Walking the Camino is, for many people, a life changing experience. But if you want to make the most of it it’s important to properly manage the effort you’re making while also focusing on your main target: reaching Santiago de Compostela. It doesn’t hurt to also keep your eye on the smaller prizes along the way, from the beautiful landscapes to the delicious cuisine and local wines.
Rest days are crucial and the stops we suggest, Ponte de Lima, Valença do Minho and Pontevedra, are strategically located, providing the perfect combo of effort management and unique traits, ranging from mouthwatering delicacies to striking views.
Ponte de Lima and Valença do Minho, the two Portuguese stops for rest days on the Central Camino, offer impressive sights and outstanding monuments, along with delectable food and drink. Typical flavours from this region include fresh seafood, traditional corn bread (broa de milho), cured bísaro pork and sparkling fresh vinho verde.
Ponte de Lima
Pretty Ponte de Lima is the perfect place for a rest day before facing the epic climb of Serra da Labruja and its uneven terrain. Having a key location, the oldest Portuguese town certainly has more to offer than one would at first imagine. You can’t miss its postcard-worthy medieval bridge and a relaxed stroll along the bank of the river Lima. Then, head over to Largo de Camões, the central plaza perfect for drinks, local snacks and watching life go by. In the historical part of Ponte de Lima make a little time to visit the Gothic church (Igreja Matriz), the 14th century prison tower (Torre da Cadeia Velha) and the 17th century fountain.
Near the bridge you’ll see mock Roman troops made of wood. They act as a reference to an old legend according to which a group of soldiers were too scared to cross the river Lima. They believed it was in fact the Lethe, the mythical river of forgetfulness, and crossing it would mean forgetting about everything, include their beloved family and their homeland. The consul decided to cross the river alone and, having reached the other margin, started calling his soldiers one by one, thus proving them the Lima was not the Lethe.
Valença do Minho
Just before crossing the Minho river to enter Spain take some time to enjoy the city of Valença do Minho. The fact that you’re halfway on your route makes Valença an ideal city for a rest day, but there are other perks to have in mind. Like so many towns and cities near the border, Valença sits on top of a hill (which means amazing views) and inside a fortress: just imagine how many attacks it faced since its building in the 13th century! Within the city walls the old streets spread out before you like a web taking you from houses in the local traditional style, to linen and handicraft shops to beautiful churches.
Particularly noteworthy are the 14th century church of Saint Stephen (Igreja de Santo Estevão) and the 13th century Church of Our Lady of the Angels (Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos). Don’t forget all the cafés and restaurants, too!
Already in Spain, Pontevedra greets you with extraordinary old churches and monuments, as well as some of the finest Galician food and wine. This city is another perfect stop for a rest day before dealing with the final stretch of the Camino. Pontevedra has a completely pedestrian historical centre which provides the ideal backdrop to enjoy some local tapas or Albariño wine in any of its lively plazas. Make sure not to skip the seafood, the empanadas (savoury pies) or the caldo gallego (a nourishing vegetable soup with sausage).
The Church of la Virgen Peregrina and the Museum of Pontevedra, along with the market and the bridges, are absolutely mandatory stops when visiting this city.
Head over to our tour suggestions and choose one of our options to ensure you have the best possible experience walking the Camino de Santiago.