So after leaving the Via de la Plata I ended up heading over to Portugal from Spain to do the Camino Portugues.
I took a bus from Merida in Spain to Lisbon, it only cost around EUR 20 and took four hours. Lisbon is a potential starting point the Camino but most pilgrims will start from Porto, which is must closer to Santiago.
I did meet some people on the VDLP who had walked from Lisbon but they did not recommend it at all. Apparently the distances between albergues can be very far and actually there are not that many albergues anyway. Apparently more and more are being built, so things will change in the future no doubt.
They other criticism was the road walking. There was much less in the way of natural paths. Again, as the trail becomes more popular, then there might be more alternative routes.
Things I liked about the Portugues
For a start there were many more walkers than the VDLP so much more sociable. I would say it’s less sociable than the Camino Frances though.
The route was very well marked and almost impossible to lose. I chose the inland route which is the most popular way but I understand the coastal route is less well marked.
The food was very good along the route (in the Portugal section). It’s not that I have anything against Spanish cuisine, it’s just that there is more international options in Portugal. Outside of the larger places in Spain, you pretty much have just local food which can be become a little dull after weeks on end of it.
Portugal is probably slightly cheaper than Spain although the albergues were about the same cost. I stayed mainly in municipal albergues when I could.
English is much more widely spoken in Portugal so it’s possible to chat more with the locals.
Things I didn’t like so much
I found that Portuguese drivers are some of the most aggressive and least caring towards pedestrians. On two occasions I came close to being hit by drivers who were speeding through the tiny villages. I knew before that driving in Portugal is dangerous compared to the rest of Europe, and being there for a couple of weeks has not changed my mind!
So one big thing about the VDLP that I didn’t like so much was that all the other pilgrims were on their second, third, fourth etc etc camino. Doesn’t sounds like it should be an issue but I missed virgin pilgrim’s enthusiasm, their inquisitiveness and being asked all sorts of camino related questions. The more experienced pilgrims just seem to be going through the motions.
I would say 90% of the pilgrims I met in Portugal were also experienced pilgrims, most of which having completed the Frances. It’s really a minor thing, but just adds to why I currently prefer the Frances over the VDLP and Portugues.
The scenary wasn’t great if I am being honest, certainly nothing compared to the Frances. I wateched a Youtube video of a girl who walked the Portuguse and she mentioned the lack of stunning scenary. She came to this conclusion after noticing how little she used her camera, which was the complete opposite to the Frances. I myself hardly took any photos.
It wasn’t unpleasant walking, you were in nature a lot, but it was just the same for much of the walk.
Would I recommend the Portugues Camino?
Most certainly yes.
However, if you are only going to do one Camino, then I was stick with the Frances. I found the CF to be much more sociable, more varied too in terms of the people you meet and the scenary.