Although in the Portuguese Central Camino you’ll find more ups and downs putting an extra strain on your legs, the truth is the Portuguese Coastal Camino includes less shades and the possibility of cold winds from the north / northwest.
This means it is crucial to know which cities you should use for rest days so you can manage your effort in the best possible way.
The cities we suggest for rest days on the Coastal Camino (Viana do Castelo, Baiona, Vigo and Pontevedra) will give you the perfect combination of seaside landscapes, history and tradition. Shall we put our hiking boots on?
Located in the Portuguese region of Minho, at the mouth of the river Lima, Viana do Castelo offers a beautiful unspoilt coastline. Take some time to explore the central Praça da República and admire the fountain and old town hall, both from the 16th century, as well as the Misericórdia Hospital, built in Mannerist style. Viana do Castelo, known as “princess of the Minho”, is famous for its colourful traditional costumes and filigree jewellery that you can learn more about by visiting the Museu do Traje (Costume Museum). Also worth a visit are the Museu de Artes Decorativas (Decorative Arts Museum), with its amazing collection of 18th century azulejos (ceramic tiles) and the unique Gil Eannes hospital ship. Absolutely mandatory is a visit to the Santa Luzia Basilica, built on top of a hill, and featuring a mix of architectural styles and breathtaking views over the city and the surrounding area. Viana do Castelo has plenty of fish and shellfish dishes on offer, with a special focus on salted cod (bacalhau). But you also don’t want to miss the traditional caldo verde (a thick soup made with potatoes and cabbage), the local vinho verde and the sweet leite creme.
The next cities suggested as ideal for rest days (Baiona, Vigo and Pontevedra) give you a hearty welcome to the Spanish region of Galicia. In common they have century old monuments, plenty of history and delectable cuisine. From the rich caldo gallego to the numerous tapas, empanadas, fresh seafood and the sweet tarta de Santiago, we guarantee there’s something for everyone. Don’t forget to wash it all down with some local Albariño wine!
At first sight, Baiona may look like just a small city without much to offer. But look closely and you’ll distinguish an inviting fishing port, several beaches and a picturesque old town. In Baiona you can also visit the impressive Monterreal Fortress, on the Monte Boi peninsula, where for more than 2000 years there has always been a fortification of some sort. The 15 meters tall granite statue of Our Lady of the Rock and the Caravel Pinta Museum, an exact replica of one of the caravels that Columbus took on his first voyage to America (and the first to arrive in Monterreal) shouldn’t be missed either.
Next stop is Vigo: a mix of industry and history, this Galician coastal town, famous for its proximity to the stunning Cies Islands, is a wonderful choice for a rest day. Wander around in the casco vello, the old part of town that’s perfect for some tapas, and visit Vigo’s cathedral, known as La Colegiata: built in 1811, in neoclassical style, it’s considered one of the finest examples of religious architecture in the city. Stop by at the 17th century Castro Fortress with its beautiful gardens and amazing views over the estuary or go to the Nosa Señora das Neves hermitage for a pleasant walk with the sea as your background soundtrack.
Last but not least, Pontevedra. A completely pedestrian historical centre and a good deal of history-rich religious buildings (with the Convent of San Francisco, the Church of San Bartolome and the Basilica of Santa María a Maior among the masterpieces not to be missed) make this city a gem just waiting to be discovered. Stop for tapas and drinks in one of its lively plazas and head over to the unique Pontevedra Museum, composed of several buildings. The vibrant Pontevedra market and the old Roman bridge are the cherry on top of the cake that make this city another great option for a rest day when walking the Coastal Camino.
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