8 days of Medieval treasures, Atlantic landscapes, scrumptious Seafood & Paradores, on this Porto cycling tour to Santiago de Compostela riding Portugal to Spain
This Porto cycling tour to Santiago de Compostela follows splendid ocean landscapes along the Atlantic Coast from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, past traditional fishing ports, suppliers of the finest fish and shellfish in Europe. The beautiful itineraries take you through quaint coastal villages, along sandy beaches and estuaries, over countryside tracks, through vineyards and historic towns.
This variation of the traditional Portuguese Route to Santiago has only recently been approved by Santiago Cathedral as an official Camino de Santiago, although it actually might be the oldest of all pilgrimage routes to this ancient sanctuary to which legend has it that the remains of the apostle St. James were taken from Jerusalem.
The Seafood & Paradores program proposes scrumptious seafood dinners, delightful wine tastings in Portugal and Spain and pleasant and comfortable accommodation in charming well-located local hotels. A special feature of the tour is the possibility of upgrading four of the seven nights in a Parador, one of the Spanish network of monumental and historic boutique and luxury hotels. Located in castles, manor houses and stately homes, paradores are famous for the high standards of their hospitality and the excellence of their traditional cuisine.
The different stages of the Porto cycling tour to Santiago de Compostela consist of pleasant bike rides, beginning in Porto where you will spend the night after you arrive. Designed to cover around 40 kilometres per day, you will cycle past famous Camino de Santiago landmarks such as Viana do Castelo and Caminha in Portugal, Baiona, Pontevedra, Cambados and Arousa in Spain.
There is a special feeling about following the Camino de Santiago, whether you are religious or not, possibly because one cannot remain untouched by thoughts of the great piety that, for centuries, led so many devout pilgrims to travel this route regardless of the challenges and difficulties that faced them along the way. As you approach Santiago de Compostela, you will sense their excitement and enthusiasm as you enter one of Christianity’s greatest holy cities. Do not end your Seafood & Paradores biking journey without a visit to the magnificent cathedral, a place of history, faith and hope.
Dayd to day plan for Porto cycling tour to Santiago de Compostela
Day 1 – Porto
UNESCO World Heritage City, world-famous for Port Wine.
Welcome to Porto, famous for Port Wine, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and a UNESCO WorldHeritage Property. Take advantage of this first day to tour the city, visit one of the historic Port Wine lodges and discover the variety of culinary delights the town has to offer. Stroll through the historic centre in the Ribeira medieval riverside neighbourhood, to the Dom Luis Bridge, noting the several traditional Rabelo boats moored in the Douro River. There are more than 150 monuments to visit in the city! The optional Wine Experiences package includes a guided visit and wine tasting to one of the historic Port Wine lodges where this wine is aged.
Day 2 – Stage 1 - Porto to Caminha
Fishing and historic towns, vineyards and windmills
After you are transferred to the first accommodation in Porto, most of this day you will cycle along the Atlantic Ocean to your destination, the ancient picturesque town of Caminha, through the demarcated Vinho Verde Winemaking Region, past the vineyards that produce the dry white wine for which it is famous. Cycling along the mighty Atlantic Ocean is an extraordinary experience, especially when the ocean is at its friendliest as you
ride past fishing villages that appear unchanged for centuries. As you arrive in Viana do Castelo the peace and quiet of your ride is replaced by the buzz of this lively city at the estuary of the Lima River. Dating back to Roman times when Viana was the principal port for the north of Iberia, its impressive history includes that of its merchants who supplied the naval provisions for the ships that took part in the Portuguese discoveries during the 16th century and later built the ships that sailed to Newfoundland for codfish. With their wealth, they built the numerous stately town houses whose architectural beauty is a hallmark of the city. Continue along Afife beach, one of the most sought-after surfing beaches in the north of Portugal, past the historic Montedor lighthouse that sternly watches over all who sail close to the coast. Next, Vila Praia de Ancora, a fishing village located at the mouth of the Ancora River, delights visitors with its great natural beauty. The
commanding 17th century military fort overlooking the ocean shelters to a small but extremely busy harbour full of colourful fishing boats. That evening you will stay in Caminha, an elegant medieval town strategically located at the estuary of the Minho River, whose history dates back to pre-Roman times.
Day 3 - Stage 2 – Caminha to Baiona
Between the unruly Atlantic coast and the mountain foothills
This day you will leave Portugal for Spain. You can choose to start your trip by taking the ferry across the Minho River, from Caminha to Spain, or by transferring to Vila Nova de Cerveira and cycling across on the Bridge of Friendship that links the two countries. In Galicia, your route will continue along the Atlantic coast, below the foothills of the Sierra de Argalo and Sierra de la Grova mountains, to the charming and lively harbour town of Baiona, famous for its fresh fish and seafood. Enjoy a stroll around the harbour or along the walls of the impressive Monterreal Fort or just relax and enjoy a magnificent sunset with a drink and some tapas at one of the several terraced cafés on the waterfront. Situated within the walls of the fort on the Monterreal Peninsula, the Parador de Baiona is one of the most unique hotels of its kind in Spain. Midway between a medieval fortress and a magnificent stately home, it offers elegant, spacious guest rooms overlooking the sea. The building,
sheltered by beautiful pine forests on two sides, commands an impressive view over the ocean. The optional Wine & Dine Package includes a delicious Parrillada de Marisco, a tasty selection of 7 different types of seafood, accompanied by the local Galician crisp white wine.
Note: From Caminha to Baiona (Medium); from Vila Nova de Cerveira to Baiona (Easy)
Day 4 - Stage 3 – Baiona to Pontevedra
Crossroads of medieval Caminos de Santiago amidst Galician waterways
The third stage of your tour takes you through the lush green inland waterways of the Rias Bajas. Cycle northwards along the valley of the Louro River, through thick pine forests and the magical environment of the Galician hills. From Redondela, as you cycle further north towards Vilaboa, you will get captivating views of 64 Atlantic waterways where the ocean flows inland. You are back in the land of fishermen, in the fishing village of Arcade, known as the oyster capital of Galicia. Next, the well-preserved ancient town of Pontevedra,
picturesquely located on the Lerez River, deserves a visit. Be sure to stop at the farmers’ market and buy some local cheese. The Parador de Pontevedra is a 16th-century palace located in the historic heart of the city. The original building masterfully renovated with fine antiques to recreate its past glory and built of hardy local stone is surrounded by pretty landscaped gardens and a large sun terrace. A majestic carved granite staircase leads to sumptuous, richly decorated bedrooms. The restaurant specializes in fine seafood dishes accompanied by the excellent aromatic and crispy Albariño white wine from the Rias Baixas.
Day 5 - Stage 4 – Pontevedra to Cambados
Lush green landscapes, sparkling blue estuaries and Albariño vineyards
Today you will head towards the Atlantic Ocean, through forests and past the extensive vineyards in the Rias Baixas, the wine region that is the home of Albariño, one of the best white wines in the world. The lush green landscapes of forests and vineyards, the sparkling blue waters of the Arousa waterway, quality wines, delicious shellfish and seafood, make of this region a destination of excellence that will tickle all your senses and entice lovers of fine seafood. Cambados, near the mouth of the Arousa estuary and Albariño Wine Capital, is one of the most attractive and appealing Galician towns. The peculiar architecture of the Santo Tomé fishermen’s quarter is well worth a visit, especially the houses whose façades are covered with scallop shells. Also in Cambados (on request), you may choose a seafood fishing experience with a local family of artisan fisherfolk, who follow the traditional fishing method of gathering cockles and mussels from the sandbanks by hand. The Parador de Cambados is located in an elegant 17th century stately home, an ancestral manor house
known as a Pazo. This hotel is a haven next to the sea where you can enjoy long rides or walks and breathe the fresh air. You can also walk from the Parador and visit one of the Albariño wineries. In warm weather, stroll in the hotel gardens, take a dip in the swimming pool or relax to the sound of water splashing in the stone fountain in the peaceful atmosphere of the delightful inner courtyard and terrace café. The optional Wine Tasting Package includes a guided visit and wine tasting at a prize-winning traditional
winery. The optional Wine & Dine Package includes a wonderful seafood dinner at a very popular local restaurant accompanied by Albariño wine from the Rias Baixas winemaking region. The chef will delight you with novel, modern ways of preparing a variety of seafood, that will tickle your palate. Smoked local oysters, charcoal grilled octopus, fillet of hake with piri-piri, Albariño steamed cockles, are just a few of the delicacies you will have to choose from.
Day 6 - Stage 5 – Cambados to Carril
Rias Baixas Atlantic Islands National Park and fishing traditions
The seafood route continues to take you deep into the maritime and natural environment of the Arousa estuary as you leave Cambados to the north and cycle past seawater mills until you come to a bridge that leads to Illa de Arousa. This is an idyllic peninsula with numerous fishing villages surrounded by beautiful beaches and the Carreirón Nature Park, a special bird reserve. The O Xufre fishing port, Punta Cabalo lighthouse built in 1852 and Con do Forno lookout point are some of the highlights of this stage. The fishing village of Carril, today’s destination, is famous for its mussels and many restaurants dedicated to seafood
cuisine. You may wish to go for a swim on one of the pristine white sand beaches around the town or hire a kayak or a boat for the short ride to tiny Cortegada island, in front of Carril (not included). The smallest in the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, it is famous for the largest forest of laurel trees in Europe, centuries-old trees that are a botanical rarity that attracts specialists from all over the world. An interesting 2 Km guided tour of the island lasts about 1 hour (not included). Alternatively, you may choose a 1 hour-long boat cruise on the Arousa estuary where you will see the unusual floating wooden platforms used to cultivate the tasty mussels for which the Ria is famous. Included is a mussels tasting with white wine on board. This cruise operates from June to mid-October and leaves Vilanova port daily at 12h30 and 17h00. Whatever you choose, don’t forget your camera, there is so much to photograph and one often sees dolphins off the coast!
Day 7 - Stage 6 – Carril to Santiago de Compostela
Historical UNESCO World Heritage City and shrine to the Apostle Saint James
Most people are excited with the last stage as this is the day they will reach their final destination, Santiago de Compostela, one of Christianity’s most holy cities, said to be the resting place of the relics of the Apostle Saint James, Patron Saint of Spain. Leave Carril, cycling through a landscape rich in forests and wetlands to reach Padrón, a lovely town on the banks of the Sar River. Legend has it that it is here that the boat transporting the
body of St. James from Jerusalem docked, on its way to its final resting place. It was only late in the 9th century that the local Bishop claimed to have discovered the burying place of this saint, in a place named Compostela which quickly became a place of religious pilgrimage. As you enter Santiago, you cannot fail to be touched with the sense of excitement and fervour that all pilgrims throughout the ages feel as they approach the
magnificent cathedral that was soon built to house the holy relics and welcome the pilgrims whose faith led them to conquer the difficulties and challenges they had to overcome to reach this shrine. By the 12th century, Santiago de Compostela was a pan-European centre of pilgrimage second only to Rome and Jerusalem. In the 15th century, the holy apostle St. James, Santiago in Spanish, was adopted by the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella as the Patron Saint of Spain. The hospice for pilgrims that the royal couple built in 1492, the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos, is conceivably, one of the oldest time-honoured hospitality centers in the world as the Parador.
Start your visit of this ancient, historic town with the magnificent cathedral and its imposing Pórtica de la Gloria. Note the beauty of the different architectural styles of the buildings that, across the ages, have lined the medieval cobbled streets and the Obradoiro, Quintana and O Toural squares. Tourists and visitors are especially welcome in this lively university town, as you will see should you stop for a break or a meal at one of the many delightful restaurants and bars. The Parador de Santiago, located in the 15th century building next to the Cathedral that housed the pilgrim’s hospice, is one of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels of its kind in Spain. Today, this hotel-museum, boasts four beautiful cloisters, elegant reception rooms, spectacular guest suites and a luxurious dining room that prides itself on the quality of its cuisine and the wines that accompany the menu.
Day 8 – Transfer out
Transfer to Porto airport or city centre.
End of the Porto cycling tour to Santiago de Compostela.