The Portuguese Way is the Jacobean Route that connects the Portuguese city of Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela. In Portugal, this route passes through towns such as Santarém, Coimbra, Porto, Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, and Valença do Minho, and it reaches Tui, in the province of Pontevedra. Since the Middle Ages, this Way bound Galicia and Portugal together in the social, economic and cultural spheres.
Discover some of the rituals celebrated in the most spectacular settings in As Rías Baixas. Rivers, natural spaces, historical sites such as the ones in the towns of Tui or Pontevedra, islands, thermal springs, woods and cascades are part of this beautiful route, which is the second with the largest number of pilgrims and the one recording the highest growth.
The traditional Portuguese Way
The traditional Portuguese Way enters in As Rías Baixas through Tui, after crossing Valença, and continues to O Porriño towards the towns of Redondela, Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis and Pontecesures, passing through fourteen towns. Many of the places that can be visited while on the way to Santiago de Compostela have their own history, which makes this route special.
In Cesantes Beach, in the town of Redondela, you can see a sculpture of Captain Nemo, a character of Jules Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, who tries to find the treasures lost in the Battle of Vigo Bay. Besides, in Vigo there is also a monument devoted to the author.
After walking through the beautiful oak grove Carballeira de Caldas de Reis, we reach the local washing place, whose thermal springs make this place a perfect spot to relax and soothe one’s feet. Later, the ten-arch Roman bridge in Pontecesures, over the Ulla River, witnessed the part of the history of the Way, since the stone boat carrying the remains of the Apostle Saint James sailed along this river.
Another way of beginning the route in the province of Pontevedra is to follow the Portuguese Coastal Way, boasting stunning landscapes on the coast and inland, with beaches, cliffs, marshes, forests, and river paths. Besides, one can discover a rich architectural heritage: churches, pazos (Galician manor houses), and the most beautiful historical sites. It is also worth mentioning its food, culture and traditional festivals.
Santa Trega, a must-stop on the Coastal Way
The starting point is the town of A Guarda; at the mouth of the Miño River, which is the origin of the Portuguese Coastal Way in the region of Galicia. The route continues to Mougás, A Ramallosa, Vigo, Redondela, and Pontevedra, where this route meets the traditional Portuguese Way. The cross-border estuary of the Miño River is an important natural area with a great diversity
Besides, Santa Trega Hill dominates the estuary and on its top are the famous castros (a pre-Roman hillfort settlement), considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Galicia. Once there, if you climb up the hill, you will be performing a ritual to call upon the rain. According to the legend, during a drought that lasted several years, Saint Trega appeared to a shepherdess and told her that she would bring back the rain if the people in the town celebrated a procession up the mountain while fasting.
Another attraction that can be found in this route is located in the town of A Ramallosa. Its Roman bridge, through which passes a Roman road, is watched over by Saint Telmo, whose image is at the feet of a cruceiro (typical Galician stone cross) in the middle of the bridge. According to the legend, this Saint worked a miracle protecting the bridge, which withstood a severe storm.
The Route of Father Sarmiento along the coast
Since in the town of Pontevedra the Portuguese Way of the Coast follows the same route that the traditional Way, another option is to take the route along the coast: the Route of Father Sarmiento, which passes through the towns of Sanxenxo, O Grove, Illa da Toxa, Cambados, A Illa de Arousa and Vilagarcía de Arousa until reaching Pontecesures.
Close to Sanxenxo is Noalla, one of the parishes of the town. There, each sunset with haze, due to an optical illusion, the solar disc gets longer and for over a minute it acquires the silhouette of the hull of a boat with the colour of the sun.
The route also passes through O Grove, which is home to legends such as the one of O Meco. In fact, the inhabitants of this area are known as “mecos”, a term for rag doll in the Galician language. It is said that the locals hung a feudal lord, who abused them, from a fig tree at the Siradella Hill. Nowadays, this place is a wonderful viewpoint with stunning views.
Cambados is also a must-stop in our journey. In this town you may come across a cruceiro, which used to be the setting of rituals performed by men and women of the sea. Women used to approach the cruceiros dressed in white at midnight to burn and salt objects so that sailors would have a good catch. A really apprehensive ritual.
The journey continues by boat
The route along the inlet Ría de Arousa now follows the trail of the stone boat, which carried the mortal remains of James the Great, who had been beheaded by Herod in the Holy Land. The journey starts in Pedras Negras, in O Grove, where one can get the navigation credential, and ends in Iria Flavia. During the journey, one will sail along the inlet Ría de Arousa and the Ulla River passing through the towns of Cambados, Catoira, A Illa de Arousa, Meaño, Meis, O Grove, Pontecesures, Ribadumia, Sanxenxo, Valga, Vilgarcía de Arousa and Vilanova de Arousa, all of them in the province of Pontevedra.
O Grove boasts one of the best beaches in As Rías Baixas: A Lanzada. In this place it is very famous the fertility ritual of the bath of the nine waves, performed by the women who want to get pregnant. There, it is common to see visitors bathing in the sea to chase the evil eye away and have good health.
Finally, it is also worth visiting the Monte Lobeira viewpoint, in Vilanova de Arousa, linked to the legend of Dona Urraca. In the Middle Ages a fortress was built, which was in all its splendour in the period of Queen Urraca, during her confrontation with Archbishop Xelmírez. When he seized this fortress, the Queen threw her crown to a deep mine to prevent the priest from keeping it. The story ended in the past century, when a woman who was working the land in Lobeira found a gold fork and spoon which happened to be the treasure of the castle.