Camino Portuguese: Central or coastal route?

camino from tui

Currently, the Camino Portuguese is the second most popular route to arrive to Santiago. It is not a new route. King Manuel I—possibly the most powerful Portuguese monarch—made his Portuguese way in 1506, as an example. The Portuguese Camino evolved via individuals and the support different monarchs and clerical authorities gave to it by building bridges, paths, hospitals… Now, if you are thinking about the Portuguese Camino let me help you choose where to start.

Camino Portuguese: central or coastal?

It is stated that there is a route for each pilgrim. That is accurate, but in particular, it happened throughout the Middle Ages, when people began to pilgrimage from their houses, with no other starting point. This fact led to various itineraries. At present, apart from other official routes,there are two main ways from Portugal: the central one and the one along the coast. 

camino portuguese

The 3 main starting points

Lisboa, Porto, Tui or Baiona?

The Portuguese Camino officially starts in Lisboa, which means to walk 613 k (381 miles). It will take you about a month to arrive in Santiago; of course, it will depend on your pace and resistance.

From Porto, however, it will take you two weeks to walk the 248k (154 miles) to finish your Camino. It’s from here that you must decide which route to take, as the Coastal Portuguese Camino starts in Porto. 

For those who would like to walk the last 100s, the usual starting points are Baiona (coastal) or Tui (inland). These two will meet in Redondela, and continue together to Santiago de Compostela.

camino de santiago coastal

Benefits and Drawbacks

Each path has benefits and drawbacks.Let’s evaluate them and guide you in making your choice. Let’s first remind you that the Coastal Camino begins in Porto, and connects to the central one in Redondela, although there are additional connections.  Pick a pen and write which one you prefer for each item.

LENGTH: the coastal camino is one day longer, with 23 km (14.3 miles) more.

HEIGHT: Alto de Portela, which rises 400 mts, is located in the leg fomr Ponte da Lima to Rubiais, and is the highest point on the Central Portuguese Camino. On the other hand, you don’t walk up more than 150 mts on the Coastal Camino. In general, the coastal Camino’s profile is easier than the Central one.

SIGNPOSTING: on the central Camino, it is more precise. On the Portuguese side and in the vicinity of Porriño and Vigo on the Spanish side, there were few and not enough indications, adding more possibilities of getting lost.

LANDSCAPE: The sea is indeed captivating and exciting. But proceed with caution. Walking could be challenging in the summer due to sun exposure and in the winter due to wind. The seaside may be less wild and rural because of the abundance of wooden walks. In contrast, central Camino has freshwater rivers and lush forests to offer convenient shade and shelter.

The last 100k, where to start

The choice is more relevant if you start in Porto, as the route is longer. But if you start in Baiona (coastal route), you will anyway meet the Central Camino after 2 legs.

According to my experience, people living inland prefer to have contact with the coast. Depending on the season, you may find this camino and the surroundings a bit crowded. If you are one of those coast lovers, let me suggest you start in A Guarda or Oia, if you 2 or one more days. You will be grateful. 

About the Central Camino, I like to start in Valença (border Portuguese city) instead of Tui, as you can cross the International Bridge. I like to cross it with the sunrise, which is one of my favourite moments on this route. 

And that was all, dear friends. If you have questions, leave them in Comments. But let me tell you, it doesn’t matter which one you decide to follow. Just keep walking, and Buen Camino!

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