The Camino Portugués

This route, which heads north following the Atlantic coast of Portugal and Spain, was used by Queen Isabel of Portugal (1271 – 1336) to make at least one pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  Queen Isabel was canonized in 1626 and this is celebrated on her feast day, the 8th of July. (The Confraternity Guides to the Portuguese route are available from our online shop. A Guide by John Brierley is also available.)

Looking up to cathedral buildings from river, Porto

Looking up to cathedral buildings from river, Porto

The Route. Most pilgrims start in Porto, but many also walk the 620km from Lisbon to Santiago.  The Lisbon-Porto stretch has less support for pilgrims, but new albergues are opening every year and it is now much easier to walk this route than it was say five years ago. The Portuguese pilgrims’ Association Via Lusitana publishes the latest accommodation available 

Lisbon to Porto.  Initially there is quite a lot of road walking and infrequent pilgrim accommodation. The way becomes more beautiful after Santarem (where you can detour to visit Fatima). The stages between the old Knight’s Templar town of Tomar and Coimbra (site of one of Europe’s oldest universities) is delightful.

From Porto the way continues northwards crossing the rivers Lima and Minho where it enters Spain.  Still heading north, the river Ulla is crossed at Padron before arriving at Santiago.  The total distance of (about) 232k from Porto can be divided into 117k for the Portuguese section and 112k from Tui to Santiago, with 3k for the transfer from Valenca across the border at the Rio Minho to Tui.

Coast options from Porto.  There is a waymarked alternative route along the coast from Porto. From Matosinhos (which is also on the metro) the route is well marked along the shore, often proceeding along boardwalks to Vilar do Conde.

At Rates you can choose the more established route to Barcelos or return to the coastal way which since 2013 has seen a surge of interest, although still relatively low-key.

The Confraternity now publishes a Guide to the coastal variant (see below).

First galician Milestone

First galician Milestone

Waymarking. Yellow arrows are plentiful from the Cathedral at Porto to the Portuguese border, thanks to the efforts of the Associacão dos Amigos do Caminho Portugues de Santiago.  Sometimes these marks are accompanied by blue amms pointing towards Porto, indicating the route from Santiago to Porto and thence Fatima.  Around Barcelos and to the north of Tui, red and white marks of the GR11-E9 impact on the camino. The familiar yellow arrows showing the route through Galicia are supplemented with granite pillars giving the distance to Santiago.

Terrain. The camino heads north from Porto following the Atlantic coastal ship and, as several rias are crossed, presents an interesting if undulating journey.  Country districts comprise of mixed farms and smallholdings interspersed with pine and eucalyptus forests.  As the camino follows the obvious transport corridor connecting Porto – Valenca – Tui – Pontevedra – Santiago – Lugo -A Coruña, it inevitably makes contact with national roads.  The current route has been realigned to minimise contact with major roads but often joins these roads at the entrance and exit of cities and towns.

Weather and when to go. Northern Portugal and Galicia are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean resulting in a changeable maritime climate.  Westerly winds ensure a generous rainfall, hence the references to ‘Green Portugal and Green Spain’.  During periods of low pressure, rainfall can be heavy and prolonged and walkers should be adequately prepared.  Spring is a rewarding time to experience cool weather and fresh growth, whilst early auturm is regarded as being fairly dry and settled.  Summer can be hot with periods of high humidity and facilities are usually crowded during the peak holiday months.

Accommodation  Dedicated pilgrim refuges in Rates, Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Rubiães and Valença do Minho in Portugal, and Tui, Porriño, Mos, Redondela, Cesantes, Pontevedra and Padrón on the Spanish side.  Hotels, residenciais/hostales and pensões/fondas in Porto and all places of any size along the way.

St James - Wayside Shrine near Bouca

St James – Wayside Shrine near Bouca

What to see. Cathedrals at Porto, Tui and Santiago.  Important churches at Rates, Ponte de Lima, Redondela, Pontevedra, and Padron.  Numerous wayside crosses dedicated to St James and the granite cross at Barcelos recording the miracle of the hanged pilgrim.  The Roman mooring stone in Padron church with connections to St James. Caldas de Reis, near the church of St Thomas Becket in the main square, free thermal footbath for pilgrims.

Distinctive features. The Camino Portugués is now defined and well marked; generally following secondary and minor roads with relaxing sections along farm tracks and through forests.  Major roadworks are still encountered and these are usually marked showing the required diversion.  When using roads be aware of traffic and use the indicated strip between the road and the (usual) drainage ditch. This coastal area is a popular holiday area and can become crowded in summer with associated pressure on services and accommodation.

Cyclists. Possible with detours around the forested areas.  No dedicated cyclist’s maps are currently available.  However, I have met cyclists along the camino and have been told that it is a straightforward journey.  More information would be appreciated.

Guide books:

  • The Camino Portugués, Lisbon to Porto (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #5, Part A), The Confratemity of St James, London, 2017.   Written by Laurie Reynolds, edited by Johnnie Walker. This guide covers the route from Lisbon to Porto, which is approximately 370 kms. 73 pages.   Available as an A5 booklet from our online shop or as a Kindle ebook.
  • The Camino Portugués, Porto to Santiago – Central Route (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #5, Part B), The Confratemity of St James, London, 2017.  Written by Johnnie Walker. This guide covers the central route (Caminho Central) from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, which is the path most travelled by pilgrims, and, as such, has the most developed infrastructure. 85 pages. Available as an A5 booklet from our online shop or as a Kindle ebook.
  • The Camino Portugués, Porto to Santiago – Coastal Route (Pilgrim Guides to Spain #5, Part C), The Confratemity of St James, London, 2017.  Written by Johnnie Walker. This guide covers the alternative coastal route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, which was first developed in the 1700s.  Available as an A5 booklet from our online shop or as a Kindle e-book
  • Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Guides 2017/2018 – Preparing for the Camino Portugués, The Confratemity of St James, London, 2017.  Written by Johnnie Walker. This guide provides an overview of the planning involved for the Camino Portugués. It includes how long the camino will take, how much it will cost, an overview of the route and when to go (including the 2018 dates of the Portuguese/Spanish holidays and religious festivals). It also covers physical preparation, personal safety, healthcare and the camino, money, accommodation, going to mass on the camino, sending mail, luggage transfer and information for pilgrims with limited mobility.   Available as an A5 booklet from our online shop

  • A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugués by John Brierley   Published by the Findhorn Press. This covers Lisbon – Santiago, with complete route-finding description and accommodation information for the entire route. Findhorn Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-84409-653-4. Some hand drawn maps are included in the guide, a separate booklet of just these maps is also available, 2015, ISBN 978 1 84409 650 3. Both guide and map booklet available from our online shop.
  • Camino Portugués Porto Santiago – the Portuguese Way.  Published by Associacão Dos Amigos Do Caminho Portugues de Santiago, Ponte de Lima.  Currently 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.
Valença (River Mino in foreground)

Valença (River Mino in foreground)

Pictures. For pictures of the Camino Portugués, visit the Pictures Pages of the Camino.

Discussion Forum. Visit the Camino de Santiago Forum to join in the current conversation.

(Thanks to Peter Robins, July 2007.)

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Addendum: Lisbon-Porto

This route is now well-waymarked, but has less pilgrim infrastructure than the route after Porto.  The Brierley guide provides comprehensive information about taking this way, but we recommend you supplement this with information about the latest accommodation and news at run by the Portuguese pilgrims’ association  – The Association Via Lusitana

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