Embrace your own Way: How to walk the Camino (Portuguese) in shorter stages

Single female walking Camino de Santiago

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More and more people walk the Camino de Santiago/Way of St James to the Apostle’s tomb in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain every year. Movies like The Way, Looking For Infinity and I’ll Push You have done their bit in increasing its popularity among the big pilgrimages around the world. And you certainly don’t have to be religious to benefit from the experience.

No matter what route, most pilgrims seem to walk on average 25 to 30 kilometres (15 to 19 miles) a day. But what if you don’t want to walk that much? Or if you’ve got an injury/are older and can’t? That question bugged us before our first Camino, and we’ve got good news: You can walk the Camino at your own pace. In today’s article, we share with you how we did the Camino Portuguese / Portuguese Way, averaging just over 11 kilometres (just under 7 miles) of walking a day, and how you can do it too.

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So how can you walk the Camino Portuguese (or any other Camino route) at a more leisurely pace?

Consider your needs and be prepared to make adjustments

We are generally fit and healthy. However, due to a running accident, Paul had to have spinal surgery only 3 1/2 months before our first Camino.

When we were about to embark on our Camino, he was still recovering. So, we decided to make the following adjustments:

  • to choose a less strenuous Camino route;
  • to walk shorter distances each day; and
  • for me to carry the majority of our stuff.

We reduced our carry-on travel packs down to a minimum and sent Paul’s travel pack (with anything we didn’t need) from our starting point straight to Santiago de Compostela. I walked with my usual travel pack, which ended up weighing 9 kilograms/ 20 pounds (about the same weight I carry normally). Paul walked with our usual daypack, carrying a few personal items, and our snacks and water bottle (all weighing in at 3 kilograms/ 6.5 pounds).

Tip #1: Don’t feel pressured by what others do. It’s YOUR Camino. Listen to your body.

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Santiago Cathedral in the evening

How many people walk the Camino Portuguese each year?

(So far) in 2023, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela registered 443,391 pilgrims. 140,660 (just under 32%) of them chose to walk the Camino Portuguese (the central and coastal routes). This makes it the second most popular Camino after the Camino Frances (which 49% of pilgrims chose).

Where do most people start the Camino Portuguese?

36% of all pilgrims on the Camino Portuguese (de la Costa) commenced their journey on the Portuguese/Spanish border – in either Valenca/Tui (Camino Portuguese Central) or Caminha/A Guarda (Camino Portuguese de la Costa). This is closely followed (at 33%) by those who started in Porto. Just under 3% of pilgrims commenced their Camino in Lisbon.

Choose a route and distance according to your liking and ability

We decided to combine the various routes that are considered part of the Camino Portuguese, walking from Caminha to Santiago de Compostela via the

Why did we choose this particular route? We were concerned that the distance from Porto would be too far for Paul so soon after surgery – we would have had to walk 15-20 kilometres every day. On the other hand, we did want to start in Portugal. And we wanted to have the experience of different routes.

Map of Accommodation, Points of Interest, Eateries and Transport

Below is a map of the recommended accommodation, points of interest, eateries and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.

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In the end, we walked a total of 183 kilometres (114 miles) over 18 days – one of which was a rest day (in Combarro on the Variante Espiritual) – averaging just over 11 kilometres (just under 7 miles) per day.

Interested in replicating our itinerary? Just read on or jump straight to it.

Tip #2: While challenging yourself (at least a little) is part of the whole Camino experience, choose a distance that is achievable and a route that matches your abilities.

Manage your accommodation expectations and prepare as needed

How easy is it to find accommodation and what can I expect? This must be one of the most frequently asked questions we’ve seen in Facebook Camino Groups/Camino Forums.

If you walk in Spring (March/April) or Autumn (October/November) it’s easy, and you don’t generally need to book ahead (except for some small and very popular albergues like Casa Fernanda on the Camino Portuguese Central). The accommodations we stayed in (in April) were usually only 25 to 30 per cent full. Once, we even had a 16-bed albergue all to ourselves.

From May to September, some accommodations may need to be pre-booked. Municipal albergues remain first come first served even during the busy season (more on that below). If you want to walk the Camino in Winter (December-February), be aware that some accommodations will be closed.

What accommodation can I find along the Camino Portuguese?

Municipal albergues

Municipal albergues, as the name indicates, are owned and run by the municipalities you travel through. They are often staffed by local volunteers. Facilities tend to be (very) basic. But the price of around EUR10 per person per night reflects this. Municipal albergues cannot be pre-booked. If you’re planning to stay in municipal albergues, bring a sleeping bag and liner. Not all provide blankets and/or bed linen. Or if they do, they may not be sufficient to keep you warm.

Private albergues

Private albergues are licenced as an albergue and have to follow the same rules that apply to municipal albergues regarding eligibility to stay and lock-up times. The facilities tend to be (significantly) better than those in municipal albergues. But they also cost twice or three times as much (EUR15-25 per person per night). If you stay in private albergues, you won’t need to bring a sleeping bag (just a sleeping bag liner). They all provide blankets and bed linen (some even towels).

Guest houses/Hotels

You will find guest houses and hotels all along the Camino. Many restaurants (that offer pilgrim’s menus) also have a few guest rooms. Many rural lodges do not advertise their services on websites like Booking.com. You just need to knock on the door and ask. Most of them offer double or twin beds. Some also have family rooms. Rates for a basic, clean double/twin room with its own bathroom start at EUR35 per room per night (in low season). Breakfast is usually not included.

Some people buy guide books written by John Brierley to help them with their route and accommodation planning. We downloaded the Wise Pilgrim Camino Portugués app (available on Google Play and Apple Store) and supplemented it with Booking.com to find accommodation not mentioned in the app.

Tip #3: Once you’ve decided what average distance per day you can or want to walk, check the route you’d like to do and the lodging options along the way. Then adjust your daily stages according to the options available.

Camino de Santiago shared accommodation

Private albergues, like this one in Redondela, have better facilities but are also double or triple the price of municipal albergues

Walk the Camino Portuguese averaging 11km/7miles a day (Sample Itinerary)

If you have three weeks available and are happy to (only) walk on average 11 kilometres/7 miles per day, you may want to replicate our itinerary. This gives you 17 days of walking (along the Coastal, Central and Spiritual routes) and 4 spare days, which you may want to use as (a) rest day/s on the road (there are plenty of places that warrant further exploration) or once you’ve reached Santiago de Compostela.

Tip #4: Make sure you leave some time to explore Baiona [Tourist Office], Redondela [Tourist Office], Pontevedra [Tourist Office], Combarro [Tourist Office], Padron [Tourist Office] and of course, Santiago de Compostela.

We slept in various accommodations, from dorm beds in municipal and private albergues to bedrooms with our own bathroom in guest houses and hotels (including a monastery and a 4-star hotel). Sometimes a room with a bathroom costs the same as two dorm beds. In some areas, guest houses/hotels were the only options.

Since we did the Camino Portuguese, prices have increased by about 15%. The below has been updated to reflect 2024 low-season prices.

DayNameStageTypeDistance in kilometresEUR Cost (for 2 people)
0Arca Nova GuesthousePorto - CaminhaBunk beds in dormby train36.00
1Albergue de Peregrinos Municipal A GuardaCaminha - A GuardaBunk beds in dorm7.920.00
2Albergue da EstrelaA Guarda - ViladesusoBunk beds in dorm17.032.00
3Hotel BayonaViladesuso - BaionaEnsuite double14.345.00
4El RetiroBaiona - NigránEnsuite double9.435.00
5Hesperia VigoNigrán - Castrelos ParkEnsuite double15.848.00
6Hostal Los Tres PaísesCastrelos Park - VigoEnsuite twin5.543.00
7Albergue Santiago de VilavellaVigo - RedondelaBunk beds in dorm15.030.00
8Hostel Albergue O MesonRedondela - PuentesampayoBunk beds in dorm9.334.00
9Casa MaruxaPuentesampayo - PontevedraEnsuite double11.842.00
10Hotel XeitoPontevedra - CombarroEnsuite double11.551.70
11Mosteiro de Santa María da ArmenteiraCombarro - ArmenteiraEnsuite twin10.670.00
12Hostal O Legado de RamiraArmenteira - Ponte ArnelasEnsuite double13.650.00
13Albergue A SalazonPonte Arnelas - Vilanova de ArousaEnsuite twin11.943.00
14Pensión JardínVilanova de Arousa - PadrónEnsuite double2.9
(plus 26.8 by boat)
50.00
15Albergue Da CapellaniaPadrón - A EscravitudeBunk beds in dorm7.532.00
16Albergue Peregrinos MilladoiroA Escravitude - O MilladoiroBunk beds in dorm11.633.00
17Albergue Santiago KM-0O Milladoiro - SantiagoBunk beds in dorm7.548.00
Total183.1
(excluding boat)
742.70
Sustainability Certification included as appropriate, but not validated. $ is USD50 and below. $$$$ is USD150 and above. A marks where we stayed and would highly recommend to our friends and family.
Camino de Santiago Combarro

Make sure you explore the towns and villages along the way, such as Combarro on the Variante Espiritual

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I hope I managed to alleviate your concerns, and the Camino is now firmly on your bucket list. If you’re looking for an up-to-date guidebook, nothing seems to beat A Pilgrims Guide to the Camino Portuguese, though the Wise Pilgrim Camino Portuguese app gets pretty close.

Bom Caminho / Buen Camino!

Have you walked the Camino Portuguese?

I wrote these Camino Portuguese tips based on our own personal experience. If you’ve walked the Camino de Santiago, what other tips do you have? And if you’re still planning your trip: what other question/s do you have?

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Embrace your own Way: How to walk the Camino (Portuguese) in shorter stages
Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandrarosenau/" target="_blank">Sandra Rosenau</a>

Author: Sandra Rosenau

Sandra Rosenau is a Gen X gal from Germany, born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, with an unquenchable thirst to learn. Self-starter. Multi-lingual. Minimalist. Environmentally conscious. Financially and location independent. Energised by connecting with others and helping people succeed.