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Comparison Ruta Napoleon And Ruta Valcarlos

Discussion in 'Camino Frances' started by BROWNCOUNTYBOB, Nov 6, 2017.


    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2012
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    Indianapolis, Indiana
    During our first camino two years ago, my wife and I walked the Napoleon route to Roncesvalles. During our second camino, we walked the Valcarlos route. We had clear, blue skies both caminos which made both hikes enjoyable. A few observations comparing the two.

    For the N route, Orisson is the only town/village you walk through and this comes fairly early in the hike to Roncesvalles. It's a nice place to get café con leche, refill your water bottle, and use the restroom, but there's really no other towns along this route until Roncesvalles. The climb becomes pretty steep right from the start along the N route. And of course the views from the mountaintops from the Napoleon route are hard to match. We enjoyed seeing the wildlife (horses, sheep) along the way. The N route is slightly longer and the descent down to Roncesvalles can be quite treacherous if you take the path through the forest.

    For the V route, the trail is fairly flat for about half of the route. We liked the fact that you pass through the towns of Arneguy and Valcarlos which are great places to take a break. If you've taken the bus from Pamplona to St Jean you recall the national road has many winding curves and steep climbs and descents. You can see pilgrims walking near or on the national road. This concerned us, but when we walked the route we found that only a fairly small portion of the route required walking on/near the national road. When the trail headed off-road, we were pleasantly surprised about the diversity of landscape. We walked through lots of woods, near streams, over small bridges and by a few small farms. It was a bright day and we walked in a shaded path for a good part of the walk. We encountered very few other pilgrims along the V route. A few kms beyond V, the trail begins a long upward climb which is quite strenuous. Also, the path in some places is quite narrow with steep drop-offs downhill, which can be stressful for those of us (me!) afraid of heights. There us some logging activity along a final portion of the V route which spoils the natural beauty of the route, and some places of the trail included large tire ruts and made the path very muddy. The final portion of the trail includes an easy downhill hike into Roncesvalles.

    So if forced to choose which one we liked the best, we'd say we liked them both! Both were enjoyable, offered amazing scenery and had some advantages over the other trail. We'd be comfortable walking both trails again. We have plenty of time to decide which we'll walk for our third camino. Bob
    Wily, fluffkitten, RJS and 1 other person like this.
  2. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2014
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    Cumbria UK
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    Excellent Comparison with some really useful information – This will be particularly useful for pilgrims trekking The Ruta Valcarlos in winter when The Ruta Napoleon closes (November the 1st till March the 31st)

    I have only walked over The Ruta Napoleon and therefore can’t make a comparison. So the only thing that I can add is IF you chose The Ruta Napoleon, that although many pilgrims walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles in a single day (I did so myself, but at that time there wasn’t the option of staying at Orisson) – I would recommend that unless you are a hardened experienced trekker then staying at Orisson is a good idea and has the advantage that this allows you to do some sightseeing in Saint Jean Pied de Port before you start your walk (Many Pilgrims miss doing this and Saint Jean Pied de Port is a really beautiful; place and far too nice to miss) – So, apart from the obvious of it easing you into your pilgrimage by splitting the first and usually considered as the hardest day of the walk into two. You needn’t set off until you have taken an early lunch and can then walk the 8Km uphill to Orisson and have a leisurely start to your pilgrimage.

    Good Luck and Buen Camino


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