Camino de Santiago - Via Podiensis
Le Puy to the Pyrenees on the GR65
By Dave Whitson
Guidebook to the Via Podiensis (Chemin du Puy) pilgrim route along the GR65 through southern France to the Pyrenees. The 735km route links Le Puy-en-Velay with Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and the start of the Camino Francés to Santiago. Includes Célé Valley and Rocamadour variants.
SeasonsSpring and autumn are ideal: pleasant temperatures and reasonable precipitation. Summer can be hot but it's less crowded and many businesses/attractions have extended opening hours. The route is technically feasible in winter but sees few walkers, and many services close.
CentresThere are very few towns exceeding (or even approaching) a population of 10,000. The major population centres are Le-Puy-en-Velay, Figeac, Cahors, Moissac, Condom and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Notable smaller places include Conques, Espalion, Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Lauzerte and Navarrenx.
DifficultyNo special equipment is required and the route is navigable by all walkers. It is easily scalable to ability, with regularly spaced accommodation and baggage transport available. Most days involve tiring ups and downs on uneven terrain but nothing technical.
Must SeeThe Aubrac plateau, a stunningly rugged high-level region; the Lot Valley, containing a series of 'the most beautiful villages in France', perched on the winding river; the Célé River Valley, featuring limestone cliffs, prehistoric cave paintings and more idyllic villages; the pilgrimage centres of Rocamadour and Conques; the Western Pyrenees
This guidebook describes in full the 735km Via Podiensis (GR65), a historic pilgrimage route through southern France from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, where the trail meets the famous Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Also detailed are 2 major variants: the Célé Valley (GR651) and Rocamadour (GR6 and GR46). Split into 28 stages, the full route takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete but can be divided into shorter sections - Figeac and Condom are well positioned to break the walk into three 2-week chunks. It can be adapted to suit all abilities, with regularly spaced accommodation and baggage transport available, and is best walked in spring and autumn, with May and September the most popular months. Abundant accommodation options offer a warm welcome to walkers and pilgrims and a chance to enjoy delicious home-cooked meals made with local ingredients.
Walking directions are accompanied by 1;100,000 maps showing the route line and the facilities available at different locations. Accommodation listings provide invaluable information on where to stay. There are useful town maps for Cahors, Condom, Figeac, Le Puy, Moissac and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and a stage planning table listing intermediate distances between accommodation means the schedule can be easily customised to individual requirements.
The Via Podiensis leads pilgrims and walkers through the best of French village life, offering a unique combination of pleasant trails, quaint historic communities and cultural delights. It passes through charming Estaing, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Lauzerte, and visits pilgrim shrines including Conques and Rocamadour. Pilgrims carrying on to Santiago can either proceed directly from Saint-Jean on the Camino Francés or transition (via the GR10) over to the Camino del Norte - a skeletal outline of the routes linking Saint-Jean and Irún, Spain, is included in the guidebook.
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Dave Whitson is a high school History teacher in Portland, Oregon and a graduate of the University of Washington. He made his first pilgrimage in 2002 on the Camino Francés and was inspired to return with a group of his high school students, which he did in 2004. He has made long-distance treks in Norway on the Pilgrim Road to Nidaros, in England on the North Downs Way to Canterbury, and in Turkey on the Lycian Way, all told walking roughly 10,000 kilometers on pilgrim roads in Europe.View author profile
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