A way marker on the Variante Espiritual of the Camino Portugues

Pontevedra to Armenteira. Day Eleven on the Camino Portugues

Day eleven on the Camino Portugues took me from Pontevedra to Armenteira. Most pilgrims head to Caldas de Reis when they leave Pontevedra, but I’d decided to take a detour and walk the Variante Espiritual (Spiritual Variant) which would add an extra day to my journey but would give me the experience of a boat ride following the route that the body of St James took to Padron.

Map of day eleven on the Camino Portugues between Pontevedra and Armenteira

Day Eleven: Pontevedra to Armenteira
Date: Sunday 1 May 2022
Start Point: DPaso Urban Hostel
End Point: Carballo de Prado 1900
Distance Walked: 14.79 miles
Time Taken: 6 hours 49 minutes (including rest stops)
Step Count:
41,713
Weather: Mostly cloudy

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It was a strange experience waking up in a dorm but the way the bunks had been built and the fact that they had privacy curtains meant that it hadn’t been quite the awful experience I’d been dreading! In fact, I slept really well and just hope I didn’t snore and keep any of my fellow roommates awake!

Leaving Pontevedra

Yet again I was staying right on the Camino so it was another ‘straight up and at’em’ day. The weather wasn’t great (overcast but thankfully dry) so I headed straight out and was on the way by 8.30am.

The way out of Pontevedra goes through the city’s historic centre so I passed many of the sights that I’d seen yesterday when exploring – although without the crowds and the sunshine it looked very different.

Empty streets of Pontevedra

Before you cross the Puente del Burgo, another medieval bridge which spans the Rio Lerez, look out for the scallop shells carved into the arches over the water. In my eagerness to get going I didn’t spot these – something to look out for next time!

As I walked out of the city I noticed that most houses I passed had front doors, gates and even cars, that had been decorated with vibrant yellow bunches of broom. This is a Galician tradition where, on the night of 30th April, the broom is hung in place so that May will protect the house and everyone who lives in it.  

Bunch of broom hanging on a front door in Pontevedra

Taking the Variante Espiritual

There were quite a few pilgrims on the road at the same time as me this morning but, at the junction for the Spiritual Variant about two miles after leaving Pontevedra, I was the only one to turn left while everyone else continued straight ahead on the road to Caldas de Reis.  

The turn off for the Variante Espiritual is well signposted with a large information board outlining the stages of the route and points of interest along the way.

Information board for the Variante Espiritual alternative route from Pontevedra on the Camino Portugues

I was looking forward to taking this road less travelled but knew that it was highly unlikely I’d see any of the pilgrims I’d met earlier in the week again, as none of them were taking this route and would get to Santiago a day earlier than I would.

When the path splits from the main route it’s mostly uphill before eventually reaching the Igrexa de San Pedro in Campaño. I actually heard the church well before I saw it as the bells were ringing out constantly for quite a long time.

Church of San Pedro in Campano on the Variante Espiritual of the Camino Portugues

From here it was an easy two mile walk down to Monasterio de San Xoan in Poio.

Poio Monastery on the Variante Espiritual of the Camino Portugues

The monastery at Poio was founded in the 10th century and is renowned for it mosaics including one representing the Camino Frances that is 80 metres long and made with one million individual pieces.

Mosaic frescos at Poio Monastery on the Variante Espiritual of the Camino Portugues

Unfortunately, the monastery is closed on Sunday mornings so I wasn’t able to go in for a look around the grounds but the adjoining church was open to visitors.

Church interior in Poio

Opening times for the monastery are:
Monday to Saturday – 10am to 1.30pm and 4.30pm to 8pm
Sundays and Public Holidays – 4.30pm to 8pm

By now food was on my mind so I set off to find a breakfast stop and just down the hill from the monastery I found Bar Castro where I enjoyed coffee, croissants and an orange juice. As with many bars along the way the quality is high but the prices are low and this was no exception. I even got two small pre-packaged cakes on the side of my plate which I gratefully stuck in my backpack for later.  

Back on the road and I came across a Maio festival, another tradition of Galician Spain. Celtic in origin, it celebrates the appearance of the first spring flowers and the arrival of good weather in Galicia.

In an area next to the estuary families had gathered to display their ‘Maio’ – a pyramid structure elaborately decorated and covered in flowers.

Traditional Maio in Poio in Galicia
Traditional Maio in Poio in Galicia
Traditional Maio in Poio in Galicia

A rest stop in Combarro

Walking along the estuary towards Combarro I could see even more of the traditional horreos right on the edge of the estuary facing the sea.

Horreos on the water's edge in Combarro
Horreo on the water's edge in Combarro

On the day I walked the tide was right out and the sky was grey but, once I arrived in the town I could tell that the weather hadn’t put off the hordes of tourists who were crowding the tiny streets.

The old fishermen’s houses on the streets closest to the water are now a mix of restaurants and souvenir shops and were full of holidaymakers. I’d been looking forward to exploring the myriad of little streets that make up the town but narrow streets plus crowds plus me wearing a backpack didn’t make for a good experience so I decided to abandon my sightseeing and just head on to Armenteira.

Narrow street decorated with flower pots in Combarro

According to my guidebook, and the research I’d done online, I was in for a steep climb so wasn’t particularly looking forward to this next part of my day.

There are no services between Combarro and Armenteira so make sure you have enough water with you before you leave.

In hindsight, and if time was not an issue, I would have stayed overnight in Combarro so that I could spend some time exploring the town properly and then tackle the climb to Armenteira fresh after a good night’s sleep. However, as we all know, hindsight is a wonderful thing so it was a case of onwards and upwards once more.

The guidebook was right, leaving Combarro the way was all uphill and those hills were steep!!

The long uphill road from Combarro to Armenteira on the Variante Espiritual

The weather was pretty miserable with heavy cloud cover so the views looking back over the town and river weren’t the best but I still made sure to take plenty of stops to admire the view and get my breath back!

Reaching the Miradouro do Loureiro there’s also another Variante Espiritual information board which proclaims ‘5km to Armenteira’. That didn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong!

Way marker on the Variante Espiritual between Combarro and Armenteira

Once past this sign the Camino goes through forests – up and up and up! It’s not as steep as the road out of Combarro but it seemed never-ending and there was barely another soul in sight. Maybe I should have just carried on straight to Caldas de Reis!

Forest path on the climb from Combarro to Armenteira on the Camino Portugues

Finally I reached the high point and stopped to take a breather. It was at this point, while I was sitting contemplating how much further I had to walk, that I saw another pilgrim on her way up the hill.

I must have looked pretty unhappy at this point as she stopped to check I was okay and we chatted for a while. Her name was Florian and she was undoubtedly my Camino angel that day – cheering me up when I needed it most.

My morale boosted I was ready to tackle the rest of the route. Of course, what goes up must come down, and it was now downhill all the way to Armenteira. While the way up had been on sealed roads or forest paths, the road on the way down wasn’t so forgiving and the last stretch was on a steep and rocky path.

Rocky path on the Camino Portugues near Armenteira
Carved stone on the Camino Portugues near Armenteira

Reaching Armenteira

Finally, I arrived in Armenteira where the path comes out at the Monastery.

Accommodation is fairly limited in Armenteira, although there is an albergue. I had been hoping to stay at the monastery but, when I’d tried to make a booking about six weeks in advance, it was already fully booked.

If you do want to stay in the pilgrim’s lodgings at the monastery it’s no longer possible to make bookings and is a case of first come first served. You can find out more information including prices on their website.

Instead I’d booked a room at Carballo de Prado 1900. It’s a few miles outside of the village but the owner, Carlos, picks you up from the monastery in his funky little Renault 4 and drops you back again the next morning. He’s also happy to take you to the monastery if you want to attend the Pilgrim’s Mass which takes place at 7.30pm each day.

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

I called Carlos as soon as I arrived in Armenteira and, while I was waiting for him, had a quick look around the grounds of the monastery. My feet were tired though so a proper visit could wait until the morning before I set off on day twelve.

The monastery at Armenteira

I checked in to my accommodation for the night and was given a lovely room with beautiful views across the Galician countryside. At almost 15 miles walked today I’d never been so glad to get my walking shoes off. After a well-deserved hot shower and a siesta, it was time for food.

There were only four guests the night I stayed there – a German couple who I’d met as I arrived at the monastery in Armenteira, and Susan, a solo pilgrim from New York.

I ate dinner with Susan and over plates of delicious home cooked food (I had a huge tortilla with salad – they definitely appreciate that walking gives you an appetite) we swapped stories and chatted about pilgrim life, with Susan having previously walked the Camino Frances.

Day twelve was shaping up to be another long day and, after the climb from Combarro, I think everyone was ready for an early night!

Today’s Credencial Sellos

Today I received my favourite sello of the Camino – a wax seal from Carballo de Prado 1900.

Foolishly I didn’t take a photo of it straightaway (or a video of Carlos preparing it) and by the time I got home my credencial was looking a bit dog eared and the sello was nothing more than a wax stain on my credencial. Note to self for future caminos, take photos of unusual cellos at the time just in case!

Camino sello from day eleven on the Camino Portugues from Pontevedra to Armenteira on the Variante Espiritual
Bar Castro
Camino sello from day eleven on the Camino Portugues from Pontevedra to Armenteira on the Variante Espiritual
What remains of my wax sello from Carballo de Prado 1900

Highlights of Day Eleven

I loved the May Day festivities that I saw between Poio and Combarro as it’s always fascinating to see the way other countries celebrate holidays.

Lowlights of Day Eleven

It has to be the climb out of Combarro to Armenteira. More than once on the long trek upwards I asked myself why I was doing it as it seemed the end was never in sight.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this – more 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 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 eleven of my Camino Portugues experience from Pontevedra to Armenteira on the Variante Espiritual

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