In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. You know the rhyme, but did you know that remnants of Christopher Columbus’ journey dapple the Camino de Santiago? Along the Portuguese Coastal and Central routes, you pass through several important historical sites where you can learn about the Iberian Peninsula’s rich maritime history.
Here are a handful of the stops along The Way that will pique the interest of any history lover:
Both of the Portuguese coastal and central routes of Camino de Santiago pass through Pontevedra, Spain, where Columbus’ Santa Maria was reportedly built. The Santa Maria was the flagship vessel of Columbus’ three-ship fleet, which included the La Pinta and La Niña. It was also the largest and heaviest, weighing an estimated 100 tons. The town is still steeped in coastal traditions and fishing culture today, despite the fact that long-term sedimentation made the port unsuitable for large ships. Now, this award-winning city is perfect for an evening stroll along the seaside promenade after a day of walking.
Just outside of Pontevedra is a small town, called Poio. It’s worth a visit because some historians claim this is actually the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. This goes against the widely accepted belief that Columbus is Italian and hails from Genoa. Visit Poio’s Casa Museo Colón (his name translates to Cristobal Colón in Spanish) to see the evidence that suggests the explorer was born in Spain, and decide for yourself.
Wander the shores of the first place in Europe to learn of Columbus’ discovery in Baiona. This small town on the Portuguese Coastal route is where the Pinta docked on March 1, 1493, after returning from Columbus’ cross-Atlantic explorations. A replica of the ship was built in 1999 to commemorate the ship’s arrival and it still sits in the harbor today. Inside, you’ll find the Caraval Pinta Museum, where you can see exactly what it looked like when it landed on the shores of Spain, over 500 years ago.
Vigo, Spain and Porto, Portugal
While not directly traced to Columbus’ journey, you will also find great maritime history in Vigo and Porto. These towns could have played a supporting role in preparations for his transatlantic adventure. Just a day’s walk from Baiona on the Portuguese Costal route, Vigo is home to one of the biggest ports in Spain. Its large marina is usually bustling with colorful sailboats, cruise lines, and commercial ships. The Battle of Rande, which took place in Vigo Bay on October 23, 1702, saw an attack by the British and Dutch on a Spanish ship returning from South America. It’s believed the vessel was carrying gold and treasure, and the bounty is still sitting at the bottom of the harbor waiting to be discovered. Perhaps it’s worth a little seaside exploration as you pass through on the Camino.
Porto, a popular starting point for both the Coastal and Central Portuguese Ways, is a beautiful port town with ties to another famed maritime figure – Henry the Navigator. Prince Henry the Navigator was born in Porto in 1394 and is considered the patron on Portuguese exploration. Although he wasn’t a sailor himself, he sponsored explorations and started a school for navigators that led Portugal to some of its most important discoveries. With one of the country’s leading shipyards, Porto’s shoreline is still filled with vessels that transport goods, tourists, and delicious Port wine. It’s a stunning destination to start a life-changing journey on The Way.
An adventure on the Camino de Santiago is full of surprises. You’ll walk sandy beaches and dine on fresh seafood. You’ll stumble upon historical places and enter holy sites. You’ll feel alive and at peace in a way you haven’t for years. If you’re interested in taking a journey that puts you in the crosshairs of spiritual and historical discovery, contact Adventure Camino. We put together custom trips that help you explore and relax to get the most out of your experience on the Camino de Santiago.