Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that this summer, I spent 9 days walking around 180km along the Camino de Santiago, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Logroño in Spain. I wrote a Q&A post in response to some of the questions people had asked me along the way already but had so many people ask me if I was going to blog about the entire experience that I’ve decided to make this a nine part series over the next 3 months or so. Noone wants to read a recap featuring 100s of photos and 1000s of words and I feel like this might be more helpful for people who are looking for information about the specific stages. This is Part 2 (Part 1 linked at the end of this post).

Strange scarecrows in Valcarlos on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com(these guys were headed home at 8am after a full night’s fiesta-ing)

Camino Frances Day 2: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles (approx 16km)

The day dawned bright and foggy, admittedly it wasn’t exactly the kind of weather that made you feel like leaping out of bed and walking 16km uphill…

Morning view in Valcarlos on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comMore like curl up with a good book on a couch weather… No matter, we packed up our things, left our bags for pickup just before 8am and headed to breakfast which we took at a leisurely pace since we *only* had 16-ish kilometres to walk – we figured around 3-4 hours’ worth…

Just out of town (as in 20 metres from the breakfast restaurant), we came across an unusual collection of scarecrows…

Strange scarecrows in Valcarlos on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com“Are they… heads?” I hear you asking yourself?  Why yes they are…

Heads on sticks to scare birds in Valcarlos on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comCreepy scarecrows photographed, we headed on along the road and about 15 minutes into our day it started raining. And didn’t stop pretty much until we arrived in Roncesvalles nearly 5 hours later… “FIVE hours?” I hear you ask. Yes, five hours. In the rain. And a little bit lost.

Burnt out car on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com(this burnt-out car on the side of the road provided some much-needed shelter as we consulted the map)

This part of the Camino is the “alternate” route and therefore much less popular so for a second day running, we did not see one other person walking this route. The directions for this route look pretty simple (I mean, it’s not really that far to walk) but you must take into account that you are walking from 350m above sea level to 950m in that time so it’s not an “easy” walk by any stretch. Especially when it’s raining.

A little part of today’s walk takes place on main roads – not the nicest for seeing nature but definitely “nice” in that we could actually tell where we were, as opposed to when we were “off road” and Google Maps showed this:

Not sure where we are on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com(actual screen shot. While not very helpful, it did make us laugh)

You can tell it was raining a lot that day because of the lack of images on both my phone and my real camera – it was simply way too wet to do anything other than keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope to heavens that we would soon arrive.  Lots of this route took in woods and forests… John Brierley’s “A Pligrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago” described them as “beech and hazel woods”.  All very well if you know what those trees look like but um….

Forest on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comBeech? Hazel? Or neither?

Finding the waymarkers on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comMuddy roads on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comThese photos make the terrain look lovely and lush. In reality on that day it was soggy and sodden. At one point when it was raining less, Yvonne decided she needed to stop and wring her socks out. I wish I had a video of this but she was too quick (or I was too slow). Honestly she must have wrung 2 cups of water out of each of her socks… Thankfully, they were Smart Wool socks so they didn’t stay “wet”. I took the opportunity to wring mine out too…

Wet socks on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comMine weren’t as bad – my KEEN boots were waterproof but the very tops of my socks were just at “grass height” so they got soaked walking through the tall grasses. Thankfully they wrung out pretty dry and were comfortable for the rest of the day… And fortunately the rain did subside…

Misty roads on the road to Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd eventually the path led to what felt like the top of a hill…

Gravestone approaching Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd then there was a main road. With a sign. Yvonne’s page quickened considerably…

Approaching Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comRoncesvalles in sight!

Just around this corner, we scrambled down a hill (not sure that was the path but we saw our hotel and just wanted to BE THERE) and into this:

Lobby Hotel Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe Hotel Roncesvalles.  Part of the original monastery building, this is a tastefully renovated hotel (the only accommodation in town apart from the pilgrim hostel). Our “double room” looked like this:

Bedroom in Hotel Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kitchenette in Hotel Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.com Living room in Hotel Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.comSUCH luxury! A perfect place to spread out our wet daypacks, clothes, shoes and socks. They also offered laundry service (12€ per bag) which we took advantage of – everything was back clean and dry in under 3 hours. Oh, and this was our view:

view from the Hotel Roncesvalles on Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comWe quickly changed into dry clothes and headed out in search of lunch. We weren’t very hungry so a quick sandwich and a beer did us just fine:

Lunch in Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.comAnd we headed out to explore. Luckily for our weary bodies, there’s not a whole lot to see there so we contented ourselves with a pit stop in the gift shop and headed back for our daily nap…

Pilgrim liquor in Roncesvalles on Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com Chocolate in Roncesvalles on Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.com(some of this chocolate made it all the way back to Toronto!)

Later that night we ate the excellent value “Pilgrim Meal” in the hotel restaurant (12€ for three courses, water, wine and bread or 16€ for a menu with more choice), the highlight of which was this flan:

Flan at Hotel Roncesvalles on the Camino on eatlivetravelwrite.comBecause when you’ve spent the day doing this:

Day 2 Valcarlos to Roncesvalles on eatlivetravelwrite.com… flan is very necessary. 252 floors??? Yes, it felt like it!


This was a tough day but mainly because of the rain and the fact that we were not always so sure where we were going. Google Maps told us we were heading in the general right direction so I wasn’t too worried (we always could hear or see the main road) but I feel like I’d have wanted a bit more detail on a map or in writing as to what to expect. I guess because it’s not a route that a lot of people take, it’s less well signposted but certainly the rain didn’t do us any favours in terms of us feeling confident about what we were doing/ where we were going. It was raining so hard that even stopping to pull out the map wasn’t practical 🙁 But no matter – we made it, right?  This was a touch day in terms of elevation – our legs were definitely feeling those “252 floors” and stretches were on the agenda for sure.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for the next instalment – Roncesvalles to Zubiri. Featuring lots of sun and steep descents on loose rocks 😉


Disclosure: I researched Camino trips independently and chose the Camino Travel Center based on a number of features such as flexibility to accommodate a couple of “splits” in some of the longer days, price and customer service. They were, in fact the first company I came across in my very first Google search and the one I ended up booking with. From the initial inquiry to the actual trip, they were a pleasure to deal with and we were very impressed with the service provided (bag transportation) and the accommodation choices. I was not compensated to write about this trip in any way but I love sharing companies and products I believe in with my readers. I couldn’t recommend the Camino Travel Center more and, in fact, am looking at booking another Camino walk with them in the future.

Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!

Read more about the Camino de Santiago:

Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – questions and answers
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 1: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Valcarlos
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 2: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 3: Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 4: Zubiri to Pamplona
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 5: Pamplona to Puente la Reina
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 6: Puente la Reina to Estella
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 7: Estella to Los Arcos
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 8: Los Arcos to Viana
Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago – Day 9: Viana to Logroño





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11 Responses to Walking (part of) the Camino de Santiago: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles

  1. Gail September 5, 2016 at 23:09 #

    What company did you use for your baggage transport and did they book hotels for you.

    • Mardi Michels September 6, 2016 at 05:56 #

      Hi Gail, Camino Travel Center as linked in the post and as outlined in the first Q&A post (linked at the bottom of the article). Couldn’t recommend them more highly.

  2. Bryan Richards September 6, 2016 at 11:24 #

    Great post! Yet more reasons why this is on my bucket list.

  3. Kavey September 6, 2016 at 11:31 #

    What an incredible adventure, really a beautiful route to walk and the views and places you stayed all sound such unique and interesting experiences.

  4. verushka September 6, 2016 at 14:32 #

    So in the last week this is the second time I seen the word Camino.I am rather intrigued and will be reading your other posts.The flan looks amazing ! and well done on this part of the journey.

    • Mardi Michels September 6, 2016 at 15:13 #

      Thanks – it does seem to be becoming more popular over the past little while…

  5. Sandy Cadiz-Smith September 7, 2016 at 02:44 #

    This is something I really want to do – though this stage does sound quite tough. I look forward to reading about the rest of your journey. What time of year do you think is the best time to do it?

    • Mardi Michels September 7, 2016 at 05:23 #

      Right it’s a little tough but it’s just one day 😉 I would imagine the autumn would be a nice time as I’ve heard that the spring can be cooler and a bit wet. Though with global warming, who knows what time of year is reliably best?!

  6. Mindi Hirsch September 11, 2016 at 12:55 #

    I love that you used your Fitbit during this epic experience. I would do the same thing.

    • Mardi Michels September 11, 2016 at 14:15 #

      I’m always fascinated by the stats – as a teacher I am on my feet all day and so, feel “tired” at the end of the day even though I haven’t done many actual steps. I think it’s actually more tiring to NOT do many steps in a weird way…

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