Caminho Portugués – the Nuts & Bolts

Freshly home from the Caminho Portugués I thought it might be timely to share the nuts and bolts of this camino with those who may be considering a similar stroll. I have found that we peregrinas (or peregrinos for the blokes) are great sharers of information – all with the view of making someone’s future walk more enjoyable and/or easier.

So here are the simple logistics of this camino. I intend to wax lyrical about this adventure in future blog posts but I will try to restrict myself here to the basic data:

Map.jpg

This map doesn’t show the Coastal Route. Basically just follow the coast from Porto and cut back in land to Valenca/Tui.

Start Day: Thursday 12 May 2016, from Lisbon, Portugal

Finish Day: Sunday 5 June 2016, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Route:

  • Central: Lisbon to Porto (approx. 400km)
  • Coastal: Porto to Valença (approx. 138km)
  • Central: Valença to Santiago de Compostela (approx. 122km)

Distances:

  • Total: 660km (estimated. Both the Portuguese and the Spanish have a very flexible approach to measuring and recording distances. Maps and actual signposts vary dramatically).
  • Daily Average: 28.7km
  • Longest Day: 35.4km
  • Shortest Day: 16.4km (my last day into Santiago! Woo Hoo!)

Days:

  • Walking: 23
  • Rest: 2 (Coimbra and Porto)

Times: early starts made the most of cooler temperatures and regularly featured gorgeous sunrises. Average walking times varied from 5-8 hours each day dependent on distance.

Terrain:

  • A lovely mix but predominantly hard surfaces such as tarred roads and &^%$# cobblestones – which I estimated to be 80+% of the whole walk. The detour I took to include the coastal route meant that I enjoyed many kilometres of walking on timber boardwalks. These were heavenly as they had a bit of ‘give’ in them – perfect for tired ankles and knees.
  • the range of hard surfaces would make this camino ideal for cyclists or ‘biki’
    DSCF5025.JPG

    A pretty bush track on the Coastal Route. A bit muddy but that’s OK

    pilgrims.

  • some stiff climbs but nothing like my previous caminos. Perhaps an hour or two of ascent, then the pain was over and I could enjoy the view and the descent.

Weather: Being Spring there was a bit of everything, including a handful of wet and windy days. Generally, daytime temperatures ranged from 8°C – 21°C – but then there is the ‘real feel’ equation to consider. One day was forecast for 27°C but the real feel was 32°C – far too warm for walking for this peregrina. Otherwise perfect walking conditions – cool and clear.

Maps & Guides:

  • as mentioned above, adopt a very casual approach to any distance markers or maps. These should be used as guides only. Make sure you allow yourself extra time and carry enough water and snacks to cover an additional 5km should it occur.
  • John Brierley’s 2014 edition of the guide to Caminho Portugués is woefully out-of-date in both content and maps. I trust the later edition is more accurate and useful.
  • for the Coastal Route, I used interactive maps from www.caminador.es. I printed hard copies for the sections I walked and just tossed them at the end of each day. (I didn’t carry a mobile phone so couldn’t access the ‘live’ version. This system worked well for me.)

Way-marking:

DSCF4674

Follow the yellow arrows for Santiago or the blue arrows to Fatima

  • generally very good with enough yellow arrows, shells, tiles, etc., to keep me on the right track.
  • Beware: leaving the town of Tomar as the arrows are faded, are few or are confusing.
  • Valença /Tui to Redondela Stage: at Orbenlle, the Camino Association has developed a new route (heading north/west) which means you skip the ugly slog into Porrino via the industrial estate. This has obviously upset a range of business owners who now insist on blacking out the Association’s yellow arrows. Just as you hit the outskirts of Orbenlle you will see a war of black and yellow paint. Turn left down a small, dirt track and you will be rewarded with a beautiful walk through forests and on country backroads. Similarly when you get into Porrino, just under/after a large overpass, you will see another paint fiesta. Again, turn left and enjoy a peaceful walk into the city on the edge of a river. In both instances, the arrows start to appear again after about 100m.

    DSCF5011.JPG

    Way marking on the Coastal route.

  • Coast Route: sometimes the arrows disappear completely so it is handy to have the maps to allow you to guesstimate which direction you should head (east or west) to intersect the route again. The caminador.es maps show two different routes – one right on the coastline and another further inland – the arrows take you on the inland path.

Accommodation:

  • the early stages in the Brierley guide are long, mostly because of the lack of conveniently-located accommodation. I am sure this will change dramatically in the next few years as the locals realise the business opportunities associated with the passing pilgrims.
  • Lisbon to Porto: few purpose-built albergues but plenty of reasonably-priced hostels from €10-25. These include all linen and may also include breakfast.
  • Porto to Valença (Coastal): albergues are more common but the youth hostels are also an excellent option with discounts for pilgrims. You do not need to be a member of the youth hostel association, but book direct for the best deals. Prices ranges from €7.50-12.
  • Valença to Santiago de Compostela: you name it, it’s available. Albergues are plentiful, as is 4-5 star accommodation. Prices from €6.00.

Food:

  • similar to my comments in the accommodation section above, this aspect will change to be more pilgrim-focused in the future.
  • From Lisbon to Valença (via the coast) I found few menu do dias or pilgrim menus but generally eating is very reasonable. A large omelette with chips and salad can cost as little as €4, and a café Americano (black coffee) ranges from €0.55c to €1.20! A very cost-effective way to make the most of a caffeine addiction!
  • Supermarkets usually have a good selection of pre-prepared meals including salads, tortilla española, pizzas and pastas etc.
  • Pastéis de nata are delicious and you have a perfectly reasonable excuse to consume these cakes on a daily basis. Prices range from €0.26c to €0.50c.DSCF5009.JPG

I am now an official fan of Portugal and can’t wait to return one day to play tourist. The country is gorgeous and the locals are so friendly and welcoming – just be careful of rapid-fire Portuguese when asking for directions!

A highly recommended camino. Enjoy and Bom Caminho!

 

May 2016

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12 thoughts on “Caminho Portugués – the Nuts & Bolts

    • I am sure there were transfer companies operating from Porto northwards on the central route but I don’t remember seeing any promotional material for the same service from Lisbon or on the coastal route. I hope that helps. Mel

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  1. Not sure if I can ask a question in a “Reply”, but here goes. My cousin and I both in our 70s want to do the Tui to Santiago distance. We are mobile but not backpacking hikers. We intend to have the heavy stuff transferred by taxi or other vehicle. We are mostly concerned about the terrain: ups and downs and types of paths – earthern vs paved. It seems that the last 100 km of the Portuguese route is less dangerous for old legs and feet than the last 100 of the French route. Can you confirm that Tui to Santiago could be easier for us to manage?

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    • Yes Carol – it would be very doable. There are a lot more accommodation options on this leg and therefore you can do easier/shorter days if you like. It is significantly busier though – lots of other people doing the last 100km – and depending on the accommodation you like, you may like to book ahead. I didn’t do that and always managed to get a bed in albergues and small hotels. There are also specific companies that will transport pilgrim luggage for you so that should take the pressure off a bit.

      From memory on that leg, I would estimate that +90% was on paved surfaces. There were some lovely paths across paddocks etc and dirt country roads but mostly it was on a paved/tarmac road surface.

      Yes, there were some stiff climbs but nothing too difficult or too long. What I mean is that you weren’t climbing all day – maybe up for an hour or so, then a plateau, descent etc. I wouldn’t let it put you off, you just need to take your time and rest a bit a long the way. If you have a look at John Brierley’s book his maps give you an idea of terrain. From them you will see some short, sharp climbs but if you are of reasonable fitness (I would recommend a few hilly training walks before you depart) – you should do it easy. I saw a number of older ladies along the way having a lovely time and simply enjoying the walk and the surrounds. There were so many beautiful flowers out in Spring, it was the perfect excuse to stop and admire them. And I did that often!

      Happy to chat some more if you have specific questions. All the best and Bom Caminho. Melanie

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  2. Thanks, Melanie for your quick and kind reply. We’re a little disappointed to hear that most of the path from Tui to Santiago is paved. You mentioned a detour to the coastal route and boardwalks instead of pavements, somewhere along the Portuguese Route. Would that be possible on the Tui – Santiago leg of the walk? Would Brierley’s book discuss that?

    Another concern is the availability of bathrooms. Do we have to consider being caught short without a near-by toilet? I have heard that there are signs posted along the French Route to discourage pilgrims from defiling the roadside – so we assume that some walkers are forced to use the great outdoors. Not an enticing thought.

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    • Hi Carol. The part of the coastal route I walked started in Porto and I followed the coastline around to Caminha and then up the river Minho to Valenca/Tui. So, No – this is not part of the route from Tui to Santiago.

      I am sorry if I have turned you off the Tui to Santiago path. I didn’t mean to and have listed below the percentages of dirt/grass paths as described in John Brierley’s book. I do have an older version (2014) so newer editions may be more accurate:
      Tui to Redondela – 32.6km – 20%
      Redondela to Pontevedra – 20km – 31%
      Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis – 23.9km – 33%
      Caldas de Reis to Padron – 19.4km – 49%
      Padron to Santiago – 26.6km – 30%
      Obviously these figures are much higher than my original low estimate but I think you are safe to plan for more paved paths than less. Also consider your shoes. Do you have good/new ones with lots of cushioning and support? Good footwear will go a long way towards making your walk more enjoyable.

      I was pleased to find a MUCH higher percentage of public toilets in Portugal than in Spain but more often than not they were locked! Not sure why. The good news is that cafes are plentiful and most cafes have very good bathroom facilities so if you can time your need for coffee with other bodily functions then you won’t have a problem at all!!! I drink A LOT of water when I walk so I needed to dive into the bushes regularly. Being a farm girl, I am used to that! 😉

      I hope that helps. Bye Mel

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