Camino Frances – Day 0 – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – How to get there

To reach the starting point of the Camino Francés in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, pilgrims have convenient transportation options available, whether arriving from Paris or flying into the closest airport in Biarritz.

Train from Paris:

Travelers departing from Paris can embark on a picturesque train journey to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The train ride typically lasts around 6 hours, providing ample opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenic views along the way. The route passes through Bayonne, a charming city in southwestern France renowned for its Basque culture. From Bayonne, pilgrims can quickly transfer to a regional train or bus that will take them directly to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This train journey offers a comfortable and leisurely way to reach the starting point of the Camino Francés.

Gare de Bayonne
Gare de Bayonne – Railway Station

Closest Airport: Biarritz

For those arriving by air, Biarritz Airport (BIQ) is the nearest airport to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Travelers landing at Biarritz Airport can conveniently access Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by train. The train journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours and offers a scenic route through Bayonne before arriving at the pilgrimage starting point. Moreover, the train ride provides a relaxing and efficient way to travel, allowing pilgrims to soak in the beautiful landscapes of the French countryside along the route.

Aeroport Biarritz
Airport Biarritz

Arriving at the starting point of the Camino Francés in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is seamless, with accessible transportation options from both Paris and Biarritz Airport. Whether traveling by train from Paris or arriving by air to Biarritz, pilgrims can embark on their spiritual journey with ease and anticipation, ready to walk the historic path of the Camino de Santiago.

Fly into Barcelona or Madrid – Is it a good Idea?

Opting to fly into Barcelona or Madrid with the intention of journeying to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by bus or train may seem like a straightforward plan. However, the reality is far from simple. Navigating through the intricate web of connections from these major Spanish cities to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port can quickly become a logistical puzzle.

The distances involved are substantial, but it’s not just about the sheer miles. From Barcelona, the journey to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port spans approximately 670 kilometers (416 miles), while from Madrid, it’s around 550 kilometers (342 miles). Moreover, these distances necessitate multiple transfers and connections, often leading travelers through various routes and transportation hubs.

While the allure of starting from bustling metropolises like Barcelona or Madrid may be tempting, pilgrims should consider the complexities and potential frustrations of the journey. Travel times can be lengthy, with pilgrims spending a significant portion of their day en route, navigating through different modes of transportation, and adapting to various schedules.

Conversely, connections from the French side present a more efficient and streamlined option. French transportation networks boast excellent connectivity, offering smoother and more direct routes to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This facilitates a more seamless travel experience, reducing the likelihood of delays and complications.

Bayonne Railway Station
Bayonne Railway Station – Departures and Arrivals

In summary, while the idea of flying into Barcelona or Madrid and embarking on a journey to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port may initially seem appealing, the reality is that the connections from the French side offer a far more straightforward and hassle-free route. Pilgrims are advised to consider this when planning their Camino Francés adventure, prioritizing efficiency and ease of travel.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Pilgrims Office

Register at the Pilgrims Office and get your Pilgrim Passport

In preparation for embarking on the Camino Francés from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, it’s essential for pilgrims to make some key arrangements the day before their journey begins. One crucial step is to register at the pilgrims’ office in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, where pilgrims can obtain their official Camino pilgrim passport.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Pilgrims Office
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Pilgrims Office

This pilgrim passport, also known as the “Credencial del Peregrino,” serves as a vital document for pilgrims throughout their journey along the Camino. It not only provides a record of the pilgrimage but also grants access to albergues (hostels), churches, and other facilities along the way. Additionally, pilgrims can collect stamps, known as “sellos” or “cachets,” at various locations along the Camino to authenticate their journey.

At the pilgrims’ office, pilgrims will need to provide some basic information about their pilgrimage, including their country of residence, starting point, and anticipated route. Once registered, pilgrims will receive their pilgrim passports and valuable information about the Camino, including maps, accommodation options, and recommendations for their journey ahead.

Camino pilgrim passport
Camino Pilgrim Passport

As pilgrims prepare to embark on this spiritual and physical adventure, obtaining their pilgrim passports marks an important milestone. It signifies the official commencement of their Camino journey and sets the stage for the experiences and challenges that lie ahead.

As pilgrims begin their journey, they will encounter diverse terrain and elevation changes along the Camino Francés route, which spans approximately 800 kilometers (500 miles) to Santiago de Compostela. This journey encompasses a multitude of landscapes, from rolling hills to rugged mountains, offering pilgrims a transformative experience both physically and spiritually.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-PortGet Ready to Start

Nestled in the picturesque foothills of the French Pyrenees lies the quaint town of St. Jean Pied de Port. Known as the traditional starting point for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, this charming town attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, embarking on the sacred journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Central to this pilgrimage experience are the pilgrim hostels that cater to the diverse needs of travelers seeking spiritual enrichment, cultural immersion, and communal camaraderie.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Railway Station
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Railway Station

St. Jean Pied de Port boasts a variety of accommodation options tailored specifically for pilgrims. Among these are the communal hostel and the parochial hostel, along with numerous private hostels and hotels, each offering its own unique ambiance and amenities to weary travelers.

The communal hostel is a haven for pilgrims seeking simple and affordable accommodation. Here, pilgrims from all walks of life come together, forming lasting bonds forged through shared experiences and a common purpose. The communal atmosphere fosters a sense of solidarity and camaraderie, making it an integral part of the pilgrim journey.

In addition to the communal hostel, St. Jean Pied de Port is home to a parochial hostel affiliated with the local church. Pilgrims seeking a more spiritual experience often find solace in the parochial hostel’s tranquil surroundings.

For those desiring a touch of comfort and privacy, St. Jean Pied de Port also offers a range of private hostels and hotels. These establishments cater to pilgrims seeking a more personalized experience, with amenities such as private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, and additional services like laundry facilities and Wi-Fi access. While private accommodations may come at a higher cost, they provide pilgrims with a degree of comfort and autonomy during their pilgrimage.


Moreover, the town’s private hostels and hotels showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region, with many housed in historic buildings dating back centuries. From charming bed-and-breakfasts to boutique hotels, pilgrims can immerse themselves in the rustic charm and warm hospitality of St. Jean Pied de Port while enjoying modern comforts and conveniences.

Beyond providing shelter and respite, the pilgrim hostels of St. Jean Pied de Port play a vital role in preserving the traditions and spirit of the Camino de Santiago. Through their commitment to hospitality, community, and spiritual nourishment, these hostels embody the essence of the pilgrim journey, welcoming travelers from around the world with open arms.

Whether seeking fellowship with fellow pilgrims, spiritual reflection, or simply a comfortable place to rest, the pilgrim hostels of St. Jean Pied de Port offer a sanctuary for all who embark on the transformative Camino de Santiago journey. In the heart of this charming town, pilgrims find not only shelter for the body but nourishment for the soul, setting the stage for the pilgrimage of a lifetime.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Where to stay – Pilgrims Hostels and Hotels

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Rue de la Citadelle
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Rue de la Citadelle

Ospitalia Refuge Municipal – Les chemins de St Jacques

Municipal Pilgrims Hostel – 32 beds in 3 Rooms – no reservations – Registration begins at 2 PM.

Refuge Accueil Paroissial Kaserna

Pilgrims Hostel – 14 beds in 2 Rooms – reservation by phone at 0033 559376517 one day ahead – Registration begins at 3 PM.

Gite Beilari Hostal

Pilgrims Hostel – 14 beds – Online Reservation – Registration begins at 3 PM.

Gite Ultreia

Pilgrims Hostel – 11 beds in 2 Rooms + 2 Private Rooms – Online Reservation – Registration begins at 3 PM.

Gite Le Chemin verst I´Etoile

Pilgrims Hostel – 46 beds – Online Reservation – Registration begins at 2 PM.

Gite Izaxulu

Pilgrims Hostel – 16 beds in 3 Rooms + 2 Private Rooms – Reservation by Phone at 0033 524341900. Registration begins at 3 PM.

Gite Le Lievre et La Tortue

Pilgrims Hostel – 12 beds in 2 Rooms – Reservation by Phone at 0033 659135225. Registration begins at 4 PM.

Gite de la Ponte Saint-Jacques

Private Hostel – 15 beds in 2 Rooms – Reservation by Phone at 0033 630997561. Registration begins at 2 PM.

Zazpiak-Bat Hostel

Private Hostel – 18 beds – Online Reservation. Registration begins at 3 PM.

A Short Story About My First Night on the Camino Frances

For many pilgrims, the journey begins not only with excitement and anticipation but also with the practical challenge of finding accommodation upon arrival. My own experience in this charming town underscored the unexpected twists and turns that can shape the pilgrimage, leading me to an unforgettable night spent at a fire station house.

Arriving in St. Jean Pied de Port in the late afternoon, I hadn’t booked accommodation ahead of time. Eager to begin my pilgrimage, I found myself facing the reality of limited options. Seeking guidance, I turned to the pilgrim’s office. The staff advised me to return at 8 p.m. if I hadn’t secured a room by then.

As the appointed hour approached, I made my way back to the pilgrim’s office, where I found myself among a group of approximately 30 other pilgrims, all in search of shelter for the night. The sense of solidarity among us was palpable as we shared stories of our journeys thus far and our hopes for the road ahead.

Promptly at 8 p.m., a staff member emerged from the pilgrim’s office, ready to guide us to our unexpected refuge for the night. With a sense of purpose, he led our eclectic group through the streets of St. Jean Pied de Port, navigating the cobblestone paths with ease.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Mattresses in the Fire Station
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – Mattresses in the Fire Station

Shelter in the Fire Station

Our journey culminated at the local fire station house, our sanctuary for the night. While unconventional, the fire station provided us with a sense of security and comfort, a welcome respite after a long day of travel.

As we settled into our makeshift accommodations, surrounded by fellow pilgrims from around the world, I couldn’t help but reflect on the serendipity of our shared experience. In the midst of uncertainty, we had found refuge in the unlikeliest of places, guided by the kindness of strangers and the bonds of fellowship. The night at the fire station would remain etched in my memory as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of community.

In the end, our impromptu stay at the fire station served as a reminder of the unexpected blessings that could arise on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. While the journey may be fraught with challenges, it is also filled with moments of connection, camaraderie, and kindness that leave an indelible mark on the hearts of pilgrims. As I drifted off to sleep that night, surrounded by the gentle hum of voices, I knew that my pilgrimage had already begun, setting the stage for the adventures and revelations that lay ahead on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

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