It is in north-western Spain where Santiago de Compostela is located, where people believe that there are buried the remains of Saint James the Apostle. During the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims may face a spiritual journey that will help them connect with themselves while exploring parts of the country they may never see before. The pilgrimage will also enrich people’s culture.
Where to start?
The most famous starting point is in France; however, Portugal is also a great starting point, passing through different emblematic cities, and taking in some of the most beautiful landscapes that Portugal has to offer.
Usually, people join groups of pilgrims, making it easier in case of the need of help, as it is easier to alert somebody else. And of course, to make the last part of each stage easier: eating and sleeping. Normally, the person responsible for the group will deal with accommodation and eating issues, finding the best places for the pilgrims after a long day on the road.
The so-called “Caminho Português” may be started in any point from South to North, the most common places to start are the metropolitan Portuguese cities: Lisbon and Porto.
Lisbon as the first step
Starting in Lisbon, pilgrims will walk more than 500-kilometres, beginning in a city that combines History with modernity, Lisbon is a great starting point for the bravest pilgrims, who are not afraid of walking for almost a week before arriving in Santiago de Compostela.
Leaving Lisbon from the Belém Tower, pilgrims start hiking through the Portuguese vineyards, enveloping the pilgrims in the tranquillity of the Caminho Português. While starting in Lisbon, pilgrims will walk through some remarkable towns such as Santarém. Santarém is a medieval town full of Gothic architecture combined with the peaceful ambience of Igreja de Santa Maria da Graça.
After Santarém, pilgrims may have the opportunity to visit Coimbra, known as the Students City, having a massive academic culture surrounding the city, along with amazing churches, monasteries, and cathedrals, where one of the oldest universities in the world is placed.
Leaving Coimbra, after tasting a glass of Traçadinho by the Mondego River, pilgrims get closer to another famous starting point of the Caminho Português: Porto.
Now from Porto
The city of Vinho do Porto, is a famous starting point of the Caminho Português, as it is closer to Santiago de Compostela than Lisbon, but it is still a 200-kilometre walk.
Starting in the Porto Cathedral, this part of the Caminho will pass through the Minho region, once again passing through vineyards, but this time of the Portuguese Vinho Verde. Pilgrims may also enjoy the fruits of the land while thinking about their reason to do the Camino de Santiago.
Along this route, pilgrims may pass through the city of Barcelos, taking in the sites of the most famous Portuguese rooster and other pottery items. The pilgrims will certainly never forget about Galo de Barcelo and its vibrant colours.
Further along in the pilgrimage, walkers will pass along Ponte de Lima, being captivated by the ancient Roman bridge above the Lima River, and what is better than walking while listening to the sound of water?
Spain is closer, with Valença the last stop in Portugal that pilgrims may do. Already in Spain, it is Tui, where most people start the pilgrimage, doing a 100-kilometre walk, which is enough to receive the Compostela, a diploma that certifies that the pilgrimage was made.
In Tui, people are already in Spain, getting closer to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the eventual end of their spiritual journey, made with friends, family or even alone. Usually, people when arriving at the cathedral feel emotional and with the feeling of accomplished mission, probably knowing themselves and the others on the journey better, carrying with them a bag full of emotions, places, and happiness.
Pilgrims must make the Camino de Santiago with their Credential, which can be called the Pilgrim’s Passport. This document will serve as a record of the pilgrimage, marking the places the pilgrim visited, with a stamp given by certified people. The Credential may be acquired in churches, albergues (the pilgrim’s accommodations), or pilgrim associations. The Credential will have spaces for the stamps and the dates and must be marked by the person responsible for certain places, which also include bars. Collecting the stamps, or sellos, is not only something necessary to get the Compostela but also a way of recording memories and reminding the pilgrim that the Camino is being completed successfully.
To get the Compostela, the certificate of completion of the pilgrimage, it is issued by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. To be eligible for the Compostela, pilgrims must have completed at least 100 kilometres by foot, or at least 200 kilometres if making the Camino on horseback or bicycle, therefore it is important to mark all the possible sellos along the way to prove how many kilometres have been completed.
On foot, horseback, or bicycle, starting from the Algarve, Lisbon, Porto, or even by the border, the important part of the Camino de Santiago is the pilgrim’s motivations. Everything may only be done when there is faith, will, and of course appropriate shoes!
Never forget that while making the Camino de Santiago, to preserve the natural beauty of the places as well as protecting yourself from sunburn, dehydration and other issues that may appear along the way.