On the Camino de Santiago, St. Jean Pied de Port to the Pyrenees

December 21, 2011 — 14 Comments

St. Jean Pied de Port literally means “St. John at the Foot of the Mountain Pass,” and I began the gentle ascent through the Pyrenees along the side of the paved road. A small, unassuming metal sign showed the “Route de Napoléon,” and I was thrilled to walk where Napoleon had long ago. There were many more pilgrims than I had expected – young, old, skinny, fat, and everywhere in between. Some carried giant backpacks resembling ones I would normally see on a multi-day wilderness backpacking trip. Others carried ones so small, I wondered where all their gear was. My forty-five liter backpack was about average size, and it was full. So full that, with embarrassment, I had to carry a shopping bag containing food. From Page 28, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days.

Now, I’ll begin my journey on the Camino de Santiago. If you have my book, I’m in the chapter, Day 1: Having Flesh Torn From My Body By A Pack of Wild Dogs. Even if you don’t have my book, you can still enjoy this post, and learn more about walking the French Way or Camino Francés (map from Wikipedia Commons). On my last post, A Walk In St. Jean Pied de Port, France, I spent an afternoon touring around the Basque town. I would recommend that you to save some time for relaxing, and even arrive two days prior to your start if possible. St. Jean Pied de Port is a lovely town, rich in history, and the start of the French Way.

On a pleasant, late April morning, I began my journey on the Camino de Santiago. Outside the Pilgrim Office on the Rue de la Citadelle, in the old town. The buildings along the narrow, cobbled street framed the Pyrenees in the distance.

St Jean Pied de Port france Camino de Santiago



Descend to the lower area of St. Jean along the Rue de la Citadelle and follow the Route De Napoléon. I was excited when I saw this sign.

Route de Napoleon St Jean Pied Camino de Santiago



From St. Jean, the Camino follows this road.

road St Jean Pied de Port france Camino de Santiago
farmland St Jean Pied de Port france Camino de Santiago



The vibrant colours of the forest and farmland. Sheep, horses, and cattle grazed in these fields.

St Jean Pied de Port france farmland Camino de Santiago



St Jean Pied de Port farmland Camino de Santiago



The early part of the French Way mostly followed a paved road. Here’s the first, short, dirt path through farmland. By now, some pilgrims realized they carried too much and discarded items to lessen their load.

path pyrenees St Jean Pied france Camino de Santiago

path St Jean Pied de Port france Camino de Santiago



 Farmland near Orisson. Notice how the houses seem to cling to the side of the steep hill.

pyrenees St Jean Pied de Port Camino de Santiago



pyrenees route de napoloeon france Camino de Santiago



The Auberge Orisson is located eight kilometers from St. Jean. It attracts pilgrims who started late in the day, prefer an easy first day, or have early difficulties and had to stop.

Auberge Orisson pyrenees Camino de Santiago



The deck outside the Auberge Orisson, overlooking the Pyrenees. A great spot for a break!

auberge Orisson pyrenees france Camino de Santiago



After Orisson, the Camino continued to follow this road through farmland and patches of brush.

road Orisson pyrenees Camino de Santiago



As I wrote on page 30, “I had expected pilgrim memorials for those who had passed away on the Camino, but the first ones made me think…..They reminded me that, no matter how much I thought I was ready, I was always vulnerable, and life could be gone in an instant. Nobody came to the Camino expecting to die.”
memorial Orisson pyrenees Camino de Santiago



The  Pyrenees as we continue to climb.

pyrenees Camino de Santiago france




Orisson sign pyrenees Camino de Santiago



I stopped to watch these magnificent Haflinger horses in a field above the road.

horses field pyrenees Camino de Santiago



pyrenees Camino de Santiago frances horses



pyrenees horses frances Camino de Santiago



The Cruceiro near the Pic de Leizar Atheka. Here, I stopped and laid on the soft grass facing the Pyrenees to the north.

pyrenees cruceiro Pic de Leizar Atheka Camino de Santiago



cruceiro Pic de Leizar Atheka pyrenees Camino de Santiago



My simple lunch included part of a baguette from a bakery in St. Jean Pied de Port and Loreztia black cherry jam from a shop in Bayonne.

Loreztia cerise noire black cherry jam



The sign points The Way to Roncesvalles. Ahead is the Pic de Leizar Atheka, the peak in the center. This was the high point in the Pyrenees for the time being…

Pic de Leizar Atheka pyrenees Camino de Santiago



I imagine this shelter near the Pic de Leizar Atheka has been protecting pilgrims for centuries.

pyrenees Pic de Leizar Atheka Camino de Santiago



And me 🙂


I hope you enjoyed this post. To this point, I had walked about 17 kilometers from St. Jean Pied de Port, with an elevation gain of about 1,200 meters. Although it can be trying for many pilgrims, and should not be taken lightly, most of the Camino was along the paved road, and I found it fairly easy. On my next post, On the Camino de Santiago: the Pyrenees to Zubiri, Spain, I’ll cross the border into Spain, have a break in Roncesvalles, visit a village that was frequented by Hemingway, and arrive in Zubiri exhausted. Please join me.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


14 responses to On the Camino de Santiago, St. Jean Pied de Port to the Pyrenees

  1. nice pictures…:)

    • I must apologize. I just saw this comment as I reworked the photo display. Hopefully, the photos look even better now. Thank you very much. 🙂

  2. I love the photos and the posts are so well written. Thanks Randall for all the hard work. I have yet to make my first Camino and your website is a great source of information:)

    • Thanks Adriana. Yes, these posts are a lot of work so I’m glad you’re enjoying them. Good luck with your planning, and Buen Camino.

  3. We just returned from hiking the Camino. What an amazing experience. Unfortunately, we lost our camera in Leon. We love reliving our experience through your excellent photos. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you lost your camera. It’s something I thought about while I was walking. Yes, it was an amazing experience. I’m returning to Spain soon, and will have photos from another Camino.

  4. What was your starting date in St Jean Pied de Port? I’m leaving for the Camino on April 20 and I was wondering how much your pictures might reflect the conditions I might find.

  5. Rick, I started on April 29. It’s hard to tell if my photos and experience will reflect conditions for this year. I understand the year after I went, it was mostly dry around the same time. I would be prepared for both rain and sun, and possibly snow in the mountains. Buen Camino.

  6. hey great photos and a WordPress web site too! Congratulations!

    • Thanks Anthony. There’s a lot of work and fixing up on this website but hopefully I have more time this year to take care of it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. Randall,

    I began riding horses for the first time today. I am 50 years of age yet felt ageless upon the back of my gentle, white horse, Bordick. The photos of the horses along your journey illuminate a beautiful breed, Pyrenees, I suspect? Thank you for sharing your photos with us!
    Bon Voyage!

    • Laura, congratulations on riding your first horse. I haven’t since long ago. I didn’t ride well and ended up getting a rather sore behind. The breed in my photos is Haflinger. I had some help on Google Plus with that. Keep checking out my blog. I really appreciate it. Pleasant journeys to you 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing this. Goodness, I am lost for words. But you know what? You just erased the memory of my imagination and fed it with real pics which is so far from what I had in mind… I thought of extremely wild and forested areas etc. Never thought there would be horses at all but dogs, both wild and domestic. But all the same I like this. It’s wonderful..

    • Charity, thanks for your message. I never saw any really “wild” places along the Camino. There are forested areas though but they have been harvested through the years. The Camino is wonderful, and it’s great to go to there without any expectations and discover it for yourself. All the best and thanks for stopping by! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>