Portuguese Camino Coastal Route : From Porto to Santiago
Created by Colleen Sims * 20 April 2023 * Updated 15 August 2023
Are you interested in walking the Portuguese Camino Coast Route to Santiago de Compostela? If you’re looking to explore the beauty of both Portugal and Spain, you love stunning beaches and coasts, and seaside towns and fishing villages then the Portuguese Coastal Camino will be perfect for you!
Portuguese Camino Coastal Route : Stages, Accommodation and Pilgrim Services
For most modern pilgrims, this route starts in the historic and vibrant city of Porto in Portugal. You walk along the Atlantic coast, joining the central route at Redonela in Spain and walking onwards to reach the iconic city of Santiago de Compostela. This route is about 280km (170 miles) long and can be walked in around two weeks, although there are options to walk longer or shorter stages depending on your own preferences and time constraints.
I’ve walked both the Central and the Coastal Camino several times and in this series of posts I talk about the Camino Portuguese Coastal stages, accommodations choices, terrain, services and interesting things to see en route.
What is the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route?
The traditional Portuguese Camino de Santiago starts in Lisbon and follows north through Coimbra until reaching Porto. Most modern-day pilgrims start their Camino in Porto, and from there choose to either follow the traditional inland Central Camino, through Barcelos, Pont de Lima and Tui and onwards to Santiago, or more and more pilgrims opt to walk the Portuguese Coastal Camino route, following the Atlantic instead.
The coastal route hugs the shoreline, through northern Portugal and across the Minho estuary into Spain. You continue to follow the coast onwards through Vigo until Redondela in Galicia, where the two routes merge as one and share the same path to Santiago de Compostela.
The Portuguese Coastal Route is a modern Camino and was only declared an official route in 2016 and is the lesser walked of the two Portuguese Camino but it is growing in popularity as more pilgrims discover this glorious trail. In 2019, before COVID, over 72,000 pilgrims walked the Central Portuguese Camino and almost 23,000 walked the Coastal Camino.
The Coastal route from Porto to Santiago boasts stunning coastal views, charming towns and villages, wonderful trails, plenty of history and very friendly locals.
History of the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route
Perhaps of all the Camino routes, Padron, Ira Flavia and the Camino Portuguese are most closely associated with St James. It was after all, in Padron and Iral Flavia on the Portuguese Camino that James the Apostle preached and lived.
Whilst the history of the Central route is well documented, there is less written about the Caminho Português da Costa. However, this doesn’t mean that the coastal way doesn’t have a strong medieval history or strong links with medieval pilgrimage.
In the Middle Ages, pilgrims walking to Santiago through Portugal would often arrive by boat, at one of the seaports along the coast. Lisbon or Porto were the most popular ports of the time but other areas also had strong pilgrim connections. There are clear traces of pilgrimage along the coastal route, with small pilgrim hospitals and refuges, and monasteries, such as the ancient Monastery of Santa María de Oia. which would have certainly welcomed pilgrims on their journey to Santiago.
With the resurgence of the modern Camino at the end of the 20th century, and with more and more pilgrims choosing to start their Camino in Portugal, the coastal route became a regular choice. Local councils, aware of the lack of adequate signage, came together to create the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route and in 2016, the route was officially recognised by the Cathedral in Santiago as an historical route and pilgrims walking this path would be able to obtain their Compostela.
The coastal area councils of Porto, Matosinhos, Vila do Conde, Póvoa de Varzim, Esposende, Viana do Castelo and Caminha now working together to protect the Coastal Camino and its history, and to gain official recognition as a European Cultural pilgrimage to Santiago and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What Is It Like to Walk the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route?
Walking the Coastal Camino is a different experience than other routes. The terrain is more gentle than say the Camino Norte on the coast of Northern Spain but nonetheless spectacular. The route lacks the elevation and mountain stages that you’ll find on the Camino Frances or Camino Primitivo but the route is no less glorious for that. The gentle terrain also makes the Portuguese Coastal Camino a more accessible option for many pilgrims.
I have found walking any coastal route a different experience than the more traditional interior routes and I feel this is perhaps because coastal towns have grown into seaside resorts and attract tourists as well as pilgrims.
In more rural areas, the majority of visitors will likely be pilgrims but in coastal towns, this isn’t the case and as a result, there is less emphasis on pilgrimage. But that aside, the coastal route is still stunning and littered with medieval history and worthy of its place as one of the most popular pilgrimage routes to Santiago.
If you decide to walk the Portuguese Camino Coastal route then you will have further choices within the route. On some days there are options to follow the Senda Literal, walking on boardwalks along the dunes. On other days you can follow a more inland path, and wander through rural coastal villages and forests. One of the things that I love about the coastal route is the variety of terrain and landscapes that you can enjoy each day.
Another reason pilgrims opt to walk the Camino Portuguese from Porto is that it feels like a complete Camino. For most people, it’s a manageable timeframe, with pilgrims being able to walk to Santiago de Compostela in around 14 days. And Porto is a great starting destination with good rail and bus services and its own international airport.
For pilgrims, there is a range of services available along the route. There are plenty of hostels and good value private accommodations, there are options to break longer stages and there are plenty of cafes and bars each day for breaks. Also, luggage transport services are available.
Portuguese Camino Coastal Route Walking Stages
I have escorted groups along the Portuguese Camino Coastal route and also walked it alone. Each time I have chosen different stages. These days, for my groups, I’ve settled on a 14-day walking plan from Porto but you can vary this to make longer or shorter days and stages if you prefer.
I’ve created individual posts for the following stages along the Coastal Route and I update them as I walk :
Portugues Camino : Stages from Porto
Many pilgrims start their walk in Porto. If you are planning to start from this glorious trail from Porto I would recommend that you allow a day or two to explore the city. There is so much to see and do, you’ll not be lost for things to occupy you!
Porto to Matosinhos : 1.5 kilometres
You leave Porto from the old town, I usually start at the steps of the Cathedral and head down to the waterfront. It’s easy to find your way out of town this way as you keep the river on your left. The river turns to estuary and the estuary becomes the sea at Foz de Douro. From here you follow the coast all the way to Matosinhos.
Many people skip this stage and take the metro to the Foz or Matosinhos; it’s a shame as it’s a lovely walk but if time is short this would be an option.
Likewise, if you want to walk further there are options later at Perafita and Labruge. Take a look at the post Porto to Matosinhos where I offer different options for walking the first day.
Matosinhos to Povoa de Varzim : 27 kilometres
A day walking along boardwalks and little fishing villages. If you wish to lengthen yesterday’s stage you can start from the tiny seaside hamlet of Perafita or you can stay in the Pilgrim Albergue at Labrugue; there are a few options walking from Porto to Matosinhos and beyond to shorten this day.
Most pilgrims end this stage at Pavoa de Varzim, where there are several great hostels and hotels to choose from.
Povoa de Varzim to Esposende : 22 kilometres
Today you have choices, partway through the day you can choose to divert to the coast or continue inland. The inland option is well marked. I’ve taken the varient too and found it very easy to find my way back to the main coastal route and the yellow arrows. Esposende is a delightful little town with pilgrim hostels and several hotels.
Esposende to Viana do Castelo : 26 kilometres
Most pilgrims leave the coast today and walk inland. You’ll walk first through little residential areas with great views of the coast, and then onwards through more rural areas and forests. It’s a lovely change and you get to glimpse rural Portuguese life.
Viana do Castelo is a great destination with lots of accommodation and service options.
Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora : 19 kilometres
As with most of this coastal Camino, there are more choices today. I recommend that you start the day on the coast and then walk inland to join the marked coastal route. I’ve taken both routes and also once made my own path to Ancora. There is no denying that the beach route into Ancora along the sand is pretty spectacular, I’d recommend that you decide on the day which way you’ll go; all choices are great!
Vila Praia de Âncora to A Guarda : 17 kilometres
Today is an important stage; we cross from Portugal to Spain and we also change time zones so don’t forget that Spain is an hour forward! A glorious day, making use of the ferry service to take you across and A Gaurda is a very special little seaside town that is also worth exploring.
A Guarda to Oia : 14 kilometres
I choose to break our stages here at Oia. For one, you’ve been walking for a while and it’s good to have an easier day but also because of the Monastery of Santa María de Oia, which is an ancient beautiful building that deserves a visit.
Oia to Baiona : 19 kilometres
Onwards you go towards Baiona. More glorious coast and another gem of a town. There is a Parador here too if you’d like to treat yourself!
Baiona to Vigo : 29 kilometres
This is one of the longer days and you can choose to follow the traditional Coastal Camino route but you will spend a large part of the day beside a busy road. I recommend you follow the coastal alternative. It is a little longer but the views are worth it!
Portugues Camino : Stages from Vigo to Santiago de Compostela
If you plan to walk the last 100 kilometres of the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route then you will need to start your walk from Vigo. Vigo is a large city with lots of services and is easily reached from Santiago and Madrid.
Vigo to Redondela : 18 kilometres
We walk away from the busy city of Vigo and today our Portuguese Coastal Camino merges with the Central route at Redondela. A busy little town with plenty to see and a good selection of accommodation and services.
Redondela to Pontevedra : 22 kilometres
Today you walk through the Galician town of Arcade; spend some time exploring the waterfront of this little town as it’s beautiful. As you continue onwards you’ll also travel through some glorious forests and countryside and follow in the footsteps of the Romans and Napoleon’s army too. A delightful stage with lots of history.
Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis : 25 kilometres
More rural splendour, more Roman history and more fabulous views. The coast is far behind us now and we are just a few days from our journey’s end. Caldas de Reis is known for its hot spas, indeed you can bathe your feet on the street as you enter town! A wonderful Galician town with lots of history.
Caldas de Reis to Padron (Iria Flavia) : 22 kilometres
Pilgrims who take the Variente Espiritual rejoin the Camino at Padron. You can also make a diversion today to visit the ancient monastery at Hebron just before Padron. You should also ensure you visit the famous church at Padron, which is so strongly linked to the ministry of St James. As you leave Padron be sure to visit the Church of Iria Flavia; one of the oldest Christian Churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Iria Flavia is said to have lived during his time in Galicia.
Padron (Iria Flavia) to Santiago de Compostela : 22 kilometres
Part of your day will be spent in glorious rural Galicia. But as the day progresses you’ll reach the suburbs of Santiago and perhaps catch your first glimpse of the spires of the famous Cathedral.
Follow the arrows into the city and savour the moment of your arrival. A very special day indeed!
Santiago de Compostela : The End of the Portuguese Camino
After 14 days and 280 kilometres, your journey along the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route will be over and you will reach the icon cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s always a joyous moment. I’ve walked into Praza do Obradoiro and gazed up at the cathedral towers countless times and the moment never loses its magic.
If you end your Camino in Santiago de Compostela I do recommend that you allow a few extra days to explore this beautiful ancient city. Not only will you want to allow time to visit the Cathedral and the Pilgrims Office but there are also many other impressive sights within the town. Some of my groups have also decided to add a day to visit Fisterra and Muxia on the coast too
Useful Apps, Books and Websites for the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route
Whilst it’s difficult to get lost on the Camino Portuguese, having a guidebook or an app to help you is not a bad thing. Of course, I hope that my stage guides will also be of use but if you’re like me you’ll like a few reference points. So here are some of the tools I use to ensure that I make the very most of my Camino.
A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugués Lisbon – Porto – Santiago: including Camino Central, Variente Espiritual, Camino da Costa, & Senda Litoral
John Brierley is perhaps the most well-known author of Camino Guide Books. This guide is updated frequently and includes information about all the variations of this trail. If you only ever buy one guidebook, this would probably be a good choice.
The Camino Portugués – Kat Davis and Cicerone Press
I loved following Kat Davis and her hiking adventures and I was so sad to hear of her passing but her knowledge of the Camino Portuguese lives on through this book (and her blogs). This is a detailed account of the walk from Lisbon but does cover the Coastal variant with maps in information. And as it has a Kindle edition it’s a good addition to your guidebook armoury.
Camino Portugués Coastal and Seaside Route Guidebook: Part 2: Porto to Santiago Coastal Route
This book by Johnny Walker is a little old now but I have this on my Kindle and find it a good reference. Whilst the accommodation and services may change the maps and references remain.
The Camino Portugués – A Wise Pilgrim
I’m a fan of Wise Pilgrim. I love their app and I also buy the guidebooks. As with the Brierly Guides Wise Pilgrim is regularly assessed and updated and I reference the app every day when I’m walking.
The Portuguese Pilgrim Association
The Via Lusitana is a very active pilgrim community and they are always very happy to help pilgrims walking the Camino Portuguese. Their website lists municipal and local pilgrim hostels, along with contact information. They are also available to help pilgrims if they need urgent assistance.
Camino de Santiago Forum
Ivar’s Camino de Santiago forum is perhaps one of the busiest, international forums for the Camino de Santiago. There is an active community of very knowledgeable pilgrims who can help with your planning and answer questions,
When is the Best Time To Walk the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route?
I have walked in Portugal in April and May and from September through to December. I’ve walked twice in November and the first time the weather was chilly but dry however, the second time it rained every day, but having said this I would still walk again in November. Another issue of walking in winter is that some accommodations and services may be closed and this can mean longer days and no breakfast!
Most folks agree that the best time to walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route is from April to October, but I would add a caveat that during the summer months in July and August, pilgrims are competing with tourists for accommodation and services and this would perhaps be considered peak season for both the Camino and the Seaside resorts.
My preferred time to walk is April into May (and early June) and September and October. I think during these periods there will be services and other pilgrims without the summer crowds (or heat).
How Much Does it Cost to Walk the Coastal Way?
I am often asked how much would it cost to walk the Camino, Portuguese or other routes, and the answer really is dependent on your needs, however as a guide :
- Hostel accommodation in a bunk bed allow : 16€
- Simple pilgrim breakfast allow : 5€
- Simple lunch with a drink allow : 8€
- Pilgrim dinner with drink allow : 17€
- Luggage transfer daily allow : 8€
- If you wanted private rooms you should allow at least 50€ a night; more if you can.
Walking the Camino de Santiago does not have to be expensive. Staying in pilgrim accommodation, eating simply and carrying your own pack will keep the costs down. If you stay in Albergue with a shared kitchen you can further reduce costs by preparing your own food.
Equally, there are plenty of very wonderful accommodation choices and Parador hotels along the Coastal Route, and a plentiful supply of excellent restaurants that can easily push your budget if you’re looking for a treat!
What is the Accommodation Like on the Portuguese Coastal Camino?
For the most part, there are choices for every style and budget. I’ve walked with groups looking for comfort and their own space and I’ve taken groups looking for a more simple pilgrimage experience. Both groups are well served on the Camino Portuguese.
The first time that I walked the Coastal Route was in early November, the weather was cool and dry and we stayed in pilgrim albergues for the entire Camino. When I walked with Gerry in 2021, he wanted simple private rooms and we managed this every day. My group in April 2023 wanted comfortable rooms in comfortable hotels; again no problem.
In short, there are options to suit all budgets and preferred styles.
Like the Camino Frances, there are options along the way to make your day longer or shorter. At each stage there are accommodation choices for those pilgrims who prefer to walk 20 kilometres or less each day; I know that this is an important consideration for many walkers. My route is for 14 days but you can walk the Portuguese Camino Coastal route comfortably in 12 days and equally, you can take your time and walk it in 16 days or more!
What To Pack for the Coastal Camino
Your Camino Portuguese Coastal packing list would be pretty much the same as any packing list. The only addition I would add is that you will be walking on the beach and you may wish to pack a swimming costume and perhaps a pair of sandals that will be happy on the sand.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference between the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route and the Central Route?
The biggest difference is the sea and the coast. Inland you walk through beautiful rural Portuguese landscapes and it’s a wonderful walk but there is no coast. The central route is also a little shorter.
I enjoyed my Central Camino, even though it rained every day; I will walk this route again. I didn’t love the first day out of Porto. Many pilgrims choose to avoid this stage and opt to walk to Vila do Conde on the Coastal Route and then cut across. It is a good choice; although the next time I walk this route I will walk the Central Way out of Porto. (but I have the advantage of being able to walk often).
Can you Combine the Portuguese Coastal Route and the Central Route?
Yes. Many people choose to walk from Porto along the estuary and the coast to Vila do Conde. From here you can follow the river to São Pedro de Rates. This route is well marked.
If you wish to walk further on the coast you can follow the coastal route to Caminha and then go inland to Valenca on the Portuguese border. From there you walk across a bridge to Spain and Tui on the Central route.
I’ve also walked the coast to Ancora and taken the train and bus back to Pont de Lima on the Central route, It means backtracking for a few stages but I love Pont de Lima and it was easy using public transport and allowed us to enjoy both Portuguese routes.
How Difficult is the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route?
The Coastal route has little elevation. That’s not to say there are no hills (there are a few) but in comparison to other routes, it is less strenuous.
A few years ago I planned a short Camino for a couple using a wheelchair. Whilst not an easy option, the elevations on the Portuguese Coastal did make this a potential option.
The terrain underfoot is also good, although many pilgrims say they didn’t like the cobbled tiles that Portugal is famous for.
How long does it take to walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route?
It is possible to walk this route in ten days, although it is more usual to walk in twelve days. I have walked in eleven and twelve but I do feel that for most people, allowing an extra day is more comfortable. And having more time each day in your destination leaves you more time to explore.
The main factor is how long you have and how comfortable you are walking longer stages. If time is short, another option is to start closer to Santiago de Compostela rather than rush your Camino.
How long is the Camino Portuguese Coastal?
The official figure suggests 280 kilometres or 173 miles. I have seen a few variations in these figures and have walked a little further myself but feel that if you stick solely to the Coastal Camino without any variant then this figure should be accurate.
How many people walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route?
In 2019, the last ‘normal’ year before COVID, almost 23,000 people walked the Coastal route to claim their Compostela.
This figure can only reflect the numbers who arrive in Santiago and who collect their Compostela as there is no other method of recording pilgrims. It is thought the numbers could be at least 10% higher than this.
Numbers were lower in 2020 – 2022 but 2023 does look to be a much busier year and as the Coastal Camino gains in popularity, I anticipate those numbers to rise.
If you have walked the Camino Frances, the route will feel less busy but we have never felt alone or lonely whilst walking this route. Even arriving in Santiago in December, there were other pilgrims in the albergue in Padron.
Is Luggage Transfer Services on the Coastal Route?
Yes. Tuitrans and Caminofacil operate along the Portuguese routes. Once in Spain, Correos, the Spanish Post Office also offers a backpack collection service. I’ve used Caminofacil and Correos several times and have always been very happy.
What is it like Doing the Portuguese Camino Coastal Route in Reverse?
I have never walked either of the Portuguese Camino in reverse but I have met a few pilgrims who have.
One lady had walked the Central Route, reached Santiago and turned around and walked the Coastal Route in reverse. She said it was straightforward because she just kept the sea to her side and she never lost her way!
What is the Most Scenic Section of the Portuguese Camino?
Gosh. That’s impossible to answer. I have loved walking along the coast and the sunsets are wow! But I also loved staying in Arcade and following the Roman path through the ancient forests in autumn.
I like that there is a variety, each day bringing something new. There is something for everyone on this trail.
Which is the Best; the Camino Frances or the Camino Portuguese?
Neither. They are both so different. During my Camino Planning Workshop, I do an exercise and it’s one that I recommend for all would-be pilgrims.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking the Camino. Imagine yourself taking your first steps, walking each day. How does it feel? What do you see? Are you walking in mountains? In the city or the countryside? Do you see the coast?
Do this exercise and let your imagination tell you what you feel your Camino looks like. Once you have determined how it looks you can decide which Camino is best for you. Whichever choice you make you will not be disappointed.
Why is it Bom Caminho and not Buen Camino?
The Spanish say Buen Camino but in Portugal they say Bom Caminho!
The Last Word : Portuguese Camino Coastal Route
The Camino Portuguese was never my first choice for a Camino pilgrimage. But, I had a friend who wanted to walk a Camino, she had 2 weeks and we could only walk in November. So we decided on the Camino Portuguese.
The Portuguese Camino Coastal Route is a glorious trail. The coast of Northern Portugal is stunning. There are times when you just can’t take your eyes away from the sea and the light and the views. And I love that you can alternate your path, some days along the shoreline and others in rural splendour.
At the end of your walk, you are rewarded with your arrival at the Cathedral de Santiago and if you have walked the last 100 kilometres from Vigo you can also claim your Compostela.
Walking the Camino Portuguese is a life-changing experience. It offers pilgrims the chance to connect with nature and immerse themselves in the history and traditions of both Portugal and Spain. It’s a beautiful walk. You won’t be disappointed with your choice.
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