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I wish to do the St-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage. I am deciding which path would be best for me.

My main criteria is having lots of support infrastructure (albergues, water access, food, etc.) accessible so I don't need to carry tons of gear. As for sightseeing, I love natural panoramas, especially mountains and the like, but not flatlands. Finally, in terms of hiking difficulty, I would like the start to be easy (to gain experience and a good rhythm), but after a while, I do not mind difficulty.


Here are the routes that I'm considering:

Up to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port:

  • Leaving from Paris
  • Leaving from Vezelay
  • Leaving from Le Puy

After St-Jean-Pied-de-Port:

  • Camino del Norte
  • Camino Frances
  • Camino Primitivo

Any other path suggestions are also welcome.

  • 1
    If you don't get a good response here I think they do pros/cons of hiking routes at outdoors.stackexchange.com Also when you say "my criteria include..." what would you consider good? Do you want an easy or a challenging hike? With well-developed or minimal "off-the-beaten-track" infrastructure? – user568458 Jul 20 '16 at 9:11
  • I've opened a meta post to discuss this as I'm not 100% sure I agree with the decision. meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3787/… – JS Lavertu Jul 20 '16 at 14:31
  • Have a good look at maps with heights on it, around Paris is a big area of flat land, Vezelay is on the top of a steep hill, in an area that is not flat, Le Puy seems more hilly still. You best compare the lay of the land to something you are used to. With your requirements, I would start somewhere north of Vezelay, but not as far north as Paris. But if you come from an area with hills or mountains and are used to walking there, you might well find it flat in the south of France. – Willeke Jul 25 '16 at 18:48
  • @Willeke, I come from Quebec, it's flat as far as the eye can see. – JS Lavertu Jul 25 '16 at 18:51
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+50

Leaving from Paris (and presumably going through Tours) is clearly not a good option given your criteria. The area around Paris and the Centre-Val-de-Loire are generally flat and the route then goes around the Massif Central, without any major mountainous area and generally less dramatic landscape. The Via Lemovicensis also includes many rather flat areas but at least it does cross the Massif Central.

So the Via Podiensis seems the best option for you, with one small caveat: Le Puy is in a relatively mountainous area and some of the steepest climbs (apart from the crossing of the Pyrenees, which is common to all three ways) would be at the very beginning (don't imagine the Rockies or even the Alps however). The rest of this route include some plateau and many hilly areas (not really mountains but not flat either) and the infrastructure is great.

Because of this, you can basically make the progression as easy as you want by stopping more frequently. Also note that the GR65 is marked all the way to Geneva. You could start somewhere east of Lyon to have a couple of days of relatively flat terrain before approaching Le Puy and the Massif Central (not sure about the infrastructure on this part of the way but finding support should not be difficult, it's not a wild area at all).

I am less familiar with the various routes in Spain but my understanding is that the Camino Frances is the only one starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port so that would be the logical option since you are apparently planning to walk one of the major French ways. It certainly boast varied landscape and great support infrastructure.

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