Day Four on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures
 ~ 26.5 Kilometer (16.5 Miles),
Ruta Xacobea de la Traslatio Boat Ride

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Day four on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures is a maritime grand finale of this spiritual journey. It is the special boat ride, for which this Camino gets its name, commemorating the Traslatio de Santiago, or the transfer of the body of St. James from the Holy Land to Padrón, and then onward by land to Santiago de Compostela. Please see my Introduction of the Variante Espiritual for more information regarding the history of this legend.

The Traslatio sea route is marked by 17 crosses, but you will see only 12 of them along the way. This Maritime Way of the Cross, or Vía Crucis Marítimo is the only one in existence in the world. 

"Being on a boat that's moving through the water, it's so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what's important and what's not." ~ James Taylor

Indeed, the boat ride on the final leg of this journey is special. There is just something about being in a boat, the quietude of the countryside zipping by, the hum of the boat's motor that drowns out other background noise, the crisp salt air and the breeze through your hair that transports you away. 

Maps and Stats, Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures

Below is my interactive Google map of the routes for this day. I have placed the sights you will see along the boat ride, and have also included all 17 crosses for your reference. 

The journey by boat of 26.5 kilometers (16.5 miles), shown in blue, lasts a full two hours. Along the way, the boat's captain will narrate for you, in Spanish and English, describing what you are seeing. But there are also long minutes of silence to journey inward, if you desire. 

If you prefer to walk the 32 kilometers to Pontecesures instead, I have included GPS tracks taken from Wikiloc, in red. Because I have not walked this route, I cannot guarantee the route's accuracy. However, I have utilized all the tools available to make it as accurate as possible from my armchair. I have studied and combined many pilgrim's walking routes, poured over Google street views and gathered information from public sources and forums. 

Interestingly, one of the 17 crosses of the Maritime Way of the Cross is inland, and the hiking route passes by it, as you enter Pontecesures. And two more would be accessible along the river's shore, with only a few meters diversion from the Camino path.  

The elevation profile of the boat ride is irrelevant. The walking route follows so closely to the shore that it is almost irrelevant as well. I have included it here, for your reference. 

Elevation Profile, Day Four, Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to PontecesuresElevation Profile, Day Four, Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures

Booking a Traslatio Boat on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontevedra

As of this writing there are three companies that will take pilgrims on the boat ride from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures. They all pick you up at the maritime station on the waterfront. In no particular order: 

  1.  Alvamar Náutica, you can reserve online or call or WhatsApp at (+34) 683 58 03 64 or (+34) 653 51 69 69. The price is 30 Euros, the advertised duration, one hour 20 min. They will go with a minimum of five people and an unknown maximum, but it is a small boat.
  2. A Mare Turismo Náutico, reserve online or call or WhatsApp (+34) 650 410 322. Price, 30 Euros, the advertised duration is one hour 15 minutes. They will go with a minimum of one person and a maximum of 24 people. Also a small boat. 
  3. La Barca del Peregrino, "The Pilgrim's Boat." Their office is on the waterfront at the exit of the footbridge into town. You can't miss it. Reserve online or call or WhatsApp (+34) 607 911 523. Price 25 Euros which includes free juice, coffee and cake! Advertised duration is one hour, 20 min (actually 2 hours for us), capacity 150 people in an 18 meter catamaran with open air deck on upper level. This is a big boat! They also advertise a 10 meter boat for 30 people, all indoor seating. 

Photo-Rich Travelogue, Variante Espiritual

We set off for the Estación Marítima (maritime station) in the dark, from our Albergue Turistico A Salazon. (If you are looking for a reservation for accommodation in Vilanova de Arousa, you can also click here.) Sunrise is late in Spain and in late September when we went it wasn't until 0823. 

The boat was scheduled to leave at 0800, but that is variable according to the tides. And they usually only sail once a day, in the morning. Check before you go. All of the websites will tell you in advance. 

Estación Marítima, Vilanova de ArousaEstación Marítima, Vilanova de Arousa

You need to arrive plenty early, because this is the line we encountered for the large 150-passenger Pilgrim's Boat! And the boat was full, or almost full, by the judge of things.

Waiting to Embark in Vilanova de ArousaWaiting to Embark in Vilanova de Arousa

You wait in the line to enter the boat's platform, by one reservation at a time. They check your reservation against their list. 

Boarding the Boat to Pontecesures Before DawnBoarding La Barca del Peregrino, Pilgrim's Boat

The boat left promptly at 0800! It was quite romantic to see the sunrise and the twinkling lights of Vilanova de Arousa as we sailed away. We were sitting in the top seats, near the back and the Spanish flag flew in the breeze. It was quite fresh in the open air before dawn! You may wish to dress warmly! I was glad I did. 

Setting Off From ShoreSetting Off From Shore on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures

Vilanova de Arousa is known for its mussel rafts or "bateas" that dot the Arousa estuary, accentuating the importance of mussels to the local economy. All of the boats will slow down to see the harvesting process close-up, if it is happening. 

In the next photo, you can see the boat arriving at the first mussel rafts. 

Arriving at the Mussel RaftsArriving at the Mussel Rafts

We were lucky enough to have our journey timed just right to see the harvest. It is quite the fascinating process! 

Harvesting the MusselsHarvesting the Mussels
Lifting the Basket Full of MusselsLifting the Basket Full of Mussels
Swinging the Basket Into the BoatSwinging the Basket Into the Boat

We learned by observation, that the advantage to the smaller Traslatio boats is not only are they faster and complete the journey in less time, but they can zip around and get up close to the sights. I was zooming in with my camera for most of these photos. 

After the boat moved onward from the mussel harvesting, I sat back and turned my attention eastward to the rising sun and its changing light show! It was wonderfully beautiful and peaceful. 

Daybreak Over the WaterDaybreak Over the Water
Changes in LightChanges in Light on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures

Maritime Way of the Cross, 
Vía Crucis Marítimo

And now, to the most significant aspect of the journey for the entire Variante Espiritual: La Ruta Xacobea de la Traslatio, or the Jacobean Route of the Transfer. 

The first Jacobean cross, or "Cruceiro Xacobeo," on the east bank, where the Traslatio boat arrives, is #5, the Punto Grandoiro, pictured below. 

For a full Guide to Crosses on the Maritime Way of the Cross, click on this link. Unfortunately, it is in Spanish and I couldn't find a similar one in English. However, scroll down to see the crosses and the photos, which may be enough to enrich your experience of this Maritime Way of the Cross, or Vía Crucis Marítimo on day four of the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures. 

Cruceiro Xacobeo #5, Punto Grandoiro#5 - Cruceiro Xacobeo, Punto Grandoiro

On the west bank is the next Cruceiro Xacobeo #6, the three crosses of Punto Patiño, known as the "Calvario." These three crosses commemorate Santigao and his two favorite disciples Anastasio and Teodoro, who were responsible for organizing and leading the maritime journey of the Traslatio. I was just mesmerized at how the sunlight lit these crosses in the early morning light. 

Three Crosses of Punto Patiño#6 - Three Crosses of Punto Patiño, Calvario

This Maritime Jacobean route crosses under many viaducts and bridges, and this is the first one. Cruceiro Xacobeo #7, Outeiriño is actually in this photo by the white building, but you can't see it. The boat didn't go close enough and I was shooting into the sun. 

The Viaduct, First BridgeThe Viaduct, First Bridge

The next Jacobean cross that I included here was #8, the Cruceiro Xacobeo, Illota Telleira, Catoira. It is difficult to see in the photo below, but this cross was on a small island, and the large boat did not get very close. 

Cruceiro Xacobeo #8, Illota Telleira, Catoira# 8 - Cruceiro Xacobeo, Illota Telleira, Catoira

Long before you come to the next attraction on the east bank, the Torres do Oeste, you will see a highway bridge in the distance. Look out for this Catoira Bridge, because the ruined Western Towers are practically underneath it! 

This is an attractive place, with the small Ermida de Santigo inside the towers. I would have liked to explore this on foot. Perhaps you can, if you choose to walk this route. There is a footpath from the overland pilgrimage route to this site. 

You can almost hear the historical whispers of these ancient stones! Seems like this little church needed a whole lot of protection to survive! 

Torres do OesteTorres do Oeste

This lovely little cross, #9 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de Illa do Rato, Catoira, is also on its own little island. The sun glowed upon it as we passed close by to this one. 

#9 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de illa do Rato, Catoira#9 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de illa do Rato, Catoira

#10 - Cruceiro Xacobeo, O Texar, Catoira is on the east bank. 

#10 - Cruceiro Xacobeo, O Texar, Catoira#10 - Cruceiro Xacobeo, O Texar, Catoira

#11 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de O Cordeiro, Valga is also on the east bank, and it is the last one you will see on the Traslatio Boat ride.

#11 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de O Cordeiro, Valga#11 - Cruceiro Xacobeo de O Cordeiro, Valga

I don't often take or include photos of the two of us. But when another pilgrim couple wanted theirs taken and offered to take ours, I agreed. I was glad I did. We look very happy, don't we? 

Happy Pilgrimage TravelersHappy Pilgrimage Travelers on the Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures

Sit back and enjoy the rest of your ride, up the river and into the harbor of Pontecesures. 

Entering Pontecesures HarborEntering Pontecesures Harbor

While difficult to see in the background of the photo below, once the Roman bridge comes into view, your Ruta Xacobea de la Traslatio journey has come to an end. It takes a while for the larger boat to turn about and moor at the landing shown in the photo to the right. 

Disembark at Landing Before the Roman BridgeDisembark at Landing Before the Roman Bridge

Immediately upon disembarking from the boat landing and onto the adjacent street you are greeted by this 28-kilometer waymark at the squiggly sculpture!

28 Kilometer Waymark28 Kilometer Waymark

Even without the waymark, it is easy to find your way. Just head for the Roman bridge, straight ahead. It was a bit disconcerting for me to wait and pile out of the boat with 150 other pilgrims at the same time! Then we all headed like a stampede to the bridge! Ha! And so it is...

Roman Bridge, PontecesuresRoman Bridge, Pontecesures

And the final "cross," Cruceiro Xacobeo #13, Apóstol Santiago, isn't even a cross at all, but a sculpture of Santiago. From the boat, when you get to the end of the road that intersects with the Roman bridge, look to your right, and by the dentist clinic, "clinica dentista," you will see Santiago. 

I inadvertently took this photo below, approaching from the south, to show the intersection, and captured this cross #13. Even though I doctored up the photo, it's hard to make out St. James, but he is there, on top of the post. 

13-Cruceiro Xacobeo, Apóstol Santiago13-Cruceiro Xacobeo, Sin Cruz, con el Apóstol Santiago

And now your Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures has truly come to an end. Breathe, continue to feel the spirit of the Traslatio as you continue onward on the Central route of the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela. You could make it on the same day, if you wanted or needed to push it. We chose to go as far as Milladoiro. 

If you wish to follow my journey, it picks up on day twenty-four. 

To buy the ebook for the Central Route of the Portuguese Way, click here. If you wish to make it to Padrón and spend the day there exploring the legends and need accommodation, click here

Reflections, Variante Espiritual 

It is difficult for me to say which of the days on the Spiritual Variant were the most significant or rewarding. The Traslatio boat ride was without a doubt the most unique, and one I wouldn't have wanted to miss. 

However, the entire journey on this special spiritual route was enchanting to me. I can't wait to do it again, but this time, I may walk from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures. I may poke around the shore line and visit the crosses and the ancient stones of the towers from the land, to see the whole picture. 

I say this, because this day four was special, different than I imagined, with more pilgrims than I could have possibly imagined, yet it retained its "spiritual" character. The crosses and the ancient stones spoke their historical whispers to me, capturing my heart and the spirit of this camino. It was the most wonderful and lovely maritime journey! 


May your own Variante Espiritual from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontecesures, on the Ruta Xacobea de la Traslatio, be the pinnacle of your experience for your journey. May you experience the historical whispers, the mystery, the traditions and the legends as you glide across the water. And may "everything fall into place in terms of what's important and what's not." Ultreia!

Downloadable Camino Portugués eBooks in PDF Format ~ Get Your Copy Today!  Don't carry a hard copy guide book to increase your pack weight. Use our digital guides on your next Camino instead. 

The Variante Espiritual is Brand-New, Hot off my writing desk!

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