From the moment of finishing my first Camino hike, I knew I wanted to do it all over again. It was also clear that I wanted to walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal route along the Atlantic Ocean. After all, I do like beaches and dunes a bit more than forests. Said and done! Fast-forward to 2022 and I made my Camino Comeback planning a Camino Portuguese Coastal route itinerary for a 15-day hike.
My entire second pilgrimage hike and its many adventures are covered in my Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itinerary below. It may serve you as a rough guide for your Camino plans and provide you with insights and expectations of what hiking the Camino really feels like.
Camino Preparation & Motivation
I had my first calling at the end of 2021 but kinda shrugged it off. The New Year started, and the call grew louder. Come February, I woke up one day and started planning my Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itinerary straight away. I spend 8 weeks in total preparing for the trip. I read numerous Camino experience reports from fellow bloggers and travellers. Mapped out the stages by comparing different Camino tour providers and got local travel insights from my Twitter friend Gabriela. During the day, I managed to walk between 15-20kms daily to be able to cope with the physical challenge.
I compiled all research in a spreadsheet including the days, accommodation and further notes. I arranged my luggage transfer with Pilbeo. Next on the list was to sort out my hiking gear and I found my new 45l backpack & hiking pole at Decathlon.
Renewing the Compostela had always been on my mind, plus Santiago is some place. I’d say that everyone should at least once in their lifetime make the effort to visit it. You’d have to do it whilst walking the Camino though. Otherwise, I don’t think people would truly “get” the power that this place holds. Powers that can inject some new motivation into your life and keep you going – even through the hardships of a pandemic.
2022 is also declared a Holy Year and I wanted to use the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Brisbane Flood victims. I’ve set up a fundraiser with GIVIT Australia and managed to collect a few $$ during my hike.
My Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Itinerary
Day 1: Porto to Povoa de Varzim, 26.7km
It has been a phenomenal first day on the Camino Portuguese coastal route. 30°C, sun, sand and epic waves. The landscape consists of beautiful dunes, pristine & empty beaches as well as cute fishing villages. I pass through the municipals of Matosinhos and Vila do Conde. Both are interesting areas with a rich history. Information is provided plentiful on plates set up on the Camino.
I’m really enjoying the hike, the weather and learning about my surroundings. The dunes of Memoria – a protected nature reserve – are home to many plants & wildlife. There’s a huge focus on biodiversity, but I also learn that there are vipers and water snakes around.
I travel alone most of today and reach my end goal Povoa de Varzim in the afternoon. I’m low-key crushing over this quaint, commuter town. It has gelato-coloured houses, neat squares and of course Camino history. I manage to explore the small castle and stroll along the promenade. At the Lapa Church, I lit a candle in memoriam for Carole’s deceased brother. I hope he’ll bless my pilgrimage to Santiago.
Checkpoint: Guesthouse O Poboa
Time Walked: 8am to 4pm
Day 2: Povoa de Varzim to Esposende, 24km
I follow the Camino further North, past dune landscapes, nature reserves and more powdery sand. Always to the thunder of crashing waves. The beach is never a few metres away from me. The landscape is beautiful and I’m in awe over the seaweed farming in Apulia. But then the Camino leads away from the dunes around the Estela Golf Club area. I walk straight into a nature reserve.
This inland route was very exhausting, as the boardwalk was narrow and didn’t allow for stopping. There was also no shade, so I had to march through that stretch in one go. It added another 6km to the originally forecasted 18km for today’s stage. This slightly inland route is apparently a new addition to the ancient Roman trail which comes from São Pedro de Rates, goes pasts Lagoa Negra, in Barqueiros, until it reaches Barca do Lago in Fonte Boa.
Shortly after midday, I cross the Cávado river. I wanted to be at my hotel by now but instead, I arrive at 2pm. The heat and tiredness from walking were all forgotten after a dip in the pool. Today’s endpoint, Esposende, is a typical South European beach resort with a long maritime history. Here are neat boulevards, palm trees, sand and I enjoy a lovely Italian meal at the restaurant “Dolce Sapore”.
Checkpoint: Hotel Suave Mar
Time Walked: 8am to 2pm
Day 3: Esposende to Viana do Castelo, 30km
I’m off to the exotic place of Viana do Castelo. The first 2h are underwhelming. The route leads away from the Litoral Way passing through villages and walls. It’s more Casa than Costa and it annoys me. I leave the Camino and take a 5km detour back to the Coast. There’s no trail or boardwalk but pebbled, stoney beaches. This terrain tires me out quickly, so I head back to the Camino.
The wilderness consists of eucal forests, waterfalls and more pretty churches. One local had set up an oasis for pilgrims with snacks and drinks in exchange for a small donation. It was a welcomed gesture and gave me new energy. In general, the area becomes more pilgrim friendly. Due to my little coastal adventure, I added more kms to today’s stage, leaving me pretty exhausted on arrival in Viana do Castelo. There’s no time this evening for much exploration.
Checkpoint: Hotel Laranjeira
Time Walked: 8am to 5:30pm
Day 4: Viana do Castelo to Caminha, 34km
It’s been a very long day having walked for 11h straight. The morning started slowly with me not finding my way out of town. I did eventually and follow along the moody coast further North. My highlight of today was my first and only sighting of a Portuguese Ladder Snake. Like yesterday, the Camino would lead inland. After 2h of steep eucal forests and deserted neighbourhoods, I’ve had enough. I march back to the coast!
Afife has a lovely boardwalk through the dune landscape and surprisingly there are Camino signs! I’m so confused. I do make great progress for the next two hours; I have one stop at the water castle Forte do Cão. The next stop is Ancora where I can finally sit down and have a late lunch with a stellar sea view. The final stretch to Caminha located at the estuary of the Atlantic Ocean and Minho River is long. Exhausted I arrive at my checkpoint which turned out to be a shithole, but it’s late and I’m too tired to find somewhere else.
Checkpoint: Arca Nova Guesthouse & Hostel
Time Walked: 7am to 7pm
Day 5: Caminha to Tui/Valenca, 30km
Caminha located at the estuary of the Minho River marks a decision point. Continue along the coast towards Baiona or move inland to Valenca/Tui. I decide on the latter because this part of the Camino Portuguese is less travelled and often overlooked. Therefore, the Coastal Route ends here for me. After three long days and a very rough night, I decide to take the train. Originally, I only wanted to do 15km but today’s heavy rain convinces me to go all the way to Valenca.
Upon arrival, I’m straight back on the Camino. It’s a very wet day but the highlight is yet to come. The fortress of Valenca. What a place! The Camino leads straight through it. I have time to visit the museum and learn about the castles in the area. Some of them are familiar, as I have passed them on my solo journey: Forte da Insua, Viana do Castelo and Forte do Cão – all built as a defence and protection from the Spaniards. There’s a quirky film narrated by a Scottish guy. At first, I thought it was narrated by Billy Connolly but I don’t think it is him. It’s hilarious! I then cross the Minho bridge over to Spain. Those bridges are criminally narrow and shake like hell when a train goes by.
Checkpoint: Villa Blanca in Tui
Time Walked: Train at 7am, Tui 9am to 2pm
Day 6: Tui to Vigo, Break Time
It feels like yesterday since I’ve left Matosinhos and it hasn’t even been an entire week yet! I’ve walked nearly 120km plus detours and now it’s time for a break. After exploring Tui in the morning, I’m taking the bus to Vigo in the afternoon. I’m actually looking forward to sightseeing, shopping and relaxing. Since I’m no longer in Portugal, I can now use my Spanish Credential. Vigo here I come!
Checkpoint: B&B Hotels
Day 7: Vigo, 21km
Vigo is a cool and laid-back harbour city in the Ria Baixas area. Remember when I thought Hamburg was THE place for the fishing industry? It’s actually Vigo! Not only is the fish trade massive here, including farming and exporting, but car manufacturers export from Vigo, too. I have time to check out nice cafes, go shopping and explore the Vigo fortress in 30°C.
In the evening I meet up with Gabriela, who has helped me plan my Camino Portuguese Coastal route itinerary. We have a nice dinner together and share our Camino experiences. It feels nice to finally talk to someone and share my adventures from the road. Unfortunately, I haven’t made any friends yet or met a travel companion on the Camino.
Day 8: Cies Islands, 24km
I’m off exploring the mysterious Cies Islands, an archipelago just off the coast of Vigo. The Islands are well developed for visitors, so this makes for an ideal day trip. There are four hiking routes on the main island, and I manage to do all of them. Cies is stunning and I’m very lucky with the weather. There’s sun and a gentle cold breeze from the Atlantic Ocean. It makes hiking through diverse vegetation much more pleasant. I love the contrast between coastal formations, biodiversity and changing landscapes a lot. This was an excellent day out.
Day 9: Vigo
Not much happening today in Vigo. I need to slow down and recharge my energies. So far, even on my days off, I’ve walked over 20kms each day and I need my resources to make the final stages to Santiago. Taking it very slow today, I have some coffee, draft some blog posts and have an epic nap at the hotel. I finish some laundry and do a last-minute food shop to stock up on essentials for tomorrow’s return to the Camino.
Day 10: Vigo to Pontesampaio, 28km
After a few days of rest, I’m back on the Camino. From now on I’m marching with big steps closer to Santiago. The first half of the day leads along the Ria de Vigo with views of the Ria and the Cies Islands. I’m hiking through the picturesque Senda del Agua area – a natural reserve with gum trees and small waterfalls. There’s a longer route along the Ria and a shortcut through the forest. I somehow miss the split and walk the long version.
I’m still travelling alone and haven’t met a familiar face on the entire trip. In the afternoon, I reach Redondela. Most Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itineraries suggest making it today’s endpoint, but I still have energies left and march ahead. Redondela isn’t engaging me enough. It’s very busy and towards the end bland. Maybe I’m sight-soar by now, but it just can’t wow me enough to hang around. I continue the Camino and reach my checkpoint in the late afternoon. Time for a shower and an episode of Stranger Things before bedtime.
Checkpoint: Hotel San Luis
Time Walked: 10am to 4pm
Day 11: Pontesampaio to Pontevedra, 11km
My hotel wasn’t nice so I’m keen to leave early and cover the short stretch to Pontevedra before lunch. It rains pretty much all day long, so I barely get my camera out. It’s not that I haven’t seen it all before. The Camino Portuguese leads through eucal forests and very deserted villages. A good part of the stretch is even on the main road. It can’t engage me at all. I switch off mentally and just get it over and done with.
In Pontevedra, I aim straight for the tourist office. There I learn a lot about the place and which points of interest are worth seeing once it stops raining. Let’s stay positive! I do manage to see a few sights including the Santa Maria & Peregrino Church. I have a nice meal in a burger restaurant and spend a good hour at a nice café before heading to my hostel. This will be an interesting experience, as I usually don’t do hostels, but I’m open to it. Maybe I’ll meet someone cool here?
Checkpoint: Hostel Dpaso
Time Walked: 7am to 10pm
Day 12: Ons Island, 21km
I venture out on another detour trip and hike Cies’s sister island Ons. I fetch a bus from Pontevedra to Portonovo and take the ferry from there. Isla Ons is also an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean and very lush compared to Cies. There are lots of ferns, pristine beaches and bizarre rock formations. I hike the entire island within 4h and have some time to relax at Melide beach. It’s another warm and sunny day. Ons is inhabited and has three little restaurants, a Capella and small tourist information. At 7:30pm I take the last ferry back to Portonovo and rush for the bus. Luckily, I’m able to catch it very last minute and arrive back in Pontevedra for 10pm.
Day 13: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis, 24km
The final days on the Camino are here and today was very tough. I woke up demotivated, tired and the constant rain didn’t help either. A good breakfast was needed. I found it at Marco’s Cafe. Afterwards, it was time to face and embrace the heavy rain. My late start actually worked out well for me. For the first time on this Camino hike, I travel amongst lots of other pilgrims. I get soaked within 1h but push through without a break. 4h and 24km later I arrive in Caldas de Reis. My personal best on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Plus, I got to see my first equestrian Peregrinos. The legends are true, and they do exist!
I arrive completely drenched to the bone at my hotel. I’m so glad I rebooked and changed accommodation for today on short notice. I move into a lovely room and have time to wind down. But first I need a shower, do my laundry and put fresh clothes on. Then I sort out my drenched shoes. In the late afternoon, it stops raining and I have some time exploring Caldas de Reis. It’s a small town known for its thermal springs & Roman architecture but there’s also a romantic park and some dope “Street art”.
In the evening, the hotel staff convince me to make a reservation for their restaurant. An excellent idea! It’s a lovely, very intimate place and I enjoy a 3-course meal. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve had on this Camino journey. I’m in very good hands and feel motivated and refreshed to take on the final kms to Santiago.
Checkpoint: Hotel Roquino
Time Walked: 10am to 2pm
Day 14: Caldas de Reis to Padron, 24km
Yesterday it rained like hell and today? We’re back to sun, sun and even more sun. It’s already 27°C when I leave Caldas de Reis in the morning. I now travel on the Via Romana XIX an ancient trade road in Galicia. It leads through lush forests with moss-covered stones and little creeks. I pass through little settlements, shade-giving forests and nice cafes – always going up or downhill. The hiking pole makes it easy to tackle those. Motivated by yesterday’s progress I want to push through to Padrón and make it to my checkpoint within 4h. After crossing the river Ulla, I make my way through Padrón and head further North to my checkpoint.
Padrón is again a small town with a well-maintained park lane, lots of restaurants and an impressive convent. My aim for today lies a bit outside of town. I’m keen to reach it as soon as. For today, I booked myself into a cosy Galician guesthouse with a generous garden. The place is stunning and even more beautiful in real life than it is in the online pics. Those are the places I love to discover. A small, very well-preserved Galician stone villa with a lush garden that offers an intimate stay. Only five more guests are here and it’s very quiet and peaceful. My bed is super soft so you can imagine it was hard to get up at 7am the next morning.
Checkpoint: Os Lambrans
Time Walked: 11am to 4pm
Day 15: Padron to Santiago de Compostela, 25km
The final day of the hike is here. There are only a few kms between me and the Cathedral in Santiago. I better make a move! I’m leaving at 9am to tackle the last stretch. It’s a sunny and warm morning. The kms fly by as the terrain is flat leading through ivy-covered forests, small settlements or alongside the road. I collect some final sellos (stamps for my Credential) and make sure to not linger around for too long as I’d rather be in Santiago.
Around O Milladoiro a few Peregrinos including me get terribly lost. The waymarking in this pre-town to Santiago is confusing/near to non-existent. I walk around for a bit following my intuition, then I team up with a cyclist Peregrino. He travels ahead and comes back with good news. He found the way marker! Back on track, it’s only a matter of half an hour when the first glimpses of Santiago come into sight! I enter the city through its west side called Santa Marta and feel energised to push through to those final 2kms. It’s a nice but bizarre feeling to be back.
The familiarity of Santiago is overwhelming me. Everything reminds me of my first Camino Hike. It’s a bit like homecoming. It’s just this time, I had to walk the Camino alone. There’s no Carole or Denise. No Mateo who would travel to Madrid with me after finishing the Camino. At 2:30pm, I reach the Cathedral and complete the 260km on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. It’s scorching hot but it’s not holding anyone back to gather in Plaza Obradoiro. The atmosphere and the very familiar energies from the Camino that I fell in love with are suddenly there. I’ve missed those during my time on the Camino Portuguese.
Since leaving Porto on 27th May I’ve walked a daily average of 25km. Even on my days off exploring Cies & Ons Island. 260km pretty much alone. I would have loved a travel companion or at least made a genuine connection with someone, but the Camino had other plans this time. It was a different lesson it wanted me to learn.
I’m having a nice lunch at Hotel Parador and head then to the Pilgrims Office. I’ve pre-registered online so I can walk in, draw my ticket and within 30 minutes it’s all done. My Compostela is renewed and a Certificate of Distance issued. All that’s left now is to join the evening mass at 7:30pm.
There’s a bit of time so I have a shower at my hotel and put a summer dress on. No more trainers for me. Then I queue to get into the cathedral. Two Peregrinos look me up and down, then mock me when I say I’m a Peregrino, too. “Really? You don’t look like you’ve walked 260km”.
I know it’s just a flippant comment, but it does hurt a little. Like them, I’ve walked every day. My feet are aching and I’m beyond tired. They don’t see that. To them, I’m just a pretty spoiled girl who wears a summer dress and has had time to put make-up on. Surely, she has no idea about the pain and gain of a “true” Peregrino.
The thing is I could have stayed at home or complained about the world. Instead, I chose to return to the Camino. Whilst walking I raised awareness & funds for the Brisbane flood victims and wanted to help others. So please don’t mock me because I wear a summer dress whilst also holding it together emotionally.
It’s a full house and the Cathedral is bursting. There are no seats left an hour before the service starts so I’ll have to stand for the mass. It’s ok, at least I’m in the first line and can see all the action. The service is very moving so is the highlight, the swinging of the Botafumeiro (pilgrim’s blessing). After the service, I leave the Cathedral through the Holy Door. I’m no longer a Peregrino. This pilgrimage is over.
Would I do it again?
Let’s put it this way. If it calls me again, I’ll be prepared.
Checkpoint: Hotel Praza Quintana
Time Walked: 9am to 2:30pm
Observations, Reflections & Learnings from My Second Camino Hike
- The Camino Portuguese is more widespread and urbanised. Therefore, it is unlikely you’ll meet the same people again.
- There are many variations of the Camino Portuguese which are often not waymarked properly and add to a lot of confusion. Therefore, your preparations need some time to avoid frustration and disappointment. There is the Portuguese inland route, the Portuguese Costa (which can also lead inland and which I have fallen victim to on Day 2, 3 & 4) and the Senda Litoral, which follows the coast and along the beaches but is not well signposted (see Day 3). I found this website which provides detailed instructions, maps and highlights very well the Senda Litoral way (requires freestyling but at least you will walk along the beach).
- I walked the Camino with my ASICS running trainers and apart from one small blister, had no issues or foot injuries.
- Super moleskin from Scholl was my lifesaver. It is an adhesive super strong and thick plaster which covered my blister and was easily removable in the evening without damaging my skin.
- Walking with a hiking pole allows for a faster hike and pain-free evenings.
- Speaking of pain: this time I only had aches from physical exhaustion, but I did get “hikers’ rash” (also known as Disney rash). It’s not a real rash but your veins will swell up due to the heat and the constant traumatisation causes the blood vessels to burst. It looks nastier than it actually is, but I’ve never had it before, so I did worry when I noticed it on Day 3. A Sephora foot mask, Vaseline or cold shower can relieve the rash and help reduce itself after a few days.
- Take some toilet paper from your accommodation. You never know when nature calls.
- Even though I got many nasty comments, I would always use a luggage transfer. This time I used Pilbeo and was very pleased with their service. Drop Jesus an email and he’ll sort you out!
- The Camino Portuguese is not as pilgrim friendly as the Camino Frances. Pilgrims have to ask for sellos, most churches are closed in the afternoon. Accommodation isn’t always aware of the luggage transfer which causes additional stress. The Camino infrastructure changed completely once I crossed over to Spain.
- Most accommodations aren’t fully aware of their clientele’s needs. Breakfast at 8am for a pilgrim is rather late, so are over-sugared and low-quality/nutrient-poor foods.
- Most churches and Capellas are closed and only open for a few hours in the morning.
- I felt there was little unity amongst the pilgrims. The vibe was different (slightly negative) from walking the Camino Frances. Couples and close-knit friend groups kept mostly to themselves. The little solo hikers I met on the Camino were not interested in connecting with me. I don’t know if this is a general vibe of this route, or if this is down due to post-Covid travel or simply the time of year (June).
- This is in no way a criticism, it’s more an observation from my side: the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route crowd are late risers. They start their walks at 9am at the earliest, whereas on the Camino Frances Peregrinos hike with their headlamps on at 5am. This could be due to the terrain which is easier on the Portuguese way.
- The Galician weather is unpredictable. Make sure you bring a rain cover & permeable coat along.
Pro’s & Con’s of the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Itinerary
+ Coastal views are stunning
+ Day 1 from Porto sets the bar high, with lots of interesting areas and engaging landscapes
+ Urbanised, more choice for accommodation& restaurants or setting end stages
+ You can’t get lost, as you always follow along the water in a north-bound direction
+ Interesting places & sights e.g. castelos in Portugal
+ The impressive views in Valenca & Tui were a highlight for me
+ Two countries in one hike during a manageable distance
– Lack of diversity in landscape after Day 2
– Oversaturated by house walls and eucal forests
– Leads away from the Coast really quickly
– Portugal is not very pilgrim-friendly
– Cafes and resting places are often off the Camino. Any detour adds additional kms and going off the Camino is not really a thing
– Wide-spread and unlikely you’ll meet the same people again
– Lonely at times, because the main clientele seems to be couples and friend groups who aren’t interested in connecting
– Vibe and unity amongst pilgrims weren’t as strong as they were on the Camino Frances
– Most sellos are blue or black and not very creative
FAQs For Your Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Itinerary
I understand this is quite a lengthy post and you may have some quick questions about planning your Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itinerary. You can, of course, always come back to any section of my post and read in more detail what you’d need for your trip. If you have questions or need help, please get in touch and I’m happy to assist.
What Do I Need To Consider When Planning A Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Itinerary?
The Camino Portuguese Coastal route has a moderate distance, depending on your starting point. I chose Porto and found 260km manageable. If you walk it in one go, you’ll need about 9 to 10 days to finish it. There are places of interest along the way, such as Vigo, Baiona or Tui, which I highly recommend exploring. Don’t miss out on those!
If you start in Porto consider skipping the first 11km through town. It’s boring & you’ll save a day walking. Take the metro and start your walk in Matosinhos, then add that 11 km to the end which will finish your Day 1 comfortably in Povoa de Varzim. It’ll make planning your stretches easier and you will be slightly ahead, meaning less traffic on the morning of Day 2.
The daily rhythm may change according to the weather conditions. If it’s going to be 30°C you want to start your hike as early as possible, as I would not advise you to hike between 12-4pm. The terrain is easy and 25km can be hiked in 4-5h.
The Camino Portuguese Coastal route offers flexibility in Caminha. You can choose to cross the estuary to A Guarda and walk via Baiona or follow the less popular route inland to Valenca/Tui. Check the crossing options as ferry services from Caminha are unreliably on and off. Mario from the Pilgrim’s Water Taxi charges 6 EUR for the crossing. Do check with him beforehand though as it’ll be late by the time you get to Caminha. You reach him at +351 913 254 110.
Good To Know: If you choose the inland route Caminha to Valenca, know that most luggage transfers don’t serve this stretch or charge a ridiculous fare, e.g. TuiTrans quoted me 35EUR for that stretch even though it’s part of their map. Pilbeo was the only provider who would cover that stretch for 7 EUR.
How Different Is The Camino Portuguese to Other Caminos?
The Camino Portuguese has a lot of flexibility so your Camino Portuguese Coastal route itinerary can be, too. The area is very urbanised compared to the Camino Frances and offers more options & choices. It is very likely you may not meet the same pilgrims again because of the widespread character. I’ve only travelled the Camino Portuguese once and I would have to travel it again to make a profound judgement.
I just felt the unity amongst the pilgrims was a bit off and I noticed more friend groups and couples travelling this route. The people and businesses along the Camino Frances seemed to embrace it more than the Portuguese. Again, this is my personal impression and can be influenced e.g. by the time of year.
Is Planning a Camino Portuguese Coastal Route Itinerary Time Consuming?
and how complicated is it?
You’ve come to the right place, because I’m not only telling you in detail about each stage and how to plan it, but I will also share my mishaps and alternative routes on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itinerary. Keep an eye out for my detailed daily account posts coming soon! I’ve read a couple of blog posts, personal experience reports and compared tour operator routes to make an informed judgement on my stages. Once I had enough information, I planned out the stretches and secured accommodation. It took a good two weeks as I also included break time and additional day trips into my Camino Portuguese Coastal Route itinerary. I booked everything in March for late May/June and struggled a bit to secure accommodation in Santiago for my arrival in June. It’s a Holy Year and the Camino certainly gets busy!
Thank you so much for reading,
Till next time,
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