I walked this route from September 11-22, 2011, from Somport to Puenta la Reina, starting from Oloron-Sainte-Marie in France and continuing on the Camino Frances to Santiago. The Camino Aragon is 165kms long.
The route is well waymarked with the French red and white slashes and GR65 and the more familiar Spanish yellow on blue arrows, as well as the scallop shell, and a map, although desirable for an overall view of the route and distances, was not essential. It is necessary to keep a sharp eye for the waymarks, and on one occasion two of our party of four missed a waymark
and it was only by luck we were reunited after walking an additional six kilometres.
I used the Confraternity of St James guide Toulouse to Puenta la Reina. I found the directions in this guide to be confusing, although the general information was useful. In Jaca I picked up at the municipal albergue a one-page leaflet published by the Tourist Office with a general map of the route, distances between towns, locations of albergues and the number of beds in each albergue, and suggested stages (which I ignored). This leaflet was very useful, and together with the waymarking, I stopped using the CSJ guide.
Temperatures were in the middle to high 30s, and the land was very dry. Although some villages had drinking water fountains, and water could be obtained at town and village bars, distances between villages were sometimes long, which was a problem in the high temperatures I encountered. For example, Arres to Ruesta 27km (although there are diversions to villages: Miamos 2km each way and 13km from Arres, and Artieda 1 km each way and 17km from Arres). I did not buy bottled water and had no problems by drinking domestic tap water.
Flies were a nuisance around my face, presumably because of the dry conditions and my perspiration and I wished I had some personal insect repellent. Generally I don’t add salt to my food, but after getting painful cramps in my legs after walking, realised the reason was that I was losing salt in perspiration, and thereafter put salt on my food and the problem was solved. Albergues were good, being clean, bed bug free (or was I just lucky), and all provided meals, and sometimes kitchen facilities. Some were municipal and some private, but this made no difference in the standard. Hospitaleros were always welcoming, and the Spanish people friendly.
Pilgrims on the Camino Aragonés path, Izco to Monreal
The route was very scenic and gently up and down, sometimes paths were wide and well surfaced and some were narrow tracks one-person wide. There were few walkers compared with the Camino Frances, and obtaining a bed was no problem. I estimate an average 20 pilgrims per night at the albergues, which was a small enough group for everyone to be friendly and exchange experiences at the end of each day. I walked in a group of four for five days, and with one other pilgrim on another day.
A highly recommended diversion is a visit to the Monastery of San Juan de la Pena, both the old and new monasteries. It is a very steep hard climb up to the monastery from the aubergue at Santa Cilia de Jaca and I suggest that you share a taxi with some other pilgrims. There may be a bus but I am not sure. There is a cafe but no accommodation at the monastery.
At Eunate, just 4 kms from Puenta la Reina, there is a beautiful church well worth visiting and a small albergue. Both the CSJ guide and the leaflet from Jaca Tourist Office show the route from Eunate to Puenta la Reina from Eunate to be via Obanos. The alternative is a path that goes up the hill behind the church to a picnic area and then on directly to Puenta la Reina.
In two places there are alternative routes described in the CSJ guide and shown on the leaflet mentioned above.
Between Sanguesa and Izco. Waymarks to the route through Rocaforte have been removed and the route through Lumbier to Izco has been upgraded with good surfacing and waymarks.
Between Tiebas and Eneriz. Waymarks to the route through Biurrun and Ucar have been removed (at least for the first 3km that I walked) and the path overgrown in places. The route through Muruarte de Reta to Eneriz has recently been upgraded with good surfacing and signage. It is also a very scenic route with great views over the plain to the Pyrenees.
Australia—Somport (my route)
Malaysian Airlines from Sydney to Paris (CDG airport) arrival 0640
Airport shuttle bus from Paris CDG airport to Paris Orly airport
Airfrance from Orly (depart 1200 arrival 1320) to Pau (where I spent two nights and a day to recover from jetlag)
Local bus service from Pau airport into Pau – about 20 minutes
Train from Pau to Oloron (ten trains per day) – about 40 minutes
Walk and bus to Somport (3 buses per day from Oloron to Somport). 60 kms total NB. Allow 2 hours for the shuttle bus between the two Paris airports. Paris roads are chock-a-block in rush hour and traffic moves very slowly.
Pau is a beautiful town but expensive, so next time I would stay the two nights and a day recovery time in Oloron.
An alternative to flying from Paris to Pau is TGV train from Paris (Montparnasse station). There are numerous trains throughout the day and the journey is 7-8 hours with a change at Bordeaux or Dax.
Other ways of getting to Somport
Fly to London and then Ryanair or other cheap airline to Pau.
Fly by Malaysian Airlines or Singapore Airlines to Barcelona, stay a couple of days in this beautiful and interesting city, then train/bus to Jaca and Somport. An alternative to this is to walk from Barcelona to Santa Cilia de Jaca via Monestir de Montserrat (see list of some useful web addresses)
Fly to Madrid, and then train/bus to Barcelona or Jaca and thence to Somport.
There are enough albergues to walk in roughly 15km stages or even less in some sections. All of the following towns/villages had albergues.
Suggestion 2 (my stages starting from Oloron. I allowed 9 weeks to walk to Santiago, so I had lots of time for photos, cafe con leche etc)
Oloron Lurbe-Saint-Christau 13km; Lurbe Accous 22km; Accous Estacion-Canfranc (bus to just below the Col de Somport and then walk) 30km; Estacion-Canfranc Jaca 24km; Jaca Santa Cilia 16km; Santa Cilia Arres 10km; Arres Ruesta 27km; Ruesta Undues de Lerda 12km; Undues Sanguesa 11km; Sanguesa Izco 18km; Izco Monreal 12km; Monreal