The Camino de Santiago coastal routes
When you talk about the Camino de Santiago Coastal route, you will most likely be talking about the Camino del Norte (also known as the northern route). However, it is also possible that when talking about the Coastal route, we are referring to the route to Santiago that runs through Portugal, along the Atlantic coast.
Both routes on the Camino de Santiago advance parallel to the sea. The Camino del Norte coastal route allows you to enjoy the Cantabrian coast and the Camino Portugues coastal route, the Atlantic. There are many pilgrims who are looking to live the experience of walking or cycling on one of these two routes, bathed by the freshness of the sea.
In this article, we want to talk about the two coastal routes on the Camino de Santiago. We will begin talking about the northern coastal route, as it is the most popular, but we also want to talk about the Portuguese coastal route too, which although less known, is no less spectacular.
The northern coastal route
Among all the northern Caminos de Santiago, the most popular route is known as the Coastal route or the Camino de la Costa. The official start of the coastal route is located in Irún.
However, some pilgrims begin their pilgrimage from France, following the route of the Costa de la Plata, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. This section of the Camino de Santiago does not belong properly, to the Camino del Norte, but it is called the Camino de Soulac.
However, in this article, we will focus on the 833 km of the route on the coast to Santiago through Spain. This distance can be divided into 34 stages. If you want to get an idea of how each of them is, you can read the article in our blog of the Camino de Santiago in which we explain briefly each of the stages on the Camino del Norte Coastal route and the infrastructure you’ll find on the route.
The North Coast route is a demanding journey, but it gives great satisfaction to the pilgrims who are encouraged to accept the challenge. Its trails along the Cantabrian Sea, its imposing, furiously green-coloured mountains and exquisite gastronomy are some of its rewards. Next, we talk about each one of them.
Culture in Northern Spain
Many of the pilgrims who come from abroad, and even some Spaniards, are surprised by the culture and traditions they discover on the Camino de Santiago northern coast route. This is very far from the clichés that Spain is usually associated with.
The reality is that usually Spain is associated with a culture that is present mainly in the south of the country. With this, we refer to flamenco, bulls and paella.
We do not want any of our southern pilgrims to be angry with us! We clearly mean that we are not saying that the culture of the South is limited to these three elements, but they are the Spanish traditions that are most well-known abroad. Spain enjoys a rich cultural diversity, and each region has its own cultural characteristics.
For this reason, in the communities that cross this coastal route, you will find traditions and cultures typical of the northern region of Spain. Here are some curiosities about the culture and traditions of the three communities that cross the North Coast route: The Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.
- Frontones. A Frontón is a handball court on which the sport of Basque Handball is played, popular throughout the Basque Country
- Txokos. These are private gastronomic societies, formed by a group of friends or family members who periodically organise meals. To go to one of them, you need to be invited by one of its members.
- Long boat competitions. This type of competition can be found in both Basque Country and Cantabria.
- Gaita. It is almost impossible to cross Asturias or Galicia without hearing a single bagpipe on the route.
- Muñeira. A traditional dance that is performed in Galicia.
In addition to all of the above, the itinerary of the Cantabrian coast will coexist with three co-official languages: Spanish, Basque and Galician. In addition to other dialects or minority languages.
And, of course, during your pilgrimage along the northern coast, you will also find all the customs and traditions of the Camino de Santiago. If you want to know what they are, don’t forget to check our publication about rituals on the pilgrim’s route.
The Camino coastal route: A green route dotted with beaches
The Basque Country, Cantabria and Galicia can boast of having been able to preserve much of their traditional culture throughout history. To a large extent, this fact owes its rugged geography, which highlights the presence of mountain ranges and cliffs.
The above, coupled with a rainy climate, results in impressive green landscapes, dotted with abundant vegetation and lush forests. Not surprisingly, the regions that cross the Northern coastal route are part of the area known as “Green Spain”.
All of the above has a backdrop, the breath-taking blue of the Cantabrian Sea. To enjoy it, you will find both majestic beaches with golden sand and hidden coves. If you want to know more about the beaches that you can visit on this route along the coast, do not forget to read our post about sun and beaches on the Camino del Norte coastal route.
The Northern Coastal route itinerary: gastronomy
Another of the things in which the climate influences, and very much, is in the gastronomy. The four communities that cross the Camino del Norte Coastal route have a unique cuisine. Characterized by a high presence of stews made with vegetables, meat and fish. Next, we recommend some traditional dishes from each of these regions.
What to eat in the Basque Country
In the Basque Country so-called “pintxos” are very traditional. These succulent snacks are usually made with a slice of bread on which various ingredients are placed. Biscay style Cod is one of the traditional dishes that you have to try if you walk this route.
To drink, you can opt for a txakolí, a white wine that is produced mainly in this region of Spain. If you go out for a beer, do not forget to ask for a “zurito”, as the locals usually do.
In Cantabria, If you are looking for an aperitif you cannot fail to try their anchovies and their famous squid. If you are looking for a consistent meal, we recommend you to try the mountain stew.
You can take advantage after eating to taste the delicious Orujo liquor produced in the region. It is a brandy made with local grapes. The Cantabrians usually drink it after dessert, as it is very good for the digestion.
Asturias: The land of cider
If there is a dish that you have to try in Asturias, it is Fabada. Asturian stew will provide you with all the energy you need to cope with the demanding route along the north coast.
The beverage “par excellence” in this northern region is cider. Not only will you find it present because Asturian people enjoy it daily, but also in any traditional festival. Cider pouring is a spectacle not to miss.
In the last autonomous community on the route of the northern coast, you will continue to eat wonderfully. After Ribadeo, the time comes for Octopus Galician style, pies and bacon.
After eating, it is almost obligatory to drink homemade coffee liquor to help digestion. You also have to try the famous Galician “Queimada”.
One thing you will find on the Camino de Santiago on the north coast and for which Spain is well known abroad is tapas. These small portions of food you’ll find in all four communities that we’ve talked about before. If you want to know the best places in Galicia to go out for tapas, don’t forget to see our guide.
The Camino de Santiago coastal route: Portugal
The Camino de Santiago along the coast of Portugal is a great alternative for all those who want to walk by the sea but do not dare to cope with the difficulties of the Cantabrian itinerary. In fact, it is considered one of the easiest routes on the Camino de Santiago.
The Portuguese coastal route begins in Oporto and is 265 kilometres long, divided into 12 stages. If you want to know more about the infrastructure and the services that you will find in the route you can consult the publication of our blog about the Portuguese routes.
Culture on the Camino Portugues Coastal route
If you choose to make the Camino de Santiago that runs through Portugal along the coast, you can enjoy both Galician and Portuguese culture. In fact, given the proximity of the Portugal to Galicia, there are many influences between them. A fact that you can easily appreciate if you pay attention to the similarities that Portuguese and Galician people have.
In the tour of Portugal, you will be surprised by the constant presence of tiles in constructions (churches, houses, palaces, etc.). The use of this resource comes from the influence of the Arab community in the country.
This coast route will also allow you to enjoy “Fado”. A musical genre of melancholy character very typical in Portugal.
The Atlantic route
The Camino Portugues Coastal route borders the Atlantic coast, entering Galicia, surrounded by the Galician estuaries. The route begins along the Matosinhos coast, characterized by a high presence of boardwalks, which give a distinctive character on this route.
On the following stages, the road deviates inland, but always has a variation that runs along the coast, to Vigo, when the Pilgrims say goodbye to the huge Atlantic Ocean.
This pilgrim path also crosses beautiful interior landscapes, such as the descent to the River Neiva, from Stage 3 of the Camino Portugues Coastal route. The magnificent views over the Vigo Estuary, on Stage 8, are another of the great attractions of this route.
What to eat on the Portuguese coastal route
Seafood and sea products will also be present throughout this route of the Camino de Santiago. Sardines, Sea Bass or Lobster are some of them.
Cod is famous throughout the country, but in the north of Portugal, they have a peculiar way to prepare it. You can take advantage during the first stages of the tour to try it.
To regain strength after the stages you can dare to try a Francesinha, but make sure you do it when you are hungry. This dish is a huge sandwich of various meats, cheese and molho sauce.
In the early stages, you can also taste Porto wine, which has a guarantee of origin. We also recommend Vinho Verde.
On Stage 5 of the Camino Portugues Coastal route, you will enter Galicia. From that moment, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the Galician gastronomy that we talked about before. One of the advantages of the Portuguese routes is that they pass through Padrón, where trying their famous peppers is almost obligatory.
Which coastal route do you prefer best?
We have talked about the two options you have to pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, along the coast. Both routes can be done on foot or by bike, although the Portuguese route is much more advisable to do on a bike than the Northern route because it has fewer climbs.
Both roads have a rich culture, diverse languages, exquisite cuisine and breathtaking scenery with a beautiful coastline. Which one do you think you’d like more and why? Leave a comment with your opinion.
Before saying goodbye we want to remind you that if you would like to complete any of the two coastal routes and you want an agency specializing in the Camino de Santiago to advise you, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team will be very happy to assist you.