Afife beach. Unspoilt Atlantic coastline, northern Portugal

My experience of a multi-day walking route along the varied and unspoilt Atlantic coastline of northern Portugal’s Costa Verde (Green Coast) was unforgettable in so many ways, especially as the pace allows time and energy to appreciate the scenery, towns and villages along the route.

If you dream of spending leisurely days walking by the ocean, this Portugal walking holiday could be ideal for you. 

Morning at Afife beach, Green coast Portugal
Morning at Afife beach

What I like about the self-guided Costa Verde coastal hiking trail

The route heads north from Póvoa de Varzim along beautiful beaches and through some charming towns and countryside to Caminha at the very tip of Portugal.

Since it’s designed to keep you as close as possible to the water, I got to see sections of the Atlantic coast that I’d missed when I walked the Coastal Camino. This made me happy, especially as some of them, like Afife, are particularly gorgeous.

With mountains, fields and dunes backing many of the beaches, it’s obvious why this stretch of Portugal’s Atlantic coastline is known as the Green Coast.

The beachscape ranges from wide sandy expanses to rocky shores and pebble beaches. You’ll encounter windmills on the beach, mostly without sails, chapels, fortresses and colourful fishing boats.

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The other good thing about this itinerary, as opposed to the Camino da Costa, is that you don’t have to walk as far each day. The longest stretch is 19 km (11.8 miles) but most are around 13 km (8 miles) and pretty flat so not particularly taxing.

You can either take your time and make stops en route or arrive at your destination around lunchtime to give yourself the afternoon for fun of your choosing.

Towns and villages to explore on the Green Coast of Portugal

Póvoa de Varzim

The route starts in the resort town of Póvoa de Varzim, which has plenty of sandy beaches. You can get a sense of its deep connection with the Atlantic by taking a look at the tile mural opposite the casino, which depicts fishing traditions and significant events that have shaped local lives.

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It’s a popular holiday town so there are lots of modern facilities catering to tourists, including shops, as well as some attractive historical buildings around Praça do Almada.

One of Póvoa da Varzim’s main attractions is the casino. Even if the chance of winning some money doesn’t appeal, they put on some good shows so it’s worth checking the agenda to see what’s on.

The recently renovated Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) fortress may also be worth a visit while you’re in town.

Once you set off towards Apúlia, expect sights like these:

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The fishing village of Apúlia makes the most of both land and sea. It’s surrounded by market gardens and has a tradition of collecting seaweed, which was used as fertiliser. The beach is small but pleasant enough and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to fresh seafood.

As you leave the village, you’ll pass a line of stone windmills between the beach and the road.

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Apart from a seriously ugly blot on the landscape (which you won’t see unless you make a slight detour to the beach at Ofir), Esposende’s holiday accommodation is low rise and low key.

The walking route takes you along both sides of the Cávado estuary but if you want to explore some of the town’s historical and cultural offerings, you’ll need to venture away from this.

The historical centre of Esposende is small and centres around its Town Hall and principal churches. I particularly like the figures in the Mariner’s Chapel in the Church of Mercy (Igreja da Misericórdia), a clear indication of the importance of the sea to the local community.

As a sucker for all things Art Nouveau, especially tiles, I found the museum, originally the town’s theatre, also worth inspection.

If you’d rather spend time on a beach, try Suave Mar to the north of the town or make a detour before crossing the River Cávado and explore the nature reserve on the Fão headland.

Find out more about Esposende in this post.

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Viana do Castelo

Viana is actually a city, albeit a small one, and has a long, rich history. I love it. Try to get here in plenty of time to explore its treasures as they are many. If you want beach, spend a little time at Cabedelo before crossing the river.

Once in the historical centre, I would definitely encourage you to visit the Costume Museum (Museu do Traje) in the medieval Praça da República. Also in this square you’ll find another Church of Mercy next to the former hospital. Renovated to its full dazzling glory, it’s a fine example of Baroque art and azulejos.

If you have time, take the funicular, or a taxi, up the hill to the Santa Luzia Basilica where you’ll be able to see incredible coastal and inland views. A few hundred metres behind the hilltop Pousada lies an ancient Celtic settlement of curious circular dwellings.

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Vila Praia de Âncora

You’ll get a sense of how vast the beach is on your approach to Vila Praia de Âncora. This is the longest walking day so if you can find a sheltered spot, you may be content to spend the rest of the day on the sand with views of the Serra d’Arga mountains.

Although pleasant, there’s not a great deal to see in the town aside from the fishing harbour and fortress. There are, however, plenty of restaurants where you can eat your fill of local dishes and catch of the day, washed down with some lovely vinho verde (young wine).

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Last but not least is the charming little town of Caminha. This is one of my favourite Minho towns and you’ll soon understand why.

Before you even reach the town, you get to walk through an impressive pine forest and along a boardwalk at the mouth of the Minho River with views of the Spanish and Portuguese mountains all around.

If you concentrate on looking to your left as you walk towards what remains of the citadel walls, you can focus on the bobbing fishing boats instead of the traffic.

Once in the historical centre, you can explore the medieval and 18th-19th century architecture and attractive squares.

Read more about Caminha’s charms in this post.

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Practicalities for walking the Costa Verde, Portugal

Best time to do this coastal walk

Because you’ll be walking beside the ocean, it’s not a great idea to do this in winter because strong winds and heavy rain will take all the fun out of it.

I’d try to avoid walking in the heat of the day but if you get a reasonably early start, you could still do this walk in the summer months thanks to the sea breeze and the chance to cool off with a dip in the ocean.

Day 1: Transfer to Póvoa de Varzim

  • Private transfer from Porto airport or your Porto hotel to Póvoa de Varzim. Rest of the day at leisure to explore the town and its beaches.
  • Accommodation: 3 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 2: Walk from Póvoa de Varzim to Apúlia (14 km)

  • Walk beside sandy beaches, sand dunes and past windmills before heading inland through market gardens and trees to reach the fishing village of Apúlia and its sandy beach.
  • Accommodation: 3 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3: Walk from Apúlia to Esposende (8 km)
  • Walk through the village of Fão then cross the Cávado Estuary and nature reserve to reach Esposende.
  • Accommodation: 3 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4: Walk from Esposende to Castelo de Neiva (13 km)
  • Enjoy varied scenery including villages, smallholdings and pebble beaches before heading inland to cross the Neiva River.
  • Accommodation: Charming country inn| Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 5: Walk from Castelo de Neiva to Viana do Castelo (12 km)

  • Head back to the coast then walk through a pine forest and across the Eiffel bridge into Viana do Castelo.
  • Accommodation: 3 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 6: Walk from Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora (19 km)

  • Cross the historical centre of Viana do Castelo and head north along the coast, interspersed with sections of forest and fields.
  • Accommodation: 4 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 7: Walk from Vila Praia de Âncora to Caminha (10 km)

  • Walk from the seaside resort town of Vila Praia de Âncora to the sandy Moledo beach then enter the shade of a beautiful pine forest. Follow River Minho to the historical heart of Caminha.
  • Accommodation: 4 star hotel | Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 8: Departure

  • After an excellent breakfast at your hotel, your onward journey begins

Includes: Luggage transfers between accommodations (15 kg per bag/person), 7 nights accommodation with breakfast, GPS device with pre-programmed trails, Road book with detailed route descriptions, private transfer from Porto Airport/city centre to Póvoa de Varzim on day 1, 24/7 emergency support.


This is an 8-day self-guided walking tour which can easily be adapted to suit your plans.

As an example, it’s possible to extend this by walking along the River Minho to the fortress town of Valença.

Interested in booking this coastal walking tour?

Complete this form and I’ll connect you with the local tour operator for a quote.

(Disclosure: I may receive a small referral commission if you make a booking but the price you pay would be the same as going direct).

Atlantic Route (Costa Verde) Walking Holiday enquiry

  • If you want to follow the Camino de Santiago from Caminha to Santiago de Compostela, please let us know your preferences so we can customise the itinerary for you.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Is this the same as the Coastal Camino de Santiago?

No. The coastal Camino de Santiago offers an attractive, partial alternative to the more traditional central pilgrim trail through Portugal and Spain. However, the Camino route takes you inland a lot more than this Costa Verde trail. 

If you have plenty of extra days and you want to combine a coastal walking holiday with the official Camino de Santiago to Santiago de Compostela, this can be arranged. Note that you’ll need to allow at least another 8 days of walking to reach Santiago de Compostela, and allow even more if you want to keep going at a relaxed pace. 

This hybrid route gives you the best of both worlds and still qualify for your pilgrim certificate if that is important to you. Use the form above to enquire about the Costa Verde walking holiday as is or discuss how you could combine it with the Camino.

Important: If you want to combine the Costa Verde and Camino trails, note that you will either need to pick up the pace when you get to Spain and walk longer distances each day or split some long stages over two days – the tour operator can suggest the best way to achieve that.

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Windmills on the coast. Unspoilt Costa Verde Walk, A Leisurely Alternative To The Coastal Camino Portugûes
Unspoilt Costa Verde Walk, A Leisurely Alternative To The Coastal Camino Portugûes


  1. Hi Julie Dawn,
    Please give directions on the easiest way to end up in Santiago de Compostela by bus.
    Thank you,
    E Beede

  2. It looks idyllic to me, Julie. I’m all for walking by the sea. Just last Friday I was strolling between Cascais and Estoril. Not exactly taxing but a nice relief from the city. 🙂

    1. Author

      That’s a pleasant walk too, Jo. We were there in September and walked back to Estoril after dinner in Cascais.

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.