Hellooooo, ladies and lads! It’s been awhile, and mostly due to the fact that I went to SPAIN! (and Portugal obviously since this blog post is about the Camino Portugues…)
But before I share my lovely experiences about Spain, the Camino, and Santiago, I wanted to get something out of the way first. I landed in Spain 1 hour before the terrorist attack happened. When all was said and done, I ended up less than a mile away from La Rambla when it happened. I know, I know, I know, the terrorist attack in Barcelona was absolutely horrific. My heart goes out to all of those immediately affected. But the bright side is the lovely Catalans, and the rest of the world for that matter, stayed strong through it all. I am so relieved that everyone is continuing on in their life; it is truly heartwarming and just goes to show this world is also full of love and resilience.
Ok, now the fun stuff! So we spent a couple of days in Barcelona doing the touristy things like La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, El Born, you know, the places that all of the travel sites say you have to go to. Then we took a flight over to the wonderful Portugal!
Porto was an absolute dream. I would definitely put this gorgeous lake town on your to-do list of visiting the world. Before this trip, I had no desire to travel to Portugal, but I am glad I decided to go. The Portuguese are the sweetest, the views are incredible, and the port is perfect!
Unfortunately, we only had half a day in Porto before we were on our next adventure. There are plenty of sites talking about all the things to do here, but if you only have an afternoon, definitely visit the places I went to! Aside from just walking around town, it is worth it to see the Porto train station, the Douro, and walk across the infamous Dom Luis bridge. The bridge is up HIGH, but it was absolutely worth it to cross.
Another great thing to do in Porto is to taste the wine! We only had a bit of port, but we also had some great sangria alongside the river. The restaurants here are chock full of great seafood and drinks. They also offer great views of the river!
After our lovely evening in Porto, it was off to the camino! I think we did a total of 60 miles on our trip, starting with the Camino Portugues. Our first leg was from just outside of Porto to Ponte de Lima, Portugual.
Even though we had all day to walk 10 miles, we needed it! The weather chose to be around 95°F when we were walking, so it was pretty exhausting. If I could do this trip over, I would definitely recommend hiking the camino in a month other than August. The heat made it unbearable at times.
Once we finally made it to Ponte de Lima, we were tired and overheated. I wish we had more time to explore this cute river town. From what we did explore, I can tell you right now that the seafood is amazing! In fact, this whole trip had amazing seafood. Another thing about Ponte de Lima was the history along with it. There were so many old buildings to explore. We were also there during their market day and it took up almost two whole streets! The giant market would have been fun to explore, but we were on a schedule. My takeaway from the first day was to enjoy the walk, but also do this hike at a different time of the summer and to leave more time to explore bigger towns like Porto and Ponte de Lima. This was a common thing for me, as I wish we had more time to explore Santiago, but more on that later.
Before we moved from Portugal to Spain, we gained some elevation to this gorgeous mountain. At the top, we overlooked this valley full of trees and it was well worth the climb. Labruja mountain is on the way of St. James, so it isn’t hard to find if you follow the camino Portugues.
After Ponte de Lima, can you guess what we did? If you thought, more walking, then you are right! We walked, and walked, and walked until we were in Spain!
If you do the Camino, even though this kind of goes without saying, but definitely bring nice shoes to walk and hike in. If I didn’t have my trail runners on this trip, I would have been in serious pain on the last couple of days.
But on the bright side, the what we saw along the way of our trip was breathtaking! When hiking the Camino, its easy to get in the groove of just walking to get your miles in, but it’s also important to take time and appreciate the view. For me, walking around the little towns in Portugal and Spain was truly amazing. California, and most of the US for that matter, doesn’t really have anything like Portugal. There are no cobblestone streets or trellised vineyards. These two countries had so much to offer and I’m so thankful to travel them.
Our next stop, after Portugal, was Galicia in Spain. We stayed in castle that was converted to a hotel. It was so fun to explore the ins and outs of the castle. During our stay, which was only a day, we also explored the surrounding islands. Taking a break from walking the camino to explore nearby beaches and other attractions was worth it to me because we got to see more of Spain! I know that the camino asks a lot of each person completing it, but I would recommend taking time to explore other areas along the way. Sometimes you see great things!
After Galicia and Baiona, we were on our way to Santiago! We hopped over to the Camino Frances (the most popular camino), and we continued walking. The theme of this trip is walking! Walking on dirt, walking on roads, hiking up a mountain, walking on gorgeous cobblestone…we definitely did our fair share of walking!
Even though we were walking a ton, we had some beautiful views of the coast and trails along the way. We also rarely had to worry about getting lost because the whole camino is guided by yellow arrows!
While our trail was on the coast for a portion, we also were in the countryside and surrounded by trees. The camino gave us an opportunity to explore the country while being away from tourists and exploring the authentic culture of Portugal and Spain. Plus, the camino also has other pilgrims and you get a chance to meet other great people!
After we made it to Santiago, we were able to spend about half a day in this historic town. The cathedral was breathtaking, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. All in all, this camino was great! I loved that we were able to jump around different caminos and really soak in all of the history.
Before I end this post, I wanted to share a couple of things I learned along the way. Even though I already mentioned the weather and shoes, I want to reiterate the importance of hiking when its cooler outside and wearing sturdy shoes! Seriously.
I also wanted to say that we hiked the camino with a tour group. At first I was a bit worried about having a guide through this experience, since it somewhat sounded fabricated, but I was pleasantly surprised. Having a tour guide was helpful and fun because they were able to help us if we got lost (which thankfully never happened) and we could use their vans to jump between caminos. I know this was a different take on this pilgrimage, but it was well worth it.
So please keep your mind open to this camino! The Portugues way can be a bit harder to complete because resources (like cafes and hostels) can be scarce at times. If you are able to do it, though, you will not be disappointed! Even being able to hike a bit of it will give you an opportunity to see gorgeous views. If you want to hear more about the camino, be sure to comment below. And if you’re worried that you can’t hike this much, just remember to take it one stride at a time!