This summer of 2014 we have settled one of the pending subjects we had: make the road to Santiago. We could define it as a cathartic experience, in which you are able to do what you had always thought was impossible: walk 119 kilometers in six days. A fantastic experience that we recommend to everyone. In this guide you will find all the details of how we did The Portuguese way to Santiago. However, to find details about all the hostels and stages of this road, and that each one can organize this trip in their own way, we recommend two essential websites: Eroski Consumer, which is the most complete guide, and the second is Gronze.com.
History of the road to Santiago
The apostle James the Elder was executed by order of King Herod in the year 44. As it was forbidden to be buried, two of his disciples sailed with the body through the Mediterranean and beyond in search of a place to bury him. Legend has it that, when they were sailing near Galicia, they were surprised by a terrible storm. A gentleman passing by the nearby shore saw that the boat was in danger and threw himself into the sea with his horse to help them. After this demonstration of bravery, he resurfaced from the scallop-covered waters and the storm dissipated. The disciples saw a sign in this phenomenon and decided to bury the apostle in those lands. The ship docked in the town of Padrón and in this town you can still see the stone where they tied the ship that carried the remains of the apostle.
Much later, in the year 881, a hermit named Pelayo saw strange lights at night accompanied by angel songs over a forest. This was commented to the bishop of Galicia, whose name was Teodomiro, and when digging there, they found the tomb of the saint. When the news was released, the king had a church built there. The news that the relics were there spread and the faithful began to make a pilgrimage to pray before the tomb of the apostle James. Thus the population of Santiago originated and, at the same time, the Santiago's road, a busy pilgrim route during the middle ages and thousands of people continue to travel today, whether for religious or other reasons.
There are many roads. There are so many pilgrims in the world. The most famous and busy is the french way which in Spain starts in Roncesvalles. When choosing which path to follow, we took into account that the stages were not very demanding and that it went through interesting points to visit. Therefore, in the end we opted for the Portuguese way.
Portuguese road itinerary
He Portuguese way It starts in Lisbon, but we started the road in Tui and we traveled 119 kilometers in six days, with an average of 20 kilometers per day. As you will see in the reference websites that I mentioned before, you can stop in other towns before or after, do it in more days or less, but for us that average was perfect to enjoy the road and finish with the legs and feet in conditions . In fact it is such an affordable road that we saw families with young children doing it.
Day 1: Arrival in Tui, visit the city and Valença do Minho
Day 2: from Tui to O Porriño (18 km)
Day 3: from O Porriño to Redondela (16 km)
Day 4: from Redondela to Pontevedra (19 km)
Day 5: from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis (23 km)
Day 6: from Caldas de Reis to Padrón (20 km)
Day 7: from Padrón to Santiago de Compostela (23 km)
Day 8: back home
What to take to the road to Santiago
Less is more, this is the maximum. It is recommended that the backpack does not exceed 10% of your body weight. It has to be a good backpack, which has reinforcements on the back and support at the waist and chest. You have to carry only the essentials. In our case we were very clear that the laptop and the SLR camera (with which we always travel) stayed at home and replaced them with the phone's camera and a blog notes.
Pilgrims with laundry
I carried a 25-liter backpack and Xavier a 40-liter backpack, which we had already used in the trip to Uganda. We wear something more than just and necessary clothes: a long and a short, quick-drying trousers. A pair of long-sleeved shirts (to protect from the sun), a rain hood, underwear for every day, a swimsuit, flip flops, pajamas, a fleece (because in Galicia it is cold even in summer), a cap and a small bag As we were going to hostels and private hostels, we saved ourselves with towels because they can be rented there, and we didn't need a sleeping bag because the bedding is included.
The most important thing to face so many hours walking is good shoes and good socks. It has to be a comfortable shoe that is already used, with a good adhesion sole, because most of the time we will walk on wooded trails. Before the trip, I bought some Merrell shoes at the Decathlon on offer (€ 49). As it was summer, I opted for some very breathable and comfortable so that the foot was well ventilated when walking. In addition, socks are very important. They have to be tight, comfortable and with few seams. We also bought these socks at the Decathlon and we did very well.
You have to wear alternative footwear so that your foot rests and breathes once the stage is over. Be careful with the typical Hawaiian because sometimes they are not good to go for a walk and can cause you injuries. We recommend sports sandals because if you have finger injuries, you will be great to continue walking with some socks on, in German tourist plan.
Foot care before and during the road
It is advisable to visit a podiatrist at least three or four weeks before starting the path to cure duricias and other wounds that you have on your feet. It is better that women do not wear painted nails to see possible nail wounds, since if they are painted they can go unnoticed. Before starting to walk and at the end of the stage it is convenient apply petroleum jelly on the feet. However, we use Mepentol oil with sprayer, a fatty oil that hyperoxygenates the skin and serves to prevent and treat blisters and other types of ulcers. It is much more expensive than petroleum jelly, but it was a saint's hand and we returned without having suffered a blister on our feet. We also carry a bottle with rosemary alcohol that we use to massage our legs at the end of the stages.
If the stage is long (more than 20 kilometers), it is also advisable to stop halfway to change the socks for new ones and apply petroleum jelly or Mepentol again.
Foot care moment in the middle of the stage
It is the credential that proves that you are a pilgrim and where you have to put the stamps of the places where you pass. To order the Compostela It is necessary to have at least one stamp per day and two per day in the Galicia section. If you intend to sleep in shelters, it is necessary to have it to be able to stay. It can be obtained in the associations of friends of the Camino de Santiago or in some parishes and lodges along the way. We ask her to Association of Friends of the Camino de Hospitalet de Llobregat and they were issued to us in exchange for the will.
How to get to Tui
We started the road in this Galician population, right on the border with Portugal. From Barcelona there is a hotel train that leaves from Sants at 20.20h and arrives in Guillarei at 11:05 (€ 56 in comfort armchair, Promo price). This station is only 3 kilometers from Tui and from there you can walk or call a taxi upon arrival (you will find the phone at the same station). I went from Mérida on the bus to Alsa to Vigo The coach left at 20: 40h and arrived at Vigo station at 6: 30h (€ 45). Once there I waited until the first bus left for Tui. Being Saturday, it was 8:30 a.m. with the company ATSA (€ 3.30) and I arrived in Tui in 45 minutes. Another option is fly to Vigo and there take the bus to Tui.
If you do not want to carry the backpack, on the Portuguese road you will find companies that offer this service. I sent the backpack the first two days, since just three days before traveling to Galicia I was with gastroenteritis and serum in vein in the hospital and the first days I did not see myself with strength. The company Tweets offers backpack transport service from Porto to Santiago. You can hire for all the way or in stages. You can call even the night before to book without problems. They pick up the backpack at the hostel wherever you are and leave it at the next one before you arrive. The price is € 7 per stage, but if two backpacks are sent, it costs € 5 each.
Day 1: Tourism in Tui and Valença do Minho
The first day we dedicate to explore these two beautiful towns.
What to see in Valença do Minho
It is the border town on the south bank of the Miño River, in Portugal, and has an incredibly well preserved fortress. Inside you will find the typical Portuguese roads with cobbled sidewalks forming black and white mosaics and shopping streets with many shops that sell gender for the home.
Outside the commercial center it is worth getting lost because of the structure of the fortress and observing its almost intact and mossy bastions. That whole area is so green that it brought us many memories of trip to Scotland from last summer. After exploring the fortification, we cross the International Bridge to Tui, the first town in Galicia.
What to see in Tui
The main attraction of the city is the Romanesque cathedral of Santa Maria and its surroundings. The cathedral can be visited for free, but to access the cloister and the museum you have to pay € 3. The Tui tourist office (located in front of the cathedral) organizes guided tours of the complex for € 6. In August they usually make free guided tours of the cathedral for pilgrims at 7.30pm, so when you arrive, ask if they do. In the immediate vicinity of the cathedral there are several restaurants offering pilgrim menus (€ 7-10).
Around the canton of Diomedes you will find several bars with a terrace where you can enjoy the afternoon having a drink. Our recommendation is the Rosendo, a pastry-cafeteria where they even offered us a sweet tapa (portion of apple pie and homemade muffins) with coffee.
Another enclave that must be visited in Tui is the river promenade, a beautiful recovered riverbank that runs along the Miño river.
Where to sleep in Tui
When making the road the week of August 15, we prefer to take all the reserved accommodations. If it is done in public shelters during August it is necessary to get up early to get a place once you arrive. It gets so early that you walk for a good night, since in August the sun was rising at 7.30 am.
In our case, we reserve the El Camino Hostel. The bed in a room of four cost us € 12. The hostel is small and the showers are narrow and uncomfortable, but it was very well located. In fact, the road passes in front of the door. A towel can be rented for € 1 and bed linen is included.
Day 2: from Tui to O Porriño. Departure at 8:20 and arrival at 13: 20h
This is one of the most beautiful stages of the road, but unfortunately it rained us all the time and quite intensely. Tui's departure is beautiful, we start by going through the church of Santo Domingo and the Alameda. We continue through a square, the town laundry, we pass by a kiwi field until we reach the stone bridge. Once there we enter paths that pass through forests.
This section of the road is very cool, but there are few bars or rest areas to stop at. Also, as it rained without stopping, it was not comfortable to sit on a stone. When we were going for kilometer 108 we passed a house where they had enabled a kind of cafeteria where they sold hot drinks and some meals, but we continued walking until kilometer 105, where we stopped at the Orbelle restaurant.
There we recovered from the rain and fatigue drinking something hot. In front of this bar comes the new path that leads to O Porriño. The old one crosses the industrial estate for more than seven kilometers and is a rollazo. So, once you arrive at the Orbelle restaurant, do not go to the rest area. The new path goes through the forest parallel to the river and is very beautiful. Well, in my case I finished mud up to my eyebrows, but if it doesn't rain it should be even more beautiful. Luckily, the sneakers dried before they started walking the next day.
Upon arriving at O Porriño, we ate very well in the Maracaibo restaurant, following the recommendation of a native and from there we called the hotel to come and get us.
Where to sleep in O Porriño
The first day of the road we booked a double room with bathroom in the Expo Hostel. It is five kilometers from O Porriño, but if you come along the road, the owner is so kind that he comes to look for you in the village with his car. The room was very well maintained and the treatment of Daniel and his wife is ten. It is one of the accommodations where I have seen a better treatment for customers. The hostel also has a restaurant. The room cost us € 40 with wi-fi and breakfast € 3 more.
Excursions from O Porriño
On the first day of the hike we decided that we deserved a good rest and went to the Mondariz spa. This city famous for its medicinal waters is 25 kilometers from O Porriño. On Galicia Avenue, the buses that go to Mondariz stop, but they are very rare, especially on Sundays in August. So we hired the transfer from the hostel to Mondariz with Daniel for € 20, one way. On the way back we took the last bus that stopped right in front of the spa at 7:45 p.m. and that left us in O Porriño at 20.20h (€ 2.05).
The Mondariz spa was founded in 1873 and the building still maintains the charm of the Belle Époque. We only visit the Water Palace, a thermo-recreational space with different pools, hot tubs and saunas in which we replenished the first day on the way. The two-hour ticket costs € 22 and, if you don't have a swimming cap, € 2 more. There they give you a towel and flip flops to move around. Super recommended!
Photo taken from the Mondariz Spa website
Day 3: from O Porriño to Redondela. Departure at 8:30 a.m. and arrival at 12:30 p.m.
The beginning of this stage was a bit of a buzz because it was quite urban, since we walked for a long time along the shoulder of the N-550 and through several residential areas. When you get to Mos, everything gets better. Mos is a small town with a charming church and town hall. Here you will find a hostel and several restaurants, but being Monday we only find one open.
From Mos begins a not very steep climb that lasts a few kilometers while crossing pine forests. But the worst was the descent we found 5 kilometers from Redondela. A very steep descent in which more than one left the knees or toenails when hitting the tip of the boot. So be careful when lowering it if at this point you have a little sensitive feet.
Where to sleep in Redondela
At this stage we stayed at the private hostel The way. The bed in room of 4 cost us € 12. The hostel was very good and had areas to hang clothes. However, the bathrooms were insufficient for the amount of people we were. The hostel has a kitchen and in front there is a small grocery store that sells typical products of the area run by two ladies the sea of majas. There we bought tetilla cheese, homemade sausages and pasta to make food in the kitchen of the hostel.
Where to eat in Redondela
On the recommendation of a native, we went to the tapas bars in the old mills or furanchos. These places are very good because they have a lot of charm and you can have dinner while listening to the murmur of the river. The mills are ten minutes walk from the center, going up the road that starts from the right side of the municipal shelter. The closest is O Muíño Vello, but following the road you will find several more.
Excursions from Redondela
Our intention that day was to go until Cies Island. There are boats that depart from Vigo, Baiona or Cangas, but in summer you have to book in advance. As we did not know if that day would be sunny or rainy, we did not want to take risks and obviously by the same day it was already full.
So we went to the Cesantes beach, about 45 minutes from Redondela. In the afternoon it is a small sandy beach where we went to walk barefoot and dip our feet in the water. The truth is that we returned with our feet like new, but on the way back we decided to do it by taxi so as not to add more kilometers and slopes to our legs. We called the Radioondexi Association of Redondela (986.686.868) to come and get us a taxi and left us downtown for € 6.
Day 4: from Redondela to Pontevedra. Departure at 8:00 and arrival at 13: 15h
The beginning of the stage was a bit devastating because we found many ups and downs, but once past Cesantes we went through some beautiful forests until we reached Arcade.