St. Jean-Pied-de-Port is a pretty French town near Ostabat, where three of the great pilgrims' routes
- : from Le Puy, Limoges and Tours all meet in France.
For this stage you can take the following options:1.
A first option worth considering, as it is more accessible and highly recommended
in bad weather, is to leave St. Jean-Pied-de-Port on the road to Luzaide/Valcarlos
The route passes by some country inns on the border, remaining on the left bank of the river Luzaide at all times. A narrow track takes you to the car park at the old Arnegi customs. From here, you can go out to the road (NA-135) and climb the valley up to Luzaide-Valcarlos, or you can take the signposted trail that passes in front of the wall of the pelota court and leads you to the Ondarla quarter. Pass the cemetery and continue on a paved track that will take you to a bridge that crosses the river and on to the Luzaide-Valcarlos water treatment plant. After this town, the tracks join and continue along the road (NA-135).
Take the turn-off at the crossroads where Gainekoleta is sign-posted and descend the narrow road to this neighbourhood. It passes houses, crosses a bridge over the river Luzaide and takes a path that goes halfway up the hillside, parallel to the river. It is an enclosed valley, with steep slopes, clean and rugged streams and chestnut, birch and hazelnut trees. After crossing a stream the route crosses over to the other side of the river via a wooden bridge and goes up to the road, on which you will remain until you meet the beginning of the road to Zabaleta. Once here the route leaves the road and heads along a track that climbs a small valley to the left of the Asundegi stream, going round the edge of the fields of the Zabaleta farm. Once you have passed these two landmarks, the path heads back into the forest, where the stage's steepest slopes begin. The route follows the electricity cables and comes out onto the road near Casa Guardiano.
After a few metres on the road the route heads back into the beech wood along a pretty path that gradually takes us up to the Ibañeta pass
. From here, follow the Otezilo watercourse down to Orreaga/Roncesvalles
The other option, which is, however, considerably more demanding, is the so-called "Napoleon's Route"
, which runs entirely through the mountains. It leaves St. Jean-Pied-de-Port along the main shopping area of Rue d'Espagne, leaving the old walled enclosure through an archway of the same name.
After climbing a steep hill you reach the small neighbourhood of Honto. From here, the slope becomes steeper and the landscape begins to open out, showing its impressive ups and downs and alpine plants and trees. . After crossing the Bentartea pass, the pilgrim enters Spain, and you can see the valley of Orreaga/Roncesvalles
From the top of the Ibañeta pass, go down over the land that was the scene of the Battle of Roncesvalles (Roncesvaux), recorded in the medieval French poem "La Chanson de Roland", to finally reach this historical town and the end of the stage.
Given the difficulty of this stage in the winter months
, it is compulsory
to take the other route via Luzaide-Varcarlos.
Starting point: Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port (Francia)
End point: Orreaga-Roncesvalles
Path classification: Others
Type of route: Earth, Road
What is there to do and see at the end of the stage?
- Guided visit to the monumental quarter (45-50 minutes)
- Blessing of piligrims in the Collegiate Church (Monday-Friday at 20.00; weekends, at 18.00 except in summer [at 19.:00])
- Visit to the Roncesvalles - Orreaga cheese factory (call in advance +34 948760115, Monday to Friday)
- Visit Auritz/Burguete and its ensemble listed as a cultural asset with beautiful 18th and 19th century houses, and its cemetery declared the best Spain in 2014 by the trade magazine Adiós Cultural. Discover the Hotel where Ernest Hemingway stayed when he came to fish and relax in the Navarre Pyrenees (Hostal Burguete)
- Pilgrims who have done the Napoleon route from Saint Jean Pied de Port without passing through Ibañeta should climb up to the pass (15-20 minutes from Roncesvalles) where they will find the chapel of San Salvador and the site of the first pilgrims' hospital, and enjoy the views from the Monument to Roland towards the Valcarlos defile (area listed as cultural asset, possibly the setting of the famous battle of 778)
- Pilgrims who have taken the Way through Luzaide and/or Ibañeta should visit the Basajaunberro forest, reminiscent of this character of Basque-Navarrese mythology (included in the Navarre Witchcraft Route) with its unique trees, an easy stroll from the town.
You may also be interested in...
- For more information: Tourism Office at Roncesvalles
To stamp your pilgrim's credential: Pilgrims' Office (Tel. 98760000). Every day from 10.00-14.00 and 16.00-19.30. Saturdays and Sundays until 18.30. Hotel Roncesvalles-Casa de los Beneficiados, Casa Sabina and the Posada have their own stamp, but the official one from the Collegiate Church can only be obtained at the Pilgrims' Office.