Walking the Portuguese Coastal Camino
The Portuguese Camino Coastal Route is truly unforgettable. Jane Reed, Co-Founder of Wandering the World, shares her experience exploring the charming seaside towns, wild Atlantic beauty and beautiful beaches of Northern Portugal and Galicia.
About the Trip
Portugal is well and truly "up there" on my list of all-time favourite countries. Spending time in the vibrant cities of Lisbon and Porto as well as enjoying Portugal's delicious food and wine aren't the only things I love here. As a passionate walker, I also loved getting out into the beautiful country side on Portugal's spectacularly scenic walking trails. Most notably is the Portuguese Coastal Camino, which I completed in September 2016 with a small group on the 15-Day Wandering the World trip.
Starting in the colourful UNESCO-listed city of Porto, we explored Portugal's beautiful coastlines and towns. Porto is set on the Douro River and is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. It was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. One of Portugal's internationally famous exports, port wine, is named after Porto and the region is a major producer of cork.
The Portuguese Coastal Camino is dotted with pretty seaside and fishing villages and fringed by woodlands and eucalyptus forests. The path we followed headed north to Santiago de Compostela, along the beaches and dunes of the wild Atlantic coastline. Leaving Portugal, we crossed the Mino River into Spain at the town of Tui – an incredibly picturesque part of the walk.
The Camino de Santiago began as a religious pilgrimage to the relics of the Apostle St James, interred in the grand old Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Since the ninth century hundreds of thousands have made the journey and pilgrims still walk the Camino today for religious and/or spiritual reasons. The hospitality offered to pilgrims started in the middle-ages by monks and clergymen and continues today where all villages and towns participate with their warm welcome.
For me, walking the Camino in Portugal is about enjoying the culture and rich history, as well as being out in nature. Walking around 20-25km each day through magnificent landscapes kept me fit and I also got to enjoy charming village accommodation, welcoming locals and superb food and wine.
The camaraderie and sharing the adventure with other walkers was also part of the enjoyment. The great thing about walking the Camino with a small group is that everyone can walk at their own pace. You can walk and chat or simply enjoy the freedom to walk on your own.
Portuguese Coastal Camino Highlights
The day we walked from the seaside town of Esposende to Viana do Castelo was something I'll never forget. It is an exceptionally picturesque walk, mainly through woodland forests. The church of Santiago de Castelo de Neiva is a spectacular photo stop and you can grab a cup of coffee along the way.
Staying at Viana do Castelo was another experience I'd highly recommend. Upon arriving in the town of Viana do Castelo we crossed the impressive Eiffel iron bridge over the Lima River. The town is in a stunning location on the river and has spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean, especially from the Basilica de Santa Luzia. Legend has it that the Romans were so impressed by Viana's beauty when they reached the town in the first century they thought they had reached paradise (I can see why!).
Santiago de Compostela
I can't fully describe the thrill and excitement of walking into the beautiful old town of Santiago de Compostela. Although it was tinged with a bit of sadness knowing that the walk had come to an end, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty. Santiago is a terrific city to celebrate completing the walk and THE place to reward yourself with some sensational food and a well-earned glass or two of wine. Attending the Pilgrim's mass in the cathedral and seeing the Botafumeiro (incense burner) being swung is also a real highlight.
A Few Tips
When to Go
April/May/June and September/October are the best times to walk the Portugal Camino.
Choose your Trip
The Portugal Camino is a great walk to do either by joining an escorted small group walk on a scheduled departure date or as a self-guided option on a date that suits you.
How to Dress
Layering is key. It can sometimes be chilly first thing in the morning when setting out, so as the day warms up you need to be able to peel off. It's wise to be prepared for all weather types on any given day. So, as well as a sun hat, a rain jacket or good quality poncho in your day pack is a must.
My ideal layering is a lightweight breathable t-shirt under a long sleeve shirt with collar, a long sleeve (merino) thermal and/or a lightweight fleece jacket. Lightweight trek pants, that can be zipped off to shorts are perfect and practical. 'How to Layer' provides some pointers if you need a bit of guidance.
I am a big advocate for wearing a buff or bandana. They have multiple uses – from providing sun protection for your neck, to keeping you warm when it is cooler or tying your hair back.
The most important part of your wardrobe is your footwear. Shoes AND socks. Good quality, comfortable walking shoes or boots that you have worn in are imperative as are good quality socks. One of my tips is to have a second pair of socks with you each day in your pack. When you stop for a break it's satisfying to take your shoes off and let your feet breathe and to regularly change your socks – especially if your feet tend to get sweaty.
To complete your daily gear list, I think walking poles are a great advantage to use. The use of walking poles is a personal preference, but when you are walking up to 25km per day, they do help with your posture and engage your upper body as you walk. Walking poles also help protect your knees on uphill and downhill paths.
I would recommend a good level of basic fitness for a comfortable 6-hour walk. As well as building fitness, walking helps prepare your feet for travelling long distances daily.
All in all, the Portuguese Coastal Camino Trail is one I will never forget. I saw beautiful natural and man-made scenery, met wonderful people and revelled in local food and wine. I'm looking forward to my next adventure!
About the Author
Jane is Co-Founder of boutique travel company Wandering the World, specialising in escorted small group and self-guided walks, treks and tours in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. After many years working in the travel industry, the launch of Wandering the World has enabled Jane to use her knowledge and expertise with her with passion for walking and hiking.