The Portuguese Camino is the second most popular Camino de Santiago route and one that continues to attract pilgrims year after year. Well serviced and well waymarked, it is less physically challenging than other routes and boasts some truly fascinating
features. Here are just a few:
CaminoByTheWay’s Portuguese Camino itinerary begins in the Portuguese town of Valença do Minho. This allows you to not only follow the yellow arrows through the town’s magnificent fortress with its stunning views towards Spain, but also enjoy the experience of crossing the famous International Bridge across the River Minho marking the frontier between Portugal and Spain. This, then, is one of those rare occasions on the Camino when you get to cross an international border, the other being the Pyrenean crossing from France into Spain over 800 kilometers away to the east.
A Glimpse Into Everyday Galician Life
While sometimes it’s great to find yourself in remote and wild environments, other times you want to see a locale in all its authenticity, to understand how local people live, to find out what they do with their time or how they make a living. Walking through southern Galicia gives you an appreciation of all these things. Sweeping backroads and narrow lanes take you through towns and villages and neighborhoods clustered upon slopes or nestled in valleys, communities of terraced cropfields and vine groves and busy workshops, ordinary people going about their business, creating a true and vibrant sense of the Galician everyday.
The Portuguese Camino is a fascinating blend of old and new. Mixed in with the features of modern life—roads, newly built dwellings, agricultural and industrial machinery—are stunning remnants of the region’s rich historic past. Tui, Pontevedra, Redondela—these are towns with vibrant medieval quarters that are perfect for kicking back or exploring during your post-walking afternoons.
Padrón—The Return Of The Apostle
This town along the Portuguese Way, the last stop before Santiago de Compostela, plays a hugely important role in the history of the Camino. Firstly, according to tradition, it was here that the Apostle James first preached during his time in Hispania. Secondly, after James’ death in 44AD, his disciples brought his body back from Jerusalem by boat and landed ashore here before taking the Apostle’s remains to Campus Stellae (Compostela) to be buried. Choosing the Portuguese Camino, then, has the added attraction of retracing the disciples’ original journey as they transported Saint James to his final resting place.
The Vigo Estuary—A Faithful Companion
The sea is never far away on the Portuguese Camino. You’re basically walking through valleys all pointing towards the famous network of biologically rich (check out the local seafood if you don’t believe me!) estuaries known as the Rias Baixas. The first of these, the Vigo Estuary, comes into view on Day Two as you approach Redondela, which is actually where the inland and coastal routes of the Portuguese Caminos converge. From Redondela to Arcade, the still waters of the estuary stretch out on your left. Arcade, located deep within the Vigo Estuary, is a place where you can bathe your feet after a long day’s walking.
This Neck of the Woods
Galicia is the green corner of the Iberian Peninsula. In terms of walking, the asphalt sections of the Portuguese Camino are regularly softened by swathes of distinct riparian forest— that is, forests adjacent to bodies of water such as rivers, streams or lakes. Not long after Tui, for example, you enter a peaceful forest of oaks, beech and pines, and keep following a beautiful dirt trail that winds alongside the quiet Louro River. Another fine example: Between Arcade and Pontevedra, there is an extended stretch of native woodland crisscrossed with stone footbridges and mudtracks lined with wild herbs and flowers.
Remember, these are just tasters. The Portuguese Camino has a lot more fascinating characteristics of its own, yet to be discovered by you. For anyone who has already walked the French Camino and is looking for an alternative passage to Santiago, then look no further than the Portuguese route. For those who want to try something a little different for their first Camino adventure, it might just be the trail for you.