Welcome to Galicia. You’ve undoubtedly heard about the independence movements of the Catalans and the Basques, along with their fierce pride in a culture that they see as distinct from the rest of Spain, but there is another region with its own language and historical independence that we rarely hear about.
Tucked into the Northwest, sitting above Portugal, Galicia is a land of mountains, snake-like estuaries known as Rias, and enough gloriously rugged coastline to last a lifetime. While there may be more noise about independence from Catalonia and the Basque Country, Galicia was once its own country by right and still retains a cultural identity utterly different from other parts of Spain.
Walking the second stage of the Camino Portuguese takes you from the border with Portugal through the historical town of Redondela and Pontevedra, the provincial capital of Galicia, passing charming villages and over peaceful estuaries, through thick forests, before finally arriving at the hallowed gates of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. This is, quite simply, a walk you won’t forget anytime soon.
Camino Portuguese – Stage 2
With the route starting in Tui, on the border with Spain and Portugal, it’s a toss-up which way is easiest to arrive. Vigo, in Galicia, and Porto are nearby and have connections with Ireland. Considering you’ll be spending at least five days in Galicia, it might be a nice idea to spend a couple of days in Porto’s delightful city before catching the train up to Tui.
After arriving in Tui, you’ll have the rest of the day to relax and take in your new Galcian surroundings. While you’re here, why not pop over to Portugal (a short walk over the bridge) and visit Valença, with its large citadel overlooking the River Minha.
Day 2 – 16km
The first day of walking begins with a short transfer from Tui to Porrino, around 17 km away, where the walking starts. From there, the route winds north, passing small villages with charming chapels before arriving at Vigo Bay – which appeared in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea and was where Captain Nemo was able to salvage gold lost during the Battle of Vigo in 1702.
If you fancy a quick side detour, the route leading up to El Mejor Banco Del Mundo De Redondela (the best bench in the world) is short, and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view down the bay and all the way out to the Atlantic. And yes, it just might be the best bench in the world.
The first evening on the road will be spent in either Redondela or Cesantes, next door to each other. Redondela is a small town with a charming old quarter, while Cesantes is much smaller but does have a beach close by.
Day 3 – 20km
The next day involves a 20km walk from Rendondela to Pontevedra, one of the most popular sections to walk as the route winds around the Ria de Vigo, with jaw-dropping landscapes around you.
Just as the water peters out, the path crosses the medieval bridge at Pontesampaio and heads directly north through open rolling land, pocked with vineyards, small villages, and plenty of stone granaries known as Hórreo which are unique to Galicia and Northern Portugal.
Pontevedra may not be the biggest city in Galicia, but it is the capital and simply oozes charm. Drop your bags and head out to explore the old stone streets and enjoy some food in one of the many beautiful squares.
Day 4 – 23km
Heading out of Pontevedra the next day, you’ll quickly be embraced by the eucalyptus and pine forests that Galicia is known for. There is something deeply mythical, almost magical, about this part of the country.
As well as the many Horreos, you’ll pass countless cruceiros, stone crosses that go much further than your standard Christian crosses. These are often placed on roads, crossroads, squares, or near shrines or burial places. They were said to protect from spells and the dreaded Santa Campana, a procession of the dead wearing white, hooded cloaks that appear in the countryside on some night. Don’t worry, you should be fine as long as you’re not out on the country trails around midnight….
It is a hugely enjoyable 23 km walk from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis, where you’ll spend the evening.
Day 5 – 19km
Your penultimate day walking links Caldas de Reis with the small town of Padron. If you’re wondering why that name sounds a little familiar, it is where the world-famous padron pepper takes its name. With that in mind, it would be rude not to indulge in some local delicacies in this historic location after you arrive.
But first, you have some walking to do. The 19km takes you through the small village of Santa Marina de Carracedo, with its small but delightful church, and through yet more forests and land that, on several occasions, shares more than a striking resemblance to Ireland.
Your final act of the day is to cross the River Ulla and into Padron, where, as the story goes, the stone boat carrying the body of St James stopped, with his disciples transporting it overland to the city just to the north. Santiago de Compostela now beckons.
Day 6 – 24km
If you don’t have plenty of excitement on your last day when you wake up, it’s sure to kick in when you see Santiago’s famed spires appear on the horizon for the first time. On the way, you’ll pass through the villages of A Escravitude, Faramello and Milladoiro as you draw towards the famous city hundreds of thousands have walked to for over a millennium.
It can be emotional for many as they step into Obradoiro Square and turn to face the towering cathedral. This is the end of the road, but take your time here. Sit down and watch other pilgrims enter the square, some of whom have walked for hundreds of miles. There is a wonderful, intoxicating sense of achievement – quite unlike anywhere in the world.
Once you’re done, head to the Pilgrims Office and get your Certificate of Completion (Compostela), then Santiago is your oyster. Enjoy the many bars and restaurants – and toast your success. You made it.
We’d recommend staying an extra night or two in Santiago if you can. It’s a beautiful city, small enough to walk around, yet with so much to explore. You won’t want to be rushing off.
When it is time to head home, Santiago serves connections to Ireland, making the journey home nice and easy. And as that plane soars into the sky, crane your next back, and you can make out the vague direction you have just come from, which took you five days of walking to complete. Then nestle into your seat with a huge sense of satisfaction. A job well done.