Key information: Camino Portugues
- Part of the famous network of routes, across Europe, that converges on northern Spain, so the Camino Portugese too winds towards the Catholic pilgrimage site at Santiago de Compostela.Several hundred kilometres of trail by itself, this Camino heads north following the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and then Spain.Meander across littoral plain, and cross beautiful mountain ranges. Stay in villages and towns along the way, and examine a plethora of cultural gems.The route was used most famously by Queen Isabel of Portugal (12711336), at least once.
- End up in the great pilgrim city of Santiago deeply spiritual for some, moving and thought-provoking for all.
- Walkopedia rating87
- Natural interest13
- Human interest15
- Negative points0
- Total rating87
- Note: Provisional
- Length: 232km
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The Camino Portugues is one of the many dozens, in fact sister trails that lead across Europe to converge on the great Christian pilgrimage site, the stunning Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain.
The entire trail is approximately 232km, of which maybe 115km runs beside Portugals Atlantic coast before passing into Spain; a mere fraction of the Camino Frances goliath 780km. It is less popular, too, managing to avoid hordes of tourist and pilgrim alike (for the most part). Modernity hasnt made that many inroads either the only sections to encounter any kind of main road are those into and out of the larger towns en route.
Like the majority of the routes in the network, the Camino Portugues popularity reached its height between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, and Queen Isabel of Portugal travelled it at least once in that period. Her canonisation in the 17th Century is merely one distillation of the Caminos long, religious history.
Cathedrals soar skywards, in Porto, Tui and Santiago; churches litter the route, with important ones at Rates, Ponte de Lima, Redondela, Pontevedra and Padron. Even along the most remote farm-tracks stand wayside crosses dedicated to St. James. At Barcelos, the granite cross recording the miracle of the Barcelos cockerel in the towns large, renaissance square.
Pine and eucalyptus forest offer yet more tranquility, an enclosed, secure incarnation of Portugals wide-open serenity. Elsewhere the landscape is slow, bucolic idyll, or open estuary.
Beginning in the sun-drenched Algarve, the Camino Portugues is one of the few routes that never joins the Camino Frances. This is an indolent escape from the throngs on the rest of the routes; indolent, but for a matter of 230-odd kilometres.You can walk all, or just some, of the Camino: the full monty takes around six weeks, so is beyond most peoples holiday allowance, so most do selected sections.
See our Camino de Santiago overview page to put the Portugues and other caminos into context.
With thanks to Dee Mahan for first mentioning this walk and for some fabulous photos!
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Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
The Camino Portugues (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #5) – Confraternity of St James (download)
The Camino Portugues (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #5) – Confraternity of St James
Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Portugues (Camino Guides) [Abridged] - John Brierley/Findhorn Press: lightweight, with good maps; informational emphasis on the spiritual element
Camino Portugués Porto Santiago: the Portuguese Way – Published by Associacão Dos Amigos Do Caminho Portugues de Santiago, Ponte de Lima. Available in Ponte de Lima. This is a straightforward guide showing the route on clear maps but limited information on accommodation. Each section has a translation into English.
The Confraternity of St James sells detailed booklets on all the routes through its bookshop: http://www.csj.org.uk/bookshop.htm
The Cockleshell Pilgrim: A Medieval Journey to Compostela – Katherine Lack/SPCK: entertaining academic tome piecing together the Medieval pilgrim experience.
The Camino: A Pilgrimage of Courage Shirley Maclaine/Pocket Books: actress and celebrated-bonkers-woman’s entertaining account of her spiritual experiences along the paths.
Camino Portugues – John Brierley
Somiedo National Park (waterproof): map of the area bordered by the two northern routes of the Camino.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Spring is fantastic for its cool weather and fresh growth. Early Autumn is supposed to have the most consistent weather.
An Atlantic coast means a changeable, maritime climate. Ocean winds ensure generous amounts of rainfall, leading to descriptions of “Green Portugal” and “Green Spain”, here. Temperatures and humidity can soar in Summer months: come prepared.For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.
Porto, at the start of the Camino Portugues, has an international airport.
Buses ply the whole of the Camino; the primary northern Spanish bus company, ALSA, is found here: www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa.
Also try Eurolines, the network of European coach operators: www.eurolines.com
Many followers of this route will use organizers to transport their baggage. See “Guided or independent” below.
No permits are needed to do this walk. However, a Pilgrim’s Passport (see “Other Information and Tips”, below) is a very useful document and will open doors that would otherwise remain firmly closed.
Route(s)The sections of the Camino Portugues run:
- Porto – Vilarinho (26km)
- Vilarinho – Barcelos (26km)
- Barcelos – Ponte de Lima (31km)
- Ponte de Lima – Rubiaes (17km)
- Rubiaes – Valenca (17km)
- Valenca – Tui (3km)
- Tui – Porrino (15km)
- Porrino – Redondela (14km)
- Redondela – Arcade (Pontesampaio; 9km)
- Arcade – Pontevedra (10km)
- Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis (23km)
- Caldas de Reis – Padron (19km)
- Padron – Santiago de Compostela (20km)
Yellow arrows indicate the path; granite pillars declare the distance to Santiago.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Mountain weather (once in Spain): snow, rain, cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous in places; some sections are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently.
Many organizations arrange expeditions, and, given the length of the route, this could be useful logistically. (Bear in mind that the religious/spiritual elements of a group can vary hugely when choosing your company.) Operators can also organise accommodation, meals and picnics, as well as (crucially) luggage transport, while allowing walkers to remain self-guided.
- Follow the Camino.com – Camino Portugues
- Saranjan Tours - www.saranjan.com/portugal
- Explore! - www.explore.co.uk - reputable and experienced organisers.
- Wilderness Travel – www.wildernesstravel.com
In Spain, many towns have albergues, hostels reserved for pilgrims only. A Pilgrim’s passport card (see other information and tips) is essential to stay in these. These are, of course, the most “authentic” way to travel the Camino, but can be “hair shirt” and prone to noxiously early and noisy departures keen to bag their space in the next one.
Portugal has its equivalent of pilgrim-only albergues, but you will often face a matter of independent hostels and/or camping; most towns have a reasonable selection.
A list of Portuguese albergues can be found here, but it’s far from exhaustive: www.alberguerates.com.sapo.pt.
For Spain, try www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/pilgrim-hostels/.
Find hostels along the route at Hostelbookers.com.
Other information and tips
To prove that they have completed their pilgrimage (the last hundred km by foot, or 200km by bike) and collect their plenary indulgence, pilgrims secure and carry a credencial card, which they get stamped at inns, bars, restaurants, churches and albergues along the way, and present at the pilgrims’ office at Santiago de Compostela to receive a certificate absolving them of all earthly sins. The passport is also essential to prove pilgrim status and gain access to the pilgrims’ hostels along the way – definitely the cheapest form of accommodation. Passports are available from the confraternity organizations in your country, or from the common start points on the route. For further information http://www.csj.org.uk/how-to-get-a-credencial.htm (UK) and http://www.americanpilgrims.com/camino/credential_req.html (US) are good places to start.
Though it’s rare for the route to not pass through habitations with shops and cafes, none of these can be entirely relied on to be open (or indeed serving food). Highly recommend making sure you have emergency supplies at all times in case a scratch lunch is needed, and sufficient water for the day if you don’t want to rely on the pilgrim fountains scattered along the route.
Useful websites and information
- There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- Exhaustive, information-and-picture-filled site covers all routes: santiago-compostela.net/index
- Less exhaustive, but less confusing, too: www.caminodesantiago.me.uk
- The Confraternity of St James’ overview www.csj.org.uk/route-camino-portugues
- Every Pilgrim Guide you could ever need: www.csj.org.uk/acatalog/The_CSJ_Bookshop_CSJ_Pilgrim_Guides_15
- Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.
Other things to do in the area
Superb opportunities for lovers of history and church architecture, and if you’re lucky you might drift through a fiesta or other festival en route.
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Posted on: 04/03/2013
Camino Travel Center Travel Agency Specialised in The Camino de Santiago.
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