Braga is a large, historic town with many sites to explore and it’s worth allowing a day or two for tourism before starting the camino. Additionally, Henrique Malheiro, one of the co-authors of the Geira guidebook, lives in Braga, is a wealth of information on the route and is happy to share this knowledge with pilgrims before they set out. He can be contacted on +351 963 934 583.
One site to single out is São Frutuoso, a funerary chapel built in AD 660 by the eponymous bishop of Braga. It was later modified in the high Middle Ages and experts debate whether the dominant architectural features date from the original Visigothic building or the Mozarabic modification. In any case, the remaining original aspects make it the most important pre-Romanesque Christian building in Portugal and it’s a very atmospheric place to visit. São Frutuoso is on the camino about 25 minutes’ walk from the Braga cathedral, but it’s only open 2pm-4:30pm Tue-Sun so it’s best visited the day before setting out.
Way-finding directly after São Frutuoso can be tricky because there are two sets of yellow arrows - one for the Geira and one for the continuation of the Camino Torres towards Ponte de Lima. To continue on the Geira, look for the purple CMR (Caminho Minhoto Ribeiro) arrows complementing the yellow arrows for the Geira, both of which head towards the IKEA. Way-finding to Caldelas is otherwise straightforward, with arrows pointing the way.
There is a 16-bed albergue behind the post office near the entrance to the village. Call English-speaking José in advance on +351 914 893 243 to arrange your stay as there’s no on-site reception. The albergue has a basic kitchen for self-caterers, and there’s a grocery store in town but it’s closed on Sundays.
Leaving Caldelas, turn off the main road at the camino information board, then turn right at the church and continue straight. The exit out of Caldelas is not signed but soon the arrows restart. Apart from a short trail through a lovely forest about 2km out of Caldelas, the camino is asphalt for the 6km to Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz contains the first of many Roman milestones on the Geira. Turn left shortly after the milestone and the asphalt ends, giving way to dirt paths interspersed with Roman stones that continue through beautiful forest all the way to Covide.
About 2.2km after Santa Cruz, there is a fork in the road. The left path is for Terras de Bouro, as indicated by the yellow TB painted on a tree. This is the official track but if you’re not staying overnight in Terras de Bouro, there’s no reason to take it. The right path has less elevation change, follows the Geira (passing Roman milestones) and is way-marked. After 6.5km, it rejoins the Terras de Bouro route.
There is a basic store on the right side of the road at the entrance to town and a café a bit further on. As there’s no store in Campo do Gerês except at the camp ground past the village, stock up in Covide if you can.
Campo do Gerês is the gateway to Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês. It’s a quaint stone village with several accommodation options. There’s an HI youth hostel that offers a 15 per cent pilgrim discount but it’s inconveniently located south of the village and away from food options, and not as cheap as it could be. Albergaria Stop is better located, has a restaurant and doesn’t cost much more than the hostel for a twin/double room.
There are no arrows between Campo do Gerês and the border. Walk past the campsite north of town (Parque Cerdeira), and turn right a couple of hundred metres later on a path that soon reaches the dam, with beautiful views. After the first bridge, turn left. Cross the second bridge to admire (and perhaps swim in) some beautiful pools with small waterfalls. To continue on the camino, recross the bridge, go straight on the rocky path for just a few metres until a smaller path becomes visible on the left. Take it and continue north to the border.
Go straight through the border post, turn right on the main road but after 100 metres or so, turn left off the road (there’s a small arrow), and then right shortly after. Geira signposts and arrows guide the way north towards the Roman baths (Mansio Romana de Aquis Originis), 8.5km from the border.
Shortly after the Roman baths, the camino continues straight while a left turn leads to Os Baños. The town, which has public hot spring rock pools in the Río Caldo that runs through it, contains a restaurant and a bar but no shop. PR As Termas is a camino-friendly budget hotel on the main road between the bar and the restaurant.
Leaving Os Baños, the quickest way is to continue on the road past the restaurant, rejoining the tracks at Vilameá about one kilometre later. The more atmospheric way is to return to the tracks where you left them and walk through the forest on stretches of Roman road and past a moss-covered cruzeiro.
Shortly after Vilameá, take the left (dirt) road at the fork to the mill and bridge. Cross the bridge and soon afterwards take the left fork away from the river and not the right one that follows the course of the river. The small arrow pointing left is easy to miss while the X for another hiking route complicates matters.
Lobios has two small supermarkets: a Spar and an Aliprox. After the modern part of town, there is a more picturesque older section with stone houses and groupings of hórreos.
After crossing the Limia river soon after Lobios, look behind the petrol station for a hard-to-find trail. There’s a camino sign but it’s hidden from view until you locate the path.
Entrimo has the same two supermarkets as Lobios and several establishments that will stamp credentials (indicated by a sticker on the door). A stone rococo church is the highlight of the town.
After recrossing the border back into Portugal, way-marking is poor and GPS tracks are needed. After passing (but not crossing) a medieval bridge and joining a paved road about 3km from Castro Laboreiro, there are two options: the more direct route on the road or a 5.7km alternative on a path, the beginning of which is signposted on the other side of the road.
There is a mini-market inside the bakery on the main road, the last chance to buy food until Cortegada.
Hotel Castrum Villae is an economical three-star hotel at the end of the village. The included breakfast doesn’t start until 8am but it can be brought to your room the evening before if you want to get an early start.
Restaurante Miradouro do Castelo comes as advertised: the main dining hall has a beautiful view over the castle and mountains. Considering the location, prices are quite reasonable.
Leaving town, take the left immediately after Hotel Castrum Villae. It is about 5km to the border (and another kilometre to Azoreira, the first village on the Galician side) and it’s not well signed.
After Azoreira, the camino follows a paved road to San Amaro.
There’s a café on the camino (San Mauro) that may or may not be open.
Almost 3km beyond San Amaro, the Igrexa da Portela is an intriguing, semi-abandoned church (try the side door on the right). Capela de San Xusto is a chapel 2km further on.
After crossing the bridge over the Río Deva, the official tracks lead off the highway to the left for a longer but off-road way into Cortegada. A more direct way is to leave the highway on the right just after the bridge (following a Geira sticker), eventually passing under the road and climbing back up to it for the last 35 minutes into Cortegada.