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Shorter Legs and accommodation on the Variante Espiritual

Ella Minnow

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Hi all,
I'm just beginning some tentative planning to hopefully complete my first Camino journey in autumn 2022. This site seems really helpful! I have MS and was recommended the Camino Portuguese from Tui as its relatively flat and I think I can do shorter daily legs. I also hope to build in at least one rest day.
I'm very drawn to the Variante Espiritual, it sounds like just the sort of experience I'm craving, but the legs seem quite long.

As a total novice, it would be great to hear some of your experience and wisdom. Would it be possible to break the route down into more manageable stretches (I think 15km per day would be my maximum, and even that might be ambitious!).

I've also little concept of how the accommodation works. If I'm late to an albergues and it's full, what happens? I have anxiety about having to sleep on the road! Are there other options without booking?

A tour company gave me an itinerary for the CP (not the VE) but to be honest I'd prefer to have a more authentic pilgrimage experience. I really want to do this whole my mobility still allows me!

Thanks so much in advance.. Your collective wisdom is much appreciated!

EM
 
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Johnathon

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Portuguese 2019
I did something very similar in 2019. I actually started in Valença, which is on the Portuguese side of the Minho river opposite to Tui. It has a historic fortification Fortaliza which I enjoyed exploring on the way to the bridge to Spain. I started there because I didn't think I had enough days on my vacation to get all the way from Porto to Santiago, and this being my first time attempting a Camino, I wanted a good chance of accomplishing something meaningful to myself.

I had rated my feet as capable of a 15 km hike day on day, but what I found was that the distance between towns (where you can find accommodations) is often over 20 km. What I then started to do was to book ahead using booking.com to get a bed for the night at a private albergue. This way i could take my time, arrive late but still have a place to sleep!

There are definitely a lot of experiences I didn't get by going this way, but I did find my solitude, my challenge, and enjoyed very much the spirit of the Camino.

Bom Caminho!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Hi Ella, welcome to the forum, good luck with your planning and camino and well done for showing the courage to do this with MS. I'm sure it will be a wonderful experience!
I'm very drawn to the Variante Espiritual, it sounds like just the sort of experience I'm craving, but the legs seem quite long.

As a total novice, it would be great to hear some of your experience and wisdom. Would it be possible to break the route down into more manageable stretches (I think 15km per day would be my maximum, and even that might be ambitious!).
I highly recommend the Variante Espiritual. This is an article I wrote about the highlights of the VE if you're interested.

The standard stages are Pontevedra-Armenteira (about 20km, including a climb and descent from Combarro-Armenteira) and Armenteira-Vilanova de Arousa (about 24km). There are some opportunities to break up the first stage. From Pontevedra, it's about 7.5km to the monastery at Poio, and you can stay at the monastery, or 3km further is Combarro which has a couple of hotels. So you could choose either of these options and do Pontevedra-Armenteira in two days. Breaking up Armenteira-Vilanova is a bit trickier as the Wise Pilgrim app doesn't list any accommodation options between the two.
I've also little concept of how the accommodation works. If I'm late to an albergues and it's full, what happens? I have anxiety about having to sleep on the road! Are there other options without booking?
It depends on the specific situation but I doubt you would ever need to sleep on the road on the CP! Standard end-of-stage places on your route like Tui, Redondela, Pontevedra and Padrón have a lot of pilgrim accommodation so you should be able to find a bed. If all albergues are full, some might have a basic mattress to put on the floor or be able to help you find alternative accommodation at a budget hotel or similar. If you are doing shorter stages, it might be worth booking ahead for those in-between destinations that won't have as many options.

We tended to book one day ahead on our Sep 2020 CP but that was largely because a lot of places were closed during the pandemic so we would call ahead to find out what was open and then book whatever was available.
A tour company gave me an itinerary for the CP (not the VE) but to be honest I'd prefer to have a more authentic pilgrimage experience. I really want to do this whole my mobility still allows me!
I would definitely recommend doing it without a tour company if you're able to. Good luck and buen camino!
 
Last edited:

El Cascayal

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo May 2019
Invierno November 2019
Ingles April (2020) postponed
First of all: Ella, Congratulations and Buen Camino!
Hint learned from hospitaleros & small other lodging: it’s easy to book directly with them by sending an email or WhatsApp (most respond quickly) it saves them the exorbitantly high Bookings fee sometimes 18% and is greatly appreciated.
 

Katia Taam

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Every year, since 2000. Most times portuguese camino also twice the french camiño. Two time Le Puy .
I have MS and was recommended the Camino Portuguese from Tui as its relatively flat and I think I can do shorter daily legs. I also hope to build in at least one rest day.
I'm very drawn to the Variante Espiritual, it sounds like just the sort of experience I'm craving, but the legs seem quite long.
The variante espiritual is not flat, on the contrary. It is nice but not flat. I think it has one of the steeper days on the camino, the day out of Combarro.
But yes, very beautiful... Even so, I do prefer the central route.
Bon camino.
 
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Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
Would it be possible to break the route down into more manageable stretches (I think 15km per day would be my maximum, and even that might be ambitious!).
Hi Ella,
That is definitely possible. My wife and I did the Spiritual Variant in 2019 and here are the stages with lodging:
Pontevedra to Combarro, 13.2 km, Hotel Xeito
Combarrao to Armenteira, 12 km, Monastery
Armenteira to Ribadumia, 8.5 km, Os Castaños Taberna
Ribadumia to Vilanova de Arousa, 18 km, Albergue A Salazon
All of this territory is relatively flat EXCEPT for the climb up Mt. Castrove from Combarro to Armenteira, where you ascend from sea level to 423 meters. That will be your major challenge. But I think it's doable for you if you take your time. It took us four hours and we tend to saunter.
Good luck!
 

KariC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016
Glad to hear there's lodging in Ribadumia now - there was not - despite assurances from google, the Pontevedra tourist office, and the Armenteira monastery that there was, when I hiked it in 2016. After hiking 20km from Combarro to Ribadumia, I was NOT up for another 18km to Vilanova when I got that unfortunate news!
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
Glad to hear there's lodging in Ribadumia now - there was not - despite assurances from google, the Pontevedra tourist office, and the Armenteira monastery that there was, when I hiked it in 2016. After hiking 20km from Combarro to Ribadumia, I was NOT up for another 18km to Vilanova when I got that unfortunate news!
Yes, I can well imagine! Even when you start from the Os Castaños Taberna, that trek to Vilanova de Arousa is taxing if you're walking in full sun. While the ground is flat and scenic, with all the vineyards on both sides, there's not much shade, particularly in the second half after Pontearnelas. So we were very happy to book at the tavern, which has about five or six rooms, as I recall, and a very good restaurant. It's also located alongside the Camino. In fact, there's a tourist office kiosk right across the street that will book your ride on the Vilanova ferry. At least that was the case in 2019. Hard to say what the situation will be post-Covid.
 

LindaH82

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None
Hello Ella!

I think we can shake hands. I intend to walk the Portuguese Coastal Route with the Esperitual variant this September (fingers crossed!), with a progressive congenital myopathy, so I definitely know your worries and questions. I ended up booking the Portuguese Coastal Easy Camino through CaminoWays. They book accomodation and can even arrange luggage transfer. They also have an option to add the Spiritual Way, which I added. As you can see from their itinerary, their stages are around 10km per day, with a 15 day max. Sadly, the Spiritual Way did add a 24 km day, but I intend to just see how far I can get, and take a taxi the rest of the way.

I was originally thinking of doing it my own way, but eventually I decided to book through a tour company anyway. This way I will be certain of having a good place to stay (no climbing into a top bunk at the end of a long day for me!) and someone to fall back on if things go pearshaped. They were very helpful and approachable as I worked out my itinerary, trying to decide on dates, etc.

Here is a previous post I made with my (hopeful) itinerary. Hope that helps any!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Sadly, the Spiritual Way did add a 24 km day, but I intend to just see how far I can get, and take a taxi the rest of the way.
I assume this is Armenteira-Vilanova. The good news is that the best part of this stage - the 'Water and Stone Route' (a forest trail past a gushing stream and many ruined water mills) - is the first 7km from Armenteira. It was the most beautiful stretch of the entire CP from Lisbon for me. The rest of the stage is nice as well but pales in comparison to this first part, so it's great that you will get to experience this.
 

LindaH82

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None
Oo I was hoping for that after I saw your blogpost on the highlights of the Variante Espiritual. It looks like it's the Vilar-Vilanova de Arousa stretch. Trying to find out now where the Armenteira bit is; if nothing else, I can take a taxi to the start of the Water and Stone Route.
Thanks!
 

Ella Minnow

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Wow, thank you all so much for your positive and informative replies! I am certainly getting something of a sense of the Camino community! I had a bit of a crazy week so only getting back here now to check the site. There are mountains where I live so possibly I can test myself closer to home over the coming months and hopefully, all being well, aim for this autumn or next spring.
The Variante Espiritual does call to me, so I would dearly love to try it. Linda I will check out your suggestion of using the travel company - this would give some peace of mind for sure!
Thank you all so much for your encouragement. It seems attainable!
EllaMinnow
 

Ella Minnow

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Hello Ella!

I think we can shake hands. I intend to walk the Portuguese Coastal Route with the Esperitual variant this September (fingers crossed!), with a progressive congenital myopathy, so I definitely know your worries and questions. I ended up booking the Portuguese Coastal Easy Camino through CaminoWays. They book accomodation and can even arrange luggage transfer. They also have an option to add the Spiritual Way, which I added. As you can see from their itinerary, their stages are around 10km per day, with a 15 day max. Sadly, the Spiritual Way did add a 24 km day, but I intend to just see how far I can get, and take a taxi the rest of the way.

I was originally thinking of doing it my own way, but eventually I decided to book through a tour company anyway. This way I will be certain of having a good place to stay (no climbing into a top bunk at the end of a long day for me!) and someone to fall back on if things go pearshaped. They were very helpful and approachable as I worked out my itinerary, trying to decide on dates, etc.

Here is a previous post I made with my (hopeful) itinerary. Hope that helps any!
Linda thank you so much for this. So useful to know it can be done. I'll shake your hand and even give you a hug for that!
 

Ella Minnow

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Hi Ella,
That is definitely possible. My wife and I did the Spiritual Variant in 2019 and here are the stages with lodging:
Pontevedra to Combarro, 13.2 km, Hotel Xeito
Combarrao to Armenteira, 12 km, Monastery
Armenteira to Ribadumia, 8.5 km, Os Castaños Taberna
Ribadumia to Vilanova de Arousa, 18 km, Albergue A Salazon
All of this territory is relatively flat EXCEPT for the climb up Mt. Castrove from Combarro to Armenteira, where you ascend from sea level to 423 meters. That will be your major challenge. But I think it's doable for you if you take your time. It took us four hours and we tend to saunter.
Good luck!
Hi Ken,
That's great, useful info, thanks. I think (hope) that is achievable for me now - if it's contained in one day of climbing I can manage that I think. I would hate to be scuppered by 423m! Lots of stops and it should be fine.. Ever the optimist.
EllaMinnow
 
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