Saturday, April 6, 2019

Possible Itineraries: Routes, Variations, and Long Days vs Short Days from Lisbon to Santiago

While both of our previous Caminos – and most long distance hikes – allow for different routes to be taken or provide for side trips, no previous trek that we have undertaken has seemed quite so varied in its structure. 

Camino Frances – generally followed the main route from east to west.   Admittedly you could, in Leon strike north to Oviedo and return along the Primitivo, or continue along the main route.  Just as later you have the opportunity to detour to the monastery in Samos, the main of the pathway essentially exists as a singular trail running from France to the Atlantic coast.  

Similarly on the Via Podiensis / GR65 while there were possibilities to detour off the route such as visiting the beautiful Bonnaval Abbey or venture to either Rocammadeaur  or trek through the amazing Cele Valley, for the most it is a single pathway from east to west towards the Spanish border.  

The Camino Portuguese, by contrast, offers pilgrims,  so many options, so many variations, so many routes that it is entirely possible to re-trek this Camino several times without repeating large sections.  Which is wonderful if you have already completed all of or even a section of the Camino Portuguese, but which is frustrating when you know so very little about a country or the routes under consideration.  It is also challenging when you are like me and dislike making choices.  

Costal Route / Caminho da Costa or the Caminho Central 
For simplicity's sake the main routes along the Portuguese route are the Caminho da Costa, Caminho Central, and Variante Espiritual.  

The Caminho Central, the route we followed in 2019 goes from Lisbon to Porto (approx. 380 km) and then from Porto to Valenca/Tui (approx 137 km) and then on from Valenca to Santiago de Compostela (approx 122 km).   In total the distance of the Caminho Central is estimated to be around 640 km, and is therefore about 130 km shorter than the Camino Frances which according to John Brierley is 778 km in length.  From Lisbon it is estimated to require 27-30 days, plus any rest days which you might take.  In our case we took extra time in Lisbon, Tomar, Porto and Santiago.   Given the opportunity we would have opted to spend more time in Coimbra and Valenca/Tui.  

Our assessment of the Caminho Portuguese based on online research, guide books, and statistics from the Cathedral in Santiago suggest that most Pilgrims on this route start in Lisbon, or Porto, or Valenca/Tui - with most trekking from Porto to Santiago.  While we will be talking in another entry on the differences between the sections between Lisbon to Porto and Porto to Santiago, there is little doubt that after Porto there are more amenities for pilgrims as well as a similar feel to the Camino Frances.  

Obviously we did not trek our Camino Portuguese along these alternative routes which generally follow along the Portuguese coastline with the Atlantic Ocean.  From those we talked with the Coastal (from Porto to Valenca, approx. 138 km) and Variante Espiritual (from Pontevedra to Padron, approx. 83 km) are beautiful and quiet, and while there are purportedly less facilities they are well marked.  Other hikers and pilgrims also stated that along the Coastal route you trek on boardwalks rather than cobblestone streets (considered by many to be a huge benefit), in addition several commented that the weather in April in May was generally beautiful but that from time to time cool winds and some rain made having a good windbreaker or rain jacket essential.

From our experience on the Camino Central from Lisbon to Santiago, the way was extremely well marked.  Even when in doubt if you can find a blue Fatima arrow you generally know you are on the right track (depending on whether you know if your are supposed to be moving towards or away from Fatima).  Similarly those brief areas of exploration that took us onto the Caminho Espiritual and Senda Litoral were relatively well marked.    

Fatima variant (from Lisbon to Fatima to Santiago the route is about 640 km in length)

Beyond the main and alternative routes to Santiago, it should also be pointed out that it is possible to vary off of the Caminho and trek to Fatima. 

Fatima is an important pilgrimage site where, in 1917, an apparition of the Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared to three local children.  During these appearances the Virgin Mary is said to have performed miracles, and foretold prophecies.  As a result Fatima has become a site important to Portuguese faith and a center for pilgrimage in its own right.

There are a number of routes to Fatima in the early stages of the trek from Lisbon and you certainly cannot go astray (based on the shear number of blue arrows we saw).  Indeed we encountered more people on pilgrimage to Fatima throughout our entire time on the Caminho Portuguese than we met trekking to Santiago.  

From what we could tell most Caminho pilgrims who wished to visit Fatima chose to take a day off in Tomar and travel by bus both to and from Fatima. However it is entirely possible to walk to Fatima from a number of points along the Caminho Portuguese and still be able to rejoin the main route to Santiago later on.  

** Appended Note: Sadly we did not venture to Fatima, though if we could go back and redo this part of our hike I think we would hike there.  When you begin hiking in Portugal you quickly realize that much of that national focus is on Fatima and so it is an essential part of their culture.  By Santiago I had the distinct sense that we had missed out on learning something about the nation that we had spent a month in. **

Brierley Itinerary (or the long tough days early on Itinerary)

DAY 1: Arrive in Lisbon
DAY 2: Lisbon to Alverca do Ribatejo – 32.2 km
DAY 3: Alverca do Ribatejo to Azambuja – 30.3 km
DAY 4: Azambuja to Santarem – 33.2 km
DAY 5: Santarem to Golega – 34.4 km
DAY 6: Golega to Tomar – 32.1 km
DAY 7: Tomar to Alvaiazere – 33.2 km
DAY 8: Alvaiazere to Rabacal – 31.1 km
DAY 9: Rabacal to Coimbra – 29.2 km
DAY 10: Coimbra to Mealhada – 32.1 km
DAY 11: Mealhada to Agueda – 25.4 km
DAY 12: Agueda to Albergaria – 17.0 km
DAY 13: Albergaria to Sao Joao da Madeira – 30.2 km   
DAY 14: Sao Joao da Madeira to Porto – 35.8 km     (Lisbon to Porto, 387.2 km)
DAY 15: Porto to Vilarinho – 27.6 km
DAY 16: Vilarinho to Barcelos – 29.6 km
DAY 17: Barcelos to Ponte de Lima – 34.7 km
DAY 18: Ponte de Lima  to Rubiaes – 18.6 km
DAY 19: Rubiaes to Tui – 20.3 km    (Porto to Tui, 130.8 km) – now in Spain
DAY 20: Tui to Porrino – 18.4 km
DAY 21: Porrino to Redondela – 16.1 km
DAY 22: Redondela – Pontevedra – 20.2 km
DAY 23: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis – 22.2 km
DAY 24: Caldas de Reis to Padron – 19.1 km
DAY 25: Padron to Santiago – 25.6 km   (Tui to Santiago, 121.6 km) Itinerary: (SHORTER EARLY STAGES)

DAY 1: Arrive Lisbon
DAY 2: Lisbon to Santa Iria de Azoia - 26km
DAY 3: Santa Iria de Azoia to Vila Franca de Xira - 13km
DAY 4: Villa Franca de Xira to Azambuja - 20km
DAY 5: Azambuja to Santarém - 32km
DAY 6: Santarem to Golega - 30km
DAY 7: Golega to Tomar - 30km
DAY 8: Tomar to Alvaiazere - 31km
DAY 9: Alvaiazer to Ansiao -
DAY 10: Ansiao to Condeixa A Nova -
DAY 11: Condeixa A Nova to Coimbra -
DAY 12: Coimbra to Mealhada - 24km
DAY 13: Mealhada to Agueda - 25km
DAY 14: Agueda to Albergaria A  Velha
DAY 15: Albergaria A Velha to Sao Joao da Madeira
DAY 16: Sao Joao da Maderira to Grijo
DAY 17: Grijo to Porto
DAY 18: Porto to Fajozes -
DAY 20: Fajozes to Arcos -
DAY 21: Arcos to Barcelos -
DAY 22: Barcelos to Ponte de Lima - 33km
DAY 23: Ponte de Lima to San Pedro de Rubiaes -
DAY 24: San Pedro de Rubiaes to Tui -
DAY 25: Tui to O Porrino
DAY 26: O Porrino to Arcade
DAY 27: Arcade to Pontevedra
DAY 28: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
DAY 29: Caldas de Reis to Padron
DAY 30: Padron to Santiago de Compostela

Our Final Itinerary : Shorter Stages, Days off and Muxia/Fisterre (revised as we went)

DAY 1: Flight to Lisbon
DAY 2: Lisbon extra day
DAY 3: Lisbon to Alpriate (Beginning of Camino Portuguese Lisbon to Santiago)
DAY 4: Alpriate to Vilafranca de Xira
DAY 5: Vilafranca de Xira to Azambuja
DAY 6: Azambuja to Porto de Muge
DAY 7: Porto de Muge to Santarem
DAY 8: Santarem to Azinhaga
DAY 9: Azinhaga to Tomar
DAY 10: Tomar extra day
DAY 11: Tomar to Alvaiazere
DAY 12: Alvaiazere to Alvorge
DAY 13: Alvorge to Cernache
DAY 14: Cernache to Coimbra
DAY 15: Coimbra to Mealhada
DAY 16: Mealhada to Agueda
DAY 17: Agueda to Albergaria a Nova
DAY 18: Albergaria a Nova to Sao Joao
DAY 19: Sao Joao to Grijo
DAY 20: Grijo to Porto
DAY 21: Porto extra day
DAY 22: Porto to Monastery
DAY 23: Monastery to Barcelos
DAY 24: Barcelos to Valinhas
DAY 25: Valinhas to Ponte de Lima
DAY 26: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
DAY 27: Rubiaes to Valenca/Tui
DAY 28: Tui to Redondela
DAY 29: Redondela to Pontvedra
DAY 30: Pontvedra to Caldas de Reise
DAY 31: Caldas de Reise to Teo
DAY 32: Teo to Santiago (Conclusion of Camino Portuguese Lisbon to Santiago)
DAY 33: Santiago extra day
DAY 34: Santiago to Vialaserio (Beginning of Camino Muxia/Fisterre)
DAY 35: Vilasserio to O’Logoso
DAY 36: O’Logoso to Muxia
DAY 37: Muxia to Fisterre  (Conclusion of Camino Muxia/Fisterre)
DAY 38: Monbus from Fisterre to Santiago
DAY 39: Flight from Santiago to Madrid to Montreal to Toronto, Canada

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