On our tenth and final day of the Camino Portuguese, we hiked 16 miles from Padrón to Santiago de Compostela. It was a day filled with excitement and intense emotion as our Camino adventure came to a close. The pilgrimage experience is truly unlike any other, and it was a lot of fun to be able to share it with my wife and son this time around.
Stage Map And Overview
- Distance: 16 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1755 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 26 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 865 ft
- Time: 8 hours
- Stage Overview: This stage includes a bit of natural pathways, but finishes with a lot of asphalt and concrete.
Camino Portuguese Day 10: Padron to Santiago de Compostela
We began our final day on the Camino looking for a place to eat breakfast in Padrón. As we passed by the main albergue in town, we heard a jovial man calling to us from the distance. “Buen Camino”, he shouted towards us, as we began walking in his direction.
The man waved us into his cafe, and we were blown away by the decor on the inside. This was a true pilgrim hangout along the Camino. The walls were canvassed in flags, photos, hats, shirts, and other Camino memorabilia from pilgrims who had walked this way before us. I ordered our customary coffees, pastries, and juices for breakfast, while feeling the amazing warmth from the couple who operated this cafe.
After breakfast, we made our way out of town on a long stretch of asphalt roads. Parts of this stretch run right along the busy N-550 highway, but fortunately only for a short spells at a time.
The morning air was crisp and cool, with puffy white clouds hovering above a pitch blue sky. Owen was enjoying the pleasant weather, and we were getting a kick out of how much he was enjoying this Camino experience. At the beginning of the trip, we weren’t quite sure how he would handle walking 15 mile days for 10 days in a row. As we made our way towards Santiago on the final leg of this 150-mile journey, I was amazed at how he surpassed all of my expectations.
The final day of a pilgrimage or travel excursion is always a mixed bag of emotions. I always find myself looking around and trying to take every last sight in, wondering which ones I’ll miss most. Would it be the hydrangeas, the oddly shaped buildings, the dogs, the fellow pilgrims, the food, or my son kicking happily in his stroller?
After a few miles of walking, we left the main roads behind for a while and passed through some quaint villages on a path of cobblestone. I developed a love/hate relationship with cobblestone and asphalt on the Camino Portuguese. The Camino Frances had more dirt paths and trails than the Portuguese Route, but once I stopped comparing the two, the Portuguese began to develop a charm of its own. One of the things I’ll remember most about the Portuguese way is the abundance of granite, and the skill with which the local stonemasons have used it for construction.
As we passed the Camino marker that signified we had 18km (11 miles) left, it all seemed to click for Owen as well. Every passing pilgrim had a vibrant energy that only grew larger as we got closer to Santiago. His energy levels were so high, we began to grow worried he wouldn’t go down for his usual midday nap. That worry didn’t last long though, as he fell asleep shortly after I took the photo below.
Dogs tend to have a bad reputation on the Camino, as some roam off leash and can scare pilgrims. We saw a few like this on our journey from Porto, but met way more friendly dogs than non-friendly. One of our favorite encounters was near the A Escravitude shrine, where we met an entire family of friendly beagles.
From the town of Teo, The Way follows side roads and natural pathways until reaching Milladoiro. In Milladoiro, we stopped for a quick lunch, before embarking on the final 4 miles towards the cathedral in Santiago.
The approach towards Santiago de Compostela is an experience unlike any other. Even though this was my second time, the excitement from my first trip only seemed to fuel my emotions for this second one. I was also feeding off Julia and Owen’s energy, who were about to see the Santiago cathedral for the first time.
Pilgrims on the Camino Portuguese enter on a different road than those walking the Frances and other routes. The Way from Portugal enters from Rua Fonseca and into the Praza das Praterias to enter the cathedral via the southern door. This is the oldest doorway on the Santiago Cathedral and dates back to the year 1078. After approaching the south entrance and Praza das Praterias, we walked around to Praza do Obradoiro, also known as “The Golden Square”. This is where pilgrims and tourists can see the iconic west-facing facade of the Santiago cathedral, and be treated to the sights of jubilant pilgrims amidst the sounds of bagpipes and cheers.
After 10 days and 150-miles, we had made it to Santiago! We stood in Praza do Obradoiro taking it all in. Owen was saying “hi” to all and waving at every fellow pilgrim that passed by. As much as I enjoyed arriving in Santiago back in 2012 from the Frances route, this pilgrimage meant a lot more. The next generation of Camino adventures began here, and I can’t wait to see the path that my son’s life takes.
To our astonishment and delight, the first people we saw upon entering The Golden Square was Marco and Emira, who we had been walking with over the past week. We also saw Peter, Felix, our friends from Brazil, or friends from Germany, and many other fellow walkers that we had met on our path to Santiago.
After enjoying our time in front of the cathedral, we checked into our nearby hotel, the Hotel Rua Villar. We all took a shower, found a place to eat lunch (Owen chose pizza again!), and then made our way over to the Pilgrim’s Office to pick up our official compostelas. It was a bit surreal to look through our Camino passports and all of the places our feet had taken us over the past ten days.
After picking up our compostelas at the Pilgrim’s Office, we made our way back out to Praza do Obradoiro to watch the sunset on the Cathedral and close out one of the most memorable experiences I’m likely to ever enjoy.
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