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The Portugal Way map & highlights
You know what they say: 50,000 people can’t be wrong. That’s how many people now walk the Portugal Way every year, making it the second most popular Camino de Santiago route after the French Way, which comes southeast through the Pyrenees. The Portugal Way on the other hand runs north; most tours begin in Porto, but you can also start walking either in Lisbon, or Tui in Spain.
The two main route options take you either through picturesque rural scenery, or dramatic Atlantic coastline. It’s a nice choice to face. Another way to look at the Portugal Way is that each region you pass through has its own distinctive cuisine. The coastal route is fantastic for seafood lovers, while the inland route takes you through many vineyards, olive groves and orchards. In Ponte de Lima traditional dishes include pork and rice, and lamprey fished from the river, while the fried peppers of Padrón are known across Spain and Portugal.
Once the Portuguese capital, Coimbra is ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its superb historic architecture, most notably the 13th century university and Gothic cathedral. It’s also one of the best places outside Lisbon to hear fado music, something to bear in mind if spending the night here. The approach to Coimbra is lovely, taking you through forest, vineyards and olive groves.
Cape Finisterre, from the Latin finis terrae, was in Roman times believed to be the end of the known world. Most pilgrims finish at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela some 90km east, but others continue on to the cape. A recent tradition which we suggest you give a miss is the ritual of burning or discarding your walking boots here.
Padrón is typically the final stop before Santiago de Compostela, and one of the most important. This is where the disciples of Saint James landed with his body, carrying it inland for burial. The local specialty of Padrón peppers, fried in olive oil and salt, is well known. Be careful though; you never know when you’re going to find a spicy one.
Ponte de Lima
4. Ponte de Lima
Dating to the early 12th century, Ponte de Lima is one of Portugal’s oldest towns. The Camino route crosses the River Lima over the Roman bridge, past the statues of Roman soldiers, and quickly enters pretty countryside. This is a good place to stay the night, with many excellent restaurants, some pretty azulejo tiles and plenty of lodgings.
A popular place to begin the Portugal Way, Porto’s cosmopolitan atmosphere belies its age. You may want to spend a day or so here before you start walking, perhaps to sample the famous port that in centuries past was brought down the river on rabelo boats, or to explore many independent bars, restaurants and shops. Some walkers prefer to take the metro out to Maia, avoiding the suburbs which are not all that interesting.
Just north of Lisbon, the winding streets of hilltop Santarem hide many Gothic churches – the glazed tiles of the Santa Maria de Marvila make it one of Portugal’s most beautiful. The famous pilgrimage site of Fátima is 60km north of Santarem and although not on the official Portugal Way route, many pilgrims do make a detour here in order to pay their respects at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima.
Santiago de Compostela
7. Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela may be the world’s first tourism destination. Pilgrims, whichever route they take, have finished their walks here for centuries. Legend has it the remains of the disciple St. James are buried under the magnificent cathedral. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had wandering the narrow streets once you escape the more touristy sections.
Only passed on the coastal Portugal Way, rather than the inland route, Vigo is a large fishing port close to the border. If you’re looking to break the walk up a little, Vigo is a good place to do it, with plenty of restaurants and cultural attractions around. It is also the gateway to the Cies Islands archipelago, reckoned to have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Our Portugal Way Vacations
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The Portugal Way travel advice
Rasmus Pedersen from our supplier Spain is More has some useful recommendations for walking the Portugal Way:
“The parts I love most of the Portugal Way are the forest walk after Tui, which is really beautiful, especially the hilltop view of the Galicia ‘fjords’, and Ponte de Lima in Portugal, by the riverbank. By then you have been walking a few days, you’re into the Camino rhythm and you’re starting to feel like a real pilgrim. Ponte de Lima often has markets and a fiesta, there are good restaurants and hotels and it’s generally a really pleasant atmosphere.”