a picture of the inside of a church

Roncesvalles on the Camino Frances



Written by Caitlin
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The historic and quaint village of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain is a significant stop on the Camino Frances route. Just across the Spanish border, it is an alternative starting point on this famous Camino route.

Where is Roncesvalles?

roncesvalles on the Camino frances map

You will find Roncesvalles in the Navarra province of Spain, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the closest French border as the crow flies. The walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles – traditionally the first day of the Camino Frances – is 24.3km. Set at the foothills of the Pyrenees, this town is around 900 meters above sea level. The small river Urrobi runs through Roncesvalles.

What is there to see in Roncesvalles?

Some of the top things to visit are the Royal Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles, the old monastery and the chapel of Santiago.

The 13th century Collegiate Church is an excellent example of Navarran Gothic architecture, inspired by the Nôtre Dame in Paris. The chapel of St. Augustine in the Collegiate Chruch contains the tomb of Navarrese King Sancho VII ‘el Fuerte’. King Sancho VII fought against the Muslims in the famous Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. This battle is depicted on the windows of the chapel.

Interior of Royal Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles

The other chapel that is worth visiting is the chapel of Santiago. The chapel has strong links to the Camino de Santiago. It is where many pilgrims will gather to start their journey to Santiago de Compostela via the French Way.

Chapels of Espíritu Santo and Santiago in Roncesvalles

Beautiful fir and oak forests, meadows, and stunning natural spaces surround the town.

view from hills surrounding Roncesvalles in the pyrenees mountains

Which Camino route runs through Roncesvalles?

The Camino Frances runs through northern Spain and Roncesvalles is one of the first stops on this route. Some people will choose to start from here instead of St Jean Pied Du Port. If you do start in St Jean Pied Du Port, then you will usually reach Roncesvalles for your first night on the Camino.

Camino Frances Route Map

Our Camino Deluxe and Budget Camino routes on the Camino Frances both stop in this lovely town for the night. If you are interested in a slower journey with fewer kilometres in a day, get in touch with us. We can put together a custom itinerary for you so that you can cut your 24-kilometre walk to Roncesvalles into two more manageable days.

If you are doing the Camino Frances by bicycle we recommend that you start in Roncesvalles. Starting here makes the first day of your cycle through Spain a more enjoyable distance.

Roncesvalles is an excellent stop at the beginning of your Camino Frances. The whole area surrounding this historic town is lovely to explore. It is a great place to meet many fellow pilgrims who you may see again along the Way of Saint James.

To start planning your journey on the Camino Frances through Roncesvalles – contact the Camino experts! We can put together the ideal walking holiday itinerary for your pilgrimage through Spain.

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Originally published on 24th August 2021

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