Cycling is an ecological and sporty way to get around that allows you to get to Santiago de Compostela more quickly than on foot: which can be valuable if you have limited time. For these reasons, more than 20,000 cyclists (or 6% of pilgrims) arrive by bike in Compostelaevery year.
Until now, two routes have been developed: the “V41 – Saint-Jacques by bike via Tours”, on the Tours route, from Chartres to Tours; and the Scandibérique (French part of EuroVélo 3, route linking Trondheim, in Norway, to Santiago de Compostela) via Tours. A third route has just been marked and equipped, on the Via lemovicensisnamed “V56 – Saint-Jacques by bike, via Vézelay”.
Escape on our doorstep
This route, which connects Vézelay (Yonne) to Limoges (Haute-Vienne), extends over 432 kilometerscrosses 3 regions (Bourgogne-Franche Comté, Centre-Val-de-Loire, Nouvelle Aquitaine) and 6 departments (Yonne, Nièvre, Cher, Indre, Creuse, Haute-Vienne). It can be covered by bike in 8 to 10 days.
“It is connected to seven national or European cycle routes, in particular to routes in Northern Europe, explains Lara Lebrec, responsible for tourism development at the French Agency for Chemins de Compostela.” Furthermore, you can get to Vézelay in less than two hours by train from Paris; and six stations line the V56, allowing you to reach it not only at Sermizelles/Vézelay, but also at Avallon (Yonne), Auxerre (Yonne), Flez-Cluzy/Tannay (Nièvre), La Charité-sur-Loire (Nièvre) and Nevers (Nièvre).
After Limoges, cyclists reach Périgueux then cross the Landes forest and arrive at Gibraltar, a crossroads between the routes of Tours, Puy-en-Velay and Vézelay. Then head to Spain!
A suitable hospitality chain
Last asset of this route (and not the least): the numerous “Accueil vélo” points, a national brand guaranteeing quality reception and services along the cycle routes. This label can indicate accommodation, a cycle rental company, a restaurateur, a tourist office or a site to visit. “Although this cycle route is still brand new, comments a manager of the Noblat SPL / Terres de Limousin tourist office, we are relying on this cycle route to begin work to qualify the accommodation offer by deploying the charter Haute-Vienne departmental “Accueil hiking” and the national label “Accueil vélo”.”
All this work accomplished by local communities is not always visible to the pilgrim who crosses these territories. But his journey is made considerably easier! This is what Brunaud Devillard, a member of the AF3V association (French Association for the Development of Cycle Routes and Greenways), notes, who, having already cycled to Santiago de Compostela by various routes, wanted to discover this route. “It is not particularly difficult,” he comments, “and I really enjoyed it. I particularly liked: the varied landscapes (forests, pastures, crops); the heritage, particularly religious, of the smallest church to the largest abbey; and the tranquility of this route, which leads off the tourist trails. The downside of this tranquility is that outside the towns, there are few lively places. But it is also what the pilgrim comes to seek on these paths! Also note: this route is hilly, with sometimes steep slopes (greater than 4%), except between La Charité-sur-Loire and La Châtre where it is almost flat. ” It is therefore advisable to train before leaving!
- THE map guide V56 (maps at a scale of 1:100,000), published by the French Agence des chemins de Compostela, is available free of charge in all tourist offices along the route and in digital version.
- Brunaud Devillard’s blog