The second most popular starting point of the Camino Frances is the French town of St Jean Pied de Port. Every year, over 20,000 pilgrims choose this town as the first stop of their journey. The Saint James Gate (Porte St-Jacques) is the point of arrival for pilgrims coming from all secondary caminos in France.
The first part of the journey, getting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles is probably the most difficult section of the Camino Frances as a pilgrim will have to cross the Pyrenees through the Roncesvalles Pass. The maximum height one reaches is 1,601 meters and it is recommended to be prepared for more extreme conditions and to not take this route during the winter months unless fully prepared.
There is an alternative route to reach Roncesvalles that splits this tiresome day into two. This route passes through the town of Valcarlos situated right at the border and is less challenging.
This stage has two options, one is to go trough Honto and the other one, less challenging is to pass through Valcarlos. Here are the maps:
- STAGE 1A: From Saint Jean Pied de Port to Honto, then Orisson and Roncesalles
- STAGE 1B: From Saint Jean Pied de Port to Arnéguy, through Valcarlos and Roncesvalles