1. The Cities - It is difficult to think of another walking holiday where you encounter such amazing cities on the one route. Each is entirely different, with their own look and feel, each is bursting with local colour and specialities and all are a joy to visit. Lisbon, the capital is full of antique trams, crumbling beauty and tiny, vibrant food joints. Tomar is all history, bursting with a glorious past. Coimbra is an ancient seat of knowledge, full of students and intensely good pastries! Porto is constantly regenerating, keeping strong ties to its people and history and Santiago is glorious, all the more so for having walked to get there.
2. The Food - Portugal is unique in its gastronomy. In general, there is a rustic feel to the food of Portugal with stews and simple grilled fish and meats commonplace, however, these are elevated by the amount of flavour and skill of cooking involved. While not massively famous for barbequed food, Portugal is the master of this culinary art, bringing so much much flavour and a weirdly delicate touch to its fish. There are pastries that you will dream of afterwords, wine that never leaves the country that is silky smooth and packed with flavour.
3. The Peace - The Camino Frances through Spain is the main artery for all things Camino, and for good reason. This is the classic pilgrimage and it draws people from all around the world. The only downside to it is that it gets really busy, particularly on the final section. Now, this is great in a way, because you meet so many people and it becomes a bit like a travelling festival, but if you want a quieter experience, the Camino Portugués is the way to go. The final section from Tui to Santiago is every bit as pretty, just a lot more peaceful.
4. The People - The Portuguese welcome is warm yet understated. The passion and flair of the Spanish are there, but just not on display as much, however I have rarely encountered a more friendly, giving people than the Portuguese. On the Camino Portugués, I have been invited into strangers houses to share a meal and sample their home-grown wine. I have been driven to places that were out of the way, but entirely spectacular and I have been encouraged to sample different types of food with glee and gusto and each of these has been a memory that I will not lose. Portuguese people seem in general to be lovely, but definitely try to learn some of the language, it goes a long way!
5. The Coast - Unlike the Camino de Santiago, there are two ways to walk the Camino Portugués. Once you reach Porto, after the first three sections, you can choose to continue on the main route, or deviate and take the coastal route. While both have their plus sides, the coastal route makes for a welcome change, in both scenery and cuisine. This part of Portugal is very much untouched by tourism and it is a pleasure to walk along the wild Atlantic coast in perfect solitude and then feast on the bounties of the ocean at night.