Once you (finally!!) arrive in Saint Jean pied du Port you have more options again. The first thing the you might want to do is check in at the pilgrims office. It is important to get your first stamp in your pilgrims credential, and even more important to get information on the route ahead. As you may or may not know there are two routes that you can walk to Roncesvalles. The first and most famous is the Route Napoleon. Which travels directly up and over the top of the Pyrenees. The second and actually the original route is the Valcarlos route which follows the road. While both are equally difficult, the Valcarlos route is cleared or at least partially cleared of snow. Please note that it is very very important to listen if they tell you that the route Napoleon is closed. People die every year because they refuse to listen to what they are told in the pilgrims office.
Once you have checked in with the pilgrims office and recieved our first stamp on your pilgrims credential, you have 3 options:
- Stay the night in SJPP – Saint Jean Pied du Port is a great little French Basque town. It is worth it to spend an afternoon walking around and maybe enjoying a leisurely lunch or dinner. (It is also a great way to soak in the vibe of all of your fellow pilgrims at the start of your adventure. I’d *highly* recommend staying a night in this town. Also, just to rest up for the next day and/or to get over some of the jet lag.
There are many great places to stay. One of the favorites is Beilari. They offer a great communal meal and are well regarded. It is recommended that you make a reservation well in advance (!!) as they fill up very fast. When I arrived I had no reservation so I stayed in the municipal. It was just fine for a weary traveler.
- Walk to Orisson and spend the night. This is really only an option if you arrive in Saint Jean pied du Port relatively early in the day. I would not attempt this if you arrive any later than noon. Also it is very important that you have pre-arranged for your stay. It only has around 32 beds so it is wise to book early. When you do attempt to book a bed you will send an email making the request. Don’t be surprised if it takes them a day or two even up to a week or more! to respond. There is terrible wifi and cell service up there and they do their best to respond as quickly as possible. If there is availability they will send you a link to pay them. It is via PayPal and you must pay in advance to secure your spot . Orisson is along the route Napoleon about 8-10k from Saint Jean. It is a very steep climb to get there. If you stay you will have about 17k to Roncesvalles the following day. Orisson offers a place to sleep, dinner – one of the priceless gems of this place is the communal meal where you meet pilgrims from all over the world – many of whom you will criss cross with for the rest of your journey. It is the first of possibly many communal meals, and breakfast. You can also purchase a sack lunch for the next day. Personally, I loved staying there in 2014 and have many friends to this day the I met that first night.
- You could walk to Roncesvalles. Lastly, you could simply walk directly to Roncesvalles. Unless you are arriving in the early morning I would not recommend this option. For instance if you were to stay at Corizon Puro the night before and arrive in Saint Jean early in the morning. It is a very long day. 27k almost straight up and takes between 7-9 hours or more. After spending the night in Saint Jean I walked directly to Roncesvalles on my Camino in April of 2013 I made it and am here to talk to you about it today but personally I would not do it that way again and did not in 2014.
Whichever choice you make. We wish you a Buen Camino!
Do you have a favorite place to stay in Saint Jean pied du port? Do you have any helpful hints? Leave a comment to share your thoughts!