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The Central Route of the Portuguese Camino a 2024 guide

The Central Route is the most popular route of the Portuguese Camino from Porto. The Camino starts at Se Cathedral in the historical center of Porto and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It’s an inland route that takes pilgrims through several historical towns and combines forest and rural scenery.

According to the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in 2023 20% (88 716 people) of all pilgrims who arrived in Santiago de Compostela walked the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino. It’s one of the most popular Camino de Santiago routes.

A view of Ponte de Lima from the old bridge
Ponte de Lima is one of the most beautiful towns on the Central Route

Portuguese Camino Central Route Overview

  • Distance – 240 km/149 mi
  • Number of days – 10-14 days
  • Starting point – Sé Cathedral, Porto, Portugal
  • Finishing point – Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Spain
  • Difficulty level – moderate
  • Accumulated ascent – 4000 m over 10 days
  • Average cost – 30 euros per person per day if staying in albergues, from 50 euros if staying in hotels 

Central Route GPX files

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Portuguese Camino Central Route PDFs

Places to stay on the Central Route PDF

Walking stages of the Central Route PDF

Where does the Central Route start?

The Central Route of the Portuguese Camino starts at Sé Cathedral in Porto. The Portuguese Camino itself starts in Lisbon but there is only one route from Lisbon to Porto. From Porto the Camino splits into three routes; the Central Route, the Coastal Route, and the Litoral Way. 

Places to stay near Sé Cathedral in Porto

All the suggested places are situated within a 600 m radius of Sé Cathedral which means you can walk from your hotel to the Cathedral and start walking.

Low-end | Lost Inn Porto Hostel | Onefam Ribeira |

Mid-range | ORM Santana Apartment | Maria da SÉ Historic House |

High-end | Se Catedral Hotel Porto, Tapestry Collection By Hilton | HM – Ribeira São João 2D Apartment |

Which route to choose to walk out of Porto?

There are 3 routes of the Portuguese Camino from Porto; the Central Route, the Coastal Route, and the Litoral Way. I’ve walked all 3 of them and the Litoral Way is my favorite route out of the city. It is the one that goes along the coast. The first 7 km on the Coastal Route and the Central Route through the city are the same.

Technically you can walk out of Porto following the Litoral Way to Vila do Conde and switch to the Central Camino using the connecting route from Vila do Conde to Rates. It’ll add one extra day to your itinerary. In my opinion, following the Central Route from the start is the easiest option. 

You can find more information and maps in our 3 routes from Porto post.

Small wooden planks on the wall with words
“Buen Camino” written in different languages near the municipal Albergue in Ponta de Lima

How long is the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino?

The total distance of the Central Route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela is 240 km/150 mi. It takes between 10 and 14 days on average to complete the Camino. 

Is it easy to find the way?

Yes, the Central Route is well-marked from the start to the end. You don’t need GPS, a map, or a guide to find the way. The Portuguese Camino is marked with yellow arrows and scallop shells painted on walls, ground, rocks, etc. Sometimes in towns, it’s marked with metal shells on the ground.

A yellow Camino arrow painted on a rock in the forest
A Camino sign in the forest on the Central Route.

How difficult is the Central Route?

The Central Route has some challenging stages with long and steep ascents and descents. I would highlight the stages from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães and Tui to Redondela. Both stages have very steep ascents with subsequent steep descents. The last day from Padrón to Santiago, particularly the last bit, has steep ascents.

There are some long walking days, over 30 km in the standard itinerary but you can easily split those days into two there are tows and places to stay in between so there is no need to push your limits.

What is the scenery like?

The scenery along the Central Route combines forests, fields, and towns. You get to walk next to or on the road with cars occasionally but usually for a short while. 

My least favorite part of the Central Route is the stretch between Tui and O Porriño when for almost 5 km you walk through a noisy industrial area. 

Is there a lot of walking on cobbled stones?

Yes, in the forest half of the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino from Porto to Valença, there is a lot of walking on cobbled stones. In the Spanish part of the route from Tui to Santiago de Compostela, you rarely walk on cobblestones. 

To give an example the Portuguese part (Porto to Valença) of the Camino route is 122 km/75,8 mi out of which 42,5 km/26,4 mi you walk on cobbled stones. 

Overall on the Central Route, you walk often on hard surfaces such as tar, cobbled, and asphalt. 

A narrow cobblestone road through the fields and forest on the Central Camino
In the Portuguese part of the Central Route you walk on cobbled stones even in the forest

Is there a lot of walking on the road?

Here and there you do get short stretches where you walk on the road but it’s usually 100-300 m and then the route turns away. In the first half of the Central Route from Porto, there are parts on the road but there are alternative trails that are marked and indicated. I recommend taking the alternative routes as they take you away from the road. The distance is usually more or less the same but it’s much safer. 

Luggage delivery service on the Central Route

Several companies offer luggage delivery services on the Central Route. I’d highlight 3 main companies; Pilbeo, TuiTrans, and Correos (only the part from Tui to Santiago). The average price is 7 euros per backpack per stage. 

It works very easily they pick your luggage up at your accommodation place in the morning and drop it off at your next place in the afternoon. You can walk with a daypack carrying only essentials and valuables; the rest of your stuff will be transferred daily by car. You don’t have to wait for them to pick up your luggage you just leave it at the reception in the morning.

How to combine the Central Route with the Spitirual Variant?

The Spiritual Variant is an optional route of the Portuguese Camino from Pontevedra to Padron (Pontecesures). This 3-day route offers a unique experience, including a boat ride (Translatio) on the last day from Vila Nova de Arousa to Pontecesures. If you choose to walk the Spiritual Variant make sure to spend some time in Combarro, a small charming town.

Big blue letter
Pontevedra is the town on the Central route where the Camino splits

What are the highlights of the Camino?

For me, the historical towns were the main attraction of the route. I’d highlight Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Valença, Tui, and Pontevedra. And of course Porto and Santiago de Compostela – the starting and the ending points of the Portuguese Camino. 

Portuguese Camino planning resources

If you’re still in the process of planning your Camino walk we have a lot of content on the Portuguese route which might be helpful.

The Central Route of the Camino Portuguese route map

Starting and finishing points with distances of the stages of the Central Route
A map with walking stages of the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino

Camino Portuguese Central Route walking stages

Stage 1. Sé Cathedral, Porto to Vilarinho, 27 km/16,7 mi

  • Distance – 27 km/16,7 mi
  • Time – 6 hours
  • Accumulated ascent – 336 m
  • Accumulated descent – 355 m
  • Walking surface – 14,5 km – tar road and asphalt, 12 km – cobblestones, 500 m – footpath

It’s an easy walking day with diverse scenery. You get to see the historical center of Porto, its residential area, some forests, and small towns. The route is well-marked though the first 2 km from the Cathedral are a bit confusing as there are too many other signs, cars, and people. 

The first 7 km from Sé Cathedral, the Central Route and the Coastal Route follow the same trail. At 7 km they split. The Litoral Way ( it goes along the river) follows a different trail from the cathedral.

An elevation profile of the first stage of the Central Route from Porto
Elevation profile of the first day on the Central Route from Porto to Vilarinho. The first day is quite flat and easy

Challenges

  • A lot of walking on cobbled stones. 
  • A couple of stretches near a busy road and industrial areas.

Highlights

  • The historical center of Porto
  • Beautiful forest

Stage 1 of the Central Route description.

0-2,5 km/0-1,5 mi – walking through the historical part of Porto. 

2,8 km/1,7 miAlbergue de Peregrinos de Porto. You can buy a Pigrim’s Passport (Credential) there. It costs 2 euros.

5-11 km/3,1-6,8 mi – the route goes through quiet neighborhoods and residential areas of Porto.

6 km/3,7 mi – a couple of big supermarkets (LIDL, Continente) where you can get a well-priced meal.

7 km/4,3 mi – the split into the Coastal and the Central Route (on the left side of the street) in Padrão da Légua at the intersection of R. Nova do Seixo and R. Fonte Velha. The right route is the Central Route.

8,4 km/5,2 mi – a supermarket (ALDI)

9 km/5,6 mi – A Casa Vermelha Hostel

11-12 km/6,8-7,4 mi – walking along the road (sidewalk) through the forest

12-14,5 km/7,4-8,3 mi – walking through towns next to busy roads

14,5 km/8,3 mi – a couple of big supermarkets (LIDL, Pingo Doce)

15-16 km/9,3-10 mi – walking through an industrial area but not a very busy one

16-16,4 km/10-10,2 mi – on the road

17 km/10,5 mi – a shop and a bar

18,5 km/11,5 mi – Mosteiro, a small town with a cafe

20 km/12,4 mi – Vilar, a small town with a cafe and a shop

21-21,5 km/13-13,3 mi – walking on the road

21,5 km/13,3 mi – Gião, a small town with a restaurant. You can stamp your Pilgrim’s Passport at a stand with a stamp on the left side of the street.

22,4 km/14 mi – a small supermarket

23 km/14,3 mi – at the Doce Giao cafe there is a route split. I’d recommend following the alternative route that turns right and goes through a quiet area. The left route continues on a narrow road – not a safe walking option. There is a nice guesthouse Casa Mindela, 700 m from the Camino route. You can stop there instead of walking to Vilarinho. We stayed there for a couple of days and liked it.

24 km/15 mi – a bar and a shop

25 km/15,5 mi – an ATM and a cafe

26 km/16,1 mi – Municipal Albergue do Mosteiro do Veirão.

26,5-27 km/16,4-16,7 mi – a footpath through the forest

27 km/16,7 mi – Vilarinho, a town with a shop, a cafe, and a private albergue/guest house.

Sé Cathedral in Porto
Sé Cathedral in Porto is the beginning of the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino

Stage 2. Vilarinho to Barcelos, 28 km/17,3 mi

  • Distance – 28 km/17,3 mi
  • Time – 6-7 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 423 m
  • Accumulated descent – 455 m
  • Walking surface – 11,5 km/7 mi – asphalt; 11 km/6,8 mi – cobbled; 5,5 km/3,4 mi gravel/footpath.

It’s a pleasant walking day through small towns in the first half and a beautiful forest in the second half. If you want to stop for lunch or coffee do it in Rates the next place to stop will be only at 19,5 km. 

Two detours on the route are well-marked with a big map and signs. I would strongly recommend following the suggested detours as they take you away from dangerous parts of the route (walking on narrow busy roads with no sidewalks). The detours add little distance to the route.

Elevation graph with ascents and descents from Vilarinho to Barcelos
Elevation profile of the second stage of the Central Route

Challenges

  • Walking on a hard surface most of the day – 22,5 km/14 mi are on asphalt and cobblestones
  • No place to stop for food or coffee between 12 km/7,4 mi and 19,5 km/12 mi (between Rates and Portela).
  • A couple of short stretches of 100-200 m on the road.

Highlights

  • Beautiful forest scenery in the second half of the day
  • The pilgrims park in the forest at 14 km/8,6 mi
  • The historical center of Barcelos. The view of the town and the church from the opposite side of the bridge is beautiful. The center of Barcelos has many restaurants and cafes. It’s a lovely area to go out for dinner or drinks. 

Stage 2 rute description

The beginning of the walk is through the town of Vilarinho. 

3 km/1,8 mi (after 100 m of walking on the road) – detour to skip the part of walking on the road

6,2 km/3,8 mi – São Mamede, a small town with a cafe

8 km/5 mi (just before Arcos) – the connecting route from the Coastal Route from Vila do Conde merges with the Central Route.

9 km/5,6 mi – the town of Arcos; hotels, restaurants

12 km/7,4 mi – São Pedro De Rates (Rates); municipal albergue, hotels, restaurants, shops 

12-19 km/7,4-11,8 mi – forest

14 km/8,6 mi – a Pilgrims Park, a small area in the forest dedicated to the pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago with benches, sculptures, etc.

A statue of the black rooster in the forest on the Central Camino
A statue of the traditional Portuguese rooster in the Pilgrims Park on the Central Route near Barcelos

18,5 km/11,4 mi – Pedra Furada, private Albergue O Palhuço (donation)

19 km/11,8 mi – Guesthouse/Albergue Casa Maria

19,5 km/12,1 mi – restaurant

20 km/12,4 mi – bakery

22,5 km/14 mi – bar

24,5 km/15,2 mi – shop

26,5 km/16,4 mi – Barcelinhos, a small town just before Barcelos

27 km/16,7 mi – Albergue

28 km/17,3 mi – the historical center of Barcelos

The medieval bridge from Santa Maria Church in Barcelos, Portugal
The historical center of Barcelos

Stage 3. Barcelos to Ponte de Lima, 34 km/21 mi

  • Distance – 34 km/21 mi
  • Time – 7-8 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 509 m
  • Accumulated descent – 532 m
  • Walking surface – 19 km/11,6 mi – asphalt; 9,5 km/5,9 mi – cobbled; 5,5 km/3,4 mi gravel/footpath.

It’s a very long walking stage which you can split into two stages. Most people I met were planning to walk all the way. Don’t try to keep up with others. Split the stage into two and rather have two days of relaxing walking than be overtired and possibly with blisters after a very long day. 

Elevation profile of the walk from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima
Elevation profile of the third stage from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima

Challenges

  • A very long walking day, 34 km/21 mi. 
  • Walking on hard surfaces, around 30 km on cobbled stones and asphalt which is hard on your foot
  • Several ascents and descents nothing long or very steep but combined with the long distance it makes the walk more challenging

Highlights

Stage 3 route description

0-3 km/0-1,8 mi walking through Barcelos

3 km/1,8 mi – Albergue Flora

5,5 km/3,4 mi – bakery

5,5-10 km/3,4-6,2 mi – walking through the forest and fields

9,5 km/5,9 miHotel Leonchic. We stayed here for a couple of nights and it was nice, the food they made was good, and the location is right on the Camino route.

10,3 km/6,4 mi – Portela de Tamel with a restaurant and a Municipal Albergue Casa da Recoleta (across the road)

12 km/7,4 mi – Aborim, Casa de Santiago Albergue

16 km/9,9 miHotel Casa da Quinta da Cancela

21 km/13 mi – Hotel Casa da Fernanda

22 km/13,6 mi – the town of Vitorino dos Piães, Albergue Casa Sagres, hotel Estabulo de Valinhas

22,4 km/13,9 mi – restaurant

25 km/15,5 mi – hotel Quinta da Albergaria

28 km/17,3 mi – Sobreiro, private Albergue O Caminheiro

28,5 km/17,7 mi – Seara, cafe, bakery, hotel Pinheiro Manso

34 km/21 mi – the center of Ponte de Lima 

An old stone bridge across the Limia River in Portugal
The beautiful Roman/Medieval Bridge in Ponte de Lima

Alternative. Barcelos to Ponte de Lima in 2 days

You can split the long stage into two and spend a night in Vitorino dos Piães and the next day continue to Ponta de Lima. The second day will be short which means you’ll have more time to explore the beautiful town of Ponte de Lima. The historical part of the town, the Roman/Medieval bridge, and a beautiful park (Parque do Arnado) on the other side of the river are worth exploring. 

Another reason to spit the stage is the walk from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães, it’s a relatively short day, 18 km but with a very steep and long ascent that makes you tired. 

Barcelos to Vitorino dos Piães, 22 km/13,6 mi

  • Distance – 22 km/13,6 mi
  • Time – 4-5 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 403 m
  • Accumulated descent – 337 m
  • Walking surface – 11 km/6,8 mi – asphalt, 7 km/4,3 mi – cobbled, 4,2 km/2,6 mi – footpath/gravel

Places to stay in Vitorino dos Piães

| Casa Sagres | Casa da Fernanda | hotel Estabulo de Valinhas | Casa na Quinta de Valinhas |

Vitorino dos Piães to Ponte de Lima, 12 km/7,4 mi

  • Distance – 12 km/7,4 mi
  • Time – 2-3 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 105 m
  • Accumulated descent – 195 m
  • Walking surface – 8 km/5 mi – asphalt, 2,5 km/1,5 mi – cobbled, 1,3 km/0,8 mi – footpath/gravel
A small white church in one of the towns on the Portuguese Camino
A small church in Virotino dos Piães on the Central Route

Stage 4. Ponte de Lima to Rubiães, 18 km/11 mi

  • Distance – 18 km/11 mi
  • Time – 4-5 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 517 m
  • Accumulated descent – 332 m
  • Walking surface – 6 km/3,7 mi – asphalt, 3 km/1,8 mi – cobbled,  10 km/6,2 mi – gravel/footpath

Despite a short distance, it was quite a tiring day due to a steep and long ascent and accumulated tiredness after the previous long walking day. Splitting the previous stage into two might be a good option. Before you start the ascent make sure you have enough water, especially during summer.

A graph with ascents and descents on the way from Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
Elevation graph of the fourth stage of the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino

Challenges

  • A steep and long ascent that starts at 8 km. You gain over 300 m in 5 km/3,1 mi. The most challenging part is between 10 km/6,2 mi and 13 km/8 mi.
  • A steep descent that starts at 13 km/8 mi. It’s not as long and steep as the ascent. You go down 190 m in 5 km/3,1 mi.
  • No places to stop for food or drinks in the second half of the day so make sure to carry enough water for the ascent.

Highlights

  • A decorated Camio wall on the Central Route around the corner from the public albergue in Ponte de Lima.
  • Beautiful forest and tranquil fields.
  • Cruz dos Franceses – a stone cross at 12,5 km/7,7 mi marks the place where locals ambushed soldiers of Napoleon’s army during the invasion of 1809. 

Stage 4 of the Central Route description

0-1 km/0-0,6 mi walking through the town of Ponte de Lima

1-6 km/0,6-3,7 mi walking through the fields and villages

4,5 km/2,7 mi – a decorated wall with figurines of saints, pictures, etc.

6-7,5 km/3,7-4,6 mi – walking through the forest

7,7-8,5 km/4,7-5,2 mi – walking along the road

8,5 km/5,2 mi – a bar in a village. It is the last and only place to stop for food and rest before the ascent. The next bar is at 15,8 km and it’s not always open. There will be no place to refill water during the ascent.

8-13 km/5-8 mi – the beginning of the ascent through the forest.

9,4 km/5,8 mi – guesthouse Quinta da Labrujo

9,7 km/6 mi – Albergue Casa da Valada

9,9 km/6,1 mi – Albergue O Comforto

10,5 km/6,5 mi – guesthouse Casa do Chafariz

10-13 km/6,2-8 mi – a steep ascent on a footpath through the forest

12,5 km/7,7 mi – Cruz dos Franceses, a stone cross in the forest

13 km/8 mi – the top of the mountain, the beginning of the descent

14 km/8,6 mi – another stone cross

15,8 km/9,8 mi – a bar

16,5 km/10,2 mi – homestay Casa de Lamas

16,8 km/10,4 miguesthouse O Repouso do Peregrino

17 km/10,5 miAlbergue Constantino

17,3 km/10,7 miguesthouses Quinta das Leiras

18 km/11 mi – municipal Albergue and a bar

Portuguese countryside scenery on the Central Route
Beautiful scenery on the fourth day of the Central Route

Stage 5. Rubiães (Portugal) to Tui (Spain), 19,5 km/12,1 mi

  • Distance – 19,5 km/12,1 mi
  • Time – 4-5 hours (moving time) 
  • Accumulated ascent – 306 m
  • Accumulated descent – 437 m
  • Walking surface – 8,8 km/5,4 mi – asphalt, 7 km/4,3 mi – cobbled, 3,7 km/2,3 mi – gravel/footpath

I enjoyed this stage of the Central Route. Despite the relatively short distance, it is very diverse. You get to walk through the forest and fields, visit two medieval fortresses, and two countries. I would recommend spending some time at Valença Fortress. 

If you start walking the Central Route in Porto be prepared to see significantly more pilgrims on the Tui to Santiago route. Many people walk only the last 100 km which is a required minimum for getting a Compostela certificate. 

One noticeable thing regarding the walking surface of the Portuguese Camino is that once you cross to Spain there will be no more cobbled stones on the route (maybe here and there in the towns but not like in Portugal). Remember about the time difference, Spain is 1 hour ahead of Portugal.

A graph with ascents and descents on the fifth day of the Central Route
Elevation profile of the fifth stage from Rubiães to Tui

Challenges

  • An ascent between 1 and 4 km, 110 m up
  • A steep descent between 4,5 and 7,5 km, 200 m down

Highlights

  • A beautiful forest in the first half of the day
  • Valença Fortress is located on the top of the hill and offers spectacular views of the town and its surroundings.
  • A metal bridge across the Minho River offers beautiful views of both shores and fortresses
  • Tui Fortress is a Spanish fortress on the opposite side of the river.
The Minho River and Tui Fortress from the bridge
A view of Tui from a bridge over the Minho River.

Stage 5 route description

0-300 m – along the road

900 m/0,5 mi – a small Roman/Medieval bridge

1 km/0,6 mi – a restaurant

1,7-2,2 km/1-1,3 mi – walking along the road

2,2-3,4 km/1,3-2,1 mi – walking on the old Roman road

4,3 km/2,6 mi – a cafe, hotel Casa da Capela

4,5 km/2,7 mi – the beginning of a long and steep ascent

7,3 km/4,5 mi – an ATM and a public toilet

7,5 km/4,6 miguesthouse Casa Quinto do Cruzeiro, bar

10 km/6,2 miAlbergue/guesthouse Quinta Estrada Romana

11 km/6,8 miguesthouse/restaurant Quinta do Caminho 

13,5 km/8,3 mi – two cafes

15,5 km/9,6 mi – the town of Valença. There is a route that connects the Coastal and the Central Route of the Portuguese Camino from Caminha to Valença. There is a public albergue near Continente supermarket. I can recommend Hostel Bulwarck near the fortress.

16 km/10 mi – Public Albergue

16,5-17,5 km/10,2-10,8 miValença Fortress. The Camino goes through it. There are several hotels and many restaurants inside the walls. 

17,5 km/10,8 mi – a metal bridge across the Minho River. On the other side of the river is Spain. Remember the time difference, Spain is 1 hour ahead of Portugal. 

19 km/11,8 mi – Tui. Once in the town the Camino route goes away from the main street and takes you towards the river first and then back to the main street. You walk 500 m extra. If you want to get closer to the river you can follow the marked route otherwise just keep walking along Avenida de Portugal till you get to the fortress.

19,5 km/12,1 mi – Tui Fortress. A public albergue in Tui is behind the Cathedral de Santa Maria de Tui

You can find the information on the last 100 km from Tui to Santiago in our designated post.

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