With rolling green hills, wind-swept plateaus and ancient stone chapels, this 88.5-kilometre (55.3-mile) section of the GR 65 Chemin de Saint-Jacques from Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac delivers everything you could imagine a long-distance walk through quintessential French countryside will bring.
Read on for practical tips, maps, highlights and six-day, five-day and four-day itineraries.
(Published November 2015, last updated April 2023)
Where is the Chemin de Saint-Jacques in France?
Map of Stage 1: Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Accommodation from Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Accommodation is available in the following villages, with distances given from the starting point of Le Puy-en-Velay.
0 km (0 mi) Le Puy-en-Velay
9.5 km (5.9 mi) Tallode
15.5 km (9.7 mi) Montbonnet
23 km (14.4 mi) Saint-Privat-d’Allier
26 km (16.3 mi) Rochegude
27.2 km (17 mi) Pratclaux
30 km (18.8 mi) Monistrol-d’Allier
36 km (22.5 mi) Roziers
39 km (24.4 mi) Rognac
42 km (26.3 mi) Saugues
49.5 km (30.9 mi) La Clauze
53.5 km (33.4 mi) Villeret-d’Apchier
56.5 km (35.3 mi) Chanaleilles (600m from the path)
57.5 km (35.9 mi) Chazeau
61.5 km (38.4 mi) Le Sauvage
68.5 km (42.8 mi) La Roche (500m from the path)
69.9 km (43.7 mi) Les Faux (900m from the path)
71 km (44.4 mi) Le Rouget
74.5 km (46.6 mi) Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole
82 km (51.3 mi) Les Estrets
83.5 km (52.2 mi) Bigose
88.5 km (55.3 mi) Aumont-Aubrac
Chemin de Saint-Jacques itinerary from Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Many people, especially those continuing along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques to Figeac or beyond, complete this section of the GR 65 in four days. This is certainly an achievable schedule but it does require a couple of long days and, often, another long walk on the first day of stage 2 from Aumont-Aubrac to Nasbinals.
Because the first thirty-five kilometres (twenty-two miles) from Le Puy-en-Velay to Montaure (just past Monistrol-d’Allier) include some strenuous climbing, I recommend starting with a slower pace and spreading this first stage over six days. This schedule allows plenty of time to loosen up your leg muscles and ease into a comfortable walking rhythm, to notice any hotspots on your feet and take precautionary measures before blisters form, and to make final adjustments to your backpack before tackling any longer days.
You may find that your overnight stops are in the smaller villages, with few or no services. Take a few minutes as you pass through Saugues to visit the ATM and the pharmacy, if necessary, and always have enough trail mix for two or three days.
When it comes to pre-booking accommodation, most walkers fall squarely into one of two camps—those who always do and those who can’t imagine why deciding in decide where to stop each night would be a good idea. Whether you choose to pre-book a private room in a hotel or chambre d’hôte and have your luggage transferred each day, or to carry a tent and camp in the nearest village each night, know that there is no correct way to walk the chemin. No doubt, one of these options fills your heart with joy and the other makes you somewhat nervous.
I prefer to book ahead, but rather than recommend one option over the other, I suggest you consider the following points before committing to either plan:
- The first 200 kilometres (125 miles) of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques from Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques is one of the most popular walks in France. During May and September, all holiday periods and most weekends, competition for a bed can be stiff. I have sometimes assumed that an annual parade held in honour of an obscure saint would be a low-key affair only to find all beds fully booked months in advance. If you prefer not to pre-book, you may need to be more flexible about the type of accommodation you stay in—or be prepared to walk on to the next village late in the day.
- The gîte at Le Sauvage is one of the most popular overnight stops on the Chemin de Saint-Jacques and rooms are often fully booked several weeks in advance. If you have your heart set on staying there, I recommend booking your bed as early as possible. (In mid-March 2022, I contacted Le Sauvage to book a bed for 1 June. They were already full, but offered me a bed in one of the dormitories for the following night.)
Regardless of whether you take four, five or six days to complete this stage, be sure to allow plenty of time—a full day if possible—to explore Le Puy-en-Velay and visit the many attractions the town has to offer. If time allows during your visit to Saugues, I recommend spending an hour visiting the museum and climbing the tower for the fabulous views over the countryside. And don’t forget to reward yourself in Aumont-Aubrac with dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Cyril Attrazic!
Six-day itinerary for Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Day 1: Le Puy-en-Velay to Montbonnet (15.5 km/9.7 mi)
Day 2: Montbonnet to Monistrol-d’Allier (14.5 km/9.1 mi)
Day 3: Monistrol-d’Allier to Saugues (12 km/7.5 mi)
Day 4: Saugues to Chazeau (15.5 km/9.7 mi)
Day 5: Chazeau to Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (17 km/10.6 mi)
Day 6: Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole to Aumont-Aubrac (14 km/8.8 mi)
Five-day itinerary for Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Day 1 Le Puy-en-Velay to Montbonnet (15.5 km/9.7 mi).
Day 2 Montbonnet to Monistrol-d’Allier (14.5 km/9.1 mi).
Day 3 Monistrol-d’Allier to Villeret-dÁpchier (23.5 km/14.7 mi).
Day 4 Villeret-dÁpchier to Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (21 km/13.1 mi).
Day 5 Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole to Aumont-Aubrac (14 km/8.8 mi).
Four-day itinerary for Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac
Day 1 Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Privat-d’Allier (23 km/14.4 mi).
Day 2 Saint-Privat-d’Allier to Saugues (19 km/11.9 mi).
Day 3 Saugues to Le Sauvage (19.5 km/12.2 mi).
Day 4 Le Sauvage to Aumont-Aubrac (27 km/16.9 mi).
HIGHLIGHTS OF STAGE 1: LE PUY-EN-VELAY to AUMONT-AUBRAC
Take a day before you start walking to explore Le Puy-en-Velay. There are many charming corners to discover, from the twelfth century Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Puy with its adjoining cloister, Statue Notre-Dame de France built from the metal of Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War to a tiny chapel which has stood high on top of Rocher Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe since 961 CE.
Saturday morning is market day in the heart of this historic town, and is the perfect opportunity to gather some trail mix—locally-grown dried or fresh fruits, nuts, olives and perhaps some homemade sausage.
Le Puy-en-Velay has been catering to travellers along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques since the tenth century, when Bishop Gothescale returned from the first recorded pilgrimage. Today, walkers are well looked after by Les Amis de Saint-Jacques (Friends of Saint-Jacques) who host a gathering each afternoon in the Camino Café. Here, you’ll meet other walkers preparing to set out, share a glass of Verveine (the local aperitif) and have all your last-minute questions answered.
Take a closer look around Le Puy-en-Velay and find a comprehensive list of accommodation.
Saint-Roch—patron saint of dogs and pilgrims
A mile or so before reaching the village of Montbonnet, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques passes a small chapel. Dating from the tenth century, the chapel is dedicated to Saint-Roch, a doctor from Montpelier who contracted the plague on a pilgrimage to Rome.
Legend tells us that after retreating to the forest to die, Roch was befriended by a dog who fed him from his owner’s table. Roch recovered and returned to Montpelier. There, he was arrested as a spy and died in prison five years later.
Roch became the patron saint of pilgrims—and dogs—and this is the first of many Chapelle Saint-Rochs that you will pass along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques.
For many people, the first major decision of the walk along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques is choosing whether to spend the first night in Montbonnet (15.5 km/9.7 mi) or Saint-Privat-d’Allier (23 km/14.4 mi). One seems a little too far, the other not quite far enough.
The first time I walked (with my first night pre-booked in Saint-Privat-d’Allier) I reached Montbonnet by lunch time, still feeling fresh, and was glad I had chosen to push on. But, by the time I dragged my weary feet into Saint-Privat-d’Allier, I was not so sure I’d made the right decision.
Having now done it both ways, I recommend stopping the first night in Montbonnet. The shorter day of walking allows you plenty of time to attend the 7 am Pilgrims’ Mass in Le Puy-en-Velay, then enjoy a leisurely breakfast before starting your walk. When you arrive in Montbonnet, there is nothing to do except rest your feet and enjoy a cold drink or two in the company of your fellow walkers. (The village consists of one chambre d’hôte, three gîtes, one café and a handful of houses—there is not even a church to distract you!)
In 2022, I stayed at La Première Étape where our host Annie provided a fabulous meal and plenty of tips for the following day, including an alternative route to avoid the steep descent beyond Rochegude and the best preventative blister cream (NOK) available from the pharmacy in Saugues.
When you arrive in Saint-Privat-d’Allier, follow the sign up the hill to the church, parts of which date from the twelfth century. There several cafés along the main road but the park beside the church offers expansive views of the town and a quiet spot to rest.
Take a closer look around Saint-Privat-d’Allier and find a comprehensive list of accommodation.
Between 1764 and 1767, villagers and farmers living within a fifty-kilometre radius of Saugues were terrorised by an enormous wolf—the size of a cow—which roamed the countryside, killing and eating over 100 women and children. Such was the anguish and despair among the villagers, that the king sent his best hunters to slay the creature, but it was a local farmer—Jean Chastel—who finally brought the carnage to an end, killing the beast at Mont Mouchet, not far from Saugues.
Musée fantastique de la Bête du Gévaudan, located in the middle of town, provides many more gory details of this story. The museum is open every day in July and August, but afternoons only in late June and early September.
Located on the same street as the museum is Tour des Anglais which is all that remains of a château, destroyed in September 1788, when a fire raged through the centre of town. The climb to the top of this twelfth-century tower takes you past a variety of temporary exhibitions to a platform offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
One of the most popular stops along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques is the forty-bed gîte at Le Sauvage. If you are hoping to spend a night here, I recommend booking well ahead.
The building was once part of a complex which included a hostel and small church dedicated to serving sick and poor pilgrims. Farmland around the hostel was used to graze cattle and grow crops which provided a constant supply of food for the pilgrims. This principal continues today with all food served being sourced from the surrounding farms.
Learn more about Le Sauvage.
Fontaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Roch
One hour after leaving Le Sauvage, close to the site of a thirteenth-century hostel, the GR 65 passes a small spring—Fontaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Roch. It is said that the water flowing from here is blessed, and pilgrims have been stopping to quench their thirst and fill their water bottles for almost one thousand years.
A short distance further along you’ll reach another Chapelle Saint-Roch. The original chapel was destroyed in a fierce storm in 1897, and the current church was completed in 1900.
Although this section of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques is much quieter today, it is easy to imagine a time when the hostel, fountain and chapel were busy meeting places for hundreds of pilgrims grateful for a bed, some food—and a draught of blessed water to drink and to tend their tired and battered feet.
If you plan to complete your journey along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques in stages over several years, good train and bus connections out of Aumont-Aubrac make it an ideal place to finish this stage of your walk.
Aumont-Aubrac was founded in the early eleventh century, growing around a priory founded by Benedictine monks. The imposing church of Saint-Etienne dates from the twelfth century, although it was restored in 1994 and looks quite modern. In the centre of town, you’ll find several cafés, busy with locals and other walkers.
Before you leave, reward yourself with dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Cyril Attrazic, which takes the fine food you’ve grown accustomed to in France, to a whole new level. (Prices range from €48 to €118 depending on whether you visit for lunch or dinner. Check the website for the full menu and opening hours.)
Other stops in this section include stops include Montbonnet, Saint-Privat-d’Allier, Monistrol-d’Allier, Saugues, Villeret-d’Apchier, La Roche, Les Faux, Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole and Aumont-Aubrac.
Continue on to other sections of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy
Stage 2: Aumont-Aubrac to Figeac
Stage 3: Figeac to Cahors
Stage 4: Cahors to Eauze
Stage 5: Eauze to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Ready to plan your walk along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy?
Purchase the 2024 editions of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques (PDF) guidebooks
Purchase five guidebooks covering Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port