- Discover historic UNESCO World Heritage sites as you make your way through fairytale villages and beautiful countryside
- Indulge in the local cuisine that is ever changing as you pass through different regions
- Explore and be awed by the ‘Les plus beaux villages de France’ (most beautiful villages in France)
- Enjoy the flexibility of a self-guided trip that allows you to set your own pace while we look after the accommodation and luggage transfers
- Be reassured that a local RAW Travel representative is always just a phone call away
The Le Puy to Cahors walk is one of the best-loved walks in France. Also, known as the Via Podienis, it is one of the four traditional pilgrim routes that cross France and converge in Spain to continue their way to Santiago de Compostela.
Starting from Le Puy, the 350-km trail wends its way westwards across the Central Massif and ends at Cahors, an old pilgrimage centre. The French countryside is picturesque and there are some steeper sections to cross. This is easily the most popular way to Compostela and is the one commonly referred to in English as the Way of Saint James (who translates as Saint Jacques in French and Santiago in Spanish).
The Via Podiensis gets its name from Le Puy-en-Velay city, from where the bishop Godescalc started his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 950 after JC, with a joyful group of troubadours, jugglers, barons and of course archers to protect them. The bishop was the first non-Spanish pilgrim to achieve the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
The traditional route has been approximately replicated by a marked pathway or Grande Randonnée (GR). The Way of Le Puy is the GR65, and there are three accompanying guidebooks put out by the French Walking Club, the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre, commonly known as the FFRP.
Extend Your Holiday – City Breaks
Double your holiday experience by including a stopover on your journey! A city break is a great way to explore another place, indulge in some extra shopping, dining or sightseeing and is a great way to break up a long flight. Our fabulous array of RAW Travel city breaks can be tailor made to your requirements and usually include an arrival transfer, 2 nights accommodation and a city sightseeing tour.
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Day 1: Arrive in Le Puy-en-Velay
Today you need to make your way to Le Puy-en-Velay on the upper reaches of the Loire and a pilgrimage centre since the Middle Ages. Internationally recognised as a starting point for the St James Way (the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela), Le Puy-en-Velay enjoys a unique historical and architectural heritage that we recommend you spend time discovering before you start your journey.
Overnight: Le Puy-en-Velay
Day 2: Le Puy-en-Velay
Le Puy was much visited during medieval times by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela and highly venerated for its Black Madonna statue. You can explore the historical and well-preserved old town with its maze of small cobbled streets, flanked by tall, pastel coloured houses. The charming streets, winding their way up to the UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral, provide a great place to stop in one of the many restaurants where local specialities are served. Famed for centuries for its lace making, visitors can also see lace makers at work, keeping the old tradition alive.
Overnight: Le Puy-en-Velay
Day 3: Le Puy-en-Velay to St Privat d’Allier (23.9km, 6.5 hours)
The Cathedral Notre-Dame is the starting point for today’s walk. You may wish to attend the Pilgrims’ Mass, which is held in the cathedral every morning at 7 am. As you follow the trail up and out of town, enjoy great views over Le Puy and the surrounding area. Rural landscapes will now be your companion as you gently ascend and cross the volcanic soils of the Velay, past fields of the famous green lentils. You will pass by the first of many ancient stone crosses marking the way of the original pilgrimage route. Continue through the small village of Saint-Christophe and, just before Montbonnet, visit the small Chapel Saint Roch built from the local volcanic rock. Saint Roch (pronounced Rock) became the patron saint of pilgrims and this is the first of many chapels along the Camino that bear his name. The path then passes through the spruce forest of La Baraque, before a steep descent into the small village of St Privat d’Allier.
Overnight: St Privat d’Allier
Day 4: St Privat d’Allier to La Clauze (26.5km, 7 hours)
The first part of today is spent crossing the valley of the River Allier, starting with a level walk to Rochegude, famous for its ancient St Jacques Chapel and tower (the remnants of an old 13th-century castle). The path descends steeply along a spruce lined, stony footpath towards Monistrol d’Allier with its stone buildings set in the valley below the volcanic cliffs. Walking out of town over the iron bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, you encounter a sustained ascent that continues to a water fountain at Montaure where easy walking across an agrarian and forest plateau takes you to Saugues, the meeting point for pilgrims coming from the Auvergne region. This town features in the history of the Hundred Years War and as a marshalling point for hunters of the legendary Beast of Gevaudan, which terrorised this region in the mid 1700s. On leaving Saugues, a large, wooden statue of Saint James points the way to open farmland and the hamlet of La Clauze, with its remnant tower of the 100 years war perched alone on a large granite rock. Tonight you will stay at a B&B where you will dine with and enjoy the company of a local family.
Overnight: La Clauze
Day 5: La Clauze to Saint-Alban (25.3km, 6.5 hours)
Today’s picturesque walk takes you across the Margeride Plateau with grassy plains, moors of broom and heather and conifer woods. After the past 2 days, you will find this section relatively easy going, gently ascending most of the day. Continue through forests and around a huge estate called Le Sauvage with its massive solid stone barns and courtyard. Here you leave the Department of Haute-Loire and enter that of the Lozere. On the way you pass the Fountain St-Roch and rest stop, followed by the St-Roch Chapel founded in 1198 as a hospital for pilgrims and travellers. After the chapel, the track commences a gentle descent into Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole with its grey slate roofed stone houses laid out neatly along the slope of the hill.
Day 6: Saint-Alban to Aumont-Aubrac (15.6km, 4 hours)
Today you continue to traverse the vast plain of the Margeride toward Aumont-Aubrac, also known as ‘Terre de Peyre’ (land of stone). This stage follows the same pattern as yesterday; beautiful rolling landscapes following mostly along comfortable earthen tracks between forests and fields. A short steep climb takes you up to Grazieres-Mages before descending to the hamlet of Les Estrets through quiet woods and farmland, then gently ascending to Aumont-Aubrac, a pleasant market town. Part of the route here follows the ancient Roman Agrippa Way. Gateway to the mythic Aubrac high plateau, Aumont-Aubrac has always had strong links to the Camino. Back in medieval times, this is where pilgrims coming from the East on the Le Puy route rested before tackling the upcoming bleak and isolated lands of the Aubrac.
Day 7: Aumont-Aubrac to Nasbinals (27.1km, 7 hours)
From Aumont-Aubrac the trail passes through groves of pines before reaching the endless pasture lands of the vast volcanic and granite Aubrac plateau that is dotted with traditional stone shepherd’s huts called burons. Pass through the village of La Chaze to the tiny Chapel de Bastide, with its 16th-century ceiling mural, and then through the village of Labros where you start to cross the Aubrac. This is a desolate region of wildflowers and contentedly grazing Aubrac cows. It is largely treeless and empty of people. You will observe the vast stretches of dry stone walls and drailles (old drove roads), originally built for the summer ‘transhumance’, where cattle were returned to summer pastures of the Aubrac after the long cold winter. The trail takes you through tiny hamlets and farmsteads, crossing streams over ancient granite bridges to arrive at Nasbinals, a herding village that marks the beginning of the Aveyron region.
Day 8: Nasbinals – Rest day
Enjoying a day strolling around the peaceful town of Nasbinals, population 500, with its beautiful historic granite buildings. Take time to visit the 12th century church with its lofty interior. Dine on the local aligot, a traditional pilgrim staple in this area.
Day 9: Nasbinals to St-Chely-d’Aubrac (16.5km, 4.5 hours)
This stage of the walk takes you through the heart of the Aubrac plateau and the entire route has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Aubrac plateau has a tough reputation; cold, windy, remote and originally country for wolves and bandits. This can be an exhilarating day, much of it on open grassy hillsides and passing beech forests, dry stone walls of the drailles and ascending to 1368m – the highest point of the Le Puy Camino. The trail then delivers you downhill to the historic centre of Aubrac, another transhumance centre. In Aubrac you can see remnants of an ancient domerie (the name given to the hospital in Aubrac in medieval times). The domerie also provided a rescue service; lost travellers were summoned by an evening bell and horsemen scoured the surrounding district to escort wanderers to safety. After Aubrac you drop steeply past the ruins of Knights Templar Belvezet castle to pretty St-Chely-d’Aubrac in its secluded valley.
Day 10: St-Chely-d’Aubrac to Espalion (22.3km, 6.5 hours)
Descending the cobbled streets of St-Chely-d’Albrac, you cross the Boralde River on the old stone UNESCO World Heritage listed Pont des Pelerins – built by 12th-century bridge-building friars, whose mission was to help pilgrims make their way towards Compostela. Leave the country of the ‘Boraldes’ on an ascending road and trail before descending to the Lot valley. Your path passes along beech-clad slopes and then descends through chestnut woods to cross a few little bridges to ascend suddenly to the hamlet of La Roziere. There is a little more undulation until finally you descend to St-Come-d’Olt, the first of the “Les plus beaux villages de France” (most beautiful villages in France), with its medieval gateways, old quarter and famous twisted church spire. You continue along a ridge above the Lot valley with some short steep ascents and descents towards Espalion. As you walk into Espalion the 16th century Veiux Palace and 11th century Pont Veiux arched bridge connecting the ancient tanner’s houses lining the river come into view. The bridge and church of Espalion are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. High above the town are the ruins of the 10th century Chateau de Calmont d’Olt.
Day 11: Espalion to Golinhac (26.4km, 7 hours)
Continuing on the Way of St James, you follow the UNESCO World Heritage listed trail along the Lot river, then climb upwards to the beautiful Romanesque church of Bessuéjouls, one of the oldest along the route with an 11th-century chapel in the bell tower. After Tredou, cross a mosaic of rich red soils, and green fields alternating with more forests of oak and old chestnut trees, before passing through the village of Verrieres. A narrow footpath then winds up and over a forested spur of a gorge, and a small section of road-walking leads to the village of Estaing; an impossibly beautiful picture-postcard village with its imposing 15th-century Chateau of the Estaing family rising above the old houses. The Church of Saint-Fleuret in the centre of Estaing is important to pilgrims because the relics of St-Fleuret within. The annual St- Fleuret fair has been held here since the 14th century, when a great procession travels through the village in period costume. Leaving Estaing, you start winding your way through beautiful villages to the tiny hilltop village of Golinhac. With commanding views over the countryside, Golinhac is known for its church, which preserves the Roman foundations of a Benedictine priory, and an original stone cross with a small-sculpted pilgrim erected on it – a replica greets you at the entrance of the village.
Day 12: Golinhac to Conques (21km, 6.5 hours)
Today’s walk is a favourite amongst pilgrims. It is a hilly rollercoaster but otherwise easy walk across the wonderful countryside and peaceful woodlands as you leave the Lot valley towards the famous village of Conques. You pass through the tranquil village of Espeyrac, perched on a rocky promontory on the side of the valley, then Senergues, with its 14th-century square tower castle. Undulating trails lead you to a final dramatic descent into Conques, one of the finest hill-towns in France and a perfect example of a medieval village. The view over the village is breathtaking with its lauze stone-roofed cottages and dominating towers of the Romanesque Abbey Church Sainte Foy.
Day 13: Conques to Decazeville (16.1km, 4 hours)
Leaving town, cross the Pont Romain pilgrims bridge over the river, from here it’s a steep climb to the chapel of Sainte-Foy and upwards to the surrounding hills where the view over the village of Conques is striking. There is a variant of the GR65 here, the GR6, which branches off to the right to rejoin the GR65 after 8.5 km at Fonteilles. The trail leads to the hamlet of Noailhac followed by the small chapel dedicated to Saint Roch, rejoining the GR6 before the steady descent through forests, fields and dairy farms to the town of Decazeville. With a population of 6000, Decazeville, established in the nineteenth century as a coal mining and steel town, is now a sprawling modern and important commercial and industrial centre. Continue through Decazeville and cross the Lot next to the buttress remains of the old suspension bridge built at the beginning of the 19th century.
Day 14: Decazeville to Figeac (33km, 8 hours)
Walking out of Decazeville this morning there will be a steady climb on quiet country lanes that lead to the hilltop village of Montredon, dominated by its church Saint Michel and Romanesque Chapel of Saint Mary. The route then crosses beautiful countryside to arrive in Figeac. A medieval town founded in 830 AD around its Benedictine abbey, Figeac now has a population of almost 10,000 it contains a substantial and interesting medieval historical centre, dating in part from as far back as the 9th century. The town still has many houses and small palaces dating from the 13th – 16th centuries. It is the birthplace of Champollion, (decipherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphs), and you can visit the Champollion Museum. On the ‘Place des Ecritures’ there is a giant copy of the Rosetta stone.
Day 15: Figeac to Cajarc (31km, 8 hours)
Today is a lengthy one as we leave the Aveyron region for Le Lot, one of the few remaining unspoilt regions of France, with vast areas of primaeval oak forest, tranquil river valleys, historical sites and hilltop villages.
The route crosses the Cele River before ascending the limestone plateau offering fantastic views. Pass by the Aiguille du Cingle, an unusual octagonal obelisk of stone that supposedly acted as a beacon for pilgrims dating from the thirteenth century. You will pass through the smart little village of Faycelles, and then skirt Beduer where the imposing Chateau de Beduer has stood guard over the Cele valley for 800 years. Onward towards Grealou through wild landscapes passing by a stone cross from the middle ages, reputedly the oldest wayside stone cross on the Camino, you will then meet up with the Lot river once you begin to descend into Cajarc, which is situated in a small loop on the river Lot, Cajarc is a well-known stop along the Way of St James, Tonight you will stay in a Family run French B&B.
Day 16: Cajarc to Limogne en Quercy (17.5km, 4.5 hours)
Today the Camino leaves the lush greenery of the Lot and crosses the Parc Regional des Causses du Quercy, a relatively arid plateau where rainwater seeping through the limestone has created a landscape of deep valleys, underground rivers, caves and depressions. In the past, pilgrims dreaded the crossing the Causses, no dwellings, very little water and ground conducive to the attacks of bandits who roamed the region. A little different to today with a shorter walk to Limogne-en-Quercy allowing time to absorb the ancestral heritage of the area. look out for the history you may see by the side of the roads; walls of stones, gariottes or caselles, (a dry stone shelter for the shepherd or farm workers), dolmens, the ruins of once splendid ‘piccionaia’ pigeon houses and close to the water there are ‘butterfly washers’, used for washing linen until recently as the twentieth century. Limogne-en-Quercy, the destination for the walk today, is famous for its truffle fair, usually held on Sunday mornings from December to March and in summer.
Overnight: Limogne en Quercy
Day 17: Limogne en Quercy to Lalbenque or Laburgade (26km, 7 hours)
Another great walk today through the isolation of the Causses, a level trail through woods of scrubby oak trees and low bushes passing by abandoned farms with few people between the towns. There is the opportunity to see more dolmens, old windmills, wells, dry stone walls and a pretty monolithic cross, (carved from a single block). Pass by the village of Varaire and 1.5 km after Bach, you will be walking on the old ‘Cami Ferrat’, the originally paved ‘iron path’ Roman road constructed on the orders of Julius Caesar during the invasion of Gaul. Continue on this relatively straight road until the diversion to either Lalbenque or Laburgade for your evening stop.
Overnight: Lalbenque or Laburgade
Day 18: Lalbenque or Laburgade to Cahors (19km, 5 hours)
Today will be similar to yesterdays walk, although with some gradient changes and will be the last one in the Causses. Before you leave this morning, make sure you have a hearty breakfast and carry lunch, snacks and plenty of water, as there is little in the way of facilities to restock on the way. After regaining the GR65 and after crossing the road leading from Lalbenque to Laburgade, the Camino, still following the old Cami Ferrat, passes through a succession of woodland and poor meadows allowing a little farming to survive. The isolation of the past few days is temporarily lost as the shock of a brief return to civilisation is realised as the trail passes under the busy A20 motorway. From here it is a roller coaster walk on the various path and road surfaces toward Cahors. The forest is never far away as Julius Caesar certainly loved to see his troops move to the edge of the trees to take refuge if necessary.
As you make your way on the final downhill, take in the great views of the medieval town of Cahors, nestled in a meander of the Lot, the largest city on the Le Puy Camino with a population of 20,000.
Day 19: Cahors
Spend the final day in Cahors reflecting on the journey you have just completed and spending some time exploring this wonderful historical city located on the river Lot. Cahors is the capital of the Lot region in south-western France and perhaps best known as the centre of the famous AOC ‘black’ wine, referred to by many as the darkest in the world and known since the Middle Ages.
Cahors, originally contained on three sides within a U-shaped bend in the River Lot, became a large Roman city and today it’s a popular tourist centre with people coming to enjoy its medieval quarter. Located in the city centre with its two great domes and its tall facade, the 11th century cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Étienne), is a Roman Catholic cathedral and a national monument of France. The broad street that runs through Cahors, the Boulevard Gambetta, was built in the 19th century over a moat that surrounded the original town fortifications. The medieval town dates back to the 13th century and grew with the arrival of bankers and merchants. They built fine houses, usually of brick and often with arcades for their shops, good examples of which can still be found in the narrow streets.
The famous 14th-century fortified Valentre bridge, an emblem of the city classified as World Heritage by UNESCO and a well-known pilgrim milestone, crosses the Lot on the west side of town. It has three towers each with large arched gateways due to its historical role as a defensive bridge during the Hundred Years War. Discover the legend of the pact that the bridge builder made with the devil.
Cahors has become well known for its gardens and has in recent years, created some wonderful small gardens scattered throughout the town. There is a map you can get from the tourist office to help you to walk the trail of the 26 Secret Gardens of Cahors.
Day 20: Depart Cahors
Depart Cahors or continue on your pilgrimage to St Jean-Pied-De-Port.
Self-guided trips offer flexibility, independence and choice. Set your own agenda while someone else worries about the logistics. Our self-guided walking holidays are fully flexible which means you can normally start your walk on any day during the season and customise by adding extra days for resting or sightseeing. As you’re walking independently, you’re free to follow the trail at your own pace. You set your own speed as you are not limited by the constraints of group travel.
Note that if booking for a trip that leaves in 30 days or less, please be aware we cannot guarantee that your departure will be possible unless we have confirmed this via email first.
- 19 nights’ accommodation (twin share) in simple guesthouses or hotels with private facilities
- 19 breakfasts
- Daily baggage transfers – maximum weight 15kg and 1 piece per person
- French Camino guidebook
- French phrasebook
- Document case
- Daily luggage tags
- Maps of your hotel locations
- Travel insurance
- Single supplement (from $1300)
- All items of a personal nature
Map & Guide
Graeme Brown, Warnambool (VIC) – September 2018
I walked from Espalion to Figeac (9 days) and it was well organised with no real hiccups. Loved the whole experience.
Judy Moore – August 2016
I found RAW Travel to be extremely professional at every contact. Our Camino was everything that we expected and more, this was largely possible because of all the hard work from the people at RAW. I would highly recommend RAW Travel!
Lani Van Dalsen, Brisbane – August 2016
It is unique as a walking experience. I would recommend this to all people who love walking and meeting people from all over the world.
Nella Truscott – September 2015
My trip was awesome. The physical difficulty was as expected. The people you meet along the Camino walk and the encouragement we all gave each other was a highlight. The scenery in the countryside was also a highlight. Thank you for all your hard work RAW Travel.
What our Clients Say
Well organised with no real hiccups. Loved the whole experience!
Graeme Brown, Warnambool (VIC) – September 2018
It was a fantastic experience and one I will never forget. I have so many stories. The camaraderie amongst all the hikers on the trail was great for the most part, including between the international and French hikers.
Deb Verran, Chifley (NSW) – September 2018