Alpine heights, endless plains, vineyards: the Camino de Santiago leads through different landscapes. These are the most beautiful sections of the Camino Francés.

Saint Jean Pied de Port – Roncesvalles

Pilgrim in he pyrenees

The first stage of the Camino Frances is one of the most strenuous of the entire route. After all, you have to conquer almost 1,500 meters in altitude over 24 kilometers! And tougher still since most pilgrims’ bodies have not yet adjusted to the strain of carrying a backpack for so long. The good news is that crossing the Pyrenees is one of the most beautiful, scenic sections the Camino Francés has to offer – when the sun is shining. During my last crossing in July, I could only see a few dozen meters ahead thanks to the rain and fog. Mountain weather is always unpredictable. But when the weather is nice, the Pyrenees panorama is spectacular. And if cows or a shepherd with his animals trot through the landscape, the view is story-book perfect.

Tip: Shortly after crossing the pass into Spain (1420 meters) there are two options. The official route is straight ahead. However, this is very steep and often impassable. More pleasant (and easier on your knees and feet) is the small detour that leads to the right on an asphalt road. After about an hour, at a modern chapel, turn left across a meadow to the monastery of Roncesvalles.

Length: 24 km, 1 to 2 days


Even if the old town of Pamplona is very photogenic, the walk in and out are not. But once you have left the city of 200,000 souls behind, you hike through rolling grain and wine fields. The first highlight is the small mountain range «Alto del Perdón», where you have a wonderful view back to the Pyrenees and a view ahead of the Camino. Some particularly beautiful villages are also in this section: medieval Puente la Reina, Cirauqui surrounded by vineyards, dreamy Villamayor de Monjardin and Torres del Rio with its octagonal Crusader church.

Tip: In Murazábal (about 5 km after Alto del Perdón) I highly recommend taking a short 2 km detour to the Romanesque Eunate church, which dates back to the Knights Templar days. When open, the octagonal church is a very spiritual place. Even if the church is closed, the grounds, surrounded by farmland, radiate beauty and calmness. I always stop by here.

Length: 85 km, 4 to 5 days

Burgos – Fromista

Beautiful section Camino Francés

The last few kilometers into the city of Burgos is one of the ugliest sections of the Camino because the official route drags you 11 km through the industrial area. The way out of town, on the other hand, is pleasantly short. And after a few kilometers you reach one of the most impressive landscapes of the Camino: the Meseta plateau. It’s so vast your eyes can hardly focus on anything except yourself. That’s why I recommend going out alone these days. Some pilgrims think the Meseta is boring. I don’t think that’s the case for the first few days (although some sections around the city of Leon are definitely a bit monotonous). I especially love the Meseta in spring, when the grain is vibrant green, and in autumn, when only the golden stubble is left. Then the Meseta has some of the magic of the desert.

Tip: If you want to enjoy the vastness of the Meseta on your own, you should be on the road in the afternoon. Most pilgrims are in the hostels from about 3 p.m. Those who take a long lunch break in the afternoon and continue walking late afternoon/early evening will have the Meseta to themselves, even in high season!

Length: 65 km, 3 to 4 days


Section of Camino Francés

After walking through the Meseta plateau between the cities of Burgos and Astorga for about 10 days, you (finally) go up a few mountains again. You’ll leave the small town of Astorga behind and find yourself in the solitude of the Montes de León mountain range. First stop (and end of the day for most pilgrims who started in Astorga) is the beautiful village of Rabanal del Camino, which has welcomed pilgrims since the beginning of the Camino in the middle ages. 

The next day it’s a steep climb to the highest point of the Camino Frances. Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross, stands at 1500 meters. It has been a tradition since the Middle Ages (or maybe longer) to bring a stone from home and leave it at the base of the cross – a symbol of letting go of something you carried the whole way. It’s a moving, poignant moment for many pilgrims and impressive to see the huge pile of stones left by pilgrims for a millennium. 18 km after Cruz de Ferro there’s the steep descent down the mountain to the village of Molinaseca. There are hardly any cars on the small country road, so you often have the beautiful landscape views to yourself.

Tip: If you have a good sleeping bag and a camping mat with you and you dare to sleep outdoors, you should spend the night at Cruz de Ferro – the sunset and sunrise are wonderful here! You can sleep under the canopy of the modern chapel. There is drinking water on the other side of the street. But please, go far behind the bushes to do your business!

Length: 45 km, 2 to 3 days

Las Herrerías—Sarria

Section of Camino Francés

From the town of Villafranca del Bierzo to the small hamlet of Las Herrerías, you have to struggle through one of the most terrifying sections of the Camino Francés: along a busy asphalt road for hours. But after this ugly stretch, hilly, green Galicia reveals her most beautiful side. Some of the small hamlets dotted with cows and sheep remind me of an idyllic Alpine countryside. The highlight is the hilltop town of O Cebreiro with its round stone houses and thatched roofs. Then the path continues steadily downhill to the village of Triacastela, then through more lush green hills and into Sarria. There are no major roads or cities along this entire stretch – a peaceful paradise!

Tip: After Villafranca del Bierzo (just after crossing the bridge), an alternative path branches off to the right. This Pradela Route or «Camino Duro» is a more difficult path, steep in the first section, but leads through quiet, lush countryside and saves you from walking 8km along the road. Contrary to its name, the path is not actually too strenuous, but easily manageable.

Length: 55 km, 3 to 4 days

Here I describe the most beautiful hostels on the Camino Francés.

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