THE PORTUGUESE WAY ALONG THE COAST
OR HOW TO GET TO SANTIAGO SEEING THE BEST OF GALICIA
Taking the best of all Caminos de Santiago (The Way of Saint James), there is one especially unique for the little known and the spectacular of its route: it is the Portuguese way along the coast. It offers the possibility to follow this milenary path in a very different manner than usually expected. Beaches, cliffs, boat trips and forests await the traveller.
The Portuguese Way is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes, always behind the iconic French way, but as each traveler begins his path from a variety of places, it offers an alternative that was used by the Portuguese pilgrims who started from Oporto or by those who arrived by boat to the portuguese coast.
Still today, the portuguese way by the coast starts in the city of Porto, runs along the north coast of Portugal, crosses in Caminha the Miño river to Galicia and ends in Redondela, where it meets the cross country Portuguese way.
From there to Santiago, there are 280 kilometers that can be organized into 13 stages. If you decide to do only the Galician part of the itinerary, there are 8 stages from A Guarda to Compostela.
WHY TAKE THE PORTUGUESE WAY ALONG THE COAST?
All paths are a unique experience, but this has the particularity to run by the sea during a good part of the journey, walking along white sand beaches, monasteries, rocky promontories and views that comfort the most tired mood. It also offers the chance to visit the province of Pontevedra, which runs 140 kilometers through 15 municipalities, and the Rias Baixas, one of the most beautiful landscape areas of Galicia and Spain.
This path leads to the pilgrim through paths that a car traveller, never would take and also offers the fan of the Camino de Santiago a totally different experience from the fields of Castilla found in the french way or even the dramatic coast of the Northern way. It is also one of the most suitable ways for cycling.
Although it is becoming more popular, the proposal of Turismo Rias Baixas is far from the crowded french way, so it’s ideal for travelers and pilgrims seeking a more quiet or spiritual experience.
1. Portugal - A Guarda
If we arrive from Portugal, we crossed the Miño River by ferry from Caminha across a wide mouth surrounded by mountains and chaired, already in Galician territory, by the figure of the Castro de Santa Trega, one of the pre-roman settlements and the largest and best preserved in Galicia. It is worth going up to the mountain to visit the archaeological site and the extraordinary views of the two countries states separated by the river.
2. A Guarda-Mougás (Oia):
Through the charming village of A Guarda we continue through beaches tucked in the rich wine area of Rosal until you reach the Real Mosteiro de Santa Maria of Oia, placed next to the Atlantic Ocean in an enclave to remember, and once in Mougas we will cross one of the most curious Galician landscapes, the rocks dotted coast overlooking the Cies Islands and overlooked by headlights.
3. Mougás-A Ramallosa:
The undisputed queen of this stage is the town of Baiona, with its town squares made of stone and its strategically located Parador, with echoes of the discovery of America. In addition, if you want to (and should), from here boats depart to the Cíes Islands, part of the National Park of Galicia and western destination for all beaches and nature lovers.
4. A Ramallosa-Vigo:
Through pazos (galician ancient palaces) and beaches such as Praia America, Panxón and Patos, we enter Vigo, the largest city in Galicia and by only one way to ST. James: the way Portuguese way along the coast. Through Parks as Castrelos Park and the Pazo Quiñones de León you get to the urban areas or Casco Vello (Old Town Centre).
The classic trip would be to cross the estuary by the Rande Bridge, but the pilgrim walks along the estuary, enclosing the Illa de San Simón. Here in Redondela, the Portuguese Way by the Coast joins with the Portuguese way cross-country.
Footsteps of Jules Verne in Cesantes, in the center of the Ria de Vigo (Vigo’s estuary), and of Pedro Madruga further ahead, it is worth a detour to visit the Soutomaior Castle, a medieval fortress surrounded by manicured gardens. Here is also a mandatory stop at Arcade, known for its famous oysters, a gourmet reclaim for the interested in the pleasures of this world. In Pontesampaio remains the echo of the war of Independence, and through forests, we arrive to the capital of the province, Pontevedra.
7. Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis:
The town is well worth a visit in detail before we continue with our journey. In Barro we can find the Parque do Rio Barosa, with 14 recovered mills and waterfalls in the midst of nature that invite a strategic stop. To rest in the middle of the trip is Caldas Villa Termal (a Thermal watered Village) that invites you to rest and to muster forces.
8. Caldas de Reis-Padrón:
In Pontecesures, with stone crosses and stone bridges, we say goodbye to the province of Pontevedra. A few kilometers ahead to reach Santiago, the final destination, but at this point all we have already learned that what matters is not the goal but the way.