St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Orisson
One step at a time
Your Camino starts the day you commit to doing it, but practically, if you’re walking the Camino Frances for the first time, there’s a few different schools of thought about where to start.
Some suggest skipping the Pyrenees and starting close to the French border, in the small Spanish village of Roncesvalles. Many recommend starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and take the entire 23 km walk directly over to Spain.
And some, like me, opt for an 8 km climb, with a stopover in Orisson.
St. Jean Pied-de-Port
If you elect to start in France, there’s something quite magical about being in this 12th-century town with its narrow cobbled streets, citadel and river. The sense of excitement is palpable as you head out from the Camino office, after collecting your first stamp, and make your way up Rue d’Espagne and over Pont d'Eyheraberry.
Don’t over-plan, but do plan this!
I would urge you, if you can, to consider splitting your first day and stopping at Refuge Orisson. On paper, it can feel like a lazy start, but in reality, it’s a tough climb. The first days walk is incredibly steep, and in the 8km to Orisson, you ascend almost 1,000m.
Crossing the Pyrenees is one of the most challenging physical activities to undertake on the Camino, but it’s also one of the most rewarding stages, so I would wholeheartedly recommend starting in SJPP.
Take your time
In about 30 days time, you will not believe your journey is going to be over and you will wish you could go back and pay more attention to every single detail. The views of undulating mountains are spectacular and it’s well worth taking your time to soak it up, get to Orisson early and relax on the terrace overlooking the valley and watch the vultures circling below. You can meet fellow peligrinos, make a start on your journal, take care of your feet and make some adjustments to your backpack.
In the evening there’s a communal dinner, then early to bed and be refreshed before another day of climbing up to 1,400m, before a steep walk down to Roncesvalles.
Buen Camino & Happy Hiking