By he the cathedral in Porto, getting ready to walk Camino Portuguese.

By the cathedral in Porto, getting ready to walk Camino Portuguese.

This is a few impressions from my hike from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.

You get fit and lose weight when you walk the Camino Portuguese.

Walking the Camino Portuguese is sure to make you fit. You spend the majority of the day walking in elevated terrain with a pack on your back.

You can even eat and drink quite a bit without worrying about putting on weight.

This is the kinda travel I like, as Dieting has to be one of the more miserable pursuits you can undertake in life.

During my walk I ate all the food I felt like. I usually washed it down with half a liter of red wine or a couple of big beers. By the end of the walk, I had still lost 2,5 kilos in 11 days.

You meet interesting people on the Camino.

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A young family from Lithuania walking the Camino.

Walking does a thing to you:

People suddenly have time to start thinking more deep thoughts. Both religious and non religious. This means you can have some very interesting conversations with the people you meet on the road. The kinda conversations that go beyond the usual: “What’s your name” “Where are you from”. And so on.

It’s not like I was engulfed in long talks about religious faith. I am a non believer myself. But I really enjoyed having some very good philosophical talks to people from all around the globe. That is one thing that is very easy to find on the camino. When people go for a really long walk, then they have time to think a little deeper. Both the religious and non religious folks.

In more than 3 decades of traveling the globe it’s probably the trip where I had the most deep conversations with people.

It’s a cheap way to see Portugal and Spain.

Camino Portuguese.

A day on the Camino Portuguese.

Walking the camino cost me around 25 euros per day and I could easily have done it cheaper.

When you walk the camino you will typically stay in “pilgrims refuges”. They tend to cost an average of 5-6 euros per night for a dorm bed. The restaurants along the camino usually have special menus for camino walkers that are discounted. Finding a 3 course meal and half a liter of wine and a coffee should always cost you under 10 euros. I usually paid around 7 euros for a meal with wine. Plus Spain and Portugal are coffee countries where the common man tends to go to the cafe for a coffee a few times a day. So it’s very affordable to drink coffee there too which is of great importance to me.

So the cost is not what should keep you away from walking Camino Portuguese.

The camino is full of female hikers.

Lunch with fellow Camino walkers.

Lunch with fellow Camino walkers.

One thing that really struck me on the camino is the number of women walking it, compared to the number of men. Especially if you are talking about those under the age of 40.

My guess is that when guys want to have an active holiday, they tend to climb the Mont Blanc, walk to Everest Base Camp. Or something else that is a little more macho and physically challenging.

Girls on the other hand seem to love the idea of having an active holiday where they can throw some spirituality and history into it.

I would probably say that I met around 3-4 times as many women as men under the age of 40 walking the camino. While it was more even among the sexes when you take the older age group which is actually quite big too.

I met several people over the age of 70 walking the camino, by the way.

So guys: If you are able to walk 25 kilometers a day and hold a fairly intelligent conversation: Then the camino is actually not the worst place to meet some charming young ladies. So get out of the bar and on the Camino if you are looking for nice girls :-).

Camino walking is the best cure against stress.

Fellow camino walker chilling out.

Fellow camino walker chilling out.

Spending the entire day walking slowly through beautiful countryside is pretty close to being the best stress relief I  know.

My job is very stressful. Working in travel and tourism. I fly close to 100 times per year and have more than 100 days per year as a tour leader. I have to cater to clients 24/7 and I am very often close to cracking up with stress and too high blood pressure.

But while walking the camino I did not just get fit. My stress level went to the lowest in a long time. And my blood pressure was as low as in my teens.

I have found over the years that exercise is the best way to cure stress. Especially if it’s something where you exercise slowly for several hours per day.

So if you are stressed for one reason or another, Then get on to the Camino. And I will almost guarantee you that your stress level will drop significantly.

You do not need to be religious to walk the Camino.

Road sign for Camino walkers.

Road sign for Camino walkers.

I am not religious. Neither am I spiritual. And I was wondering whether this would leave me as some outcast on the camino that no one would want to talk to. But this was not the case at all.

The vast majority of the people I met on the camino did not do the walk for religious reasons. But sure there were some and I got along fine with them.

I met many people, mostly younger women, who walked it partly for spiritual reasons. Even if they are not catholic. They liked the idea of the camino having been used for hundreds of years by religious and spiritual people.

Then you have the group that I kinda fall into. These folks walk it cause we like active holidays and also have a historical interest in both the camino and the countries we walk through.

Quite a few people also walked the Camino Portuguese because they saw the excellent movie called The Way. Fantastic movie that I can only recommend.

I also met both Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists walking the Camino.

I am sure you can find other people who do it for other reasons. But the bottom line is that you do not have to be a practicing catholic to walk the camino and have a good time there.

It can be done in around 10 days.

On the way to Santiago on the Camino Portuguese.

On the way to Santiago on the Camino Portuguese.

Many people tell me that they are thinking about walking the Camino but tell me that they can not take several weeks off to walk all the way from France.

Now you do not need to walk all the way from France in order to be considered a pilgrim.

All you have to do is walk at least the last 100 kilometers in order to get accredited as a pilgrim.

The walk from Porto where I started to Santiago de Compostela is officially 242 kilometers long. Reality is though, that it will be a little longer as you will always take some little side steps here and there.

I did the trip myself in 11 days. But it would have been 10 days had I not injured my foot on the second day of walking, so I had to take a break one day.

You can quite easily do it in a fortnight’s holiday and still have a day or two to explore Porto and Santiago de Compostela. Both are very interesting cities.

And finally please take your time to see Porto and Santiago de Compostela, before and after you walk the Camino Portuguese.

Porto.

Porto.

If you walk from Porto to Santiago de Compostela like me. Then I would strongly suggest that you take your time to see these two cities and not just rush in and out of there. You can also read more travel tips from Portugal on my blog.

They are both world class cities that every traveling person should see at least once in their lifetime.

 

I have also written a review of the brilliant movie about the Camino de Santiago, called “The Way”. The review is on this link. if you would like to read it.

 

10 Comments

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I walked the Camino del Norte last summer. Thanks to multiple meals and a lot of beer, I definitely felt stronger, but not lighter!

  2. One day! I agree with you on all points, especially how walking allows the mind to think more deeply.

  3. You have inspired me to do this walk. I’m talking with my husband about it. How much walking do you do in your normal life? I would probably have to work up to walking that far.

    • I like to walk a lot every day and never drive if a place is within walking distance so I am quite used to walking.
      If you plan to exercise in order to prepare for such a thing then do it by walking as a gym will not prepare you as it tends to be different muscles you train there.
      But the key to these long walks is stamina so you just keep going even when your feet hurts.
      I am personally a very slow walker but I can walk for hours without end.

  4. Hey Claus! I’m actually thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago either this year or next, though I’d likely be walking the Camino Francés (the one that starts in southern France and goes along northern Spain). A few of my old friends walked it several years ago for religious reasons, which would be my main motivation too but the adventure part is also a factor for me. I think it would be a good thing for me to do something totally different from the types of traveling I’ve been doing for the past decade. I just ordered some books on Amazon about the Camino, so we’ll see…

  5. Thank you very much for this. I am in my sixties and would have to build up to walking 25 km a day but I am walking each day and aiming to go further every time.

    • hi’ Susan.
      You could also just spend a few more days on the walk and walk less each day. There is plenty of accommodation along the road and you do not need to walk 25 kilometers a day, if you do not feel like.

  6. Pingback: This is why I love to travel by foot, instead of using motorised transport.

  7. Thank you for the great tips! Amazing to see the 70 year old man doing this pilgrim!

    Hoping to do this in the near future, Godwilling.

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