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Variante Espiritual OR Caldas de Reis

Gina73

New Member
Past OR future Camino
planning June 2020
I'm planning my trip for June 2020 and when reading about Caldas de Reis, I thought maybe I'd stay there an extra night since there are hot springs, Roman ruins, etc. It sounded really nice. Then I read somewhere that I should definitely take the Spiritual Route. Has anyone taken both and have an opinion about it?
Also, I haven't done my research on the Spiritual Route completely yet, but I see many people referencing a boat ride. To me that sort of feels like cheating the route/walk. Any feedback on the boat?
 
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Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Caldas does give you an opportunity to soak your aching muscles in springs that sore pilgrims have used for ages. If historical authenticity means a lot to you, it is the way to go.
The "Spiritual Variant" is a newly waymarked hiking trail that offers pretty scenery and a boat ride. I am still at a loss to understand what is particularly "spiritual" about it, but I guess that's marketing.
 

Gina73

New Member
Past OR future Camino
planning June 2020
Caldas does give you an opportunity to soak your aching muscles in springs that sore pilgrims have used for ages. If historical authenticity means a lot to you, it is the way to go.
The "Spiritual Variant" is a newly waymarked hiking trail that offers pretty scenery and a boat ride. I am still at a loss to understand what is particularly "spiritual" about it, but I guess that's marketing.
Hi Rebekah- I'm assuming you've done both parts of the trail. I'm definitely more into the historical authenticity. I was hoping the "spiritual" route was actually a peaceful spiritual experience, but it sounds like that isn't the case. Everywhere I travel needs to be historical/cultural, not at all modern with tourist traps, so it sounds like Caldas is more my style. Thank you so much for your input. Hopefully, some others will weigh in so I can make a decision. Thank you.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
Hi Rebekah- I'm assuming you've done both parts of the trail. I'm definitely more into the historical authenticity. I was hoping the "spiritual" route was actually a peaceful spiritual experience, but it sounds like that isn't the case. Everywhere I travel needs to be historical/cultural, not at all modern with tourist traps, so it sounds like Caldas is more my style. Thank you so much for your input. Hopefully, some others will weigh in so I can make a decision. Thank you.
I have only walked the route through Caldas de Reis, although I've seen videos of the "Spiritual Variant".

In my travels, I've often found that the historical/cultural often coincides with the modern and touristy. That's because many modern tourists are interested in seeing the history and culture. When you get to Santiago de Compostela, for example, you will be at a place of great historical and cultural significance. There will also be a lot of tourists and souvenir shops catering to them. There was a whole thread on these forums recently complaining about the proliferation of souvenir shops in Santiago de Compostela (although I seem to recall seeing many of them in 1989 before the popularity explosion of the Camino).

The route through Caldas de Reis is definitely the one that is better documented in historical records of pilgrimages. The town itself has quite the history. It also has a history (continuing into the present) of catering to tourists who come to "take the waters", and reap the reputed health benefits of the hot springs. If you want to stay an extra day there, there are nice spas where you can stay in luxury to do the same. If you aren't going to stay at those, there are a couple of public hot springs fountains. There is a small one right by the Camino where pilgrims are wont to soak their feet. That won't make the locals happy, as they see that as one for drinking water. There is a much larger one a few blocks away for foot soaking.

The "Spiritual Variant", as has been pointed out, has been waymarked more recently. It receives a fraction of the traffic that the main route receives. For that reason, it is somewhat less touristy. If quiet contemplation in nature during your walk is what you are looking for, you may find this one suits better. It does end with a boat ride for most people (although some choose to walk the last bit). The theoretical justification for the boat ride is that you are following the route taken by the remains of Saint James when they returned to Iberia after he was martyred. So there is supposed to be some history behind it. In terms of cheating, apparently the Cathedral officials don't consider it cheating (so long as one has walked far enough before taking the boat) and it does not disqualify one from receiving the Compostela. Those are the only pilgrimage rules I'm aware of that one could "cheat".
 
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
There was a whole thread on these forums recently complaining about the proliferation of souvenir shops in Santiago de Compostela (although I seem to recall seeing many of them in 1989 before the popularity explosion of the Camino).

And I saw many around the Plaza de Cervantes in 1977 (although SdeC in 1977 was nothing like it is today!)
 
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Gina73

New Member
Past OR future Camino
planning June 2020
I have only walked the route through Caldas de Reis, although I've seen videos of the "Spiritual Variant".

In my travels, I've often found that the historical/cultural often coincides with the modern and touristy. That's because many modern tourists are interested in seeing the history and culture. When you get to Santiago de Compostela, for example, you will be at a place of great historical and cultural significance. There will also be a lot of tourists and souvenir shops catering to them. There was a whole thread on these forums recently complaining about the proliferation of souvenir shops in Santiago de Compostela (although I seem to recall seeing many of them in 1989 before the popularity explosion of the Camino).

The route through Caldas de Reis is definitely the one that is better documented in historical records of pilgrimages. The town itself has quite the history. It also has a history (continuing into the present) of catering to tourists who come to "take the waters", and reap the reputed health benefits of the hot springs. If you want to stay an extra day there, there are nice spas where you can stay in luxury to do the same. If you aren't going to stay at those, there are a couple of public hot springs fountains. There is a small one right by the Camino where pilgrims are wont to soak their feet. That won't make the locals happy, as they see that as one for drinking water. There is a much larger one a few blocks away for foot soaking.

The "Spiritual Variant", as has been pointed out, has been waymarked more recently. It receives a fraction of the traffic that the main route receives. For that reason, it is somewhat less touristy. If quiet contemplation in nature during your walk is what you are looking for, you may find this one suits better. It does end with a boat ride for most people (although some choose to walk the last bit). The theoretical justification for the boat ride is that you are following the route taken by the remains of Saint James when they returned to Iberia after he was martyred. So there is supposed to be some history behind it. In terms of cheating, apparently the Cathedral officials don't consider it cheating (so long as one has walked far enough before taking the boat) and it does not disqualify one from receiving the Compostela. Those are the only pilgrimage rules I'm aware of that one could "cheat".
Hi David- Thank you for your insight. Very helpful. I'll do a little more research then to see which route is truly best for me.
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Past OR future Camino
Frances (2015)
Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (2019)
The theoretical justification for the boat ride is that you are following the route taken by the remains of Saint James when they returned to Iberia after he was martyred. So there is supposed to be some history behind it.

We had a pilgrim in our camino group that walked this route very recently. She loved it. The boat ride actually passes by 17 crosses marking the boat ride of St James remains until the arrival in Padron/Iria Flavia.

I walked Central and had a very good times in Caldas de Reis. Besides getting a water massage, I also ate amazing sardines in a tavern under the street level in the main road.

So, good thing is that you can't make a bad choice, whatever route you choose! What about getting to Pontevedra and checking how many days you have for walking, the weather forecast, and decide then?
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2019
I walked Central and had a very good times in Caldas de Reis. Besides getting a water massage, I also ate amazing sardines in a tavern under the street level in the main road.

Caldas de Reis means Hot Springs of Kings.
In Portugal there is Caldas da Rainha (of the Queen).
 

MarkyD

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés 31/08/2018 - 20/10/2018
We walked the spiritual variant at end of May 2019. It was an interesting walk, with a lot to see; including the spectacular arrival at the ria de Arousa, walking along its edge as you arrive into Vilanova de Arousa (which is where you can get the boat ride from). The descent from Armenteira follows a river course through forest paths and many old stone watermills - hence its name: Ruta de Pedra y Auga. It is a beautiful path and brings you eventually to Ribadumia - where you can find accommodation, or push on to Vilanova de Arousa.
The alternative route starts just a few km outside Pontevedra you first head toward Poío, where there is an old monestary of interest.
From there you wind your way along paths and roads to eventually arrive at the waterside and make your way to the charming old fishing village of Combarro - famous for its many small "Hórrios" (old grain storage sheds made from stone or wood) at the waterfront - and it's small streets that meander through the beautiful little village. Here there are many options to eat typical Galician seafood dishes - as well as many tourist shops.
There is quite a steep hill, which starts its ascent as you leave Combarro (which is approx 10km from Pontevedra) then dropping down from the summit you soon arrive at Armenteira - which has a wonderful old monastery. There is an albergue there too, and places to eat. So it's a place to stop the night, providing there are beds available of course.
The alternative route is much longer than the central route from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis, so skipping 32km of road walking by taking a 23km boat ride doesn't actually reduce your overall distance, the pilgrim office had no concern about it when we applied for our Compostela, as long as you still get your minimum 2 stamps per day over this last 100km (Tui to Santiago). But you can also walk if you don't want to take the boat ride. The boat ride goes from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures, which is about 4km before Padrón.
Caldas de Reis is a wonderful pilgrim town, so it also has its charm and lots of history. The spiritual route has been marketed to try and attract pilgrims, and perhaps its "authenticity" could be questioned, but nonetheless it is still a valid route to walk. The boat ride added a touch of adventure and the knowledgeable pilot (his name is Santiago - his boat is the RIB that holds about 12 people), was really great at providing historical information about the many "cruceiros" found at the water's edge, the Torre del Oeste, the mussel farms, the clam fishermen etc.
At the junction where you see the turn to the left to go on the Spiritual Variant the majority of pilgrims continued straight, but the few of us that opted to turn left and try the Spiritual Variant were not disappointed by our choice.

This link provides more complete information:
 
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surya8

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Portugues Central and Coastal 2017 & 2019; Portugues Interior, Sanabres, Fisterra & Muxia 2018
I'm planning my trip for June 2020 and when reading about Caldas de Reis, I thought maybe I'd stay there an extra night since there are hot springs, Roman ruins, etc. It sounded really nice. Then I read somewhere that I should definitely take the Spiritual Route. Has anyone taken both and have an opinion about it?
Also, I haven't done my research on the Spiritual Route completely yet, but I see many people referencing a boat ride. To me that sort of feels like cheating the route/walk. Any feedback on the boat?
I've walked both, and liked both :) Caldas: stayed there on my first Camino, had an ankle injury so I did appreciate soaking my feet in the hot springs for a short while - that's the free option, anything else is extra as far as I remember. Anyway, in terms of hot springs and atmosphere my favourites are Chaves in Portugal on Portugues Interior or Ourence on the Sanabres.
Variante Espiritual: there is a monastery in Armenteira, the route is slightly hilly, so walking sticks could be helpful here, very tranquil and picturesque. Part of the Camino coinsides with the Route of Water and Stone which is a very popular hiking day trip for the locals so might be busy on the weekend even in winter. There is a possibility of walking the last stage of the Espiritual, it's 32km, we did it in winter, I posted about it here: https://anna-camino.livejournal.com/7768.html Most people take the boat and really enjoy it as well.
Bom Camino! :)
 

doctorherman

Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances*3, Ingles, Primitivo, Finisterre, Baztan, and Portuguese
I walked through the traditional route and really enjoyed my stay at Balneario Acuna in Caldas. It was one of the highlights of the whole route from Lisbon. While the rooms are definitely nothing special, the big hot springs pool on a cold wet day was absolutely amazing and I spent over 2 hours in there. Felt absolutely amazing afterwards.
 
Past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
I was hoping the "spiritual" route was actually a peaceful spiritual experience, but it sounds like that isn't the case.
"Spiritual" can be a matter of personal perception or interpretation. My wife and I had one of our most spiritual Camino moments when we stayed one night at the Armenteira monastery on the Spiritual Variant. As part of that stay, we were able to attend the Vespers service at 7 p.m. At the conclusion, the nuns participating in the service had us and the other peregrino attendees come up for a pilgrims blessing. We found it quite touching and meaningful. The monastery grounds itself are quite lovely and quiet and we really enjoyed spending the night there.
Another monastery where you can stay on the SV is in Poio, the town before Combarro. Roy Uprichard describes spending the night there in his book about the Spiritual Variant. We did not stay there ourselves (since we had reservations in Combarro), but we did arrive at the church connected to the monastery just as they were celebrating a mass in honor of St. John.
In terms of scenery, there's just no comparison between the SV and the main route through Caldas. The way of water and stone after Armenteira wins hands down. And Combarro and Vilanova de Arousa, in my opinion, are much more interesting towns than Caldas.
A lot of this just comes down to personal preference. But my wife's blog has photos and descriptions of both routes (Caldas de Reis under "2018 Camino" and SV under "2019 Camino") and you can compare the two: https://twoclinestraveling.wordpress.com
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
I haven't walked the standard route, but I have walked the Variante Espiritual and loved it. Actually, it was my favourite part of the CP from Lisbon.

This is an article I wrote about the highlights of the Variante Espiritual.

Also, I haven't done my research on the Spiritual Route completely yet, but I see many people referencing a boat ride. To me that sort of feels like cheating the route/walk. Any feedback on the boat?
Yes, I had the same thought but having done it, it's not cheating at all. I haven't taken transport on any other camino but this is different because you travel in the wake of Santiago's posthumous journey. It very much feels in keeping with the camino spirit.

The "Spiritual Variant" is a newly waymarked hiking trail that offers pretty scenery and a boat ride. I am still at a loss to understand what is particularly "spiritual" about it, but I guess that's marketing.

It's more than pretty scenery and a boat ride. There are two monasteries to visit, both of which offer accommodation. At Armenteira, as @kenwilltravel outlined above, the nuns sing and bless pilgrims in their own language.
 

miguel_gp

Veteran Member
I walked through the traditional route and really enjoyed my stay at Balneario Acuna in Caldas. It was one of the highlights of the whole route from Lisbon. While the rooms are definitely nothing special, the big hot springs pool on a cold wet day was absolutely amazing and I spent over 2 hours in there. Felt absolutely amazing afterwards.
Booking.com quite often have a deal at the Acuna that includes a Room, Breakfast and a session in their indoor hydrotherapy pool. The outdoor pool is free with hotel stay (non-guests can pay at Reception to use it), very warm (at +30C) and inviting but from memory and despite the water temperature it is not open all year round.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I took the Spiritual Variant, but not for historical or spiritual reasons...I just had a curiosity about it and had read it was less traveled, which appealed to me...I was not disappointed!
 
Past OR future Camino
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
The "Spiritual Variant" is a newly waymarked hiking trail that offers pretty scenery and a boat ride. I am still at a loss to understand what is particularly "spiritual" about it, but I guess that's marketing.
Absolutely agree. In fact I find the use of this presumptuous name increasingly irritating. ...
 

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