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Cycling Camino Portuguese (coastal variation) + Camino Spiritual

Tomasso

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Portuguese - Coastal route - by bicycle
I am organizing our first Camino for two couples, age mid to late 50s, all regular cyclists in a fairly good shape.
We decided on Camino Portuguese (costal variation) from Porto to SC. Based on YouTube videos and other readings I came up with the itinerary below.
Instead of going directly from Pontevedra to SC I added the Camino Spiritual with the boat stage from Vilanova de Arouza to Pontecesures.
I would appreciate your comments regarding my plan, especially cycling the the Camino Spiritual. I found out that there is a 400m steep climb over 8km after the village of Combarro. Is there an alternative route to avoid the climb?
Are the distances calculated by Google Maps reliable, or I have to add more distance due to the road conditions?
My gratitude to everyone on the forum for paving the way......
Thomas
Porto Cathedral to Santiago de Compostela our trip on Google Maps
Jul 2 Sun Porto Cathedral - Fão 56km sleep 1
Jul 3 Mon Fão - Vila Praia de Âncora 48 km sleep 2
Jul 4 Tue Vila Praia de Âncora - Baiona 43km sleep 3
Jul 5 Wed Baiona - Pontevedra 56km sleep 4
Jul 6 Thur Pontevedra - Vilanova de Arousa 34km sleep 5
Jul 7 Fri Vilanova de Arousa - Pontecesures by boat; Pontecesures - Santiago de Compostela 26km sleep 6
 
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I am organizing our first Camino for two couples, age mid to late 50s, all regular cyclists in a fairly good shape.
We decided on Camino Portuguese (costal variation) from Porto to SC. Based on YouTube videos and other readings I came up with the itinerary below.
Instead of going directly from Pontevedra to SC I added the Camino Spiritual with the boat stage from Vilanova de Arouza to Pontecesures.
I would appreciate your comments regarding my plan, especially cycling the the Camino Spiritual. I found out that there is a 400m steep climb over 8km after the village of Combarro. Is there an alternative route to avoid the climb?
Are the distances calculated by Google Maps reliable, or I have to add more distance due to the road conditions?
My gratitude to everyone on the forum for paving the way......
Thomas
Porto Cathedral to Santiago de Compostela our trip on Google Maps
Jul 2 Sun Porto Cathedral - Fão 56km sleep 1
Jul 3 Mon Fão - Vila Praia de Âncora 48 km sleep 2
Jul 4 Tue Vila Praia de Âncora - Baiona 43km sleep 3
Jul 5 Wed Baiona - Pontevedra 56km sleep 4
Jul 6 Thur Pontevedra - Vilanova de Arousa 34km sleep 5
Jul 7 Fri Vilanova de Arousa - Pontecesures by boat; Pontecesures - Santiago de Compostela 26km sleep 6
I wouldn't trust Google maps as far as I would throw it for planning a bike route.

The distances should be accurate but as always the devil is in the detail. Road surface and climbing will have a far greater affect on the journey than simple distance. I do not trust Google climbing calculations on a bike - in fairness it is a tricky art.

Playing with my favourite planner it works very, very hard to keep me away from Combarro! There'll be a reason for that.

I suggest you have a look on CrazyGuyOnABike for Journals of others who may have travelled that way. There is a map (that links to journals) or you can search them by locale. This one (done in reverse) suggests caution!
However, we are all different and a day of pushing and shoving might be hell for one person and pure adventure for another.

You say nothing of your experience of travelling on loaded bikes. Nor of your desire or otherwise to stay on asphalt. Personally, I'd be very wary of taking responsibility for plotting an entire route for others. I'd want them involved every step of the way. A collaboration, if you will.

Hopefully someone with direct experience will be along soon.

Good luck!
 
I am organizing our first Camino for two couples, age mid to late 50s, all regular cyclists in a fairly good shape.
We decided on Camino Portuguese (costal variation) from Porto to SC. Based on YouTube videos and other readings I came up with the itinerary below.
Instead of going directly from Pontevedra to SC I added the Camino Spiritual with the boat stage from Vilanova de Arouza to Pontecesures.
I would appreciate your comments regarding my plan, especially cycling the the Camino Spiritual. I found out that there is a 400m steep climb over 8km after the village of Combarro. Is there an alternative route to avoid the climb?
Are the distances calculated by Google Maps reliable, or I have to add more distance due to the road conditions?
My gratitude to everyone on the forum for paving the way......
Thomas
Porto Cathedral to Santiago de Compostela our trip on Google Maps
Jul 2 Sun Porto Cathedral - Fão 56km sleep 1
Jul 3 Mon Fão - Vila Praia de Âncora 48 km sleep 2
Jul 4 Tue Vila Praia de Âncora - Baiona 43km sleep 3
Jul 5 Wed Baiona - Pontevedra 56km sleep 4
Jul 6 Thur Pontevedra - Vilanova de Arousa 34km sleep 5
Jul 7 Fri Vilanova de Arousa - Pontecesures by boat; Pontecesures - Santiago de Compostela 26km sleep 6
I Cycled Porto to SC last May. I checked the first 4 days of your itinerary and they were pretty close to what my Garmin recorded. Any differences could be attributed to where exactly you are staying in each location. One thing to note is that a lot of the towns along the coast have spent possibly millions of dollars on new bike paths in the past few years. Google Maps doesn't always know where these are located. So even though you specify a "Cycling" route, it may put you on a road where there is actually a beautiful cycle path you could be taking. This could also account for some of the differences in mileage. I'm sure you'll be doing a lot of research on your actual route, but just be aware Google Maps is not up to date in all areas. Also, I didn't do the Espiritual route so I can't comment on that, but your plan up to Pontevedra is pretty close to what I did, and it worked out great.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I wouldn't trust Google maps as far as I would throw it for planning a bike route.

The distances should be accurate but as always the devil is in the detail. Road surface and climbing will have a far greater affect on the journey than simple distance. I do not trust Google climbing calculations on a bike - in fairness it is a tricky art.

Playing with my favourite planner it works very, very hard to keep me away from Combarro! There'll be a reason for that.

I suggest you have a look on CrazyGuyOnABike for Journals of others who may have travelled that way. There is a map (that links to journals) or you can search them by locale. This one (done in reverse) suggests caution!
However, we are all different and a day of pushing and shoving might be hell for one person and pure adventure for another.

You say nothing of your experience of travelling on loaded bikes. Nor of your desire or otherwise to stay on asphalt. Personally, I'd be very wary of taking responsibility for plotting an entire route for others. I'd want them involved every step of the way. A collaboration, if you will.

Hopefully someone with direct experience will be along soon.

Good luck!
Thank you for the tips and resources.
Our preference will be to stay as much as possible on asphalt. First for the ease of travel, and second to avoid interrupting walking pilgrims. I am thinking of renting gravel bikes. 34-39 tires should keep us stable and comfortable.
The intent is to carry our luggage on the bikes. Based on the experiences of other cyclists we should be fine except where the terrain is challenging e.g. around Combarro
Agree 100% with your point on collaboration with planning.
 
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I would also point out that the best part of the Variante Espiritual — the Water and Stone Route — likely cannot be traversed by bicycle. Given this and the climb out of Combarro, maybe it’s not a worthwhile variant on a bike.
 
I Cycled Porto to SC last May. I checked the first 4 days of your itinerary and they were pretty close to what my Garmin recorded. Any differences could be attributed to where exactly you are staying in each location. One thing to note is that a lot of the towns along the coast have spent possibly millions of dollars on new bike paths in the past few years. Google Maps doesn't always know where these are located. So even though you specify a "Cycling" route, it may put you on a road where there is actually a beautiful cycle path you could be taking. This could also account for some of the differences in mileage. I'm sure you'll be doing a lot of research on your actual route, but just be aware Google Maps is not up to date in all areas. Also, I didn't do the Espiritual route so I can't comment on that, but your plan up to Pontevedra is pretty close to what I did, and it worked out great.
Thank you for chiming in Steve.
Your post trip summary was instrumental in my planning. Thank you for that as well.
I will get going with the details and reach out for an advise if I get stuck.
Thomas
 
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I would also point out that the best part of the Variante Espiritual — the Water and Stone Route — likely cannot be traversed by bicycle. Given this and the climb out of Combarro, maybe it’s not a worthwhile variant on a bike.
Nick, what you pointed out makes a lot of sense. I am planning to ride "light" mostly paved roads, on a gravel bike, as the costal route south of Pontevedra is rather easy. My setup likely will not be the best for the challenges of Water and Stone Route around Combarro.
There is still the boat stage from from Vilanova de Arouza to Pontecesures that interests me. I called the operator and they told me that taking bikes on the boat is a daily routine for them. I wonder how these cyclist get from Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arouza
Thank you for your thoughts.
Thomas
 
I had not been following this thread, but learned from a member that the topic of “rude cyclists” has come up. I’ve deleted those posts because they are just not relevant to this thread, which was a simple request for feedback on a proposed route.
Thank you for chiming in.
I understand the sensitivity of this subject to the walking pilgrims. I think there is a validity to their concerns. I am happy to consider any and every feedback anyone will provide.
With thanks,
Thomas
 
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I would also point out that the best part of the Variante Espiritual — the Water and Stone Route — likely cannot be traversed by bicycle. Given this and the climb out of Combarro, maybe it’s not a worthwhile variant on a bike.
Hi Nick, tomorrow I shall post a link to show that the Ruta de Pedra y Auga can be traversed by bike; but it's not easy. Buenas noches
 
I am thinking of renting gravel bikes
Have you considered the logistics of returning the bikes at the end?

The intent is to carry our luggage on the bikes
Will you be renting that too or bringing your own? Bringing your own will require compatibility with the racks on the bike. Renting may mean one of the cheap "all-in-one" sets of panniers that can be a PITA to use, especially off the bike.
I wonder how these cyclist get from Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arouza
There are options.
CycleTravel that I mentioned above will show them.
I understand the sensitivity of this subject to the walking pilgrims.
I understand it too. However, it's a constant refrain from some on this forum that is repeated ad nauseam in places where it is not relevant. It can become akin to low level bullying.
It's also frustrating in its inconsistency. Use bell vigorously - but not too vigorously or don't use a bell but call out instead as examples.

What is often forgotten by people focused on a Pilgrimage is that many of the Camino routes (Camino in Spanish simply means road) are "normal" roads in the sense that they are open to all and that many of the people riding bikes on them are locals. Imagine a foreigner coming to your home place and dictating how and when you can spend your recreation time!

My thanks to @peregrina2000 for their intervention.
 
@Tomasso Google Maps: comments have already been posted but I'd add "GM in Europe is OK for general / overall route planning but it's better to use any nav app that relies on OSM to provide better mapping in Europe".

There's a link in the reply by @Flatlander to my journal on CGOAB (thanks for that), the climb from Combarro is doable, not easy (perhaps you could ride around the coast to avoid it) but the views are magnificent. The Ruta de Pedra y Agua would be downhill for you but unless you're a crazyguyonabike or a skinnybiker probably not to be recommended.

PS: For alternative routing from Combarro try Komoot or Brouter, they show less hilly roads to the west but to me if you're riding the Camino then you're riding the Camino - unless the way is so overcrowded that it's no longer fun.....
 
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I am thankful for all responses, and at the same glad we can re-focus on Camino Espiritual cycling routes.
 

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@Skinnybiker @Flatlander thank you for your valuable comments.
The original GM cycling route recommendation from Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arousa (attached) took me very close to what I think the walking path is.
Looking at your journal @Skinnybiker cycling the walking path was indeed challenging. I am afraid too challenging for some in my group.
Is there a separate / easier paved path "parallel" to walking route? If there is, is it gravel, asphalt?
As you recommended, I plotted Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arousa on C.T (attached) and there was no suggestion of going anywhere close to Combarro. All suggested routes recommended heading north of Pontevedra and and then turning west, bypassing the area of Combarro entirely. I wonder why?
As for the logistics of returning the bikes at the end, we intend to rent gravel bikes from Cycling the Camino, which is based in SC, 5 min from the Cathedral. Do you have a different recommendation?
Have not decided yet if we will rent the panniers to carry the luggage or use the luggage transportation service. Bringing our own panniers from Toronto for 6 days of cycling is a tough call.
Thanks again,
Thomas
 

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As you recommended, I plotted Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arousa on C.T (attached) and there was no suggestion of going anywhere close to Combarro. All suggested routes recommended heading north of Pontevedra and and then turning west, bypassing the area of Combarro entirely. I wonder why?
Because you asked!
I wonder how these cyclist get from Pontevedra to Vilanova de Arouza
:)

I notice from your CT picture that you haven't added any waypoints to add your own spin to the route, hence it it using its own algorithim to create the route. That will balance low traffic roads, climbing, surfaces, and scenic impact. There's a reason it's keeping you from Combarro! I appreciate you're new to the tool but I give CT's preferences a lot of weight. I'm not saying don't do it, just to take your time and check it all out. The Google Streetview is useful. And perhaps break the route into smaller sections to get a better idea of climbing/descent.

Below is but one alternative that brings you close to Combarro. Adding, removing or just moving a waypoint can have an impact. Look, too, at the "surfaces" option. "Paved only" might be safer.
Play with it all you like.


You don't say how you are planning to follow a route. Maps? Phone? GPS device? CT has an app (iPhone only at the moment).

I am not at all familiar with the Espiritual option but according to your Google Map picture there is not exactly a choice of roads. If this is a part of the route that you really want to complete perhaps it's possible as a day trip on foot? A day walking in the middle of a few days cycling might be a pleasant change of pace and perspective? Perhaps forward the bikes and gear so they're waiting for you. Or split. Some cycle, some walk. Or else forward all the gear and cycle unladen.

In any case, you could ask the folks you're hiring the bikes from - chances are they've come across this before and should have local knowledge.

The days of me planning such a journey in such detail are long in the past. I much prefer the spontaneity of a less planned type of travel. I appreciate that you're a group of four so that all tastes and abilities need to be taken into account. Don't forget the potential for small injuries, a vino tinto hangover or just uncooperative weather that can impact on a highly detailed plan.
On any of the main Camino routes there is generally enough infrastructure that we don't need to worry too much. Heading off into the hills (literally!) is a different ball game.

Good luck
 
Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
Sorry to be pedantic but.....
cycling the walking path......
Is going to bring on some unnecessary ire.
Pilgrim path, Camino, are all perfectly usable phrases without reinforcing the notion that a person on a bike is breaking some rule or law. Most of the time a bike has just as much right to be present as a pedestrian.

I've biked pretty much all over Spain (and some of Portugal too) on big roads, small roads, no roads, Camino routes and none. The mixing of pedestrians, cyclists, scooterists and traffic is, to my mind, almost unique in terms of how everyone gets along. The only hostility to people travelling on bikes I have witnessed is online, and very, very few of those appear to be local.

I can't help but think that some bring more baggage with them than is in their backpacks.
 
A couple of after-thoughts;
* (Over) Planning brings up these harder sections which then make us think "will we be able to do it?" The alternative is not to plan and just do it - though perhaps a little late now. For example I had no pre-warning of the Ruta de Pedra y Agua so just kept pushing on whereas the climb out of SJPDP worried me at the time but turned out to be no big deal.
* If you're using luggage couriers then the gravel trail from Combarro up the hill will be doable, just take your time. At the top is a road (CF102) which will get you towards Armenteira then choose a road to avoid the rocky Ruta. And this stage is only 34km so even on a slow day is quite achievable.
* @Flatlander offers good advice (is he a Cloggie riding the mountains of Spain I wonder?)
 
The alternative is not to plan and just do it
That has become my preferred way of doing things too.
Travelling (usually) solo, it is a much simpler proposition than being responsible for four, though.

* @Flatlander offers good advice (is he a Cloggie riding the mountains of Spain I wonder?)
:) Thanks!
No, I'm Irish, but a former resident of the Flatlands. My handle is an homage to some great Texan musicians and perhaps a reflection on my attitude at the time. These days wild horses wouldn't keep me out of the mountains!:)
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
@Skinnybiker @Flatlander,
Thank you for your technical tips, but above all for the "depth of perspective" you provided.
My typical riding is a mix of asphalt and gravel trails in Ontario, Canada. For navigation I use Garmin Edge® 1030 in conjunction with the Garmin Connect platform. For uncomplicated routes I go to Google Maps on the phone.
There is a lot for me to explore, but I feel you provided the tools and the directions.
With gratitude,
Thomas
 
@Skinnybiker @Flatlander,
Thank you for your technical tips, but above all for the "depth of perspective" you provided.
My typical riding is a mix of asphalt and gravel trails in Ontario, Canada. For navigation I use Garmin Edge® 1030 in conjunction with the Garmin Connect platform. For uncomplicated routes I go to Google Maps on the phone.
There is a lot for me to explore, but I feel you provided the tools and the directions.
With gratitude,
Thomas
It's an unfortunate characteristic of fora like this that folks rarely come back later to give an update.
I'm sure it would be useful to any posters in the future if you'd come back and let us know how it worked out.

Buen Camino!
 
@Flatlander
This much I can commit to. This route or a different route, I will post an update.
Thanks again,
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
So, Steve....just got back from our second go at the Camino Coastal. This year, we started in Porto versus Coimbra and avoided a lot of rough terrain and non-stop hill riding!! Anyone walking or riding through Matosinhos, definitely take the canner tour at the Pinhais sardine factory....it was really fun! We did to electric bikes, but for the. most part, used only sporadically the last two days from Vigo into SDC. Again, your GPX route was great, but just a couple warnings to others (walkers and bikers): The second day from Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo, a good potion of the boardwalk was destroyed and it is sand walking/pushing for a good bit. Apparently when the boardwalk starts, there is a suggested detour, but we missed it. We also veered off your route and followed the Camino shells/arrows into Viana. A portion of that goes through a park along the river and you cross that iconic bridge (location names are esacaping me), but it is extremely rocky and not a good bike route. I'd suggest staying with your route. From Viana to Caminha, we also did a road detour from Belinho going into Ancora. Last year we did the boardwalk route and just had to push through too much sand. We stayed in Padron our last night (a Monday - not good for restaurants!), and if I did it over on a bike, I'd suggest staying in Caldas de Reis. It's only 26 miles (or so) the final day into SDC and it seemed that Caldas had more options for accommodations and eating. However, we did stay at Chef Rivera Hotel in Padron - accommodations were okay, they have secure bike storage and the staff is wonderful. It was great - we did shorter days and saw so much more this time and had nice lunches and a picnic a couple times. We used Cycling-rental.com (as you had) for the bikes and Caminofacil for the luggage transfer. Both companies just killed it on the service and assistance!!
 
So, Steve....just got back from our second go at the Camino Coastal. This year, we started in Porto versus Coimbra and avoided a lot of rough terrain and non-stop hill riding!! Anyone walking or riding through Matosinhos, definitely take the canner tour at the Pinhais sardine factory....it was really fun! We did to electric bikes, but for the. most part, used only sporadically the last two days from Vigo into SDC. Again, your GPX route was great, but just a couple warnings to others (walkers and bikers): The second day from Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo, a good potion of the boardwalk was destroyed and it is sand walking/pushing for a good bit. Apparently when the boardwalk starts, there is a suggested detour, but we missed it. We also veered off your route and followed the Camino shells/arrows into Viana. A portion of that goes through a park along the river and you cross that iconic bridge (location names are esacaping me), but it is extremely rocky and not a good bike route. I'd suggest staying with your route. From Viana to Caminha, we also did a road detour from Belinho going into Ancora. Last year we did the boardwalk route and just had to push through too much sand. We stayed in Padron our last night (a Monday - not good for restaurants!), and if I did it over on a bike, I'd suggest staying in Caldas de Reis. It's only 26 miles (or so) the final day into SDC and it seemed that Caldas had more options for accommodations and eating. However, we did stay at Chef Rivera Hotel in Padron - accommodations were okay, they have secure bike storage and the staff is wonderful. It was great - we did shorter days and saw so much more this time and had nice lunches and a picnic a couple times. We used Cycling-rental.com (as you had) for the bikes and Caminofacil for the luggage transfer. Both companies just killed it on the service and assistance!!
JoEllen, Excellent tips and suggestions! I plan to use your idea of shorter days and more time to relax. After all, it's not a race. The cannery tour is a great suggestion. And thanks for mentioning Caldas de Reis. Padron is a beautiful town and a nice stop but Caldas de Reis seemed more lively and with better restaurants. Plus the added benefit of hotels with thermal spring spas. I'll be looking at a different route into Ancora for the same reason you mentioned. Pushing and pulling bikes through sand is not fun. Tell me, are you planning a third trip on the Camino?
 
JoEllen, Excellent tips and suggestions! I plan to use your idea of shorter days and more time to relax. After all, it's not a race. The cannery tour is a great suggestion. And thanks for mentioning Caldas de Reis. Padron is a beautiful town and a nice stop but Caldas de Reis seemed more lively and with better restaurants. Plus the added benefit of hotels with thermal spring spas. I'll be looking at a different route into Ancora for the same reason you mentioned. Pushing and pulling bikes through sand is not fun. Tell me, are you planning a third trip on the Camino?
Yes, it will be my 4th trip, but I'm going back to walking (Frances twice walking; Portuguese twice biking). Biking is wonderful, especially with a fun group of friends, but it's a totally different Camino experience than walking. I'm planning to do either the Camino Primitivo or do the Camino Ingles and Finisterre. Not sure just when, but I have one more stroll into the Praca Obradoiro in me!!
 
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Sorry, one last tip. If you stay in A Guarda, stay at the Convent hotel. Since we had only 15 miles to Baiona for our day, we asked the front desk to get us a taxi early in the morning. The taxi took us up on the hill/mountain above A Guarda. There are some phenomenal Celtic ruins up there.....houses, chapels, etc, and the views are breathtaking. The taxi driver took us to two stops, waited for us, and we still were "in the saddle" by 10am. The people of A Guarda are very proud of the historical monument up above them!
 
Anyone walking or riding through Matosinhos, definitely take the canner tour at the Pinhais sardine factory....it was really fun!
I couldn’t agree more. It is a great tour that takes you through one of maybe two sardine factories in Portugal that still does the production manually. It is so intresting.

I posted after the tour with some pictures here.
 
A Treasure Trove Of Interesting Pilgrim Hacks! Learn & Share Your Own Too!
Actually, I believe your post was where I got the idea for us! Thank you - it was super fun, the staff was so accommodating, and the samples in the "tasting room" afterwards actually became our lunch! They provide each guest with 4 tins of each type of sardines, but our panniers were small and we told them we'd just take one per couple. Well, they just didn't want us to leave any behind, so one of the guys drove them to our hotel in Povoa de Varzim! He said he was going there later that day to visit friends, but so kind!
 

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