On the Camino de Santiago, The Pyrenees to Zubiri, Spain

December 30, 2011 — 6 Comments

Just ahead stood the concrete border marker between France and Spain, and I was excited to enter a new country. Although I had never expected a border guard or someone to stamp my passport, it felt odd to simply walk into Spain. If I ever tried walking from Canada into the United States in a rural or mountainous area wearing a backpack, I would have helicopters, the National Guard, and a pack of foxhounds hunting me down. There was not a “Welcome to Spain” sign, but the marker simply stated the region – “Navarra” and “Nafarroa” in Basque. From Page 31, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days.

Now, I’ll continue 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). I left my last post, On the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean Pied de Port to the Pyrenees, near the base of the Pic de Leizar Atheka. From this point on, there would be no pavement until Roncesvalles, about 12 kilometres away.

From the Pic de Leizar Atheka, the Camino flattens out. The hand-painted French flags and yellow arrows show the way.

Pyrenees Pic de Leizar Atheka Camino Frances


Path Pyrenees Pic de Leizar Atheka Camino frances



Although this was still only the first day, 765 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela or Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, seemed like a long way!

Pyrenees Santiago de Compostela marker Camino de Santiago



Welcome to Spain and the autonomous community of Navarra.

Navarra Spain border Pyrenees Camino de Santiago



As we look back to the border marker, the group of pilgrims in the distance are at the Fontaine de Roland. Knight Roland most notably led the rearguard of King Charlemagne’s army that was defeated in the area by the Basques, the Moors, or some unknown faction in the 778 Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
France Spain border Pyrenees Camino Frances



This signpost clearly showed the way of the Camino Francés!

Signpost Pyrenees Camino Frances



The typical landscape along this stretch of the Camino. This was one of the early bollards with the scallop shell, the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Compared to earlier, this section had fewer pilgrims.

The Way bollard Pyrenees Camino Frances



One more climb to the Col de Lepoeder, a historical spot before the descent into Roncesvalles.

Col de Lepoeder Pyrenees Camino Frances



The Col de Lepoeder was the height of land for the Camino in the Pyrenees. The climb of over 1,400 meters from St. Jean Pied de Port was over.

Col de Lepoeder Pyrenees Camino de santiago



Pyrenees Col de Lepoeder Camino de santiago



At the Col de Lepoeder, there was the option of two routes to Roncesvalles. I chose the more direct one to the left, staying on the Route De Napoléon.

Col de Lepoeder Signpost Camino de santiago



The trail below the Col de Lepoeder was often steep, although it’s difficult to see here. Very peaceful though!

Pyrenees trail Col de Lepoeder Camino de santiago



Most pilgrims who began in St. Jean Pied de Port stayed in Roncesvalles for the night. The large albergue or pilgrim hostel has over 100 beds and has been an important stop since the 12th century. I had a brief break on an outside patio, and contemplated the remainder of my day. There were no albergues until Zubiri, about 22 kilometers away. However, it was early for me to stop and I still had lots of energy, so I continued. The church and monastery, Real Colegiata, wasn’t that extravagant from the exterior — at least not from this early view.

Roncesvalles Spain Colegiata Camino Frances



The early signs showing distances to Santiago de Compostela could be intimidating. This is the famous sign along the highway showing 790 kilometers to Santiago. This confused me since I had passed the 765 kilometer marker earlier and it was supposed to be just over 790 from St. Jean. Anyway, it was still a long ways to go!

Roncesvalles Spain sign Camino Frances



One last look at Roncesvalles. While there were many pilgrims at and around the albergue, I was alone for now, as I continued walking in the mid-afternoon.

Roncesvalles Spain Camino Santiago



This was a good map and elevation profile showing the way to Larrasoaña where I would visit on the next day.

Roncesvalles Spain Road Sign Camino Santiago



I had trouble determining if this cruceiro was that old. It looks at to have been refurbished over the years.

Roncesvalles Spain Cruceiro Camino Santiago



After an easy three kilometer walk from Roncesvalles, this is the famed Spanish village of Burguete.

Burguete Spain Sign Camino Santiago





The village was in the midst of siesta, and the streets were nearly deserted. Why is the village famed, you may ask?

Burguete Spain Camino Frances



Here, we are outside the Hotel Burguete. On page 34 of my book, I wrote, “…one of author Ernest Hemingway’s favourite places to stay in Spain. Hemingway loved Navarra and often wrote about the people, landscape, villages, and of course, Pamplona. Part of his 1926 book, The Sun Also Rises, involves the characters spending time fishing and relaxing around Burguete.”

Burguete Spain Ernest Hemingway



The Iglesia San Nicolás de Bari in Burguete was of a Renaissance style of architecture.

Burguete Spain San Nicolas De Bari Church



I continued to walk along very quiet streets!

Burguete Navarra Spain Camino



I stopped to admire this prominent home with a coat of arms over the main doorway. Let’s take a closer look…

Burguete Navarra Home Camino



Burguete Navarra Coat of Arms Camino



The Camino gently climbed from Burguete. I had only seen two pilgrims since Roncesvalles, and it seemed odd to be suddenly alone.

Burguete Spain road Camino Frances



Burguete Spain stream bridge Camino Frances



Back on the road for the last stretch to the village of Espinal.

Espinal Spain road Camino Frances



If the water is potable or drinkable, this fountain would be a welcome sight to pilgrims walking on a warm day. Check for signs before drinking the water as some fountains were contaminated!

Espinal Spain fountain Camino Frances



A little stroll through this field to the village.

Espinal Spain path Camino Santiago



Espinal was also in the midst of siesta. After a quick break, I resumed my walk.

Espinal navarra Camino Santiago



The Iglesia de San Bartolome.

Espinal Espana Iglesia de San Bartolome


Finally, I met up with another pilgrim here, and we talked briefly before I took off, only to miss a turn for the Camino.

Espinal Spain Iglesia de San Bartolome



I’m guessing Toki Ona is a restaurant.

Espinal Espana Toki Ona



I stopped for a moment to pay my respects for a fallen pilgrim at this elaborate memorial.

Espinal Spain Memorial Camino Frances



By now, I was tired and climbing even a small hill was more difficult than the earlier climb through the Pyrenees. I wanted to arrive in Zubiri before dark, and had to keep moving. A storm was also approaching and I didn’t want to be walking in the rain. This was the peaceful beech forest outside Espinal. The Camino would soon climb to an alto, or height of land, which exhausted me.

espinal Spain Beech Forest Camino



Sections of the path had recently been covered with stone; I assumed there was once a problem with mud. The stone was smooth and I had to be careful with my footing on the hills.

Gerendiain Spain paved track Camino Frances



Entering the village of Bizkarreta / Gerendiain as clouds darkened.

Gerendiain Navarra Spain Camino santiago



Typical whitewashed houses in the village of Gerendiain. Did you know that for centuries, homes such as these, housed farm animals on the lower level and people lived upstairs? This was especially beneficial in the winter as the body heat from the animals rose to help warm the upper levels of the homes.

Gerendiain Spain white washed Camino Frances



Gerendiain Spain stone Camino Frances


Another house with a coat of arms over the doorway. I met the pilgrim from Espinal and we began walking together.

Gerendiain Spain home Camino santiago



Just before a downpour and the steep descent to Zubiri.

Gerendiain Spain farmland Camino Frances



After over 47 kilometers of walking  on my first day on the Camino Francés, I was happy to arrive in Zubiri!

Zubiri Spain Camino Santiago



The medieval stone bridge over the Río Arga. On the next day, we would follow the Arga Valley all the way to Pamplona.

Zubiri Spain bridge Camino Santiago



My home for the night… we were lucky there were still beds available! For some pilgrims, this was where they spent their second night.

Zubiri Spain albergue Camino Santiago
For most, Roncesvalles is a formidable destination for the first day. For me, it was a long and tiring, but satisfying day. On my next post, On the Camino de Santiago: Zubiri to Pamplona, Spain, my walking partner and I left Zubiri toward Pamplona, a city I had long anticipated visiting. 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.


6 responses to On the Camino de Santiago, The Pyrenees to Zubiri, Spain

  1. I just finished reading the first leg of your journey. I’m hoping to join you in the following days to follow your 21-day journey. I had a wonderful time reading your stories and looking at the magnificent photos. It’s what I can do for now while waiting for my way to become a reality.

    • Thanks Sofie. Besides posting photos that correspond to my book, I also wanted the blog to be independent. Your words are very important. I want the you to go on your own journey and experience the Camino for yourself. This, as well as other sites, are excellent starts. Similar to what I tell everyone, be prepared with travel arrangements, and mind and body. Otherwise, don’t over think what will happen until you start walking. Keep checking back to this website. Buen Camino.

  2. Beautiful pictures! What was the camera you used on your journey. I want to make the journey one day and enjoy reading your blog. Thank you!

    • Thanks Kris. On my Camino Francés, I just used a little Nikon 14 meg point and shoot. Actually, I never realized I’d be blogging the Camino and thought they would be just for personal use. For my Camino del Norte, I brought along my DSLR but it was heavy. All the best with your planning. Buen Camino 🙂

  3. i have just spoken by mobile to my husband Jack, who is walking the Camino he mentioned he would be in Zubiri in a few more kilometres . As I was looking on the internet I found your discription, thank you it helped me to ‘connect” to him.

    • You’re welcome, Claire. I have my journey covered all the way to Finisterre so please keep checking back. I wish your husband a safe and fulfilling journey. All the best to you 🙂

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