Our plane touched down at the Porto Airport in a dense cloud of fog. I held onto my hat to keep it from blowing off my head as we descended onto the tarmac.
The weather didn’t bode well for my upcoming pilgrimage along the Portuguese Camino (Camino Portugués). But I didn’t care. I was so excited that I hardly noticed the weather.
My husband Daniel and I had just arrived in Portugal from Lake Bled, a gorgeous town nestled at the foothills of the Julian Alps. During our time there, I did a lot of training hikes in the mountains and in the Slovenian countryside. I even spent an entire day hiking along the Slovenian Camino.
After all that hiking, I was eager to start my Camino. I am in better shape now than I have been in a long time.
But I still have a ways to go before I can consistently walk 16-mile (25 km) days. I’m not nearly as fit as when I started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017. I’m also still nursing a sore ankle.
So I plan to take it easy and start slow … after getting my Pilgrim’s Passport at the Porto Cathedral.
Welcome to Porto
But first things first. Daniel and I checked into a hotel in the heart of Porto’s Old Town. We first visited Porto 8 years ago and fell in love with the city. We’ve traveled a lot since then and it’s still one of my favorite places to visit.
The city has changed a lot in the last 8 years. There are more restaurants and shops – and noticeably more tourists than at our last visit. But it’s still as lovely as ever.
There are no shortage of restaurants to choose from on our street. So, we ate a lunch of tasty empanadas at an Argentinian joint after settling in.
The Pilgrim’s Credencial
Next, we headed to the Portugal Cathedral to pick up my Pilgrim’s Credencial (also sometimes called a Pilgrim’s Passport). The Credencial is an accordion-shaped booklet filled with empty pages. These pages are meant to be filled with stamps from various businesses and churches and such along the trail.
This document also identifies me as an official pilgrim on the Camino. As a pilgrim, I’ll be able to stay in albergues – which are hostels designed exclusively for pilgrims.
Upon completion of the Camino, I will present my Credencial at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Assuming I have obtained enough stamps along the way, will be eligible for the Camino Compostela certificate.
The Compostela is an official religious document in Latin certifying that I have either walked 100 km or cycled (or travelled on horseback) 200 km to Santiago de Compostela. There is also a non-religious “Certificate of Welcome” for those who walk the Camino for non-religious or non-spiritual reasons.
I admit that I’m still a little confused as to how I’ll obtain all these stamps but I guess that’s part of the fun. According to the rules, I should have one stamp per day to be eligible for the Compostela (except for the last 100 km when I’ll need 2 stamps per day).
Getting the Pilgrim’s Credencial at the Portugal Cathedral
There are several ways to obtain a Credencial. You can get one at various churches or tourist offices or via the Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de España (Friends of the Camino de Santiago Association). Some albergues carry them as well.
Since I’m starting my Camino in Porto, I decided to pick mine up at the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto). The Porto Cathedral is an impressive building situated at the top of a hill overlooking the Douro River. It’s only a 10-minute walk from our hotel so it didn’t take us long to get there.
The area around the church was filled with crowds of visitors when we arrived. It’s a popular tourist destination and has magnificent views of the city from the tower.
The front doors were roped off so we followed the crowds to the tourist entrance (which is just to the right of the main entrance). Here pilgrims can purchase a Credencial, or get one stamped if they already have one. The Credencial cost 2€ ($2.32 USD).
Touring the Porto Cathedral
While we were there, I figured it we may as well visit the Porto Cathedral. The building dates back to the 10th century, although it wasn’t fully completed until 1737. It is a Romanesque-Gothic building that underwent major renovations in the Baroque Period (17th to 18th centuries).
It was a pretty extensive tour as far as they go, including access to the cloister and inside the church and to the rooftop tower.
Tickets to visit the Catherdal cost €3 per person for adults. For more information, visit the Porto Cathedral web site.
Shopping for the Perfect Backpack
I had hoped to start my Camino the following day, but I was worried about my backpack. I’ve been traveling around the world for the past couple of years and living out of my backpack – which is the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40L.
It’s been a great bag for long-term travel. The straps zip into a hidden panel for airline travel and it has a comfortable padded hip belt.
I originally planned to use it on the Camino too, but I’m starting to have my doubts about this plan. The pack does not have a mesh back for air circulation so I’ve gotten very sweaty on my training hikes. I’ve ended up with a red rash on my torso after these hikes, which doesn’t bode well for my upcoming Camino.
So I went shopping the following day, which happened to be a Sunday. I assumed I could easily pick up a better pack in Porto, but so far that has not been the case. I visited a couple of major sporting goods stores – Decathlon and Sports Zone – but they don’t carry anything that I like.
I could only find one camping/trekking store in Porto but it’s not open on Sundays. So, I have to wait until Monday to visit it.
Portuguese Camino Stats
Dates: October 2 & 3
Location: Porto, Portugal
Camino Distance Walked: 0 miles/ 0 km
Distance to Santiago:161.5 miles/ 260 km
For more information about my pilgrimage along the Camino Portugués, visit my Portuguese Camino web page.