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 and canonised in the 17th century) to make at least one pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. 

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 five years ago. The Portuguese pilgrims’ Association Via Lusitana publishes the latest accommodation available www.vialusitana.org

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.  This route is now well-waymarked, but has less pilgrim infrastructure than the route after Porto. 

In Porto, itself, make sure to visit the Anglican church of St James - the only church under the dedication of St James in the town. With an English-speaking congregation, they gladly receive pilgrims. See their website here.

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

From Porto you can also follow the “Coastal” route from Matosinhos, where the route is well marked along the shore, often proceeding along boardwalks to Vilar do Conde. You will see signs for what is known as the “Littoral” Variant of the Coastal route, which hugs the coast the entire way to the Sea of Arousa.

The Spiritual Variant of the Camino Portugués

Spiritual Variant This is a relatively newly-established variant which begins in Pontevedra and deviates from the main camino up to Vilanova on the shores of the Sea of Arousa. Pilgrims then take a boat to Pontecesures up the estuary and into the River Ulla. This is the route by which the body of St James is said to have travelled in a stone boat, guided by angels and the stars to the town of Padrón before settling in Compostela.

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 arrows 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 – Valença – 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 autumn 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.

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.  We have a selection on this route, covering Lisbon to Porto, Porto to Santiago Central, Coastal & Seaside and Spiritual variants.

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.

©CSJ

Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela

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