In April 2022 I finally set off to walk the Camino Portugues from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, a trip which had been postponed from 2021 due to Covid.
This is my 14 day trip in brief – longer daily posts will follow so watch this space! Or, if you prefer, you can sign up to receive them straight to your inbox as soon as they’re published.
What is the Camino de Santiago?
The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, is a network of pilgrimage routes across Europe which end at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St James are said to be buried.
The most popular of all the Camino routes is the Camino Frances (French Way) which begins at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, and crosses the Pyrenees, before ending in Santiago around 500 miles later.
The Camino Portugues is now the second most popular route and, given that I live in Southern Spain, was the most obvious choice for me as it’s less than a 90-minute flight away.
What is the Camino Portugues?
The Camino Portugues officially runs from Lisbon to Santiago (a total of around 400 miles). However, like me, many people start in Porto.
There are actually three official routes on the Camino Portugues – the Caminho Central, the Caminho da Costa, and the Senda Litoral.
Caminho Central: The Central Route runs inland all the way from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.
Caminho da Costa: The Coastal route keeps predominantly to the coastline but does have some inland sections. At Redondela it joins the Central Route.
Senda Litoral: Similar to the Coastal Route, this path follows the river out of Porto and runs totally along the coastline before, again, merging with the Central Route at Redondela.
In addition, there’s a detour after Pontevedra which takes you towards the coast.
Variante Espiritual: The Spiritual Variant allows you to follow the journey made by boat by the remains of St James and picks up again with the Central Route at Padron.
Camino lingo you need to know before you go
It can seem that the Camino has its own language which can be daunting to first timers so, even before you take the first step on your Camino journey, you should get acquainted with the right terminology.
Albergue: These are hostels specifically for pilgrims. There are two types – Municipal and Private. Municipal albergues are the cheapest but are only for use by pilgrims so you’ll need to show your Credencial to stay in one. They can’t be booked in advance which is one reason so many pilgrims set off early each day. Private albergues are slightly more expensive but are open to anyone and can be booked in advance.
Bom Caminho/Buen Camino: This is the pilgrim’s greeting, and you’ll find yourself saying it a lot over the course of your journey. It simply means Good Way or Good Journey in Portuguese and Spanish.
Credencial: Also known as the Pilgrim Passport, this is the official document that shows you’re a pilgrim and entitles you to receive your Compostela at the end.
Compostela: This is the certificate that confirms that you’ve officially completed your pilgrimage. To be eligible to receive the Compostela pilgrims have to walk at least 100kms (or travel 200kms by bicycle).
Sello: These are the stamps you collect in your Credencial. You can get them in lots of places along the Camino including accommodation, bars and restaurants, tourist offices, and churches. For the last 100kms you must get two stamps per day to be able to receive your Compostela (this is especially important if you’re only walking the final 100kms).
Ultreia: Another pilgrim’s greeting it goes beyond a simple ‘Buen Camino’ offering encouragement to fellow pilgrims.
Although I opted to walk the Central Route of the Camino Portugues, I did make a few detours to get a sample of other trails. I left Porto on the Senda Litoral to experience some coastal terrain and also took the Spiritual Variant after leaving Pontevedra.
Along the way I kept a journal and will be publishing my daily entries soon but, in the meantime, here’s an overview of my 14 day walk from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.
Day 1: Porto to Vila Cha
The Camino Portugues from Porto officially starts at the way marker in front of the Cathedral so, at 9am, I set down my backpack for the obligatory ‘yes, I’m really about to do this’ photo. I’d visited the Cathedral the day before to buy my Credencial and a scallop shell to attach to my pack.
Scallop shells are the official symbols of the Camino de Santiago and, as well as hanging off the backpacks of just about every pilgrim you’ll meet, they’re also on walls, signs, and way markers, to keep you on the right path.
Today was 17.42 miles in total – perhaps a little long for a first day but at least it was mostly flat. While a lot of it was on boardwalks, I did get my first taste of what it was like to walk for extended periods on the infamous Portuguese cobblestones.
The day started off very overcast but the sun did come out early afternoon (albeit briefly) and, fortunately, the rain held off until five minutes after I’d arrived at Casa do Pinhal, my accommodation for the night. Talk about beginner’s luck!!
You can read about Day One in more detail here.
Day 2: Vila Cha to Sao Pedro de Rates
Thankfully the rain, which had been torrential all night, had stopped by the time I was ready to set off again on the next leg of my journey.
Today the plan was to walk a few miles along the coast to Vila do Conde before moving inland to follow the Central Route to Santiago. I was slightly worried about turning inland at this point as I’d read plenty of horror stories about the markers not being particularly good and it being easy to lose the path. I had my trusty guidebook, The Camino Portugues by Kat Davis, and thought I’d be ok but, what do you know, despite thinking I was following the instructions, I turned too early and had to open Google Maps to get me back on track. On the plus side, I got to see the aqueduct in Vila do Conde, soon picked up the right way and, thankfully, the rain held off and I even had sunshine for most of the day which was a shorter 12.31 miles.
You can read about Day Two in more detail here.
Day 3: Sao Pedro de Rates to Barcelos
Today was a much shorter walk of only 11 miles but most of those miles were on cobbles or stony ground so I was glad of my hiking poles today (the first time I’d needed to use them since I left Porto). Leaving Pedra Furada I spotted a sign for a detour, the Variante da Franqueira, and, knowing that I only had a short walking day planned, decided to follow the arrows and take the detour. Although it was very hilly I was glad I’d decided to take this route as, from the church at the top of the hill, I was rewarded with stunning views of the Portuguese countryside and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
Day three was also the day that my first blister appeared so, as soon as I arrived at Top’Otel in Barcelinos, my accommodation for the night, I got out the Compeed and prayed to the blister gods that this would be as bad as it got!
Walking a short distance today meant that I had plenty of time to explore Barcelos which is a lovely town, and home of one of the symbols of Portugal, the rooster.
You can read about Day Three in more detail here.
Day 4: Barcelos to Balugaes
A lot of pilgrims make the choice to combine days four and five and head straight through to Ponte de Lima but that adds up to a whopping 22+ miles. I’ll admit that I had considered it when I was in the planning stages of my Camino but I’m glad I saw sense, especially as I woke up to rain. Although it was just a bit of light drizzle when I set off, within ten minutes I had to stop to put my rain poncho on.
Apart from the rain it was a really lovely walk through the countryside – lots of vineyards but still lots of cobbles, and quite a lot of mud too. It was on my walk today, as I reached Tamel, that I bumped into a group of six Californian friends who I would later meet on numerous occasions along the way.
Today’s walk was 10.27 miles, and I was glad to see the blue door of Quinta da Cancela, my home for the night, right on the Camino path so I could dry off.
You can read about Day Four in more detail here.
Day 5: Balugaes to Ponte de Lima
After a huge meal at Quinta da Cancela last night, and an equally fantastic breakfast, today was a beautiful walk through vineyards and lush green countryside. At 12.16 miles, it was my favourite day so far even with all the cobbles. I must confess though, that I’m counting down the days until I reach Spain and sealed roads! Only two to go!
My feet were killing me by the time I reached Ponte de Lima but I still managed a hobble around the town to do some sightseeing. One of the things I like about walking fairly short distances is that it gives me more opportunity to explore my destination each day. It was the Freedom Day public holiday in Portugal, as well as market day in Ponte de Lima, so the town was buzzing with activity.
I wandered across the bridge to check out the statue of the Roman general on horseback on one side of the river and later took a walk to see his troops on the opposite bank.
You can read about Day Five in more details here.
Day 6: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
Although yesterday had been a beautiful sunny day, today the rain was back with a vengeance.
It was a tough walk today, not helped by the rain, as there was a really steep uphill section through a forest. The climb up Alto da Portela Grande is probably much more enjoyable in good weather but today I just wanted to get up, back down the other side, and to my accommodation for the night. The weather was so bad that there was no chance of even enjoying the view from the top.
After 11.04 miles I reached Casa das Lages to find I was the only person staying there. Happy days! With the weather still bad it was an afternoon for chilling out and doing some laundry (the joys of freshly washed and tumbled clothes at this stage can’t be underestimated) before heading out for a delicious pilgrim’s meal at Bom Retiro.
You can read about Day Six in more detail here.
Day 7: Rubiaes to Tui
13.23 miles today brought me back onto Spanish soil. The day started with some rain but it didn’t take long for the sun to come out creating perfect walking weather. At my first coffee stop of the morning I met the Californians so it was good to have a catch up with them.
A lot of the day was spent walking on quiet country paths until arriving in Valenca. The Camino cuts through the old fort, which was bustling with tourists, before crossing the bridge to Tui. Obviously I stopped halfway for another obligatory Camino photo of one foot in Portugal, one foot in Spain before heading to Hotel a Torre do Xudeu, my accommodation for the night and, again, right on the Camino route.
Don’t forget that Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal so, once you cross Ponte Internacional over the Minho river, you’re in a new time zone.
The afternoon was spent exploring Tui. If I was going to take any rest days this would have been the ideal place to stop for a day as I’d like to have had the opportunity to go back to Valenca and see some more of the fortress.
You can read about Day Seven in more detail here.
Day 8: Tui to O Porriño
I didn’t set off until almost 10am this morning as I wanted to go to Convento das Clarisas to buy some of the nuns’ homemade biscuits, and they didn’t open until 9.30am.
Luckily it was only a short day (10.30 miles) and I wasn’t in a hurry to get to my destination. It’s a pretty flat part of the Camino too and, although it was another grey start to the day, it didn’t take long before there were blue skies again.
Shortly after reaching the iconic mural at Orbenlle, the road splits in two – the quick route to O Porriño through an industrial area, or the ‘complementario’ route. I took the scenic path which, although a little longer, didn’t really add too much distance to what was one of the shortest days of my Camino.
You can read about Day Eight in more detail here.
Day 9: O Porriño to Redondela
Another short walk today of just 10.16 miles although there was a ridiculously steep hill to tackle. Thankfully, for once it was downhill although I did get my hiking poles out just in case I toppled over under the weight of my backpack and rolled all the way to the bottom.
The Camino has been getting busier since leaving Tui (as it’s where a lot of pilgrims who are only walking the final 100kms start) and, arriving in Redondela, it was busier still as this is where the Coastal route joins the Central route.
Redondela is a really pretty town so I had a good mooch around this afternoon, after a delicious lunch in 78 Gastrobar.
I’d been keen to visit ‘El Mejor Banco del Mundo’, a bench with an amazing view over the river and the iconic Ponte de Rande, but with over 100 miles covered in the last nine days I really couldn’t face another long walk to it – outstanding view or not!!
Full details of Day Nine coming soon!
Day 10: Redondela to Pontevedra
12.39 miles with some steep hills but the scenery made it all worthwhile. There was lots of forest walking today and even a few Galician pipers playing in the woods.
I stopped just after Arcade for breakfast with a view and then spent the afternoon exploring Pontevedra including a visit to the Church of the Pilgrim Virgin, Pontevedra’s iconic scallop shell shaped chapel.
Tonight I was booked to stay in a hostel dorm – the first time since my backpacking days in the mid-1990s! I wasn’t looking forward to it but hostels have come a long way in 25 years and the bunks in DPaso Urban Hostel were like little pods with privacy curtains and everything so it wasn’t as bad as I feared!
Full details of Day Ten coming soon!
Day 11: Pontevedra to Armenteira
Today was May Day so, in keeping with Galician tradition, everyone had decorated their doors, gates and cars with bunches of broom. I also came across a Maio festival where different families make a ‘maio’ – a pyramid shape covered in flowers.
While a lot of pilgrims walk from Pontevedra straight through to Caldas de Reis I’d decided to follow the Spiritual Variant route. Although it potentially adds a day to the time taken to reach Santiago, I’d decided that it was definitely a detour worth taking.
The walk from Pontevedra to Combarro was lovely but then it was all uphill. More than once on the long trek upwards I asked myself why I was doing it! At times I did wonder if the end was ever going to be in sight and I can honestly say I was feeling anything but spiritual by the time I reached the monastery at Armenteira!
Unfortunately, the monastery was fully booked but I’d already arranged fantastic accommodation at Casa Carballo de Prado 1900 – at 14.79 tough miles I’d never been so glad to get my walking shoes off at the end of the day.
Full details of Day Eleven coming soon!
Day 12: Armenteira to Vilanova de Arousa
After yesterday’s long uphill trek I was glad that today’s walk, although longer at 15.82 miles, was mostly downhill to the sea. The first few miles from Armenteira, along the Ruta de Pedra e da Agua (Route of Stone and Water) were probably the most beautiful part of the whole Camino so far.
Then it was into wine country with vines growing everywhere along the route. There were even bodegas offering wine tasting – it’s probably for the best that they were closed for business as I might never have reached Vilanova otherwise!
Nearing Vilanova I met up with Susan from New York, who I’d shared dinner with last night, and we walked the last few miles together. I think we were both starting to feel a bit footsore so we weren’t exactly in a hurry to reach our destination and the last part of our journey alongside the beach were slow but steady.
Full details of Day Twelve coming soon!
Day 13: Vilanova de Arousa to Cruces
Santiago was getting closer and today was a whopping 25.40 miles. 17.04 were by boat though to Pontecesures so only 8.36 on foot. The boat left at 7am – my earliest start of any day on the Camino so far, but to watch the sunrise along the way made up for me not really being an early bird.
From Pontecesures it was a short walk to Padron, where I had a wander round the town, visited the Cathedral for a sello, and then called in to the Tourist Office to pick up my ‘Pedronia’. This is a certificate given out by the Town Council in Padron to show that I’d followed the route to where St James’ body was brought before continuing to Santiago.
I then had a short walk to Cruces where I was staying the night to give me a shorter day’s walk into Santiago. The walk wasn’t particularly inspiring with parts of it on, or close to, busy roads and I was glad to get to Camino da Vieira, my accommodation for the night.
Only about 11 miles to cover tomorrow then I can put my feet up!
Full details of Day Thirteen coming soon!
Day 14: Cruces to Santiago de Compostela
This was it. After 11.40 miles of fairly easy walking I was finally standing in Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I arrived (I’d heard of far too many people who said they just felt underwhelmed) so I was more than a bit surprised that I actually started crying.
After accosting a random man to take my photo I threw my backpack on the ground, and just sat in the sun taking in the atmosphere.
After 14 days and 170 miles of walking I’d made it – and with only one tiny blister! Time to pick up my Compostela (thankfully I’d registered online so it took only five minutes to collect) and then it was time to celebrate.
Full details of Day Fourteen coming soon!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this – my daily updates will be coming soon so watch this space or, even better, sign up below to receive them directly to your inbox.
Bom Caminho/Buen Camino
Follow my Camino Portugues adventure:
Day 1 – Porto to Vila Chã
Day 2 – Vila Chã to São Pedro de Rates
Day 3 – São Pedro de Rates to Barcelos
Day 4 – Barcelos to Balugães
Day 5 – Balugães to Ponte de Lima
Day 6 – Ponte de Lima to Rubiães
Day 7 – Rubiães to Tui
Day 8 – Tui to O Porriño
Day 9 – O Porriño to Redondela (coming soon)
Day 10 – Redondela to Pontevedra (coming soon)
Day 11 – Pontevedra to Armenteira (coming soon)
Day 12 – Armenteira to Vilanova de Arousa (coming soon)
Day 13 – Vilanova de Arousa to Cruces (coming soon)
Day 14 – Cruces to Santiago de Compostela (coming soon)
Why not pin me for later?