I did Camino Frances two times and I got there in very different ways two times.
I did Camino Portugues from Porto two times and I got to Porto both times by plane, it’s quite straightforward as Porto has a big airport and Camino goes straight through this nice big Portugal city.
Camino Frances is a different story because Camino Frances starts in a small French village called Saint Jean Pied de Port which is situated next to the Pyrenees mountains and the Spain border.
Saint Jean Pied de Port is a fantastic medieval village with charming architecture and a population of just over 1500 people. So Saint Jean Pied de Port is not reachable by plane or train, just by bus.
Back in 2009, I was still a student and with my friend, we decided that the best way to reach Saint Jean Pied de Port was autostop. When I look back, it seems like one of the best adventures I ever had, but back then, it wasn’t fun at all.
To make the story short we flew to Frankfurt airport and started to autostop right from there: it took us even 3 days to cover 1400 km. And it was winter. It was cold. And people do not really want to take two guys in their car in the middle of winter when it’s snowing like hell.
So that time we came to Saint Jean Pied de Port pretty tired, at night, went straight to the Albergue and started our hike the next day.
The second time, back in 2014, my friends decided to reach Saint Jean Pied de Port with a car. It was 2800 km from our hometown in Lithuania. There’s no adventure in that story, as it was a very comfortable ride for two days. We covered 1400 km each day. No stress, roads in Poland, Germany and France are fantastic, so no problems at all.
When we arrived in Saint Jean Pied de Port we left a car in the big parking lot (for free) and found a car untouched after 26 days.
This time we had some time to enjoy Saint Jean Pied de Port as we decided to spend one full day just there and start the trip later.
Even if you are not planning to do Camino de Santiago, visit Saint Jean Pied de Port – it’s a fantastic, charming, fabulous village. There are mountains all around, medieval architecture and plenty of nice restaurants.
So how should I get to Saint Jean Pied de Port?
Well, if you are not willing to autostop (now I do not really recommend this option) or drive there, the most comfortable way is of course – by plane.
If you decided to do the whole Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port, I suggest flying to France, as getting to a small village in France from Spain can be quite tricky.
There are hundreds of airports in France, but the closest to Saint Jean Pied de Port is Biarritz airport which is just 52 km from Saint Jean Pied de Port. Other airports are further away, but as they are bigger, they are easier to reach. Of course, the easiest is Paris, but if you can, go to Bordeaux, Toulouse or some other big city closer to Saint Jean Pied de Port.
Further reading: Which is the best Camino for beginners?
You will have to use a bus to reach Saint Jean Pied de Port. You may have some train connections to other bigger cities closer to Saint Jean Pied de Port, but the last part of the trip you will have to do with a bus.
Buses go there every day, so it shouldn’t be a big problem. France is pretty well connected, so just ask for information in any local bus station and get the tickets.
As I said, it is possible to reach Saint Jean Pied de Port from Spain, but it’s quite tricky. As far as I know, there are buses from Pamplona in Spain to Saint Jean Pied de Port. If you fly to Barcelona or Madrid, first reach Pamplona and then get to the bus which goes to Saint Jean Pied de Port.
If I start my Camino in Spain?
Some people start their trip from Roncesvalles, which is the first Camino point after Saint Jean Pied de Port or even further in the way.
If you start your Camino in Spain, simply fly to Spain.
Barcelona and Madrid are the biggest cities in Spain and they are pretty good connected to all of Spain.
Further reading: How many kilometers per day I’ve walked on my first Camino?
If you decide to start your trip in some small city, it won’t have a train connection, so the bus will be your best friend here.
It may tricky to get to very very small villages as buses may even not go there every day, so I just suggest choosing bigger ones like Burgos, Leon, Astorga, Sarria, Logrono or Ponferrada. It will be just much easier to reach them and they may even have a direct train connection from Madrid or Barcelona.
If you do not speak any French or Spanish (like me), you may have sometimes to be patient with local people or in local stations. English is not necessarily spoken even in big bus/train stations. I suggest having written your final destination on a piece of paper, or phone display and show it to the person who is selling the tickets. Avoid mispronunciation.
Further reading: Budget planning for your Camino de Santiago
Do not be afraid to ask if you are on the right track or bus lane when waiting for your bus or train. It’s better to ask than to go in the wrong vehicle.
I hope that helps you to reach your starting point and Buen Camino!