Walking the Camino is, for many people, a life changing experience. But if you want to make the most of it it’s important to properly manage the effort you’re making while also focusing on your main target: reaching Santiago de Compostela. It doesn’t hurt to also keep your eye on the smaller prizes along the way, from the beautiful landscapes to the delicious cuisine and local wines.

Rest days are crucial and the stops we suggest, Ponte de Lima, Valença do Minho and Pontevedra, are strategically located, providing the perfect combo of effort management and unique traits, ranging from mouthwatering delicacies to striking views.

Ponte de Lima and Valença do Minho, the two Portuguese stops for rest days on the Central Camino, offer impressive sights and outstanding monuments, along with delectable food and drink. Typical flavours from this region include fresh seafood, traditional corn bread (broa de milho), cured bísaro pork and sparkling fresh vinho verde.

 

Ponte de Lima

 

Ponte de Lima

Pretty Ponte de Lima is the perfect place for a rest day before facing the epic climb of Serra da Labruja and its uneven terrain. Having a key location, the oldest Portuguese town certainly has more to offer than one would at first imagine. You can’t miss its postcard-worthy medieval bridge and a relaxed stroll along the bank of the river Lima. Then, head over to Largo de Camões, the central plaza perfect for drinks, local snacks and watching life go by. In the historical part of Ponte de Lima make a little time to visit the Gothic church (Igreja Matriz), the 14th century prison tower (Torre da Cadeia Velha) and the 17th century fountain.

Near the bridge you’ll see mock Roman troops made of wood. They act as a reference to an old legend according to which a group of soldiers were too scared to cross the river Lima. They believed it was in fact the Lethe, the mythical river of forgetfulness, and crossing it would mean forgetting about everything, include their beloved family and their homeland. The consul decided to cross the river alone and, having reached the other margin, started calling his soldiers one by one, thus proving them the Lima was not the Lethe.

 

Valença do Minho

Valenca do Minho

Just before crossing the Minho river to enter Spain take some time to enjoy the city of Valença do Minho. The fact that you’re halfway on your route makes Valença an ideal city for a rest day, but there are other perks to have in mind. Like so many towns and cities near the border, Valença sits on top of a hill (which means amazing views) and inside a fortress: just imagine how many attacks it faced since its building in the 13th century! Within the city walls the old streets spread out before you like a web taking you from houses in the local traditional style, to linen and handicraft shops to beautiful churches.

Particularly noteworthy are the 14th century church of Saint Stephen (Igreja de Santo Estevão) and the 13th century Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos). Don’t forget all the cafés and restaurants, too!

 

Pontevedra

Pontevedra

Already in Spain, Pontevedra greets you with extraordinary old churches and monuments, as well as some of the finest Galician food and wine. This city is another perfect stop for a rest day before dealing with the final stretch of the Camino. Pontevedra has a completely pedestrian historical centre which provides the ideal backdrop to enjoy some local tapas or Albariño wine in any of its lively plazas. Make sure not to skip the seafood, the empanadas (savoury pies) or the caldo gallego (a nourishing vegetable soup with sausage).

The Church of la Virgen Peregrina and the Museum of Pontevedra, along with the market and the bridges, are absolutely mandatory stops when visiting this city.

 

Head over to our tour suggestions and choose one of our options to ensure you have the best possible experience walking the Camino de Santiago.

A good night’s sleep makes a huge difference to your experience of the Camino de Santiago. There are various standards of accommodation along the Way of St. James, ranging from public pilgrim hostels to luxury historical hotels. Clearly, the likelihood of restful sleep will be greater if you have a private room and there are many options for this.

Find out which Camino accommodation would suit you best.

 

Pousadas and Paradores

These are usually historical buildings, often former monasteries, fortresses, hospitals or other notable buildings, which have been tastefully converted into luxury hotels.

Original architectural and decorative features make these accommodations truly unique and special while all the usual modern comforts and 5-star service standards allow you to fully relax and enjoy the experience.

Pousadas and Paradores are not available in every location on the Camino but if you are looking for luxury accommodation, we use 4 and 5-star hotels in our Upgraded Camino package to supplement these historical gems and guarantee an elevated level of comfort throughout your journey.

parador_de_baiona

 

Hotels on the Camino de Santiago

In larger towns and cities, the full range of hotels is usually available, from clean and comfortable 2-star hotels to luxurious 5-star ones. Our standard Camino package typically includes 2-3 star hotels that are on, or as close as possible to, the Camino.

We have personally vetted and negotiated with each of our selected hotels to make sure they provide the quality and service standards we demand for our clients. For example, in some hotels, we have arranged for our clients to have an upgraded breakfast where we feel the basic breakfast is not enough to set you up properly for a day on the Camino.

Country Inns

Portugal and Galicia have some wonderful rural accommodations to offer in the form of country inns. These are usually renovated centuries-old farmhouses or manor houses surrounded by gorgeous countryside. They tend to be family-run and offer home-cooked food, often using produce from the estate. Many have an outdoor pool, or at least pretty gardens to relax in after a day on the trail.

If you are happier staying in the countryside than in towns and cities, our Country Inns programme might be best for you. We’ll arrange for your hosts to collect you from the Camino and take you to the property if necessary.

 

Guest houses, pensions and residencials

Although we don’t use them, there is another category of accommodation in between hotels and hostels which covers simple lodgings, usually in a family-run establishment. Here, you’d expect to get your own room and a bathroom, although that might be shared with other guests. Breakfast and dinner may or may not be included or available.

 

Hostels on the Camino

The cheapest option for a bed for the night would be at a pilgrim hostel.

The public albergues are usually staffed by volunteers and operate on a first come, first served basis. This means that people often get up really early in order to get a head start. Priority is given to walkers rather than cyclists.

Room sizes and specific rules vary but you may end up in a mixed dormitory with 40 or more people, sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities. Be prepared to carry your own bedding, towel, soap and even toilet paper as luggage transfer services will not deliver to public hostels.

Private hostels exist where you can book a bed in advance and will usually be sharing with fewer people. They may provide bedding but not towels but it’s best to check and you may wish to take a sleeping bag liner.

Again, we want to make sure you are in accommodations that are conducive to a restful, restorative sleep so we don’t use hostels or guest house level accommodations.

 

What you need to know about cycling the Portuguese Camino de Santiago

While the ancient pilgrim trails through Portugal and Galicia to Santiago de Compostela were developed by walkers, the good news for cycling enthusiasts is that it’s also possible to cycle the Camino.

Whether you opt to follow the Coastal Way, the Central Route or the lesser-travelled Santiago to Finisterre route, you can be sure of stunning scenery and delicious food throughout your journey.

 

What’s different for cyclists on the Camino?

If you wish to qualify for the compostela pilgrim certificate, you’ll need to cycle at least the last 200 kilometres to Santiago de Compostela as opposed to the 100 kilometres required for those on foot. Just remember to get your pilgrim passport (credencial) stamped regularly along the route to prove you have covered this distance.

Some off-road sections of the original trail are particularly challenging for cyclists. For this reason, our detailed route notes and GPS trails recommend some detours from the walking route so that you can skip the most problematic parts and enjoy a smoother ride.

Since you’ll be moving faster than walkers, you can cover more ground in less time. We have divided the Porto-Santiago Camino into six or seven stages, depending on the route. This means that some days will be quite long (up to 55 kms) while others are relatively short, giving you plenty of time to explore the towns where you are staying overnight.

 

Can anyone cycle the Camino de Santiago?

Even with the detours, the Camino is not an ‘easy’ route by bike, although it is enjoyable for experienced cyclists. You need to be proficient and confident at cycling among traffic and dealing with a range of off-road situations.

The terrain varies from busy urban roads, quiet country lanes and level cycle paths to uneven dirt and stone trails and granite cobblestones.

You also need to be physically fit and capable of carrying your bike short distances or up and down a few steps where necessary. At times, it will be easier to push the bike than to ride it.

If you’d like to make things a little easier on yourself, you can upgrade to an electric bike, which gives you a welcome boost to tackle hills.

 

What technical skills do you need?

You’ll be cycling the Camino without a guide so you need to know how to perform a few basic tasks, such as pumping up your tyres and changing gears. You should also know how to change an inner tyre in case you get a puncture as bike shops are very few and far between.

We only use new, top quality mountain bikes so there shouldn’t be any mechanical problems with the bicycle. If you do have a more serious problem while you’re on the road, call us and we’ll sort it out.