An overview of the Camino Portuguese…

I have had very intermittent internet access since leaving Spain and Portugal. This was meant to be posted quite a while ago…


This is an overview of a week spent driving from Porto through to Santiago de Compostela – following the northern section of the Camino Portuguese.

Our trip was to scout a tour we’ll be leading next April. Our purpose was to find suitable hotels, begin to negotiate rates, find wonderful restaurants and cafes – and generally try to get a sense of what it will be like to walk the pilgrimage route.

At first I tried to follow all the yellow arrows in the car, but I found it just wasn’t possible when the Camino went off road and down trails.

Signs VdC

Here are the things I found from the scout:

  • The route is beautiful, at first following the coast, then veering inland into some truly spectacular countryside.
  • Whilst it’s not as difficult as the Camino Frances, it’s still a tough walk. There are a few steep sections that will require serious fitness.
  • There are some magnificent churches and Cathedrals along the way – including some ancient Roman Churches.
  • The food is glorious. More on that later…
  • The Portuguese people are friendly, very helpful, and many understand English.
  • The Camino Portuguese is not nearly as crowded as the Camino Frances. In mid November, I did not see one pilgrim walking in Portugal. The Way seemed empty.

Ponte de Lima

Our journey started, as per the Brierely Guide, on a metro train heading out of the Porto City Centre to the outer suburb of Matosinhos. It’s by the port, where the fisherman land their daily catches, and it has the best fish restaurants in all of Porto.

Sardines Rest

My wife and I followed the very first yellow arrow out of the port area and then along the coast, by a huge lighthouse – heading up to Vila do Condes, about 20kms to the north.

First Yellow Arrow

Walk to lighthouse Chapel by sea

The town’s market was in full swing when we arrived, and we wandered through, before finding out way down to the river.

Vila de Conde stalls Buying Cod

A tendril of smoke caught my attention and as I walked closer I saw a man grilling pork ribs on a barbecue outside a restaurant. It was lunch, so Jennifer and I went inside and ordered… yes, the grilled ribs. They were truly delicious.

Cookind ribs ext

The next day we went through to Barcelos – famous for its chickens, and arguably the home of the world renown Portuguese Grilled Chicken. We now know the best place in town to have this local delicacy.

Nearby is Braga and Bom Jesus, which is just out of the town. We didn’t go there this trip – we’d been there earlier this year, and it’s very apparent why it’s the most popular tourist destination in all of Portugal.


The church, on a hill overlooking Braga, sits atop a series of ornate switchbacks., with little chapels at each end. Magnificent.

The next main spot for us to stop was Ponte de Lima – some say the jewel in the Camino Portuguese crown. It’s a gorgeous little picturesque town with a large Roman Bridge leading north.

Ponte de Lima River

Old Lady at PdL

We headed further north, through Valenca which is on the Portuguese / Spanish border, then crossed over into Spain and spent the night at the Parador in Tui – which looks across the river at Valenca.

The Parador was a big mistake. It’s a fair way out of town, expensive for what you get, and the service is ho-hum. We found better hotels in the Tui township, close to the magnificent Cathedral high on a ridge overlooking the town.

Tui Cathedral

Tui church door

We were now in Spain – back on Spanish time (Portugal is one hour behind) – and back on Spanish food!

Mixed grill Portuguese style

We made our way to Pontevedra – a large town with a very beautiful historic centre. The Camino cuts all the way through it, and crosses a bridge to the north. My wife and I followed the yellow arrows which finally led us out of town.

From Pontevedra we made our way to Caldas de Reis – a very old and elegant spa town with hotels that date back several centuries.

CdR river CdR Spa hotel

From there we went through to Santiago where we booked into the Costa Vella hotel. I went immediately to the Cathedral, but was disappointed to see that the front facade was covered in scaffolding. Obviously it was undergoing a facelift during the winter months.

I made my way inside, and sat in the pews and remembered the last time I sat there – having just finished the Camino Frances.

Later I met up with Ivar, who runs the Camino Forum – we had a great chat – lovely guy.

Ivar MS

Scouting the Camino Portuguese as I’d done only made me more aware of how pilgrims  for centuries have made the pilgrimage from all over Europe – Portugal, Italy, Germany, even as far away as Russia -, forging their own “Ways” to come to this very special place – Santiago de Compostela.

Santiago Cross WS

24 thoughts on “An overview of the Camino Portuguese…

  1. Bill,
    This is fabulous!
    I am so looking forward to the tour. Now that I have heard some “steep sections that will require serious fitness” I guess I will have to get out and start climbing those mountains again. Did I tell you I hate climbing mountains?
    But truly, I am psyched. This is going to be such a wonderful experience with some wonderful people!
    Thanks for all the work 😉 you and Jen have put into this upcoming tour!


  2. Bill, thanks for the information. Maggie and I have a severe case of Casino virus and have just received our copy of Brierley’s guide. So far we are not hooked, but your post and photos are food for thought. We have also looked at the Via de le Plata/Camino Mozarabe, and the walk fro the top of Italy down to Rome, the Via Francigena. None of the others seem to have guide books of Brierley’s style, and, after emailing him, he doesn’t sound like he is about to produce one. By the way, how did you enjoy the Costa Vella in Santiago? Peter and Maggie


    • Peter, I seem to have that same virus. I have been back a month and want to go again. Haven’t put my pack away, the guidebook is sitting where I pass by it ten times a day and day dream, go to bed at night thinking about this ruin, church or new friend made. I think the only way to cure the virus is to make a return trip. Won’t be soon though unless I win a lottery I haven’t bought a ticket for.


      • Julie,

        Hey why don’t you think about it? You know there is going to be a van on tour in case you might need a lift.

        Sure would be great! Another Southwesterner on tour! Already there is Steve and me. Well Steve is in Texas, but that’s close enough for me, if it’s not considered the Southwest.



  3. Envious does so not cover what I feel right now at the thought that I can’t be there in April!! ); But I am grateful that – through the blog – I can follow you all through what is obviously going to be a wonderful couple of weeks 🙂


    • Hey Britta,

      Jen and I are inSmall town called Wurzburg, about 150kms from Frankfurt.

      Found a cafe with wifi!

      Whoo hoo!

      Th shot was of Christmas trees ready for dispatching. The Germans take Christmas very seriously! And the fish were sardines. Best sardines I’ve ever tasted! 12 grilled sardines for €12!

      Have to go now and keep driving – rain and a bit of snow, and the cars are still hitting 200kms/hr+. Scares the hell out of me!

      Looking forward to summer in Aus, bushfires and all!



      • Of course the Germans take Christmas (and in particular) trees seriously! They were the ones who first came up with the idea! Mind you the Danes have also taken to it in a very serious way and it was a revelation for me when celebrating my first X-mas here. It was more about the champagne, prawns, beach cricket and huge turkey in the middle of the day, than the more solemn and stylish occasion I grew up with!! 🙂


    • Thanks Britta –

      yes, I’ll be posting each day. April seems such a long way off right now, but the time is going to go very fast. I have to get fit again!



  4. Wow Bill!
    I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to more – the great food, the great photo opportunities, the great company I’ll be with ……. Don’t know how I’m going to wait until April!


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