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.
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.
The old signs
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
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
Ruta da pedra e da auga
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