Doing the Spiritual Variant or Traslatio route
The Spiritual Variant is the name given to the route that joins the Camino Portugues, both the Coastal and Central route, with the Traslatio Route (or Transfer). This route is also known as the Maritime Route or Arousa Sea Route and the River Ulla.
Following this route allows you to reach Santiago de Compostela following the journey made by the remains of Santiago the Apostle James, from Jerusalem to Iria Flavia. A 73-kilometre course.
This pilgrim route is considered, by some, the origin of all the Caminos de Santiago. The tour will allow you to enjoy beautiful landscapes and the beautiful surroundings of the region of O Salnés. In addition, you will have the opportunity to discover places full of history, as well as enjoy the exquisite gastronomy of the region.
How to do the Spiritual Variant
Most pilgrims who go on this route do so after completing various stages of the Camino Central Portugues or the Coastal Route. Taking the detour along the Spiritual Variant involves adding one more stage to the course of the Camino Portugues.
If you want to know more about the Portuguese routes, you can consult the article on our blog dedicated to the two pilgrim paths in Portugal. This will make it easier for you to decide which Portuguese route to choose for your pilgrimage.
However, the Spiritual Variant is a route in itself. The detour consists of 3 stages. To them, must be added a final stage that is carried out following the Camino Portugues, to Santiago de Compostela. So, if you have little time, it is an ideal route to complete in 3 or 4 days.
But if you want to get the Compostela, you must travel at least 100 km, so we recommend the Camino de Santiago from Tui. Leave your information and some details of the trip you would like to take, and we will organize an amazing adventure for you.
Unlike other Caminos de Santiago, where there is a high influx of pilgrims, especially on the Camino Frances, the Spiritual Variant is very little known, even today. Here we tell you about the itinerary and what places to visit if you dare to re-live part of the Traslatio.
The stages on the Spiritual Variant
The Spiritual Variant begins in Pontevedra, where both Portuguese routes pass. The path of this route ends in Pontecesures, where it rejoins the Portuguese route, to complete the last stage, to Santiago de Compostela.
The uniqueness of the Spiritual Variant of the Camino Portugues is that the first two stages are done on foot, crossing the region of O Salnés. While the last stage takes place by boat, from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures.
The boat tour takes place first over the Arousa Estuary, and then by the last navigable stretch of the River Ulla, just as the boat that transported the remains of Santiago the Apostle did.
The maritime stretch of the Spiritual Variant is considered the only maritime-fluvial Way of the Cross. 17 crosses, more than a hundred centuries old point to this part of the route, known as Traslatio.
The Beginning of the Spiritual Variant
The route of the Spiritual Variant begins next to the Church of the Pilgrim, in Pontevedra. Two kilometres from the temple, and after crossing the Burgo Bridge, you must take a detour to the left.
The first stage is 20 kilometres long and crosses the region of O Salnés. Along the route you can visit places like Poio and Combarro.
In Poio, you will find a Benedictine monastery, listed as a Property of Cultural Interest. In its vicinity, the Granary of San Xoán de Poio is located.
This granary, dating back to the 18th century, is considered one of the largest in Galicia. Its structure is 3 metres wide and 33 metres long.
In Combarro, a beautiful fishing village, you can continue to visit granaries. In this town you will find nothing more and no less than 60 of them. Thirty of which line up next to the Pontevedra estuary. In the village you will also find various crosses.
Finally, on the rise, the first stage of the Spiritual Variant arrives in Armenteira, where the first day ends. There you can visit the Monastery of Armenteira, in a Renaissance and Baroque style. The monastic site, belonging to the Cistercian Order, has a Romanesque church from the 12th century.
The second day on the Spiritual Variant faces 22.7 kilometres of travel. This stage is marked by the architectural and ethnographic heritage of the O Salnés region.
Part of the day runs along the Ruta da Pedra e da Auga. A path that borders the River Armenteira, surrounded by vegetation. In the 7 kilometres on this section you can see up to 50 hydraulic mills. Many of them, in good condition, since an important restoration programme has been carried out.
Crossing rural and wine-growing areas, you will have the opportunity to visit Ribadumia and Pontearnelas. The stage ends in the seaside village of Vilanova de Arousa. There you can enjoy the beautiful beaches and exquisite gastronomy.
Third stage: The Maritime Route
On this stage, so peculiar within the Camino de Santiago, the tour will be completed by boat. Following the path of the boat that carried the body of Santiago the Apostle in the company of his two disciples, Theodore and Anastasius.
The boat is taken in the port of Vilanova de Arousa, to cross the Arousa Estuary and ascend the River Ulla. On the route, in addition to the 17 crosses that signal the route, you can visit various villages of the Rias Baixas. Some of them are: Sanxenxo, Ribeira, O Grove, Cambados and Vilagarcía de Arousa.
The landing takes place in Pontecesures. However, this stage of the Spiritual Variant is also possible on foot, following the path of the estuary.
Whether you take the boat or go on foot, in Pontecesures, the Route of the Traslatio joins the Camino Portugues, to continue to Padrón. A village world famously known for its famous peppers.
From Padrón to Santiago de Compostela, it is a total of 25.2 kilometres. A fourth stage to be completed by all those who wish to complete their pilgrimage in front of the tomb of Santiago the Apostle.
The Origin of the Spiritual Variant
La Traslatio (also called Translatio), is the Latin word used to refer to the transfer by sea of the remains of Santiago the Apostle, from Palestine to Galicia.
There are several medieval texts that allude to this fact. Among the highlights is the Codex Calixtinus, also known as the Book of the Camino de Santiago.
According to legend, Santiago the Apostle was beheaded on the orders of Herod Agrippa I in Jerusalem. The disciples who had followed him there stole his lifeless body and put him on a stone boat that had neither rudder nor crew.
They say it was the angels and the stars who guided the boat to the Galician coast. As is done on the last stage of the Spiritual Variant, the boat crossed the Arousa Estuary and the River Ulla, docking in Iria Flavia. A neighbourhood in the present town of Padrón.
After the landing of the remains of St James the Apostle on earth, his disciples had to overcome various difficulties, until finally being able to bury the body of the apostle. If you want to know more about everything that happened from the stone boat docked in Padrón until the remains of Santiago were discovered, centuries later, consult the article that we dedicate in our blog to the life and works of Santiago the Apostle.
Do you feel like doing the Spiritual Variant?
We hope that this article will awaken your desire to learn a little more about the Spiritual Variant and to explore the Camino Portugues and the Arousa Sea Route and the River Ulla . If you have already done this route, we encourage you to tell us about your experience in the comments of this post.
As always, we don’t want to say goodbye without reminding you, that if you plan to do the Spiritual Variant and would like to have the support of an agency specialised in pilgrim routes, do not hesitate to contact us.
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