)
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Original artwork based on your pilgrimage or other travel photos.


Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
Go for the Route Napoleon

I took Route Napoleon on May 19 and it was spectacular. Foggy and slight rain most of the day, but what a wonderful effect that made for photos. I have some fantastic atmospheric shots of misty beech forests and horses looming out of the fog. So don't be disappointed if the weather is not pristine and clear.

At that time, the accomodation at Orisson was rumoured to be booked out for 6 weeks ahead, so it may be a good idea to check out the latest situation before setting out. The Pilgrim Reception Centre at SJPDP will help - if they are not flat out registering new pilgrims!

Don't follow the big orange arrows on the road once you get to Ibaneta. They were put there for some local bike (?) race, but they confused a lot of novice pilgrims (like me!). We had got used to following them instead of the proper (yellow) pilgrim arrows and went straight across the highway at Ibaneta, instead of turning left to Roncesvalles.

This was a common mistake, because after a couple of km, a vehicle arrived to tell us we were on the wrong track and gave us a lift back to the road.

This is not an issue if you take the forest route from Col de Lepoeder to Roncesvalles - only on the route via Ibaneta.

Including getting lost and taking the day easily, I did the walk in 7 hours. Try to arrive in good time to find a bed, relax and go to the 6 pm Pilgrim Mass for the blessing of the pilgrims.

BTW, there are other spectacular mountain views on the Camino Frances, such as the climb up to O'Cebriero.

Hope this is useful.


Bob M



Did it take you 7 hours to go from SJPDP to Roncesvalles or from Orisson?

I am starting on July 25th, and I am nervous about the first day from SJPDP because I read somewhere on here that it took someone 15 hours. Then I read that someone blew out his knee. I'm starting to think that I might need to start in Roncesvalles.

Any thoughts?



Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
Route Napoleon is no problem, providing . . .

For cilento:

It took me 7 hours (actually closer to 8 hrs) from SJPDP, but I was deliberately not hurrying (I had a recent tendinitis problem training at home and I did not want to risk a repeat).

Some people do indeed report long days, but it depends on several factors: (1) What load were they carrying? I carried 7 kg, 10% body weight. Many people carry far too much and this can slow them right down, especially on day 1. If had to stress one thing re preparation, it is to be absolutely ruthless in cutting down weight - see my other posts here re packing. (2) How old were they? a surprising number of 60+ people (including me!) do the Camino and we may not be as fast as a 21 y/o. But then again "doucement mais surement" will get us folk to the end of the road. (3) How much preparation did thay do? If a person has not proved beforehand that they can walk say 30 km with a load over broken terrain, they may well get a surprise on Route Napoleon.

As for injuries, the most common injuries I saw over my 33 day camino were tendon injuries in the ankle. Tendinitis (inflammation of the Achilles tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel) were quite common. Inflammation of the tendon connecting the front of the ankle to the shin muscles was also fairly common. Such injuries arise from overuse and will probably show up after some days, not on day 1. Bear in mind that in walking 30 km over hilly terrain you will take over 60,000 steps!

Knee problems imply some kind of pre-existing problem. So, I would advise pilgrims to get a professional chekout of their ankles/knees before setting out. I have been active all my life and have done lots of walking in the Himalayas and Andes. But when I did 120 km training over several weeks for the camino, I discovered (for the first time in my life) that I had an over-pronation problem that caused tendinitis.

Also, make sure your footwear is appropriate (and 1 size too big). There is a heap of info in this forum and on the net about this topic. The only boots I would suggest not taking are the traditional, heavy leather hiking boots. Modern shoes and light-weight boots are far better for many successive days of 25 - 30 km walks. I found that the camino is a totally different walking experience than trekking in high mountains.

If you are properly prepared, I would not worry too much about Route Napoleon. Remember that walking in July may be hot, so plan on carrying 2 litres (2 kg) of water and drinking often. Snack on high-energy muesli bars, bananas or dried fruit as well. Rest with the pack off every 2 - 3 hours.

As someone else said, most people take that route and (like me) they are pleased that they did so. If I had started in Roncesvalles, it would have always nagged at me.

I hope this is useful.

Bob M


Thanks, Bob!

It is really encouraging to hear this, especially with only a few weeks left.

I have prepared pretty well and plan to pack very light, so I'm glad to hear your take on that route.

I agree that if I start in Roncesvalles it will nag at me.

Thanks for the advice,


Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
V Frances; V Podensis; V Francigena; V Portugues; V Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg. Jaffa - Jerusalem
Glad to help out

Another thing is that you won't be alone. In fact you may rarely be out of sight of other walkers! That in itself is a comfort on day 1. On day 30, it is another matter, and by then you may relish occasional days of solitude!

On a philospphical note, one of the big outcomes of my camino relates to the crossroads we come to in life. Many are trivial (will I buy the red shirt or the blue one?), but some are important.

One path may be easy, familiar and comfortable. The other may be difficult, unknown and "risky". Too often we take the easy way. The hard way often yields greater rewards, if we have the courage to take it.

I had many personal demonstrations of this on my camino. The camino tests our character as well as our bodies.


Bob M
Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
When you walk the Camino, and suddenly a pandemic appears


Active Member
Napoleon if the weather is fair. If the weather is looking ropey, I'd strongly advise you take the Valcarlos route.


Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
St Jean to Roncesvalles

Minkey is right - and if the weather is foul and you take the Valcarlos route, don't take any of the detours indicated by the EU Camino signs that point off the road and onto cross country trails. You could end up lost (like Santos!)


do yourself a favor stop in Orrison 1/2 of the first day
dont do like i did keep walking and night fall and get lost :S
cuz after Orrison yo start goin up!
As someone who took the Valcarlos Route in early May (and went off-road; I wish I'd stayed on the road), I can say that it is NOT the "easy way" out. Both routes are equally hard, as both Santos & I can attest.

However, if the weather is bad, take the Valcarlos Route & stick to the road once you get to Valcarlos. The waymarks just after you leave SJPdP lead you to a quieter paved country road & not through the brush.

Learn Spanish for the Camino
Enhance your Camino experience by learning about the Spanish language and culture.
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.


New Member

I strongly recommend you walk the Route Napoleon.

1. Its not that hard as long as you do not walk it when there are severe weather conditions. I walked it in May. I am 49, I had done no physical preparation (I only decided to walk the Camino 10 days before I left). I had new shoes (with plenty of vaseline on my feet). It was strenuous certainly. But really not that hard.
2. The views are stunning (assuming no fog).
3. You will never be alone. It is one of the busiest stretches of the entire Camino.
4. You are likely to see lots of Griffin Vultures floating on the thermals. They have wing spans of 3 metres. I saw upto 30 of them at a time. It is worth the walk just to see these glorious creatures.
5. Stop at Orrison. It is only a 8km walk on day one. It means you can have a lie in at SJPDP and take your time walking. Getting used to your pack etc. The viewing platform at Orrison is a great place to hang out in the afternoon if the weather is good. The food is fantastic. You can also pre-book before leaving from home (Tel: 0559491303)/0681 497 956).
6. You will see the Virge D'Orisson. A good place to stop for a quick break.
7. Crossing into Spain over a cattle grid is fun.
8. Come down by the longer route. It is quite easy.
9. I just re-read my diary of my day one and two. They were among the best days of the trip.
9. I have some photos of the route at



New Member
i have heard that the orisson refuge (between sjpp and roncevalles) fills up extremely quickly. i plan to be traveling that stretch of the camino around september 1st; does anyone have any suggestions on how to get reservations for a bed there?


Active Member

We only booked about a week ahead BUT YOU DO NEED TO CONFIRM the day before - see my companion's previous post (in this forum under a topic titled 'Auberge at Orisson').

prettytirednow said:
We stayed here quite recently (early July) having walked from Le Puy, we phoned up about 5 days beforehand to book and again the day before to confirm. You MUST phone up again to confirm as when we were there a couple arrived who had phoned to confirm and only reached the answerphone and their places had gone (they had to sleep outside in a tent and it was freezing!) so remember to confirm!

Good Luck it's a very nice gite with a stunning view although they're mildly stingy with the hot water.... :) Buen Camino!

p.s. as an extra note though they do have a few tents outside for people who haven't managed to book so if you get stuck that could be an option!


Active Member
Route Napoleon

I second everything that Lismany says above.

We were nervous about this walk over the Pyrenees and I seriously considered sending my pack contents by taxi (I had been having some shoulder problems). In the end, we found it was not too bad at all . . . I won't say 'piece of cake' because I didn't enjoy walking through the thick mist at the top but my shoulders didn't hurt at all that day and walking was a pleasure.

Admittedly though we (a) did stop at Orisson for the night and (b) had been walking from Le Puy so were well trained up. We left Orisson about 9-ish (breakfast is at 7:30) and got to Roncevalles just after half one - going via Ibaneta.

TIP: The lady at Orisson said she didn't do breakfast any earlier because the albergue at Roncevalles doesn't open till four. This is correct BUT we discovered that it had actually been open in the morning until 1:30 and if we had only got there five or ten minutes earlier we could have installed ourselves sooner and wouldn't have had to hang around outside with our packs for so long*. Instead we dawdled down to Roncevalles. Some other people who had stayed at Roncevalles with us had made it down a bit faster and got registered before they shut.

*Don't feel too sorry for me - we actually went to the bar up the hill and had a drink and a snack and met a very nice Spanish pilgrim - an unusual treat for us as we met NO Spaniards or Italians in France - and, indeed, very few English speaking pilgrims at all.

P.S. I'm 64 and have never been fit.

Did not find what you were looking for? Search here

Popular Resources

“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf ivar
  • Featured
“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf
4.95 star(s) 101 ratings
A selection of favorite albergues on the Camino Francés Ton van Tilburg
Favorite Albergues along the Camino Frances
4.83 star(s) 35 ratings
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances ivar
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances
4.88 star(s) 24 ratings

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Most downloaded Resources