07 Jun 24

Your Guide to Walking Le Puy Camino in France – Frequently Asked Questions

Liz Crouch Camino

Le Puy (also know as the Via Podiensis) is deservedly one of the most popular walks in France. This beautiful route crosses southwest France and then joins with the Spanish Camino in St-Jean-de-Pied-Port to continue all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How long does it take to walk Le Puy Camino?

The Le Puy Camino route is 745km. It begins in the pilgrim town of Le-Puy-en-Velay in Auvergne in Central France and finishes in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the foothills of the Pyrenees where it merges with the Camino Francés (the most popular of all the Camino routes). It’s best to allow 40 days (including rest days) to walk the trail in its entirety. If you have less time, you can easily walk a shorter section.

How do I get to/from the Le Puy Camino?

Read our detailed insight about Getting to and from Le Puy Camino. It includes information on international flights, local transport, and recommended routes to get to your chosen starting point.

Here is an overview of the best international airports if you are starting in…

  • Le Puy-en-Velay: Best international airports are Lyon (LYS) and Paris (ORG/CDG)
  • Conques: Best international airports are Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) and Rodez-Aveyron Airport (RDZ)
  • Cahors: Best international airports are Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) and Brive-Souillac Airport (BVE)
  • Condom: Best international airports are Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport (BOD) and Toulouse-Blagnac airport (TLS)
  • St Jean Pied de Port: Best international airports are Biarritz Airport (BIQ) and Paris (ORG/CDG) and Pamplona Airport (PNA)

What are the popular starting points and distances along the route?

The Le Puy route traverses some of the least populated regions of France, offering a journey through picturesque and remote rural landscapes. However, this peace and serenity does come at a price, as these areas can be harder to access. Unlike the Camino Francés, where it’s generally easy to start from anywhere along the route, the Le Puy route does not offer such easy access due to its remote regional villages. Many of the resting stops along the Le Puy are small towns and villages serviced primarily by local bus lines, and occasionally by regional train stations with limited timetables. Below are the most popular starting points on the Le Puy Camino that offer relatively easy access and departures:

  • Le-Puy-en-Velay – 745km to St Jean Pied de Port
  • Conques – 550km to St Jean Pied de Port
  • Cahors – 400km to St Jean Pied de Port
  • Condom – 250km to St Jean Pied de Port

What are the best things to see along Le Puy Camino?

Le Puy is rated as one of the very best walks in France with good reason. The route winds its way through an impressive list of stunning villages and towns including medieval Conques, St Come D’olt, Estaing, Espalion and Moissac. The landscapes are ever-changing, from the volcanic terrain of the Velay, the high plateau of the Aubrec, the rich agricultural lands of the Lot, limestone river valleys of the Quercy, the rolling hills of Gascony and the beautiful vineyards of Armagnac. If you want to explore the French countryside, you’ll not find a finer trip.

  • If you’re curious about what makes Le Puy a great choice, read Holy Hiking about one traveller’s 16-day 350km adventure with us, walking from Le Puy-en-Velay to Cahors.

When is the best time to walk Le Puy Camino?

The Le Puy Camino season starts on 15 April and ends on 15 October each year, so your trip must fall within this period.

Spring (mid-April to mid-June) and autumn (September to mid-October) are exceptional times to walk through France, offering mild weather, lush green scenery, and wildflowers in spring, and the vibrant harvest months in autumn. June generally provides warmer yet pleasant weather, usually without the extreme heat of midsummer. However, be prepared for hotter temperatures in July and especially August, which can make walking conditions more challenging.

We strongly advise against planning your trip in August due to extreme heat and the limited services available. August is the main European summer holiday month, leading to crowded tourist towns and closed shops and restaurants in smaller towns. Guests walking in August should be prepared for these circumstances.

Do you need to book accommodation in advance on Le Puy Camino?

We pre-book all your accommodation on this trip. We have long-standing relationships with hoteliers and have hand-selected the most beautiful, unique and character-filled properties on the trail and in the surrounding villages. We want you to enjoy each overnight stay as much as the walking. Our hosts enjoy sharing their knowledge of the local area and history and are accustomed to welcoming RAW Travellers into their establishments.

I’ve read that finding meal options along the Le Puy might be difficult?

Compared to the Camino Francés the Le Puy Camino does offer more limited meal options along the trail. Pilgrims are advised to prepare in advance and carry ample snacks and water daily, as amenities like restaurants and cafes can be sparse, especially in rural areas and on Sundays and Mondays when store closures are common.

Breakfasts are included at each accommodation and are typically continental, featuring bread, butter, jam, and hot drinks, with potential additions like pastries and juice. While accommodations cater to most dietary needs, guests are encouraged to communicate any specific restrictions upon check-in.

Common lunch options include purchasing sandwiches from boulangeries for a convenient on-the-go meal. Many boulangeries offer a fixed-price set menu where you can choose a sandwich or quiche, along with a dessert and drink of your choice. Alternatively, hikers can shop at local supermarchés or specialty stores for picnic supplies like fresh fruits and veggies, local cheeses, cured meats, and baguettes – a quintessentially French experience! You can also check online to see if any of the towns along your route are hosting local markets. French markets offer great opportunities to taste regional specialties and practice your French. They usually occur during the weekends typically starting at 7 or 8am to around 12 noon or 1pm.

For dinners, some accommodations may feature attached restaurants, while towns offer various dining choices, though smaller villages may have between 1-2 options. Many restaurants offer set menu prices where you can order an entrée, main course, and dessert.

August poses the biggest challenge for food availability due to national holidays in France, resulting in many restaurants and stores closed along the Camino. Guests might need to rely on their creativity for picnicking if they choose to walk during this period.

What should I take with me to Le Puy Camino?

Good quality hiking gear is essential for a safe, enjoyable and successful hiking experience. Sturdy walking boots with full ankle support are recommended for hiking in France. Make sure your footwear is well worn in and comfortable and you have good quality hiking socks. Choose clothes that will shield you against varying weather conditions and temperature changes. Moisture-wicking, quick-drying, insulating layers and waterproof outer layers are best.

How hard is Le Puy Camino?

The terrain on the Le Puy Camino route is varied, strenuous and rarely flat, especially in the beginning stages. It is more challenging than Spain’s Camino Francés. At times, there are descents and ascents from river valleys. Some sections are on single-track paths that can often be rocky in places, sometimes with steps but mostly just bare earth. Tracks are also common: gravel forest roads, walking tracks and unsealed roads. There are some sections of country lanes, and coming into the towns and cities you follow regular footpaths.

Are there luggage transportation services available for Le Puy Camino?

Yes. We take care of all the details, including luggage transfers so that you can relax and enjoy your walk through France knowing that you have a secure booking each night with your bags waiting.

Can you cycle Le Puy Camino?

You are unlikely to see many cyclists on this route as the terrain is rarely flat and quite challenging in places. You’re more likely to find cyclists on Spain’s Camino Francés and the Portuguese Coastal Camino. Here’s everything you need to know about cycling the Camino.

Is Le Puy Camino well marked?

Yes! The Le Puy Camino trail is very well-marked with frequent horizontal red-and-white stripes of the French Grande Randonée network. ‘Wrong direction’ signs (red-and-white crosses) are nailed to trees or painted on rocks. Our bespoke walking app will help you navigate easily on the trail. All the information will be unique to your booking so you can hike with peace of mind.

Is the Le Puy route crowded?

This route is ideal for those seeking less crowded trails, cultural immersion, and opportunities to interact with locals in picturesque villages and natural landscapes. On average, approximately 25,000 to 30,000 people walk the Le Puy Camino each year, a modest number compared to the recent record of half a million on the Camino Francés in 2023. The Le Puy Camino lacks the extensive infrastructure of the Camino Francés, with fewer pilgrim hostels (albergues) and more challenging access to many towns along the route. Le Puy Camino is less well-known compared to other Camino routes, and most of the pilgrims you meet are likely to be French, possibly on their own hiking holiday. It’s not unlikely to have some days where you might not see another hiker, but the trail sees more activity around larger towns, holidays and long weekends.

Do I need to speak French?

While it is possible to hike the Le Puy Camino without speaking French, having some basic phrases handy will significantly improve your interactions with the French people you meet. It’s a common misconception that everyone in France speaks some level of English. In many remote regions of France, locals do not speak English as there are limited opportunities or reasons to do so. Since the Le Puy Camino traverses some of these remote areas, many locals and fellow pilgrims along the route, especially in rural villages, may have limited English proficiency or not speak English at all. We encourage guests to purchase a French phrase book or start a French language learning program, such as basic French or Duolingo, before their departure. Even knowing simple phrases like “bonjour” (hello) and “merci” (thank you) can ensure your interactions start and end on a positive note. French is a beautiful language, and walking the Le Puy Camino offers a wonderful opportunity to try something new and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Liz Crouch

Written By

Liz Crouch

Liz, a New York native now in Melbourne, has over 11 years of international guiding experience on land and sea. Her expertise in active travel, especially for women, establishes her as a trusted authority on transformative adventures. RAW Travel clients benefit from Liz's expertise on trails like Camino Frances, Camino del Norte and Chemin du Le Puy.

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