The Camino Portugués stretches from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, covering a distance of 620km. For those seeking an extended journey, an additional 90km can be added to reach Finisterre.

Many pilgrims opt to embark on the 240km route from Porto to Santiago as their first choice, as it can be comfortably completed within 2 to 3 weeks, aligning with typical vacation durations.

In Portuguese, the route is referred to as “o Caminho Português," while in Spanish, it is known as “el Camino Portugués." This linguistic similarity can be confusing, given the notable differences between the two languages. This contrast becomes particularly evident after spending time in Portugal before transitioning to Spain, whether by ferry or crossing a bridge. Adjusting from ordering a “café com leite" to a “café con leche" can present quite a challenge.

Remarkably, the path is meticulously marked with yellow arrows, either painted on the ground or walls, occasionally replaced by aesthetically pleasing signs crafted from stones.

The yellow arrow and shell in Galicia

The Camino Portugués currently ranks as the second most popular pilgrimage route, following the Camino Francés, with 55% of pilgrims in 2019 embarking on the latter, while 27% chose the former. Its popularity continues to grow annually.

These statistics primarily pertain to the inland section from Porto to Santiago. For those seeking tranquility, opting for the coastal route or the stretch from Lisbon to Porto is advisable.

Nevertheless, travelers can still opt for the inland path, provided they select a less congested time or season. Starting the journey around eleven in the morning ensures encountering minimal fellow pilgrims along the hike.

From Lisbon to Porto

The stretch between Lisbon and Porto offers a serene experience, with many pilgrims unaware that the route typically commences in Lisbon.

Upon my arrival in Porto from Lisbon, I encountered a common reaction among German pilgrims: “But the path to Porto is so unattractive." This perception circulating within the German online community has tangible repercussions. While journeying between Lisbon and Porto, I encountered few German pilgrims. However, upon reaching Porto, it seemed that every other pilgrim was German.

Allow me to reassure you: the path is far from unattractive!

(Though, to be honest, the initial 90km from Lisbon to Santarém may not be the most scenic; feel free to easily bypass this section by train 🙂 )

The Camino from Lisbon

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Naturally, not every segment of the path is picturesque. It's a historic trail through Portugal's authentic landscape, devoid of any Disneyland-like facades tailored for pilgrims. Instead, it guides you through the genuine essence of Portugal, revealing diverse landscapes interspersed with various industries. However, amidst this authenticity, the Camino unveils heavenly pockets of serenity and breathtaking eucalyptus forests.

While there may be more tarmac paths compared to the northern routes, they possess their own unique beauty worth appreciating!

Paved Road on the Lisbon Camino

As they say, beauty is the eye of the beholder. Personally, I wouldn't label any section of the path as unattractive. Along the way, I encountered an abundance of natural beauty and captivating cities such as “Santarem" and “Coimbra" – not to mention the stunning city of Lisbon.

The journey boasts numerous eucalyptus forests and tranquil field paths that guide you through breathtaking landscapes, allowing for contemplative and peaceful moments. Additionally, there are charming cities along the route that you might not typically explore but are undoubtedly worth visiting.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Lisbon to Porto route, as it offers a quieter, more international experience.

Porto - Santiago Central route

Upon reaching Porto, the Camino diverges into two main variants: the coastal way and the central way.

The coastal way, a relatively newer addition, contrasts with the central way, which is often considered the “authentic" route of St. James.

Many pilgrims opt for the central way for two primary reasons:

1. It offers a greater abundance of hostels, which serve as the primary accommodation for most pilgrims. (For those who prefer hotels, there are budget-friendly options available on both routes.)

2. The central way tends to be busier, providing more opportunities to connect with fellow pilgrims and fostering a larger sense of community.

In contrast, the central way boasts a more diverse landscape, featuring beautiful natural surroundings and a plethora of accommodation options.

Most pilgrims initially follow the coastal path, at least for the first stage or two, until reaching Vila do Conde. This transition occurs because the initial stages of the inland path from Porto lack the scenic charm, with industrial areas dominating the landscape.

Once on the central path, pilgrims primarily traverse gravel paths winding through varied landscapes, including forests, eucalyptus groves, quaint villages, and even mountains.

Central Way of the Camino Portugues

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The costal route

As picturesque as the inland route may be, those with a fondness for the ocean will find joy in walking the coastal path.

To avoid any confusion, it's important to note that the coastal path doesn't exclusively hug the coastline. It also includes sections that wind through forests and traverse mountains.

Furthermore, the names can be somewhat misleading. While we often refer to it as the coastal way, there are instances, such as the stages immediately following Porto, where the official designation is “Senda litoral." Interestingly, in these areas, the path officially labeled as the coastal way sits approximately 10km inland from the coast.

Nevertheless, the Camino Portugués da Costa does offer many stretches where you walk beside the ocean. In the initial stages, this is often along wooden planks, a characteristic feature of the coastal path.

Coastal Way of the Camino Portugues

Walking along the wooden planks was a highlight for me. With the ocean as a constant companion, there's little chance of losing your way. You can simply gaze out at the sea, using it as a guide, and enjoy coffee breaks at the numerous beach bars along the route.

While some fellow pilgrims I walked with found this part of the journey monotonous and lacking diversity, I personally found it incredibly fulfilling. But as they say, to each their own. For me, spending ample time next to the ocean was a joy.

Excitingly, there are plans for new paths from Esposende that will lead directly along the ocean. However, for now, pilgrims will still traverse through forests, villages, and stunning landscapes. Once these new sections open, I plan to embark on another pilgrimage to experience them firsthand and update my website accordingly. However, even in 2023, the route remains a work in progress.

Plannings for more wooden planks

Many prominent guides and websites may advise pilgrims to conclude their journey along the coastal path at the Spanish border in Caminha and transition to the central route. However, this advice is not entirely accurate. The coastal path extends further into Spain, reaching A Guarda, where it continues its picturesque journey. Trust me, the beauty only intensifies on the Spanish side!

Coast at the Camino

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Contrary to popular belief, the path is adequately equipped with signposts, ensuring a smooth navigation experience. Additionally, for those seeking budget-friendly accommodations in hostels, there are plenty available along the route.

It's not until Pontevedra that you'll need to transition to the central way. Until then, you can continue your journey along the coastal path without any disruptions.

Conclusion

Having traversed every path from Lisbon to Porto, as well as both the central and coastal ways from Porto onward through Spain, I can confidently attest: every route exudes its own unique beauty.

The pilgrimage from Lisbon to Porto enchants you from the outset, beginning in the vibrant city of Lisbon and leading you through a diverse and international journey. Along the way, you'll encounter charming cities that you may have otherwise overlooked, fostering a sense of camaraderie among fellow pilgrims.

The inland path from Porto to Santiago boasts scenic vistas, regional charm, and a multitude of accommodation options, offering ample opportunities to connect with fellow travelers.

For those yearning to conclude their pilgrimage by the ocean and seek solace after a bustling 100km journey, the coastal path beckons.

Regardless of your preferred route, embarking on a pilgrimage or a long-distance hike along the Camino is a truly enriching and invaluable experience. So, whether you choose to label it as a pilgrimage or simply a long-distance trek, the journey is bound to leave a lasting impression.