I have nothing against ground transportation in Spain. The last two years I have taken easy bus rides from Madrid to Pamplona, and then on to St. Jean Pied de Port, to begin the Camino Frances. And upon completing the Camino I took the bus from Finistierre to Santiago de Compostela, and then the night bus from Santiago back to the Madrid Airport. So ground transportation works fine.
However, like many pilgrims who have completed the main Camino route (The Camino Frances), I now desire to do some of the increasingly popular alternative Camino routes. The two main alternative routes are the French route beginning in Le Puy, and the Camino del Norte (‘The Northern Route’) beginning in Irun in the northern Spanish Basque country.
Let’s get one thing straight right away. The most significant cost for an American pilgrim on the Camino is the air fare overseas. Further, flights to Madrid are much cheaper right now than flights to Paris, probably because of the economic crisis in Spain. Thus, flying into and out of Madrid is likely the most economical option for Camino de Santiago pilgrims. But then that leaves the problem of how to get from Madrid to Le Puy and Irun, both far-flung places.
The good news is that Easy Jet offers lots of cheap one-way flights around Spain, and even into France. For example, I was able to book 2 one-way tickets from Madrid to Lyon, France, which is a 2 hour train ride from Le Puy. This compares to bus and train rides that would have taken two full days and cost even more than the plane trip. My traveling companion has to return to Madrid midway through the Camino del Norte. Last night I was able to book him a one-way flight for 29 Euros from Bilbao (on the Northern Route) to Madrid.
The number of Americans on the Camino de Santiago is sharply increasing, partly due to the Hollywood movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen. Of course, many have questions about transportation around Spain and France. The good news is that there are economical solutions. Buen Camino.
Bill Walker is the author of the The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago (2012). He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), as well as Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacfiic Crest Trail. Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.