Take the path infinitely less travelled and mix things up along the Portuguese Way. This detour between Pontevedra and Padron is known as the Spiritual Variant and sees you deviate to catch a boat along the same waterway that delivered the body of St James to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s a unique pilgrim experience that few choose to do, but even fewer regret doing it.
Camino de Santiago: Portuguese Way with Spiritual Variant
16 Days / Self-guided walking
Porto to Santiago de Compostela
After St James’s execution in Jerusalem, a daring rescue mission was mounted to bring his body back to Spain. It eventually reached land in Padron, in the province of Galicia, before being transported to what is now Santiago de Compostela. This Spiritual Variant is a really interesting alternative to consider when walking the Portuguese Way, either along the coast or inland. Pilgrims will detour from Pontevedra and strike out towards the coast, following some lovely trails through forests and past some wonderful medieval buildings including the Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Armenteira. After reaching the coast, a boat will deliver pilgrims up the Rio Ulla to Padron, from where they’ll continue walking to Santiago de Compostela following the path the body was originally transported along.
Day 1 | Arrive in Porto
Your Camino begins in the city of Porto on the banks of the River Douro. This is Portugal’s second-largest city and one of Europe’s oldest, with a population of 1.5 million and 2000 years of history. Not only is Porto’s World Heritage-listed centre filled with history, it’s also home to colourful houses and winding cobblestone streets lined with wine bars and seafood restaurants. One cannot leave Porto without heading down to the docks and visiting the internationally renowned port houses. After all, this is the home of the port wine and trust us, there’s plenty to try.
Day 2 | Porto – Povoa de Varzim | 14 km / 3–4 hours
Begin your morning with a vehicle transfer from Porto to Labruge, which will allow you to bypass the industrial outskirts of town. Labruge is approximately 17 km from Porto, and it’s here that you’ll start walking to Povoa de Varzim, the first stage of which hugs the Atlantic coastline and passes through fishing villages and forests. You’ll also pass an exquisite beach – Praia de Sao Paio – which hosts the ruined remains of an Iron Age culture. Let the ocean and endless beaches guide you to Povoa de Varzim, a popular Portuguese resort town, and wash off your efforts with a refreshing swim.
Day 3 | Povoa de Varzim – Esposende | 20 km / 5–6 hours
Take some time, if you haven’t already, to see a few of the sights including the Castelo da Pavoa, a fortress that once protected the town against pirates, or the museum, which details the area’s long history. The Camara Municipal, or town hall, is a beautiful building well worth a visit as its exterior features Portugal’s famous ‘azulejos’ blue tile paintings.
The path today will once again follow the coastline and provides ample opportunity to cool off in the ocean. Before arriving in Esposende you’ll cross the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte, which was established to preserve the sand dunes, sea birds and marine creatures. Esposende was built at the estuary of the River Cavado and is lovely spot to watch the sun set over the beach.
Day 4 | Esposende – Viana do Castelo | 23 km / 5–6 hours
A peaceful walk filled with ocean views awaits today, but not before a big breakfast and a cup of coffee. Perhaps detour via the local bakery to pick up a Portuguese tart or two then continue north out of Esposende towards Viana do Castelo, which is famous for its handicrafts and colourful traditional costumes.
The town itself is situated at the mouth of the River Lima, which you’ll cross via the Ponte Eiffel, a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). It’s said that during the Roman occupation of Portugal the soldiers believed that the River Lima resembled the mythical Lethe River, one of the five rivers of the underworld, and crossing it would strip a person of their memory. They refused to cross until a Roman general took his horse to the other side and called the soldiers over by their names, proving their fears to be unfounded.
Day 5 | Viana de Castelo – Ancora | 18 km / 4–5 hours
Today is an easy walking day and there is plenty of time for you to enjoy a relaxed pace and a period of reflection. Potter around the seaside villages along the path, take a swim if you feel like it, and follow the coastline all the way to Ancora, an ancient fishing village at the end of the Ancora River. The river descends some 15 kilometres through the pretty Serra d’Arga hills to the east before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.
Day 6 | Ancora – A Guarda | 15 km / 4 hours
An exciting day as you cross from Portugal into Spain. Continue along the coastline towards Caminha, where you’ll need to take a ferry across the River Minho to Galicia, which operates about 5 crossings a day, however Monday is their day of rest, so a taxi is required.
After disembarking the ferry it’s a short walk to A Guarda. We highly recommend visiting the famous hilltop fort of Castro de Santa Trega, an ancient Celtic settlement, which offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Galicia’s verdant countryside. A Guarda – a fisherman’s port – is also known for its shellfish, including lobsters, so be sure to settle in for a delicious seafood meal to celebrate arriving in Spain.
Day 7 | A Guarda – Oia | 15 km / 4 hours
Depart A Guarda, which was a strategic point to keep watch over both the Portuguese and Galician coasts and continue north to the town of Oia. The trail today sticks to the coast, save for a short climb and descent to arrive in Oia itself. Here you’ll discover the magnificent Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Oia, a 12th-century Cistercian monastery located right by the water. Visitors are unable, at the time of writing, to go inside, but there are currently plans afoot to refurbish the ancient building. Regardless, the exterior is simply stunning and one of the region’s gems.
Day 8 | Oia – Baiona | 15 km / 4 hours | Optional rest day in Baiona
A small resort town, which explodes in the summertime, Baiona has a special place in Spanish – and world – history. It was here, in 1493, that one of Columbus’s ships stopped to resupply and announced that the Italian explorer had ‘discovered’ the Americas on behalf of the Spanish Crown. Though Vigo eventually overtook Baiona as the region’s main port, there are still remnants of the fortresses and battlements that once protected the town. There should be plenty of time to explore the Old Town’s narrow streets and sample the local seafood and wine. The Harbour Museum is also worth visiting, where one can see a replica of La Pinta, the ship that brought the good news.
Day 9 | Baiona – Vigo | 23 km / 5 hours
Tucked away in Galicia’s southwest, Vigo is one of the region’s larger cities with approximately 300,000 residents. It’s a port city and important, economically speaking, for Galicia, though its beaches are a popular drawcard for residents and tourists.
The walk to Vigo takes in expansive views of both the Bay of Vigo and the green hills behind the city that are typical of Galicia. Once again, there are plenty of opportunities to soak up the sunshine, fabulous views of the bay and Vigo has plenty of bars and restaurants to welcome you upon arrival.
Day 10 | Vigo – Redondela | 17 km / 4 hours
The day begins with a climb out of Vigo through the city backstreets. You’ll then join unsealed forest paths for the bulk of the day, walking past eucalyptus trees and along ridges with great views of the coast. Tread lightly: it’s said that Galicia’s enchanted forests are inhabited by ancient witches. You’ll eventually descend back towards the sea and the town of Redondela, your destination for the evening.
Day 11 | | Redondela – Pontevedra | 19 km / 4 hours
Today’s walk travels along the coastal inlet of the Rio de Pontevedra and passes through the town of Arcade, a small fishing village famous for its oysters. The path to Pontevedra is paved with ancient stones, a fitting welcome to a city known for its many Romanesque churches and granite squares. The city, which has been mostly pedestrianised, is an absolute joy to walk around and was recognised as one of the world’s best cities to cycle in. There are a number of sights to visit, with the Gothic Santo Domingo Church, Baroque City Hall and the Church of San Francis Monastery being particularly impressive.
Day 12 | Pontevedra – Armenteira | 23 km / 6 hours
The Spiritual Variant departs from Pontevedra’s A Peregrina church and makes its way northwest towards the coastline. Wave goodbye to any pilgrims you’ve met that are continuing along the Portuguese Way without tackling the variant, as they’ll be heading straight north to Caldas de Reis. Your destination today is the town of Armenteira, home to a magnificent 12th-century monastery that is associated with many legends. The path will take you right past the monastery, giving you time to explore before checking-in at your accommodation in town for the evening.
Day 13 | Armenteira – Vilanova de Arousa | 24 km / 6 hours
From Armenteira, the Camino’s Spiritual Variant follows the local ‘Ruta de la Piedra y del Agua’, or ‘Route of Stone and Water’. It’s wonderful walking, with time spent wandering through green forests and passing running streams. After a beautiful day in these peaceful surrounds, you’ll arrive in the town of Vilanova de Arousa, which is set on the water’s edge and has a charming, almost medieval feel about it. There are plenty of lovely views out to the estuary, as well as the open ocean, and a number of bars and restaurants providing well-earned refreshments and tasty tapas.
Day 14 | Vilanova de Arousa – Padron | 2 km / 30 min to follow a 1-hour boat ride
Prepare for a slightly different day along the Camino as you experience the Traslatio, the Spiritual Variant’s most unique feature. You’ll take a boat along the Ria de Arousa and Rio Ulla to arrive at Pontescesures, following the ancient path of Santiago’s body as it was sailed to the Galician coastline and upriver to Padron. Along the journey, you’ll see the ruins of Torres do Oeste – two towers (of seven, originally) built to protect Santiago de Compostela from Viking raiders – as well as 17 stone cruceiros, making up the only waterway of crosses in the world.
From Pontescesures it’s a hop skip and a jump to Padron, a wonderful little town, the home of the tiny green peppers known as pimientos de padron as well as two of Galicia’s most celebrated writers: the poet Rosalia de Castro and Camilo Jose Cela, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989. As this is your final evening on the Camino before reaching Santiago de Compostela, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the journey so far and enjoy the company of your fellow pilgrims. Tomorrow will be a whirlwind of emotions, but tonight is about the people you’ve met, the places you’ve seen and the steps you’ve taken to get to this point.
Day 15 | Padron – Santiago de Compostela | 22 km / 5 hours
The path today will take you through many small villages and hamlets en route to Santiago de Compostela. Your first glimpse of the cathedral’s spires will be from Agro dos Monteiros – a memorable, and often emotional, moment. Continue through the ruins of A Rocha Vella, an old castle, before entering the famous city of Santiago. Follow the path to Santiago Cathedral and take some time to contemplate your achievement. Pilgrims will be coming in from all over the country and it’s just as satisfying watching them arrive.
Collect your Compostela – the official certificate of the Camino de Santiago – and explore the city’s streets. The atmosphere in Santiago is palpable and the food and wine is absolutely mouth-watering. It’s the perfect place to end your journey though the Camino, as they say, never truly ends.
Day 16 | Finish in Santiago de Compostela
Your journey along the Portuguese Way and its Spiritual Variant comes to an end this morning after breakfast. We hope you’ve had a memorable, and perhaps transformative, journey along the Camino.
Visit www.wanderingtheworld.com.au for more information.
- 15 nights accommodation, all carefully selected to enhance your Camino experience
- Private en-suite facilities
- Daily luggage transfers from hotel to hotel (1 x 20kg bag unless indicated otherwise)
- Daily breakfast
- Information packs with route maps and instructions on how to locate hotels
- Luggage identification tags
- Pilgrim’s passport
- Emergency contact details and 24/7 local on-the-ground support
- Pre-departure and ongoing support from Australian office
- Three-course dinners with local wine
- Suggested rest days as outlined in itinerary or if required
- Upgraded accommodation including paradors, country properties and premium/high-end styles
- Private vehicle transfers to the trip’s starting point
- Single supplement for your own room
- Additional night’s accommodation before or after trip (please advise at time of booking)
- Travel to trip’s starting point
- Transfers not already outlined in detailed trip itinerary
We know from personal experience that a good night’s rest can make or break a trip, which is why we carefully hand-select all our accommodation. We ensure that our knowledge and firsthand experience of the best places to stay is passed on to all our walkers.
Your accommodation along the Camino is booked in advance, on a twin-share basis with private facilities, and chosen to make your pilgrimage experience as rewarding as possible. You may be staying in a refurbished farmhouse, some of which have been in the same family for centuries, or perhaps a boutique hotel with a chef who would not be out of place in a Michelin-starred restaurant. There are unique properties scattered throughout the different routes including converted monasteries, lighthouses and tiny B&Bs with the most generous hosts you could possibly imagine. Best of all, you’ll always have private en-suite facilities. Wherever you end up, you’ll be well looked after, warm and comfortable and, most importantly, ready to tackle the next day’s walk.
Single supplements are also available so you can enjoy your room with private en-suite. This supplement will apply if you are travelling alone or if there is no gender-share option. You can request a shared room through Wandering the World at the time of booking, however this is not guaranteed.
There are opportunities to upgrade to more luxurious lodgings in many places along the Camino. These are perfect for celebrating special occasions and milestones, or even to enhance your entire journey. We can recommend some very special, unique places to indulge in the Camino hospitality in spectacular style, so please ask us about these options when booking.
Food & Dining
The local cuisine is a definite highlight of your walk. The Camino regions are famous for their culinary delights, and you’ll end up exploring the destination using not only your feet, but also your taste buds.
Breakfast at your place of accommodation is usually continental style and may include cereals, yoghurt, bread, pastries, ham, tea, coffee and juices.
Lunch – at your own expense – will depend on where you are on your walk and what is available. It’s often purchased at a local café or bar, with choices along the trail perhaps including Spanish omelette (tortilla Espanola), tuna empanadas, soups or sandwiches (boccadillo). Alternatively, you may wish to enjoy a picnic in a perfect spot along the path.
Evening meals are a hearty, three-course affair known as the ‘pilgrims’ menu’. These usually consist of a salad or soup to start, followed by a choice of a meat or pasta dish, then finishing with a dessert. This is always accompanied by a bottle of local wine, of course. On occasion, the owner of the accommodation may be in the kitchen preparing the house special, which will not disappoint.
Most evening meals are included on guided group trips, and for self-guided itineraries Wandering the World can include as many evening meals as you wish. We may strongly recommend this in some places because it’s either been a long walking day or there are limited choices available in certain destinations. We can share our advice and talk to you about this at the time of booking. We can accommodate most dietary requirements, so please let us know in advance.
This trip is a self-guided itinerary, ideal for groups and independent travellers who prefer to navigate in their own way and their own time.
You will be provided with an information pack including easy-to-read maps and instructions, complete with directions to guide you on the well-marked paths and tracks. On the Camino, you will be following the yellow arrows and Camino scallop shells, while the Chemin is marked with red and white stripes. This information pack will be available at your joining hotel on the first day of your trip.
Moderate – This itinerary is carefully designed for easy-to-manage walking days that generally average less than 20 km, or approximately 4–6 walking hours. The surfaces are fairly even with moderate ascents and descents. A reasonable level of fitness is recommended.
Given you only need carry a lightweight day pack, this trip is very manageable for those who are new to walking holidays. Whatever your previous experience, preparation and training make all our walks more enjoyable.
Wandering the World arranges a daily luggage transfer to maximise your comfort and enjoyment, so all you need to carry is a day pack. Luggage allowance is one bag per person of no more than 20 kg (13 kg on the Chemin). Your luggage must be left in the reception of your hotel before breakfast (8 am) each day.
- It is essential to attach the bag tag provided to ensure your luggage is delivered to your next accommodation.
- Only one bag will be moved each day and additional charges will apply if your bag is heavier than 20 kg (13 kg on the Chemin).
- Should you require special arrangements for additional luggage transfers, these can be made ahead of time and must be paid as part of your final payment to Wandering the World.
Wandering the World’s guided groups have a maximum group size of 12 participants. This small group size means that we have the flexibility to stay in a wider range of accommodations, can dine together in the evenings, have the freedom to walk alone or together, and there are more opportunities to get to know your travelling companions.
If, for any reason, you wish to shorten your walking day, there are options along the Camino and in the villages to arrange a taxi.
On some itineraries, there are times when Wandering the World may arrange a transfer for you or can do so at your request. This might happen where small villages do not have accommodation with private facilities, for example, or when we want to take you to a special country property that we know you are going to love. In this case, Wandering the World will either arrange a transfer for you or suggest a taxi.
Transfers on the Camino are common in parts. A simple procedure is outlined in your trip notes explaining the details of your private transfer, the designated meeting point and the agreed transfer time.
The weather and climate on the Camino can vary from country to country, region to region and, of course, from day to day. Each season has its own benefits, with long, warm and sunny days in spring and early summer, while early spring and late autumn tend to enjoy cooler walking temperatures. Some sections may be too hot for walking mid-summer, while others are more likely to be wet at certain times. The experts at Wandering the World can discuss your preferences and guide you when you are planning your trip.
Once you’ve started your walk, the weather can play an important role in your overall enjoyment of the journey. Checking the forecast can be a great help when planning your days. If you do strike hotter weather, leaving early to avoid the warmest part of the day will make a huge difference.
24/7 SUPPORT & CARE
Your information pack will include details of local emergency contacts and international contacts. We have local, on-the-ground support to provide any assistance you may require and we’ll also check-in with your hotel at the end of each day to ensure that you’ve arrived safely.
GETTING THERE / GETTING HOME
This itinerary begins in Porto and ends in Santiago de Compostela.
The closest airports to Porto are Madrid, Porto or Lisbon.
From your airport of choice there are bus, train and flight options as per the links below.
Train bookings are recommended. Please note you can only book two months in advance of the date of travel.
Bus/Train : Rome2Rio
Also, check out: Skyscanner
From Santiago de Compostela
You can catch the shuttle bus from Santiago city centre to the airport. Bus also stops at the bus station (Estación de Autobuses) and the train station (Estación de Ferrocarril). For more information go to www.empresafreire.com
If you wish to travel to Porto Airport there is a direct bus from Santiago once or twice a day (approx 4-6 hrs). More information available here www.alsa.es
Insurance is compulsory for everyone who travels with Wandering the World. The insurance policy must include cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency repatriation and personal liability. Wandering the World recommends insurance coverage for cancellation to be taken at the same time your deposit is paid, as no exception to the cancellation provisions can be made.
BOOKING AND TRAVEL TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Wandering the World’s full booking terms and conditions are available upon request and will also accompany your initial invoice for deposit.