How to get to El Camino de Santiago from outside Europe
If you are coming to El Camino de Santiago from another continent maybe the best thing is to fly to Madrid or Barcelona and then travel by train or bus to reach St-Jean-Pied-de-Port which I explain below. Another option would be to fly to London, Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam and then take a connection flight to Madrid, Barcelona (Spain) or Biarritz (in the Southwest of France).
I recommend these airports because they are some of the biggest airports in Europe and they have airlines flying to nearly all the regions in the world. Although there are other smaller international airports in the south of France such as Pau Airport or Toulouse Airport and in the north of Spain such as Barcelona Girona, Bilbao or Victoria Airports that may suit to depending on your origin.
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How to get to El Camino de Santiago from Europe
If you are starting el Camino de Santiago in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port the best airport to fly is Biarritz airport in the south west of France, very close to Spain. Ryanair has low cost flights to Biarritz from Dublin, London Stansted, Birmingham, and Marseille, but if you are coming from a different part of Europe you can check in the airport website which airline suits best to you. Other airports near the starting poing of the Camino de Santiago are: in the south of France, Pau Airport or Toulouse Airport and in the north of Spain Barcelona, Girona, Bilbao or Victoria Airports.
Once you are in Biarritz airport you can take the bus from the airport to Bayonne (actually the airport is closer to Bayonne than to Biarritz) and then a train from Bayonne to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The journey by train will last for about an hour and it is an extremely nice journey since it runs along the north side of the Pyrenees and you can see very near the mountain range with its snowy peaks and its green slopes. Check the TER web site for timetables and fares for the train from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port.
If you come from continental Europe you can also reach St-Jean-Pied-de-Port travelling by train. Check the French rail SNCF website for timetables, fares and connections.
If you come from Spain or you have flu to Madrid or Barcelona airports it is very easy to reach Pamplona which is a Camino major city and capital of the region of Navarra. It is situated in the third stage of el Camino de Santiago very near to the Pyrenees.
How to get to El Camino de Santiago from Spain
You can travel to Pamplona from Madrid, Barcelona or many other places of Spain by train or bus. Check the RENFE (Spanish National Rail Company) website for timetables, routes and fares. The train from Madrid to Pamplona takes around 3 hours and it is very comfortable and its price is around 50 euro.
However, note that if you book the train online more than 15 days in advance you can get the Tarifa Web (Web Fare) with a 60% of discount or more than 7 days in advance with the Tarifa Estrella (Star Fare) with a 40% of discount. Furthermore, you can also book it online within the previous 24 hours and get the Tarifa de Ultima de Hora (Last Minute Fare) with a 50% of discount. But these discounts are subject to a maximum number of places so it is not assured that you can always get them.
You can also travel by bus to Pamplona from many cities and towns of Spain. Usually it is not as comfortable and fast as the train but a bit cheaper (it takes about 5 hours from Madrid to Pamplona and cost around 27 euro). Check the bus companies websites for routes, timetables and fares.
Once in Pamplona it is not so easy to reach St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. There are no train lines crossing the border line to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (since St-Jean is a really small village) and therefore it is a common practice to take a bus from Pamplona to the little village of Roncesvalles and then share a taxi from Roncesvalles to St. Jean Pied de Port with other pilgrims which will be very handy and not very expensive. So don’t be shy and even if you are coming alone, once in Roncesvalles when you see other pilgrims just arrived ask them if they are interested in sharing a taxi. However, lately we have been informed that there is a new bus route by Conda running between Pamplona and St-Jean-Pied-de-Port especially for pilgrims:
The bus service operates in 2015:
10:00 AM (1st June – 30th September)
12:00 PM (20th June – 5th September)
14:30 PM (1st March – 2nd November)
17:30 PM (1st April – 2nd November)
The bus leaves from the main bus station in Pamplona and costs €22.
Tickets can be ordered from Conda’s web site or can be bought at the main bus station of Pamplona. More info: http://www.conda.es/
Another option is taking a train or a bus from Madrid (or wherever you come from) to San Sebastian which is a big and extremelly beautiful city of the Basque Country very near the border with France. Then, from San Sebastian is very easy to reach Bayonne either by bus (that costs just around 7 euro and takes 90 min.) or by train. Once in Bayonne, there is a direct train line that takes you to St. Jean Pied de Port. The train takes 1 hour and costs around 7 euro and the journey is very pleasant since you can see the Pyrenees.Check the TER web site for timetables and fares.
If it is too difficult for you to reach St-Jean-Pied-de-Port you could also consider to start el Camino de Santiago in Roncesvalles, which is the second village on the Camino and the first in Spain. It is a very historic Camino de Santiago village with a great medieval pilgrims hospital and it is also a traditional starting point for the Camino. There is a bus line from Pamplona to Roncesvalles so just go to the Pamplona bus station in the city centre and ask when the next bus to Roncesvalles is due.
Other starting points for El Camino de Santiago
As I have already said other times, there is not a fixed starting point for the Camino de Santiago. You can start it from wherever you want, any small village along the Camino is a potential starting point. Feel free to choose your starting point depending on the time you have to do it and the places you are more interested to walk through. Visit our pages for planning el Camino de Santiago and the Camino de Santiago Stages for more help.
I will just give some information about other common starting points and how to reach them from Spain.
- Pamplona is also a common starting point for el Camino de Santiago. It is a big city very easy to reach on the 3rd stage of el Camino. Check the train and bus websites for timetables and fares.
- Logrono, in La Rioja, is a good starting point for el Camino de Santiago if you want to save a week of walking. It is a very big city very easy to reach. Check the train and bus websites for timetables and fares.
- Burgos is one of the monumental capitals of el Camino de Santiago with one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world. If you start there you can save nearly two weeks of walking. Very easy to reach.
- Carrion de los Condes is an important historic town in el Camino de Santiago. It is also easy enough to reach by bus and it is approximately the middle point in el Camino de Santiago. Check the bus website for timetables and fares.
- Leon is another important monumental city in el Camino de Santiago and another very common place to start if you have around 10 or 15 days to do the walk. It is 300 km from Santiago de Compostela and the landscape from then onwards is breathtaking. Very easy to reach by bus. Check the bus website for timetables and fares.
- Ponferrada is big town in el Camino de Santiago with a big new albergue and a knights templar’s castle. It is around 200 km from Santiago so very appropriate if you have 8-10 days for el Camino de Santiago. Easy to reach by bus. Check the bus website for timetables and fares.
- Finally, another very common starting point to the pilgrimage is Sarria, a small town in Galicia. It is around 100 km from Santiago de Compostela and it is so popular because it is the last village from where you can walk enough to get theCompostela in Santiago’s cathedral. The Compostela is a document issued by the Catholic Church that certifies that you have walked unless the last 100 km to Santiago de Compostela and it has a high religious significance.
To finish, I also want to note that the Santander and Valladolid Airports can be a very good option if you are flying from Europe and want to start el Camino de Santiago in a middle point between Logrono and Leon. Ryanair flies to Santander and Valladolid very cheap and from there you can get a bus to your starting point. See the site of the Spanish airports to check all the routes and destinations.
Coming back from El Camino de Santiago
There is an airport in Santiago de Compostela from where Ryanair flies to some European airports and to many others Spanish airports. If there is not a direct flight from Santiago de Compostela to your hometown I would recommend to fly from Santiago de Compostela to Madrid or Barcelona or other Spanish cities with Ryanair which will usually be very cheap even in summer and then check for flights from there to your city. Should you need to book accomodation once you have finished el Camino de Santiago for the nights before your flight you can have a look at where to stay in Santiago de Compostela for more information.
You can also travel to Madrid by bus or train although it will be a very long journey (around 7 or 8 hours). Check the train and bus websites for timetables and fares. Otherwise you could also flight back to Europe from Santander or Valladolid.