24 Mar 23
Discover Portugal and its seaside Camino
The alluring Atlantic Coast of northern Portugal and the stunning shores of Galicia in Spain are home to the Portuguese Coastal Camino – an historic pilgrim route that stretches all the way to the legendary city of Santiago de Compostela. Bursting with historic sites, vibrant cities, picturesque villages, delicious food and incredible natural beauty, it makes the perfect European escape. There is so much to discover!
1. Explore Lisbon, Portugal’s timeless capital
With its alluring alleys, quaint shops, Gothic cathedrals, impressive bridges, colourful neighbourhoods and vintage trams, Portugal’s capital is an enchanting must-see destination. It’s a great place to start your Portuguese adventure and an easy 3-hour train ride to Porto from where most people begin their Portuguese Coastal Camino. (If you decide to walk the full route from Lisbon (646km) you’ll need about 38 days.) This coastal capital is perched on seven hills and enjoys an average of more than 300 sunny days a year! Lisbon is very walkable but if the hills get too exhausting you can explore the steep narrow cobblestone streets in an electric tuk tuk. Time your visit for the annual Sardine festival in June, when the Portuguese consume about 13 sardines per second. That’s a whole lot of sardines!
2. Taste the mouthwatering pastéis de nata
Sweet Portuguese custard tarts, known as pastéis de nata, are a delicious and quintessential part of Portuguese cuisine. The adoration is easy to understand once you have had a bite. One of the best places to try Portuguese tarts is at the famous bakery, Pastéis de Belém, located in the Belem district of Lisbon. In 1837 the baking of these delicacies began following the ancient secret recipe from the monastery. This recipe has been passed down and remains handmade and unchanged to this present day. The tarts are best eaten inside at the counter, accompanied by a shot of espresso. Or you can take a box of a dozen or so and enjoy them at a local viewpoint.
3. Photograph the picture-perfect azulejo tiles
Porto is a charmingly well-preserved city with an old-world atmosphere, architecturally lavish churches and a thriving food scene. Beautiful azulejo tiles are one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive. Most commonly blue and white, they are everywhere! On facades of buildings, street signs, benches, fountains and even trams. It was King Manuel I of Portugal who brought these tiles from Seville in Spain to decorate his palace at Sintra in the 15th century. Don’t miss Porto’s São Bento Railway Station where you’ll see an extraordinary hall covered in 20,000 of them.
4. Visit the Douro Valley wine cellars
No visit to Porto is complete without a river cruise to the port wine sellers of the Douro Valley, a UNESCO world heritage wine region. Heaven! The oldest of the wine cellars is Croft, which was established here in 1588, the year of the Spanish armada. A visit to their vaults is unmissable – watch out for the bats. While you’re in Porto, seek out the city’s namesake dish, Tripas à Moda do Porto, and its most popular sandwich, the Francesinha. You’ll easily burn off the calories if you are starting your pilgrimage from this beautiful seaside port.
5. Stay at the opulent Parador de Baiona
If you walk the Portuguese Coastal Camino, you have the opportunity to stay in a luxurious Parador in the seaside town of Baiona and savour the local delicacies: seafood, tapas and wine. Located in Galicia in north-western Spain (not Portugal but too good not to include here) the Parador de Baiona is housed in a 16th-century fortress, known as the Castillo de Monterreal, which was originally built to defend the town from pirate attacks. The beautiful hotel has 122 guest rooms, all of which are elegantly decorated and feature stunning views of the sea or the castle grounds.
6. Take a detour to the Spanish Cíes Islands
While we’re talking Spain…these magical islands (the ‘Galician Caribbean’) are part of the Islas Atlánticas National Park and well worth a visit. The island chain consists of two main islands – Monteagudo and Montefaro – and several tiny surrounding islands. The main drawcard of the archipelago is Praia de Rodas, often ranked one of the best beaches in the world. There is a winding network of well-kept and signposted trails that traverse the main islands. The most rewarding trails are the paths that take you up to Monte Faro, the highest of the islands’ three lighthouses (175m), and the trail that will take you to the panoramic viewpoint of Alto do Principe (111m). You can get to the Cíes Islands by ferry from Vigo.
7. Understand the Portuguese obsession with cod!
A trip to Portugal is not complete without experiencing the typical flavours of the country, and of course salted and dried cod – bacalhau – is one of the big stars. You will find it sometimes grilled, steamed or with cream, accompanied with rice, potatoes, olives and salad throughout the country. There is even a saying in the country that bacalhau can be served in 1001 ways. You could eat one codfish dish a day for a year and still not repeat any preparation. Such diversity! Grilled sardines or ‘sardinha assada’ are another classic Portuguese dish, celebrated from north to south. Oyster lovers are in for a real treat. The best oysters in Galicia are found in Redondela, located on this Camino route. Fresh and succulent ready to enjoy!
8. Discover charming Esposende
The Coastal Portuguese path is marked by several milestones in Esposende, a charming beach resort town approximately 50km from Porto. The Museu Municipal is the town’s spectacular museum, housed in an eye-catching building from the 20th century. The Forte de São João Baptista is also worth a look. There is a great little square with a fantastic fountain in the shape of a fishing boat and a number of lovely restaurants. While the Esposende coastline is blessed with some first-rate beaches, swimming can be tricky as the ocean water is chilly and the surf can be too strong. If you do feel like going for a swim there’s an excellent alternative at Esposende’s public pool complex, right on the estuary.
9. Shop for pimientos de Padrón
After Santiago de Compostela, Padrón (about 22km from Santiago) is the second most symbolic place of Saint James the Apostle. Padrón got its name from a large stone to which the boat, transporting the dead body of the apostle Saint James, was tied to during a stop off at Iria Flavia, while on route to Santiago. Worth a look is the parish church of Santiago, Igrexia de Santiago, which has the legendary Pedron on permanent display under its altar. If you are here on a Sunday, enjoy the Mercado Dominical, one of the largest street markets in Galicia. Gastronomy wise, the town is famous for its delicious green Padrón peppers, known by some as Spanish roulette. Unos pican otros no – some are hot, some are not!
WHEN TO WALK
The Portuguese Coastal Camino is best walked from April to October. Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean ensures that it is perfect for walking during the European summer months (June to August).
VIEW OUR WALKS
All our Portuguese Coastal Camino trips are flexible and they can be adapted to suit your needs. Our most popular walks include:
- Porto to Baiona (8 days)
- Porto to Santiago (16 days)
- Baiona to Santiago (10 days)
- Baiona to Finisterre (16 days)