A walking pilgrimage to Combarro, Spain, a historic fishing port with distinctive seaside hórreos, is a highlight of the Variante Espiritual, an alternative choice from the Central Route of the Camino Portugués.
What's best about those seaside towns is that they are like time warps, and that's why people go there. ~ Harland Miller, artist and author
This quote couldn't be more true, in fact for the purpose of this article, it has a double meaning! Without a doubt, we go to the sea to forget time and space. However in Combarro, you will actually take a walk back in time! This is a wonderful place to forgo both dimensions of space and time to enrich your journey.
Combarro is a fascinating stopover that will mesmerize you with its beautiful coastal scenery and traditional Galician charm.
You will indeed want to obtain a tourist map of the village of Combarro, Spain, to enhance your visit here. Our Hotel Xeito had them, so ask your accommodation proprietor!
I have also included the map for day one below, which I placed all the important places there are to visit here. Just zoom into Combarro, Spain to see them.
However, you will see many more hórroes than I could have possibly placed on the map! They are essentially littered across the landscape!
If we consider that the Variante Espiritual is indeed meant to be a "spiritual" route, full of reflection and personal growth, then I feel that understanding the rich history of Combarro can add another dimension to the pilgrimage traveler's journey.
This village is a historic and artistic treasure, so take some time to marvel at the ancient architecture, and its amazing hórreos, ancient stone houses and cruceiros (stone crosses) that dot the narrow medieval streets. It is a city of nine named crosses and it is a great pleasure to stumble upon them, in your walk through time!
Make sure that on your self-guided tour (with the help of the PilgrimageTraveler.com website!) that you stop and read all the historic plaques along the narrow streets, that are next to important sites! It will most certainly enrich your experience of this marvelously preserved place. I have summarized most of them in this article, as well.
I begin my description on the beach, below, where the Variante Espiritual passes, called the Praia do Padrón. Here it is at low tide in the afternoon of our arrival.
And here is the same beach at higher tide, in the early morning light, just before daybreak. The hórreos seem to hang out over the water, don't they? We were so very fortunate to behold this wonder at daybreak! What an amazing contrast between the above and below photos. What a difference the light and the tide makes!
The remaining photos in this article were taken in the afternoon daylight, but to see how the actual route of the Variante Espiritual through Combarro looked in this same sublime early morning light, you just must go to day two to see it.
We begin our "Walk Through Time" by the beach, the Praia do Padrón where the walkway becomes the Rúa da Fonte, or Fountain Street.
Below is the first hórreo along the seaside that you come to, from the Camino, along with cross #8 on the tourist map, the Cruceiro Praia do Padrón.
These hórreos, or granaries, were used to store and preserve corn, potatoes and other grains. They are raised on posts off the ground to keep rodents and moisture from getting in. The crosses and embellishments found on most of them were symbols for protection and sacralization, in addition to a show of prosperity and wealth. Hórreos are protected structures in Spain, due to their historic value and by law cannot be destroyed.
Just beyond the sites above, along the Rúa da Fonte, now looking back, is cross # 7, the Cruceiro Rualeira.
In the photo above, just to the right of the building, is an opening towards the sea. Just to the right a bit more beyond the photo is a flat, open platform. This historic area is called an Eirado, where the cobblestones were used as an outdoor threshing floor to separate the rye grain from the straw. This open area was also used to dry corn, repair and dry fishing nets. Women almost exclusively performed these tasks.
And below, facing forward again (or traveling westward) is the Rúa da Fonte, where the actual Camino Route also travels.
I snapped this photo, below, a few meters later, of the beautiful Angel's Trumpets that graced the walk as we climbed up the street from the sea. And yes, this one is when we were actually walking the Camino the next morning. I just couldn't resist! The light was so perfect and my wide-opened eyes of my heart drank in their beauty.
The street and Camino continue onward to the Praza da Fonte, or Fountain Plaza, the place where the street gets its name.
And just beside the fountain is the Cruceiro da Fonte, cross #5, shown below.
According to the plaque in Fountain Square, these historic and characteristic Galician crosses were most often placed at crossroads. It is believed that the crosses' initial purpose was to Christianize pagan places of worship.
In later times, these same crosses became "magical spaces where witches and souls in purgatory held meetings." How interesting! I never heard this folklore before! I don't think I'll ever look at another Galician cross the same way. I love the romantic magic of it all!
Also, according to the plaque, each cross has a stone altar-table in front of it, that you can clearly see in the photo above, that is decorated by the locals with flowers and other items for the Corpus Cristi Procession each year. Maybe something to mark your calendars for!
After the Fountain Square, the Variante Espiritual leaves our Walk Through Time, by turning right to continue up the hill. However, our walk continues straight and onto the street simply called A Rúa. Its literal translation is "the street." I guess it is the street.
And indeed, here is Rich walking along this incredibly quaint way. See the corn hanging out on the balcony? So historic in its re-creation.
And as you continue your walk along "The Street," look for an opening toward the sea and this lovely hórreo on your left.
And a bit farther along A Rúa, by these wonderful seaside houses, you will catch a glimpse of the waterfront.
The iconic seafaring houses of Combarro, Spain, known as the "Casas Maniñeiras" were terraced, with all their balconies facing the sea. Most often the residents stored their fishing equipment and farm tools on the lower level. Some of the homes even had grape presses on the ground floor.
The balustrades on the balconies were made of wood, iron or stone, and were often painted the same color as their boats! The porticoes were used as protection for the entryway, and not intended for public thoroughfare.
In another block or so, you come to the next intersection and cruceiro #4, the Cruceiro A Rúa, on the corner of the Rúa do Mar and the Praza Peirao da Chousa.
The Walk Through Time continues to the left along the Rúa de Mar. Eventually the street turns and ends by the waterfront, with a plaza and many restaurants.
We did not eat here, but continued onward back to the Praza Peirao da Chousa, where we used the first opportunity to return to the waterfront street.
You will be taken through stairways and tunnels and passageways that will charm you. However, the funky seaside street is lined with tourist shops, so I really didn't take any photos because I was less enamored of it.
But, this street is notable in that it eventually turns into a walkway that leads up a path of stairs, up and over a rocky area between two houses. Very unique!
And finally, it opens to another area on the waterfront and you can see the marina. I did not take any photos here either. The restaurant on the marina made for a wonderful open air seafood meal that was delightful and delicious! We lingered here, very happy to fill the void of our pilgrim bellies!
Afterall, the journey of a pilgrim isn't just about hardship but also about reveling in the joys of life which includes savoring the local cuisine!
And finally, on your way back through town, divert a block inland and make sure you visit the Igrexa Vella de San Roque. For some reason, unknown to me, I did not take a photo of this 18th-century church. Perhaps I was just exhausted by this time! I took this photo below from Google maps, as a reference for you. It is an interesting little chapel.
It is built on a platform and next to it is cross #3, the Cruceiro Adro, from the tourist map. According to the plaque out front, in earlier centuries this church used to be dedicated to St. Sebastian. However, after the 16th century, full of plagues and diseases, it was re-dedicated to San Roque, a saint revered throughout Galicia as the patron saint for healing of diseases.
If the church is open, it could be a haven of tranquility, where you could light a candle in prayer or just enjoy the silence as part of your spiritual journey. Click on this link from Google to see other pilgrim's photos of the inside; simple but beautiful. It is a shame we were unable to go inside.
If you have the energy and the time is right, you may wish to spend the evening with a walk along the beach, for the sunset. One of the most spectacular things about Combarro, Spain is its coastal views and there is no better time to see it than in the fading light.
Alas, we had no energy after a full pilgrimage and tourist day and instead opted to watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace of our Hotel Xeito with a bottle of wine. Our proprietor, seeing our plans, gave us a bottle opener and two wine glasses from the bar!
We had a spectacular view of the coast from here, but unfortunately, the sunset wasn't quite so spectacular!
In the photo, you can see the small Mom and Pop store, the Autoservico Olga, right across the street from the hotel, where we resupplied and bought our bottle of wine.
What an incredible evening we had walking around the historic streets of Combarro. If ever there were a place where you can experience a time warp, Combarro is it!
May your pilgrimage to Combarro, Spain be an incredibly enriching experience to add to your Spiritual Variant, where you can transcend space and time! Ultreia!
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Carbon fiber construction ( not aluminum) in a trekking pole makes them ultra lightweight. We like the Z-Pole style from Black Diamond so we can hide our poles in our pack from potential thievesbefore getting to our albergue! There are many to choose from! ( See more of our gear recommendations! )