The Portuguese Way or Camino Portugués
This is a fantastic route for pilgrims looking for a more rural experience on the Camino de Santiago.
The Portuguese Camino starts in Lisbon, Portugal’s dazzling capital and home to several UNESCO sites, and takes pilgrims across stunning countryside, villages and towns such as Santarém, one of the last Moorish bastions in Portugal; Coimbra, famous for its UNESCO 13th century university; and gorgeous Porto with its colourful river front and home of Port wine. On the Portuguese Camino route you will walk past terraced fields, lush forests, vineyards and peaceful sleepy villages.
The last 100km of the Camino Portugués is the most popular section, starting in Tui, Galicia, just across the Minho river from Portugal. Explore Tui’s beautiful old town, visit the hilltop cathedral and, if you have time before heading to Santiago, walk across the 19th century International Bridge to Valença do Minho, its Portuguese ‘twin’ town. Read more Portuguese Way Camino articles on our blog. The full Portuguese Way takes just over 1 month to complete or you can start at any different points along the way.
In order to get your Compostela pilgrim certificate in Santiago you will need to walk a minimum of 100kms into Santiago (we suggest starting in Tui) or cycle at least the last 200kms of the route (we suggest you start in Porto).
The Camino Portugués or Portuguese Way to Santiago, is a great option for pilgrims looking for a more rural walking experience on the Camino de Santiago. It is the second most popular Camino route but it doesn’t get as many pilgrims as the famous French Way. This route to Santiago has been traditionally the route chosen by pilgrims coming from Portugal, particularly from Lisbon and Porto.
This Camino takes walkers along old roads, across forests, fields, over medieval bridges, villages, towns and historic cities, heading North to Santiago de Compostela. Along the way, you will pass countless reminders of the Camino history such as shrines, churches, convents and stone crosses, where the comforting image of Saint James is often present to guide pilgrims. The small roads along the Portuguese Way make it one the best Camino routes for cycling.
Although the pilgrimage from Portugal to Santiago is assumed to have already been in existence in the Late Middle Ages, it became even more popular after the country gained its independence in the mid-12th century. From that time on, the veneration of Saint James and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, considered to be one of the hallmarks of identity of European culture, had gained great popularity in Lusitanian lands. For centuries, the Portuguese participated enthusiastically in this collective Camino experience, with the support of monarchs, nobility and high clergy. From the 12th century up until the present day, much of Portugal’s road network has seen the comings and goings of pilgrims heading from towns and cities all over the country -Lisbon, Santarém, Coimbra, Porto, Braga, Chaves… to Santiago de Compostela.
The Portuguese Way gently winds its way northwards, along ancient tracks and Roman paths, through pretty woodlands, lush farmlands, interesting villages, towns and historic cities, taking pilgrims past many interesting spots: Roman bridges, country chapels, sanctuaries, wayside crosses (cruceiros), petos de ánimas (stone altars usually found at crossroads), manor houses, etc… The comforting image of St James the Pilgrim is ever-present, to accompany and guide pilgrims on their journey.
One of the hallmarks of the pilgrimage to Santiago is the warm reception given to the pilgrim along the way and the Portuguese Way is no exception. This practice was started in the Middle Ages by monks and clergymen serving the hospitals founded by monarchs and the nobility. This welcoming lay tradition is kept alive today by the locals along the way. Bon Caminho! is often heard and wished to Camino pilgrims across Portugal.
This route is the direct descendent of the major Roman roads that formed the backbone of the Roman Gallaecia and continued to be in use for many centuries, such as Via XIX. Built in the 1st century AD under the Emperor Augustus, it was known in classical works as the Itinerary of Antonino, established at the beginning of the 3rd century AD during Caracalla’s time. This ancient testimony is proof of the vitality of this via from very early times. Since the Middle Ages, the Portuguese Way has maintained the tradition of exchange between neighbours that began during the days of the Roman Empire.
Despite its unquestionable historical background, today our modern road network has affected the Portuguese Way. At times, pilgrims must forget the dirt paths and stone-paved ways to walk along the verge of the N-550 road between Vigo and A Coruña. The road follows the Portuguese Way to Santiago part of the way, something of a drawback for those seeking to recapture the essence of the original pilgrims’ way. However, new alternative routes are being created by pilgrim associations and community groups. This route of devotion, art and culture, offers an undisputed wealth of monumental and natural heritage.