Portomarín: A charming town on the Camino Frances
Portomarín (or Puertomarín) is a wonderful town in the province of Lugo, which you can find at the beginning or the end of your Camino Frances to Santiago. Do you know why? Because it is a town that is located at the end of stage 29 of the Camino Frances, but as the vast majority of pilgrims begin their journey from Sarria, for many it is the end of the first stage.
Of course, between Saint Jean Pied de Port and Sarria, many other pilgrims will have been incorporated from other traditional starting points. If you want to know more about what other points are classics to start on the Camino Frances you can check our article on how long you need to do the Camino de Santiago. In it, you will find the most traditional starting points and the number of days you will need to get to Compostela.
In this article, we want to tell you what to do and what to see in this beautiful town located on the banks of the River Miño. Every year, hundreds of pilgrims pass through and are fascinated with Portomarín’s charm.
Stage description from Sarria to Portomarín
The stage that separates Sarria from Portomarín is a simple stage. Ideal for those pilgrims who begin their pilgrimage and for those who have hundreds of kilometres behind them.
For those who started the Camino Frances from one of its initial stages, this stage implies a change in the dynamics on the Camino. From Sarria, the Pilgrims’ influx increases considerably.
In fact, 25% of the pilgrims who arrive in Compostela along the French itinerary begin their pilgrimage in Sarria. However, don’t be frightened. The concentration of pilgrims seen in the Rúa Maior de Sarria early in the morning is dispersed throughout the day.
It is a pleasant stage, on which the route runs far away from the asphalt, crossing rural areas of Galicia. On the route, you’ll cross several villages, Romanesque remains and one of the most amazing carballeiras (oak woods) on the Camino Frances.
Without a doubt, one of the most emblematic moments during the day is the appearance of the River Miño. Next to it, crossing a beautiful medieval bridge is the entrance to Portomarín.
This step is tremendously photogenic, so don’t forget to stop and take some pictures. Take advantage of the reflections that occur in the river to take some nice pictures home with you!
Un town reborn
There is a riddle: “Despite having 2000 years of history, Portomarín is younger than many pilgrims. Why? “
Very easy, this charming pilgrim town was for centuries situated on the banks of the River Miño. However, in 1963, the construction of the Belesar Reservoir, in the locality of Chantada, forced flooding in the zone in which Portomarín was located.
The village moved, since then to the hillside, on which it is currently located. This is why it is said that this millennial village is only 50 years old. However, not everything is new in Portomarín.
During the construction of the new Portomarín, the people of this town moved the most emblematic buildings, stone by stone. It was laborious work, but they saved from many of its buildings of historical value from flooding, like, for example, the Church of San Nicolás, that of San Pedro, the stairway or the Chapel de las Nieves, the Manor of Count Maza and that of Dos Pimentales.
At present, when the marsh level falls, from the beautiful bridge that gives access to Portomarín you can still see the remains of the old town. Something like Atlantis! It is because of the above, that in Santiago Ways, we like to refer to Portomarín as a town reborn: a charming place that re-emerged from its stones.
What to see and in Portomarín
Now that you know where to place Portomarín in the itinerary of the Camino Frances to Santiago and a little of its history, we want to tell you some wonders about this town. One of the stops most remembered by pilgrims!
As we commented previously, access to Portomarín is over a beautiful medieval bridge. After this, you will have a beautiful staircase and sublime architecture.
The houses in this locality are characterized by their grey roofs and some pristine white façades. The old town of Portomarín, where most of the most architecturally rich buildings are located, is divided into two districts: San Pedro and San Nicolás.
Here we tell you which places to visit and what to do in Portomarín. We will begin by talking to you, without a doubt, about one of its main attractions: its bridge.
Portomarín or Bridge over the Miño
The history of Portomarín has always been linked to the River Miño. In fact, his name means “Bridge over the Miño.” The bridge that arose in this locality responded to the pressing need to cross the river Miño.
The first bridge was the work of the Romans and constructed in the 2nd century. Later, when Portomarín moved to the hillside, a new bridge was erected.
On the bridge, you will find a granite staircase, which leads to Portomarín, and next to it, a small temple, known as the Chapel of the Snows. Today, this impressive bridge next to the reservoir is one of the most emblematic symbols of Portomarín.
Church of San Nicolás de Portomarín
This temple-fortress is the most prominent monument in Portomarín. Its original construction dates from the 13th century but, like other buildings in the locality, in 1963, it was completely rebuilt, stone by stone.
The impressive Romanesque architecture of this fortress, made it worthy, in 1931, of the cataloguing as an Historical-Artistic Monument. On its doors, you can see various representations in relief. The main façade looks like the apocalypse. On its north face, the Annunciation and on the south face, various human and holy figures.
From the Paseo de Ronda of the Church of San Nicolás, you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the whole natural environment surrounding Portomarín. So you know, when you get to this charming town, don’t forget to visit St. Nicolás!
Iglesia de San Pedro
The Church of San Pedro is also listed as an Historical-Artistic Monument. Like the Church of St. Nicholas, it was transferred after the flooding. Its original construction dates back to the 10th century.
Portomarín and its parks
Portomarín has several charming parks. One of them is Manuel Blas Park, from where you can enjoy a good view of the reservoir. Another is the Antonio Sanz Park located in an extensive forest. In this, you will find rich vegetation and banks on which to enjoy Portomarìn’s natural environment.
Finally, Agustín del Rio Park, located in the centre of the town, has a magnificent view of the River Miño and with a good infrastructure to enjoy a pleasant afternoon, in which you can even take a swim in the river if it is hot.
What to eat in Portomarín
We say it constantly that the Camino de Santiago is also a gastronomic route. Going through so many villages and not tasting their typical products and dishes would be a real shame.
Therefore, every time we talk about routes and charming villages, we recommend what to eat in each place. In Portomarín, it’s no exception. Three things you must try before leaving this place, at the end or the beginning of the Camino Frances, are:
- Eel Pie. In Galicia, empanadas are part of traditional gastronomy. However, in Portomarín, they are made with eels that are not common to find in other places in the Galician community. Take a moment to try them!
- Almond Tart. In Portomarín you will find an almond cake very similar to the famous Santiago cake, but different. Try and tell us if you notice any difference!
- If you like strong drinks, in Portomarín you should try their liquor. It is made by locals and they boast of having one of the best in the world.
Don’t miss the festivities!
Of course, we can’t finish our article on Portomarín without telling you about their festivities. We assure you that if you are lucky enough to pass through on the indicated dates, you will have a great time. Some of its local festivities are:
- Festa da Augardente: The Portomarín locals are so proud of their liquor that they have a party to promote it and to prove that it is one of the best. It is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
- Town Festivities: During the first weekend of September, you will find this beautiful town dressed in celebration, full of atmosphere and music.
- Folkloric Sundays: During the summer, every Sunday there is a party! The Galician cultural groups show pilgrims their local traditions. If you complete the Camino Frances in summer, you can’t miss it!
If you want more information about the festivals in Portomarín, you can consult this page that brings together the main festivities in Galicia. And if you want to know more about festivities on the Camino de Santiago, do not forget to read our article about the Santiago de Compostela festivals.
For today we say goodbye. Not without first asking you if you have visited Portomarín, leave us a comment telling what you liked most or some advice that can be practical for the pilgrims who read us every day.
Remember that if you want to do the Camino Frances, from any starting point of the route, and you want to have the help of a specialized agency in the Camino de Santiago, do not hesitate to contact us. We organize trips from all sections of the route. Please Ask us!