El Camino Inglés

El Camino Inglés

It was the fifth Camino in number of pilgrims last year (https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/statistics/). In 2018 it continues to grow its popularity. I’m talking about the Camino Inglés, or English Way.

It’s so called because it was mainly British and Irish pilgrims who followed this route. From the 12th century onwards they used to travel by boat to the Galician coast and then they would continue their pilgrimage a pie (on foot). After the 15th century, when king Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church, the number of pilgrims choosing this Camino decreased dramatically.

These medieval pilgrims arrived at several ports along the northern coast of Galicia, A Coruña being one of the main ones. However, A Coruña is less than 100km from Santiago (and 100km, as you probably know already, is the minimum distance required in order to obtain a Compostela). So, in recent times, Ferrol has become the most popular starting point, since it’s over 100km from Santiago.

 

Can you still start the Camino Inglés in A Coruña?

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start in A Coruña anymore. In fact, you can. And you can still be eligible to obtain a Compostela. How is this possible? You can can walk the first 25km in your own country or area.

If you are planning to do this, don’t forget to get your credencial stamped during that first stage. You will need evidence that you’ve completed the required 100km in order to get your Compostela.

Whether you start in A Coruña or Ferrol, you should remember that you need to get your credencial stamped twice per day if you are planning to get a Compostela once you arrive in Santiago.

Galerías in A Coruña

Galerías in A Coruña

Torre de Hércules. A Coruña

Torre de Hércules

For things to see and do in A Coruña, check this: Turismo Coruña website.

 

You can complete this pilgrimage in six days or less (check my review of Susan Jagannath’s guidebook). So the Camino Inglés could be a good choice if you only have a few days to do your pilgrimage.

This is not a particularly difficult Camino, although there are a couple of hills that could prove a bit challenging. Also, it goes mostly through rural areas and small villages. So there are some long stretches without bares or tiendas (shops). Make sure you have plenty of agua (water) and some snacks with you!

 

The Camino Inglés from Ferrol

As I mentioned above, the most popular starting point these days is Ferrol, where you can find a stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. For more info on Ferrol: http://www.turismo.gal/que-visitar/cidades/ferrol?langId=en_US

After you get out of town, you will be bordering the Ría de Ferrol, which provides stunning views. If you prefer to make your Camino shorter, you can walk up to Pontedeume on your first day (31km). If you’d rather take things slower, then Neda is the best place to stop (15km).

 

After Pontedeume, your next stop is Betanzos, an interesting town with a lovely old quarter. If you have time to explore a bit more, you should consider going to the Parque do Pasatempo, an astonishing place built by the García brothers.

These two brothers emigrated to Argentina (1870), made a fortune there and returned to Betanzos. Here, they created schools, hospitales… and this park where you can find all sorts of unexpected things (https://www.galiciamaxica.eu/galicia/a-coruna/pasatempo/#respond).

 

Oh! And let’s not forget that in Betanzos you can find the best tortilla in Spain: http://www.expansion.com/fueradeserie/gastro/2018/08/06/5b617442ca4741f5728b45e0.html

 

After Betanzos, you will go through Hospital de Bruma and Sigüeiro before you reach Santiago. Hospital de Bruma takes its name from an old hospital for pilgrims that does no longer exist. The current albergue is beside the spot where this old hospital used to be.

 

Some parts of the Camino Inglés have been rerouted recently, but don’t let that concern you: it is well signposted and you will not have any problems finding your way.

 

Do you think this could be the Camino for you?

 

Well, it is the Camino for me! You can start reading about my experience on the Camino Inglés in Empezando el Camino Inglés and Walking with strangers.

 

Today’s Spanish words

For the pronunciation of a pie, credencial and Compostela, check ¿Cómo vas a hacer el Camino?

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Vía de la Plata

Vía de la Plata

The Vía de la Plata crosses Spain from south to north, making it one of the longest Caminos in Spain. It starts in Sevilla, in the region of Andalucía and continues through Extremadura and Castilla y León, before entering Galicia.

The distance covered is around 1000 km, depending a bit on the variant you take. You have two options:

  • You can walk up to Astorga and then join the Camino Francés for the final stages (260 km).

 

  • Or you can head towards Galicia before you reach Astorga, through the Camino Sanabrés. Granja de Moreruela (in Zamora) is the town where you must decide which way to continue.

 

The Vía de la Plata is not a difficult route in terms of terrain and elevations, but you will be facing other challenges such as the weather. It is not advisable to walk it during the months of julio (July) and agosto (August) due to the extreme heat. You should still be careful in junio (June) and septiembre (September). The best months would be marzo, abril, mayo (May) and octubre (October).

The distances between towns are long and the services are few, so you need to be prepared and make sure you have enough agua and snacks to make it to the next town. It might be hard if you are planning to do shorter stages.

The signage is not as abundant as in other Caminos but it’s adequate. The Vía de la Plata follows old Roman roads, so you will also see many Roman milestones

I think I’m not making it sound very attractive, but that’s not true. It’s just not the Camino Francés, so you should adjust your expectations and be prepared. It is a much lonelier Camino (only 3.04% of pilgrims chose this route in 2017 according to the Pilgrims office statistics)* and you will be walking a lot through pastures (with lots of cattle). Some of the best cured hams come from this part of the country.

 

What to see on the Vía de la Plata

But it’s not all cows and pigs. The Vía de la Plata also goes through wonderful cities. In fact, it is the Camino with the highest number of towns on UNESCO’s World Heritage List:

 

 

 

 

But these are not the only interesting places to see. Zafra, in Extremadura, is a lovely medieval town worth a visit. And Zamora, in Castilla y León, is full of Romanesque arquitecture and also worth a visit.

So, do you think this is the Camino for you?

 

*Source: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas/

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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El Camino Primitivo

El Camino Primitivo

After a stop for a tapa de pulpo á feira, we’re back to our series about the different Caminos. This week, I’m writing about the Camino Primitivo.

 

The Camino Primitivo (Primitive Way) is so called because it’s the first Camino pilgrimage of which there is a written record. It follows the route taken by king Alfonso II of Asturias in the 9th century when he visited the sepulchre of St. James, which had just been discovered.

 

The Camino Primitivo is one of the shortest Caminos, as it covers around 320km from Oviedo (in Asturias) to Santiago de Compostela. It is a route of amazing natural beauty, but it is also the hardest of the Caminos. That’s probably why only 4.5% of pilgrims chose this route in 2017, according to the Pilgrims office statistics).*

 

It is well signposted and there are albergues and other services all along the way, but there is a lot of going up and down through mountains on dirt paths, loose rocks and mostly difficult terrain. Sometimes, the albergue is the only available service in town, so make sure you check ahead of time and plan accordingly.

 

The weather in Asturias and Galicia is quite rainy so there will also be mud much of the time. As well as lluvia (rain), you can also expect viento (wind) and niebla (fog) in some areas. It’s not advisable to take this Camino in winter, due to nieve (snow) in the mountains.

 

The Camino Primitivo route

 

  • There is a variation called Ruta de los Hospitales, starting at Borres and so called because of the remains of several old mediaeval hospitals. This is allegedly one of the most beautiful sections of the Camino. It covers around 24km but if you are planning to do it you should be aware that it has no services at all. The weather can also be treacherous. So make sure you are well equipped and stay safe!

 

The Camino Primitivo in Galicia

  • The Camino Primitivo enters Galicia through O Acebo pass (1300m altitude) and from there it descends to Fonsagrada (700m).

 

  • The second biggest town on the Camino Primitivo is Lugo. It was founded in the year 25 b.C and it was one of the most important Roman settlements in the Iberian Peninsula. Its Roman walls are mostly intact and they surround the historic centre. They were added to UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 2000 (see https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/987). Definitely worth a visit!

 

  • From Lugo, this Camino continues towards Melide, where it joins the Camino Francés for the last stages.

 

 

Do you think this could the be the Camino for you? If you’ve done it, please share your experience!

*Source: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas/

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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El Camino del Norte

El Camino del Norte

Next on my series about the different Caminos is the Camino del Norte, the second longest route after Vía de la Plata. It covers a distance of over 800km from Irún in the País Vasco (Basque Country) to Santiago de Compostela.

Last week I wrote about the Variante Espiritual of the Camino Portugués, which was created around 6 years ago. The Camino del Norte, however, is as old as the Camino Francés. 

In fact, this was the route of choice for most pilgrims in the early days, since the French route was more dangerous then. But as the Spanish Reconquista advanced and the Southern territories became safer, the Northern route lost relevance and the French one became more popular.

So, for centuries, the Camino del Norte was nearly forgotten. But the huge increase in the number of pilgrims in recent years has led people to look for less crowded options. And so the Camino del Norte has seen increasing numbers of pilgrims in the last few years, making it the third most travelled Camino, after the Francés and Portugués (and still, less that 6% of pilgrims chose this route in 2017, according to the Pilgrims office statistics).*

 

Camino del Norte today

This route is well signposted and there are albergues along the way, although not as many as you would find along the more popular Camino Francés.

The Camino del Norte is one of great natural beauty. Some stretches go along the coast, with its playas (beaches) and acantilados (cliffs), while other sections take you inland through montañas (mountains), valles (valleys) and bosques (forests).

But it’s not all nature. You also get to see some interesting towns and you go through three different regions, before entering Galicia:

  • The starting point is the Puente de Santiago (Santiago bridge) in Irún, in the Basque region, or País Vasco, and right on the border with France. From Irún, you’ll walk through mountains to San Sebastián.

San Sebastián (or Donostia in the Basque language) is a very well known touristic city, with a beautiful playa, catedral and other interesting monuments, as well as plenty of cultural activity: It hosts an international cinema festival in September and a jazz festival in July, among others. San Sebastián is also the world capital of pinchos (see this previous post for more info).

Before you get to Bilbao you’ll pass Gernika, which is remembered by the German air raid that destroyed most of the city during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). This massacre was depicted by Picasso in one of his most famous paintings.

Bilbao is the most populated city in the País Vasco and it has plenty to do and see. You can find more info here: http://www.bilbaoturismo.net/BilbaoTurismo/en/tourists

 

Camino del norte Bilbao
Camino del Norte Bilbao
  • After Portugalete, you enter the region of Cantabria, a very mountainous region. Your first main stop here is the fishing village of Castro Urdiales. The town and surrounding area is rich in history: there is evidence of prehistoric settlements, as well as Roman presence. In Medieval times, it was one of the most important ports on the Northern coast.

The capital of Cantabria is Santander, another beautiful city with plenty to do and see (playa, museums, catedral and many more monuments). The local cuisine is based on fish and seafood.

  • After Comillas, you are in the last region before Galicia: Asturias, famous for its cider, among other things. The landscape is similar to that of Cantabria, with the coast on one side and the montañas on the other.

Before you reach Gijón, you have the option of continuing on to Oviedo and joining the Camino Primitivo. But that’s for another post. For things to do and see in Gijón, check this website: http://en.turismo.gijon.es

 

Camino del Norte in Galicia

  • The first Galician town after Asturias is Ribadeo. From here, the Camino turns away from the coast as it heads Southwest towards Santiago.

 

Praia das Catedrais

The Camino turns Southwest before you reach this amazing beach: Playa de las Catedrales. If you have time to spare, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Camino del Norte Ribadeo coast

The coast around the Ribadeo area.

In Arzúa, you will join the Camino Francés for the last 2 stages. But before you get there, you’ll get the chance to see and enjoy Vilalba (food festivals are its main attraction) and Sobrado, famous for its monasterio, where you can spend the night (check http://www.monasteriodesobrado.org/index.php/pilgrims-hostel/).

So, what do you think? Is this the Camino for you?

*Source: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/estadisticas/

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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¡Buen Camino!

Variante Espiritual

Variante Espiritual

When I wrote about the Camino Portugués a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the Variante Espiritual. This route variation starts from Pontevedra and takes you to Padrón,  where it joins the traditional Portuguese route.

 

The Variante Espiritual is a very recent route. It was created around 5 or 6 years ago, connecting places that were historically related to the Camino.

 

  • The initial part of the Variante Espiritual is based on the pilgrimage taken by Padre Sarmiento in 1745. Fray Martín Sarmiento, or Padre Sarmiento, was a Spanish scholar and monk. He wrote on a variety of subjects, including his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. In his record of this pilgrimage he mentions some of the places along the Variante Espiritual.

 

  • The third stage follows the same route as the remains of St. James on arrival to Galicia, across the Ría de Arousa and up the river Ulla.

 

Where does it start?

The starting point for the Variante Espiritual is clearly marked with two big signs.

Variante Espiritual

At this point, you can decide to go right under the bridge and follow the traditional Camino Portugués. Or you can go left and follow the Variante Espiritual.

Variante espiritual sign outside Pontevedra

The old signs

Variante espiritual new sign

New sign (2021)

A few days ago I walked more or less half of the first stage (from Pontevedra to Combarro), with my marido (husband) and our two hijas (daughters), aged doce (12) and diez (10). Have you done it with family, or are you planning to? With children? I’d love to hear your experiences!

 

The reason why we chose to walk this part is mainly that it is very convenient for us. We packed some agua (water) and snacks in a mochila and we started walking. Once we reached our destination, we simply took an autobús back home. Also, the climb up to Armenteira is hard and we didn’t want to get the kids too tired and/or bored.

 

Leaving Pontevedra 

After we left Pontevedra, we walked through rural areas until we reached the monasterio (monastery) in Poio. You can actually spend the night there, since they have an area for guests. For more info, you can check their website: http://monasteriodepoio.es

 

Variante Espiritual
On the Variante Espiritual

After Poio, you go down to sea level and walk a stretch along the coast of the Ría de Pontevedra before you reach Combarro.

 

There is also a couple of small sections on the main road, but there is plenty of space to walk. It might not be so good during the summer, since this is a touristic area, the road gets very busy and there are cars parked everywhere. But it was fine the other day. 

 

Combarro

Combarro is a beautiful fishing town, famous for its hórreos (granary), a typical Galician construction. Hórreos are used to store grain; they are raised from the ground by pillars ended in flat stones that prevent access by rodents. They are made of stone or a combination of stone and wood.

You enter Combarro through the beach

Combarro, on the Variante Espiritual

One of the many hórreos you will see

And that’s where we finished our walk this time. Maybe next time we will start here and walk up to Armenteira. The climb is hard, but the views of the Ría are amazing.

 

Armenteira

There’s another monasterio in Armenteira, where you can also spend the night. More info on their website: https://www.monasteriodearmenteira.es/ There’s an albergue too.

View of the Ría

View of the ría

Armenteira, on the Variante Espiritual

Monasterio de Armenteira

Ruta da Pedra e da Auga

The section after Armenteira is one of great natural beauty. It’s called Ruta da Pedra e da Auga (route of stone and water) and it goes along a river where you can see the remains of many old water mills.

This second stage ends in Vilanova de Arousa, from where you will take a boat to Pontecesures, right beside Padrón. Alternatively, you can walk for 28km.

 

The boat trip takes about an hour and you need to arrange it in advance. The boat departures depend on the tides, so there are no fixed times. If you decide to take the boat, you will see the only maritime Via Crucis in the world, 17 stone crosses identifying the way followed by St. James’s remains.

 

After this third stage, you just join the traditional Camino Portugués in Padrón.

 

I found the section we did was very well signed. We didn’t have any maps with us, but we didn’t miss them. We had our phones, which we could have used if we got lost, but that was not necessary either.

 

It’s a very quiet route, even during busier times of the year. The day we walked, we didn’t meet anybody walking. We saw a couple of young men leaving Pontevedra, but they took the Portuguese route. That was it.

Today’s Spanish words

 

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El Camino Portugués

El Camino Portugués

For the second Camino in this series I’ve chosen el Camino Portugués (Portuguese Way). It’s the second most popular route to Santiago de Compostela, after the Camino Francés. And also, it is where I live.

As the name suggests, the Camino Portugués goes to Santiago de Compostela from Portugal, but there are a couple of route variations to choose from:

  • The best known one is the central route. The most popular starting point for the Camino Central Portugués is Porto (Oporto in Spanish), which is 240 km from Santiago. If you walk 25 km per day on average, you will need around 10 days to complete it.

 

 Some people start their pilgrimage from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon (Lisboa in Spanish), which is further south. In this case, you will have to cover a distance of around 600 km. You will need approximately 25 days to complete it.

 

  • If you decide to start from Lisboa, you could also take el Camino Portugués interior once you reach Coimbra. This route will take you through the Portuguese towns of Viseu, Vila Real and Chaves. Once you enter Galicia the Camino Portugués interior joins the Vía de la Plata.

 

  • After Oporto, you have two options too: you can continue on the central route through Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença. Or you can take the Camino Portugués por la costa (coastal route).

 

The Camino Portugués in Spain

 

If you follow the central route, Tui will be the first Spanish town you will encounter after crossing the bridge over the river Miño, which serves as a natural border between both countries.

  • Tui was a very important town in medieval times and you can still see many buildings dating back to 15-16th centuries, including its cathedral.

 

  • Porriño is at the centre of an important industrial area. It is one of the world’s biggest granite producers.

 

  • Redondela. This is where the central and coastal routes meet.

 

  • Arcade is a small coastal town famous for its oysters. Every year, at the beginning of April, Arcade celebrates an oyster festival.

 

  • Pontevedra has one of the most important historical centres in Galicia, after Santiago de Compostela. Most of the city centre has been pedestrianised and Pontevedra has become an internationally acclaimed city, winning awards such as the UN Habitat Award and the Active Design Award.

Pontevedra is also the starting point of the last of the route variations on el Camino Portugués: variante espiritual, which includes a boat ride and joins the central route in Padrón.

 

  • Caldas de Reis is well-known for its thermal waters.

 

  • Padrón is the home of the famous Padrón peppers. If you haven’t heard about them yet, don’t worry! I’m sure you will get the chance to taste them when you do your Camino.

Coastal route of the Camino Portugués

 

If you follow the coastal route, you will have to take a ferry from Caminha to A Guarda. From A Guarda, you will continue along the coast towards Vigo, which is the biggest Spanish town on this Camino. After Vigo, the coastal route joins the central route in Redondela.

There is also a variation of this coastal route, going from Caminha to Valença, along the river Minho. After Valença you then continue on to Tui.

If you don’t have enough time, you can do the Spanish section of this Camino, from Tui. It’s 119 km, enough to get a compostela and easily done in less than a week.

**Update: Regardless of the route you choose, you should know that Spain and Portugal are on different time zones. Once you cross over to Spain, you will be one hour ahead.

This document lists all available accommodations along this route. It’s a great resource.

In a previous post, I shared pilgrims recommendations about accommodation on the Camino Portugués. You can read it here. And if you would like to add any further recommendations (accommodation, food…), I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Today’s Spanish words

 

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¡Buen Camino!