Caminho de Santiago  (St James Way)


Daily distances are stated in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that we have two guides. The group can split in two so one group may walk a lesser distance at a slower pace.  The support vehicle is on call nearby for anyone who needs it.

Day 1 - Meet at the Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira at 1.00 PM.  In the afternoon we have a walking tour to explore the old city of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Set on the banks of the Douro River (River of Gold) and near the Atlantic Ocean, the city is known for its port wine that has been shipped around the world for centuries. The riverside quarter of Ribeira is delightful with picturesque narrow streets. Fascinating sites include the Gothic church of St Francis. Built in 1383, its columns are lined with gilded woodwork, cherubs, rose garlands and frenzied animals dripping with gold. Other sites include the romantic "Street of Flowers" with its wrought-iron balconies, many port wine cellars offering tasting and the house where Henry the Navigator (one of the great Portuguese explorers)  was born in 1394.  Overnight in Porto. Our hotel is a four star property in a traditional building with an ideal location facing the river in the old quarter of the city.  DINNER INCLUDED

Day 2 - This morning our private bus takes us outside Porto to the village of Rates to start our Caminho walk. This is the main interior Portuguese Caminho route. Today the trail is on forest track and rural road as we walk to the lively market town of Barcelos. Gently undulating woodlands and charming villages alternate and we cross well-preserved medieval bridges as we enter Barcelos with its attractive main square. Barcelos is well known as a center of local handicrafts - especially ceramics - and it is home to the legend behind Portugal's national symbol, the rooster. The legend originated here as part of a pilgrimage miracle. We have a chance to enjoy the town of Barcelos and then our coach takes us to our hotel in nearby Braga.   16 km.   DINNER INCLUDED

Day 3 -
 Braga is known as the ecclesiastical centre of Portugal and one of the most visited historic sites. The country's religious capital in the 11th century, the town has a splendid cathedral begun in 1070 on the site of a church that had been previously destroyed by the Moors. The town also boasts a rich Roman heritage and today we have a walking tour with an English-speaking historical guide. We visit many fascinating sites including a museum that depicts how the Portuguese nobility lived. In the afternoon we go to the spectacular Bom Jesus Sanctuary. Here, a twin-towered neoclassical church built in 1784 sits on top of a marvellous baroque staircase  (175 steps) lined with chapels representing the Stations of the Cross, the Stairway of the Five Senses, and the Stairway of the Three Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Visitors can take an old-fashioned funicular to the top but if you climb the monumental stairway you appreciate the symbolism and the architecture. But Braga isn't just about cathedrals and Roman ruins - it has vibrant cafés and some of Portugal's finest cuisine. Sample a deliciously warm and lightly crisped Bola Berlim (donut) accompanied by a meia de leite (coffee).
Day 4 - Today we continue our Caminho walk along a mix of shaded lanes and quiet country roads and we begin to see the classic EU Caminho de Santiago signs.  Late in the afternoon we reach Ponte de Lima, a delightful market town with a sleepy medieval atmosphere. From here our bus takes us a short distance to the coast and the seaport Viana do Castelo where we stay at the historic Pousada overlooking the sea. Viana do Castelo enjoys a beautiful setting on the north bank of the Lima River estuary.  This was an important seaport during the Portuguese Age of Discovery and, in the days of colonial rule, goods from the Portuguese colony of Brazil arrived in this harbour. But its history goes back much further than colonial times. Legend says that when Roman legions arrived here in the first century they were so taken aback with the beauty of the landscape that they believed they were at the gates of Paradise.     18 km    DINNER INCLUDED

Day 5 – In the days of medieval pilgrims there were several routes through Portugal to Santiago.  Most of our walk is on the "interior" route but today we have a taste of the coastal Caminho route with its wide open beaches, rolling sand dunes and Atlantic waves crashing on the shore. In medieval times this was the most popular route since it was impossible to get lost. In theory this route is easier than the interior trail although walking in sand can add a challenge. At the end of the day we return to the Pousada (perhaps for a swim in the pool?)   DINNER INCLUDED

Day 6 – Today our bus takes us a short distance inland where we return to the central Caminho route. We travel by bus to Sao Roque. From here  we start at the Roman bridge and continue on foot to Valenca passing along the shaded banks of the River Coura, up an easy ascent to Alto San Bento, then a pleasant descent to the Rio Pedreira and ending with a flat walk into Valenca. The Pousada Valenca is located inside the Fortelez (a medieval fortress) and tucked away in a tangle of cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. The hotel has beautiful views of the valley and river separating Portugal and Spain. It also has an inviting swimming pool, terrace and bar for those who want to relax after a day of walking.    21 km     DINNER INCLUDED

Day 7  -  This morning we cross into Spain and the town of Tui with its impressive Romanesque Cathedral dating from 1120.  From Tui we continue by bus to Porrino where the official 100 km Camino walk begins. Today's walk has a steep hill up to Monte Coronedo but the reward is a lovely view of the sea in the distance (and perhaps a cold drink and a good lunch). Then it is downhill to Redondela.  At the end of the walk we take a side trip of a few km (by bus) to the coast to enjoy a night at a luxurious seaside Parador in Baiona.   16 km.     DINNER INCLUDED

Day 8  - This morning we return to the Camino and continue walking from Redondela. The trail passes through eucalyptus forest and along the way we pass a Roman milestone marking the ancient Roman road Via XIX which linked the coast to inland towns in the era of Roman occupation. We cross the Rio de Vigo to Ponte Nova and in the afternoon have a lovely rural walk to Pontevedra. This is a lively Galician provincial capital with a delightful medieval area. Overnight is at the Parador of Pontevedra which occupies a former palace in the historic centre of the city. 18 km     DINNER INCLUDED

Day 9 – Today is an easy day. In the morning there is an optional walking tour of Pontevedra. 
Sights include the pilgrim chapel in the Praza da Peregrina, the historic Zona Monumental (old city), the Praza de Leña, the market, and the Alameda ( a promenade along the river). Or you may prefer a leisurely morning at the Parador with a lunch in one of the many cafes. The most famous product in the typical gastronomy of Pontevedra is shellfish which is always accompanied by the typical local wine, Albariño. In the afternoon we have an easy Camino walk from Pontevedra on small country roads and tracks. There is a gentle climb at San Mauro and from here we return (by bus) to Pontevedra for the night.    11 km   DINNER INCLUDED

Day 10  - Today we walk from San Mauro to the spa town Caldas de Reis "The Royal Spa" where medieval pilgrims and kings both enjoyed bathing their feet in a fountain fed by natural hot spring water. Caldas de Reis has been known since Celtic times for the healing properties of the thermal waters which have gushed from its ground.
Ancient monuments remain here and in a thermal spring we find an altar from the pre-Roman age which is dedicated to the native god Edovio. Caldas de Reis was a major spa for Romans and has an abundance of Roman remains including a Roman bridge that is still used.  In Reconquista times the town was known as Rex Calda and King Alphonso VII was born here.  Today it is considered to be the garden and health resort of Galicia and there is time to enjoy it before we move on. From Caldas de Rei we travel by bus for 20 minutes to reach our accommodation at a lovely 4 star hotel in a restored castle near the coast.  The swimming pool here has no special healing powers but it will feel good after a day of walking and the beach is nearby.  12 km

Day 11 - In the morning we return to Caldas de Reis and from here continue our Camino walk to Padron. The route is on quiet country roads and natural pathways with a few gentle climbs.  The name Padron means "mooring stone". Just up river is Iria Falvia which is the town legend claims St James' body arrived in Spain two thousand years ago. Under the altar in Padron's Santiago Church one can see what is said to be the original mooring stone for St James' boat.  The legend is that St James preached the gospel in Iberia as well as in the Holy Land and that after his martyrdom his disciples carried the body by sea to Iberia where they landed at Padron and took it inland for burial. Historians agree this is quite possible. Another St James legend says that, decapitated in Jerusalem  by Herod Agrippa himself, St James' headless body was taken up by angels then sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat to Iria Flavia where a massive rock closed around his relics. 

Our accommodation tonight is the Pazo de Lestrove.  A “pazo” was a country estate of the Spanish nobility and usually consisted of a stately manor house or castle surrounded by gardens and outbuildings  This pazo has been converted to an atmospheric country hotel complete with swimming pool. Once a country escape for the bishops of Santiago, the pazo now is known for its excellent menu.
Typical Galician cuisine includes empanadas and a typical local cheese called "queso de tetilla" (translated "cheese breast"). The story goes that a particularly strict bishop ordered the bare breasts on a statue in the Cathedral to be covered. His parishioners obeyed but suddenly in all the Galician shops a new form of cheese appeared shaped in the form of a breast and was named "tetilla". 19 km   DINNER INCLUDED

Day 12 - Our final walk is along pretty country lanes passing through Iria Flavia as well as other small villages and hamlets before arriving at the baroque sanctuary of A Esclavitude. On a hilltop to the left stands the mysterious, abandoned ruins of the hillfort Castro Lupario and a few kilometres later we come to the oldest wayside cross in Galicia. As we near Agro dos Monteiros it is now possible to see the towers of Santiago Cathedral. Finally, the Camino passes by the ruins of a castle and enters Santiago.  It is tradition to head for the Cathedral, hug the statue of St James, collect the Compostela certificate then relax and celebrate. Our hotel in Santiago is a historic former Franciscan convent that dates back to the 1200's and has been carefully restored keeping its original exterior but with an ultra modern interior complete with a heated pool in what was once the convent laundry. We enjoy a farewell dinner in the vaulted-ceilinged dining room that was once the convent refectory. The three-course special menu comes from recipes provided by various convents and includes "God's Garden" vegetable stew, a choice of fish or lamb, and for dessert, Galician crepes made from the Sisters' secret recipe. All accompanied by plenty of local wine of course.  24 km

For anyone who cannot walk 24 km this final day it is possible to walk part way then continue to Santiago by bus. If they wish, the following day they could return by taxi to their stopping point and thus complete the 24 km in two days (the cost of the taxi on the final day and an additional hotel night would be extra). They would then qualify for the Compostela certificate.

Day 13 - Tour ends after breakfast. 
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