One of the great things about traveling along the Camino de Santiago is that you get to really dig deep and learn about all the places that pre-date the Camino and how the Camino and the villages dotting the landscape continue to sustain each other. One of the most historically, culturally and religiously significant routes you can take is the coastal Camino Portugués, which has the added bonus of also being a trip through a series of beachside resort towns dating back to the Middle Ages. If you’re having trouble deciding between a beach vacation in Europe and something more educational, then not to worry – by following the Camino Portugués, you can enjoy both!
Once you cross over from Portugal into Spain, you arrive in the historical port cities of Baiona and Vigo in the province of Pontevedra. Following are just a handful of attractions in that will make you glad you chose the coastal Camino Portugués for your Camino de Santiago experience:
Museo de la Carabela Pinta: Remember those elementary school history lessons about the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María? One of the most important historical facts about Baiona and the province of Pontevedra is that the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa María set sail from here. Baiona was also the first European port to receive word of the discovery of America when the Pinta returned to the port of Baiona. In 1993, the Spanish government celebrated the 500-year anniversary of the ship’s return by restoring the replica Pinta’s interior so as to preserve details specific to the Columbian era while paying homage to the indigenous cultures discovered through Columbus’s expedition. Complete with interpretive and interactive elements, the Museo is enjoyable and educational for children and adults alike.
Festa da Arribada da Santa María: The momentous return of the Santa María is celebrated every year in early March to this day! The Festa da Arribada is a great reason to book your trip for late February or early March if you’re planning to tour the Camino ahead of the high tourism season. Arrive a week or two early to experience an authentic European Carnaval, and then begin your camino on the western coast of the Iberian peninsula.
Monterreal Fortress: The ancient fortress surrounded by 3 km of fortification walls is a prominent feature on Baiona’s Monte Boi peninsula. It was used as a defense fort against the corsair incursions to the region. The fort has three massive towers. The Tower of the Clock near the entrance housed a hidden warning bell serving as an alarm during enemy attacks. The Tower of the Tenaille on the east side defended the port of Baiona with artillery cannons. The Tower of the Prince is overlooking the bay on the west and served as lighthouse for vessels. Enjoy a sunset from the fortress walls and beautiful views of the coastline.
Convento de Madres Dominicas. Built in the 16th century, the Convento de Madres Dominicas is celebrated today for its religious and artistic importance and for being an excellent example of the Plateresque architectural style. Located on the outskirts of the Old Town, a morning or afternoon at the Convento will fit seamlessly into your visit to Baiona. After exploring the architecture and its noteworthy display of saints at the main altar, be sure to enjoy the gardens!
Santa María Collegiate Church: Located in the Plaza de Pedra in the heart of Vigo’s old town, Santa María Collegiate Church has stood at its present location since the Middle Ages but was completely rebuilt in 1836. For two centuries, the church has been credited with protecting the locals from domination by Napoleon I. Whether to explore and take in the architecture, say a prayer to the Virgin Mary or both, the church is free and open to the public daily in the morning and in the evening.
Castro Fortress: Normally when you visit a medieval castle, you expect to hear stories of how the castle’s ingenious construction once served to protect those within from foreign invaders. The Castro Fortress ultimately failed to protect its constituents and the immediately-surrounding territory, but the legend of hidden treasure that has enshrouded the castle in mystery ever since its invasion in the late 1600’s makes it just as interesting as any other historical landmark and well worth a visit.
Along the Camino Portugués and all the other paths that make up the Camino de Santiago, a wealth of history and culture await those who are ready to find out what it means to take this journey. For more information on how Adventure Camino can help you have a Camino Portugués experience to remember, contact us.