Stage 40: From Puente la Reina to Estella

On the “Way of Stars” but also on the Pilgrim Highway


Estella already existed at the time of the Romans under the Roman name of Gebalda. Legend has it that in the 1000s, shepherds saw a shower of stars over here and discovered the statue called Notre-Dame-du-Puy. So, the village was given the Basque name of Lizarra meaning “star”, then the Castilian name of “estella” which means the same thing.
In the eleventh century, a colony of francs was established here, the « francos », the Germanic people at the origin of France, part of Germany, the Netherlands, but also colonies in Spain. The king of Navarre and Aragon granted them “fueros”, privileges. The idea was to bring here tradesmen, bourgeois. These are the latter who developed here the Way of Compostela, many “francos” from Puy-en-Velay or Tours, building many hospices. Soon other communities appeared here, including the Navarrese. From the XIIth century, the city experienced a great development, and many churches were built, making the city the Romanesque jewel of Navarre. The city quickly became the flagship stop of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, with the church of San Pedro de la Rúa, the church of San Juan and several hospitals, assisted by brotherhoods.

The city knew its apogee in the XIIIth century. The city was enriched by building several convents and many hospitals and inns to welcome pilgrims. A castle and a fortress were added to contain the fancies of neighboring Castille. Then, the city fell progressively into decadence, following the many conflicts that confronted France which had Lower Navarre, Navarre and Castile, during the XIVth and XVth centuries. The city fell to the hands of Castile in the early XVIth century and they demolished the castle and the fortress. Then, during the Carlist Wars for the succession of the throne of Castile, the pretender Carlos, with the support of Navarrese who supported him, installed his court in Estella and reigned “in Navarre”, the city becoming the capital of the Carlist state. But the final victory of the centralizing Liberals of Madrid, legitimate supporters of the king, will lead to the abolition of the regime of “fueros”, namely privileges, and High Navarre then became a simple Spanish province in 1841.

Today is a beautiful walk, one of the most beautiful on Camino francés in Navarre. The villages are pleasant, some medieval, the path is wide, little stony, undulating on small hills. Certainly, but grumpy people will say that the road is close to the highway. It’s true, but it does not bother. First, you are not next door, as will be the case later on the way. Then the traffic is low, because you do not cross a dense region of the country. And then, you’ll arrive in a pretty incredible city. Which pilgrim who was not born in Spain has already heard of Estella? None, in all likelihood. Estella is a minor city, but it is an ancient capital of Navarre, with a wealth of stunning monuments. There are more monuments here than in many large cities in Spain. To tell you it’s an important city, the train goes here, while in Burgos, you have to get out of the city to take the train.

Slope variations of the day (+388 meters / 305 meters) are quite insignificant. There are only two passages where you will be asked a slight effort, first the climb to the highway shortly after Puente la Reina, then the climb to the village of Orca. Everything else is just a pleasure to walk.

In this stage, most of the course is on pathways. The passages on the paved road are only in the villages and the city. 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: 5.8 km

Pathways: 15.9 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