I just returned home from a successful hike of the Camino Portuguese with my wife and 2-year old son. Beginning in Porto, we hiked nearly 150-miles until we reached our final destination, the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It was an incredible experience highlighted by great food, countryside exploration, new friends, and breathtaking vistas.
Having solo hiked the 500-mile Camino Frances in 2012, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the Portuguese Route this time around. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit anxious embarking on such an adventure with a toddler. He loved every minute of his Camino though, and made this trip one we’ll remember forever. In 2012, I hiked the 500 mile French route in 22 days. This trip on the Portuguese required a much slower pace, and because of that, I enjoyed it quite a bit more. I have a ton of photos, videos, and stories to share in the weeks ahead, but for now, here are my 15 favorite photo moments from the Camino Portuguese!
1. Experiencing The Pre-Camino Excitement In Porto
Starting the Camino Portuguese from a large city like Porto was a stark departure from my starting point on the Camino Frances, the village of St. Jean Pied du Port. Porto made for a great base to adjust to a new time zone and enjoy the sites of a beautiful Portuguese city. We also enjoyed great local foods like francesinha!
2. Leaving From the Porto Cathedral
After spending two nights in Porto to relax and adjust to a new time zone, we officially began the Camino Portuguese from the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto). The cathedral sits up on a hill overlooking the city, which provided some breathtaking views. We were surprised how abundant the markings were in Porto. We never once had to guess or search for where to go, as every turn was directed by the yellow arrows towards Santiago (and blue for Fatima).
3. Counting Our Blessings Despite The Rain
Our first three days of walking on the Camino Portuguese were less than perfect in the weather department. It rained everyday. I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as bad weather though, just bad gear. If you come prepared with the right gear, any outdoor outing can be a lot of fun. We had all of our rain gear dialed in and ready to go, allowing us to take in the natural splendor despite the dark and drizzling skies.
4. Crossing The Bridge Into Barcelos
The first day on the Camino Portuguese is a mentally tough one, as the trail leading out of Porto sticks to sidewalks, cobblestones, and narrow roads with lots of car traffic. Day 2 is quite a bit nicer and adds more natural pathways. The highlight of the second day is the final stretch leading into Barcelos. The Way crosses over a bridge and pilgrims leave Barcelinos behind towards the town of Barcelos and the nearby medieval ruins.
5. The Horses, Sheep, Goats
We don’t get to see a lot of farm animals living in Southern California, so the daily exposure to sheep, horses, cows, goats, chickens, and pigs was a lot of fun for Owen. It was pretty funny to hear him emulating the sounds of the farm animals as we walked along.
6. Bonding With Fellow Pilgrims
When we first started walking, fellow pilgrims had a look of amazement and disbelief when they saw we had a toddler along for the ride. As we continued to keep pace with people day after day, their looks and words turned into admiration and encouragement. As many tend to find on the Camino, it’s easy to create a little Camino family as you see the same people day after day. Owen helped us create a massive Camino family as we walked since everyone wanted to talk with us about him and take his picture. It didn’t matter if we spoke the same language or not, there is something about the energy and pure spirit of a child that brings people together for good.
7. Watching My 2-Year Old Grow Up
Speaking of my toddler, I can’t put into words how proud I am of his accomplishment. Each day we would walk around 15 miles, and my little man would manage 2-3 of those on his own. The rest he would enjoy from his stroller or kid carrier. He never cried or complained, and was genuinely interested in all of our activities each day. He sat down like a gentleman for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and was charming and courteous to everyone we met. He helped find and point out arrows and scallops and indulged me every time I asked him to pose for a photo. I saw Owen make a ton of personal growth during our trips to Iceland and Vietnam, but he really grew up on the Camino.
8. Pushing A Stoller Up Alto Da Portelo
Alto da Portelo is the hardest climb of the entire Camino Portuguese. Compared to the hikes we do at home, this trail is one we would usually consider a cake walk…but, we usually don’t hike with a fully loaded stroller! For the hike up to the 400m Alta Da Portelo, Julia put Owen on her back and I pushed and carried his stroller up the rock laden fire road and single track. It was a high effort stretch of activity, but provided some very nice views.
9. Meeting Locals And Making Friends
As I mentioned above, hiking with a toddler starts up a lot of conversations. It wasn’t just pilgrims that were interested in our walk, the locals from each town we passed through were equally interested and impressed. It was a lot of fun for us as parents to see Owen interact with people speaking a different language, especially when he met a little girl his age!
10. Crossing The Border from Valença, Portugal to Tui, Spain
The Camino Portuguese begins in Portugal and ends in Spain. The border crossing takes place on the Minho River as pilgrims cross a bridge from the city of Valença, Portugal to Tui, Spain.
11. Enjoying The Views And Solitude On The Way
The Camino Portuguese includes a lot of cities, cobblestone roads, asphalt, and concrete. In regards to scenic beauty and landscapes, I feel the Frances has it beat by a wide margin. That doesn’t mean the Portuguese route isn’t beautiful though, it just presents its beauty in shorter spouts. The massive amount of road walking also made me appreciate the spells of natural pathways a great deal more.
12. Super Bock, Estrella Galicia, Bocadillos, And More!
When you’re walking 15 miles a day you’re going to burn a ton of calories. It’s imperative that pilgrims refuel and hydrate throughout the day. My ideal morning would start with two coffees and a croissant. For lunch, I’d usually order a bocadillo sandwich with tortilla (omelette) or ham and cheese. For dinner, I’d stick to the multi-course pilgrims menu and max out on calories and protein for the following day. There is so much great food to be consumed on the Camino, I could do a dedicated post featuring my favorite options…maybe that’s what I’ll get working on next!
13. Reaching Padrón With Only One Day To Go
The final stage of the Camino Portuguese goes from Padrón to Santiago de Compostela. Much like my walk of the Camino Frances, I was filled with a mix of excitement and sadness when I realized our amazing journey would soon come to an end. For breakfast we were ushered into an amazing local bar with owners that cater to pilgrims walking the Camino. It was the perfect way to begin our final stage of walking.
14. Arriving In Santiago De Compostela
We walked into Santiago de Compostela under a clear blue sky with bagpipes playing in the cathedral courtyard. Owen just wanted to play with his toy trucks, but indulged us for a few celebratory photos. After 10 days of walking, we had completed our pilgrimage!
15. A Day Exploring Finisterre And Muxia
In 2012, I walked the Camino Finsterre after completing the Camino Frances. We were short on time for this trip, so we decided to take a day trip to “the end of the earth” instead. Even though we didn’t walk from Santiago to the ‘0,00km’ signpost near the Finisterre Lighthouse, it was still a very meaningful moment for all of us to see it, and the perfect way to end our vacation. We also took a trip out to Muxia, which I did not get to visit in 2012. It was a very fitting end to our two weeks of Camino adventures. We’re already looking ahead and hoping to plan the next one…maybe on the Camino Ingles!
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