Stage 39: From Pamplona to Puente La Reina

Under the gigantic wind turbines


You were briefly told the beginnings of the history of Navarre in the previous stage, arriving in Pamplona. So, back with a little more detail, after Charlemagne time, in a region where many powers clashed, including France.

In the IXth century, Louis I The Pious, son of Charlemagne, is emperor of the West. He enters into conflict with the people of Navarre, but he is beaten again in Roncesvalles. Pamplona becomes a kingdom, which knows its apogee with Sanche III the Great at the beginning of the XIth century. At this time, the kingdom of Navarre includes almost all the north-east of Spain, and its competitors are Castile and Aragon. Then come years of conflict between Navarre and Aragon for control of the country. Later, France also comes into play. All this is not only a story of wars, but also of marriages, where the regions pass from one sovereign to another. At the end of the XIIIth century, the marriage of Jeanne I of Navarre with Philipe IV temporarily unites the crown of Navarre and that of France. But it does not last long. For two centuries civil wars will succeed here between Navarre, Aragon and France. But we must not forget Castile in this whole affair. At the beginning of the XVIth century, Ferdinand the Catholic, king of Aragon and Castile, takes possession of the High Navarre, the country of Pamplona and Estella, where the road passes, that are the top of the list. He also captures part of Lower Navarre, where St Jean-Pied-de-Port is an important stronghold at that time. What unites the two Navarre, in fact, is Basque language. Then arrives Henry II, King of Navarre, who, with the help of the French, takes Navarre to the Castilian. He installs his capital in France, in St Palais, close to St Jean-Pied-de-Port

It is in the meantime that a considerable king, Charles-Quint, comes into play. Because Spain has not always been Spain. Charles-Quint (1500-1558) controls many territories. Do you want the titles of this potentate? Charles of Habsburg, Dutch prince, was Prince of the Netherlands, Archduke of Austria, King of Castile, Aragon and Naples, King of Spain, Emperor of the Holy Germanic Empire, plus another dozen possessions. At that time, Spain is divided into two kingdoms belonging to Charles-Quint, the kingdom of Castile and the kingdom of Aragon. Navarre is trying to nest between Castile and France. The enemy number one of Charles-Quint is François I, the king of France. Then, Charles-Quint sends his troops for the conquest of Lower Navarre. Henry II and François I are taken prisoners in Pavia. After these episodes, it all boils down to a story of beds and weddings. Henry II escapes and marries the sister of Francis I, then resumes St Jean-Pied-de-Port. To give good weight, Francis I marries the sister of Charles-Quint. How beautiful is the story of kings when everything happens in the alcoves! Then the fate of Navarre is momentarily settled. Charles-Quint abandons the idea of reconquering Lower Navarre. Henry II is now happy with Lower Navarre. Upper Navarre and Pamplona remain Spanish.

Navarre is now separated into two entities. On the one hand there is Upper Navarre, with a viceroy representing Spain, and on the other, Lower Navarre, French, a group of small valleys of little importance. Then come continuous conflicts between the two countries, which will last for nearly two centuries. In 1700, Charles II, King of Spain, and therefore also of Navarre, dies without children. The Dauphin Louis of France, son of Louis XIV and Marie Therese, sister of Charles II, is, by descent, likely to reunite on his person the kingdoms of France and Spain and also reunify the Kingdom of Navarre. But the Dauphin does not want Spain, reserving for the throne of France, that he will never get, dying before his father Louis XIV. The dolphin gives his rights to his son who will become Philip V of Spain, after a war of succession in Spain. Upper Navarre remains a faithful supporter of Philip V throughout the conflict. To reward this fidelity Philippe V makes them additional favors, by confirming the “fueros”, the local privileges. Today we can better understand the different privileges and the relative autonomy of certain regions of Spain. At the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the division of the kingdom of Navarre is final. There will now be two kingdoms of Navarre: the Spanish kingdom of Upper Navarre, and the Kingdom of Navarre in Lower Navarre. And it’s still a paradox. The French and Spanish kings, are of the same family, all from Louis XIV. We will tell you more later on our trip, the quarrels between Navarre and neighboring Castile.

You will be told in Pamplona that the Santiago track is the business of Sancho III the Great, king of Pamplona at the beginning of the XIth century. Streets, squares and “alberghe” are named after him. Before him, the road passed from Roncesvalles to Pamplona, then further north to Burgos. But, to better control his kingdom, he deviated a little way south, taking advantage of ancient routes of Roman origin, passing through Puente la Reina, Estella, Logroño, Nájera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Burgos. The route was shorter and avoided narrow passages or gorges, facilitating the passage of pilgrims, merchants, and incidentally his armies. You will probably have a little doubt about it, having faced the mountain of Alto del Perdón, the mountain of Pardon. No doubt the Roman road preferred the plain to the high hill and its wind turbines. It does not matter to us! The way to the wind turbines is great. At the end of the day, you will reach the most famous bridge of the way, the Romanesque bridge of Puente la Reina, which according to the historians or the legend, would have been sponsored by Mayor, the wife of the great king.

Slope variations (+433 meters /-522 meters) are quite important for a stage in Spain, which are mostly low. In fact, there is only one difficulty, it is the Alto del Perdón, a long climb towards the wind turbines, but especially a breaking-legs descent in the scree. Everything else is almost a walk.

In this stage, the advantage is to pathways, as is the custom in Spain. When the paved road is present, it is especially when you’ll leave Pamplona. In Spain, apart from villages and towns, paved roads, for the most part, have grassy strips or dirt on the sides. Thus, the Camino francés is above all a true pathway, compared to other tracks of Compostela in Europe, where the courses are only halfway on dirt roads:


Paved road: 9.2 km

Parhways: 15.8 km

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.

There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes “in real” the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.

In the text, lodging on the course is mentioned, without great details. You’ll find details about housing at the end of the course. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:

Click here to start the stage on the first section. Avant

If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.

Click here for details of lodgings. Avant