→ 2.2km.
To end of camino
104.50
Seehöhe
30

Your entrance to the old town center of Pontevedra is punctuated with its most famous church, the Iglesia de la Virgen Peregrina, a shrine to the Pilgrim Virgen who guided pilgrims here from Baiona. 

To see the rest of Pontevedra’s notable buildings will required you to stray from the arrows a bit. The old town is not large enough to get lost in, so take your time and enjoy the many plazas and parks. 

The most important landmarks are the Convento de San Francisco, the Basilica de Santa María (often referred to as the Cathedral), the Iglesia de San Bartolomé, and the Convento de Santa Clara

There are plenty of plazas to choose from, including the large Plaza de Teucro and the diminutive (and best) Plaza de Leña.

Wegbeschreibung

Leave by crossing the Ponte do Burgo and heading straight-ish through the next roundabout, turning left immediately after. Before long you will be alongside the railway, which you will cross just before the church of Alba.

TWO WAYS TO PONTECESURES / PADRÓN

There are two routes to Pontecesures/Padrón from Pontevedra, and the split occurs about 3km after crossing the bridge in Pontevedra

The original camino keeps on its inland trajectory and is currently the most popular choice among pilgrims. It is also the shortest.

The second option is known as the Variante Espiritual and it turns westward to cross over the Monte Redondo as it heads towards the sea at Vilanova de Arousa.  From here you have the option of a 3rd day of walking to Pontecesures or a trip by boat up the Ría to the same place. This variant was created and named by the local tourism sector and although the stories told about its origins are fantastic, they are also just that... stories. Don’t let this clever bit of marketing discourage you though, the route is recognized by the Pilgrim Office as an official variant and you will not have any difficulty obtaining your Compostela regardless of whether you take the boat or not.

This recognition, and lots of praise from pilgrims, means that this route is growing in popularity. 

VIA THE VARIANTE ESPIRITUAL - 44. km on foot + 28 km on foot or ferry

The Variante Espiritual is an alternative route which connects Pontevedra with Pontecesures. It adds 8.2km of walking (and a significant climb to the top of the Monte Redondo) and another 28km by boat (from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures).

Getting started is as simple as turning left at the well signposted fork in the road. The way almost immediately begins climbing upwards, though gently at first. It is making its way back to the Ría de Pontevedra, going up and around a small monte before arriving in the waterfront town of Combarro. There is one small hamlet before arriving at Cabaleiro, and it has a bar/shop with a very limited selection, but as it has odd hours it is not included here as being reliable.

THE ORIGINAL CAMINO, INLAND VIA CALDAS DE REIS  - 36.3 km

This is the easiest to navigate and shortest of the options. From the split simply carry on straight.

Photo of Pontevedra - Along Variante Espiritual on the Camino de Santiago
→ 5.5km.
To end of camino
99.00
Seehöhe
110

A small church on your right, and on your left a kids playground and recreation area. Not too hidden in the park is an ancient petroglyph.  These are common throughout Galicia and more are discovered every year. The bar is at the far end of the small town.

Wegbeschreibung

The camino leaves town along the road but quickly picks up a track as it descends through the hamlet of Fragmoreira.  It emerges on a roundabout at the divided highway you have crossed over a few times. Keep to the left as you approach Poio.

Accommodation in Cabaleiro
Photo of Cabaleiro on the Camino de Santiago
→ 1.0km.
To end of camino
98.00
Seehöhe
80
→ 1.9km.
To end of camino
96.20
Seehöhe
40

The first building in town is the rather imposing Monasterio de San Xoán Poio. Further along, as you descend from the monastery, there are several bars.

Wegbeschreibung

The camino descends from the Monastery and turns right at the bottom of the hill. Mind the traffic here, there are no barriers and not too many arrows. Follow the road to the first crosswalk and turn left to pick up a smaller country road.

Here there is one tricky turn. Shortly after crossing the road keep an eye open for a narrow path that turns upward on your left-hand side, it is right before a small B&B called A Marchanta. Follow it upward, then turn right, and then left at the fork onto a small dirt track.

This track leads you to the waterfront and a large park which plays host to all manner of celebrations, do not be surprised to find it full of teenagers hungover from a late night of partying or packed full with caravans. The arrows are not bountiful here but keep the water to your left and cross to the far end of the park where a paved road takes you uphill to join the main road.

This road is very busy and parked cars make for plenty of blind spots. Keep to the left as best you can and soon you will arrive at Combarro.

Photo of Poio on the Camino de Santiago
→ 3.0km.
To end of camino
93.20
Seehöhe
10

Combarro might just be one of the most charming and quintessentially Galician villages on the whole coast. Fishermen have worked these seas for centuries, and the horreós that line the coast (and which appear to hover just above the waterline) were used to dry fish as well as grain.

The town is small and compact and the camino does not actually see the best parts, to get to them keep going straight where the camino turns uphill to the right to join the road.  It would be hard to get lost in Combarro, but if you do deviate from the camino be aware that there is another variation whose arrows might lead you very much astray.

Wegbeschreibung

The Variante Espiritual crosses the road and immediately begins its ascent of the Monte Redondo. The climb varies in intensity from extremely steep to gently rolling and back again. Go gently.

Photo of Combarro on the Camino de Santiago
→ 3.6km.
To end of camino
89.60
Seehöhe
280

Not well signposted, but noticeable for the large dirt parking lot adjacent to it. The mirador platform doesn’t inspire much confidence but does offer some excellent views East over the Ría de Pontevedra.

Wegbeschreibung

From the mirador the camino levels out a bit and follows along a mountain track. It eventually joins a paved road but only for 250m when it crosses the road and begins the descent into Armenteira.

Photo of Miradoiro do Loureiro on the Camino de Santiago
→ 5.6km.
To end of camino
84.00
Seehöhe
265

The camino delivers you directly to the front door of the Monasterio de Armenteira and to the two bars in town. Directly in front of you is the more popular of the two. The albergue is set off from town by a few hundred meters, follow the camino arrows and they will lead you to the albergue.

Wegbeschreibung

From Armenteira the camino joins a popular (among locals) trail known as the Ruta de la Piedra y del Agua. It follows along a creek, with trails on both sides, as it descends to sea level. Along the way, it passes several dozen abandoned water mills. Note that although you can safely and easily follow both sides of the river, it is the right-hand side that keeps you closer to the mills and the water.

Photo of Armenteira on the Camino de Santiago
→ 3.9km.
To end of camino
80.10
Seehöhe
50

Large picnic area and recreation space. There are public bathrooms here, and during the summer months there is a small bar/kiosko.

Wegbeschreibung

The riverside walk is interrupted by a large highway and associated roundabouts, but no sooner than you pass them do you return to the trail.

→ 6.7km.
To end of camino
77.30
Seehöhe
10

There is a small bar (seasonal) on your left as you reach this junction. There is a larger bar/restaurant just over the river.

Wegbeschreibung

As you approach Puente Arnelas you need to follow the arrows that lead you up a steel and wood walkway under the belly of the bridge. At the top, turn right to get up to the road level and follow it into the small village. A short ways on the camino joins the broad Río Umia.

→ 6.2km.
To end of camino
71.10
Seehöhe
10

A small village with a small chapel and a large pharmacy. There are bars at both ends. If both are closed, there is a gas station if you are in a pinch.

Wegbeschreibung

The camino ahead includes a small climb up through the town of Gombra. It also follows the road for a short stretch before turning left into the small village of Mouzas. There are a few more hamlets along this stretch before the camino arrives at a large crossing of the  PO-549. Here there is a pair of bars, including the happy for hamburgers Mississippi Bar.

Cross the road towards Cores.

→ 1.1km.
To end of camino
70.00
Seehöhe
30
→ 1.1km.
To end of camino
68.90
Seehöhe
35
→ 5.1km.
To end of camino
63.80
Seehöhe
30
Wegbeschreibung

Just beyond Cores the camino arrives at last to the sea, and the last 3km are along sandy paths with beaches on your left and beach bars on your right. The camino keeps close to the water and arrives at Vilanova by way of a large bridge.

→ 3.5km.
To end of camino
60.30
Seehöhe
5

Vilanova is a lovely seaside harbor town with plenty of bars and food options but not much more besides gazing out to sea.

Wegbeschreibung

THE BOAT. Everything you need to know about the boat to Pontecesures is impossible to print here. The schedule varies with the tide, the number of passengers, and the whims of the captain and the hospitalero at the albergue (he who makes the arrangements). The matter is complicated by the fact that the same captain helms two boats of different sizes and capabilities and there is a daily calculation to maximize profit. Unfortunately, this means that there is little that you can do to plan it days in advance, and more or less need to turn up at the albergue and arrange things with the hospitalero.

THE ROAD. The alternative to the boat is a predominantly roadside walk along a path that roughly mirrors the coastline but doesn’t provide for much contact with it. The arrows are lacking in certain areas and the accommodation along this stretch should only be relied upon during peak Summer months and with a reservation. 

Photo of Vilanova de Arousa on the Camino de Santiago
→ 6.0km.
To end of camino
54.30
Seehöhe
0
→ 3.4km.
To end of camino
50.90
Seehöhe
0
→ 1.8km.
To end of camino
49.10
Seehöhe
10
→ 4.6km.
To end of camino
44.50
Seehöhe
35
→ 4.3km.
To end of camino
40.20
Seehöhe
5
Accommodation in Catoira
→ 5.5km.
To end of camino
34.70
Seehöhe
35
→ 4.0km.
To end of camino
30.70
Seehöhe
5
→ 3.3km.
To end of camino
27.20
Seehöhe
15

Pontecesures is the town that you wished was prettier but isn’t. It enjoys a nice riverside location but is spoiled by the belching factory across the river.

Wegbeschreibung

The arrows go under the road and over the bridge and across the Río Sar to Aduana. Here it runs all the way into Padrón

Photo of Pontecesures on the Camino de Santiago
→ 1.9km.
To end of camino
23.90
Seehöhe
10

Padrón might just be the most important little town on this or indeed any other camino. It was here that the remains of Santiago arrived after being sent out to sea on a stone boat, as told in the story of the ‘translatio’. 

His arrival to the specific point is attributed to the fact that it was here that he first arrived to preach while still alive, so his return was a homecoming of sorts.

Padrón is also the birthplace of Rosalia de Castro, Galicia’s most famous and beloved laureate.

Padrón (and Herbón) are home to that delicious green and possibly spicy pepper you may have had the pleasure of eating.

Wegbeschreibung

Take a look at the elevation profile for an idea of what these last 24km will be like, many pilgrims underestimate the elevation changes which increase as you near Santiago.

Photo of Padrón on the Camino de Santiago

From here the Variante Espiritual rejoins the Central Route from Pontevedra.

→ 0.8km.
To end of camino
17.80
Seehöhe
30

Although there is still more that 17 kilometers separating you from the Cathedral it will feel from here onward that you are marching along a string of increasingly larger Santiago suburbs. Many of them remain quite small, but the sprawl begins to present itself.

Wegbeschreibung

In town, turn right off the N550 at the church, passing around its park. A country road takes you steeply uphill. You will pass through the hamlet of Cruces, Angueira de Suso, and into Areal before returning to the main road at Picaraña.

Photo of A Escravitude on the Camino de Santiago
→ 1.9km.
To end of camino
15.90
→ 0.7km.
To end of camino
15.20
→ 0.4km.
To end of camino
14.80
Seehöhe
45
Wegbeschreibung

NOTE:  BEFORE the gas station a set of faded arrows directs you left and away from the road. Going that way takes you through a new route marked out by the local friends of the camino and is a much-preferred option to the road. After turning left keep an eye open for arrows which will turn right onto a grass (sometimes tall) path. This arrow might be a bit faded but the way is obvious, and it turns into a well-worn trail with plenty of arrows. It will bring you right up to the road at the entrance to Faramello.

→ 1.3km.
To end of camino
13.50
Seehöhe
70

Two bars in town, one at the entrance just after leaving the N550, and another at the private albergue. 

→ 0.9km.
To end of camino
12.60
Wegbeschreibung

From Rúa, the camino passes through several small hamlets (Osebe and A Grela) as it makes its way into the large Santiago suburb of Milladoiro.

→ 1.4km.
To end of camino
11.20
→ 3.9km.
To end of camino
7.30
→ 0.6km.
To end of camino
6.70
Seehöhe
245

O Milladoiro is Santiago’s largest suburb, and soon you will have your first glimpse of the Cathedral. The camino passes through the back side of town, avoiding the busy main road with its massive apartment blocks.

Wegbeschreibung

The growing network of highways around Santiago mean that you will make a few crossings and zig zags before you get to the city limits. There are even a few occasions where new camino stones stand adjacent to old camino stones, each pointing in their own direction. One offers a choice between ‘Santa Marta’ and ‘Conxo’ and here the best and most direct choice is ‘Santa Marta’, or left.

Accommodation in O Milladoiro
→ 6.7km.
To end of camino
0.00
Seehöhe
250

Welcome to Santiago! There are a tremendous amount of things to see and things to do in Santiago de Compostela; you are encouraged to stay for at least one full day extra for exploring the web of streets, all of which seem to bring you back to the Cathedral.

Your pilgrim related business is likely to start in front of the cathedral, kilometer zero. A shell and plaque mark the spot in the center of Plaza Obradoiro (see below).

If you are interested in receiving your Compostela, the certificate of completion, you will need to visit the Pilgrim’s Office, which was relocated in 2016 to a bright new building. To get there from the Plaza Obradoiro, face the Parador (the hotel on your left if you are facing the Cathedral) and look for the road that goes downhill to the left. Halfway down you pass the public restroom, and at the next street turn right. The office is at the end of that road and is easy enough to find. Note that there are few arrows indicating the way.

The Cathedral is the single largest attraction to Santiago and for good reason. Both inside and out it presents countless treasures to investigate, too many to list in fact but below are the best.

The Cathedral - Plaza by plaza
1. Plaza de Inmaculada, a.k.a. Azabache: This is the entrance that faces the Monastery of San Martín Piñario.

2: Obradoiro: From Azabache you pass under the Palace of the Bishop which is adjoined to the Cathedral and cannot possibly be the sort of palace that affords much peaceful sleeping; the sound of bagpipes welcoming you can be heard from dawn to dusk. The stairway leads directly to the Plaza de Obradoiro and kilometer zero for pilgrims. In the center of the plaza is the last scallop shell and you are likely to find pilgrims taking their shoes off for a photo with it, and the Obradoiro Facade behind them.
This facade is the most majestic and most photographed of the Cathedral and was part of the 18th century building projects that took place in Santiago. The baroque design will keep your eyes moving and the massive amounts of glass allow for the illumination of the Pórtico de la Gloria that lies behind it. That Pórtico was the original front to the church designed by Maestro Mateo 600 years before the new facade.

3. Plaza Platerias: If you continue around the Cathedral you arrive at the Puerta de las Platerías (named for the silver craft that still exists in the shops below it). You will notice that some of the stonework stands out as a different material. These are replacement carvings, the originals were damaged and subsequently moved to the Cathedral Museum; and unfortunately the original composition was forgotten, leaving a somewhat nonsensical layout. In front of the doors are a set of stairs and the Platerías fountain, the usual meeting point for pilgrims commonly referred to as “the horse fountain”.

4: Plaza de Quintana: Continuing up the stairs and around the Cathedral we arrive in the large Plaza de Quintana and the Puerta de Perdón. The actual Holy Door is behind this facade (which is not actually a structural part of the Cathedral, it is more like a highly decorated wall around the Holy Door itself). The carvings here are impressive and depict 24 Saints and prophets.

In medieval times it was common for pilgrims to spend the night in the Cathedral, sleeping on the stone floors and fighting (to the death on a few occasions) for the privilege of sleeping close to their chapel of choice.

The best time to visit is early in the morning before the crowds arrive, when paying a visit to the crypt and hugging the bust of Santiago can be done quietly and with a bit of contemplation.

The botafumeiro, quite possibly the largest thurible in the Catholic Church, is swung across the transept (from north to south) by a group of men called the tiraboleiros. It has only come loose from the ropes twice, and never in modern times. At the time that this book was printed, the tradition of swinging it during the Friday evening mass had been canceled. Inquire at the pilgrim’s office for more information.

The Monastery and Museum of San Martín Piñario
The enormity of this Monastery is difficult to comprehend, but if you pay close attention to this building as you walk around Santiago you will find that you are almost always standing next to it if you are on the north side of the Cathedral. There are three cloisters! The facade of the church often feels like it is somewhere else entirely and is quite curious for the fact that you must descend the staircase to get to the doors, rather than the other way around. The reason for this was a decree by the Archbishop that no building should exceed in elevation that of the Cathedral; the architects did not compromise by redesigning San Martín to be less tall, they simply dug down and started at a lower point.

San Fiz de Solovio
Compared to the two churches above, San Fiz feels like an almost minuscule affair. To find it, make your way to the Mercado de Abastos (Supply Market). San Pelayo (the hermit that rediscovered the bones of Santiago) was praying here when the lights called him. Grand and majestic it is not, but the oldest building site in Santiago it certainly is. The church that exists today is not the original, but excavations have revealed the foundations and necropolis dating to the 6th century.

The Supply Market (Mercado de Abastos)
The produce market is a great place to wander for lunch. Compared to other markets in Spain (like those in Madrid and Barcelona) the Santiago market is a fairly solemn affair. In fact, the architecture appears almost strictly utilitarian and is as Galician as it gets. The vendors make the experience, and even if your Spanish is not up to par, it is worth the visit for a glimpse into the way the locals go about their most ordinary business.

The buildings you see today date from the early 1940’s but replace ones that stood for 300 years. In fact, many of the vendors are second, third, or fifth generation market operators.

Alameda Park
Alameda Park was once the sort of place where the people of Santiago would turn out for elaborate displays of personal wealth and stature; the various paths that cut through and around the park were only to be used by members of a certain class. Nowadays it is far more democratic. The park is the site of a Ferris wheel and feria during the Summer months, an ice skating rink during the Winter holidays, and a massive eucalyptus tree overlooking the Cathedral year round.

The Hidden Pilgrim
Hiding in the shadows cast by the Cathedral, in the Plaza Quintana, is the hidden pilgrim. He is only visible at night and might take a while to discover.

And lastly, there are the many other Monasteries, and while it would be a challenge to visit all of them it is important to realize their construction shaped the city that we see today. Taking the time to walk between them will reveal countless little treasures.

Hinweis

One word of caution regarding accommodation is in order. If you are arriving in the high season, you are advised to make a reservation in advance. There have been several additions to the albergue roster in recent year but the numbers of pilgrims still exceed capacity in the high season.

Feiertage

The Feast day of Saint James is celebrated with a full week of music and dance, with a fireworks display in the Plaza Obradoiro on the evening of the 24th of July. The best views can be had from Obradoiro, or from Alameda park.

Photo of Santiago de Compostela at the end of the Camino Portugues on the Camino de Santiago