Are you an aspiring pilgrim looking for an uncrowded, calm, rural setting, and picturesque nature? Then the Camino Portugues may be the best route for you.
Its starting point is the mesmerizing capital of Portugal – Lisbon. The whole Camino is over 600kms long and takes about a month to finish. Yet, you can start your trip wherever you’d like. Many pilgrims opt for Porto. With only 240kms, this route is significantly shorter.
The most popular part of the Camino Portugues is its last 100kms. In this case, you will start your journey in Tui, Galicia. It is a beautiful old town on the Portuguese-Spanish border full of historical heritage.
Either way, you can expect to encounter lots of charming historical towns, nestled villages, peaceful fields, lush forests, and romantic vineyards.
But, such a unique experience takes a lot of preparation. It takes a lot of research to plan everything.
Read on to learn how to prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!
Camino With Children
Don’t you worry: not only is it doable, it is actually an unforgettable experience! It just takes a little more careful preparation.
The planning of your family trip will mostly depend on your kids’ age. Toddlers, of course, need a little extra care. They won’t be able to walk all the time.
Another important factor you should consider is how much they are used to hiking. If they enjoy the outdoors and spending time in nature, then there should be no problems!
It is the base of the whole process. It is crucial to know what to expect. Try to gather as much information as you can. Understand and accept that there will be hard days. Sometimes, you will feel emotionally and physically exhausted. Think about your motivation for this journey. That will help you to reach your ultimate goal.
How To Train
Don’t underestimate the physical challenge. You will walk every day, and your body won’t have enough time to recover.
Start training at least two or three months in advance. Dedicate as much time as you can to this. Walk long distances every day, on different types of terrain. Try to gradually increase the time of walking. The idea is to mimic the conditions of the Camino, so walk with full gear and loaded backpack.
Core strength exercises, such as pilates or yoga, can help tremendously. Try to work on building up your endurance and stamina. Don’t forget stretching before and after each hike, especially when you start your Camino! It will help you avoid injuries.
Stay hydrated while you train, and even more when you embark on your voyage.
If you have teenage kids, they will also need some physical preparation. It can be another fun family activity!
It’s best to plan your trip stage by stage. You can do that by yourself or with some help. Agencies offer various guided tours and services that can help you during your journey. They can do all the planning, transport your luggage from one location to the next, or book your accommodation. It can be particularly useful if you are traveling with little ones.
A standard walking itinerary for adults is 20-25kms per day. Of course, it would be too hard for the children. In that case, it’s best to go easy and cut this distance in half.
It’s good to incorporate at least one rest day in your plan. Also, try to leave some time for sightseeing. It would be a shame to miss such beauty!
When To Go
In Portugal and Galicia, the weather is often unpredictable, with a lot of rainy days. Most people go for July and August. But, keep in mind that it means hot temperatures and bigger crowds at the albergues. Late spring and early autumn are the most pleasant options for walking the Camino with children.
Albergues are hostels specifically for pilgrims. They are usually quite cheap and offer very basic accommodation. Albergues can be crowded and not very comfortable, but staying there is a big part of the authentic pilgrim experience.
Note that you can’t book your stay in advance, nor stay more than one night. These dormitories work by the ‘first come, first served’ rule.
If you want more comfort, you can always pay a little extra for private hostels, hotels, or guest houses. Amenities such as swimming pools, gardens, or a backyard for playing can be fantastic for keeping the kids entertained.
The gear that you choose will have a huge influence on your whole experience. Choose wisely and test it before the pilgrimage.
You will need a durable backpack that is adequate for your body. No matter how comfy, your everyday sneakers won’t do the trick. Whether it’s hiking boots or running shoes, the footwear must be tough, comfortable, and not new. Make sure to wear them in before your Camino.
If you plan on staying in albergues, then you should certainly consider carrying a sleeping bag. The type you need depends on the weather.
A waterproof cover is also a must, along with a hat and shades to protect you from the sun.
If you have little pilgrims, you may also need some special equipment for carrying them.
Pack as light as you can. Keep in mind that you are not going camping. You will have plenty of opportunities to visit shops and pharmacies, so there is no need for stockpiling, even when the whole family travels.
Opt for breathable clothes that are comfy and dry fast. In many hostels, you will find washers and dryers, so pack minimally.
You don’t need a full first aid kit. Go for the basics: painkillers, bandaids, foot gel. Vaseline is also a fantastic option for your tired feet.
Because getting good rest is vital, you can try wearing a sleeping mask and earplugs for hostel stays.
Some other items you may find useful are a notebook and a pen, reusable food containers, and books.
A pilgrim passport is the document you will need for staying at albergues. It’s best to purchase it online, before your trip. You will get a stamp in each town you visit.
With this passport, you qualify for obtaining the Compostela, the official certificate granted to pilgrims who have walked at least 100kms (or 200kms if cycling) and arrived in Santiago.
Pilgrimage On A Budget
The Camino in Portugal is particularly budget-friendly.
The biggest expenses are gear and transportation if you live outside of Europe. In that case, the cheapest option is to book a flight to Lisbon or Madrid, and then use a bus or a train to get to your starting point.
You can save a lot of money by staying and cooking your meals at albergues.
Camino By Cycling
It is possible to take any route by bike. It just needs a different kind of preparation and training than walking tours. To avoid dealing with transportation, you can order bikes for every stage of your travel.
It’s also helpful when you are doing the Camino with the kids. You can simply ride them in the back if they are not fit or old enough.
I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm and horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the amazing opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.