The Way of St. James, Camiño de Santiago in Galician, is currently the first touristic itinerary in Europe. It originated in pilgrimages from all the world which have been going on continuously for the last thousand years, converging in the city of Santiago de Compostela, capital city of Galicia, and the place where the apostle James (Santiago, in Spanish), also known as Jacob, is supposed to be buried. This pilgrimage has been one of the most important unifying forces of the European continent from the Late Middle Ages to the present.
As regards our route by mountain bike along the north of the Iberian Peninsula, the Way of St. James is especially important since, whether we like it or not, any route along the northern coast of the Iberian Peninsula will always run parallel to or will meet some of the historical routes of the Christian pilgrimage from Catalonia to Galicia.
As we do the first part of our trip, in the first coast to coast section from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, we will find two geographical points where the traditional Ways of St. James coming from France end, cross the mountain range, and start again with different names within the Iberian territory.
Somport harbour (Aragonese Pyrenees)
Point crossed by the Transpyrenean tour by mountain bike, which is also the entrance for the French Way of St. James, called Via Tolosana, or Arles Way, starting in Arles (France). From Somport, the way is called Aragonese Way, and will go towards Jaca, passing by Canfranc, another point of the Transpyrenean tour by mountain bike.
Roncesvalles (Pyrenees in Navarre)
The village of Roncesvalles, Orreaga in Basque, is a very small town which for centuries has been a natural crossing point to enter the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene where Charlemagne was defeated in the 8th century; and in the 10th century, it started to receive a massive number of pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela after a long trip around France.
The three routes of the Way that enter through Roncesvalles are the ones traditionally called Via Podiensis or way of Le Puy, starting near Lyon; Via Turonensis or way of Tours, starting in Paris; and Via Lemovicensis, starting in Vézelay and going through Limoges.
In Orreaga/Roncesvalles, these routes are unified in the route that is the most widely used today during Jacobean pilgrimages: the French Way.
For travellers who want to go along the northern perimeter of the Peninsula by mountain bike and, seizing the opportunity that is presented, want to be part of the social experience of contacting the pilgrims of St. James, I suggest getting a pilgrim credential at the collegiate church of Roncesvalles, spending one night there with pilgrims, and taking the Northern Route, also called Coastal Route, from Hondarribia or Irún when they get to Euskadi in their last stage of the Pyrenees tour.