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Location

France

Difficulty

6

Challenging

Length

13

Trip Cost

$2100 pp
twin share

Overview

  • 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 Camino is deservedly one of the most popular walks in France, though it has far less walkers than you’d encounter on its Spanish cousin. From the historic town of Le Puy-en-Velay, this beautiful walk takes you across the Central Massif of France, to arrive 204km later in the old pilgrimage centre of Conques.

Follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims and traverse the ages of living French history as you walk through beautiful, medieval French villages, pass by historic churches and cathedrals and over centuries old pilgrim bridges, many of them UNESCO World Heritage listed. Immerse yourself into the local and changing cultures, gastronomy and dialects throughout the journey.

The Le Puy Camino is well way marked with the red and white markings of GR65, and the familiar scallop shell of the Camino. The terrain is varied with some hills, but rarely strenuous.

Trip grade: Moderate to Challenging

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.

Read more about our city breaks.

Are you a first-time or solo traveller?

We’ll support you all the way! View our preparation and training resources.

Itinerary

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
Meals:

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
Meals: B

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
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: La Clauze
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: Saint-Alban
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: Aumont-Aubrac
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: Nasbinals
Meals: B

Day 8: Nasbinals – Rest day

Enjoy a day strolling around the peaceful town of Nasbinals (pop. 500) with its beautiful historic granite buildings. Take time to visit the 12th-century church with its lofty interior. Aligot, a fondue-like dish of cheesy whipped potatoes, is a traditional pilgrim staple in this area and well worth sampling.

Overnight: Nasbinals
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: St-Chely-d’Aubrac
Meals: B

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.

Overnight: Espalion
Meals: B 

Day 11: Espalion to Golinhac (26.4 km, 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.

Overnight: Golinhac
Meals: B

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 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.

Overnight: Conques
Meals: B

Day 13: Conques

Your trip concludes this morning after a leisurely breakfast.

Meals: B

Dates

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 start date of less than 30 days from the time of booking we cannot guarantee that your trip is possible unless you have contacted us first and your trip details have been confirmed.

Inclusions

  • 12 nights’ accommodation in simple guesthouses or hotels with private facilities on a twin share basis
  • 11 Breakfasts
  • Daily baggage transfers – maximum weight 15kg and 1 piece per person
  • French Camino guidebook
  • French phrase book
  • Document case
  • Daily luggage tags
  • Maps of your hotel locations

Not included:

  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplement from $800
  • All items of a personal nature

Map & Guide

Reviews

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
I think it is quite unique as a walking experience. As always it depends very much on the individual and your perspective. 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.

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Trip Expert

Sue Chater – Camino

(03) 5976 3763

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Trip Grading

This trip is rated as Challenging