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Advice on coastal route from Porto versus internal route

Vince Lee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017), Planning Portugues (2019)
#1
Having walked the Camino Frances in 2017, the same group of us are planning to walk the Camino Portugues starting in Lisbon in third quarter 2019. From Porto, we are trying to decide whether to take the internal route, or alternatively walk the coastal route (Porto/Vila do Conde/Esposende/Viana do Castelo/Caminha) re-joining the internal route at Tui. I am sure both routes have their attractions but has anyone walked both and can advise which they preferred? I did see a YouTube video of a group walking from Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes past the cruz dos Franceses and that looked really scenic.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2015. Le Puy 2016. Foothill route+Aragon 2017. Porto to Santiago coastal route 2018
#3
We walked the coastal route from Porto, followed the directions you outlined, crossed the river at Caminha, continued to pass Vigo, and joined the real “costal route” at Redondefa, Pontevedra, Padron, etc. Highly recommended, scenic.
 

andycohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2012,13,15); Finisterre / Muxia (15); Portugeuse (17); Primitivo (17); Norte (18); Ingles (18)
#5
As Rebekah says, it depends. Mostly on where you’re from and what you’re looking for. In contrast to the others, above, we found the Portuguese coast monotonous and uninteresting (perhaps in comparison to where we live in coastal California). Little scenic variation, nothing but pavement and boardwalk underfoot, and dull beach towns. Also, no pilgrim “vibe”, like on the Frances. So, after 2 days walking we transferred to the central route, and found the green, rolling hills more interesting, along with towns worth exploring, and other pilgrims to socialize with. Like with everythiing on the Camino, you’re going to find multiple points of view. The best thing is you don’t have to make up your mind. You can start on one, and if you don’t like it, the other route is only a local bus ride, or taxi, away. Weather can also be a determinant. If the forecast is for hot weather, the coastal route will be coooler. If there’s a lot of rain in the forecast, the coastal route is really exposed and the wind off the ocean can be chilling.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to SDC Sept 2012
Camino Frances Astorga to SDC Sept 2014
Camino Del Norte Irun to Santander Sept 2015
Caminho Portugese Barcelos to SDC Sept 2016
Camino Del Norte Santander to SDC (2017)
#6
I have to echo andycohn ,one of the chief attractions for me on the camino is the social aspect and historical towns. These are sadly a little lacking on the coast. There are far fewer pilgrims and there were days when we were enveloped in mist all day. That said there are some really beautiful stretches of boardwalk and when the sun shines its wonderful to walk to the sound of crashing waves and seabirds overhead. If you are expecting a shorter Frances...walk the internal . If youre willing to try something a little different maybe try cutting in towards Tui as you suggested. Experience a little of both .Having walked the Northern way also I've noticed that the commerce and tourism of seaside towns seems to dilute the camino/pilgrim vibe a little. Id happily walk any route at the moment ...really need to get away !!!
 

Vince Lee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017), Planning Portugues (2019)
#7
Thanks to all for your input. Lots of options. Having walked the Frances I fully understand the comment regarding the Camino "vibe"! By the same token, having walked that I think we are prepared to mix it up a little this time around with a mixture of the internal and coastal route.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Aug 2016-Oct(2016); Leon-Sarria, Ourense to SdC May (2017)
#8
Hola- Just back from walking the CP in September. Started in Porto and walked the coastal up through Caminha. Coming from the midwest US, found the coastal walk stunning, even through all the mist and fog. We then cut in along the river (you actually walk through a number of small towns) through Vila Nova de Cerveira (a lovely place to stay) to Valenca and Tui. After having walked the CF, I found this a nice change of pace with it's own "pilgrim vibe."Can't compare with the central route from Porto, but this Way did not disappoint! Bom Caminho!
elle
 

KariC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho portugûes (2016)
#9
You can do both. The most common way is to walk one day along the coastal, to Vila do Conde, then cut inland, but there are places north of there where it's doable also. I live in the desert, so anticipated wanting to do the coastal, but at VdC switched, and am eternally grateful to my French and Canadian friends I met the first day for suggesting this.
 

Aurigny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, 2016; Português Central, 2017; Port. Interior, 2017; Primitivo, 2018; Port. Coastal, 2018.
#10
You can do both. The most common way is to walk one day along the coastal, to Vila do Conde, then cut inland...
That would be my vote too. I've done the pair of them, and while the Coastal isn't the worst in the world, it can become a little monotonous. One of the nicer seaside stretches is the 30 km from Porto city centre to Vila do Conde; you get to pass through the pretty and picturesque fishing community of Angeiras and then Vila Cha, with its fascinating ceramic-tiled houses (you see these all over Portugal, but rarely in such variety and concentration). But once you've done that, the Coastal doesn't have very much more to offer. Cutting across to Sao Pedro de Rates from Vila do Conde, an 11-km walk, puts you on the Central, where a hundred kilometres of pleasant countryside, attractive villages and enjoyable woodlands await you until the two trails merge at Redondela.

I'm not sorry to have walked the Coastal, but I can't think of anything that would draw me back there again. I certainly expect to revisit the Central, which I found delightful even in mid-January when I was the only one out there.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#11
No one on this thread has mentioned the Senda Litoral, which I believe follows the coast almost exclusively. The Brierley guide says the Coastal route weaves back and forth between the actual coast and up higher away from the coast....so is everyone talking about the supposedly "monotonous" Senda or the Coastal?

And what about the Spiritual Variant. Anyone have experience and comments on that?
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#12
Having walked the Camino Frances in 2017, the same group of us are planning to walk the Camino Portugues starting in Lisbon in third quarter 2019. From Porto, we are trying to decide whether to take the internal route, or alternatively walk the coastal route (Porto/Vila do Conde/Esposende/Viana do Castelo/Caminha) re-joining the internal route at Tui. I am sure both routes have their attractions but has anyone walked both and can advise which they preferred? I did see a YouTube video of a group walking from Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes past the cruz dos Franceses and that looked really scenic.
I am planning to walk from Porto end of April and am confused as well with three different route choices, and various detours.
 

KariC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho portugûes (2016)
#13
No one on this thread has mentioned the Senda Litoral, which I believe follows the coast almost exclusively. The Brierley guide says the Coastal route weaves back and forth between the actual coast and up higher away from the coast....so is everyone talking about the monotonous Senda or Coastal?
And what about the Spiritual Variant. Anyone have experience and comments on that?
The Variante Espiritual was my favorite part of the trip - the Camino de Agua y Piedras leaving Armenteira is spectacular, mystical, wonderful, and the boat ride up the Río Ulla the same.
 
Camino(s) past & future
C-Francés (2018), C-Portugues (2018), C-Inglés (2018)
#14
I just came off C-Portugués da Costa (Porto) earlier in the month and can offer at least a one-sided perspective. The route definitely requires decisions (one of the Brierley stages offered 5 different options). My route was mostly da Costa with occasional dips into Senda Litoral, crossing over through A Guarda, not Tui.

Knowing what I know now, I would start at A Guarda, not Porto (which I know would take the Portugués out of the name). Porto seems a wonderful and hip city. Love to visit it separately but not as part of the Camino. For me it requires a different mindset (and wardrobe). The entire stretch between Porto and the border cities and suburbs - lots of paved roads. Most of these are cobblestone and/or narrow streets not designed with pedestrians in mind, offering a continuous low-grade level of physical (feet/ankle) and mental (traffic) stress. Much better once in Spain. But even in Spain, agree with other comments: lots boardwalks and beach-side tourist attractions. Again, love to visit separately, but requires a different mindset.

Another consideration: the coast comes with it rain and wind. The month on C-Francés I saw bursts of rain on two occasions. The 8 days on C-Portugués I saw 4 days of all-day downpours. Not good or bad. Just a characteristic of the route.

There is a printed page of albergues marked by distance for both routes. So differences in infrastructure should be a non-issue.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Aug 2016-Oct(2016); Leon-Sarria, Ourense to SdC May (2017)
#15
No one on this thread has mentioned the Senda Litoral, which I believe follows the coast almost exclusively. The Brierley guide says the Coastal route weaves back and forth between the actual coast and up higher away from the coast....so is everyone talking about the supposedly "monotonous" Senda or the Coastal?

And what about the Spiritual Variant. Anyone have experience and comments on that?
Hola Camino Chris- Yes, as part of our CP pilgrimage, we walked the Variant that comes out of Pontevedra. You pass two monasteries, with options to stay in Armentiera. We enjoyed this Way that takes you to the estuary and along Rio Ulla to Pontecesures and Padrón....lots of spiritual energy in that area. Bom Caminho!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues March 2019
#16
That would be my vote too. I've done the pair of them, and while the Coastal isn't the worst in the world, it can become a little monotonous. One of the nicer seaside stretches is the 30 km from Porto city centre to Vila do Conde; you get to pass through the pretty and picturesque fishing community of Angeiras and then Vila Cha, with its fascinating ceramic-tiled houses (you see these all over Portugal, but rarely in such variety and concentration). But once you've done that, the Coastal doesn't have very much more to offer. Cutting across to Sao Paolo de Rates from Vila do Conde, a 7-km walk, puts you on the Central, where a hundred kilometres of pleasant countryside, attractive villages and enjoyable woodlands await you until the two trails merge at Redondela.

I'm not sorry to have walked the Coastal, but I can't think of anything that would draw me back there again. I certainly expect to revisit the Central, which I found delightful even in mid-January when I was the only one out there.
Thanks so much for your input. I've been trying hard to decide where to turn off the coastal to meet the central and just as I thought I'd decided to do it at Caminha, I read your suggestion to cut over at Vila de Conde because there wasn't much interesting further north! Vila de Conde isn't very far north of Porto, and so most of your favorite was central. So, it sounds like you weren't that impressed with the further sites north of Vila de Conde? Like Viana do Castelo, Camina, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Valenca,, Vigo to Rendonela to Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis where I was planning to go and then cross over at Tui. I'd love to hear from a few others if they felt the same way about north of Vila de Conde as being kind of boring! Of course, we have the option of crossing over at various spots so I won't worry (and the weather will determine this best) but I also don't want to be bored either! Thanks again for your honest opinion!
 

Aurigny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, 2016; Português Central, 2017; Port. Interior, 2017; Primitivo, 2018; Port. Coastal, 2018.
#17
Not a problem; happy to help. Everything from Redondela—a very agreeable town—onwards is common to the two routes, so I won't address that. But in general I concur with Andycohn above. There are occasional bright spots on the Coastal north of Vila do Conde: the towns of Esposende, Oia and Caminha were standouts. Those, though, are few and far between, and Andycohn's references to "little scenic variation" and "dull beach towns" did, I'm afraid, resonate strongly with me. A lot of the time I felt highly out of place weaving in and out among holidaymakers wearing swimsuits, eating ice cream, and buying inflatable water-wings and plastic knick-knacks at the beachfront shops. Too many of the night-stops were either excessively touristy and overpriced for my taste (Baiona) or grim and industrial (Vigo); too many of the days were spent either listening to, or dodging, vehicular traffic. It seemed to me as though I could have been plonked down along almost any random part of the Atlantic littoral from Calais to Faro and had much the same experience; only the waymarking (which, I concede, was excellent, if hardly required most of the time) gave me any indication that I was travelling a pilgrimage route.

The Central from Rates northwards was tranquil, rural, and restorative to my soul, even if, because of the inflexibility of my calendar, I was having to complete it a great deal quicker than I would have preferred.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues March 2019
#18
Not a problem; happy to help. Everything from Redondela—a very agreeable town—onwards is common to the two routes, so I won't address that. But in general I concur with Andycohn above. There are occasional bright spots on the Coastal north of Vila do Conde: the towns of Esposende, Oia and Caminha were standouts. Those, though, are few and far between, and Andycohn's references to "little scenic variation" and "dull beach towns" did, I'm afraid, resonate strongly with me. A lot of the time I felt highly out of place weaving in and out among holidaymakers wearing swimsuits, eating ice cream, and buying inflatable water-wings and plastic knick-knacks at the beachfront shops. Too many of the night-stops were either excessively touristy and overpriced for my taste (Baiona) or grim and industrial (Vigo); too many of the days were spent either listening to, or dodging, vehicular traffic. It seemed to me as though I could have been plonked down along almost any random part of the Atlantic littoral from Calais to Faro and had much the same experience; only the waymarking (which, I concede, was excellent, if hardly required most of the time) gave me any indication that I was travelling a pilgrimage route.

The Central from Rates northwards was tranquil, rural, and restorative to my soul, even if, because of the inflexibility of my calendar, I was having to complete it a great deal quicker than I would have preferred.
Thanks so much for your views! It has really helped me figure out where I want to switch over!
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015)
#19
We start walking from A Guarda, Galicia on the coast, and staying on the coast at A Ramallosa on the litoral to Vigo. I grew up on the water, but have lived in the mountains for years, so I am looking forward to walking on the coast. I hope I am not disappointed. I think I can fill my need for historical sites when we travel to La Mancha and Sevilla. :)
 
#20
Have done both in the past 2 years, and preferred the coastal, mostly due to the smaller numbers of pilgrims. We loved Oia and Baiona. We were able to switch between the coast and inland, and had perfect weather, and live on the prairie so walking beside the ocean was a joy. When we rejoined the central route in Redondela we almost felt like we were in a procession the numbers were so great, but it was September. A few less cobblestones on the coastal, but no bad choices.
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Camino(s) past & future
Inglés (2014, 2018), Finisterre (2014, 2018) Primitivo (2015), Portuguese var routes (2017, 2018)
#21
I'll quickly add my two cents and blog, (Many Ways on the Camino Portugues) as I did both the central and the coastal, alternating between the Senda Litoral and the actual coastal route when it was more practical. There are just some sections that by actually follow the coast that would require a lot of extra kilometers and/or just over rocks, through bushes, without a path or boardwalk.

I never found the route out of Porto on the Senda Litoral to be boring. Quite the opposite - it was a beautiful and serene walk along the river in the early morning, with no one around. I was sad to join the throngs who arrived from Porto by train to Matosinhos. You can see my photos here, Day Fifteen, Porto to Vila do Conde, to judge for yourself. The sections northward from there, I found to be fascinating as well. I guess you just gotta love the seacoast, which I do. I have many, many photos, onward from days fifteen (I started in Lisbon) to twenty-five, so you can judge for yourself!

I also did the Central and truly loved it as well with all it's history, fortresses, Roman bridges, cobblestone and Roman roads. I think if you start here Day Fifteen on the Central Route and cruise the photos, it may help you decide to plan to DO BOTH! Ha ha.
 

dink56

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino santiago 2015
camino portugues 2018
#23
I walked both, took the coastal out of Porto to Caminha then inland to Valenca and onto Santiago, then back to Porto and walked inland to Valenca. For me the inland route was by far the prettier route. I found the coastal route a bit monotonous with the exception of walking out of Porto along the river which was spectacular in the early morning light. There was also pretty heavy fog along the coast as well so visibility was poor. The coastal route was much busier which made me enjoy the inland section a bit more. I also did the Espiritual variante and it is very pretty, if you have time do it.
 

anthonymorris

never lost just finding a different route
Camino(s) past & future
cycled 2016 le puy to Santiago ,cycled 2018 Paris to Porto
#25
i cycled both this year and they where pleasant ,but I did find the coastal route to my liking not many up hills and the scenery was spectacular ,it was only 20km longer and it took me a day longer (3 days to Porto and 4 days back to Santiago Compostela DSC00787.jpg
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#26
Lovely photo. I'm still debating...what to do, what to do. You loved the coastal, others say monotonous. I'll probably do a mixture, but coming off the Fisherman's Way, maybe I'll turn in to the central route a little sooner.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
#28
...And while you´re dodging pavement and boredom and "tourists," remember it´s a pilgrimage. Step out into what is there with an open mind, without demands or expectations, and the Way rises up to meet you in amazing ways.
Otherwise, it´s just a scenic walk.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from SJPP 2015, 2016, 2018
Way of St. Francis, Italy April 2017
Portuguese/Finister (2018)
#29
A few words about the Spiritual Variant, which we loved and I highly recommend. Here is a link to the website describing the variant: https://variante-espiritual-en.webs.com
If you have time, I would take a short day from Pontevedra and stay in the charming town of Combarro. The climb to Armenteria is steep and long and if you plan to stay at the Monastery this would get you there early, as you are expected to help with cooking... Be sure you contact them well ahead of time if you want to stay there. They will send you an email and request payment. The walk down from Armenteria was one of the most beautiful walks of my five Camino's. I would also highly recommend the boat ride to Padron. You will to contact the boat for a reservation ahead of time (the phone number is in the Brierley book, version that includes the espiritual variant) and they will give you the departure time as it is dependent on the tide. The boat held about 18 people and there were people who showed up without reservations and were left behind.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#30
Thank you, Susan, for this detailed account and info of this side route. It sounds lovely!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2018 Fall)
#31
...And while you´re dodging pavement and boredom and "tourists," remember it´s a pilgrimage. Step out into what is there with an open mind, without demands or expectations, and the Way rises up to meet you in amazing ways.
Otherwise, it´s just a scenic walk.
And as you said “without expectation “ sometimes a scenic walk works as well.
 

anthonymorris

never lost just finding a different route
Camino(s) past & future
cycled 2016 le puy to Santiago ,cycled 2018 Paris to Porto
#32
I cycled from Paris to Porto back to Irun via the Camino way (Paris to saint jean pied de port then to Irun to start the northern way along the northern Spanish coast ,then inland to Santiago Compostela ,then cycled on to Porto and back to Santiago via central and coastal route , on to Pamplona and back to Irun (san Sebastian) to catch the bus home ) you will always be "dodging pavement and boredom and tourist " 20% of the time no matter which WAY you pick but the other 80% of the time you will be blown away and inspired by everything else around you ,to keep going until you have achieved your goal ,just remember it's your Camino ,your WAY, your time, your experience , your exasperation ,your achievement ,your goals. After all this if you ask me if I will be doing it all again next year "I would defiantly say YES"
 

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Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Camino(s) past & future
Inglés (2014, 2018), Finisterre (2014, 2018) Primitivo (2015), Portuguese var routes (2017, 2018)
#33
Lovely photo. I'm still debating...what to do, what to do. You loved the coastal, others say monotonous. I'll probably do a mixture, but coming off the Fisherman's Way, maybe I'll turn in to the central route a little sooner.
Good luck with your decision @Camino Chris! Just pick one, and plan to do the other one in the future! You can't go wrong. If I had to choose between one or the other, I have a slight leaning towards the Central route. I did love all the history there and walking on those rough Roman roads!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - central from Porto (2018 - planned)
#34
No one on this thread has mentioned the Senda Litoral, which I believe follows the coast almost exclusively. The Brierley guide says the Coastal route weaves back and forth between the actual coast and up higher away from the coast....so is everyone talking about the supposedly "monotonous" Senda or the Coastal?
When people talk about walking the "coastal route" to Vila do Conde and then heading over to the central route, most of them are really taking the senda litoral for that first day. They want to walk along the river and the coast the first day, rather than head up north through the streets and suburbs, which is what both the real Coastal route and the Central route do.

I walked up the senda on my first day to Vila Chã. On the second day I meant to walk along the senda to Vila do Conde, but made the mistake of paying too much attention to the yellow arrows, which planted me on the Coastal (and cobblestones).
 



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