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Camino Portugues (Coastal): The Ultimate Guide

Explore the Camino Portugues: an in-depth guide covering history, highlights, terrain, infrastructure, and starting points in Lisbon and Porto.
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The Camino Portugues, or Portuguese Way, is a significant pilgrimage route leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This route, second in popularity only to the Camino Frances, offers a unique blend of cultural and natural experiences.

Originating from Lisbon or Porto in Portugal, the Camino Portugues extends through varied landscapes, including rural countryside, coastal paths, and historic urban areas. Pilgrims on this path encounter a rich tapestry of history, exemplified by medieval architecture, ancient Roman roads, and significant religious sites.

Hermitage at Santa Trega mountain near A Guarda, Spain
Camino Portugues offers two scenic routes

Camino Portugues in numbers

  • Length: 617 km (Central); 280 km (Coastal)
  • Starting point: Lisbon (Central); Porto (Coastal), Portugal
  • Finishing point: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • How many days does it take: 25-30 days (from Lisbon); 12-14 days (from Porto)
  • Ideal for: Suitable for those who prefer less crowded paths compared to the Camino Frances

Camino Portugues map

Historical overview

Camino Portugues, including its captivating Coastal route, traces its origins to the period following Portugal's independence in the mid-12th century.

The support of monarchs, nobility, and high clergy during this era marked the Camino Portugues as a vital part of European culture, with key figures like King Sancho II and Queen Isabel of Portugal enhancing its legacy.

Viana do Castelo
Roman and medieval influences in architecture

This ancient route is complemented by medieval structures such as the Monastery of Rates, rebuilt in 1100, embodying the religious significance of the pilgrimage. 

The remnants of Roman infrastructure, notably the Via XIX, established in the 1st century AD, are integral to the Camino's historic fabric. The legend of Saint Peter of Rates, ordained by Saint James according to lore, adds a layer of spiritual depth to the path.

The Coastal Way, or Caminho da Costa, emerged into prominence during the 15th century, parallel to the growth of coastal towns in the Age of Discovery.

Se Cathedral of Viana do Castelo - Portugal
Viana do Castelo from inside

Traversing through settlements rich in maritime history like Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim, the route showcases a blend of Roman and medieval influences. The Estrada Velha, an old road forming a key part of this coastal journey, symbolizes the historical evolution of the route.

In recent years, the Coastal Way has adapted to modern pilgrims' preferences. Influenced by German pilgrims, a contemporary version of this route emphasizes serene beach walkways along Northern Portugal's coastline. This adaptation represents a response to increasing urbanization, offering pilgrims a more scenic and tranquil experience.

Highlights

Porto Cathedral

Located in Porto, the Porto Cathedral is a significant starting point on the Camino Portugues. Its construction began in the 12th century, set in the Batalha neighborhood beside the old city walls, giving it a fortress-like appearance. The façade, mostly Baroque, incorporates Romanesque and Gothic elements from various renovations over time. Its cloister, adorned with tiles depicting Ovid's Metamorphoses, is a must-see​​.

Se - the cathedral of Porto, Portugal.
Porto Cathedral

Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Póvoa de Varzim

This fort in Póvoa de Varzim, originally known as Torreão Fort, was built to protect the port from pirate attacks and invasions. Its construction began in 1701 but was halted and later resumed in 1738, finally completing in 1740. The fortress, now a city landmark, was fully restored in 2015, reflecting its historical significance​​.

Old 18th century Portuguese star fort  in Povoa de Varzim, Portugal. Known as Castelo da Povoa, or Povoa Castle. Wide shot.
Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Conceição

Romanesque Bridge of La Ramallosa

Located in Santa Cristina da Ramallosa, Pontevedra, the La Ramallosa Bridge is a remarkable Romanesque structure from the 12th century. It features semicircular and gently pointed arches and a dual cutwater system. The bridge, integral to an old medieval road known as Per Loca Maritima, was pivotal in connecting coastal towns and monastic sites like the Monastery of Oia​​.

La Ramallosa
Romanesque Bridge of La Ramallosa

Church of Santa María de Reboreda, Redondela

In the town of Redondela, the Church of Santa Maria de Reboreda, dating back to 1736, stands out for its Latin cross design and beautiful sacristy. The church, connected to the neighboring Pazo de Reboreda, once served as a private chapel. Its atrium features a Cruceiro from 1770, offering splendid views over Redondela​​.

Church of santa maria de reboreda
Church of Santa María de Reboreda

Castle of San Sebastian, Vigo

Approaching Santiago de Compostela, the journey passes through Vigo, where the Castle of San Sebastian, dating back to 1656, is located. Built to defend the city during the war between Spain and Portugal, it now offers breathtaking views of the estuary, islands, and city center. The castle's garden and pond are among its notable features​​.

Castle of San Sebastian, a fortified enclosure  in Cadiz, Spain.
Castle of San Sebastian

Terrain and difficulty

The Camino Portugues, including its Coastal route, traverses a variety of terrains. In urban areas like Lisbon and Porto, the path begins on paved streets and cobblestones.

Moving away from these urban settings, the path transitions into rural landscapes, characterized by open fields and vineyards, offering a more relaxed walking experience.

The route also includes stretches through forests and along rivers, providing shaded and scenic paths. The Coastal variant is marked by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, featuring coastal trails and beach walkways with flat and visually appealing sections of the journey.

Pawn bridge in Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal
Camino Portugues offers one of the most pleasant walks among Caminos

Regarding elevation, the Camino Portugues is generally gentler than other Camino routes like Camino del Norte. However, it does include some hilly terrains, notably the ascent to Alto da Portela Grande de Labruja. This climb, while notable, is manageable for most walkers.

Overall, the Camino Portugues is suitable for most pilgrims, from experienced trekkers to those undertaking their first long-distance walk. While weather conditions can impact the difficulty, adequate preparation and the right gear can ensure a comfortable experience.

If you’re searching for information on preparation for Camino Portugues and access to a packing list, visit our comprehensive Camino de Santiago guide.

Infrastructure

The infrastructure along the Camino Portugues, including its Coastal variant, plays a crucial role in facilitating a smooth and comfortable journey for pilgrims. This infrastructure encompasses a range of amenities and services essential for daily needs and emergencies.

Pilgrims on the Camino Portugues have various accommodation options, ranging from traditional albergues (pilgrim hostels) to hotels and guesthouses. Albergues, often run by local municipalities, religious organizations, or private entities, provide budget-friendly, basic lodging.

Basilique Santa Luzia à Viana do Castelo, Portugal
Basilique Santa Luzia

In larger towns and cities, hotels and guesthouses offer more comfort and privacy. The availability of pilgrim accommodation varies along the route. The stretch between Lisbon and Porto has fewer albergues, with alternative options like volunteer firefighter barracks, youth hostels, or parish houses.

From Porto to Valença do Minho, the number of albergues increases, making it easier to find accommodation closer to Santiago de Compostela​​.

The Camino Portugues is well-served by a variety of bars, restaurants, and shops, ensuring that pilgrims have regular access to food and supplies.

In most sections of the route, it doesn't often happen that one needs to walk for more than an hour without encountering a place to eat or restock essentials. This easy access to amenities makes the Camino Portugues especially appealing for first-time pilgrims or those who prefer not to carry excessive food or water​​.

If you wish to read about accommodations and food on Camino de Santiago in more detail, you can visit our comprehensive Camino de Santiago guide.

Wide empty beach with beautiful waves and white town on background. Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal, landmark. Panoramic Atlantic Ocean coast with calm beach. White sand shore. Europe travel concept.
Coastal paths on Camino Portugues Coastal

Along the Camino, healthcare facilities, including pharmacies and clinics, are available in larger towns and cities. Emergency services are also accessible throughout the route. The well-marked trails, regular accommodations, and the presence of other pilgrims contribute to a safe walking environment.

The Camino Portugues is accessible via various transportation modes, including bus, train, and air travel, especially to the starting points in Lisbon and Porto. For pilgrims who prefer not to carry their backpacks, luggage transfer services are available, transporting bags from one accommodation to the next.

The route is well-marked with the familiar yellow arrows, ensuring easy navigation. This impeccable waymarking, a joint effort by Galician and Portuguese associations, is particularly noteworthy on the Camino Portugues​​.

How to get to the starting point?

The Camino Portugues offers two primary starting points for pilgrims: Lisbon and Porto. Both cities are well-connected and easily accessible by various modes of transportation, making the beginning of the pilgrimage journey convenient for travelers from around the world.

Modern metro train  in Porto
Metro in Porto

Lisbon

By Air

Lisbon Portela Airport, also known as Humberto Delgado Airport, is the main international gateway to Portugal. It hosts numerous flights from major cities across Europe and beyond. From the airport, there are several transportation options to reach the city center, including metro, bus, taxi, or car rental.

By Train

Lisbon is well-connected by train to other major Portuguese cities and some destinations in Spain. Santa Apolónia and Oriente are the two main train stations in Lisbon, offering both domestic and international connections.

By Bus

The city has a robust bus network, connecting it with various national and international locations. Long-distance buses arrive at and depart from Sete Rios Bus Station or the Oriente Station.

By Car

For those who prefer to drive, Lisbon is accessible via a network of major highways and roads. Parking in the city can be challenging, so it's advisable to plan parking arrangements in advance.

Lisbon aerial skyline panorama european city view on marques pombal square monument, sunset outside crossroads portugal
Lisbon from above

Porto

By Air

Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto is the second busiest airport in Portugal and offers a range of domestic and international flights. Similar to Lisbon, there are multiple transportation options from the airport to Porto's city center, including metro, bus, and taxi services.

By Train

Porto's Campanhã train station is the main hub for both national and international train services. It is well-connected to Lisbon and other major cities in Portugal and Spain.

By Bus

The city's main bus station, Porto Campo 24 de Agosto, serves numerous national and international destinations. Buses are a convenient and budget-friendly option for getting to Porto.

By Car

Porto is accessible via an extensive road network. The city has several parking options, but like Lisbon, it's recommended to check parking availability and restrictions in advance.

Porto with the Dom Luiz bridge, Portugal
Porto

For both Lisbon and Porto, public transportation is a convenient and efficient way to reach the city center from the airport or train/bus stations. Given the popularity of the Camino Portugues, it's advisable to book your travel to these cities well in advance, especially during peak pilgrimage seasons.

Now you know how to go, but do you also want to know when? We’ve explored the best time to visit the Camino de Santiago in more detail in our comprehensive Camino de Santiago guide.

Our Camino Portugues tours 

For those seeking a more structured and hassle-free Camino Portugues experience, traveling with a hiking agency can be an excellent option. Agencies offer a range of services, including pre-arranged accommodations, luggage transfers, and detailed route guides.

You can explore our Camino Portugues tours to find a package that suits your needs. Our services are designed to enhance your pilgrimage, ensuring a memorable and fulfilling journey on the Camino Portugues Coastal.

Explore the historic Camino de Santiago on our walking tours, ensuring a personal journey through Spain's rich landscapes and centuries-old pilgrim paths.
Portfolio company of World Discovery.