The Portuguese Coastal Camino is a truly unforgettable and unique experience!
The route starts in the vibrant UNESCO-listed Porto, the 2nd largest city in Portugal, and finishes in the historical and spiritual Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The 270km trail will take us to fascinating seaside towns and fishing villages, magnificent sandy beaches of Northern Portugal and Galicia, along the superb Atlantic Coast. Along the way, we will enjoy delicious locally caught seafood (grilled sardines, octopus and salted cod bacalhau to name a few) and try some local specialities (pastel de nata, francesinha, caldo verde, the list can go on and on 😊) Having walked solo the Portuguese Camino in August 2018 starting from Lisbon, walking to Porto and from there to Santiago de Compostela (that’s 700km in total, much longer than what we’re going to walk on this trip!), I fell in love with it! To achieve the highest flexibility and make the trip more enjoyable and fun, we’re going to have no more than 5 participants – a truly personal touch and fantastic small group experience!
Camino – the story:
St James the Great (Sant Iago in Spanish) was a fisherman and one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is believed to have left Jerusalem to preach in the Iberian Peninsula but after returning to the Holy Land was murdered by King Herod Agrippa in AD44. His disciples brought his body back to Spain by boat, and his remains are now buried in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (a curious fact: the world-famous Santiago de Compostela cathedral is depicted on the Spanish 1, 2 and 5 euro cent coins).
Pilgrims from all over the world have walked Camino de Santiago trails for centuries, all of which converge in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Nowadays, Camino is so much more than simply a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James! Some people choose to walk the Camino to escape from the routine, others – to reflect on their life, for me – it was simply a sports challenge and a cultural adventure. Whatever your motivation, Camino is for everyone! One of the best parts of the Camino lies in the people that you will meet along the way and the tremendous camaraderie than you will experience from the very first steps. During my Camino, I met some amazing people from Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Japan, United States, Italy, Spain and Germany to name a few! It’s always been fantastic to hear so many friendly locals wishing you Bom Caminho in Portugal or Buen Camino in Spain, meaning have a good journey!
The popularity of the Camino has grown dramatically over the last 15 years, with a total of 327,378 pilgrims completing the Camino in 2018, up from 93,929 in 2005! Historically, the French Way or the Camino Frances has been the most popular Camino route, however, the Portuguese Camino, the second most popular route, is quickly catching up. In 2005 the French Way accounted for 85% of all pilgrims vs 6% choosing to walk the Portuguese Camino, now it’s 57% vs 25%! Compared to the French Way, the Portuguese Coastal Camino offers stunning Atlantic coastal views, delicious seafood and wine and the best sandy beaches of Northern Portugal and Galicia – all the more reason to go for it!
Each of us before starting the Camino will receive a pilgrim passport credencial, which we will need in order to stay at official pilgrim hostels albergues. To receive a Compostela (a certificate of completion of the Camino and a proof that you have walked at least the last 100km), this credencial must be presented at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago with at least two stamps per day. Stamps can be collected at hostels, churches, town halls, museums, cafés, etc. along the way.
Day 1 (June 21): Arrive to Porto
To travel with the hike leader, we’ll meet at the London City Airport on Friday, June 21 at noon. Our plane (TAP Air Portugal airlines) departs from London at 14:35 and arrives to Porto at 16:55. From the airport, we’ll take Porto Metro to the city centre (takes about 30 minutes), where we’ll check in at our hostel. You will have free time to explore Porto’s medieval old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its excellent restaurants and cafés, serving traditional cuisine, from seafood to francesinhas.
Day 2 (June 22): Porto to Vila do Conde (33.9 km)
Today is the start of our Camino! Our journey will begin from the magnificent 12th-century Sé Cathedral, which has one of the best views of Porto and is the official starting point of the Portuguese Coastal Camino! The Camino will take us on a scenic route along the River Douro and Atlantic coastline via a series of esplanades and boardwalks, passing museums, forts, lighthouses, fishing villages and many kilometers of golden sandy Atlantic beaches with plenty of opportunities for a refreshing swim. We’ll have lunch in one of the seaside villages and taste excellent local seafood. Today’s hike will finish in the medieval town of Vila do Conde that was a major centre of boat building activity in Portugal’s great exploration period.
Day 3 (June 23): Vila do Conde to Esposende (24.2 km)
Today’s stage is much shorter giving you plenty of time to enjoy a relaxed pace. We’ll continue following boardwalks and esplanades, passing inviting beaches, sand dunes and old windmills (once again, plenty of opportunities for a relaxing swim!). The pretty resort town of Povoa de Varzim is a true gem with soft sandy beaches and lovely seafood restaurants. Make the most of the historic part of the town and visit the 18th-century Nossa Senhora da Conceição Fortress. We’ll finish in Esposende with a beautiful Coastal Natural Park, relaxed atmosphere and delicious local cuisine!
Day 4 (June 24): Esposende to Viana do Castelo (25.6 km)
Another fairly relaxed day as we follow the coast to an attractive medieval city of Viana do Castelo with a long maritime history of shipbuilding and cod fishing. You will have the opportunity to visit the historic town and climb Mt Santa Luzia with its Basilica. The panoramic views from the top over the coastline and up the Lima river are absolutely breathtaking and have been rated by the National Geographic magazine as the third most beautiful in the world.
Day 5 (June 25): Viana do Castelo to Caminha (26.9 km)
Today is our last day in Portugal as we head towards Caminha, situated at the mouth of the River Minho – a natural border between Portugal and Spain! We will continue walking along the beautiful Atlantic coastline passing charming seaside villages and towns along the way. The highlight of the hike is a fishing village and a popular seaside resort of Vila Praia de Ancorâ with stunning sandy beaches and dunes and the 17th-century Lagarteira Fortress.
Day 6 (June 26): Caminha to Baiona (34.4 km)
We say goodbye to Portugal and board the ferry, crossing the River Minho to Spain (Spanish time is 1hr ahead of Portugal!). Ahead of us lies pyramid-shaped Mt Santa Tecla with an impressive Iron Age settlement on top of it. From the ferry, we will continue along the Atlantic coast to the beautiful medieval fishing village of A Guarda and then Oia with the 12th-century Santa Maria de Oia Monastery. Today’s stage finishes in the historic and popular seaside town of Baiona, famous for being the port that one of Columbus’ fleet “La Pinta” arrived in, declaring discovery of America on 1 March 1493. Explore the Monterreal Fortress and admire sunset from its walls with great views to Cies Islands. Take the opportunity to taste magnificent fresh Galician fish and seafood in one of the many restaurants.
Day 7 (June 27): Baiona to Vigo (26.0 km)
Along the harbour front past the estuary of the River Miñor (a natural reserve) we continue to the seaside town of A Ramallosa most notable for its 13th-century Romanesque bridge. Today’s delightful seaside path follows the coast with idyllic beaches along the way and stunning views of the mystical Cies Islands in the distance (reputedly home to the most beautiful beach in the world!). The hike finishes in Vigo – the most populated city in Galicia with an ancient history of Celtic and Roman settlements. Modern-day Vigo is known for its fishing, canning and shipbuilding industries. Its old town and in particular the O Castro park on top of the hill with the 17th-century fortress and fantastic views of Vigo’s estuary are well worth visiting. Octopus a la Galega and oysters are popular local dishes available in most restaurants in town.
Day 8 (June 28): Vigo to Pontevedra (35.9 km)
Today is our last day along the coast as we rejoin the main Central Camino route, which goes inland all the way. The first stretch to Redondela (15.7km) is my personal favourite on the Camino as we enter magical woodland and stay on top of the hill with terrific views of the sea and Vigo’s iconic suspension bridge Puente de Rande! Redondela is a delightful town with a lively atmosphere and numerous cafés and restaurants and is known for its two 19th-century viaducts and cuttlefish. From there, we continue along quiet country lanes and woodland to the small village of Arcade famous for its seafood, especially oysters (great place for a lunch stop!). Our final point is the quintessential Galician city of Pontevedra. Pontevedra’s old town is a gem, showcasing ancient churches (of particular interest is the Church of La Peregrina with a floor plan in the shape of a scallop shell, symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago) and beautiful squares with lovely tapas bars.
Day 9 (June 29): Pontevedra to Valga (31.8 km)
From now on, the route gets progressively busier (a lot of people choose to walk the last 100km, which is the bare minimum one needs to walk in order to get a Compostela). Today is a delightful stage along small roads and through peaceful woods. The highlight of the hike is the spa-town of Caldas de Reis with its thermal waters that have gushed from its ground source at a constant 40 degrees for millennia. Caldas de Reis has several great restaurants which serve delicious traditional Galician food and are well worth a visit. We’ll finish in a peaceful village of Valga for a relaxing night before the final stage of the Portuguese Coastal Camino to Santiago!
Day 10 (June 30): Valga to Santiago de Compostela (35.1 km)
The day has arrived! This is it, the final 35km… From Valga we’ll head to Padrón where we’ll find the legendary starting point of St James ministry in Spain and also the subsequent return of his remains following his martyrdom in Jerusalem. Beneath the altar of Padrón’s church of Santiago is the original stone, O Pedrón, from which the town takes its name. There is a legend that this is the stone which the boat carrying St James’ body moored up against before the corpse was transported to a burial site – which Santiago de Compostela Cathedral was subsequently built on top of. Don’t miss sampling a plate of famous Padrón peppers with only one in every 20 or so being chilli-hot – you never know which! This has given rise to the saying “Padrón peppers, some are hot, some are not!”.
The final 25km to Santiago offer a mix of natural pathways through oak, pine and eucalyptus woodlands and inevitable stretches of main road. When you arrive to Santiago, allow time to soak in the city’s lively atmosphere and admire the gorgeous Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Look around and you’ll see pilgrims who have travelled through various routes to converge here! You made it!!! Congratulations on completing the Camino!!!
Day 11 (July 1): Santiago de Compostela & departure
We’ll head to the Pilgrim Office first thing in the morning to present our stamped credentials to receive Compostelas. You’ll then have time to explore the incredible sites of the UNESCO World Heritage old town. I recommend taking a guided tour with a local, the last time it was fantastic! A pilgrim mass at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral takes place every day at noon – quite moving and unique experience, thoroughly recommended as well.
I will take the 17:40 flight from Santiago de Compostela to London via Madrid (Iberia airlines), arriving to London at 22:10. There is a regular bus service from the city centre to Santiago airport, with the journey taking only about half an hour, meaning that we should leave Santiago at about 2.30pm. However, you’re free to stay in Santiago for another day or continue travelling 🙂
The price includes:
The price does not include:
Rivoli Cinema Hostel (Porto), Residencial Princesa do Ave (Vila do Conde), Hotel Mira Rio (Esposende), Hotel Laranjeira (Viana do Castelo), Guest House Pereira (Caminha), Estela do Mar (Baiona), Hotel Compostela (Vigo), Hotel Restaurante Rúas (Pontevedra), A Casa Do Rio (Valga), Hotel Gelmírez (Santiago de Compostela).
If you would like to join the trip or have any questions, please send us a message/email, we would be more than happy to help 😊. Before the trip, we’ll arrange an informal pre-trip get together, where you will be able to meet other participants.