Caminho Portugues

St James Way

Caminho

From Porto, the Saint James Way leaves on two different routes, reuniting near Vigo, Spain. The ‘Caminho da Costa’ presents a more accessible option, tracing a serene coastal path with straightforward terrain. Alternatively, the ‘Caminho do Centro’ presents a bigger challenge through the rugged northern Portuguese mountains.

The ‘Caminho da Costa’ unfolds coastal panoramas, showcasing golden beaches hugging the Atlantic’s blue waters. As riders pedal, they’re greeted by rolling hills adorned with vibrant flora, while occasional cliffs provide stunning vantage points over the vast ocean.

On the ‘Caminho do Centro,’ adventurers traverse a different landscape, immersing themselves in dense forests of ancient trees, traversing serene valleys, crossing crystalline streams and glimpses of the towering Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Historical landmarks punctuate this the St. James Way. Pilgrims encounter medieval towns like Barcelos and Ponte de Lima, each adorned with architectural treasures and atmospheric cobblestone streets. Churches and cathedrals, such as the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, stand as enduring symbols of spiritual devotion and architectural grandeur.

Charming villages like Tui and Valença enchant with their ancient walls. Meanwhile, bustling towns like Redondela and Caldas de Reis pulsate with energy, inviting pilgrims to partake in local traditions and immerse themselves in the rich mosaic of Galician culture.

Along the ‘Caminho,’ cyclists will traverse diverse terrains. Exiting Porto, the St. James Way initially leads through suburban and industrial areas. We recommend an alternate scenic route along the picturesque river delta of Rio Douro, rejoining the original St. James Way later in Rates.

Throughout the entire route, roads and paths are well-maintained, especially upon reaching Spain. The central way includes some bumpy narrow forest paths adorned with thick roots and ancient cobblestones. The toughest stage without any doubts is to face after leaving Ponte de Lima. The highest elevation on this route, Labruja, presents a steep ascent and descent in challenging terrain, occasionally necessitating bike pushing or carrying. This is particularly noteworthy, especially for riders using heavier e-bikes.

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On the coastal way, gravel bikes can be a suitable choice. With some experience, approximately 80-90% of the route—whether paved or unpaved—can be comfortably traversed using gravel bikes. However, there are sections where mountain bikes are unquestionably preferable. Additionally, consider the travel season: the summer in the north is shorter, while spring and fall tend to be more rainy. During these periods, we highly recommend opting for mountain bikes.

 

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Highlights

The Saint Jacobs Way is the most used pilgrimage way of the world. The “Caminho Portugues”, the Portuguese version with start in Lisbon or Porto is quickly winning popularity over the last years, but is still a hidden secret in compare to the traditional French way coming from northern Spain. Vibrant citys and charming historic cities border the way, no matter if it is the Caminho da Costa, the way along the coast, or the Caminho do Centro, the way through the northern Portuguese mountains.

As you traverse ancient routes and meander through picturesque countryside, every turn of the wheel unveils the raw beauty of Portugal. Pedal through sun-dappled vineyards, where the aroma of grapes fills the air, and feel the refreshing breeze as you ride along pristine coastal cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Discover the hidden gems of charming villages and towns along your path, where the warmth of the locals matches the Mediterranean sun. Cyclists become pilgrims, forging connections with fellow travelers from around the world, sharing stories by the campfire, and creating lasting bonds amidst the tranquility of nature.

With each ascent through rolling hills and descents into lush valleys, you’ll find your spirit soaring, your body rejuvenated, and your mind attuned to the serenity of the open road. This is more than a bike trip; it’s an immersive experience in which cycling becomes a gateway to unlocking the extraordinary beauty and untamed nature of Portugal. Let your journey along the Portuguese St. James Way be a symphony of cycling and nature, where your soul finds its rhythm amid the breathtaking landscapes of this unforgettable pilgrimage.”

Porto Lisbon by bike

Ponte de Lima - Valenca

Crossing its centuries-old Roman bridge over the Lima River is the beginning of the queen stage of the Portuguese Way to Santiago.

After all, the mythical climb to the Serra da Labruja lies ahead, where the famous “Cruz dos Franceses” lives. In just over 4 km you will have to overcome a difference of 300 meters. It’s not a sweet pear, but if you take the climb calmly, you’ll be able to overcome this challenge, while the close contact with nature will be a huge help. We pass by the typical village of Minho de Rubias and shortly later it’s time for a farewell to the Portuguese lands, when the way continues in Spain from tomorrow on. It’s relatively short and with little unevenness, which will allow you to rest a little from the “beatings” of the previous parts.

The stage of the following day is longer again, so it might be convenient to explore the beautiful border town of Valença do Minho already after your arrival. Be sure to visit the towering Forte de Valença, the Capela de São Sebastião, the Military Chapel of Bom Jesus, the Paços do Concelho, the Igreja Matriz de Santo Estêvão and the Church of Santa Maria dos Anjos. To end the day on the Portuguese Way in beauty, there is nothing like watching the sunset from one of the strongholds of Forte de Valença, with a superb view over the river Minho and the Spanish city of Tui, where you will pass tomorrow.

Coimbra by bike

Esponsede - Barcelos

Today we need to leave the coast for a bit to find the first highlight of the stage: the impressive Monastery of Rates. The part of the monastery that has survived to this day is the bell-tower and, most importantly, the Church dedicated to St Peter of Rates, which is a national monument since 1910. Reconstruction of the church began at the turn of the 11th to the 12th century, turning it into one of the oldest extant Romanesque churches in Portugal. The origin of the temple, that relate to the church itself, is dated to the Suebi-Visigothic period, although it incorporates older elements dating to the Roman period. Other elements also relate it to Asturian-Leonese period, prior to the prevailing Romanesque reconstruction.

Once we are back at the sea we enter the district of Braga and the way leads us along some of the most beautiful beaches in the north of Portugal, such as Aver-o-mar and Apúlia bordered by its photogenic windmills. Between Apúlia and Esposende, where the Cávado river flows, we cross the North Coast Natural Park, famous for its extensive dunes, green pine forests and wonderful beaches. Once in Esposende, we find the famous lighthouse and the São João Batista Fortress, before we leave the coast and turning towards to the Central Way to Santiago, which we reach a little up the river valley of Rio Cávado in Barcelos. The best known of Barcelos is indeed the famous legend of the rooster of Barcelos, which became kind of a worldwide known Portuguese symbol over the years and is present everywhere in the region.

Aveiro

Rondela - Padron

The route passes through the town of Ponte Sampaio, ancient stone paths, including Roman Via XIX sections like Brea Vella de A Canicouva. Then it approaches Pontevedra via Santa Marta Chapel, Tomeza, Casal do Río, and O Marco, leading to the historic city center.

Leaving Pontevedra via A Santiña Street, it crosses O Burgo Bridge, runs beside A Xunqueira de Alba wetland, and reaches Pontecabras and Santa María de Alba Church. Archbishop Diego Gelmírez once stopped in Guxilde on his way to Compostela.

After San Caetano Chapel, it goes through Reirís and Lombo da Maceira woods, crosses O Rego do Cárcere stream to Barro. Passing San Mauro to San Mamede da Portela, it leads to Valbón with three intriguing stone crosses, marking crossroads.

The route continues with varying terrains, passing Tivo, then entering Caldas de Reis, an ancient spa town mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary. It follows Santa Marta and Ferrería streets, crosses bridges over Umia and Bermaña rivers, reaches Santa Mariña de Carracedo, and proceeds through Mount Castelo.

Next stops are Cimadevilla, the Fontenlo River bridge, Cedelo, and Condide in Pontecesures, with a viewpoint at Pino Manso offering a view of the Ulla River valley. The route then crosses the Ulla River, separating Pontevedra and A Coruña provinces, entering Padrón, home to the Jacobean tradition.

The route enters the historic town of Padrón through Paseo do Espolón, featuring Santiago de Padrón Church, housing O Pedrón, a Roman altar stone with a carved cross attributed to St. James’s disciples.

Obidos

Valenca - Larache

The bridge over river Rio Minho marks the entrance to Spain and leads into the historic district of Tui. A milestone indicates that it is 115.4 km to Santiago. The historic and artistic charm of Tui – one of the seven capitals of the ancient Kingdom of Galicia – make their presence felt in every street, alley and passageway of its fine historic district.

The route passes Virxe do Camiño Chapel, Paredes de Baixo and the iconic San Telmo Bridge, also known as As Febres Bridge. After this, it runs through a dense wood known as A Ribeira before coming to the small village of A Magdalena. The Louro River flows beside the trail. In the distance, it is possible to make out the pink granite quarries to which this spot owes its fame.

After leaving O Porriño, the route soon reaches the chapel As Angustias. O Enxertado, with the valley to the east, there is a slight climb up to Santiaguiño de Anta Chapel, a simple monument surrounded by a lovely carballeira (oak wood) and a Roman milestone which once formed part of Via XIX – linking Braga and Astorga – guides the way to Redondela. After leaving Redondela, to the east, is the spectacular Ria of Vigo. The islands of San Simón and San Antón emerge from the center of the Ria and in the background, the panoramic view is completed by Rande Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge that rises above the mussel farmers’ rafts. Shortly later we cross the wall that seperates de Salinas de Ullo from the bay and find the end of this stage in the village of Larache.

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