Aragonese Way to Santiago

WHY CHOOSE THE ARAGONESE WAY TO SANTIAGO.

The Aragonese way to Santiago in España-Spain unites the authenticity and the difficulty of the longest and most complex pilgrimage in the world. The Aragonese way crosses the Pyrenees through one of the highest and most legendary mountain passes in Europe; it extends from the Spanish border in Huesca to Compostela, which is 858 kilometers. This also includes the long section of the French Way to Santiago. The Aragonese Way is the one with the most altitude, climate, and landscape changes, as it passes through the Pyrenean, the bank of the Aragón River, and the pre-Navarran Pyrenees.

HISTORY. The Aragonese Way to Santiago was not the first path that was taken. Rather, it was the “primitive” part which begins in Oviedo. However, since it is the most direct path from Rome, it could have been one of the first. This route starts in France and moves towards Spain through the Tolovana way, which comes from Toulhouse. Some historians think that before the year 1000, the pilgrims used to pass through the Palo gate, which is 1.970 meters high, located inside the national park called Parque natural de los Valles Occidentals before going down through the valle de Hecho. In the 12th century, in Codex Calixtinus’s 5th book, the pilgrim named Aymeric Picaud explains that the Way entered the peninsula through Somport, which was the tallest port at 1.600 meters. It then arrived at the legendary Santa Cristina hospital, a very visited location in 1078. A miracle converted this small and extraordinary hospital into a Pilgrimage site. Aymeric Picaud praised this location so much that he even called it one of the three columns founded by God to give charity to poor people. Apart from the pilgrims from Italy and Central Europe, the French pilgrims were prone to use the Aragonese Way to Santiago because between the 11th and the mid-15th century, the Aquitania duchy belonged to the English monarchy, which dominated Sant Jean-pied-de-port and the entrance to the French Way.

CLIMATOLOGY. The altitude of the peaks of the Pyrenees experience very low temperatures during the winter — you will undoubtedly also see snow. The rest of the year, the mountains tend to be cooler due to the fact that it borders the Southern slopes of the mountain range, which protects it from the cold Northern winds.

NATURAL SPACES. After passing through the Somport Gate of the Aragonese Way to Santiago, you will find the previously mentioned Parque de los Valles Occidentales at the western border. The rest of the trajectory features smooth terrain that passes through the Yesa reservoir until it reaches Navarra. After passing the Leyre Monastery (a must-see!), you have the option of veering off the official route and take a little tour through the amazing Foz de Lumbier, a marked path through the old Irati train route that also goes through tunnels. It is an experience that dozens of thousands of travelers have every year.

HISTORIES AND LEGENDS. The popularity of the Aragonese Way to Santiago is linked to a foundational legend. It began with the pilgrims Arnovio and Sineval’s reckless decision to undertake the Aragonese Way to Santiago in the middle of winter; this meant that they ascended the Comport gate while it was snowing. Upon reaching the top, they risked freezing and were threatened by a pack of wolves. Luckily, they found a cave in to seek refuge, but the fear made them promise to create a refuge to keep pilgrims alive. The next day, they were awoken by a dove to find that the it was sunny and that there were no more wolves stalking them. Because of this, they built a hospital dedicated to the “builder” saint, Saint Cristina, and made a sculpture of a dove on the lintel of the door.

At the end of the Aragonese Way, it meets the French Way in the famous Puente de la Reina, which also has a rich history. You can read the stories about what happened there here: el milagro del Chori.

EMBLEMATIC MONUMENTS. In Somport you can find the rare ruins of the legendary Saint Cristina Hospital. The first thing that is surprising is the humility of a place that has become so famous. Not in use since the 17th century, the intense weather has eliminated many historical ruins that should be conserved before they disappear altogether. The growing popularity of the Aragonese Way in the 11th century brought with it many necessary donations to build the first Roman Cathedral in Spain, located in Jaca. It is a singular building that is worth visiting without any rush. After passing this city, before arriving at Santa Cilia, you will find the San Juan de la Peña monastery. To those who are traveling by bike, car, or motorcycle, we don’t recommend making the trek out there. It is essential to see the old building; the more modern building is optional. Once you reach Navarra, in the surrounding Yesa reservoir, the very important Leire Monastery is located. A little farther south, you will find the Javier Castle, with a religious complex dedicated to this Jesuit Saint.

GASTRONOMY AND LODGING. The Aragonese Way to Santiago the least popular route, which results in it having the least amount of hostels. Even so, there are plenty accommodation options for those who decide to take it. At the end of this page, we have prepared a list of the best places to stay and the traditional dishes in each of the places. The gastronomy of this area is very delicious, and it is a place in which you can eat well and spend little money.

ENVIRONMENT. The Aragonese Way to Santiago is currently the least known of the routes to Compostela. The difficulty of climbing Somport and the remote exit point (a small french town) has made it less popular than the other options. For those who plan on doing the Camino by motorcycle or car, this doesn’t really present a problem. Those who will walk and the cyclists should be very physically prepared to go this route. This is why you will find few fearless pilgrims completing this route in the summer months.

galeria_camino-de-santiago-aragones

KEY TIPS FOR MAXIMUM ENJOYMENT OF THE ARAGONESE WAY TO SANTIAGO.

The 169 kilometers of the Aragonese Way to Santiago are marked, but there are various options off the path. Here, we will highlight some places and routes in which you should spend more time enjoying the sites.

CRUCE DE LOS PIRINEOS. This is the most epic and interesting part of the route. Unlike the exits of the other routes from Saint-Jean-pied-de-port and Hendaya, access to public transportation at the north end of Somport is very complicated. To arrive at Peyrenère, you should take a taxi (or by pickup truck if you are traveling by bike). You have to enjoy going up port, and take a picture of all of the remains of the Saint Cristina Hospital before they are all gone. Later, you should go down and visit the impressive Canfranc Station Complex and the medieval town of Canfranc.

JACA. This city was one of the most important in the Camino; it was even a place in which many pilgrims settled and traded along the way. It deserves a full day to enjoy its history and beauty.

SANTA CILIA.This small but historic town is a place of rest, especially if you have gone the long way to visit San Juan de la Peña.

BERDÚN. This strong square in the Aragonese kingdom is located in the left side of the Aragon river. It consists of a strand of the Way to Santiago that is parallel to the official one. It is also a location for pilgrims from distant times.

LEYRE Y JAVIER. Even though the official Aragonese Way to Santiago is located on the right shore of the Aragon river, an alternative branch exists that goes until Sangüesa on the opposite shore. This detour can be taken from the Puente la Reina in Jaca and passes through towns like Berdún before going into Navarran territory. It goes all the way until the Leyre Monastery, which you should visit. After the visit, you have to make the decision to keep going until Sangüesa or take a detour before to visit the Javier Castle, where there are hostels specifically for pilgrims. From Javier, you can continue until you arrive at Sangüesa, where you can get back on the official Camino trail. Another option is go northeast from Javier, pass through the town of Liédena, visit the Roman Villa of Liédena and then take the previously mentioned Foz de Lumbier. It is a route with less slopes than the Loiti Port. If you continue for another 10 kilometers, you will find the small town of Monreal.

LUMBIER. Situated close to the Camino, this historical and small town has a strategic bridge, which is very frequented because of its famous river mouth.

SANGÜESA. The historical center of the count that guarded the Navarran kingdom from the Aragonese. You can spend half a day visiting it, and make sure to notice the impressive wood roofs of the palaces.

MONREAL. This strategic location grew because of the commercial traffic that crossed its bridge and the path of the pilgrims.

PUENTE LA REINA. Just before its bridge, it merges with the French Way to Santiago. After crossing the bridge, you should go to the Parroquial Church and see the dramatic Txori story. At the church, you can see an image of the event.

FASCINATING PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON THE ARAGONESE WAY TO SANTIAGO.

Below is a list of local cuisine, restaurantes, and lodging options. For the travelers who wish to take advantage of the beautiful sites and spend the night, you will have a variety of some of the best hotels in Spain. You will also have the option of many cottages (called “agroturismos” in Navarra).  El peregrino que quiera aprovechar para dormir en lugares muy especiales tiene a su disposición algunos de los mejores hoteles de España en el mismo Camino Francés; no solamente hoteles de alto precio, también muchas casas rurales (denominadas agroturismos en Navarra). The page selections of varios, unique locations are ordered from East to West:

Gastronomy and Lodging in Aragon: Candanchú (Somport), Canfranc, Jaca, Santa Cilia.

Gastronomy and Lodging in Navarra: Javier, Sangüesa, Puente la Reina.

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