Viladesuso to Vigo: Portuguese Coastal Camino Day 8
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: Viladesuso to Vigo
40.4 km/25.1 miles
An epic stretch of roads, cobblestones, beaches and city sidewalks. A lot of ups and downs, but no major single climbs or descents.
Listen, you probably don't want to do this stage like this. I didn't actually do this stage like this. I walked from Viladesuso to the beaches south of Vigo and took a taxi into the central city. If you walked the whole way it would be epic and beautiful but a really long day.
Also don’t do it because if you do you’ll be blasting through some really pleasant places. Break this stage up into a few days if you can. There's no reason you can't. You could stay in Baiona or Ramallosa or Nigrán and have a great time. Take a day off and go to the Cies Islands. There are a lot of options here.
Having said that, the 20 miles or so that I did walk of this section were one of my favorite stretches of the Camino. It's varied, beautiful, and full of history and culture.
The first part of the stage out of Viladesuso is great, even if it is more road walking. It's a super pretty stretch of coast. Then you cut in from the ocean and over a hill which gives you great views to Baiona from a stretch of rural walkway.
Baiona is one of the most picturesque cities on any Camino, and personally this is when I officially started to fall in love with this route. Everything before had been beautiful, and I’d heard it just gets better through the Spiritual Variant, so I realized the whole route was going to be amazing.
Baiona is small enough that it manages to maintain it's historic fishing village vibes, but it's big enough to pull off the Euro winding cobblestone street thing as well. You should probably just stop here. Wander the old town. See the 11th century Monterreal Fortress. (It's a luxury hotel now). Visit the parks on the peninsula where the fortress sits. Go see the 13th century Ex-Collegiate Church of Mary. It's all within easy walking distance and would make a great way to spend a day off.
Or maybe go to the beach at Playa America and drink some Albariño. Baiona is famous as the arrival point of the Pinta - the boat from Columbus' voyage that brought news back to Europe about the existence of the Americas for the first time. In the first weekend of March they celebrate the Arrival Festival as one of their major civic events.
After Baiona, continue along the Camino through Ramallosa. There are a few urban sprawl moments but generally the walk is lovely, passing lots of old stone houses and at lease one old fountain where you can fill your water. In Ramallosa, you cross a beautiful 12th century pedestrian bridge over the Minor river into Nigrán, which is said to be one of the best preserved in Galicia.
Just after the bridge, I very much recommend going left and taking the alternate, which follows along the river and beaches rather than going through town towards Vigo. You’ll pass the aforementioned golden sands of Praia America and a series of of beachside cafes. It's well marked, but I did consult my Wise Pilgrim app a few times while the alternate wound its way through city strets.
Once you get past the beaches the route takes you over a hill to a neighborhood called Patos. It’s worth using Google Maps and taking a slight detour up to the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista de Patos. It's one of the more picturesque and distinctive small churches you’ll pass along this Camino: not that old (1930s), but man is it pretty, inside and out. It’s only a couple minutes out of the way.
From there, the alternate goes back downhill past more beautiful beaches and coast. Sunbathers and swimmers abound. For the rest of the way into Vigo, you’ll roughly be winding along the coast, but you do go up and over a few hills on roads. You pass a lot of pretty beaches with great views of the Cies Islands the rest of the way. The road walking is a little bit tedious at times but that’s a silly thing to complain about.
There are a few albergues along this section in the beachy neighborhoods southwest of Vigo center. It’d be a sensible decision to stay in one of these if you're still walking, as this will be turning into a long day by this point.
Personally, I walked until I found a bar on a beach about 5 miles from the center of Vigo, and had a few beers. Then, I cheated and caught a taxi into the central city. I don't regret it, but it seems like the rest of the alternate would've been nice too.
I don't regret it because Vigo is a really great city, and it's a nice place to stay in the center. It has a slightly different feel than other cities along the Way, and it’s bigger and more modern than Santiago. It has plenty of history but also a lot of newer structures and art. Situated on a bay, the geography reminded me of nowhere so much as Wellington, New Zealand. It's not that popular with tourists so it feels more authentically Spanish than, for instance, Pontevedra or Baiona. The pretty Constitution Square is a great place to spend the evening. Praza Porto del Sol is also close by with a core Vigo landmark - an abstract sculpture of O Sereo - a merman/male Siren. I thought there was great nightlife in Vigo, which made it a perfect place to experience on of my personal favorite things about Spain - the kids and grandmas and families hanging out on the square together late into the night.
The Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria in old town is another church that’s well worth a stop. It's maybe Vigo’s best known building, and even though it was only built in the 1800s it reeks of civic history. The Cathedral houses the famous Christ of Victory sculpture. The origins of the sculpture are shrouded in legend, but there's some consensus that it was thrown into the sea and gathered up by a passing ship before being taken to Vigo. It's unclear whether there’s any truth to this story but these little legends are a great bit of the Camino experience. Vigo's most important festival kicks off on the first Sunday in August, and involves a massive procession behind the sculpture, which is taken from the cathedral and paraded through town.
A quick note about the Cies Islands
Vigo is also the place to be if you want to take a side trip to the Cies Islands. A maritime national park, the islands are meant to be some of the most beautiful and pristine in Spain, and a fair number of pilgrims factor in an extra day to visit them along the Way. Getting there is actually a bit tricky, and requires either a fair bit of pre-planning or a private booking when a tour happens to be running (usually on weekends). We didn't make it, but a lot of people list it as a highlight of the trip. Seems like it would be worth the effort. This website gives a rundown of the process involved in getting there.