On the 750-kilometre walk along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques you’ll pass dozens, perhaps hundreds, of churches, chapels and cathedrals. But if you call in to only one on your way from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, make it Chapelle Saint-Nicolas in Harambeltz.
NOTE: In 2019, the chambre d’hôte in Harambeltz is closed for the year and the Friends of Harambeltz website is also off the air. It is my fervent hope that the village is taking a well-earned break and will re-open in 2020.
(First published October 2018, last updated August 2019)
Most walkers pass through the tiny hamlet of Harambeltz with barely a sideways glance. If it’s approaching midday, you might consider taking advantage of the shade provided by the covered porch of the rustic church to rest your feet and enjoy a picnic lunch.
And yet, as I thought about how I would structure my suggested itinerary along this section of the GR 65, an overnight stop in Harambeltz was the first thing I locked in. Everything else was made to work around it.
Why is it so special?
First impressions are likely to be of a small farming community, much like the 200 or so you have passed along the first 700 kilometres of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques. Just beyond the last house is a church – dedicated to Saint-Nicolas – and, let’s face it, you’ve passed a good many of those also!
From the outside, the building is an odd mixture of stonework and patched stucco. Most of the current church dates from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, although stones around the base of the building are thought to be much older – remnants of the original church built in the ninth or tenth century.
In the seventeenth century, the sacristy was added on the eastern wall, but 300 years later, the building was in much need of repair.
In 2001, the church was classified as an Historic Monument. Five years later, the local villagers formed an association – Les Amis d’Harambeltz – dedicated to preserving the building. Much-needed grants from local and regional governments added to funds provided by the villagers and, in June 2008, restoration work began. By December 2010, the project was complete and the church was reopened to the public shortly afterwards.
Inside the church is a feast for the eyes. Faux marble walls are festooned with carvings, paintings and statues in shades of orange, apricot and blue. It’s hard to know where to look first, so take your time and linger – soaking up the atmosphere and exploring all the details.
In previous years, the church has been open to visitors on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between two and six o’clock from Easter until 1 November. During these times, a member of the community has been present to show visitors around and answer questions. You were, of course, welcome to look around on your own. Entry was by donation and proceeds fund the continued maintenance of the church. Visits outside of these hours could be arranged for groups of ten or more.
In 2019, my advice is to check inside the covered porch and I’ll keep my fingers crossed the church doors are open, allowing you inside!
Chapelle de Soyarza
If you arrive in Harambeltz via the variante that passes through Uhart-Mixe (as the majority of walkers do), you’ll miss another, less well-known gem along this section of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques. Instead of turning left towards Harambeltz when the variante reaches the GR 65, turn right and continue along the GR 65 towards Stèle de Gibraltar.
After fifteen minutes of gentle uphill walking, you’ll arrive at Chapelle de Soyarza. The chapel is small but the views are magnificent and well worth the extra time required to visit.
Which long-distance walk in France visits Harambeltz and the Chapelle de Soyarza?
Where is Harambeltz, France? Find it on Google maps
Harambeltz is located 727 kilometres (454 miles) along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques – thirty-eight day’s walk from the starting point of Le-Puy-en-Velay.
Click through to find my suggested itinerary for all five stages of the walk
If you prefer to set your own agenda, I share the steps I take to calculate distances on any long-distance walk (using the Chemin de Stevenson as a case study)
Accommodation in Harambeltz
Since the chambre d’hôte here is closed for 2019, I recommend walking a further four kilometres (2.5 miles) along the trail to the village of Ostabat-Asme where you’ll find accommodation at –
Where to eat in Harambeltz
There is nowhere to buy food in Harambeltz. Bring your own picnic basket and if the sun is too hot or day is wet, enjoy lunch under the shelter of the church porch. If the weather is kind, relax in front of the Chapelle de Soyarza and soak up the glorious views.