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.
These are the suggested daily steps according to most guides. I highly recommend breaking up the 30km+ days into more manageable portions. I found 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.)
- Le Puy-en-Velay -> Saint Privat-d'Allier (24.3km)
- Saint Privat-d'Allier -> Saugues (19km)
- Saugues -> Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (32.8km)
- Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole -> Aumont-Aubrac (15.1km)
- Aumont-Aubrac -> Nasbinals (26.4km)
- Nasbinals -> Saint-Chély d'Aubrac (17km)
- Saint-Chély d'Aubrac -> Espalion (22km)
- Espalion -> Golinhac (27km)
- Golinhac -> Conques (21km)
- Conques -> Decazville (20km)
- Decazville -> Figeac (33km)
- Figeac -> Cajarc (31km)
- Cajarc -> Limogne-en-Quercy (19km)
- Limogne-en-Quercy -> Le Pech (27km)
- Le Pech -> Labastide-Marnhac (23.5km)
- Labastide-Marnhac -> Montcuq (22km)
- Montcuq -> Lauzerte (14km)
- Lauzerte -> Moissac (27km)
- Moissac -> Auvillar (21km)
- Auvillar -> Lectoure (32.5km)
- Lectoure -> La Romieu (19km)
- La Romieu -> Condom (14km)
- Condom -> Eauze (33km)
- Eauze -> Nogaro (20.5km)
- Nogaro -> Aire-sur-l'Adour (28km)
- Aire-sur-l'Adour -> Arzacq-Arraziguet (34km)
- Arzacq-Arraziguet -> Arthez-de-Béarn (30km)
- Arthez-de-Béarn -> Navarrenx (32km)
- Navarrenx -> Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby (19.5km)
- Aroue-Ithorots-Olhaïby -> Ostabat-Asme (24km)
- 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.
Follow the red and white road...
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.
The climate conditions along the Le Puy route depend heavily on what month you begin walking. The first 10 stages between Le Puy-en-Velay and Conques vary quite a bit due to the constant elevation changes. I started my Camino in Le Puy at the very beginning of May, which was lovely but a bit chilly. I'd suggest leaving mid-May at the latest if you plan on continuing to Santiago. Starting this route before May will make finding accommodations a lot trickier, as most are closed during the off-season.
Be prepared for chilly mornings, hot afternoons and the occasional all-day rain. I found myself in the middle of a mountaintop snow storm for half the day between Nasbinals and Saint-Chély, but the pilgrims one day ahead and behind us had perfectly clear weather. There's no way to guarantee a particular experience.
Shops are not always open
Managing your food requirements is a bit more complicated on the Le Puy route. 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
You'll want to pack some light nonperishables in the event of bad timing. For dinners I bought a small pack of pasta and a baggie of pre-shredded cheese. For lunches I bought apples, granola bars and sometimes a baguette with a small wheel of brie. Keep it light! Most hostels have a kitchen and some cooking supplies (don't be surprised if you find some delicious leftovers in the fridge).
Stay where meals are included
If you stay in Chambres-d'Hôtes (Bed and Breakfasts), they will offer you demi-pension. This includes your bed and two meals 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 bought with dinner, as it's usually just toast, jam and coffee. 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.
Relying on your fellow pilgrims to feed you isn't a good idea, but don't panic if you forgot 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.
Doing your own laundry is very easy on this route. Every hostel will either have a basin and dry line for doing your own washing (you bring your own soap) and/or coin operated washer-dryer machines. Buying a small tube of hand-wash detergent is a good idea. Teaming up with other pilgrims to make the washing machines cheaper is very common.