A pilgrim bench on the Camino Portugues pointing in the direction of Santiago de Compostela

Cruces to Santiago de Compostela. Day Fourteen on the Camino Portugues

This was it – day fourteen on the Camino Portugues and the day I would finally reach Santiago de Compostela, after 170 miles of walking, one short boat ride, and only one tiny blister!

Map of day fourteen on the Camino Portugues between Cruces and Santiago de Compostela

Day Fourteen: Cruces to Santiago de Compostela
Date: Wednesday 4 May 2022
Start Point: Camiño da Vieira
End Point: Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela
Distance Walked: 11.40 miles
Time Taken: 3 hours 53 minutes (including rest stops)
Step Count: 26,918
Weather: Sunny

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Leaving Cruces

I was up early for breakfast ready to hit the road and left the hostel around 8am with a spring in my step. I still couldn’t believe that I was so close to fulfilling my goal.

A sunlit meadow on the Camino Portugues between Cruces and Santiago de Compostela

For much of the early part of the day the road from Cruces to Santiago was a combination of quiet paths through small hamlets and shady forest paths with the occasional foray on, or close to, the N550 motorway.

Spring flowers growing underneath grape vines on the Camino Portugues between Cruces and Santiago de Compostela

I didn’t see very many other pilgrims on the road until I reached the small town of O Milladoiro. This is the last ‘big’ town before reaching Santiago de Compostela and a lot of pilgrims stay here so that they have a nice and easy end to their Camino.

A camino way marker showing less than 10 kms to Santiago do Compostela
Less than 10 kms to Santiago!

Shortly after O MIlladoiro there’s a choice of arrows to follow. I took the path to the right which, ultimately, took me through some woodland paths and through the sleepy parish of Conxo.

Hospital de Conxo

Considering how close I was now getting to Santiago, there still weren’t many other pilgrims around. In fact, as I passed through Conxo I didn’t see another person on the streets at all. Maybe they’d all taken the other path to Santiago.

A dog looking out of a window on the Camino Portugues

Passing through woodland as Santiago got ever closer I started to notice a lot of trees had face masks and sheets of toilet paper hanging from the branches. I have no idea what the significance of that was. Perhaps as Spain had only just lifted the requirement to wear masks in public at the end of April it was an act of rebellion against that. Who knows?

Reaching Santiago de Compostela

As I approached Santiago through the suburbs it began to get busier and, as I walked up a hill lined each side with shops, would you believe, I’d lost the arrows! Thankfully Google Maps got me back on track and, as I got closer to my destination the number of pilgrims also increased.

Street art on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela
Street art on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela

By now I was walking through Santiago’s old town which was buzzing with activity – tourists browsed the souvenir stalls lining the streets, and fellow pilgrims were making their last few steps before the end of the road.

I did it!

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 was surprised at just how quiet it seemed but, looking at my watch, it was just a few minutes before noon so they were probably all in the Cathedral for the Pilgrim Mass.

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 at how emotional I found it all as the tears started to flow.

I asked someone to take the obligatory photo in front of the Cathedral and then took my backpack off and sat in the sun, admiring the impressive building, and soaking up the atmosphere.

Backpack in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

As I sat there more and more pilgrims began arriving in the square as, of course, it’s not just the Camino Portugues that ends in Santiago de Compostela so it was soon filling up with those who’d completed the other routes of the Camino de Santiago.

I was booked to stay in Hospedaria San Martin Pinario where I had a pilgrim room in the ancient building with quite a view! I was keen to shower and change and get back out as, for most pilgrims, the journey isn’t over until you’ve picked up your Compostela.

View from pilgrim's bedroom in Hospederia San Martin Pinario in Santiago de Compostela

You can read about all my accommodation choices on the Central Route of the Camino Portugues here.

After treating myself to lunch, I spent the afternoon and evening exploring Santiago. It’s a very busy, touristy city and it was a shock to the system to be surrounded by so many people after two weeks of walking practically solo but I loved it.

I had a few days before my flight home so I was excited about exploring the area and possibly continuing my walk to Muxia and Finisterre.

New blog posts coming soon – ‘things to see and do in Santiago de Compostela’ and ‘walking from Muxia to Finisterre’.   

Things to do after your Camino

There’s a lot to see and do in Santiago de Compostela but, as a pilgrim, these are the most important.

Get the Compostela

The Compostela is the certificate that confirms that you’ve officially completed your pilgrimage for spiritual or religious reasons. If you haven’t walked for either of those reasons you’ll get a Welcome Certificate instead.

To get the certificate you have to show that you’ve walked at least the last 100kms (or travelled 200kms by bicycle) which is why collecting the stamps in your credencial along the way is so important.

The certificates are issued by the Pilgrim’s Office which is located close to the cathedral on Rua das Carretas.

The Pilgrim’s Office is open every day (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) from 9am until 7pm.

The Compostela is written in Latin and, in keeping with the tradition, the pilgrim’s name is translated to Latin too.

The compostela certificate

The Compostela is free but, for €3 you can also request a Certificate of Distance to show how far you’ve walked, and from where.

The certificate of distance for the Camino Portugues

Instructions for getting the Compostela

There have been changes to the way pilgrims receive their Compostela – partly due to the increased number of walkers arriving in Santiago, and also as a response to Covid – and the system has now been streamlined to avoid big queues.

  • You can register in advance which will give you a QR code.
  • Once at the pilgrim’s office you will need to present the QR code for entry to the office. If you haven’t registered in advance it’s not a problem as you can do it when you arrive.
  • You then collect a ticket with another QR code – this is your line number. You can scan this to see how far you are from the front of the queue and how long you have to wait.
  • Once your number is called you will need to show your credencial with all your sellos at which point you can collect your Compostela.

Pay your respects to St James for and thank him for keeping you safe on your journey

There are two ways of doing this in the cathedral. Firstly by taking the steps under the altar to visit his tomb. This small crypt contains the bones of St James and is accessed by a narrow staircase opposite the Holy Doors.

The second way is by heading up the steps behind the altar where this is a small statue – pilgrims can choose to either place a hand on him or embrace him from behind.

The botafumeiro in front of the altar in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
St James on the cathedral altar with the botafumeiro in front

When I reached Santiago it wasn’t possible to do this as there were still lots of Covid restrictions in place in Spain, but I’ve been reliably informed that this tradition is now back on the table so, on my next Camino, I’ll definitely be paying St James a visit.

Attend pilgrim mass

There are special Pilgrim Masses four times a day (at 7.30am, 9.30am, 12 noon, and 7.30pm).

I attended the 7.30pm mass and, as 2022 was a Holy Year I was able to enter the Cathedral through the Holy Doors.

A Holy Year occurs whenever Saint James Day (July 25) falls on a Sunday. This only takes place every few years and, due to leap years, they only happen 14 times each century.

One of the things that most pilgrims want to witness when they come to Mass is the swinging of the ‘botafumeiro’ (incense burner). The botafumeiro in Santiago is one of the largest in the world and operates only on special occasions, unless you’re prepared to pay to see it. The official website of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has a list of all the dates that you can witness the swinging of the botafumeiro plus the information you need if you wish to request it outside of these dates.

As I’d gone to the Cathedral well ahead of the start of the Pilgrim Mass I was able to get a good seat on the second row. I was surrounded by a school group who were singing during Mass, and whose teacher was giving one of the lessons.

I’m guessing it was thanks to this school group that the botafumeiro was swinging and it was an amazing spectacle.

It’s worth noting that, if you arrive in Santiago and plan to go straight to mass, you won’t be allowed in with your backpack.

Today’s Credencial Sellos

Just the three sellos today including the most important of all from the pilgrim’s office.

Camino sello from day fourteen on the Camino Portugues from Cruces to Santiago de Compostela
Cruceiro de Francos
Camino sello from day fourteen on the Camino Portugues from Cruces to Santiago de Compostela
Hospederia San Martin Pinario
Camino sello from day fourteen on the Camino Portugues from Cruces to Santiago de Compostela
Pilgrim’s office

Highlights of Day Fourteen

There were definitely two high points today – firstly, arriving in Plaza Obradoiro in once piece, and secondly, witnessing the botafumeiro in action.

Preparing the botafumeiro at the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela

Lowlights of Day Fourteen

It’s impossible to have any lowlights on the day that I reached Santiago! However, I must admit to feeling a little sad that real life was on the horizon. There’s definitely something to be said for just getting up every morning and walking with nothing else to worry about, particularly when the scenery is as stunning as that on the Camino Portugues.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this – this is the last of my daily updates (until the next time the Camino calls!) but I’ve got lots more posts in the pipeline (both Camino and non-Camino) so why not sign up below to receive them directly to your inbox.

Bom Caminho/Buen Camino

Follow my Camino Portugués 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
Day 10 – Redondela to Pontevedra
Day 11 – Pontevedra to Armenteira
Day 12 – Armenteira to Vilanova de Arousa
Day 13 – Vilanova de Arousa to Cruces
Day 14 – Cruces to Santiago de Compostela

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A detailed report of day fourteen of my Camino Portugues experience from Cruces to Santiago de Compostela

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