The Camino Portugués is one of the more traditional routes taken by pilgrims. It was financially supported by the Portuguese monarchy and has been traveled since the 11th century. It grew in stature following Portuguese independence in the 12th century.
Much like the Camino de Santiago itself, there is no one path to take to get to Santiago from Portugal. One route takes you along the coast, another through the middle of the country, and yet and another travels along the interior mountains of Portugal.
The start of the traditional route is in Lisbon, which is a 600km journey from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela.
Most pilgrims won’t choose to start in Lisbon, but rather in Porto in Northern Portugal or in Tui, which is a village that sits along the border between Spain and Portugal in the Spanish province of Pontevedra.
If you choose to start in Porto, you’ll make your way to Tui, crossing the beautiful bridge that spans the Mino River, which separates Spain and Portugal. From there, you’ll have a bit over 100km to reach Compostela, which would take 5-6 days to complete.
What’s great about the Camino Portugués is that you are walking on history. You’re following many ancient roads, some of which go back to the first century, like Via XIX. This connects Braga and Astorga and was originally built by Emperor Augustus in the first century.This route isn’t too strenuous, though the journey can be rough between Lisbon and Porto. Along the Camino Portugués, you’ll get to experience a nice mix of stunning scenery, old villages and vibrant cities.
Advantages of the Camino Portugués
Experience Two Countries
One of the most obvious reasons why so many pilgrims choose this route is to experience two countries and the food and culture of Portugal.
A Visit to Fatima
For those starting in Lisbon, a trip to Fatima is a must. Situated about 142 km north of Lisbon, the town is home to an important Christian shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary that also attracts pilgrims from all over the world. The story goes that between May and October 1917, three children witnessed several Apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary, the last one is a miracle.
Disadvantages of the Camino Portugués
Don’t Expect Much Between Lisbon and Porto
Despite the fact that the Camino Portugués is the second most popular route for pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela, few do the entire 600km between Lisbon and Santiago. Most will start in Porto, and because of this, there isn’t a lot of infrastructure for pilgrims between the two cities. Don’t expect to see a network of hostels or restaurants geared towards pilgrims like you do on other routes. Once you get to Porto and beyond, it’s a different story.
The Route Can Be Crowded
Since the Camino Portugués is the second most traveled route, with almost 18% traveling the route in 2016. This can cause the route to be a bit congested.
Long Days and Tough Surfaces
If you’re starting in Lisbon, be prepared for long days of 30km. It’s even tougher on your body when you’re dealing with hard surfaces that are unforgiving. That will cause your feet and knees to take on a little more wear and tear early on between Lisbon and Porto.
How to Get To the Camino Portugués
How to get to the Camino Portugués depends on where you decide to start.
Lisbon is very easy to get to, especially from the U.S. TAP Airlines has regular flights going from Newark to Lisbon. You can also fly out of Boston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Miami with British Airways, Lufthansa, and TAP.
Like Lisbon, TAP offers direct flights from the U.S. to Porto. United also offers direct flights from select U.S. cities to Porto.Another option is to fly into Lisbon and take the train from Lisbon to Porto. This usually costs around €30.
If you’re going to do the 100+km route from Tui, you have a few options to get there.You can take the train to Tui. The train would actually put you in Guillarei, about 5 km outside of the center of Tui. You can then take a taxi to Tui.You can get the train from Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Alicante. There is also a train that runs from Porto to Vigo that does stop in Guillarei.There are two bus companies that have service to Tui. Avanza runs from Madrid and Valencia. Alsa also runs a service from Porto to Tui.