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Coastal Vs Central Camino?

Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
 
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BROWNCOUNTYBOB

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021
I researched CP a few years ago and at that time, it seemed like there was not much infrastructure, offering few private rooms and hiking very long stages (30kms). My brother, his wife, and another couple are hiking the central route beginning mid-Sept. I decided to take a closer look.

My wife and I have hiked Camino Frances four times, including last fall. We're ready for a change. We've watched You Tube videos on the central and coastal routes. Walking along the Atlantic, seeing sun and sand and hiking on the boardwalks appeals to us. Also the route is fairly flat on most stages. We also like the fact that CP can easily be done in 2 weeks vs 5+ weeks of CF. Moving inland after Caminha will allow us to experience a part of the central route. I like the idea that approximately half of CP is in Portugal and half is in Spain. We've not relied on Brierley's guide for our last two caminos. Even if CP is well way marked, I'm going to buy his updated guidebook for Xmas. Bob
 

kenwilltravel

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
This is a complicated question and you're going to get a lot of opinions on each side. Having walked the coastal twice and part of the Central once (Porto to Ponte de Lima), I can offer a few general comments:
1) From a pure walking point of view, the coastal is much easier, hands down. On the coast it's mostly flat while you do get some elevations on the Central. Also, some of the road walking is a bit hairy on the Central, from Porto up to about Mindelo.
2) In terms of historical towns, Central definitely has the edge, with Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença. Ponte de Lima earns my vote for most charming town in northern Portugal; we spent several days there to enjoy some local festivals. There's also the 12th century D. Zameiro bridge over the Rio Ave just south of Vila d'Arcos. Of course, you can find some interesting things on the Coastal as well, like the Celtic excavation site near A Guarda and the replica of Columbus' ship Pinta in Baiona harbour (you'll be amazed at how small it was). I also like the older waterfront parts of Vila do Conde and Viana do Costello; very scenic.
3) In terms of natural scenery, it's a bit of a toss-up. Do you prefer ocean or mountain views? Beach boardwalks or forested trails? This is purely a personal preference thing. My wife emphatically prefers the coast and I'm okay with either.
4) "Pilgrim ambience." I put that in quotes because it's kind of hard to pin down. But basically I mean that sense of being on a medieval-like pilgrimage, or quest. You might argue that the coastal is a bit weak in that because, frankly, you're walking through so many modern beach resort towns, particularly on the Portuguese side of the Minho. On the Central, we found we tended to bond more with fellow travelers, there was just more, well, pilgrim spirit. This is such an intangible thing that I don't want to make too much of it but there it is.
As for deviating to the Central route after Caminha, you can easily do that. There's a very nice wooded trail along the Minho that takes you up to Valença (where you can enjoy the historic fortress, which was so easily taken by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars). But then you miss a lot of good stuff from A Guarda up to Vigo (and also the very scenic trail along the estuary from Vigo to Redondela, where you meet up with the Central).
It's a tough decision any way you look at it. Boa sorte!
 

Adelina

Adelina
Time of past OR future Camino
'18 Astor-Stgo '19 St Jean-Carrion '22 Porto-Stgo
This camino can be very fluid. A good Camino friend had begun the Coastal with his wife, and after a few days on the boardwalk, he turned to his wife and said "this one is not for us" and they turned in to join the Central. My husband and I did the Coastal in May and loved the boardwalks, walking for long distances along the coast, and found plenty of lodging options. We began in albergue dorms but after meeting several people who had had COVID along the way, changed to private rooms. Cross checking with Brierly and Gronze, we found lodging all along the way, reserving one night before, as we weren't sure how far we would get as we walked. Though the Coastal was not for my friends, it definitely was for us!
 

KariC

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
I 100% agree with those who said it's a personal preference. From my perspective, being a desert dweller, I expected to really like the coastal route and started out there from Matosinhos. Some French women I was hiking with were going to the central route, and I decided to follow them. Best decision ever (for me)!! It was beautiful, historic, absolutely lovely. Their comment on the coastal route was that while the ocean was pretty, the other side was like looking at 50's era Russian construction - blocky uninteresting apartment buildings all like the previous ones. Like others have said, there is no one correct answer.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022
This is a complicated question and you're going to get a lot of opinions on each side. Having walked the coastal twice and part of the Central once (Porto to Ponte de Lima), I can offer a few general comments:
1) From a pure walking point of view, the coastal is much easier, hands down. On the coast it's mostly flat while you do get some elevations on the Central. Also, some of the road walking is a bit hairy on the Central, from Porto up to about Mindelo.
2) In terms of historical towns, Central definitely has the edge, with Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença. Ponte de Lima earns my vote for most charming town in northern Portugal; we spent several days there to enjoy some local festivals. There's also the 12th century D. Zameiro bridge over the Rio Ave just south of Vila d'Arcos. Of course, you can find some interesting things on the Coastal as well, like the Celtic excavation site near A Guarda and the replica of Columbus' ship Pinta in Baiona harbour (you'll be amazed at how small it was). I also like the older waterfront parts of Vila do Conde and Viana do Costello; very scenic.
3) In terms of natural scenery, it's a bit of a toss-up. Do you prefer ocean or mountain views? Beach boardwalks or forested trails? This is purely a personal preference thing. My wife emphatically prefers the coast and I'm okay with either.
4) "Pilgrim ambience." I put that in quotes because it's kind of hard to pin down. But basically I mean that sense of being on a medieval-like pilgrimage, or quest. You might argue that the coastal is a bit weak in that because, frankly, you're walking through so many modern beach resort towns, particularly on the Portuguese side of the Minho. On the Central, we found we tended to bond more with fellow travelers, there was just more, well, pilgrim spirit. This is such an intangible thing that I don't want to make too much of it but there it is.
As for deviating to the Central route after Caminha, you can easily do that. There's a very nice wooded trail along the Minho that takes you up to Valença (where you can enjoy the historic fortress, which was so easily taken by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars). But then you miss a lot of good stuff from A Guarda up to Vigo (and also the very scenic trail along the estuary from Vigo to Redondela, where you meet up with the Central).
It's a tough decision any way you look at it. Boa sorte!
Ken - many many thanks! Best most succinct response I’ve gotten that hits all the points that I was looking for! Thank you!
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many to count!

Grousedoctor

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2021
You pose a most difficult question. They’re both great routes, just different. Pros and cons to each. Having just walked to Portugués Por La Costa just a few months ago, I can tell you it was quite enjoyable although we didn’t cut in until Vigo. We found the walking easier along the Costa route, but the Central, albeit cobblestoned most of the way through Portugal, had more of the Camino feel that we were used to. But, more road walking! Tradeoffs! We actually enjoyed the coast more above Caminha. Still, nice towns to stop in regardless of route.

So, if I were to walk in Portugal a third time, which route would I take? Probably the Central with the addition of the Variante Espiritual in the later half of the walk. To avoid the industrial section of Porto, walk out of the city along the Douro River to the coast and than north. As I remember, it was primarily road walking from Vila do Conde to Barcelos, but still good walking. A highlight of our camino was a night at Casa Fernanda. Quite special! Ponte de Lima, Valenca, and Tui great towns along the route. If I were going to take a day off, it would be in Pontevedra. So much history there! After that, particularly if you have an extra day, take the Variante Espiritual. There’s a very solid uphill which is challenging, but very doable. Most of it is on the road. The Monestario at Armenteira is another special spot. We enjoyed spending a night there. But, by far, the hightlight of the VE was the boat trip from Vilanova de Arousa to just outside Padrón.

Regardless, of the route you choose, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy your Camino.
 

Phil71

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese (2014,2016),Primitivo (2015), San Salvador (2017), Norte (2018), Ingles (2018)
Just agreeing with grousedoctor really. Imo one is not better than the other. They're different. Do one now and the other later if you can. I loved both for different reasons, I cannot say which was better.
 

Moniq

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino de Portugues
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
I walked both this spring, first Coastal and later central. I preferred coastal, quieter and lovely towns like A Guarda and Baiona. But if you want to combine the two: walk from Darque (south of Viana do Castello) along the river Lima along the south bank of the river. Beautiful nature, it is about 25 km to Ponte de Lima. Very very recommendable!! I cycled this path, it is stunning and way better for walking than along the river Minho which I also cycled later.
 
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James X

Caminhos with a h
Time of past OR future Camino
Caminho Central Português: October 2017
Caminho: Coastal / Litoral / Lost: September 2018
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
Please see attached...I'm in another forum and this is what I post when the question is asked. I think the post by Ken is very comprehensive and on point. I have walked 4 Caminhos in Portugal 3 Central and 1 Senda Litoral / Coastal.....I found the Central to be much more authentic. I think your own thoughts to combine two makes perfect sense and I would veer towards the suggestion to cut across to Ponte de Lima from VdC. Ponte de Lima is such a beautiful historic town. (If you really wanted history though I would suggest a lesser known route of Guimarães to Braga to PDL (I have not done this stretch myself but am thinking of it)
 

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Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022
You pose a most difficult question. They’re both great routes, just different. Pros and cons to each. Having just walked to Portugués Por La Costa just a few months ago, I can tell you it was quite enjoyable although we didn’t cut in until Vigo. We found the walking easier along the Costa route, but the Central, albeit cobblestoned most of the way through Portugal, had more of the Camino feel that we were used to. But, more road walking! Tradeoffs! We actually enjoyed the coast more above Caminha. Still, nice towns to stop in regardless of route.

So, if I were to walk in Portugal a third time, which route would I take? Probably the Central with the addition of the Variante Espiritual in the later half of the walk. To avoid the industrial section of Porto, walk out of the city along the Douro River to the coast and than north. As I remember, it was primarily road walking from Vila do Conde to Barcelos, but still good walking. A highlight of our camino was a night at Casa Fernanda. Quite special! Ponte de Lima, Valenca, and Tui great towns along the route. If I were going to take a day off, it would be in Pontevedra. So much history there! After that, particularly if you have an extra day, take the Variante Espiritual. There’s a very solid uphill which is challenging, but very doable. Most of it is on the road. The Monestario at Armenteira is another special spot. We enjoyed spending a night there. But, by far, the hightlight of the VE was the boat trip from Vilanova de Arousa to just outside Padrón.

Regardless, of the route you choose, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy your Camino.
thank you!!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022
Please see attached...I'm in another forum and this is what I post when the question is asked. I think the post by Ken is very comprehensive and on point. I have walked 4 Caminhos in Portugal 3 Central and 1 Senda Litoral / Coastal.....I found the Central to be much more authentic. I think your own thoughts to combine two makes perfect sense and I would veer towards the suggestion to cut across to Ponte de Lima from VdC. Ponte de Lima is such a beautiful historic town. (If you really wanted history though I would suggest a lesser known route of Guimarães to Braga to PDL (I have not done this stretch myself but am thinking of it)
Thank you!!
 

dfunghi

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Future (2019) Portuguese.
I too have been weighing and researching this very question. Having visited many of the places on both routes in 1996* on our honeymoon (by car) there are parts of both worth seeing again and none I really would avoid. Now, walking this is very different of course.
Coastal is likely to cost more for private rooms, which sadly due to covid I fear may be my best choice due to health risks from prior health issues. Central will offer less choices and likely longer days of walking. I have decided I may need to do some transport back and forth. Such as walking a couple hours past Barcelos but taking bus back to spend the night, then return via transport to where I stopped. I do plan to walk every inch, but maybe in a convoluted fashion. Since I love urban hiking, like walking around great cities all day, roads and less than gorgeous scenery is OK with me.
My current plan is to head up the coast and cut over to Rates one of two possible ways I have read about. From there I will remain on central and decide on the final stretch when I get there. If time allows and the hill seems doable I will likely cut over to VE.

Both walks offer great things and both have trade offs.

*1996 I realize much will have changed since then. PDL where we spent a couple nights and took long walks on other side of bridge is where we first saw Camino markings and where I first learned of it. Also the coast was much less developed with Ofir being one of the sleepiest and lovely beach towns ever, with too many great places to eat Sardines.
 

Xacobeo Transfer

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Caminho Portugues da Costa
I’m still trying to get good info of coast vs central caminos (and have read the other threads which don’t fully answer my question)… It seems the central Camino goes through more industrial areas, and is more along roads, but is more full of historical towns, and also busier… while the coastal Camino is less busy and along boardwalks and the beach? i think I may combine the two by walking out of Porto along the coast until Camhina and then taking central route? Any thoughts on this? I am not a fan of roads or traffic or industrial areas, but I am a history buff and like charming old towns… Am I missing those if I take the coastal until Caminha? Any tips, suggestions ans greatly appreciated!
Bom caminho 💛👣 Alexander, if you are going to follow the coastal way, you can cross the Minho River, from Caminha to A Guarda, with xacobeotransfer.com
 
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CMLangley

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portugues in September
I'll let you know in a few weeks I am going all of the way up the coast to Vigo and cutting over.
 

Pilgrim Elaine

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
October 2022
This is a complicated question and you're going to get a lot of opinions on each side. Having walked the coastal twice and part of the Central once (Porto to Ponte de Lima), I can offer a few general comments:
1) From a pure walking point of view, the coastal is much easier, hands down. On the coast it's mostly flat while you do get some elevations on the Central. Also, some of the road walking is a bit hairy on the Central, from Porto up to about Mindelo.
2) In terms of historical towns, Central definitely has the edge, with Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença. Ponte de Lima earns my vote for most charming town in northern Portugal; we spent several days there to enjoy some local festivals. There's also the 12th century D. Zameiro bridge over the Rio Ave just south of Vila d'Arcos. Of course, you can find some interesting things on the Coastal as well, like the Celtic excavation site near A Guarda and the replica of Columbus' ship Pinta in Baiona harbour (you'll be amazed at how small it was). I also like the older waterfront parts of Vila do Conde and Viana do Costello; very scenic.
3) In terms of natural scenery, it's a bit of a toss-up. Do you prefer ocean or mountain views? Beach boardwalks or forested trails? This is purely a personal preference thing. My wife emphatically prefers the coast and I'm okay with either.
4) "Pilgrim ambience." I put that in quotes because it's kind of hard to pin down. But basically I mean that sense of being on a medieval-like pilgrimage, or quest. You might argue that the coastal is a bit weak in that because, frankly, you're walking through so many modern beach resort towns, particularly on the Portuguese side of the Minho. On the Central, we found we tended to bond more with fellow travelers, there was just more, well, pilgrim spirit. This is such an intangible thing that I don't want to make too much of it but there it is.
As for deviating to the Central route after Caminha, you can easily do that. There's a very nice wooded trail along the Minho that takes you up to Valença (where you can enjoy the historic fortress, which was so easily taken by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars). But then you miss a lot of good stuff from A Guarda up to Vigo (and also the very scenic trail along the estuary from Vigo to Redondela, where you meet up with the Central).
It's a tough decision any way you look at it. Boa sorte!
This was very informative, thank you!
 

gargar

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portgues
Please see attached...I'm in another forum and this is what I post when the question is asked. I think the post by Ken is very comprehensive and on point. I have walked 4 Caminhos in Portugal 3 Central and 1 Senda Litoral / Coastal.....I found the Central to be much more authentic. I think your own thoughts to combine two makes perfect sense and I would veer towards the suggestion to cut across to Ponte de Lima from VdC. Ponte de Lima is such a beautiful historic town. (If you really wanted history though I would suggest a lesser known route of Guimarães to Braga to PDL (I have not done this stretch myself but am thinking of it)
I plan to start my Camino in Braga and head to PDL any suggested routes with less road walking?
 

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