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The Camino Portuguese Coastal Route – our third pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela! Actually, it’s sort of our fourth if you count the three weeks of the Camino del Norte we did before switching over to the Camino Primitivo. Or maybe our fifth, if you count the partial Camino Finisterre we added on after the Camino Francés.
Lots of Caminos, I guess is the point. These beautiful long-distance pilgrimages actually number in the dozens in Spain alone, and far more than that if you count every starting point around Europe. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they end in lovely, historic Santiago de Compostela, the final resting places of St James the Apostle.
With an abundance of routes, endless accommodation options and a distinctly social vibe, hiking Caminos can easily turn into a bit of an obsession. So far, we’ve “only” experienced 5 of the 6 most popular routes (around 1,850 km in all) and still have many more to go.
The route we most recently completed – the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto – is actually a slightly less travelled variant of the extremely popular Camino Portuguese from Lisbon to Santiago. While the original Central Route follows trails and small roads inland from Porto, you probably won’t be shocked to hear that the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route (called the Camino Portugúes da Costa in Portuguese) follows scenic coastal paths instead.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Accommodation
The route also passes through a large number of towns and villages along the way (not to mention a couple actual cities) so there is no shortage of accommodation or food options (or ATMs, although basically every place prefers you pay with card). Traditional pilgrims stay in municipal “albergues”, a type of Camino hostel that provides shared dorms at very reasonable prices.
However, there are also many private albergues offering a range of shared and private rooms, plus regular hotels for an additional level of comfort. The type you choose all comes down to personal preference and what you value more – budget-friendly digs and a social atmosphere or privacy and comfort.
We stayed mainly in communal albergues on our previous Caminos but this time around opted for the luxury of private hotel rooms. Partially so we wouldn’t have to haul sleeping bags around throughout a 4-month trip when we would only need them for two weeks, and partially because dorms, shockingly, continue to get less appealing with age.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Overview
Distance: 270 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: Minimal for the first week, around 200m per day towards the end
As for the route itself, we chose to start in Porto for a few reasons. First of all, the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela is roughly 270 kilometres and takes around two weeks, while to walk all the way from Lisbon you’re looking at 650 kilometres and a full month.
Secondly, most people describe the first 380 kilometres to Porto as less interesting than the later sections. It also has some big gaps between towns that require either especially long hiking days or some bus transportation and in April, when we had chosen to hike, not all of the hotels and albergues have opened up yet in central Portugal. Adding all that together, we were easily convinced to opt for the less arduous option.
Overall impressions: the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route is very beautiful, especially from days 3-8 along the Atlantic Coast. It is also very flat and you will spend most of your time walking on malecóns, boardwalks and small roads. Which makes for fast, easy walking but the hard surfaces and repetitive impact can take a toll on your feet.
Based on our itinerary, the first 5 days of the hike take place in Portugal before crossing the border into Spain at Caminha. Don’t expect any fanfare, though, since the quiet guy who ferried across the river/border in his tiny boat for €6/person did not seem concerned about our passport situation. Thank you, EU.
Far fewer people choose the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route than the Central Route but the coastal variant eventually joins up with the Central Route anyway, in historic Redondela, meaning that the final few days are much busier. And if you really want to stay off the beaten path, the Spiritual Way is an even less popular variant that takes you back to the coast for a couple more days at the end (although it also involves a ferry ride).
On the coastal route there is another pretty beach town every 5-10 kilometres along the way, which means plenty of itinerary options as well as many places to stop off for a drink, snack and maybe to commiserate about your sore feet (and occasionally the weather).
Unlike the inland routes we’ve experienced such as the Camino Francés or Camino Primitivo, the coastal routes (we’re including the Camino del Norte in this) tend to have less of a pilgrimage feel because the towns along the way are usually quite popular beach holiday destinations. On the other hand, on the inland routes, the entire tourism industry of the rural towns often revolves entirely around Camino pilgrims (or “peregrinos”, if you want to feel a bit more Spanish).
Speaking of language, don’t be put off hiking a Camino just because you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese. Obviously, knowing the local language is always helpful and greatly appreciated along the way but most people involved in the Camino industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, etc.) usually speak a fair bit of English. And even if they don’t, they probably have a lot of practice communicating with foreigners.
Pilgrims who want to stay in municipal albergues and/or document their journey need to pick up a Pilgrim Passport or “credencial” before starting. This booklet is available at the Sé Cathedral in Porto for just €2 and you can collect stamps in churches, albergues, hotels, restaurants and bars along the way.
In order to officially qualify as “completed”, earn a “Compostela” and collect all the heavenly points you’ve earned (the pilgrimage is a rather famous Catholic rite of passage), you need to get at least one stamp per day up until the last 100 km. Then over the final 100 km you will need two stamps per day (it turns out that in the past lots of people have tried cheating their way into God’s good graces).
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Towns
Although almost every town along the way had its charm, the highlights for us were probably Viana do Castelo, Baiona and Pontevedra. These are all popular choices for rest days as they have quite a few attractions and excellent scenery.
We chose to take a rest day in Baiona for a couple reasons. One, from Porto, Viana do Castelo is only a few days into the hike and Pontevedra is only a few days from the end of the route. Baiona, then, seemed like a more logical choice as we reached it after 7 days of hiking, with 6 left to go.
It also has a very impressive castle/fortress located on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by beaches, a nice old town with typically mazey little alleys and a huge statue atop a hill overlooking the entire scene.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route: When to Go and Weather
Since the trail follows the coast most of the way, the temperature tends to be a bit warmer than inland early and late in the season and a bit cooler in mid-summer. That appealed to us since we were hiking in April. And we found the temperature almost perfect for hiking. 15-20C during the day and around 10C at night.
On the other hand, the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route does get a bit more rain than the Central Route and the overall weather patterns are more changeable and erratic. April is considered somewhat risky, weather-wise, and that was certainly the case for us. We started out in rain, got hit with a downpour on day two, then enjoyed 5-6 beautiful, sunny days before closing things out with several straight days of clouds and intermittent showers.
Overall, could have been worse, could have been better. Much like our daily hygiene.
The closer you get to mid-summer, the hotter it will be (sweaty days) but the less rain you can expect (poncho-free!). Many people suggest September for the best combination of warm weather, dry days and a slightly quieter trail.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Luggage Transfer
There are two companies that do brisk business in luggage transfer along the Camino Portuguese – Tuitrans and Pilbeo. They both come highly recommended and charge €6-7 per bag per stage or around €70-75 to have a bag sent all the way from Porto to Santiago without any drops along the way.
Those looking to carry as little as possible while still having all their extra clothes and gear available every night can have their luggage picked up at their accommodation each morning and dropped off at their next stay to be waiting for them when the arrive in the afternoon.
We decided going a couple weeks without our laptops and making due with just a single change of clothes was perfectly acceptable, and during the hike our backpacks only weighed in around 6-7 kg (13-16 lbs) depending on food and water (see our full packing list at end of this post), so we didn’t take that option.
However, because our hike was only a small part of a longer trip we had extra gear we didn’t need to carry with us so we did send a bag ahead from Porto to Santiago with TuiTrans.
Our situation was slightly complicated because in Porto we were staying in an AirBnB in Porto with no reception where we could leave a bag for pickup. So we chose Tuitrans because they partner with Spot Luggage in Porto, allowing us to drop our bag off the night before we started hiking. If we had gone with Pilbeo we were going to have to meet someone in the morning to hand it over. We opted for the option with less chance of confusion and waiting.
In the end, we were very happy with Tuitrans as they picked up our bag as planned, held it at their storage facility while we hiked and delivered it to our hotel in Santiago the morning of our arrival. Smooth and effortless.
More Camino de Santiago Posts
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route: Stages and Itinerary
Our hike started at Cathedral Sé in Porto and ended at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It took us 13 days of hiking, averaging just over 20 km per day, and 14 days in total, including our rest day in Baiona.
We bought the Wise Pilgrim app ($5) mainly for the GPS map and found it very handy. Although their “main” routes sometimes went away from the coast while a “variant” would stick closer to the water. Most of the time we thought those two should have been switched. After all, most people who have chosen the Camino Portuguese Coast Route are doing it to be, you know, by the coast, so generally prefer the option closest to the ocean.
With the exception of the day we left Marinhas we always took the coastal option, even when it meant a slightly longer day (the uneven nature of the coast makes straight lines hard to come by).
We joined up with the Central Route in Redondela and did not try the Spiritual Way variant that goes back to the coast and involves a ferry journey and typically adds an extra day to the trek.
Our main criteria when choosing our stops was evening out our distances so that we didn’t have any particularly long days. One of the most common itineraries we had considered involved a 31km day so we moved things around a bit to avoid that. We also set it up so we’d have a short day walking into Baiona to maximize our time in the apartment we booked their for our rest day.
We found the Gronze website (Spanish) to be very helpful for mapping out the specific routes and also used AllTrails and Wikiloc occasionally when we wanted to follow a route that wasn’t clear on Wise Pilgrim.
Each section of the itinerary below shows our hiking distance for the day (based on the most coastal route unless stated otherwise) and how long it took us INCLUDING breaks. We were going to add a difficulty rating for each stage but we soon realized it was redundant because every stage qualifies as “easy” in trekking terms (other than for distance and wear and tear on your feet).
We’ve also included detailed info about the places we stayed and mentioned the municipal albergue in each town (or an alternative if there isn’t one) in case you are planning to go that route.
As for terrain, the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route is completely flat until Day 7 when there is one small hill (about 100m). Then, after you join the Central Route at Redondela, you will face a couple hills per day, never higher than 150m and generally pretty gradual.
No question about it, Porto is a beautiful city. You should absolutely plan some extra time there ahead of your Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Especially if you have time change and jet lag to deal with.
In our case, we were only flying in from London so the time change was just an hour but we were still happy to have 3 three nights and two full days to explore this gorgeous place. We had been to Porto once before (in between hiking the Camino Francés and heading to Madeira) but it is certainly the kind of place that easily warrants multiple visits.
The cathedral is obviously a big highlight, as well as the Ponte Luis I (Luis 1 Bridge), the Rio Douro, the many viewpoints and Sao Bento train station, of all places. But our favourite part of Porto was just wandering the various winding streets and stopping off for cerveja or ice cream in pleasant little plazas. A very enjoyable place to spend a few days, that’s for sure.
Stayed at: Lemago Apartments in a nice, little apartment just a couple hundred metres from the cathedral that was very convenient for everything we wanted to see and do in Porto. The little side street where it’s located seemed a little rough but overall it was quiet, good value and gave us a chance to eat a few meals in before hitting the trail.
Albergue: Albergue do PeregrinoNossa Senhora do Rosario de Vilar
1. Porto to Labruge
25 km / 6.5 hrs
Towns: Foz do Douro, Matosinhos, Cabo do Mundo, Agudela, Lavra
After taking the obligatory photo of you starting out at Sé Cathedral, you can choose between two routes out of Porto. The main one weaves through the city and stays inland until reaching the coast at Vila do Conde, skipping Labruge and making for a longer first day. The second option is called the Sendero Litoral, which simply follows the river, then the coastline.
We, of course, chose the waterside option, strolling out of Porto along a picturesque malecón (and a very unique pedestrian bridge perched off the side of a vehicle bridge) in a light rain (it seems we start every long trek in the rain, just to test our resolve, I guess).
25 km is a bit ambitious for a first day so if you do feel you want to take the coastal route but shorten it up a bit there are a few options. You can hike through the city to Matosinhos on a more direct route, which will save you a few kilometres. Or bus 500 runs along the water all the way to Matosinhos and you could take it as far as Foz do Douro (save 5 km) or Matosinhos (save 10 km). Or you can walk to Foz do Douro and catch the bus to Matosinhos (save 5 km). Food for thought.
The trail itself is entirely flat and fast – we averaged about 4 km/hr even with a couple of trail breaks and a longer stop in Cabo do Mundo for a terrific pasteis de nata (and beer).
Labruge is a rather uninspiring place but it does have a municipal albergue and a decent selection of other accommodation options. The albergue is a pretty long walk from the trail (roughly a kilometre) but there is also a minimercado and an ATM in the vicinity if either of those are needed.
There is also a nice bar on the beach (Novo Rumo) where we killed time with a large beer until check-in was available, then enjoyed pizza and “fried beef on bread” later on.
Stayed at: Casa da Praia (€89 incl breakfast) which is about 500m off the trail on the main road into the town. The room was very comfortable with a small base heater (handy in April), a good shower and very fast wifi.
Albergue: Albergue São Tiago de Labruge
2. Labruge to Povoa de Varzim
16 km / 4.5 hrs
Towns: Vila Cha, Mindelo, Vila do Conde
This section is a nice beach walk but turned into a bit of a slog, mainly because we started in rain, were treated to a couple cloudy hours in the middle, then finished in a pretty heavy downpour. Also, the first blisters started making an appearance – we find that long, easy hiking days on hard surfaces are the worst for blisters, far worse than hiking in the mountains.
Had we taken the most direct route through Vila do Conde the day would have been 2 km shorter but we chose to walk the long way along the water (nice) past the castle (underwhelming).
We also enjoyed an excellent lunch stop at Chilli’s Tex Mex (not really similar at all to the North American Chili’s) where the Brazilian waiter convinced us to try the local northern Portuguese specialty – “francesinhas”. Beef, chorizo, ham, egg and cheese on bread with a sauce like orange peppery ketchup (apparently each place has its own special sauce). Delicious.
We didn’t see a lot of Povoa de Varzim, arriving hunched over in the rain with Laynni limping through what we soon learned was a horrible blood blister right on the ball of her foot, followed by some grim scenes involving needles, tissues, thread and far too much blood.
Stayed at: Hotel Costa Verde was probably the best value of our entire Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. For just €54 we got our own (small) double room with a good bathroom, excellent shower and an extensive breakfast. It is located toward the north end of town which worked well for us since we were having a short day anyway (not that it felt that way with the rain and blisters, but still) and is close to restaurants and a well-stocked minimart.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos São José de Ribamar
3. Povoa de Varzim to Esposende/Marinhas
20 km / 5.5 hrs
Towns: Agoucadora, Apulia, Fao
Enjoyed some very pretty scenery that day, starting with wind-swept beach and a series of windmills. Then it moves on to some less exciting rural roads and a few different types of terrain just slightly behind the beach including dunes where you pass through some sand, swamp and even a well-manicured golf course. Almost the entire day is spent walking on boardwalks.
It takes about 2.5-3 hrs to reach Apulia, with a very impressive beach, extensive malecón and several restaurants to choose from. Esposende itself is large with the massive Rio Cavado that is very popular with the wind and kite surfers. There is also a 15th century fortress with great views.
Stayed at: Sun & Sand Guesthouse, which is actually slightly past the main part of Esposende at the start of Marinhas (it’s a bit hard to tell where one ends and the other begins).
This is a true B&B, staying on the top floor of a private home. The setup was a bit odd (glass door separating our staircase from the owners) but they were very friendly, breakfast was enjoyable and our room had a terrific balcony facing the afternoon sun (simply perfect for drying my freshly washed underwear).
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos de Marinhas
4. Marinhas to Viana do Castelo
20 km / 6.5 hrs
Towns: Belinho, Castelo do Neiva, Chafe, Darque
This leg offered the first bit of real variety, although that is probably due to the fact we opted for the inland variant for the first (and only) time on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Laynni’s foot was still in pain (she briefly thought it was headed in the right direction until she remembered the 2 ibuprofen she’d taken earlier) so we didn’t want to add the extra kilometres it would take to follow the water.
Instead we headed up the first hill worthy of the name on the trek, crossing the highway and walking on rough, little cobblestoned streets (turns out those are torture on blistered feet) through the pretty village of Belinho. It was Sunday morning and, wouldn’t you know it, we just happened to stumble on preparations for their annual religious procession (taking place one week after Easter).
The streets were decorated with magnificent, intricate alfombras running all the way across town to the church (and beyond). Alfombras are colourful carpets made from sawdust, flowers, rice and a variety of other materials that take many hours to make and much less time to destroy as the religious procession makes its slow, solemn march around town. Many of them were Camino-themed (topical!) and a different one showed some dude licking Jesus’ nipple, so there was that.
We didn’t stick around for the actual procession but did have to navigate our way through increasingly large crowds of locals arriving to admire the Catholic version of street art and, as a consolation prize, we got to enjoy the constant barrage of “bombas” (obnoxiously loud firecrackers) that continued unabated until we were at least two or three towns past.
On the bright side, after Belinho we headed into the forest and got to enjoy the first single-track dirt trail of the trek. Shaded, scenic and serene, this was a really nice stretch. Then, I don’t know if it was the hills, the cobblestones, Laynni’s foot or the lingering echoes of the bombas but we really slowed down as the day wore on, finding several excuses to stop for sweets, beer or bathroom breaks (hence the unusually long time).
Even with all those unscheduled stops, though, we were still impressed by historic Viana do Castelo (especially the views from the huge bridge into town). We were also excited to settle in at the first hopping sidewalk bar we found in town, where the waitress seemed greatly amused by our desire for “grande” beers (they do love their tiny beers in Spain).
Later we set aside some time to visit the train station/mall to get a look at the famous, tiny train perched high up on the wall that circles the food court in an endless loop. It was something, all right.
Stayed at: Another real hotel, Hotel Laranjeira, that was basic but cheap and comfortable, although it was yet another room unfortunately designed with a glass bathroom door (problematic for the person hoping to sleep through their partner’s night excursions).
Albergue: Albergue Sao Bento
5. Viana do Castelo to Caminha
27 km / 7 hrs
Towns: Areosa, Carreco, Afife, Gelfa, Ancora, Moledo
We passed up the more direct inland route and were pleased with our decision as this coastal stretch was one of the nicest of the entire Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. This part of the trail was mostly on wide gravel walking paths with fantastic ocean views past sand dunes, windmills, several sets of ruins and even the occasional shrubbery.
Ancora is an interesting place and worth detouring through the historic centre where there are some bars on the main square and an impressive church. Caminha, our final stop of the day, is also a very pleasant place filled with ice cream shops and bars. It also just happens to be the last you’ll see of Portugal on this trek.
Stayed at: Arca Nova Guesthouse, where the extremely helpful owner had the answers to every question a Camino pilgrim might come up with, offered to do our laundry for us and even provided a free taxi to the morning boat crossing into Spain.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos de Caminha
6. Caminha to Villadesuso
22 km / 6 hrs
Towns: A Guarda, Portocelos, Oia
The free taxi was waiting for us at 8:30 am, as promised, to whisk us off to the boat which very quickly (and without fanfare) ferried us across the Minho River into Spain. Although he saved us a couple of kilometres by dropping us a fair distance down the coastal variant (this may change depending on the tide at the time), we also immediately lost an hour due to the hour time change in Spain.
On the bright side, I now felt immediately more confident in my ability to communicate in the local language if needed (alas, I find spoken Portuguese about as easy to understand as Russian, which, in case you’re wondering, I don’t find very easy to understand).
As for the trail, the loop out around the peninsula to A Guarda is truly gorgeous and well worth the bit of extra distance. It took about an hour for that section and about 2 more hours on small roads to reach Portocelos where there is one little restaurant with amazing views that seemed to collect every pilgrim on the trail (the fantastic egg/cheese/potato tortillas and beer probably had something to do with that).
From here, though, the walk got a bit grim, going back and forth between small gravel roads (nice enough, good views) and a walking lane right on the highway (conveniently painted bright yellow, but still). It wasn’t all that bad, though, as I kept track and it turns out we only spent about 50 minutes on the highway spread out over 4 different sections. A couple times the official route goes down off the road through smaller villages – nicer walking areas but they add distance, so you can choose to just stick to the highway if you want to make up time.
Oia is quite nice, though, especially the big bay-front church, and would be a more atmospheric town to stay in than Villadesuso, although we quite enjoyed our hotel there.
Stayed at: Hotel Glasgow, a large, relatively fancy place with pools (plural) and a massive dining area that made sense when we arrived to find an enormous (and enormously loud) tour group plowing through an extensive lunch. They didn’t stay the night, though, and overall the hotel was great, with big, modern rooms, a partial ocean view and a good breakfast.
Albergue: Albergue de Estrela
7. Villadesuso to Baiona
14 km / 3.5 hrs
Towns: Mougas, Barcelos, Portelos
Brace yourself for the first real hill of the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route! While most of this short day wasn’t overly memorable (lots of road walking with some rather unnecessary detours through villages now and then) but eventually we did end up on a real dirt trail climbing up a rocky slope into the forest to the breathless height of… 89 metres above sea level. Whew.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as you crest the hill you head down into suburban sprawl. Clean, quiet streets but not much of interest along the way. Once you reach Baiona proper, though, things really start looking up. While busy, it is a very unique and picturesque place with a small medieval old town section (one alley was so narrow I had to back all the way out to let a guy pass), the phenomenal Monterreal medieval fortress on a tiny isthmus fronted by a garden and beaches on both sides.
Baiona is also famous as the launch point for Christopher Columbus’ famous journey to the Americas and the bay features a detailed replica of his ship, the Pinta. With all this in mind, plus the fact it was roughly the halfway point of our hike, we chose Baiona for our rest day, which meant I was willing to sacrifice the energy needed to hike up to the Virgen del Roque statue where you can enjoy some outstanding views and some less outstanding bushwacking if you foolishly try climbing the adjacent hill even after the path runs out (hint: don’t do that part).
While that bit of exercise might be best saved for rest day folks like us and hard to justify at the end of a long hiking day (and before another long hiking day to come), it is worth finding the time to walk the walls of the castle. You can make it all the way around in about half an hour. I had read that they charge €2 but didn’t see anywhere to pay – it’s possible they only charge for climbing one of the towers, or possibly only on the weekend.
Stayed at: Apartamento Baiona Centro, a fairly spacious 2-bedroom apartment right in the centre of town (which makes sense, considering the name) that cost a bit more than the hotels we’d been staying in previously but was still worth it for the opportunity to make a couple of our own meals and do some laundry in the ensuite washing machine.
Albergue: Albergue Estela do Mar
8. Baiona to Vigo
27 km / 6.5 hrs
Towns: A Ramallosa, Nigran, Cánido
Because we stuck to the shoreline, this day was a bit longer than expected and more or less the tale of two hikes. We followed an urban but pleasant trail in the morning past beaches and quaint seaside neighbourhoods.
We stopped for lunch in Cánido just as the rain was picking up, however, and after that it was pretty much rain all the way. The first hour out of Cánido was along a decent malecón but after that you hit the urban sprawl of Vigo and spend the last hour walking through grim port areas only occasionally interspersed with grim office buildings.
The historic centre of Vigo is great, though, and many people choose it for their rest day. There is a castle, many churches and plazas and a nice river.
Stayed at: Hotel Compostela – I mean, how do you pass up on that name? Brilliant marketing. Also a lovely little place with small but warm and comfortable rooms located right in the heart of the old town.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos de Vigo
9. Vigo to Redondela
13 km / 4 hrs
Towns: Sampaio, Chapela
There are more hills than usual on this section, although most of them are still within city limits. It took a fairly dull hour to make our way through the city and out of Vigo. Not a tough walk but if you were ever considering taking transport to skip a section, I’d suggest this part.
After that it gets better, though, despite the heavy rain we experienced, following a dirt road through the trees high above the coast with periodically good views (especially at Miradoiro da Madroa).
Presumably it was unusual to get stuck behind a group of around 50 pink-shirt-clad walkers on some sort of fundraiser, followed closely by an escort van that kept struggling on the muddy dirt road and sliding dangerously close to the edge of the drop-off (they probably didn’t imagine those balding tires were going to be so problematic when following a fun run at 5 km/hr).
The end point of this stage, Redondela, is where the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route rejoins the Central Route and you will definitely notice, as the place simply teems with pilgrims. You can spot a pilgrim in one of two ways. Either they are wearing backpacks and filthy clothes and standing on a street corner looking confused as they scan for yellow arrows, or they’ve already checked in and showered and are now hobbling around town in flip flops with their heavily bandaged feet open to the breeze.
Stayed at: Rua do Medio, an ingenious, modern little hostel that is entirely automated from the code entries to the vending machines and coin laundry. They also have a great communal balcony open to the afternoon sun that overlooks the Camino where you can sit, enjoy a few cold Mahou beer and watch the pilgrims wandering past.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos Casa da Torre
10. Redondela to Pontevedra
20 km / 6 hrs
As I was beginning to tire of the daily routine of starting out full of vigor and optimism, only to soon find myself stopped to dig out and don all my rain gear yet again, I left Redondela fully geared up, rain pants steadily swooshing, seemingly preparing to head into the eye of a hurricane. Well, that did the karma trick, as the sun soon jumped all over those presumptions, much to our delight.
Short-lived, as it turned out, though, as the day soon devolved into one of those infuriating “poncho on, poncho off” days that inevitably lead to lots of statements like “obviously I’m glad it stopped raining… but, you think maybe it could just make up its mind?”
Besides that, the trail was now far busier, with probably 2-3 times as many pilgrims jostling for position on the narrow roads, dirt forest trails and small hills. While still technically on the Camino Portuguese Coast Route, the path was now far more reminiscent of the terrain and villages of the Camino Francés.
The final hour was spent walking through a pleasant forest along a tiny creek, although it was a bit of a winding journey that could probably be shortened by sticking to the main roads.
Pontevedra was surprisingly large (only surprising because we hadn’t researched it at all) but quite picturesque with cobblestoned streets and loads of old buildings (including the Church of La Virgen Peregrina, famous for its unusual and topical scallop shell shaped floor plan). It is another popular rest day choice, although we thought it was far too close to the end to make sense as a long stop. In our experience, very few pilgrims linger when the end is in sight…
Stayed at: Hostel Charino, an impressively modern hostel where we returned to the world of shared unisex bathrooms (not to mention “shapes and motions” shower glass). Nonetheless, it had all the amenities you could want, a very central location, good wifi and a varied breakfast. Plus, we were given free use of both a washing machine AND a dryer.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos Virgen Peregrina
11. Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
21 km / 5.5 hrs
Towns: San Amaro, Valbon, A Seca, O Cruceiro,
After the slight shock of all seeing so many more pilgrims the day before, this was the day it really hit home just how many people were on the trail. At the first café we stopped at – about 2 hours into the hike – we waited behind a few people to order but by the time we were finished the line was 15-people deep. Isn’t April supposed to be off-season? Could be a sign of just how busy the Caminos will be this summer…
And, not sure if this was simply related to the extensive queue for the women’s washroom or something more sinister, but it was still slightly disturbing to encounter a couple coming out of the men’s washroom, both hitching up their pants and looking slightly sheepish.
The trail scenery was nice enough but not particularly notable – mostly small roads, periodic villages and a few pretty trails next to vineyards. Once again we got a bit of every kind of weather, starting with on-and-off drizzle most of the morning, full rain around noon, then down to a shirt and sunglasses by the time we rolled into Caldas de Reis.
This pleasant town got its name for its impressive hot springs, which we did not test out. We generally find the best recuperation during a long hike is lying perfectly prone staring at the ceiling in complete silence. Actually, that used to be the method, now it’s lying perfectly prone in complete silence while browsing aimlessly on our phones.
Stayed at: Hotel Roquiño, another very good value (€64), organized hotel with a comfortable room and good wifi. There is a restaurant attached, as well, and we opted for very good menú del días at 3 pm and ate our packed lunch for supper (us Canadians never like to wait for Spanish restaurants to open at 7 or 8 pm).
The only downside was the ongoing – and ultimately futile – battle we had with the single, incredibly annoying house fly in our room. Added to the list of things we learned on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route – it is impossible to kill a cagey fly with just rolled up clothing or unwieldy pillows (oh, magazines, why have you forsaken us?)
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos de Caldas de Reis
12. Caldas de Reis to Padrón
20 km / 5 hrs
Towns: A Lavandeira, Carracedo, As Cernadas, O Pino, Pontecesures
Today we left earlier than usual at 8 am to beat the crowds and it definitely made a difference. Which was nice because when the trail is crowded we often get caught up in passing everyone, as though there won’t just be another set of people just ahead of those ones, too. Which means we end up going faster than intended and not properly enjoying the journey. Ah, Camino problems.
The scenery was very similar to the previous day (small roads, forest trails, occasional towns) and we made another tortilla and Colacao (hot chocolate) stop, then ate our packed lunch at one of the automated vending machine rest stops that started popping up in the last few days before Santiago.
This was also the day we decided that the next time we do another Camino we will go back to staying in albergues. No, they usually aren’t as comfortable as the hotels (comfort which we greatly appreciated, especially at end of rainy days) but on previous Caminos it has been the social aspect that really made them memorable.
Staying in hotels you just don’t get the same amount of interaction and, while the hiking on its own is certainly nice enough (the coastal portion, in particular, was spectacular at times), the scenery simply doesn’t compare with our favourite European treks like the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walker’s Haute Route in France/Switzerland or the Alta Via 1 in Italy.
On the other hand, those treks are much, much more difficult and you can’t even think about trying them until July, so it’s not really a fair comparison. Still relevant to our trip planning, though.
Moving on, Padrón is a rather large place with a – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a pretty nice old town area. There is also a nice boulevard waiting to greet weary pilgrims and lots of bars and restaurants to satisfy your cravings. We ended up in a random bar/restaurant (Taberna Tipica O Paraiso – excellent “zorza”, little red pork?) that turned out to be a bit of a local hangout, with multiple old dudes showing up one at a time, more than one of whom came in doing a little bit of a dance in greeting. Followed up with some good, normal chatting.
Stayed at: Vivienda de Uso Turístico Marina, a surprisingly large apartment with an equally surprising electric fireplace that was already blazing high when we checked in (we never did figure out how to work it and ended up just unplugging it). Very comfortable and we took advantage of the full kitchen to enjoy a quiet, reflective evening in for our last night on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route before the final stage to Santiago de Compostela.
Albergue: Albergue de Peregrinos de Padrón
13. Padrón to Santiago de Compostela
24 km / 6 hrs
Towns: O Areal, Raices, O Milladoiro, A Rocha Vella
More of the same today, winding our way through small towns and intermittent forests on small, quiet roads. The pilgrims all seemed jauntier, though, which was probably a combination of last day excitement and burgeoning fitness, as most people have been hiking for at least 2 weeks by this point.
Actually, the above description only applies to the first ¾ of the hike, with the final hour and a bit spent making our way through the busy city streets of modern Santiago, a very different place than the old medieval zone around the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral where pilgrims (and regular tourists) spend most of their time.
We finally stayed dry all day (except for the briefest of 5-minute drizzles, just enough to cause an exasperated “Seriously!? Again!?”) although the sun didn’t actually make an appearance until about 5 minutes before we made it to the church (and, famously, The End).
Which meant we got to fully soak in our closing moment in the main square in bright sunlight, like we were being greeted to Santiago by the ghost of St James himself (or possibly a close acquaintance with a surprising amount of control over the weather). On the other hand, there was also a bit of “Now? Now you start shining? Where were you when we needed you for the last week? Was this a test? You can tell me, honestly.”
Meanwhile, unlike the last time we arrived in Santiago, the cathedral was not wrapped in unattractive scaffolding so that was definitely a positive. And with people from all different Caminos finally meeting up here, lying around on the cobblestones, taking commemorative photos and beaming like they’d lost control of their facial muscles, the atmosphere was very festive indeed.
Plus, unlike at the end of the Camino Primitivo/Norte in 2017, I wasn’t on the verge of collapse with the flu, another win for new Camino. After a celebratory beer near the square, we checked into our tiny hotel to find our bag of CLEAN clothes and assorted items waiting for us at reception, exactly as planned. Yes, the day was certainly shaping up.
Stayed at: Librédon Hotel, located right on pretty, little Praza de Fonseca overlooking the main entrance street for hikers arriving on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route and within actual view of the main cathedral. Quite a location. We spent 2 nights here and it was modern, clean, warm and had tremendous wifi.
However, it was also one of the loudest rooms we’ve stayed in. The constant stream of pilgrims (and others) along the street below our window sounded like a constant parade, one that unfortunately continued (only slightly more subdued) long into the night.
With good ear plugs and an exhaustion borne of 13 days of hiking we still slept fine, and the people-watching opportunities during the day were better than anything on TV, but if you’re a light sleeper you might want to think twice.
Albergue: Albergue El Ultimo Sello
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Accommodation Map
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How to Get to Porto
Porto has an international airport with good connections from around Europe. Even from the places that don’t offer direct flights to Porto it is easy enough to fly to Lisbon and connect, either by plane or bus (3-4 hrs).
From the Porto airport it is an easy Metro ride (€5) to the city.
Alternatively, if a return flight to Santiago makes more sense, or you want to leave a bag there instead of sending it ahead, it is only about 4 hours to get from Santiago to Porto by bus. Which, I have to admit, after spending 13 days hiking between the two, is a rather depressing thing to type.
How to Get Away from Santiago de Compostela
Like Porto, Santiago is well-connected with direct flights to some locations around Europe, although many of those are on Ryan Air, which comes with its own challenges (and long-standing grudges, in our case).
Or you can connect through Madrid or take the high-speed train (3-4 hrs, not particularly cheap) and fly from there to basically anywhere in the world.
Food and Water on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route
There are cafés, bars and restaurants every 5-10 kilometres along the route (and often dozens of choices in some of the towns). So you can always find something to eat or drink and fill up your water bottle. We usually packed our own lunch so we weren’t forced into finding and choosing a café or restaurant and could simply eat whenever we got hungry (usually with a great view).
But if you would rather have someone prepare your food for you (you’re on holiday, after all) there are plenty of options. Plus, it’ll save you another pound or two of weight in your backpack.
Unfortunately, water fountains were not as common as we’d hoped (and not nearly as common as on our other Caminos) but the tap water is fine to drink so there is always somewhere to stop and fill up if necessary (although sometimes you’ll need to buy something).
Since we hiked in April when it wasn’t overly hot and there weren’t a lot of (or any) strenuous hills we didn’t go through as much water as we usually do on long hikes. We generally carried a 650ml bottle each and it was always enough to make it to the next stop.
How much does it cost to hike the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route?
€30-40 per person per day if staying in albergues and usually only eating out once per day. This will increase to around €60-70 staying in relatively cheap hotels and eating out at least twice per day.
We chose hotels in the cheaper range but would always spend a bit more if we needed in order to get a place with good reviews, one of the reasons we trust Booking.com so much. Onaverage, we spent about €75 per night for a double room.
If you opt to stay in albergues you can bring this cost down to €8-10 per person per night in municipal albergues or €12-15 per person per night in private albergues.
For food, we packed our own lunches, drank the occasional beer and usually ate one restaurant meal per day. We averaged €35 per day for the two of us. If you pass on self-catering and choose to eat both lunch and dinner out your budget will probably climb by around €10 per person per day.
We had breakfast included at almost all the Portuguese hotels and in Spain (where we rarely had breakfast included) stocked up on yogurt, fruit and croissants or eggs (if we had access to a kitchen to boil them) for €2-3 per person.
On the trail, we usually had a drink/snack break at a café every day for €2-3 per person.
We then ate a packed lunch on the trail that we sourced from grocery stores (usually buns with salami and cheese, apples, a Snickers), also €2-3 per person.
Celebratory beer at our destination were mandatory: €2 (small) / €5 (large) and we normally ate at a restaurant for dinner for €10-15 per person.
Unlike many long-distance hikes around the world, there are no permits or access fees involved with the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. So, basically, your expenses are going to come down to where you stay and what you eat. Overall, it worked out to be much cheaper than hiking in France or Switzerland, for example.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Packing List
There are a few different packing strategies depending on the season, your itinerary and if you are staying in dorms or exclusively in private rooms. But this packing list should be appropriate for most people, especially if you hike in the shoulder season like we did.
Since we stayed in hotels we did not have to carry sleep sacks or sleeping bags. However, if you’re staying in albergues instead, you will need them (some albergues provide blankets but not all and it shouldn’t be counted on). In the shoulder seasons you’ll want a sleeping bag but in summer you may be able to get by with a lighter sleep sack.
These are the most important item on any Camino. If you’re a dedicated boot guy/gal then, by all means, go with those. But, in general, the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route is both flat and smooth, either pavement, gravel paths or occasionally well-maintained dirt. No rough terrain, making boots a little unnecessary.
We wear hiking shoes on every trek, regardless of the terrain, and they worked fine for this (other than Laynni’s blister issue which we suspect stemmed from swollen feet from the plane). Some people did manage with just trainers or light hikers but if you’re considering that, make sure you’ve tried long distances with them before, especially if your pack is relatively heavy, as they don’t offer much support on a 6-hour day.
Whatever you choose, just make sure they are well-broken in before you start the hike.
Hut shoes/flip flops
Albergues usually have boot rooms and, while some provide crocs to wear inside, not all do. Hotels definitely don’t. After a long day on the trail you’ll usually want something to wear besides your hikers. In the past, we always carried flip flops but went with super-light trainers this time since the weight was the same and they were a little better for walking around town.
Obviously, a comfortable hiking backpack is important as you’ll have it on for most of each day. 30-40 litres should be sufficient for most people (less if you’re using a luggage transfer service) although ours were in the 45-50 range and only partially full since our Camino Portuguese Coastal Route was part of a longer trip.
Wool hiking socks (2).
Small socks for in the hut/hotel.
Hiking pants (1).
Compression leggings (Laynni swears by these for comfort and avoiding knee pain).
Clean pants for the hut – I just had pair of sweat pants for the room and wore the same pants the rest of the time and Laynni brought a pair of regular leggings.
Depending on the season, you may want a pair of shorts (we didn’t take them and didn’t regret it in April, although some people did wear shorts during the day).
2 pair of quick-dry underwear that can be washed easily (in the shower is my routine) and Laynni brings a wool bra to hike in (so she doesn’t cool down as much on rest stops) and a second, more comfortable bra to sleep in.
Long-sleeved shirt (1) for in the huts.
Jackets – 1 fleece or puffy and 1 ultralight windbreaker.
Rain poncho – some prefer a regular jacket and backpack cover but we find ponchos, while not necessarily stylish, keep everything fully dry, unlike the other method.
Rain pants (I also had waterproof gloves and shoes – I really hate to be wet).
Medical kit (although there are pharmacies in every town so you really just need to bandaids/bandages/plasters and maybe some painkillers).
Ear plugs (always, doesn’t matter what trip)
Pack towel (me) / sarong (Laynni) – only necessary if you’re staying in albergues.
Small knife (for cutting sandwiches and such).
Do You Need Hiking Poles on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route?
No. You definitely do not NEED hiking poles. The trail is almost entirely flat and mostly on hard, smooth surfaces where poles aren’t as useful.
Now, if you simply prefer to poles for support, balance, rhythm or maybe just basic nostalgia (they’d be sad to miss out, perhaps), that’s perfectly fine. My knee sometimes gets sore on prolonged descents so I had considered buying some poles on arrival (we were flying carryon and the price of checking a bag is more than new poles at Decathlon) but decided to go without and am glad I didn’t bother.
Overall, we saw a lot more hiking poles strapped to backpacks than we did being used.
Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Summary
This is a very scenic, relatively easy hike that can be done in 2 weeks, the perfect holiday length for many people. The coastal views are terrific, there is a wide range of accommodation from basic dorms to luxury hotels, endless restaurant options and no difficult terrain.
As for how it compares to the other Caminos we’ve done, at the risk of overly generalizing, here is a, well, general overview:
The Camino Francés is considered the “main Camino” and is the busiest, most spiritual and most social.
The Camino del Norte is the most strenuous and most scenic, although many of the beach towns along the way hardly feel like they are part of a pilgrimage at all.
The Camino Finisterre is quite beautiful as well but is very short (3-4 days) and often done in reverse by pilgrims who have just completed one of the longer routes and haven’t quite wrapped their head around not walking all day long.
The Camino Primitivo is the “Original Way”, passes through a lot of serene, hilly farmland and forest and features the most natural dirt trails.
The Camino Portuguese Coastal Route, meanwhile, has the most in common with the Norte, with a lot of gorgeous coastal scenery and wonderful beach towns. It isn’t quite as spectacular as the Norte but is far less strenuous. Not to mention, it is only about a third as long if you start in Porto like we did.
For those with time limitations or that simply consider two weeks of hiking to be plenty, both the Camino Primitivo and the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route are excellent options. Go with the Primitivo if you prefer quiet trails and natural surroundings or opt for the Portuguese if you love windswept beaches and ocean views or are just very enamoured by the idea of avoiding all those inland hills.
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