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How to walk the Camino Portuguese at a more leisurely pace

Sandra Rosenau Portugal, Spain 2 Comments

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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 25-30km (15-19 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 post, we share with you how we did the Camino Portuguese / Portuguese Way (in April 2019), averaging just over 10km (6 miles) of walking a day, and how you can do it too.

How many people walk the Camino Portuguese each year?

In 2018, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela registered 327,378 pilgrims. 81,663 (or 24.95%) of them chose to walk the Camino Portuguese(including the Camino Portuguese de la Costa). This makes it the second most popular route after the Camino Frances.

Where do most people start the Camino Portuguese?

40% of all pilgrims on the Camino Portuguese commenced their journey in Porto. This is closely followed (at 38%) by those who started on the Portuguese/Spanish border – in either Valenca/Tui (Camino Portuguese Central) or Caminha/A Guarda (Camino Portuguese de la Costa). 3,045 (or just under 4%) commenced their Camino in Lisbon.

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

Age-wise, Paul and I are on either side of 50, and we are generally fit and healthy. However, due to a running accident in August 2018, Paul had to have spinal surgery in mid-December 2018.

When we were about to embark on our first 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 backpacks down to a minimum and sent Paul’s backpack (with anything we didn’t need) from our starting point straight to Santiago. I walked with my usual backpack, which ended up weighing 9kg (about the same weight I carry normally). Paul walked with our usual daypack, carrying one of our laptops, a sleeping bag, and our snacks and water bottles (all weighing in at 3kg).

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

Who says you have to average 30km a day to get here? You can walk the Camino at your own pace.
Who says you have to average 30km a day to get here? You can walk the Camino at your own pace.

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

  • Camino Portuguese de la Costa (Caminha to Redondela);
  • Camino Portuguese Central (Redondela to Pontevedra);
  • Variante Espiritual (Pontevedra to Padron);
  • Camino Portuguese Central (Padron to Santiago).

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 15-20km/day. On the other hand, we did want to start in Portugal. And we wanted to have the experience of different routes.

In the end, we walked a total of 183km over 18 days (averaging about 10km/day), with a rest day in Combarro (on the Variante Espiritual).

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/Autumn it’s easy, and you don’t generally need to book ahead (with the exception of some small and very popular Albergues like Casa Fernanda on the Camino Portuguese Central). The accommodations we stayed in were usually only 25-30% full. Once, we even had a 16-bed Albergue all to ourselves. If you want to walk in Winter, be aware that some accommodations will be closed. In Summer, some accommodations may need to be pre-booked.

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 basic. But the price of EUR5-6 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 (EUR10-20 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 most also 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 own bathroom start at EUR30 per room per night (in low season). Breakfast is usually not included.

Some people buy the Camino guide books by John Brierley to help them with their route and accommodation planning. We downloaded the Wisely + the Camino Portuguese app 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.

Private albergues, like this one in Redondela, have better facilities but are also double or triple the price of municipal albergues
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 10km/6miles a day (Sample Itinerary)

If you have three weeks available, and can’t or don’t want to walk more than 10km/6miles on average per day, you may want to replicate our itinerary. This gives you 18 days of walking (along the Coastal, Central and Spiritual routes) and 3 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.

Tip #4: Make sure you leave some time to explore Baiona, Redondela, Pontevedra, Combarro, Padron and of course, Santiago.

We ended up sleeping in a variety of accommodations, ranging 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 bathroom cost the same as two dorm beds. In some areas, guest houses/hotels were the only options.

DayStageDistance (km)Accommodation NameTypeCost (for 2 people)
0Porto - Caminhaby trainArca Nova GuesthouseEnsuite twinEUR35.00*
1Caminha - A Guarda7.85Albergue de Peregrinos Municipal A GuardaBunk beds in 16 bed dormEUR10.00
2A Guarda - Oia13.00Casa PuertasEnsuite doubleEUR50.00
3Oia - Mougás8.35O PeñascoIndividual beds in 4 bed dormEUR30.00
4Mougás - Baiona9.84Hotel Carabela La PintaEnsuite doubleEUR36.00*
5Baiona - Nigrán9.38El RetiroEnsuite kingEUR30.00
6Nigrán - Castrelos Park15.83Hesperia Vigo (4-star Hotel)Ensuite kingEUR43.00
7Castrelos Park - Vigo5.48Hostal Los Tres PaísesEnsuite twinEUR30.00
8Vigo - Redondela15.04Albergue A ConserveiraBunk beds in 38 bed dormEUR24.00
9Redondela - Arcade7.89Albergue LameiriñasBunk beds in 28 bed dormEUR24.00
10Arcade - Pontevedra13.20Casa MarujaEnsuite tripleEUR35.00
11Pontevedra - Combarro11.46Hotel XeitoEnsuite doubleEUR38.50
12Combarro - Armenteira10.61Mosteiro de Santa María da ArmenteiraEnsuite twinEUR55.00*
13Armenteira - Ribadumia10.64Hostal Santa BaiaEnsuite doubleEUR52.00*
14Ribadumia - Vilanova de Arousa15.00Albergue A SalazónEnsuite twin (for price of two bunk beds in 4/6 bed dorm)EUR36.00
15Vilanova de Arousa - Padrón2.94 (plus 26.76 by boat)Pensión JardínEnsuite doubleEUR35.00
16Padrón - A Escravitude7.47Albergue Da CapellaniaBunk beds in 18 bed dormEUR24.00
17A Escravitude - O Milladoiro11.59Albergue Peregrinos MilladoiroBunk beds in 22 bed dormEUR28.00
18O Milladoiro - Santiago7.54Albergue Santiago KM-0Bunk beds in 4 bed dormEUR40.00
Total183.11 (excluding boat)

* Breakfast included

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Booking.com

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

More Camino de Santiago articles

Are you planning your first Camino de Santiago and have gazillion questions as to what to expect? Have a look at the lessons learnt from our first Camino.

Would you like to walk the Camino de Santiago and wonder how much to budget? Check out how much it cost us to walk the Camino Portugués.

You’d love to do the Camino but can’t or don’t want to average 30km/day? Read how to tailor the Camino Portugués to your needs.

You completed your Camino, now what? Here are 5 tips that help you digest your experience and gently re-enter life after your Camino.

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 John Brierley’s Camino guidebooks (though the Wisely + the Camino Portuguese app gets pretty close).

Bom Caminho / Buen Camino!


Have you walked these routes on the Camino Portuguese? Where did you stay and would be happy to recommend? Please leave a comment below or send us an email.

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How to walk the Camino Portugués at a more leisurely pace
How to walk the Camino Portugués at a more leisurely pace
How to walk the Camino Portugués at a more leisurely pace

Comments 2

  1. Thank you
    Many of your ideas match my reasons for walking the Portuguese in the fall of 2019.
    I am 75, cancer survivor, physically able to do 10 miles per day…but
    I am also a professional photographer who will take it slow so that I can document all that I feel necessary.
    Please send me a link to any blog you may have about your journey.
    Peace and love,
    Jeannie

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