Trail Basics

The Le Puy trail changes day by day. It will take you over mountains, under thick forest canopies, through wide open fields and to the heart of some of the most beautiful cities in France. Just follow the red and white stripes.

Main Steps

These are the suggested daily steps according to most guides. I highly recommend breaking up the 30km+ days into more manageable portions of 15-25km. I had much more authentic and memorable experiences when I stayed in the smaller towns in between the main stages. (Head over to My Favorites for a list of my personal suggestions.)

  1. Le Puy-en-Velay -> Saint Privat-d’Allier (24.3km)
  2. Saint Privat-d’Allier -> Saugues (19km)
  3. Saugues -> Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (32.8km)
  4. Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole -> Aumont-Aubrac (15.1km)
  5. Aumont-Aubrac -> Nasbinals (26.4km)
  6. Nasbinals -> Saint-Chély d’Aubrac (17km)
  7. Saint-Chély d’Aubrac -> Espalion (22km) 
  8. Espalion -> Golinhac (27km)
  9. Golinhac -> Conques (21km)
  10. Conques -> Decazville (20km)
  11. Decazville -> Figeac (33km)
  12. Figeac -> Cajarc (31km)
  13. Cajarc -> Limogne-en-Quercy (19km)
  14. Limogne-en-Quercy -> Le Pech (27km)
  15. Le Pech -> Labastide-Marnhac (23.5km)
  16. Labastide-Marnhac -> Montcuq (22km) 
  17. Montcuq -> Lauzerte (14km)
  18. Lauzerte -> Moissac (27km)
  19. Moissac -> Auvillar (21km)
  20. Auvillar -> Lectoure (32.5km)
  21. Lectoure -> La Romieu (19km)
  22. La Romieu -> Condom (14km)
  23. Condom -> Eauze (33km)
  24. Eauze -> Nogaro (20.5km)
  25. Nogaro -> Aire-sur-l’Adour (28km)
  26. Aire-sur-l’Adour -> Arzacq-Arraziguet (34km)
  27. Arzacq-Arraziguet -> Arthez-de-Béarn (30km)
  28. Arthez-de-Béarn -> Navarrenx (32km)
  29. Navarrenx -> Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby (19.5km) 
  30. Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby -> Ostabat-Asme (24km)
  31. Ostabat-Asme -> Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (25km)

Stopping in Conques (10-day adventure)

Many pilgrims wanting a shorter adventure will stop in Conques. The first 10 days are the most scenic and spectacular. If you plan on returning to Paris from Conques, you can book a bus ticket online with Compostel’Bus back to Le Puy, then a train to Paris. I strongly suggest talking to someone at the Conques tourism office (right as you enter Conques along the Camino route) for help planning your transit. The bus does not always come unless the office calls them.

Trail Markers

The red and white stripes mark the entire route from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean, where the classic shell symbol takes over. (photo CC)

The Le Puy route goes through several different regional French departments, and each is responsible for maintaining their portion of the path. As a result, the quality of the signage will vary from florescent metal signs to paint on rocks, but the red and white stripes are consistent throughout. I found the trail got more confusing between Conques and Limogne-en-Quency, but I was never lost for more than a half hour.

The Camino trails are part of a much larger hiking network in France, and the Le Puy route often referred to by its technical name: GR65.

Climate Conditions

The climate conditions along the Le Puy route depend heavily on what month you begin walking. The first 10 stages vary quite a bit due to the constant elevation changes.

When I started in late May, I encountered some snow and cold rain in the Aubrac. When I started in June during my following Camino, the same area got a serious heat wave.

A lot of locals suggested walking in late August, early September. There are less pilgrims along the route and the weather is mild.

I took these pictures on the same day! The Aubrac mountains between Nasbinals and Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac have a 1300m elevation over just 16kms (2016)

There’s no way to guarantee a particular experience!

Food

Shops are not always open

Managing your food requirements can be a bit complicated. Most stores are closed all day Sunday and Monday, and at midday for a couple of hours from Tuesday to Saturday. There are two solutions on these days: pack ingredients to cook your own food, or stay in hostels where meals are included.

Pack some groceries

Pasta, cheese, apples, granola bars, baguettes and dried fruits are all good to keep on hand. Don’t pack for more than a day or two! Most hostels have a kitchen and some cooking supplies (don’t be surprised if you find some delicious leftovers). 

Stay where meals are included

If you stay in Chambres-d’Hôtes (Bed and Breakfasts), they may offer demi-pension. This includes two meals and the room for about €33. The dinner is usually home-cooked and eaten communally with the hosts and other guests.

Breakfast is not worth the extra fee unless you really need coffee in the morning. Some places will offer a packed lunch for the following day (about €5-€7). I highly recommend booking demi-pension for your first couple of days while you’re still figuring things out. Authentic french cuisine is well worth the cost.

Restaurants should be reserved 

Dinner time in restaurants is around 7pm, but don’t be surprised to find everything closed in some towns. Dinner reservations are necessary in some places, as they buy food for just so many diners and close once those reservations are done. Hosts do not sit around waiting for pilgrims and they will spontaneously close if they are not expecting anyone. I never planned ahead for restaurant dining, only eating out on the suggestion of my companions.

Don’t panic!

Relying on your fellow pilgrims to feed you isn’t a good idea, but don’t panic if you forget to buy something. Locals and pilgrims alike are more than willing to help. Ask around at your hostel for anyone interested in sharing their groceries for a communal meal. It’s very likely you’ll end up with everyone joining in.

Laundry

Every hostel will either have a basin and dry line for doing your own washing and/or paid washer-dryer machines. 

I suggest buying a tube of hand-wash detergent from a local Casino store. Look for the ones marked “sans frottement” (no scrubbing). Just fill a basin with water and a bit of detergent, throw your clothes in for 30 minutes and rinse!