Le Chemin de St. Jacques


Join Spanish Steps as we follow in the path of the first non-Spanish pilgrim, the 10th century Bishop of Le Puy, Godescalc, along the Via Podiensis from Le Puy en Velay to Figeac. Lying in the volcanic heart of the Auvergne, the curious setting of Le Puy makes for a dramatic start. Rising from a fertile and green basin, are three volcanic ‘plugs’ of rock upon which are sited important religious edifices, most notably the Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe and the Black Madonna from which many pilgrims from the eastern parts of Europe officially began their pilgrimage over the past 1000 years.

Our trail takes us through dense pine forests, the striking Allier gorge and up onto the dramatic landscapes of the volcanic Aubrac, wild, green plateau – remote, pristine, and timeless with a luminous and endless skyscape to lose ourselves in (metaphorically only of course!)

Upon leaving the high plateau, the gentle charm of the Lot River valley awaits us. The longest river in southwest France, it winds for almost 300 miles, a ribbon of jade, or sapphire, meandering through ever-changing landscapes.

We wind our way through a ravishing array of stone villages dotting riversides, hilltops and cliffs. The stretch of the chemin between Saint-Côme-d’Olt and Estaing in the upper valley, the Pays d’Olt (the Lot’s original Celtic name), is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We end our journey in Figeac, France which is a town deeply rooted in the pilgrim’s way. By the 13th century, four different orders had established monasteries here which in turn became pilgrim hospices, one of which still runs today as the local hospital. It’s also birthplace of Jean François Chamollion, the first translator of Egyptian hieroglyphics and a replica of the Rosetta Stone is here to honor him, as is a museum dedicated to his life.

Come walk with us from the headwaters of the mighty Loire, deep in the Auvergne mountains, as we reveal the legends of this centuries trodden path. Let us tell you of the clock that strikes twice each hour in Saugues, the perched castles, the gastronomic splendor of mouth-watering lamb, black truffles, the evolving saffron industry, local specialties of aligot and estofinado, wines from the steepest vineyards in France and legends of Saints and miracles, as we tread our ‘way’ along this glorious stretch of the Chemin de St Jacques.

All hotels, breakfasts, six lunches, two dinners, van support w/ healthy snacks are included in the tour price.


Day 1: May 3 Le Puy en Velay – Monbonnet

Meet at hotel in Le Puy en Velay at 8am in the breakfast area. After a welcome meeting and briefing, we’ll stamp our pilgrim’s passports in the 12th century cathedral and take to the countryside along the Chemin de St. Jacques. Our pilgrimage begins with a 12-K walk from Le Puy to Montbonnet. In the afternoon we’ll be introduced to this beautiful town by a walking tour with a local guide before gathering together for our welcome dinner. Dinner included.

* NOTE: We recommend you arrive in Le Puy a day or two before the trip begins

Day 2: May 4 Monbonnet – Monistrol d’Allier

After breakfast, we return to the hamlet of Monbonnet. A short climb up a farm track takes us into a dense pine forest before dropping down St. Privat d’ Allier. From this quaint village of about five hundred inhabitants, we continue along the pilgrims’ way passing the tiny chapel dedicated to Saint James, until we reach the valley floor in Monistrol d’ Allier. We return to our hotel in Le Puy for a second night of lodging. 15-K. Breakfast & Lunch included.

Day 3: May 5 Monistrol – Saugues

Up, up and away we climb, over hill and dale out of the Allier gorge, passing the grotto chapel of St. Madeleine until we reach the town of Saugues where the clocks strike twice on the hour—24 times at midnight! We sleep in this small town but finish out the day by walking an additional 10-K to Le Falzet. 22-K. Breakfast included.

Day 4: May 6 Falzet – St. Alban-surLimagnole

From Falzet our trail continues in a southwesterly direction to a former lodging site of the Knights Templars, now a palatial ‘gite d’etape’ or pilgrim refuge for those on the road to Compostela. After a refreshment and snack, the trail takes us to St. Albansur-Limagnole with a tiny, pink sandstone Romanesque church in the town square. We’ll sleep for two nights in AumontAubrac. 20-K. Breakfast included.

Day 5: May 7 St. Alban – Aumont-Aubrac

We leave St. Alban by way of the town center, passing the fairgrounds, up and over a small knoll taking in the views of the Limagnole Valley and winding our way along an old roman track through farming villages until finally reaching our destination for the day-Aumont-Aubrac. 16-K. Breakfast & Lunch included.

Day 6: May 8 Aumont-Aubrac – Nasbinal

We cover 26-K of wonderful country roads until we reach the high plateau area of the Aubrac region. Nasbinal is our destination for the day. An 11th century church is home to a statue of St. Roch, the patron saint of those inflicted with the plague. From Nasbinal we shuttle to Aubrac to sleep. Breakfast & Lunch included.

Day 7: May 9 Nasbinal – St. Chely-d’Aubrac

A long, gradual climb until we reach wide-open pastureland is the start of our day’s walks. After the hamlet of Aubrac, it’s a steep descent into the pretty town of St. Chely-d’-Aubrac where we spend the night. 16-K. Breakfast included.

Day 8: May 10 St Chely d’Aubrac – Espalion

From St. Chely-d’Aubrac, we cross the 16th century bridge with a pilgrim sculpted into its base. From there, it’s a rather steep climb along a quiet country road until we reach a clear forest path, undulating through the trees to the medieval town of St. Come-d’Olt where there is a pilgrim hospital dedicated to St. James. We follow the road along the River Lot to Espalion, population 5,000. Before we drive ahead to Estaing for three nights, feel free to wander the streets or sip a café au lait beside the pilgrim bridge spanning the Lot. Or check out the 10th century castle of Calmont d’Olt perched high on the hill overlooking the town. We sleep in or near Estaing for three nights. 22-K. Breakfast & Lunch included.

Day 9: May 11 Espalion – Estaing

In the morning, we return to Espalion. It’s market day so meander through the streets packed with local vendors and buy some lunch supplies for a picnic. It’s a hilly day as we climb out of the valley floor and up into the forest with great views looking back toward Espalion. We pass the interesting chateau of Beauregard and later the chapel of Tredou as we wind our way amid fields of tobacco and grape vines before crossing the river into Estaing. We sleep in or near Estaing. 12–K. Breakfast included.

Day 10: May 12 Estaing – Espeyrac:

From our pretty little town of Estaing, we head back over the bridge and follow a shady road for the first part of the morning. After about one hour, we start to climb a series of zigzags to the town of Golinhac. From here, a long descent brings us to Espeyrac where we leave the pilgrims’ trail for the day and return to our hotel. We sleep in or near Estaing. 22-K. Breakfast & Lunch.

Day 11: May 13 Espeyrac – Conques

In the morning, we return to Espeyrac to continue our pilgrimage walk to Conques. This is a delightful walk along country roads and small trails, passing several small villages, until dropping down to the goldenstoned medieval village of Conques, set on a precipice above the rivers Ouche and the Dourdou. The afternoon allows time to wander these narrow streets visit the magnificent abbey of St. Foy. We sleep in Conques. 14-K. Breakfast included.

Day 12: May 14 Conques – Livinhac-leHaut

We leave the hamlet of Conques and venture up the other side of the Dourdou gorge. From there the trail guides us to the town of Livinhac-le-Haut. From Livinhac travel by van to our hotel on the banks of the Cele River in Figeac. Sleep in Figeac. 25-K. Breakfast included.

Day 13: May 15 Livinhac-le-Haut – Figeac

Today is our final day of walking. Beautiful countryside and nicely marked trails will eventually bring us to the town of Figeac, situated on the banks of the Lot and Cele Rivers. The first translator of Egyptian hieroglyphics, Jean-François Champollion was born in Figeac in 1790. Near the main church, on the Place des Ecritures, you will find a replica of the Rosetta Stone which Champollion deciphered. Sleep in Figeac. 25–K. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included.

Day 14: May 16

After breakfast, we say our good-byes. We suggest you spend a few extra days in Figeac or explore the countryside. Breakfast included.



How many miles do we hike per day?

We average between 15-26 kilometers per day. A lot depends on the group dynamics. We encourage people to ride in the van if feeling fatigued or to walk more miles if they have the energy. Most pilgrims walking the trail independently walk 25 kilometers a day with a heavy pack. With Spanish Steps, we have the luxury of a fully supported van which carries our baggage and carries us the extra mile when needed.

What kind of hotels do we use?

We use standard hotels and family-run farmhouses. They are located along the route in small villages, away from the large cities. All rooms have private baths. The smaller inns have no phone or TV in the room. Some nights we must shuttle to our hotel located a bit off the route. We often sleep two or three nights in the same hotel.

Is there WIFI at our hotels?

Our hotels nearly always have free WIFI available although it is often just in the lobby/public areas. We generally stay at historical properties, which often have thick walls, so WIFI rarely works in the rooms.

How many meals are included?

All continental breakfasts, 6 lunches and 2 dinners (wine not included). Most lunches will be picnics prepared by your guides. At times, we may eat in a café en route. If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to let us know what they are before the start of this trip.

How does one get to LE PUY EN VELAY?

  • Check the French train schedule – voyages-sncf.com. To get to Le Puy, one usually goes through LYON or Clermont Ferrand or St. Etienne.
  • The train from Toulouse usually takes 6 hours and stops at every village along the way.

How does one get from FIGEAC at the end of the tour to Paris?

  • Again, check the train schedule, voyages-sncf.com.
  • Our final night on this trip is in Figeac. From here you can take a taxi to the train station in Figeac in the morning.
  • Check out the Michelin Map website for guidance if driving.

What kind of equipment should I pack?

The hikes are not fancy. I will supply you with an equipment list of basic items to pack. You are limited to one bag weighing 30-lbs and a one-day pack to hold items such as your camera, rain gear and water bottle. Hiking boots will be your most important piece of equipment. Please be sure they are well broken in and that you have proper socks before arriving in France. Please bring hiking poles with you if you wish to use them.

How do I access spending money/how much should I bring?

Most expenses are already built into Spanish Steps trips, lunches are a separate expense. Most people travel with an ATM card. Money machines are everywhere in France but be sure you know your PIN number before departing the US. Do not bring traveler’s check. Most banks will turn you away.

Should I leave a gratuity for our guides?

Our guests often ask for guidelines on tipping tour guides. For a 14-day tour, a tip of around 140-150 Euros per guest for each guide is appropriate if you are pleased with their service: or about 10 Euros per day, per guide.

What is the average age of the group?

The average age of the hiker on a Spanish Steps tour is 50 years old during the spring and fall months but younger during the summer months. Most trips are a mix of a 40/60 ratio of men to women. I have taken school groups where the age range is 13-20 years old. With an eager heart and a mind full of curiosities, any age is able to walk the Camino.

What is the terrain like?

This are of France has its ups and downs. There are some long, slow climbs through farming areas, but not Himalayan or Rocky Mountain like terrain. In general, the paths are well worn and are not difficult. We walk along a lot of secondary farming roads, through vineyards, beech and chestnut forests and old country roads. The route is well marked with the red and white stipe.

Is there a single supplement?

Some people would like to be matched with a roommate. I can’t guarantee a match but will try to place you with someone if there are any requests. The price of the single supplement is 600 EUROS per person.

Can you provide references?

We would be delighted to share with you some references of former clients who have walked with us. If you would like to contact any former Spanish Steps participants, let us know by calling us. Check out our Customer Comments. Buon Courage!