An article about how to start the Way of St. James in Porto? How nonsensical – there are arrows for this!
Yes, of course. So much for the theory. But when you stand in front of the cathedral in Porto, you quickly realise that there are not too few, but too many arrows.
Where does the Camino start in Porto?
Nowhere, because the Caminho Portugues starts at Lisbon Cathedral.
That's why there is no single starting arrow in Porto, but arrows are scattered all over the city. And usually there is no indication whether the arrow in question is one that leads pilgrims from Lisbon through the city, or whether it is meant for people who start their Camino in Porto.
To make matters worse, you can start from Porto on both the Portuguese Coastal Way and the Inland Way (Central Way).
If you start your Camino in Porto, you start it at the cathedral (Link).
The start of the costal way (Caminho portugues da Costa)
Enter the cathedral, get your first stamp and then look around.
Surely there must be a yellow arrow somewhere pointing the way?
The corresponding stone is quickly found.
So everything would be quite clear if there wasn't an arrow to the left pointing in the other direction.
I'll cut a long story short:
If you are standing at the cathedral in Porto and want to start your (first) Way of St. James, you can learn your first lesson right here: things don't turn out the way you think, but everything will be fine.
Because the stone pillar with the sign shows you the way to the central path through the center of the country, your arrow is the left one. But there is no hint for this.
And even if you choose the left arrow, a few metres later you will find yourself in front of another arrow pointing in the opposite direction.
My advice at this point is: start your Camino by ignoring the arrows.
Because your coastal route leads along the river Duoro to the sea. This means that your mission is first to find a way down through the beautiful alleyways to the river, and when you get there, just walk towards the sea – so that the Duoro is on your left.
The same advice applies to the entire coastal path: as long as the sea is on your left, you're basically on the right track. Nevertheless, you can rest assured: in the future, the arrows will be much clearer than the start suggests.
The start of the central way of the Camino Portugues
If you have chosen the inland route, the arrow on the stone pillar is the right one.
But this is more in theory than in practice. Most pilgrims decide to walk along the coast until Vila do Conde and then change to the central route, because the beginning of the inland route is not quite as industrial as one sometimes hears, but compared to the route along the river and the sea, it clearly loses the competition.
In Vila do Conde, or just before the beginning of the village, there is an access path to the central path.
Can you get lost on the Caminho Portugues?
Theoretically yes, but practically unlikely.
The signposting is basically very good everywhere, so you can survive even without a pilgrim's guide. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a GPS track with you so that you can check if you are unsure. Because sometimes an arrow points to the left, but there are two left-hand paths. Or at some point you overlook an arrow and wonder where all the other pilgrims have gone.
But even if you take a wrong turn, it doesn't matter. The Portuguese are very nice people (the Spanish, too, of course) and most of the time you are guided back onto the right path by the next local – or you notice yourself that something is wrong and then check whether you are still on course.
No pilgrim has ever died alone in the wilderness 🙂
Are you still worried about whether it will all work out?
If you are unsure, then I recommend you (quite unselfishly of course 🙂 ) to book my consulting.
I have walked the Portuguese Camino five times and live in Porto myself.
I offer you different options: the full package includes a detailed consultation including a personalised pilgrim's guide and a digital companion, but there is also the possibility to book only a short consultation and still have my phone number with you when you are on the way. Or book the Porto Welcome Package, where I meet you here to answer any questions and/or show you around this wonderful city.