2022 is a great year for the Way of St. James. Not only have we been lucky enough to be able to extend the Jacobean Year for another year to enjoy it with normality, but also the stars have favored us with good weather, lifting of restrictive measures and the spirit of wanting to explore the world after two hard years of pandemic. We are already almost 100,000 pilgrims on the Way so far this year, and this summer promises to exceed expectations and records. That’s why we wanted to bring you this selection of our team’s favorite ways, what to see in each of them and why you can’t miss them this Jacobean Year 2022.
Portuguese Coastal Way
The favorite of our colleagues Chiara and Lucia, no doubt. Quiet, with phenomenal views and with nothing to envy to the infrastructure of the French Way. Although you can follow in the footsteps of our colleague Sabela and do the Portuguese traditional Way, there is something magical about walking the 271 kilometers that unite the two sister lands of Portugal and Galicia along its coasts.
It is ideal for those who want to admire the perfect blend of sea and countryside, and are looking for a less traveled alternative to the French.
You can decide to start in Porto doing its full version, and marvel at the small Portuguese coastal villages that you will leave in your path. You will visit Póvoa de Varzim, famous for the views of the Atlantic Ocean from its Fortress, erected in the 18th century to defend the interests of fishermen. And speaking of fishermen, you can contemplate all its history in the Mural in front of the Casino, painted in the most traditional Portuguese blue. Do not miss the opportunity to try the Rabanadas Poveiras, a gastronomic delight reminiscent of Spanish torrijas, with which you will regain strength for the next stage.
The coastal village of Esposende is known for its serene white sand beaches. A favorite destination for locals to spend a peaceful moment away from routine, do not leave without visiting the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte. An unforgettable walk among windmills, dunes, reed beds, farms, maritime pine forests and marshes, all with the Cávado River as protagonist. Viana do Castelo, the city of gold, will allow you to learn more about the lifestyle of the North of Portugal. Emblematic for its architecture, in which centuries of history are intermingled, its gastronomy does not leave anyone indifferent either. Former cod fishermen, the region is also known for being a local producer of the famous Portuguese vinho verde (green wine). The last stop in Portuguese territory is Praia Vila de Ancora, a charming fishing village that will transport you to simpler times. Its beach coincides with the mouth of the Ancora River, and is a very popular summer destination, both among locals and Galicians living in the south of the province of Pontevedra. From here we enter Galician territory, with A Guarda as our first stop. Remember that to cross the Miño river, which separates Portugal and Galicia, you will have to use a maritime transport service. We recommend that you take a look at the timetables and prices of Xacobeo Transfer. Once in this prehistoric village, we encourage you to visit the old town and the narrow streets that separate its decorated docks -the graffiti are worthy of a selfie- from the two viewpoints that you can find in the Castro de Santa Tegra or Monte Terroso. From them you can see the mouth of the Miño river and the route that you have been leaving behind little by little. Baiona is a beautiful stop that we talked about not long ago as one of the points of interest of the Rías Baixas. Take the opportunity to relax on its beaches, taste the delicious seafood dishes and learn a little about this historic town. You will walk this stage accompanied by the views of the wonderful Cíes Islands in the background and getting to know the different beaches until you enter the Ría de Vigo. It is here where the route becomes more urban, entering the most populated city of Galicia, and the last point from where you can get the Compostela. From here, if you are curious to know more about the Portuguese Coastal Way, you can continue reading our official guide here.
This route, besides being charming, is perfect for these summer months. The proximity to the sea softens the high summer temperatures and if you are ever overcome by the heat, you can always make a stop at one of the many beaches that you will find on your Way.
If you choose this option, you can enjoy the perfect mix of coast to Pontevedra, where the itinerary meets the Portuguese Way of the Interior, and paths full of rural life through the Galician interior until you reach your destination, Santiago de Compostela.
Don’t be fooled by its name! With some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Way, the Winter route wins the heart of every pilgrim who decides to walk it, and that is why it is the favorite of our colleague Melissa. An incredibly peaceful route thanks to the diversity of its scenery.
We recommend it for experienced pilgrims, since the routes of the Camino de Invierno contain complicated slopes for those who are still starting on the Camino.
It is a Way that is still unknown among novices, so it is the ideal route for those who want to reconnect with nature and with themselves. Some of its landscapes include the amazing formation of the Médulas, the impressive region of Ribeira Sacra, the historic viewpoint of Pico Sacro or the calm waters of the Deza River as it passes through Carboeiro. Read on if you want to discover more about this mysterious route.
If you decide to do the complete Winter Way, you will start in Ponferrada, with 263 kilometers ahead of you. You will cross the Leonese region of El Bierzo, where your route will start gently and allow you to get to know the natural diversity of the area. Your first stage culminates with Las Médulas, the great mine open to the sky in reddish tones. And believe it or not, you are not on Mars, and this formation is by no means accidental. It dates back to the Roman invasions, who, attracted by the amount of gold that was hidden among these hills, built a hydraulic system that collapsed the land, giving rise to this curious landscape. Once past this natural phenomenon, you will descend to the region of Valdeorras, bathed by the river Sil and famous for its Godello, a variety of white wine. The landscape also changes, and you will be accompanied by vineyards and olive groves during several stages. A green landscape that mixes with the stone of small villages and towns and that is very peaceful. Arriving at your fourth stop, Quiroga, you will enter the Serra do Courel, an impressive geological site that attracts Galicians from the four provinces. Its trails will lead you to discover prehistoric fossil remains hidden in its more than 20,000 hectares, with unique native forests in the entire Galician Community, which led UNESCO to declare it a World Geopark. To reach Monforte de Lemos, you will have to overcome an ascent of more than 200 meters of altitude, in what is probably the loneliest and one of the most intense stages of this Way. But do not despair, take advantage of these moments of silence to connect with yourself and the reasons that have led you to this physical but also spiritual journey. Monforte is the capital of the Ribeira Sacra, a region where you will find fascinating landscapes, all of them bathed by the waters of the rivers Cabe, Sil and Miño, encased in canyons that rise immense over the serene river forms. If you want to know more about it, there is a catamaran service open to the public that will take you through the calm waters or you can look out from one of the several viewpoints in the area to admire the scene in its entirety. In addition, the region is also known for having the highest concentration of Romanesque churches and monasteries in Europe, so you can learn about history while admiring one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Galicia. The seventh stage is unique, as you will cross the four Galician provinces in a single day. It is also the most physically demanding, with an elevation gain of almost 600 meters to reach the Serra do Faro. But everything has its reward, since from the top of this mountain range you will be able to see the highest Galician peaks: the Courel, the Ancares, Peña Trevinca, Manzaneda and Monte Farelo. You will now find an equally intense descent until you reach the last stop of what is known as the Winter Way, since from Lalín the route joins the Vía de la Plata. If after reading this you still want to find out more about the route and its different stages, you can consult our official guide here. As you can see, the Camino de Invierno is incredibly rich in scenery and history, perfect for delving into your passion for nature and reflecting on your motivation and circumstances. The Way is never the same twice because we are not the same, we evolve, we learn, and the Way is, among many things, a metaphor for our life process. Enjoy it to the fullest as you walk its paths.
Undoubtedly the most chosen Way among pilgrims, and among our team as well. Mercedes, Sonia, Chiara and Giulia have walked it many times and always want to repeat. We understand why, it is the most popular option, because it is where most of the historical pilgrimage routes converge. This has given rise over the centuries to the greatest cultural and architectural concentration of any way. Monasteries, churches, forts, castles, manor houses, bridges, fortresses…
The passage of human beings has left its mark over time and is the best example of the history of the Way.
There is little left to say about the French Way that we haven’t already said, except that it is the safest option, both for beginners and veteran pilgrims. Both in its full version -with about 930 kilometers ahead- and the version that starts in Sarria -the last 100 kilometers that will ensure you can receive the Compostela- it is the way with the best infrastructure among all the routes we know. On average, we know that there is a town with a service every 5.6 kilometers, whether bars, restaurants, supermarkets or hostels. It is also very well signposted and busy, so if you ever feel lost, just look around to see if you can see any cairns or yellow arrows. In addition, you can turn to the pilgrim community, who are generous and will share any advice and lend a hand in any way they can.
If you want to learn more about this Way, either in its full version or in its shorter version, take a look at our official guide to discover all the treasures that await you on this route. Hopefully this selection of our favorite Caminos has encouraged you to try one of them this summer. And remember, you have many more routes to choose from that we have not talked about today, but that are still a perfect alternative for these last months of good weather in this Jacobean Year 2022.