Pilgrims' scallop shells with messages, Portuguese Way of St. James

Redondela is where the coastal and central Portuguese Camino de Santiago become one. Pilgrims enter the small Galician town from different directions but once on Rúa Padre Crespo, there is only one Camino Português.

Dori and I stopped for lunch in Redondela having walked all the way from O Porriño that morning and carried on walking to spend the night in Arcade.

If you’re doing the Coastal Camino, you will probably stay overnight in Redondela. It’s over 41 km from Redondela to Caldas de Reis so allow at least two days to cover this distance on foot.

Former convent at the entrance to Redondela. The Coastal and Central Portuguese Way of St. James merge here.
Former convent at the entrance to Redondela. The Coastal and Central Portuguese Way of St. James merge here.

Redondela to Arcade

Redondela itself is pleasant enough and I ate well both times I ended up there (the first was when I did part of the Coastal Route). The centrally-located albergue is housed in a sturdy 16th century building known as Casa da Torre which also has art exhibitions on the upper floors.

Somehow, we missed the ancient church of St. James, which lies just off the Way. I suspect we were too focused on finding food at the time.

Other than that, there are several shops and a wide avenue although the most striking structures in Redondela are its two viaducts, which tower over the streets.

Between here and Arcade we had another small hill to climb, which fortunately involves some forest and views of the Ria de Vigo lagoon, especially on the way down.

The final stretch into Arcade was far from fun – we were exhausted by that point and had to watch out for trucks thundering past us on the main road.

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Arcade river beach

We had been too tired to explore when we arrived in Arcade but the next morning, with a relatively short stage ahead of us (13 km to Pontevedra), we decided to investigate the waterfront.

I’m so glad we did and would thoroughly recommend you do so too. There’s a small park area and sandy beach with the calm water of the Ria de Vigo stretching out into the distance.

We were going to retrace our steps back to the Camino until two local ladies out for their morning stroll told use we could simply follow the waterline and reach the historical Ponte Sampaio that way. Instead of traipsing through dingy narrow streets, we strolled past beautiful views and bobbing boats.

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Verea Vella da Canicouva

One of my favourite parts of the Portuguese Camino de Santiago was this ancient stone road that took us gently uphill past small fields and into a forest. Parts of the track has seen so much use over the years that deep grooves have been worn into the stones.

After the hill and forest, the countryside opens up again with rows of grape vines and distant mountains.

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Riverside detour to Pontevedra

Since we had plenty of time and a relatively short distance to cover, we decided to take the scenic option to get to the city of Pontevedra.

The local postman stopped us outside the tiny chapel of Santa Marta and asked for our help explaining the detour to two Polish pilgrims who spoke limited Spanish.

All four of us duly followed his directions and found ourselves in a pretty patch of woodland, surrounded by birdsong and the gently gurgling stream that we followed all the way to the outskirts of Pontevedra. It added an extra kilometre or so to our journey but was far more soothing than the roadside Way would have been.

Note: If you take this detour, you won’t encounter any cafés between Arcade and Pontevedra so come prepared.

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Pontevedra city centre

We arrived in Pontevedra in time to dump our stuff at the hotel and make it to one of the squares in the historical centre in time for a late lunch – luckily the Spanish tend to eat later than the Portuguese.

Sated and refreshed, we enjoyed a wander through the streets soaking up the old world atmosphere and pausing to admire the various architectural treats, including the 14th century Gothic Convent of St. Francis and the 18th century Baroque Sanctuary of the Virxen de la Peregrina.

We failed to find anywhere that would serve us Padrón peppers in the evening (not the season, apparently) but consoled ourselves with white Ribeiro wine, slices of empanada (vegetable and seafood pie) and Galician-style octopus.

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From Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

As we left Pontevedra’s pedestrianised centre behind, eerily quiet in a Sunday morning, we found more evidence of Roman occupation with excavations showing traces of the original Ponte do Burgo bridge and a replica milestone.

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The first particularly attractive part of this full-day stage comes about 4 km after Pontevedra, once you enter the forest. When you emerge into more open countryside, the number of stone crosses will leave you in no doubt that this is an ancient pilgrim path.

We spent most of the day amid crops and small vineyards where the vines are trained up posts so tall that they create vine tunnels.

Despite the occasional stint on the main road, it’s mostly a pleasant walk with no significant towns or monuments, except perhaps for the stone cross and washing tank in the village of Tivo.

By this point, Dori and I and our new-found Camino friends, Sue and Jan, were more interested in the lovely café at the albergue, the first we’d seen for many a kilometre. A chilled Estrella Galicia beer later and we were ready for the final 2 km to Caldas de Reis.

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Caldas de Reis

The entrance to the spa town of Caldas de Reis is marked by a stone church shortly before the bridge across the River Umia.

The easiest place to experience the thermal waters is Burgas springs, a small public fountain where you can take off your shoes and socks and bathe your weary feet. We also saw some pilgrims sitting on the edge of the communal washing tank with their feet dangling in the water.

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Read the next instalment: Portuguese Way of St. James: Caldas de Reis to Santiago de Compostela

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Portuguese Way of St. James from Redondela to Caldas de Reis 2
Portuguese Way of St. James. Pretty Arcade

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6 Comments

  1. This was so enlightening especially when you mentioned the distance between Redondela and Caldas was over 40km- I have been looking at routes offered by tour companies and they say it is just over 30! WOULD YOU RECOMMEND contacting hotels directly and booking a luggage transfer service? I am walking alone as my friend can no longer go with me.

    1. That distance is usually split over 2 or 3 days.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Dori. Looking forward to our next adventure!

  2. Hi Julia,
    It is a temptation(a good one) to do the Portuguese Way of Santiago.
    Maybe next year.
    Cheers,
    Cesar

    1. Author

      I would definitely say go for it, Cesar. Just try to avoid the hottest months 🙂

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