15-Day Escorted PORTUGUESE COASTAL CAMINO
Portugal emerged as a country in 1143, and is steeped in history. From the mid-12th century, the way of Saint James and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has been a feature on the paths and roads across Portugal. This route was used by Queen Isabel of Portugal (1271 – 1336) to make at least one pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The hospitality offered to pilgrims started in the middle-ages by monks and clergymen, still continues today along the less travelled Portuguese Way ('the friendly Camino') where all villages and towns participate with their generosity and warm welcome. The route heading north through rural areas, along the Atlantic coast has the sun on your back all the way to Santiago, with farmhouses, forests, rolling hills and cobbled stone paths a feature of the journey.
Walking the Camino is a time for reflection and recognition and a time to shake your worries for another time and place. It provides thinking time to crystalise the 'where to from here', or if you prefer, don't bother thinking at all.
Following the Atlantic Coast towards Santiago de Compostela, the Portuguese Coastal Way starts in the colourful UNESCO-listed city of Porto and follows a beautiful landscape of beaches and dunes. The route will take you through charming seaside towns and villages in Northern Portugal before crossing to Galicia, and the heart of the Rías Baixas. Discover the wild Atlantic beauty and sandy beaches of Northern Portugal and Southern Galicia, taste delicious seafood and wine, stay in fishing villages, go for a swim in one of the many sandy beaches and be refreshed by the maritime feel of our newest Coastal Camino.
Although this trip is escorted/hosted, you are free to walk at your own pace in your own time.
You will be provided with a pack of easy to read maps and instructions, complete with directions to guide you on the well-marked paths and tracks, following the yellow arrows. Your pack will be available at your joining hotel on the first day of your trip.
The itinerary is carefully designed for easy to manage walking days. There is a basic level of fitness required and some uphill stretches in part, however, given you only need carry a lightweight day bag and your water supply, which can be replenished in the various villages on route and other essentials such as snacks, it makes this trip very manageable for any inexperienced walker.
ACCOMMODATION & LUGGAGE TRANSFER
Your stay will be in an excellent combination of centrally located hotels and charming village accommodation dotted along the Camino.
The character, comfort and often the uniqueness of the accommodation all adds to the experience. In some villages you will stay in ‘Casa Rurals’, which are bed and breakfast style accommodation.
Your private accommodation is pre-booked in advance and is on a twin share basis with private en suite facilities. Single supplement is on request and where possible we will offer a gender share option as requested.
The local cuisine is also a highlight. On occasion, mama will be in the kitchen preparing a three course hearty meal known as the pilgrim’s staple, which comes complete with a bottle of wine, (which can be returned to the kitchen if you wish, or if you are under age!). The cook, or regular chef will not disappoint, and all dietary requirements are taken care of in advance. The language is Portuguese and Spanish. English is difficult to find, which adds an exciting dimension and a great reminder that you are travelling in a foreign land.
Your luggage is transferred daily which means you are carefree to enjoy the walking, with no need to worry about your bed for that night, nor straining your body from carrying too many kilos on your back.
ARRIVE PORTO - Day 1/Night 1
Start your Camino in colourful Porto. Porto, overlooking the River Douro, is one of the most ancient cities in Europe. It is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, and has a population of 1.4 million. It was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine, is named for Porto. The Porto region is also a major producer of cork.
PORTO – POVOA DO VARZIM 14km. Estimated walking time approx. 3-4 hours –Day 2/Night 2
Transfer from Porto to Labruge (at 17km from the city centre, this will shorten the walk and avoid the industrial outskirts of town). Commence walking to Povoa do Varzim.
The first stage hugs the Atlantic coastline and passes fishing villages, forests and the prehistoric site and archaeological remains of Castro S.Paio dating from the Iron Age.
The ocean and miles of golden sandy beaches will be the guide to the town of Povoa de Varzim. This is a popular resort town for the Portuguese and many have holiday homes here.
POVOA DO VARZIM – ESPOSENDE 20km. Estimated walking time approx. 5-6 hours – Day 3/Night 3
Explore this pretty medieval district before you continue your Camino. On your way to the old fishing village of Esposende you will cross the Coastal Natural Park and Parque Natural do Litoral Norte. Esposende village is located on the estuary of the River Cavado.
ESPOSENDE – VIANA DO CASTELO 23km. Estimated walking time approx. 5-6 hours – Day 4/Night 4
Continuing North admiring the views and the peace of the Coastal Natural Park on route to Viana do Castelo. You will cross the Eifell's old iron bridge over the River Lima. Legend has it that the Romans were so impressed by Viana’s beauty when they reached the town in the first century BC they thought they had reached paradise.
Viana Do Castelo is famous for its handcrafts and local costumes.
VIANA DO CASTELO – ANCORA 18km. Estimated walking time approx. 4-5 hours – Day 5/Night 5
Continuing North along the Atlantic coastline, today is an easy walking day giving you time to enjoy a relaxed pace and time to enjoy the seaside villages and towns along the Camino. You follow the coastline all the way to the ancient fishing village of Ancora, which is located at the end of the Ancora River. Ancora is nestled in a valley protected from the winds by the ‘Serra d’Arga’ hills at the north, and ‘Monte de Santa Luzia’ at the south.
ANCORA – A GUARDA 15km. Estimated walking time approx. 5 hours - Day 6/Night 6
Today you continue towards Caminha where you will take a ferry boat across the river Minho to Galicia. There are about 10 crossings a day (check timetable for times and days of operation at this link).
From the ferry continue to A Guarda where it is recommended that you visit the famous hilltop archaeological ‘castro’ Celtic settlement with its breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
A Guardia is the most southerly resort in Galicia next to the Portuguese border. It's a fisherman’s port, famous for its shellfish including lobsters.
A GUARDA – OIA 15km. Estimated walking time approx. 4 hours - Day 7/Night 7
Oia is famous for its impressive monastery right on the Atlantic Ocean. Although not open to the public you can visit the exterior and you may be lucky to join a guided visit organised by the tourist office.
OIA – BAIONA 15km. Estimated walking time approx. 4 hours - Day 8/Night 8
Baiona with its medieval historical centre is situated by the outlet of Vigo Bay. In 1493 the ship Carabeta La Pinta arrived in the Port of Baiona with news of the discovery of America and you can visit a replica of the ship moored in the harbour museum.
BAIONA – VIGO 23km. Estimated walking time approx. 5 hours - Day 9/Night 9
Vigo is tucked away in the south-west of Galicia. It is more of a convenience stop as it is on the trail, however the walk itself is far from disappointing as you follow the coast enjoying fantastic views of the Bay of Vigo and the Natural Park on the horizon. Why not stop for a swim and enjoy the beach.
VIGO - ARCADE 22km. Estimated walking time approx. 5 hours - Day 10/Night 10
An interesting stage along the coastal inlet of the Ria de Pontevedra. Walking amongst the enchanted forest around the Alto de Lomba before returning to the sea at Arcade.
Arcade is a fishing village famous for oysters – definitely worth a taste.
ARCADE - PONTEVEDRA 13km. Estimated walking time approx. 4 hours - Day 11/Night 11
Today is the last day along the coast and a short walking day so you can make the most of the seaside before following ancient stone paths to arrive at the provincial capital at Pontevedra with its many Romanesque churches and granite squares.
PONTEVEDRA – CALDAS DE REIS 21km. Estimated walking time approx. 5 hours - Day 12/Night 12
Passing chestnut groves and eucalyptus woods then continuing through the hamlet of Ponte Cabras, to encounter the rectory of Santa Maria de Alba, tucked away among the trees.
Emerging from the dense woods of Lombo da Maceira, there lies a statue of Saint James the pilgrim, his cane pointing the way to proceed. The lovely village of Tibo, with its fountain, public washing place and stone cross, are just shy of Caldas de Reis.
CALDAS DE REIS – PADRON 18km. Estimated walking time approx. 4-5 hours - Day 13/Night 13
Exiting the town over the river Umia that leads to a fountain of hot spring water that has lent the town its name since Roman times. Entering the woods once more, the Camino gradually climbs its way to the hamlet of Santa Marina before finally catching up again with the river to arrive in Padron. Padron is famous for being the first land sighted by the ship bearing the body of Saint James. It is also home to Galicia’s most famous poet Rosalia de Castro.
PADRON – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA 22km. Estimated walking time approx. 5 hours - Day 14/Night 14
Today the Camino passes through many small villages and hamlets before arriving at Agro dos Monteiros, where it is now possible to see the spires of the Santiago Cathedral.
Your walk passes by the ruins of a castle known as A Rocha Vella, before entering the city of the Apostle. Wander the streets and enjoy the character of this amazing city, enjoyed by pilgrims and the like from all around the world.
Time to enjoy this gem of a city, sample some Tapas and reflect on the journey that has lead you to Santiago de Compostela.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA - Day 15
Santiago de Compostela is a special, rare city with a particular magic that can only be enjoyed by walking around its streets. Its historical centre has been designated a World Heritage Site and offers dozens of churches and religious buildings, including the impressive cathedral, which is both Baroque and Romanesque at the same time and contains the sepulchre of the Apostle St James (known in Spanish as Santiago). The plazas of A Quintana, Praterias, Acibecheria and O Obradoiro escort the Cathedral and each one stands as an open-air museum. Plaza de O Obradoiro marks the location of the Hostel dos Reis Catόlicos, which is today a parador hotel, the office of the vice-chancellor of the city’s university and the Pazo de Raxoi, which is home to the regional government and the City Hall. The cathedral marks the beginning of Rúa da Raiña and Rúa Franco, which are laden with bars and restaurants where you can enjoy all the specialities of Galicia and, at the end of the street, the beautiful Paseo da Ferradura offers impressive views of the city on one side and the university campus on the other. Another part of the historical centre contains the beautiful marketplace, which is of neo-Romanesque style. It is impossible to summarise the beauty of this great city in only a few lines.
Although the trip finishes after breakfast today, the memories of the Camino will live on.