Portuguese Camino Day 1: A Rocky Start

Last updated Nov 6, 2021 | Published on Oct 5, 2021

On Monday, October 4, I officially started walking the Portuguese Camino (Camino Portugués). After so many delays, it was a relief to finally begin my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The first albergue (pilgrim’s hostel) along the route is located 25.2 km (15.6 miles) from Porto. I wasn’t quite ready to walk that distance in a single day yet, so I decided to break it up over two days.

For my first day, I planned to walk 9.5 km (6 miles) to the Custio metro stop in a suburb of Porto. From there I could easily travel back to Porto’s Old Town and spend one last evening with my husband Daniel at the AirBnB apartment. Then I could simply continue where I left off the next day.

It *seemed* like a good plan. I heard this section of the Camino wasn’t very interesting once the path left Old Town, so it would be nice to get that over with. And I liked the idea of beginning at a relaxing pace. Plus, I could leave my big backpack with Daniel for the day.

But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The universe had other plans in store for me.

Walking through Old Town with the magnificent trail station on the right and the Igreja de Santo Antonio dos Congregados straight ahead

The Camino Route Options in Porto

Before I go into more details about my first day on the Camino, however, an overview of the possible routes is in order.

While the Portuguese Camino officially begins in Lisbon and ends at Santiago de Compostela, most pilgrims begin in Porto. The Lisbon-Porto section has less infrastructure and isn’t used as much.

Beginning in Porto, there are three main options to choose from: the Central Route, the Coastal Route and the Braga Route. The Litoral Way is another trail leading from Porto that hugs the coast. Of these paths, the Central Route is the most popular (although many pilgrims walk the Litoral Way out of Porto to avoid the city’s industrial areas).

There are lots of other paths connecting these routes together as pilgrims commonly go from one to the other. This makes for a somewhat confusing journey as there are seemingly different routes and trail markers all over Porto.

For my pilgrimage, I’ve decided to walk the Central Route. To keep me on track, I’ve downloaded a few Camino apps to my phone. They’re all slightly different, so for anyone following along I’m primarily using the Peregrino Online Portuguese Way app.

Typical Camino Route Marker in Porto

Typical Camino Route Marker in Porto

A Late Start

Since I only planned to walk six miles on the first day, I decided on a leisurely start. I ate breakfast with Daniel and we continued shopping for a new backpack.

As I mentioned in my Portugal Camino Day 0 Post, my current pack has some issues. We went to a nearby shopping district and looked around without any luck. While we were there, we stopped for lunch.

By this time, it was already afternoon. The day was flying by faster than I anticipated. So I bid goodbye to Daniel and headed to the starting point for the Portugal Camino.

Walking through the streets in Old Town

Ponte Luís I Bridge

While many pilgrims choose to start walking at the Porto Cathedral, I decided to begin at the Ponte Luís I Bridge.

Located just south of the Cathedral, the Bridge is a historic double-deck arch spanning the Douro River. The upper deck has incredible views of Porto and is limited to use by pedestrians and trams only.

It seemed like a fitting place to begin my journey and enjoy the cityscape at the same time.

View of Porto from the Bridge

A cool mural visible from the bridge

Walking through Old Town

After crossing the bridge, I visited the Porto Cathedral. I already received a stamp when I picked up my Credencial, so there was no need to go inside.

From there, the path winds through the heart of Old Town in a pedestrian zone. The streets are narrow and hilly and filled with charming cafes. Many of the buildings are decorated with azulejos, traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles.

One of my favorite stops was at the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church). The tilework on the outside of the church is absolutely stunning. I popped my head inside and was rewarded with another Credencial stamp at the ticket booth.

Carmo Church

Tile exterior of Carmel Church

The Outskirts of Porto

After walking for about 1.4 km (.86 miles), the path leaves Old Town. From here, it continues north through various busy shopping districts until reaching a more residential neighborhood.

But I didn’t make it very far into the Porto suburbs. After walking for about 5 km (3.1 miles), I decided to call it a day.

Why? Because it was getting late and my ankle was killing me. I have an old injury in my right foot that flares up from time to time – and it was flared up in a big way.

Walking through Porto after leaving Old Town

Neighborhood on the outskirts of Porto

The Sore Ankle Fiasco

In fact, I started having issues before I even left Old Town. I had forgotten my hiking poles and the hilly cobblestone streets were proving especially difficult to navigate without them.

Luckily, our apartment is only a 5-minutes walk from the Camino. So I swung by the flat to retrieve them. Once inside, I took a Tylenol and rested my foot for about an hour before proceeding.

Despite the Tylenol and the rest, I was leaning heavily on my hiking poles and limping an hour later. I know better than to keep pushing when my foot is like this. So I called an Uber and headed back to Old Town.

I was pretty bummed. I had only walked 5 km, which is half the distance I had planned for the day. And now that this injury is flared up again, I have no idea if it will improve enough for me to continue on the Camino at all.

There’s not much I can do now but ice my ankle, do stretches and rest. I wish I could go to physical therapy but that’s hard to do while we’re on the road. So I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens.

On the bright side, Daniel has rented an Airbnb apartment with amazing views of the Douro River to stay in while I’m gone. There are worse places to recuperate.

I’ve decided to take the next day off to rest my ankle. Hopefully I can pick back up where I left off after that.

Selfie on the Ponte Luís I Bridge

Portuguese Camino Stats

Date: Monday, October 4
Starting Location: Ponte Luís Bridge, Porto
Ending Location: Minipreço Market in the Monte dos Burgos Neighborhood
Camino Distance Walked: 3.1 miles/ 5 km
Distance to Santiago: 146.2 miles/ 235.4 km

AllTrails Map Recording

Note: the distance in this recording doesn’t match my Camino distance because it includes some off-route walking.

Stamps Collected Today

Porto Cathedral Stamp

Porto Tourist Point Stamp

Carmo Church Stamp

Continue Reading

For more information about my pilgrimage along the Camino Portugués, visit my Portuguese Camino web page.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

2 Comments

  1. Bonnie Rae

    I always suspect that when my plans radically change that I am being spared something worse than an inconvenience. I hope you’re able to travel the path, but what a gorgeous spot to rest and recover.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Bonnie!

      Reply

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