Cesantes to Pontevedra: Portuguese Coastal Camino Day 10
Updated: Oct 20
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: Cesantes to Pontevedra
16.8 km/10.5 Miles
Out of Cesantes, you need to cross a busy highway - the N550 - and head uphill for a bit. From there you head downhill to Arcade and Pontesampaio and wind through the series of ups and downs through town.
Today is a mix of road, cobblestone streets, and a bit of dirt path.
A few kilometers before Pontevedra, there's a well-marked alternate that follows a path along the river. It's nice - from all reports a better option than the more industrial traditional route.
In contrast to the previous day, this was right up with my favorite days on the Coastal Camino.
Leaving Cesantes, you arrive at Arcade in just 4 km. Stop here for a coffee if you like. The Church of Santiago was constructed in the 12th century, and some of the original is still there, although it’s been updated through the years. Arcade is also known for it’s oysters if that’s your thing. It's not a huge place, but it is a nice place.
Shortly after Arcade, you come to the old stone bridge at Pontesampaio over the Verdugo River. We arrived in the morning light, and it was maybe my personal favorite single scene of the whole Camino. One of the most important battles in Spanish history was fought and won here - a decisive battle in the Napoleonic Wars that helped establish Spanish independence. I’m a sucker for a stone bridge, but this is a nice one by any measure.
After the bridge, you spend some time winding through the old European streets. It's just a fantastic way to spend a morning, and it transports you to a different world.
After you pass out of Arcade/Pontesampaio area you'll pass through a series of small towns and rural scenery for two to three hours before coming to Pontevedra, one of the nicest urban areas on this Camino. (Don't miss the obvious and well-marked river alternate for the most pleasant way to make your way into town.) It's a medium-sized city, much smaller than Vigo, but to me felt bigger than it is. It's lively and more of a tourist center than Vigo, with lovely old squares surrounded by pleasant cafes and bars.
The historic center is compact and really beautiful, with a lot of stunning architecture and multiple beautiful, lively plazas. Check out the 16th Century Basilica of Santa María la Mayor - 16th century and the 13th century Ruins of San Domingos Convent. Wander the narrow streets. Have a beer or an albarino. It's a great place for a day off if you want or need it.
No matter how long you're there, make it a priority to visit the Igrexa da Virxe Peregrina. It's right on route and is one of the most famous chapels on this Camino. The chapel itself is shaped like a Scallop shell, and it's decorated with scallop shell motifs and houses a famous icon of the Virgin dressed in traditional pilgrim garb. It was 'only’ built in the 1700s but it’s become an icon of the Portuguese Camino. Less well-known, but a bit more charming, close by is an iconic sculpture of the Ravachol Parrot - a cheeky pet of a local pharmacist that became a symbol of Pontevedra. The parrot was named for a famous anarchist because it was, one can assume, a naughty little bird. Reports are that it was famous for it’s profane vocabulary and big personality. These little bits of local identity are a bit of the magic that will stick with you on the Camino.
If you’re following the Spiritual Variant, like we did, the Camino from here is just one good thing after another.