Antas to Viana do Castelo: Portuguese Coastal Camino Day 5
In this introduction to the stages of the Portuguese Coastal Camino, I'm focusing on the stuff you actually need to know. You'll sort out accommodation and restaurants and so forth on your own as you travel. I'll cover the things that you don't want to miss along the way. For everything else, check out this article: What do you REALLY need to know about the Portuguese Coastal Camino?
A rundown of the Portuguese Coastal Camino: Antas to Viana do Castelo
16.8 km/10.4 miles
Primarily paved road, sidewalk and cobblestones with a bit of trail mixed in. About 3 km into the stage, there's a road section up to Castelo do Neiva that feels like an actual climb! A rarity thus far on the Coastal Camino! It's worth it because it's maybe the most interesting day thus far. You'll be on a lot of forest trail and cobblestone today. Some find that difficult. I like it, personally.
The stretch between Antas and Viana do Castelo is great. It's really starting to feel like a Camino.
The Way out of Antas takes you through pleasant wooded scenery, dirt trail and rural villas, and across a narrow stone bridge before sending you up a hill towards Castelo de Neiva. It's the first time on this whole Camino that it feels like you're climbing. You follow a road and veer inland for a time, moving a bit away from the coast.
The Santiago Church at the top of the climb is really remarkable. It's the site of the first evidence of veneration of Santiago outside of the Minho River valley (which we’re moving towards), and was dedicated in 9th century. They have an exposed stone where this dedication/inscription was rediscovered during a refurbishment. Go in. Have a look at 1200 year old writing. It's a great place to sit and absorb history. There's a nice modern chapel here as well. Evidence of the Camino's impact can be a little bit less visible earlier in the Portuguese Camino, but here you're thrown right into the ancient history of it all.
You continue for a while through cobblestones and forest paths, before descending into Chafé, as perfectly named a Camino town as you'll find.
From Chafé you continue a few rural kilometers to Anha, where you can visit another chapel dedicated to Santiago (18th century) before continuing for another hour or so to the bridge over the Rio Lima into Viana do Castelo. This bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. I didn't take a picture because 1) it's not actually that remarkable to look at, and 2) I didn't realized it was an Eiffel structure until after we'd left town!
Also, I was probably looking up towards the temple on the hill in Viana do Castelo when we were crossing the bridge. It's maybe the most iconic structure you'll see between Porto and Santiago. It's relatively new, built in the early 1900s, but really beautiful, inside and out.
I included a photo at the top of this post, but it's hard not to include multiple shots.
Viana do Castelo is a really great town, and it presents you with a dilemma. You can stay in the old town in the central city, close to pretty old squares, a nice modern mall, and a beautiful river mouth. Or, you can climb 600 stairs (or pay to take a frankly overpriced funicular) to the top of the hill by the temple and stay in the Albergue de Santa Luzia, adjacent to the temple and maybe the most spectacularly situated albergue on any Camino.
We decided to wander the town when we arrived in the afternoon, eat a snack at a bar, and cook dinner at the albergue at the top of the hill. I think it was the right choice, because it gave us the chance to watch the sunset over the ocean from the hill, and to have the Temple mostly to ourselves after dark. It made for a magical evening.
If you decide to do the same, stop in at the Igreja da Misericórdia before you head up the hill. It's one of the most spectacular church interiors you'll encounter on this Camino, with quintessential Portugese tile work.
There's a lot here, so if you're feeling tired, Viana do Castelo would be a great place to spend a rest day.