Absolutely everything you need to know
about hiking the Camino de Santiago through Portugal.
The Camino Portuguese is part of the Camino de Santiago network of trails leading to the Apostle James’ tomb. As the name indicates, the Camino Portuguese begins in Portugal, but of the many routes created it was the Royal Way through Porto, Barcelos and Valença that was the most important, as from that path stem all the Portuguese routes. The Camino Portuguese is the second most popular Camino trail after Camino Francés.
There are many roads to Santiago, beginning either in Lisbon, Algarve or inland Portugal. The ways shown in this post are those with the greatest number of pilgrims, that are well signposted and have the support of the albergues. Although part of the Portuguese Caminos, the other ways are more difficult, for they are not always signposted and there are few albergues. The Camino Portuguese, however, is achieved by walking, so when the time comes for you to choose your departure point, make what is the right decision for you.
The route now known as the Central Way originated in the Royal road, which was the most used road since the 14th century. Some famous walkers include Queen Santa Isabel, King D. Manuel I,Baron Leon Rosmithal (from the Kingdom of Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic) and most probably Saint Francis of Assisi, to name just a few.
The construction of Barcelos bridge and the remodeling of the Ponte de Lima bridge played a decisive role in drawing the route, which avoided the detour via Braga, and having to cross the more dangerous rivers by barge.
The population also used this route to travel between Minho and Douro, for it was faster and safer. All manner of people travelled this Camino, from pilgrims and travelers to traders and market sellers, but also bandits and smugglers. It also served as the setting for military campaigns, such as the Ordenancas Companies, and during the I French invasions in the time of Napoleon.
The stability engendered by the regeneration and the inauguration of the railway lines dictated the end of the old Royal road, as new routes were built on the orders of Fontes Pereira de Melo. In 1850 a new road was built as far as Viana, linking it to Caminha and Valenca. Another road was also built from Braga to Porte de Lima. With these alterations Barcelos and Porte de Lima were no longer mandatory resting places and Viana became the more common route. The Ponte de Lima > Vadenca stretch was quickly forgotten and time has gradually erased the signs of this way.
In the 1980s, as the Ways to Santiago became increasingly popular, new signage was created and the albergues or pilgrim hostels appeared, so this route was again discovered. It was only in 1993, however, that the first guide to the Camino Portuguese was published and with it new Signage that again placed thousands of pilgrims on the Way. With that, the Caminos were improved and the first stretch between Ponte de Lima and Valenka was repaired.
The pilgrims’ associations are hugely important for they have focused on developing the Camino which at this time was becoming a fact of life in Portugal. In 2006 the last arrow on the Lisbon – Coimbra stage was placed, opening the international Camino linking Lisbon to Santiago.
The Camino belongs to all the pilgrims and must be preserved. Above all, the Camino must be traveled, for you too are part of this Camino.
Lisbon is one of the most immediately likable capitals in Europe. Located on the westernmost front of Continental Europe, its mosaic of terracotta roofed buildings cling both majestically and humbly to its seven hills. The Tejo River sweeps past the many character-rich districts which border it, carrying boats big and small and is straddled by two impressive bridges. Some ultra modern skyscrapers rise starkly out of the generally more low rise and higgledy-piggledy layout of buildings, reminding us that Lisboa is indeed a modern city. However, what makes it attractive is the fact that, despite being very much a multicultural 21st century metropolis, Lisbon retains a foot in the past and a remarkably provincial feel. Small markets still abound, frequented by traditionally dressed women bearing their load on their head, wood-interiored trams still rattle up unfeasibly steep slopes and people from all walks of life chatter in unpretentious local bars and cafes.
In 1755 a massive earthquake, and subsequent tidal wave and fire, killed 40,000 and completely destroyed much of the lower central districts occasioning its rebuilding under the wise instruction of the then prime minister the Marquês de Pombal. Although considered wildly over the top in an era with few motor vehicles, his visionary plans are responsible for the broad avenues that carry today’s heavy traffic up through the city and the grid-like layout of the Baixa. The statue of this revered man gazes down at his remarkable work from a column, high above the square bearing his name in the centre of the city: now a very busy roundabout.
Some districts survived the devastation of the earthquake and retain their medieval and sometimes even Moorish structure, notable Alfama. This district, the oldest in Lisbon and crowned with the Castle of St Jorge, is somewhat like a village within a city with labyrinthine streets inaccessible to cars, tiny grocer’s shops selling the bare essentials and people who really know each other despite living in the centre of a modern capital. At the foot of this hill inland is another of the older quarters, Mouraria where nowadays traditional and modern multicultural Lisbon live side by side, its now predominantly African and Asian market still a hub of activity.
On the opposite hill another old district, Bairro Alto, bustles ceaselessly. By day it is a well-worn, residential area with butchers, bakers and washing hanging from low wrought iron balconies of its traditional houses. However, at nightfall it transforms into a veritable maze of bars and restaurants of all shapes and sizes, and every night of the week revellers fill the streets until the early hours.
In the gorge separating these two mounts, we find the opulent squares and straight streets of the Baixa. Grand theaters, majestic fountains and statues complement the array of well-presented stores and upmarket cafeterias. The main shopping street, the Rua Augusta, leads straight down, through a sumptuously ornate archway to the monumental square, the Praca do Comercio and the river.
Linking this lower zone to Bairro Alto is the traditional shopping area of the city, Chiado. Almost pedestrian, this is a pleasant place to browse or take a coffee. The fine examples of old-fashioned shops and cafes, alongside international clothes stores and the recently refurbished Armazens de Chiado shopping centre, serve to enhance the experience.
Heading further up through the central avenues of the city we find the district of Saldanha with its stylish high-rise shopping and cinema complexes, the long stretches of road-flanked gardens which link Campo Pequeno and its eye-catching red-stoned bullring to Campo Grande where the new Sporting Lisboa football stadium stands proud, passing in between the fairground attractions of the Feira Popular.
Following the course of the river towards the Atlantic from the Baixa there are plentiful other interesting quarters. Located under one end of what is now an internationally recognised symbol of the city, the glorious red suspension bridge, is the traditional dockside district of Alcantara. The docks are still busy, though the lively new bars and clubs here are what attract most people. Keeping a watchful eye from the hill behind is a cypress lined cemetery of Prazeres and the predominantly residential districts of Campo Ourique, Estrela, with its basilica and peaceful gardens, and the elegant, embassy rich Lapa.
Further still lie the many wonders of Belem – a ‘must see’ on every tourist’s itinerary. Here riverside walks take the visitor from monastery to international art exhibition, from botanical gardens to planetarium without forgetting the abundant and remarkable historical monuments and, of course, the speciality cake.
Lying upstream from the centre is the airport and also the expanse of dockland which, in 1998, was transformed into the Expo site. Paved river walks, gardens, enormous concert halls, restaurants and an impressive oceanarium were all built to house the maritime-themed grand exhibition that year. Today named the Parque das Nacoes (Nations Park), it is a symbol of successful long-term planning in that it continues to serve the community of Lisbon as well as tourists providing a decent day out, extensive shopping and dining possibilities, regular concerts and exhibitions and desirable housing for those who can afford it.
Other areas worthy of a mention include Praça Espanha, where the Gulbenkian Foundation art collection resides in two buildings with pretty gardens. Visible from many parts of the city are the three modern towers of the Amoreiras shopping centre, cinema and office complex, which lie near to the end of the impressive aqueduct which boasts the widest stone arch in the world. A short metro journey out of the centre is the Jardim Zoologico offering, amongst other things, a cable car ride above the zoo and a variety of animal shows and a few stops along the same metro line is the world famous Estadio da Luz, home to Benfica football club.
Although not directly affiliated with the Camino Portuguese, I found a nice place to relax while I was in Lisbon for a few days of exploring before I began my walk. I also made some life-long friends while I was there, so needless to say, I’m partial to HUB Lisbon Patio Hostel.
Lisbon: Where to Sleep
HUB Lisbon Patio Hostel
Address: R. Tomás Ribeiro 8, 1050-229 Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: (00351) 212 697 759
If you are one of the few hard-core pilgrims starting the Camino Portuguese from Lisbon, you can do so as the Way is signposted well all along the route. In Lisbon you can get your first stamp at the Cathedral.
Inside Tip: The cathedrals don’t open until 10 AM, so the smart thing to do is to get your stamp the day before so you can get an early start. You are going to need it. The first day is a LONG day. Although your journey will start the next morning at the Lisbon Cathedral, I picked up my pilgrim’s passport and first stamp at Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires. Directly across the street from this church is the oldest bookstore in the world Livraria Bertrand. Here you can pick up your Camino Portuguese walking guide, if you don’t already have one.
This part of the Camino Portuguese very often coincides with the Way to Fatima, so pay special attention for an alternate route breaking off and make sure you are following the correct arrows. If I remember correctly, the Fatima arrows are BLUE, so ignore those and only follow the YELLOW arrows.
The stages are not difficult but pay particular heed to the stages of Alhandra > Azambuja and Mealhada > Águeda, as these are almost always on tarmac, and the longer stages, such as Tomar > Alvaiázere and Rabaçal > Coimbra. You will also find urban stages, such as the first one and the one that takes you to the city of Porto.
There are less albergues in the south than there are from Porto northwards.
What I can vividly remember of my days walking between Lisbon and Porto are: the days are very long, you will walk through many tomato farms and the smell of the tomatoes being harvested is amazing, not as many pilgrims, so the locals are more welcoming.
|12||Albergaria-a-Velha||Oliveira de Azeméis||23 km|
|13||Oliveira de Azeméis||Grijó||33.5 km|
Lisbon > Sacavém > Alpriate > Póvoa de Santa Iria > Alverca > Alhandra
Make your way to the Lisbon Cathedral. Ito took me some time to find the first yellow arrow as I was looking next to the door. But I finally found the arrow out by the curb by the corner of the building.
After you leave the cathedral, you will be walking through somewhat rough-looking parts of Lisbon, early in the morning before much life has begun. I saw someone injecting themselves with something in the entrance to a building. So stay alert until you get out of the city.
It will take many hours until you feel like you have left the suburbs of Lisbon. By the time you shed the city, suddenly you will encounter the massive Lisbon Oceanarium complex. It is located in the Parque das Nações, which was the exhibition grounds for the Expo ’98. It is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The Camino Portuguese trail goes right through this complex and it can be quite tempting to stop and spend some time. But if you are intending to make it all the way to Alhandra this evening, resist that temptation and keep walking.
I have to say that the first day walking from Lisbon to Alhandra seemed like the longest walk I had ever taken. It was so hot and there was barely any shade. By the time I got to the Alhandra Bombeiros for my free night of sleep, I was too tired to pull a mattress down off the stack to sleep on. I simply laid down on the cool tile floor and passed out for a few hours. When I eventually got up, I looked down at the tiles I had just slept on and a perfect outline of my face, including eyelashes, had been created in salt. At that point I went to take a shower, and then pulled a mattress down to sleep on. Forever thankful for those volunteer fire departments that allow you to sleep in their stations for free. – This primarily is allowed between Lisbon and Porto as there are not that many pilgrims and not that many alburgues.
Alhandra: Where to Sleep
A.H. Bombeiros V. De Alhandra
Rua Vasco de Gama, 58
Phone: (00351) 219 519 026
Alhandra > Vila Franca de Xira > Carregado > Vila Nova de Rainha > Azambuja
If you begin in Lisbon, one of the things you will remember long after you are done with the Portuguese Camino is the aroma of the tomato fields. Then, there is the even more-intense smell of the tomatoes as they are being harvested. – You will be walking through tomato fields for several days now. – Not a lot of shade. Get a hat and drink lots of water!
Azambuja: Where to Sleep
Residencial Flor de Primavera
Rua Conselheiro Frederico Arouca, 19
Phone: (00351) 263 402 545 / 967 067 381
Azembuja > Aeródromo > Reguengo > Valada > Porto de Muge > Omnias > Santarém
On your third day of the Camino Portuguese, you will enter a jewel of a town named Santarém.
Overlooking the wending Tagus River from its ridge-top position, Santarém is a town of historical significance, once renowned as the strongest fortress in the kingdom and second only to Lisbon in importance in the country. Its origins can be traced back to the Iron Age, and Julius Caesar used it as an administrative centre for Roman legions. The name originates in the legend of martyred Saint Iria who, legend tells us, was thrown into the river at Tomar, having been killed for not being chaste, and her body washed up at Santarém. The then ruling Visigoths named the settlement Santa Iria in her honor, to become Xantarim under the Moors in the 8th century, and finally Santarém under the Christian reconquest.
Since its recapture by the Portuguese, Santarem has been favoured by royal and important visitors and a good number of its own people have become significant figures in Portuguese history. Both Dom Alfonso IV and Dom João II ruled from the Royal Courts established here in the 14th century and Henry the Navigator had big interests in local industry. Another famous explorer, Pedro Alvares Cabral, is entombed here and a more recent hero, Capitão Maia, led troops from here to end the Salazar dictatorship in 1974. Before all of these Portuguese greats, the still revered arab-andaluz poet Ibn Bassam was born here and wrote beautiful poetry describing the area. He referred to it as the ‘last town in the west’ towards the end of his life, when forced to flee following Christian invasions.
The church containing the tomb of Cabral, the discoverer of Brazil, is the Igreja da Graça with a stunning carved rose window, reputedly made from a single stone. The Igreja do Santíssimo Milagre contains a treasure best explained by a 13th century legend. It is said that holy water being used by a priest to persuade a husband to refrain from beating his spouse, suddenly turned into blood. The small glass vial, which rests in the church to this day, is said to contain the blood of Christ. The archaeological museum houses displays and artifacts from the Roman and Moorish times, and also the ornate sarcophagus of a revered governor of the Iberian stronghold of Ceuta in Morocco, who died defending Christianity. The cloister and ornate west door of the 13th century Convent of São Francisco are still beautiful despite the ravages the church has undergone over the years, with tombs at one point being emptied to hold drinking water for horses housed here!
Its majestic position above the lush Alentejan plains, best appreciated from the Portas do Sol park, lends this town a quality beyond that of historical significance, and its role as centre of this important Portuguese agricultural area is as important today as ever. A 10-day agricultural fair, the Feira de Ribatejo, is held every June and gives the visitor the opportunity to see another side of this beautiful country. Produce is sold and exhibited, folk dancing and music abound and bullfights, for which this area is famous, and bull running through the streets set the scene for his traditional event. In October, another annual fair is held. This time the star of the show is the vast variety of locally-sourced gastronomic delights, the product of the surrounding fertile land.
Santarém: Where to Sleep
Rua Eng. António Antunes Júnior, 26
Phone: (00351) 243 322 256 / 965 832 702
This ‘hostel’ is more like a small/beautiful boutique hotel. Amazing artwork and antiques throughout a rather large home. The first and only Hostel in Santarém, in the historic center of Santarém. Located in the heart of Gothic Monuments, Restaurants, Bars, Theaters and other places of culture and entertainment. Highly recommended.
Santarém > Vale Figueira > Pombalinho > Azinhaga > Golegã
In Golegã, it is horse breeding that is the speciality, with an annual fair in November attracting horse lovers and dealers from near and far. To the south, the town of Alenquer boasts two things: a ruined castle from the 1200s and a very famous son, none other than Vasco de Gama, the famed explorer.
Golegã: Where to Sleep
A.H. Bombeiros Voluntários de Golegã
Largo do Parque do Campismo
Phone: (00351) 249 979 070
Albergue Solo Duro (Casa da Tia Guiuda)
Rua José Relvas, 86
Phone: (00351) 249 976 802 / 935 640 550
Golegã > S. Caetano (Quinta da Cardiga) > Vila Nova da Barquinha > Atalaia > Grou > Asseiceira > Santa Cita > Tomar
Although a small town, Tomar plays a large role in a very important stage of Portuguese history, with links to the Knights Templar and the Discoveries, and remains an attractive and interesting place to visit.
Its story begins in the eleven hundreds when much land in the area was donated to the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem by the then Queen Dona Teresa and her son Dom Alfonso Henriques. Upon this land the Master of the Order of the Temple, Gualdim Pais, instigated the building of a castle which would continue to grow in size and grandeur throughout the ages until the 17th century. Legend tells us that the position of the castle, and indeed its name, came to the Templars in a vision upon their arrival in the area.
The castle and the Knights of the Order served to defend the centre of Portugal from attack and invasion, and often they were besieged, but by the 14th century there was a movement throughout Europe to ban the Templars and so came about the extinction of the Order. However, they continued to be supported by the Portuguese royals and so in 1319 Dom Dinis eventually succeeded in negotiating with the Catholic powers the establishment of the new Order of Christ, which would basically take over from where the Templars left off, with the same people, property and privileges. It was this Order which worked alongside Henry the Navigator in the 15th century and whose knowledge and financial backing aided his voyages of discovery. The knights became explorers in their own right with a remit to extend Portuguese influence in the world and to spread Christianity to these new lands.
These voyages and discoveries over the ages are represented in the enormous variety of architectural styles which adorn the castle and convent.
Tomar: Where to Sleep
Bombeiros Municipais de Tomar
Rua de St Iria
Phone: (00351) 249 329 140
Hostel 2300 Thomar
R. Serpa Pinto, 43
Phone: (00351) 927 444 144
Tomar > Ponte de Peniche > Casais > Soianda > Calvinos > Ponte de Ceras > Tojal > Cortiça > Feteiras > Alvaiázere
Origin of the name Alvaiázere: from the Arabic word “Al-Baiaz” (the falconer).
Literal translation: Lands of the falconer.
Alvaiázere > Laranjeriras > Venda do Negro > Casal Soeiro > Ansão > Netos > Venda do Brasil > Santiago da Guarda > Alvorge > Ribeira > Alcalamouque > Rabaçal
The 4th-century Roman villa of Rabaçal is perhaps the most important ruin at the site of ancient Conimbriga, one of the largest Roman sites, and the best preserved, in Portugal. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was repurposed as a cemetery and suffered from the removal of many architectural components for use in other local buildings being erected. In the 1980s the site was excavated, and archaeologists found important bas-reliefs as well as mosaics unique among other Roman sites throughout Portugal because of their high artistic quality and engaging motifs and figures, which suggest influences from the Near East. Two decades of excavation have provided invaluable information for scholars and the site has become a tourist destination because of the importance of the finds.
Rabaçal > Zambujal > Fonte Coberta > Poço > Conímbriga > Orelhudo > Cernache > Palheria > Cruz de Marouços > Coimbra
In terms of historic significance and romantic beauty, Coimbra is third only to Lisbon and Porto. Its ancient buildings cling to the side of the hill that rises above the curves of the river Mondego, the ornate buildings of the famous University of Coimbra are its crowning glory.
Indeed the university is still the lifeblood of the city and the change in atmosphere is notable when the summer holidays come and the thousands of students head back to their hometowns. Reputed to be the second oldest in the world, the Universidade de Coimbra opened it doors in 1290 and has produced many nationally and globally acclaimed academics. These include Zeca Alfonso, one of the main organizers of the democratic revolution in 1974, and ironically the creator of the dictatorship he helped overthrow, Salazar, not to forget Portugal’s most loved poet, Luis Camões. Its traditions stand strong and it is still commonplace for students to don black capes and colored ribbons denoting their faculty. Despite its strong bonds with the past, nowadays the university has a truly international feel with students of 70 different nationalities coming to study in what is still one of the most revered centres of learning with the second most important library in the land.
Besides the inevitable raucous nightlife and youthful activity typical of any university town, many of the town’s annual festivities revolve around the university and its students. At the beginning of each academic year, the new arrivals are welcomed in a noisy parade known as the Festa das Latas and given a baptism into academic life in the Mondego River. Other ceremonial events revolve around the presentation and then burning of the faculty coloured ribbons and last over a week! At such festas one would find many examples of the traditional music of Portugal – Fado – however in Coimbra it has its own distinctive flavour, renowned for being more melancholy and having complex lyrics. Caped bards of the university, known collectively as the Tuna Académica often perform such concerts. On a night out in the city, which generally centres around the Largo da Sé Velha, Fado performers draw crowds to bars and the aforementioned Tuna give impromptu concerts on street corners known as seranatas. Of course international style clubs and bars also provide a great night out, some staying open until daylight.
Beyond the university, Coimbra has much else to offer the visitor not least an array of medieval churches. Accessing the old part of the city through the Arco de Almedina, we find two cathedrals known as Sé Velha (old) and Sé Nova (new) referring to their respective ages, and though the ‘new’ one dates back to the 17th century its senior was founded in 1170. Regarding the old cathedral, a guided tour of the interior and cloisters is generally available from a willing student in return for a tip, however the décor tends to be quite simple and restrained in comparison to other churches. The Igreja da Santa Cruz is a perfect example of more elaborate architecture. Much of the Manueline style it boasts, which replaced the original Romanesque features dating from its founding in the eleven hundreds, are the product of serious remodelling in the early 16th century. The most impressive features are product of the skills employed from an acclaimed sculpture school that existed in the city at the time, notably the royal tombs and the intricate pulpit.
For the romantics among us, the Quinta das Lagrimas is an attraction as it was here, the Camões poem tells us, that the tragic love story of Portugal – that of Dom Pedro and his Spanish mistress Inês de Castro – took place in the 13 hundreds. The Portuguese ‘Juliet’ was reputedly killed in these gardens on the orders of the disapproving King, father of Dom Pedro. Distraught, the young prince made his courtiers kiss the hand of the beautiful young corpse. The two were finally united and now lay in the monastery of Santa Maria in Alcobaça.
Coimbra also boasts the largest botanical gardens in the whole of Portugal and one of the most beautiful in Europe, with terraced formal gardens and areas full of densely populated foliage including many exotic trees. The 13 hectares of garden dedicated to the study and protection of plants and wildlife is linked to the Natural History Museum and was established in the late 18th century.
Another unique attraction in the town is the Lilliputian-like world of Portugal dos Pequenitos in which houses from every corner of the country and beyond are recreated in miniature. The fascinating collection includes palaces, castles, a Brazilian pavilion and a replica of the 16th century House of Diamonds from Lisbon.
A dozen kilometres outside of the city (accessible by local bus), the excavated ruins of the Roman town of Conimbriga are excellently presented. Originally an Iron Age settlement, the Romans can be traced here from as early as the 2nd century BC and the museum holds many interesting artefacts from the era including a bust of Augustus Caesar which would have been a centrepiece in the temple dedicated to him. Other remains include tessellated floors and mosaics, with motifs such as hunting scenes and African animals, villas, baths and a Roman road which links the ruins to the Museu Monográfico.
The fortified town of Montemor-o-Velho to the west of Coimbra is another point of interest. In the middle of miles of rural landscape, it stands tall with its castle dominating the skyline. Originally from Moorish times, the castle we see today dates from the 14th century although the town itself has presided over and protected the Mondego valley from as long ago as 2000 BC.
The existing heritage in Mealhada is as vast in terms of its history, tradition, culture and gastronomy as it is in terms of natural resources. Its monuments include the Palace Hotel do Bussaco, the Vacariça Monastery, the Quinhentista Rural House, the Military Museum, the Santa Cruz Convent, but also a countless number of chalets from the beginning of the last century that enrich some of the most emblematic villages, such as is the case of Luso.
Why is Águeda called the Umbrella City? What is there to see and do in Águeda? The answer is… a lot! Águeda has many events, parades, flash mobs, concerts and workshops.
The most important and beautiful event in Águeda is the Umbrella Sky Project. The Umbrella Sky Project began in 2011. Each year, during the hot summer months of July, August, and September, the city’s streets gain colorful umbrella canopies that provide shade for the people walking through.
The streets in the centre of town have a kaleidoscopic canopy composed of some 3,000 umbrellas. Hence the name, Umbrella City!
The territory that today makes up the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha has been occupied by humans since prehistory, as shown by archaeological sites.
In the 16th century, this territory was divided into several autonomous municipalities: Angeja, Frossos, Paus and Pinheiro, while the remaining population agglomerates remained under the jurisdiction of other municipalities: Aveiro (Albergaria-a-Velha part of Valmaior, São João and Loure ), Bemposta (Albergaria-a-Nova, Branca and Ribeira de Fráguas), Recardães (part of Valmaior) and Vouga (part of Valmaior).
With the advent of Liberalism, Albergaria-a-Velha was then promoted to the category of Vila and its municipality was created, removing it from the municipality of Aveiro. For this purpose, the municipality of Angeja (temporarily extinct), the parish of São João de Loure and part of the parish of Valmaior (the municipality of Aveiro) were annexed.
Thus, the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha was founded, with only the parishes of Albergaria-a-Velha, Angeja, São João de Loure and part of Valmaior, at the beginning of the reign of D. Maria II. And on February 13, 1835, the first session took place, in the presence of most of the people of the same Villa, although it was only made official by Decree of July 23, 1835, and in September 1835 the council was added. of Clubs.
On 6 November 1836, the councils of Frossos and Recardães were extinguished. The first was integrated in the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha for a few days, until in January 1837 it became part of the restored municipality of Angeja. From the second, part of the parish of Valmaior was transferred to the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha.
Shortly after, on March 18, 1842, the municipality of Paus was extinguished, leaving part (Alquerubim and Paus) for the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha and the other for the municipality of Águeda. However, this measure would last for a short time, since in May 1842, following the dictatorship of Costa Cabral, the municipality of Paus was restored and the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha temporarily extinguished, thus extending until May 1846 , when, following the revolt known as “Maria da Fonte”, the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha was restored.
A few years later, the Decree of December 31, 1853 extinguished the councils of Angeja and Vouga. From the first, the parishes of Angeja and Frossos became part of the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha, while the parishes of Canelas and Fermelã became part of the municipality of Estarreja. From the second, another part of the parish of Valmaior was incorporated into the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha.
But it was not until 1855 that the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha came to take over the entirety of its current territory, as the parishes of Branca and Ribeira de Fráguas (both from the then extinct municipality of da Bemposta) were transferred to the municipality of Albergaria -the old.
As we have seen, the territories that make up the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha have been brought together over the course of nearly twenty years, not always in an easy and orderly manner.
It was around this time that, in the period between 1895 and 1898, the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha annexed the municipality of Sever do Vouga. Subsequently and several times, the parishes of Fermelã, in the municipality of Estarreja, and Macinhata do Vouga, in the municipality of Águeda, joined the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha, but this integration never happened.
On the 17th of June 2011 the town of Albergaria-a-Velha, in the municipality of Albergaria -a -Velha, was upgraded to the category of a city (Law no. 34/2011 of 17th June).
From January 2013, the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha underwent a new reorganization, with the parishes of Frossos and Valmaior being added, respectively, to São João de Loure and Albergaria-a-Velha.
Thus, the municipality of Albergaria-a-Velha is currently made up of six parishes: Albergaria-a-Velha and Valmaior, Alquerubim, Angeja, Branca, Ribeira de Fráguas and S. João de Loure and Frossos.
Oliveira de Azeméis is a manufacturing town that becomes a cultural center every May during the Mercado à Moda Antiga, a traditional market and fair that takes over the centre for two days.
The local sight you’ll remember long after you’ve gone home is the Parque La Salette. This is a cultured park on a hill, plotted around a chapel built in the 19th century to commemorate the Marian apparition in La Salette, France. The municipality has a few curiosities and places to cross off your list, like a centuries-old watermill and bakery (Parque Temático Molinológico), and a quirky museum stuffed with a jumble of exhibits, both ancient and recent (Casa-Museu Regional de Oliveira de Azeméis).
For those of you who began your Camino in Lisbon, crossing. the bridge into Porto will feel like entering a magical realm. For those of you that will be starting your Camino in Porto, you will be starting your journey in one of the most picturesque cities on Earth. It is no wonder that J.K. Rowling was first inspired to write her Harry Potter series while living in Porto. Many of the things that inspired specific people, places, and things in her books are easily recognizable if you spend some time walking around this stunning city.
Porto is considered the capital of the north and as the second largest city in Portugal, rightfully so. There are really very few similarities between Porto and Lisbon – they are both near the coast, on the banks of large rivers and have some fairly daunting hills, but that’s really where it ends. The two cities have a totally different feel and different charms.
Porto’s most striking characteristic is that of ‘faded grandeur’. In Europe there are very few remaining cities that can do ‘faded grandeur’ quite on the scale of Porto, you’d have to travel to Cuba or Argentina for competition. The feeling is accentuated by the mix of Baroque, Neoclassical and splash of Belle Epoque architecture, all in varying degrees of preservation.
It’s hard to find a description of Porto that does not at some point refer to parts of the city as being Dickensian, but I’d reached this conclusion before picking up a guide book. Downtown Porto, with a fog coming off the river, the gold leaf writing on the dusty shop windows and the winding confusion of cobbled streets is like taking a trip back in time to Olde London town. It’s hard to overstate how atmospheric this old city can be.
Porto has the reputation of being a hard working city. Indeed there is is a saying which succinctly sums it up: “Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works”. Whether this is still true is hard to know but the strong sense of rivalry still exists between Porto and Lisbon. This is generally vented via the national obsession with football and the intense rivalry between the countries premiere clubs, Porto and Benfica.
The city itself is built on the steep northern bank of the River Douro and radiates out to the Atlantic to the west and the ports of Matosinhos and Leça in the north. For the visitor, most points of interest are shoehorned into a fairly small area between the riverside Ribeira district and the central Avenida dos Aliados. It is within this area that you will find the maze of medieval alleys, old world shops, cobbled streets and baroque monuments that define this city.
Avenida dos Aliados is generally regarded as the city centre and is as such Porto’s most grandiose avenue. Dominated by the town hall (Camara Municipal), the avenue is flanked by ornate neoclassical buildings with lawns and trees in the centre.
Continuing downwards from the centre one reaches Sao Bento, Porto’s main station – worth a visit for its fine azulejos. From the station there is a clear line of sight up to the austere looking Romanesque cathedral (Sé) perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city and river. Between the cathedral and Ribeira lies one of Porto’s most fascinating districts, the Barredo, with its jumble of medieval alleyways and stairs leading down to the river.
The Ribeira was originally the centre of commerce for the city, with big sail ships docking and unloading at the Cais da Ribeira. Those days are gone with the docks now located further north in Matosinhos and Leca. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Ribeira is centred on the Praça da Ribeira, a sloping square with pavement bars and flanked by colourful 4 or 5 storey blocks with washing permanently hanging from the balconies. Now-a-days the area is the city’s most popular night spot, with a plethora of small bars, cafes and nightclubs scattered around the square, riverside and numerous winding streets.
One of Porto’s most iconic symbols is the 72 metre (240ft) high Dom Luis I bridge which spans the River Douro carting traffic on two levels. Completed in 1886, the iron bridge still carries traffic from the Ribeira to Vila Nova de Gaia. Dom Luis I is the second of Porto’s six bridges across the Douro. Starting from the coastal end there is the 270 metre concrete arch of the Ponte da Arrabida, then Dom Luis I. Next is the Ponte do Infante – its similar design to the Ponte da Arrabida is not surprising as both were designed by Edgar Cardoso. However, with a 280 metre span, Ponte do Infante is the World’s largest single span concrete bridge. Further east again is Gustave Eiffel’s Ponte Dona Maria Pia, an iron railway bridge that was used up until 1991 when it was replaced by the adjacent Ponte de São João with its 3 concrete arches. The furthest east of Porto’s bridges is the 1995 Ponte do Freixo which carries the P1 motorway over the river.
There are actually the remains of a 7th bridge in the Ribeira, next to Ponte Dom Luis I. The Ponte Pensil suspension bridge was in use between 1843 and 1887 when Dom Luis I superseded it. All that remains of it now are a pair of pillars on the Ribeira.
To the west of the Ribeira is the Alfandega (customs). This area is perhaps best known for the Casa do Infante (or Casa da Alfândega Velha), an impressive 14th century mansion that was expanded many times over the centuries as the city’s trade grew. It now houses the city archives and contains a museum displaying archeological finds from a Roman palace on the same site.
Heading back up the hill from the river is the Bolsa, Porto’s stock exchange. Housed in a 19th century neoclassical palace, the interior is a case study in opulence. Next door to the Palacio da Bolsa is the Igreja de São Francisco, Porto’s only remaining Gothic church, dating back to the 14th century. Although not particularly extraordinary from outside, the baroque interior is possibly the finest in Portugal. The church is actually deconsecrated now although it still has an ‘ossario’ in the catacombs consisting of hundreds of skeletons stored and awaiting judgement.
Above the Bolsa is the main downtown district, or Biaxa, consisting of wider cobbled streets flanked by grimy 5 and 6 storey buildings, most with wrought iron balconies and more than a few with the washing drying in the breeze. At street level there are a frankly bizarre collection of old fashioned shops including shoe shops, hardware stores and ones selling various nik-naks, most with dusty window displays. If it wasn’t for the cars it would be easy to imagine it was a couple of hundred years ago.
The real shopping heart of Porto is to the east of the centre, most notably Rua Santa Catarina, a shop lined, pedestrian street stretching from Praca da Batalha to Marques de Pombal. There are a good range of shops here ranging from the big names through to small barber’s shops and Belle Epoque cafes.
There are multiple trails from Port to Santiago de Compostela: the Braga Way (Camino de Braga), the Coast Way (Camino da Costa), and the Central Way (Camino Central).
From time immemorial, the city of Braga has maintained close links with the Santiago way. It. is said that during his pilgrimage, the Apostle Saint James passed through Braga and ordained the city’s first bishop, San Pedro de Rates, who was responsible for the origin of Braga Cathedral.
Although the story in itself justified the pilgrimage of the local people to Santiago, Braga’s geographical position on the medieval road system aided in this intention. Braga was then the road hub of the Northwest of the Peninsula. This Camino had one particular feature which was Prado Bridge, the only way of crossing the River Cávado overland. After the construction of Barcelos Bridge, the importance of the Braga Way diminished, as the Camino between Porto and Ponte de Lima was quicker.
The Braga Way merges with the Camino Portuguese Central Way in Ponte de Lima. On the one hand, the choice of this Camino brings with it the centuries-old history of the Portuguese Way, its main feature being the passage through Braga. On the other hand, it has a few, less favorable aspects, such as many more kilometers to cover, the fact there are no alburgues in Famalicão, and there are fewer pilgrims to keep you company, as it is not the most travelled route after Porto.
|3||Braga||Ponte de Lima (join Central Camino)||36 km|
The first stage of the Braga Way starts in Porto at the Cathedral. This stage links the capital of the north of Portugal to the city of Vila Nova de Famalicão. As the road to Famalicão is a long one, I suggest you set off quite early. Porto Cathedral only opens at 10am, so you could get your credential stamped the day before.
This stage of the Camino Portuguese starts with a downhill trajectory from the Cathedral, in the midst of the old houses, until you come to Rua das Flores. Don’t turn towards Barcelos here, but carry on straight to Largo dos Lóios and then onto Rua do Almada. Before you reach the city suburbs you will pass Praça da República and Lapa Church.
For several kilometers the landscape is essentially urban, and the Camino Portuguese is done by road. Before you leave Porto you pass the Church of Paranhos, the area of the university faculties and the hospital of São João, entering the municipality of Matosinhos as soon as you cross Estrada da Circunvalação. You will then come to the municipality of Maia and pass by the River Leça. After some more kilometers and once you are in the parish of San Mamede do Coronado, you have reached the municipality of Trofa. Here, the Camino Portuguese is not only done by road but also along stretches of beaten earth and farm lanes. You then. cross the railway line and enter a wooded area with quite a steep trail with slippery stones underfoot.
When you reach the 25-km mark you have come to the most’ complicated part of the stage: this is a trail through a eucalyptus grove from which you will see the city of Trofa. At the top of the hill there is a lookout point, which you can ascend for a better view of the area. But don’t waste too much time for there are still several kilometers left to walk before you reach the end of this stage.
From here on there is a great descent which will take you down to the Roman bridge of Lagoncinha. Before that, in Abelheira, you will find the only pilgrims’ support service on this stage, where you can stamp your credential and have a snack in the Bar of the Association.
To reach the end of this stage you must cross Lousado and Cabeçudos, entering the city of Famalicão via the access roundabout to the motorway. This stage ends near Famalicão, at a place called Santiago de Antas, where you will see a Romanesque church and a modern church.
There is no pilgrims’ hostel for your overnight stay but next to the Romanesque church is the headquarters of the Comboni missionaries, where you can try to find a bed. In addition to the hotels and inns in the center of town, you could also try your luck at Famalicão Fire Station.
Historical Note: Famalicão
Historical Traces of the origin of the settlement of Famalicão lead researchers to the Iron Age, but the actual date when Nova de Famalicão became historically important was in the year 1205, with the charter given by King D. Sancho I.
On July 1, 1243, the king issued a charter to 40 settlers authorizing them to care for his land, with all profits being generated being theirs in perpetuity. From that moment on the town had the obligation to hold a fortnightly fair, a tradition it has continued through the centuries, but now it is on a weekly basis.
Famalicão: Hostels / Hotels / Albergues
Bombeiros Voluntários de Vila Nova de Famalicão (free)
Avenida Rebelo Mesquita, 126
Phone: (00351) 252-301 119
After a long stage that takes you as far as Famalicão, the next one is much shorter (about 23 km), but here the word “climb” becomes part of the Camino!
This stage begins in an urban zone, although most of it is done along country lanes and forest trails. After passing the railway line, the track is very easy, almost always straight and downhill until you cross a stream. You enter the EN 319 and a few meters ahead you come off it again, again returning to secondary routes. During this stage you will become aware of the “country spirit”, you may hear a cock crow and begin to feel the true peace conveyed by the Camino.
But, as the saying goes in Portugal “the procession is still in the churchyard”, meaning there’s still a long way to go before you reach your final destination. Although the villages during this stage are small you will easily find grocery shops and cafes to have a bite to eat or to stock up with food.
As soon as you get to Vale de São Cosme you embark on the first noteworthy climb so far, leading you to the villages of Telhado, Portela and Escudeiros. In Trandeiras you cross the bridge over the motorway and once in Lomar, the city of Braga is already close. Here, you again enter the EN 319 which will take you to your destination for that day.
The stage ends after an ascent leading to the historic centre of Braga, where you will find the Cathedral. The pilgrims’ hostel is located behind the Cathedral in Rua de S. João, 3, with a signpost saying CAFJEC on the front door.
Historical Note: Braga
In the 2nd century BC the region was taken by the Romans who built the city in the year 16 BC and called it Bracara Augusta as a tribute to Emperor Ceasar Augustus and it became the capital of the region of Gallaecia. Barcara Augusta was linked to Asturica Augusta, now the city of Astorga, in Spain. Via Nova, also called Geira, was a Roman road linking the two cities along a route of approximately 318 kilometers.
These 36 kilometers cut through Minho fields and villages amongst mountain trails and paved tracks. This stage marks the actual entrance to the Braga Way and travels along scrubland tracks, past villages and through points of reference such as rivers, bridges, crosses and mountains.
As you leave Braga, you go down Rua da Boavista which takes you to Praceta de S. Tiago, with a figure of the Apostle on a fountain. You enter the Calcada Real towards the EN 201, passing Me villages of Frossos and Merelim. Cross Porto Roman Bridge over the River C8vado and enter Vila de Prado. The tarmac ends here, and you continue through bucolic scenery until you reach Moure, site of the medieval tower of Penegate.
After a slight rise you enter Portela das Cabras which leads to the River Neiva. The river crossing takes place in Goães, on the medieval Pedrinha Bridge. In Goães there is a pilgrims’ hostel which could be a good place for you to spend the night.
From here on, the Camino Portuguese twists and turns like a labyrinth, cutting across various villages and cultivated fields until you reach Ponte de Lima. Here, you end by traversing the Roman bridge over the River Lima, for the albergue is just on the opposite side.
(From here you will join the Central Camino leaving from Ponte de Lima)
The Coast Way is the most recent addition to the Camino Portuguese network linking Porto to Santiago de Compostela. This way was particularly important in the 18th century and at one stage was one of the most popular. It was chosen mainly by the coastal populations and by all of those who came ashore at the sea ports.
The Coast Way does not have just one single trajectory as it can be considered a detour from part of the Central Way, as many of the stages coincide. Some chose the Central Way from Porto to São Pedro de Rates and after that follow the Coastal Way until returning to the Central Way on the final stretch, in Redondela.
|1||Porto||Póvoa de Varzim||32 km|
|2||Póvoa de Varzim||Esposende||25 km|
|3||Esposende||Viana do Castelo||22 km|
|4||Viana do Castelo||Caminha||29 km|
|7||Ramallosa||Redondela (join Central Camino)||37 km|
The Coast Way starts at Porto Cathedral. As the first stage is a long one and the Cathedral only opens at 10am, I advise you to get your credential stamped the day before you start this stage. This Way follows the layout of the old road from Porto to Vila do Conde, and part of it goes along the sea, from which you can enjoy the wonderful views.
This first stage can be travelled along two different routes. The first is the one that is properly signposted and derives from the Central Way. So, when you leave the Cathedral and reach Rua das Flores, you should turn left at Rua Ferraz, which will take you to Rua da Vitória where you will find the sign to Barcelos. Walk through the city of Porto until you reach Matosinhos, crossing the Circunvalação at Monte dos Burgos. Keep going straight until you reach Padrão da Légua where you will see a Cross of Christ on your left. Turn here into Rua do Senhor, leaving the Central Way and at last embarking on the Coast Way. There are not that many signs in this area but when in doubt keep going straight.
You will come to Largo do Souto and in 200 meres you will find the parish church of Santiago de Custóias, dating from the 18th century (Off the Way). From here you will quickly reach the airport. If you arrived by plane this can be your starting point. The Camino Portuguese passes close to the metro (Pedras Rubras) station which connects to Póvoa de Varzim, next to the branch of BPI Bank on Rua da Botica.
Here the Camino Portuguese becomes more countrified but is still paved until almost the end of this stage. From here onwards your distance from the sea will keep decreasing. You will pass Labruge, Mindelo, and Azurara and reach Vila do Conde, having crossed the bridge over the River Ave. On the left you will see a replica of a 16th century “nau” or carrack, and on the right the Monastery of Santa Clara. From there you are practically in the historic centre of Vila do Conde, where you will pass along a street, Rua da Igreja, with some houses with 16th century lines.
From here on the scent of the sea will become Part of the Camino Portuguese. When you reach the fishing town of Póvoa de Varzim cross the histonic centre and proceed to the Chapel of Santiago. Once there, you can have your credential stamped. The albergue is on Avenida Mouzinho de Albuquerque.
Another alternative for this Way as far as Póvoa is to follow the Littoral Way which does not always have signs indicating the way to Santiago but is not difficult for all you have to do is follow the shoreline. In Porto, after leaving behind the narrow streets around the Cathedral you come to Rua Mouzinho da Silveira. Go downhill to Palácio da Bolsa and the Church of São Francisco, turn right and go along the riverfront until Foz, and from there continue along the shoreline until you reach Póvoa.
You make one small detour in Matosinhos to cross the bascule bridge over the River Leça, bypassing the Port of Leixões. From here on you travel through the municipality of Matosinhos, passing beaches such as Leça and Angeiras. After that you go through the municipality of Vila do Conde, where you encounter Labruge Beach and Mindelo Ornithological Reserve. When you reach the River Ave follow it round to the bridge and you are in the city of Vila do Conde. You will pass the replica of a 16th century “nau” or carrack and the Fort of Vila do Conde.
Vila do Conde: Hostels / Hotels / Albergues
Bellamar Hostel ($$)
Address: Praça da Républica, 84
Phone: (00351) 252 631 748
Website: Click Here
Turn right only in Póvoa de Varzim after passing the Casino on Avenida Mouzinho de Albuquerque which is also home to the albergue, a little further ahead on your left.
Póvoa de Varzim: Hostels / Hotels / Albergues
Hostel Sardines & Friends ($$$)
Address: Rua da Ponte, 4
Phone: (00351) 962 083 329
Resicência Rêve d’Or ($$$$)
Address: Praça Marquês de Pombal, 18
Phone: (00351) 252 613 870 / (00351) 919 656 970
Website: Google Hotels
This stage of the Camino Portuguese is not very hard. It starts close to the sea, along rocky beaches, on wooden walkways above the dune system and through stretches where nature reigns. After 7 kilometers the Camino Portuguese turns inland for a while but the scent of the sea continues. You are entering the territory of Esposende along a country track called “Camino da Vida e da Morte” (Life and Death Way), first passing Ramalha until you reach the parish church of S. Miguel, in the centre of the town of Apúlia. Carry on, through a small wood with rural and maritime characteristics, along “Caminho das Areias” (Sand Way), until you reach Fão. Here you will find a youth hostel which could be a solution for your overnight stay.
You reach the mouth of the River Bravado and cross D. Luís Filipe Bridge, which represents the age of cast-iron architecture. On the other side, in Esposende, you will pass a monument dedicated to the Coast Way. It is only a short distance from here to the albergue, for you pass the Fort of S. João Baptista, turn right and a little way ahead you will come to the Albergue of S. Miguel de Marinhas.
Historical Note: Esposende
The origin of the name Esposende is somewhat controversial and inconclusive, but the greatest consensus sustains that it may have derived from the patronymic Spozendus. The first reference to this settlement, ‘Esposendi’, dates back to the 1258 Inquirições or Royal Commissions, in a curious case of a man and a wife who refused to pay the rent due to the king.
The history of Esposende is linked to Brazil, because of the considerable emigration of its population following the discovery of the new continent. Navigators from here were paid to take their ships to the lands of Vera Cruz. This strong connection to the sea, to fishing, and to shipbuilding led King D. Sebastião to elevate it to town status in 1572.
It is along this stage that the Coast Way truly acquires the characteristics of the Santiago Way, with steep climbs, stone-paved roads and pedestrian bridges.
When you reach the River Lima cross the Eiffel Bridge and enter the city of Viana do Castelo. At the end of the bridge you have two alternatives: go directly to the albergue or continue along the Camino Portuguese to the Cathedral. If you want the albergue, turn right after the bridge and take the underground passage below the railway line. The other alternative is to follow the arrows leading you to Viana’s Cathedral in the historic centre of town, where you complete this stage.
Often described as ‘Entre o mar, o rio e a montanha’ (between the sea, the river and the mountains), the northern town of Viana do Castelo is exactly that. Its location on the Lima estuary, surrounded by verdant hills is probably best appreciated from atop the Monte de Santa Luzia. This contrasting scenery with its fine sandy beaches both coastal and fluvial, and the differing horizons offered by the Atlantic and the hills, is a place which has long been treasured by both local and visitor.
The town of Viana, which has maintained a strong bond to the sea over the many centuries of its existence, is bustling and industrious and yet still feels very connected to the past with thriving folkloric traditions. The colourful regional dress and gold adornments of its women are famous and paraded proudly during its summer festival, the Festas de Nossa Senhora de Agonia in late August where florid processions make their way down to the sea to the sound of pounding drums. Its seafaring history recounts important moments such as the setting sail of explorers into the unknown 14th century world and pillaging at the hands of pirates, as well as a well-established deep sea fishing industry. Local boatmen also offer leisurely trips along the river Lima in their traditional crafts.
Within the town, the centrepiece of the elegant Praça da República is the Chafariz fountain with its much-admired water spewing figures, dating back to the 1500s. Also in this square is the unique arcaded building of the Igreja da Misericórdia. Its three storeys join on to the original almshouse of the same name and comprise an illustrious mixture of Roman archways, Renaissance balconies and interestingly carved pillars. The old town hall, the early 16th century Paço do Concelho, also graces this square with its Gothic arches and Renaissance detail. Elsewhere the castle, Castelo de Santiago do Barro (from where the town acquired the latter part of its name), was also built in the 16th century under the orders of King Philip I of Spain in order to protect the port from pirates. A Friday market is still held around its ramparts. And started in the 13th century, the town’s parish church is the two-towered Igreja de Matriz with a collection of azulejos and a trompe-l’oeil painting on its ceiling.
A quick ferry crossing takes you to the pleasantly undeveloped beach of Praia de Cabedelo, to the south of the town just across the estuary. To the north, other sands stretch on and on, almost to the Spanish border. Just outside of the town, the aforementioned Santa Luzia mount boasts not only an excellent miradouro, a viewpoint with some of the best panoramic views in Portugal, but also a fairly modern basilica (the Santuario de Santa Luzia) and the remains of a Celto-Iberian settlement. Venturing further out, the surrounding countryside offers a host of opportunities to discover its delights; be they waterfalls, mills with working waterwheels or isolated chapels marking the pilgrims’ path to Santiago de Compostela in Spanish Galicia.
Local Legends: The Princess in the Castle
The city of Viana do Castelo is said to owe its name to a story about a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. Being very shy, she hid from the people who walked past the castle. One day the princess fell in love with a young man who lived on the opposite bank of the river. He returned her love whenever he saw her and said: “VI A ANA! VI A ANA DO CASELO!” (‘I saw Anna of the castle!’). He repeated this so often that the city where the princess lived became known as Viana do Castelo.
This stage follows typical, picturesque Minho trails, always in the company of the huge expanse of water of the Atlantic Ocean.
The first and last parts of this stage are fairly accessible but along the way there are areas of some difficulty, particularly for those riding bicycles. As it is a long and winding road, my advice is to set off early and take extra food with you.
You begin by crossing the historic centre towards the upper part of town, first along tarmac and then on centuries-old paved roads. You will pass properties encircled by high walls along the Camino Portuguese and savor this scenic environment.
As you leave the parish of Areosa, you cross Ribeiro de Pego, a small stream running beside the track next to Quinta da Boa Viagem. Continue towards Carreço, passing farmhouses, churches, chapels and ancient engraved rocks, until you arrive at the railway line which you must cross with great care and which leads you to the church of Carreço.
Before reaching Afife you enter a forest trail leading to the Convent of Cabanas where you cross a stream with the same name. Climb the mountain of Santa Luzia along a stone trail as far as Cruzeiro do Vale.
You pass close to the old Cividade or settlement of Afife which marks the entrance to the parish of Vila Praia de Ancora, in the municipality of Caminha. The Camino Portuguese continues along forest trails as far as Ponte da Torre, dating from the late 17th century, on the River Ancora. In Vila Praia de Ancora you will travel past fields but also disused windmills. A little later on your right is the Barrosa Dolmen.
From here onwards the Way is fairly flat and presents no major difficulties. You reach the centre of Vila Praia de Âncora where you will find the chapel of Nossa Sra. da Bonança in Praça da República Then continue on down towards the sea and you come to a walking and biking trail. You pass the imposing Fort of Lagarteira and the chapel of St. Isidoro.
The end of this trajectory is signaled by a tunnel under the railway line where you get onto the old Viana-Caminha road taking you to the historic centre of Caminha where you will find your albergue on Avenida Padre Pinheiro.
Historical Note: Caminha
The origin of the name of the city of Caminha raises doubts and many explanations. One interpretation places its origin in the period of the Roman Empire, when a Galacian knight called Caminio seized and then settled the town. Another version is that this locality was a county by the name of “Caput Mini” from which the current designation Caminha derived. Some link this to the time of the Reconquest, when it was founded by Camini.
There are two ways that you can leave Portugal for Spain along the Coast Way. The quickest and most beautiful is by boat. However, as the boats are not always available, the other way is to go round via the international bridge in Vila Nova de Cerveira. It does mean of course that you will be traveling a further 25 kilometres, transforming what would have been a simple boat ride into a stage travelled exclusively on the main road. If that is your destination, yellow arrows will indicate your way to Valença but you must stop following them as soon as you see the signs for Spain at Vila Nova de Cerveira. As this is a detour, in the absence of the boat, it is not signposted, but it is easy to navigate. After passing the bridge you come to a roundabout and go in the direction of Goián. Carry on until A Guarda, where there is an albergue for your overnight stay.
The other possibility is to continue to Valença, but in that case you will then be traveling the Central Way.
After A Guarda you take a stone-paved route that hugs the coastline, from which you can view a work of art carved by nature; the rocks in this area. A little ahead you will climb to a higher level and go along forest trails and a bike route next to PO-552 until you reach Oia, a great place to have lunch and where you should take the opportunity to visit the Monastery, which overlooks the sea.
From here to the albergue of Aguncheiro in Mougás (Municipality of Oia), is a rapid stretch, the trajectory, taking you along a beaten earth track and the main road.
Inside Scoop: Mougás
When talking of Mougás one inevitably talked of the “Rapa das Bestas” or the ‘Capture of the Beasts’. According to tradition, at the time of the 1567 plague, two sisters promised two horses to St. Lawrence. Once the disease had been eradicated and as the sisters had not been affected by the epidemic, they gave the beasts tot he priest. He then set them free into the hills. June sees the beginning of the ‘curros’ or pens. The first weekend corresponds to the Torroña pen and the second to the Mougás pen.
The first 5 kilometers seem like the continuation of the previous stage, as as the route travels near the sea. As you enter private property,the degree of difficulty increases, starting with a long upward hike along a forest trail. As the trail rises it becomes a stone-paved track. Later on, as you are already descending, you pass a spring meaning that you will have to negotiate your way over muddy ground. When you reach the tarmac, the Camino Portuguese continues at a high level with views of the Cíes Islands. At the 10 km mark, in Amodiño, you get your first glimpse of the ria de Vigo and after a long descent you arrive in the city of Baiona.
You will travel through very steep, narrow streets leading to the Cross of the Holy Trinity. 6 kilometers later you arrive in Ramallosa, municipality of Nigrán, crossing the Romanesque Ramallosa Bridge. The albergue is situated about 500 meters after you pass the bridge.
Local Legends: Puente Vello
The story goes that an old bridge (Puente Vello) was destroyed by Almanzor when passing through these lands, but it was rebuild in the 13th century by the Bishop of Tui, Pedro González Telmo, following the refounding of the town of Baiona by King Alfonso IX. The bridge is linked to rituals connected with fertility. According to tradition, a woman unable to conceive should pour water from the river over her belly at midnight and the child’s godparent should be the first person to cross the bridge.
This is quite a long stage and you will have to face two great climbs. So, if your strength is low or the sun is close to setting you should consider dividing this stage into two parts and spending the night in Vigo. Although there is no albergue here, there is plenty of accommodation on offer.
Start by climbing Camiño da Cabreira, passing the ramps onto the motorway and by the Industrial Estate. You then enter narrow lanes that take you to a fountain with drinking water. That means that you have completed the first 5 kilometers of your trip but – take a deep breath here! – this is where the climbs start. Go along a forest track under a “runnel” of trees that ends 2 kilometers further on. At km 7 you pass a chemist and after a further climb, you again see the islands of Vigo. You arrive at Coruxo where there is a church, a cafe and minimarkets.
On the outskirts of Vigo you bypass the city to the right, along country lanes, and pass an industrial estate. You enter the city at Avenida do Alcade Portanet, cross Castrelos Park and proceed along the banks of the River Lagares until you reach a wall with graffiti. You then cross through a built-up area and enter Vigo’s shopping street, Rua Urzaiz, a great place to have a snack and, who knows, do some shopping? Climb to the upper part of town with its superb view over the Ria, and enter the Senda da Auga or Water Trail which takes you to the final destination of this stage – Redondela. At this point the Coast Way joins the Central Way, so usually the albergue is full, but do not despair for there are other solutions for your night’s stay.
(From here you will join the Central Camino leaving from Redondela)
The Central Way of Camino Portuguese is the one used by most of the pilgrims that begin their journey in Lisbon.
Development of the road network influenced the Jacobean itineraries, with the aim of finding the best Way. So the construction of the Porto-Barcelos-Valença Royal Road was especially important, making the Central Camino the most used by the pilgrims who left and continue to leave from Portugal. The construction of the Barcelos bridge in 1325 and the remodeling of Ponte de Lima bridge made it possible to create a more direct itinerary which was able to sidestep Braga.
As the quickest and safest way, it was also used by the general population when traveling between Douro and Minho. It also served armed forces, bandits, and smugglers.
This Way was traveled by thousands of pilgrims, from the famous to the most common of mortals. With the growing interest in the Camino shown in the 1990s, it was signposted and gradually the first pilgrim hostels began to emerge.
|3||Barcelos||Ponte de Lima||37 km|
|4||Ponte de Lima||Rubiãs||19 km|
|6||Valença||O Porriño||23 km|
|7||O Porriño||Redondela||16 km|
|9||Pontevedra||Caldas de Reis||23 km|
|10||Caldas de Reis||Padrón||19 km|
|11||Padrón||Santiago de Compostela||25 km|
After all the preparations the great moment has arrived when you start “the Camino”.
It’s 10 in the morning and the doors of Porto Cathedral open for you to embark on your great adventure. Go inside the Cathedral and collect the first stamp which will mark your life forever. If you have not yet acquired your credential, do it here. Make the most of the journey’s beginning and make it a striking moment. For example, you can use the pilgrim’s prayer in your credential as a symbol of the start of this voyage.
There are various ways you can travel from Porto to Barcelos. There are two factors you must always bear in mind when making your decision: the degree of difficulty of each stage and the fact that a hostel or albergue is available for your overnight stay. Possible routes include:
I suggest the Porto – Vairão route, for there is a very good albergue where you can spend the night and also has fewer kilometers to travel. On arriving near Vairão Monastery, confirm that the hostel can take you in for your well-earned rest.
The trip from Porto to Vairão is essentially urban, starting with the historic centre of the city and following on to the municipalities of Matosinhos, Maia and Vila do Conde. As you move away from Porto the Camino Portuguese becomes more countrified. As far as the terrain is concerned the Way is mainly tarmac and cobblestones, with no great climbs. As you leave Porto you have two alternatives to choose from to reach Vilar do Pinheiro:
Between Viler do Pinheiro and Vilarinho, now in the municipality of Vila do Conde the route mainly follows the EN 306 road, where danger lurks because of the absence of pavements, although this is offset by the agricultural and rural landscape. When you reach Vairão you will see a lovely monastery presenting a mix of Baroque, Mannerist and 16th century architecture. Next to it is an albergue offering great conditions for your overnight stay.
Historical Note: Villa do Conde
The origins of the settlement of Vila do Conde predate the foundation of Portugal, and the first known refernce is one in the book of the Countess Mumadona Dias, in the year 953. King D. Manuel I granted it a charter in 1516. The town’s population played an active role in the Portuguese Discoveries given their contribution to shipbuilding. Some people of Vila do Conde actually accompanied Vasco da Gama on his voyage to India. Today you can see a replica of a 16th century carrack in Cais da Altândega.
This part of the route is not difficult. Leaving Vairão you will quickly come to Vilarinho and its great monument to the pilgrim. Then follow the road to São Pedro de Rates in the municipality of Póvoa de Varzim. Along the way you will cross the medieval bridge over the River Ave, flanked by two windmills, and this is a great spot for the first photographs of the day. Carry out through the agricultural landscape, past Junqueira and the River Este, which you cross over another bridge, this one Roman in origin.
On reaching Rates you will find one of the most important examples of Portuguese Romanesque architecture: the Church of São Pedro de Rates, which was built on the ruins of a pre-Romanesque temple. Next to the church is the Ecomuseum of São Pedro de Rates, consisting of an 8 kilometer circuit through this historic town. This could be a great place to rest and have a snack, as there is a minimarket nearby.
Inside Scoop: Church of São Pedro de Rates
The present church of São Pedro de Rates stands on te site of a building of the Swabian-Visigothic period. The church’s architecture was modified successfully from the 6th century onwards. The current version derives from the Cluniac refounding of the 13th century.
The body of Saint Peter of Rates was in this church in 1552 and was then transferred to Braga Cathedral. Saint Peter of Rates was the first Bishop of Braga and tradition has it that he was ordained by Saint James himself. Later, whilst saying Mass, he was beheaded.
The Camino Portuguese then becomes mainly forest and follows the GR 11-E9 (GR Footpath), passing by several villages and every so often cutting across the national road until reaching the city suburbs.
In Barcelos there are various alternatives for your overnight stay. The first albergue is located next to the Cávado bridge and there is another one in the city centre, in Rua Miguel Bombarda. The riverside area with its choice of menus with the dish of the day and pleasant esplanades is a great place to find food. Get to know the town whilst you are there and obtain information from the Tourist Office.
The Legend of Barcelos Cockrel
In Barcelos there is a very famous symbol called ‘O Galo de Barcelos’ in Portugese, or ‘Barcelos Cockerel’.
The legend goes that a rich man held a big party. When the party was over, he noticed that his sterling silver cutlery has been stolen by a guest. He accused a pilgrim and took the man to court. The pilgrim declared his innocence, but the judge did not believe him. As the judge was about to eat a roast cockerel the pilgrim said: If I am innocent, this cockerel will crow.
As the pilgrim was about to be hanged, the roasted bird started crowing. The judge released the pilgrim.
The story ends a few years later when the pilgrim returned and made a statue of the event. This legend became famous all over Portugal. This legend is also suspiciously similar to another legend on the French Camino.
This is one of the hardest stages of the Portuguese Camino. It is long, covers rugged terrain but offers a bucolic landscape that is similar to what you will encounter in Spain. My advice is to set off early, for this stage will involve a great deal of traveling.
As you leave Barcelos you’ll go past the Porta Nova Tower and the Church of Senhor do Bom Jesus da Cruz. Keep on towards the River Neiva, crossing the railway line at Alborim. When you cross the medieval Tábuas Bridge you arrive at the River Neiva and the parish of Balugães located at the foot of Senhora da Aparecida Hill. This is a great place to take a short rest or have a full meal, for Balugães has a great restaurant, although it is off the track of the Camino Portuguese. You’ll only be able to get a coffee in the municipality of Ponte de Lima, in the parish of Vitorino dos Piães.
From here on all routes are country tracks. Reach the parish of Facha, which starts the Vale do Lima Way, passing Seara and Correlhã and entering Ponte de Lima, which offers a magnificent riverside scenario. The albergue is on the other side of the Roman bridge over the River Lima, and is fully equipped to offer you a good night’s rest.
If you are still feeling energetic, visit this town, the oldest in Portugal, and in that case go to the Tourist Office or ask for a map and information at the albergue. There are several alternatives for dinner, both near the albergue and on the other bank of the River Lima.
Historical Note: Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima is the oldest town in Portugal and sits on the River Lima. The town conceals profound roots and ancestral legends. It was given a charter by Queen D. Teresa in 1225 and became known as Terra da Ponte, or Place of the Bridge. In the 14th century and considering its geo-strategic importance, King D. Pedro I had the medieval town walled. The final result was a city wall with nine towers and six gates into the town, of which some traces still remain.
Some days of our life we never forget. I am sure this will be one of them for you, just as it was for me, the first time. Don’t let the Camino pass you by but become part of the Camino and make the most of what Serra da Labruja has to offer. Some call this route the “queen stage”, because of its considerable difficulty and it is certainly the most complicated stretch of the entire Central Way to Santiago. It is also the only stage that is harder for those riding a bicycle than it is for walkers, for along most of this stretch the bicycle has to be wheeled or carried!
After you leave Ponte de Lima, the first 4 kilometers are relatively mild but gradually become almost impossible and strewn with rocks and stones. My advice is to take lunch with you in your backpack for it may be some hours before you reach Rubiães. Stock up at the small cafe and grocery (Cafe Nunes) before the big climb.
In the mountains you will pass Cruz dos Franceses (Frenchmen’s Cross) also known as Cruz dos Mortos (Dead Men’s Cross), calling to mind how strongly the Portuguese resisted the French during the Peninsular Wars.
Take a deep breath, as the climb continues up to the top of the mountain, where you will find the old forest guards house (Casa do Cuarda Florestal). Here you not only have a fantastic view but can also fill up with fresh water from a fountain near the house.
As the saying goes, the calm comes after the storm, so make the most of it because it’s downhill all the way to Rubiães and as we know, all the saints, including Saint James, will help going downhill!
The albergue or hostel is quite welcoming. Nearby is a café and a little further away (about 1 kilometre) you will find a minimarket. 2 kilometres from Rubiães you will find a chemist. If the albergue is full when you get there, you can always spend the night on the albergue floor.
Local Trivia: Rubiães Music Festival
Paredes de Coura, county seat of the municipality of the municipality of Rubiães, holds one of the biggest music summer festivals in Portugal. It has been held on Tabuão beach in mid-August since 1993.
Renowned for its natural amphitheater, Paredes de Coura offers a magnificent landscape, both to the musicians and to the thousands of participants who travel there every year.
Once you’re past Serra do Labruja everything will seem easier and more accessible. Although it is only 18 kilometres long, this stage begins with a sharp climb ending at the Chapel of S. Bento da Porta Aberta. Consisting mainly of fields and forests with several stone-paved tracks, this stage reminds us of the Roman roads. You will pass streams and Roman bridges. Right after the first bridge, at Peorado, there is a cafe/market where you should take the opportunity to stock up.
After passing the church you have to go down a forest path that goes past the Chapel of Senhor dos Aflitos. In its garden is a tribute to a famous pilgrim of the Portuguese Way. Behind the chapel you will find an old Santiago cross.
When you reach the road it’s the sign that you are near Valença, for the end of this stage is on tarmac roads. When you reach a roundabout in the centre of Valença do not follow the arrows, which will point you to Tui, but take the sign to the albergue which is on the left by the Fire Station (Bombeiros). If there’s a will there’s a way and you can go directly to Tui, where the albergue is located at the rear of the church.
However, I strongly recommend that you spend this last night here to discover the fortified town of Valença do Minho, and so say goodbye to the lands of Portugal.
Local Trivia: Valença
Valença is considered one of the main fortified towns in Portugal. Between 1657 and 1668, it was the setting for major battles fought for the Restoration of independence. The fort was seized only once in 1809 by the French forces under the command of General Soult.
If you decided to stay in Valença, the stage begins when you cross the Valenka stronghold, then walk across the iron bridge over the River Minho that takes you to Tui, Spain. This is not just another bridge along your Camino, you are entering a new country, meaning a few alterations. From here on, it will be “Buen Camino” that you wish all other pilgrims.
The route between Valença and Redondela can be travelled as we suggest here – Valença-O Perriño, O Perriño-Redondela – or you can do it in one day only – Valença-Redondela. Besides being longer (37 km), the greatest disadvantage here is that when you reach Redondela you may might find it harder to get a bed in the albergue, for all those you leave from O Perriño that day will probably have arrived first.
On reaching Tui, after the petrol stations, the Camino Portuguese leads you to the right in the direction of the Embarcadero de Lavacunas. Before the international bridge existed, this was where pilgrims from Portugal started their Way. You will then walk through the streets of this medieval town until you reach the Cathedral, which definitely deserves a visit: take the opportunity to get your stamp. You will then pass by the tunnel of the Convent of the Clarissas and once across the walls, you will find the churches of Santo Domingos and San Bartolomé. A few meters ahead you come to Veiga Bridge, which you will not be crossing as a little beforehand the Camino Portuguese takes you through woods until you cross the railway line and Route N550, discovering the Chapel of Virxen do Camino just before you pass over highway A55. Then, as you enter Louro Valley, you come to one of the loveliest routes of the Camino Portuguese, next to the river. You will quickly come to Ponte das Febres (or San Tel no). Before crossing it, stop for a while opposite the Cruzeiro de San Tel no right by the bridge.
Local Trivia: Febres Bridge
In April 1276 near Febres Bridge, Saint Elmo, the Bishop of Tui, died of the plague while on a pilgrimage to Santiago.
A short while ahead, at the entrance to Orbenlle, you will find the point where the Camino Portuguese forks. Here you can decide to follow the old road which cuts through the industrial zone of O Perriño (taking you along a straight tarmac road for a further 5 km to the city centre), or you can follow the recent alternative that will take you through the natural protected area of Gâindaras de Budiño and vale do Louro. We advise you to take this route. Pay attention to the signs for the old Signage joins the new at this juncture. We also suggest you request additional information at the hostels or pilgrim support stations in Tui, as the various marks made may be somewhat confusing.
Once on the new route you will travel through bucolic landscapes amid woods and along streams, going through the localities of Pontellas, San Campio and Torneiros. Here, at the roundabout take the first right to go under the A55. After that and before crossing the River Louro you should turn left and take the dirt road.
Keeping the River Louro on your right at all times walk on through an urban park on the outskirts of O Perriño. Following the signs, cross the river via a wooden bridge and you will come to the pilgrim hostel, which is also by the river, near the centre of O Perriño. Near the hostel is a supermarket where you can stock up, If you feel strong enough carry on to Redondela.
To leave O Perriño you will walk some way along route N550 in what is a fairly busy area, after which you reach the Chapel of As Angustias. Soon, the arrows will direct you off the main road.
You will pass by Amieiro Longo and follow in the direction of Palácio de Mos and the Church of Santa Eulália de Mos. This is the start of one of the most emblematic trajectories of the Camino Portuguese. You will also find a hostel, a minimarket and a restaurant.
Take a deep breath… for there is a long climb ahead of you! On rua dos Cavaleiros you will find a polychrome cross wishing you “Buen Camino”. Amidst a typically rural Galician scenario you will reach the Chapel of Santiaguiño de Antas, where you will see a Roman milestone and take the opportunity for a rest. Carry on through the pinewood, through Chan de Pipas, with a panoramic view over the Ria de Vigo.
Here, you can also stock up with water. If you are on a bike, just roll downhill to Redondela. If you are walking, pay attention to the steep downhill route. There’s not long to go now before you reach a great hostel by Torre do Relógio, where you can rest.
Historical Note: Redondela
Redondelahas historical references dating back to the Bronze Age. It acquired particular importance linking Bracara Augusta and Ausurica Augusta. The most representative testimonies on this period ore the milestones marking the distances of theRoman roads. The only one remaining in the area stands in Vilar de Infesta and is known as ‘Anta de Maniola’ or ‘O Marco.’
This stage is not very difficult although you will have to climb two hills where some slopes can be as high as 150 metres.
To leave Redondela you go past Chapel das Angustias, also known as Santa Mariña, and go under the iron railway bridge by Eiffel. You then come to a wooded area that rises to Alto da Lomba. The climb is well worth it for the incredible view over the Ria de Vigo. Then it is down hill, through Setefontes and, immediately after, crossing the locality of Arcade (with the best oysters in Galicia). You come to the historic Bridge of Sampaio to carry you over the River Verdugo. During the War of If dependence, this bridge was the setting for the greatest defeat of Napoleon’s army in Galicia at the hands of the armed populace. It is a great place for a short rest and to try sidra de Cana, a local cider. You will find a cafe right across the bridge.
Local Trivia: Bridge of Sampaio
The bridge over the River Verdugo between Arcade and Sampaio provided the setting for the bloodthirsty battle in the 1809 campaigns against Napoleon’s forces under Marshal Ney, who were en route to Portugal. The battle was so hard that to this day the local population names its dogs after the French generals.
This marks the second part of this stage and you are entering one of the most beautiful stretches of the Camino Portuguese. First you go through the cobbled streets of Porte Sampaio and downhill again until you come to the River Ulló, its scenery a thing of rare beauty. Then, as you go along the old road, you cross the hillside of Canicouba and a rural landscape that will take you as far as the entrance to Pontevedra. When you reach the Chapel of Santa Marta in Bértola you can say that you are close to your destination. The last kilometers are on tarmac. You will walk for some meres along route N550 after which a detour takes you in the direction of the River Tomeza. On this part of the trail you will be traveling in the shade and by the river, in the midst of nature. In Poza da Moura you should cross the river, which will now be on your left. On arriving in Pontevedra you go under the railway viaduct. As you continue along the Camino Portuguese, you will come to the railway station, where you will find the hostel.
It is suggested that you go to the Tourist Office to make the best of this city’s historic centre. If you need any shopping there are various supermarkets by the hostel.
This stage does not present many difficulties. You will have a long climb ahead of you which will take you to the halfway point of the route and then a soft descent until you come to Caldas de Reis. You begin by going through Pontevedra’s historic centre, with its medieval origins, and passing by the Church of Virgem Peregrina.
It is an unusual church for it is shaped in the form of a scallop shell and is one of the reference points for pilgrims’ prayers. You then come to the millenary bridge of O Burgo, which crosses the River Lérez as it flows into the Ria de Pontevedra.
The Camino Portuguese then leaves the city and for quite a while you will travel in the midst of the landscape until you reach Barro. As a rule pilgrims choose this place to have their breakfast, for not only is the price of the menu reasonable you will also be given a shell with the phrase “Una tortuga conoce mejor el Camino que una liebre” (The tortoise knows the route better than the hare). Casa Don Pulpo, in a small square, is a good choice for your break. Once outside this village there is a hostel run by the parish. Small, isolated and fairly frugal, it can be the solution for overnighting, should you need to. If it is full, you can always sleep on the floor of an adjacent building.
From this point onwards you will come across the N550 several times and the route will often vary between roads, beaten earth tracks and small trails. You will note various dressed stone crosses proving that you are on the right Way: the Santiago Way. One of the localities you will pass through is Briallos, site of the last hostel before Caldas de Reis.
As you reach Caldas de Reis you will find the old Church of Santa Maria and shortly after the bridge over the River Umia. You are now in the city centre. Once past the hot spring fountain you will find the hostel on the left just before the medieval bridge. Here there are various hotels which may come in useful if the hostel if full. You can also spend the night at a nuns’ school nearby.
Local Treasures: Caldas de Reis
In 1940 a treasure which became known as the Caldas treasure was found in the municipality of Caldas. It cpomprises a valuable collection of items from the 16th century BC. It is supposed originally to have been constituted of a total of 25 kg in gold, of which 14.9 kg remain. Part of the treasure is exhibited in the museum of Pontevedra and there is a replica in the Auditorium of Caldas de Reis.
Once again your day’s journey is not very difficult and contains many delights for your enjoyment. Its particularity is that it takes you to Padrón, the start of the last stage of the Way. However, before you get there you must climb two hills and cross three rivers. This stage is a little more complicated than the previous one, but once up the second hill you are on a plateau and then it is downhill all the way to Padrón.
You travel through Caldas de Reis, pass by the N550 and reach the valley of the River Berman. A climb through fields and old woods takes you to the village of Cruceiro.
Again, you cross over the N550 and pass by the Church of Santa Maria de Carracedo, goingin the direction of Casal de Eirigo and O Pino through Monte Albor, where you will feel you are traveling in time. This part of the route takes you through amazing scenery, where you can view old water mills.
Once in San Miguel de Valga you are halfway through this route. Here, you feel as if you are back in the real world, beginning with the descent to Pontecesures where there is a hostel with 52 beds. It can be your choice for the night, although it is a little isolated and has no amenities nearby.
The Camino Portuguese continues through the old part of Pontecesures, where you will have to cross the River Ulla (separating the provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña) by the bridge of Roman origin. You are practically at your destination: a short trajectory through a rural area takes you to the banks of the River Sar which will be on your left until you reach Padrón, cradle of the tradition of St. James. As you enter the city you will go past the market hall and then cut across the “Paseo do Espolón” park, a tree-lined alley taking you up to the Church of Santiago. On the left you have the bridge over the River Sar and at the top of the hill you will see the large church of Convento do Carmo. On the way to the hostel, just after the bridge, you will pass by Carmo Fountain, opposite which the removal of the body of St. James took place. A few meters more and you reach the hostel, on the left side of the church. If it is full, there are various hotels in the city where you can spend the night.
Local History: Padrón
The arrival of Saint James the Greater from the Holy Land is the point of departure for the Jacobean tradition. Once his mortal remains were transferred to Santiago de Compostela, Padrón became the start of the route to the burial place for all pilgrims arriving by sea. The boat that carried the body of the Apostle was moored to the old ‘O Padrón’, which gave rise to the name of the municipality, and is on display at the parish church.
Now that you’ve completed so many stages, travelled so many kilometers on dirt tracks, cobbled paths and tarmac roads, not to mention rivers, you cannot give up. There are only 25 kilometers left to get to Santiago. Your legs probably hurt and the blisters are killing you but do not despair, you are nearly there.
Only one stage left to go, so keep on the Camino Portuguese to your final destination. Wake early to make the most of your day. This stage starts gently but only ends after two great climbs, requiring that last effort before your exalting arrival in Santiago de Compostela.
Plan your day and if you can, try to reach Santiago in time to attend the pilgrims’ Mass at noon in the Cathedral.
As soon as you leave Padrón you pass by the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria de Iris Flavia, the former episcopal seat before it moved to Santiago de Compostela. Carry on again along the N550 and travel through a string of villages – Romaris, Rueiro, Cambelas, Anteportas, Tarrio and Vilar – until you cross the N550 once again and reach the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Escravitude. A pleasant park by the side of the church is a good place for a short rest.
From here onwards you will go along roads and footpaths until you come to Angueira de Suso, when for the last time you take the N550 in quite densely populated zones. When you leave this road you will be close to O Faramello, where the hostel in Teo could be an alternative to that in Padrón. In Rua de Francos you will find one of the loveliest stretches of this stage, passing through a wood with the remains of a Roman road, and crossing the River Tinto over a bridge from the same period. A cross and the ruins of Castro Lupario are the sign that Rua de Francos has ended.
The approach to Santiago is through O Milladoiro. You are 5 km from the city and weather permitting, you may get your first view of the city and its Cathedral. After so many kilometres,I am sure you will greatly enjoy this panorama. However, your pilgrimage is not over yet, there is still a little way to go… You will have to go downhill through a wood until you pass the place of Rocha Vella. You then cross the railway line and the River Sar. At this point you have two options. One consists in climbing through Choupana, the Chapel of Santa Marta and Rua Rosalia de Castro or else going through Bairro de Conxo. Both routes lead to Praza de Vigo. (As you enter Santiago you may well be anxious about the moments ahead and will find it difficult to find the arrows that guided you during the Camino. But who needs arrows when you can see the Cathedral?) After Praza de Vigo you go alongAvenida Juan Carlos I until you read Porta Faxeira which is the traditional entrance from the Portuguese Way into the medieval city. From here you should take Rua dos Francos which will lead you to Praça do Obradoiro and the Cathedral, where you will thank the Apostle and commemorate your great feat.
Old Camino Traditions: Arrival in Santiago de Compostela
The first pilgrims prayed all night in front of the altar of the Cathedral, made their confession and attended Mass, offering gifts and taking communion in the chapel of the King of France, where they were given the certificate according to their pilgrimage and their sacraments.
To read more about the final activities you will participate in, and for more details about the city itself, check the Santiago de Compostela section of the Camino de Santiago page.
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