I admit, I find myself recommending trekking the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, time and time again, especially in the last few guides—but that’s only because it’s one of the world’s greatest and most popular of trails, and there are so many creative manifestations of how to do it. In keeping with our foodie times, the tour I’ve chosen this year is exclusively for gastronomes and lovers of local cuisine.
As you might know, the Camino winds its way through France, Portugal and Spain, en route to its final point of Santiago de Compostela, and is trekked by pilgrims, history buffs and ardent hikers alike. Led by Australian author Mary Moody (Au Revoir, Last Tango in Toulouse and Lunch with Madame Murat)—whose love of the Way of St. James was so great that some years ago she acquired a home in the French town of Fraysinnet-le-Gelat—this unique small-group exploration focuses on one section of the trail: the French way.
Beginning in Le Puy en Velay near the Loire river—where trekkers collect their “pilgrim passports”—and ending in St. Jean Pied de Port not far from the elegant coastal resort of Biarritz, this 12-day tour includes baguette-fuelled hikes of 10-15 kilometres per trekking day, with plenty of time for relaxing and sightseeing, taking in local treasures, and enjoying the outstanding gastronomic delicacies this route and French culture typically offers.
Staying in small hotels and with private vehicle transfers throughout, this multiday pilgrimage takes in historic and romantic French villages like Conques, Rocamadour, Saint-Côme-d’Olt and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, with ancient churches, abbeys, cathedrals, bridges and traditional markets along the way.
You can enjoy spectacular views at a leisurely pace as you stroll through forest and foothills, plateaus and medieval landscapes, and go along quiet country roads and stony tracks, all while you’re sustained by local walnuts, fresh mushrooms, mouthwatering cheeses and other delicacies.
Enjoy wine and Armagnac tastings, as well as a visit to a truffle orchard for a spot of truffle hunting, not to mention the sampling of rewards. Take lunch in the century-old family restaurant that inspired Mary’s book and television series, picnic lunches amid picture-perfect scenery, and two dinners in Michelin-starred restaurants.
Trekking the St. James is a rite of passage, a once-in-a-lifetime event, for a lot of folks—and this is a perfect way to do it for a lot of people.
- Phone: 866.441.6232
- Length/Departs: 12 days/May, Oct.
- Accommodation: Hotels
- Starting Price: $6,290 US
- Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
- By Simon Vaughan, Senior Editor/Special Travel Advisor for Outpost Travel Media