The Cami dels Bons Homes is a historic trail that spans across three countries, Spain, Andorra, and France. We embarked on a five day Pyrenees hiking adventure on the Cami dels Bons Homes trail. It was one of the most incredible travel experiences we’ve had to date.
We hiked the trail from its northern most point in Catalonia Spain down south to its conclusion in the town of Berga. We excluded the French side of the trail due to time constraints.
For questions and information on the hike from its genesis at Montsegur in France check out the official Cami dels Bons Homes website and feel free to send any questions their way.
What is Hiking the Cami dels Bons Homes Like?
The Cami dels Bons Homes trek in Spain is akin to hiking in the footprints of the past.
A narrow dirt path winds up along the side of the valley, bending and switchbacking through darkened forest as we leave the green pastures of Gosol behind us. We have been following this trail for hours since the early morning and are still far from our destination. The wood is alive with the chirp of birdsong, windsong, and rustling foliage. We spot what we think are packs of deer from time to time and watch them jump and prance between trees. They move in and out of shafts of flitted sunlight that the forest’s canopy has allowed to pass. We stop still in our tracks, holding our breaths as the deer race by, unwilling to break the magic of the moment with the slightest sound.
Unlike the men, women, and children who used this path to escape torture and death almost a thousand years ago, we have the luxury of taking our time. We, fortunately, are not on the run from a murderous and oppressive regime.
We climb higher through the fern, wild flowers, and moss; the trees begin to thin and wide swaths of sun rays hit the forest floor as the path levels out.
Soon the woods are behind us and we emerge into a stunning mountain pass. Fields of green grass dance in the wind before us, as another valley stretches out in the horizon. Dropping our packs to the ground we inhale deeply and take in the panoramic views with wide eyes.
We try to imagine what the Cathari men and women who followed these paths eight hundred years before us when they emerged from the forest in this very spot.
Were they as amazed? Did they have the time to marvel at the beauty of existence, right then and there, as we did? Were there tears in their eyes due to the sharp wind, like there were in ours? Or were their tears those of pain, sorrow, and loss? Were they hungry, tired, and afraid; fleeing from the ever encroaching Inquisition that would one day destroy them all?
The Cathars and the History of the Cami dels Bons Homes
If want to skip straight to our hiking experiences, head to the bottom of the page and click on page 2.
In the 13th century, the Catholic Church waged war against those they considered to be heathens. This included anyone who did not submit to the established doctrine of “proper” worship.
The Cathars were one such people denounced as heretics. Their beliefs did not align directly with the wishes of the Holy See, and thus they were excommunicated, hunted, and killed in brutal and grotesque fashion.
Indeed the Cathari were unique, as their brand of worship included a rejection of capital punishment and of war in general. They believed murder and killing to be abhorrent. Likewise, they did not eat meat or anything they thought was the product of reproduction. This included, of course, anything derived of animal products. This essentially made them the earliest “vegans” in the history of mankind. Note: the Cathars did eat fish, but only because they thought fish were “fruit” of the ocean and not animals.
They were also feminists. The Cathars believed in a complex system of reincarnation where souls kept returning to new human bodies until they attained perfection. So, they considered gender meaningless, giving women equal rights within the Cathari hierarchy.
Such drastically divergent dogma had to be eliminated. So, the Holy See ordered the King of France, Philip Augustus, to deal with the heretic Cathari living in the southern reaches of his country. Philip was not in a hurry to lead a crusade himself. Nor could he send his son Louis in his stead as the Prince was busy fighting enemies to the north. Eventually, he reluctantly discharged the task to some of his earls and barons, the most notable of whom was Simon de Montfort.
Simon was a proper arsehole. He carried out his duty with extreme zeal. He was driven by righteous religious fanaticism and by a decree from the Pope that any lands seized from the Cathars or any of their supporters’s possessions could be confiscated and given to the leaders of the newly formed Crusade. This decree was met with anger by many southern French lords, and led to a twenty year civil war of sorts, known as the Albigensian Crusade.
Ultimately, the tide of the war turned against the south and the Cathars. The Cathars which were not slain (after being tortured using a wide assortment of sordid and brutal methods) were instead driven out of France.
Many survivors, hunted by the Inquisition, fled south from France through the Pyrenees mountains into Catalonin. The paths they took are now known as the Cami dels Bons Homes.
Nowadays the Cami dels Bons Homes, or The Path of the Good Men, is home to markedly more serene scene. It winds through France to Catalonia some 200 kilometers by way of the Pyrenees mountain range. The trail is a cornucopia of beautiful views, idyllic meadows, and stunning valleys.
The hike is not exactly easy. At its most difficult sections can be challenging to those not used to such endeavors. That said, we are not expert hikers. However, even though we carried a bit too much gear we still managed to reach our destinations with plenty of daylight left to spare.
The Cami trail is marked as “GR 107” on maps of the region. The trail markers are horizontal white and red blazes (shown above).
Here is a day-by-day breakdown of our experiences hiking the Cami dels Bons Homes!