Day One on the Variante Espiritual from Pontevedra to Combarro is full of wonder and enchantment, as you shall see. This short walk is full of history and beauty, both man-made and natural.
"Enchantment is not about escaping reality but embracing the magic that lies within it. " ~ Unknown
Day One is a lovely walk out of Pontevedra, taking a left turn after 3.2 kilometers to cross the Río da Gándara, to steadily climb, over the next three kilometers, before dropping back down through Poio and the monastery there to sea level at the historic seaport of Combarro.
Buckle your seatbelts and get ready to ride the enchantment that is the Variante Espiritual.
Here is our Google map of the day's walk, with all the services available placed on it. It is a fully interactive map, so open, pinch and play with it to see the details of the route.
And here is the elevation profile for the day. An almost constant uphill after the turn off from the river, for a total of three kilometers and 110 meters (360 feet) of elevation gain. It is not too strenuous, and when you reach the elevation top, it is mostly a downhill sail to the coastline.
For the first 3.2 kilometers that share the central Route of the Camino Portugués, I will refer you to our day twenty-three.
After crossing the Lérez River from the Pontevedra city center, it is essentially a walk through the northern suburbs of Pontevedra, followed by a walk through natural areas, and then along the railroad tracks until you come to this sign, pictured below.
You will see the first special Variante Espiritual waymark here, to the lower right side of the sign. The sign has a nice summary of what is ahead.
The Variante Espiritual turns left here to cross the bridge and the Río da Gándara.
Almost immediately upon crossing the river, the route begins its three kilometer climb.
This part of the walk is on lovely, quiet lanes through the countryside.
In approximately 400 meters, and after crossing the E1 highway on a bridge, the Variante Espiritual turns to the left and follows along another narrow paved lane with a high wall on its right flank first, then on both sides as you walk into the next town of Freixo.
You will arrive at the town church after not quite another 400 meters, the Capela de San Paio de O Freixo. This is a sweet little place where you can rest on the benches if you so desire.
Rich was reaching for the church bell rope in the photo below, and was going to ring the bells, until I gave him the stink eye! The last thing the village needs is another thoughtless pilgrim disturbing their peaceful little town!
After the church, cross another highway bridge, with the town cross on the other side.
A few steps later, meet the PO-310 two-lane highway and cross over it to stay on the narrow, paved lane.
Continue on this lane for another 300 meters, staying to the right and coming to this intersection, below, where for the first time you drop down a hill. You are about 4.35 kilometers into day one when you feel the elevation change. You can see this drop on the elevation map above.
Continue walking down the hill and a few meters later, come to a T-intersection where you turn to the left.
Follow this road for about 200 meters, as the route flattens out a bit, until the next Y-intersection. Stay to the right and walk under another highway bridge at this tunnel.
On the other side of the tunnel, the Variante Espiritual from Pontevedra to Combarro, turns to the left. The paved road now can barely be called a road. How wonderful for the pilgrimage traveler! However, it is a bit rough and somewhat like cobblestone.
Follow this road as it twists and turns through the countryside and eye-catching vineyards, for about 1/2 kilometer.
At approximately 5.3 kilometers total for the day, the route turns abruptly right and to the north onto this grooved cement walkway.
Thus begins a wonderful trail system for the next quarter kilometer. It is short and sweet, quickly turning into a dirt path.
The trail ends at another quaint village chapel, built in the 18th century, the Igrexa de San Pedro de Campaño. There is a nice information board by the chapel.
The Camino continues to the left at the church, and you are now entering the town of Cabaleiro. Within a few meters are the Hotel Rural Campaniola and restaurant and two more restaurants a little farther along. The hotel looks nice and is not all that expensive. Click on the link to see it.
Once you have reached the hotel, the way flattens and the serious uphill has abated.
Continue past the hotel to the town cross, the Cruceiro de Cabaleiro, in a nice park on your right. The attractive Restaurante La Viuda is across from the park.
Continue through town, past the next restaurant, staying to the right at the Y-intersection.
After about 135 meters, you come to the next intersection with the two-lane EP-0017, which you can just see in the background in the photo above. Here, at almost exactly six kilometers into the day, is the ultimate top of the climb. Walk straight through to the other side of the intersection.
200 meters later, after leaving town, the paved roadway ends and another trail system begins via a dirt lane into the forest. Stay to the left at the Y-intersection shown below.
You will now be on a wonderful forest walk for the next 450 meters, descending on the other side of the first long hill as steeply as you had just climbed.
The forest lane ends by walking around a beautiful home with a pool, picking up this narrow paved lane to walk into the next town of Fragamoreira.
After about 130 meters, come to a nice cruceiro on your left, and see a major highway ahead, the VG-4.8. Just when it looks like the Variante Espiritual joins the highway, instead, it diverts downhill and to the right, onto this frontage road.
And thus begins about 850 meters of frontage road walking, first to the north of the VG-4.8, then midway crossing a bridge over it, and then rejoining it on the south. It is not peaceful through this section, and for the first time on the day's walk, I was not at all enchanted.
While this frontage road that alternates between pavement and dirt looks appealing in the photo below, if you look closely in the background, you can see a huge, white semi-truck. And trust me, you can hear them well!
The frontage road climbs a small hill, through a wooded area, and comes to a T-intersection, where the pilgrimage traveler turns left to cross over the VG-4.8 on a bridge, after about 7.5 kilometers into the day.
After the highway crossing, the frontage road walk is not done. Stay right at the Y-intersection below to continue your walk, now along the southside of the highway.
As you walk along the frontage road, you will catch glimpses of the giant monastery in Poio, up ahead.
Finally, after about a 35o meters walk along the highway's southside, the Variante Espiritual from Pontevedra to Combarro bends to the left and away from the VG-4.8.
When the dirt lane ends at an intersection, you turn right and cross a small stream on a bridge with metal rails. Immediately turn left after the bridge and walk up a small incline toward the next town of Poio, shown below.
The paved road to Poio meets the VG-4.8 again after about 1/4 kilometer, at a large roundabout, where you must stay to the left, never meeting the VG-4.8, but taking the first exit. The Poio monastery complex is very visible ahead.
Arrive at the monastery complex after about 8.5 kilometers into the day.
The first feature that you will want to find is the giant Hórreo do Mosteiro de Poio. It is the biggest one I have ever seen! It is on the northside of the complex, at the first gate you come to. Notice the blue sign stating that the Hospedería Monasterio De Poio (+34 986 77 00 00) reception area is to the right, if you are planning to stay the night here.
Back on the main street, you come next to the monastery cathedral. Unfortunately for us, we arrived at 2:00 p.m. when everything was closed. The cathedral and the museum are open for visitors from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and again from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Click on the link here for information on daily masses and to see interior photos and more information about the incredible Mosteiro de San Xoán de Poio.
We had to content ourselves with sitting under the shade of the giant trees on the benches provided, and gaze in marvel at the place. We stayed there for quite awhile, in silence, full of enchantment for what could have been if we had planned better. A reason to return, for sure!
And when it was time to move onward, which we did reluctantly, we realized that Combarro was only another three kilometers away. There was so much more this day had to offer, up ahead.
Next, you follow the high-walled cobblestone street in front of the monastery down the hill and past the Cruceiro Rúa Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora y Mon, seen in the distance in the photo below.
Also pass a nice water fountain and two cafés. When the cobblestone street ends after 400 meters, turn right onto the PO-308 at the Cafetería Pandemillo.
After 300 meters, turn to the left, here in the photo below and onto the Travesia Seara, a quieter paved road.
After only about 130 meters, keep an eye out for an obscure turn to the left, and up a hill on this cobblestone walkway. It is very easy to miss and we almost did!
Only a few steps later, stay left at this next intersection, towards a more obscure path and the town's edge.
The narrow walking path eventually becomes a dirt trail and heads toward the waterfront.
The path is barely 50 meters, when you arrive into the open at a soccer field complex, the Campo de Fútbol da Seca, shown next.
The way is now more tricky to find, so look carefully for waymarks, or just follow my easy directions!
After navigating all the way around the soccer field and its high fence line, keeping it on your left, and after passing a playground on your right, look for a small bridge to your right. You can now see a clear Variante Espiritual waymark to cross this bridge.
After the bridge, head left and toward the waterfront. There is no clear pathway, but you will see yellow arrows leading the way.
Once you reach the water, there is now a clear trail system that you will be joining, called the Sendeiro Litoral de Poio. This is a very pleasant walk along the waterfront. Yes, that is Combarro in the distance straight ahead!
When you see the retaining wall, above, you are entering the Parque da Memoria, or Memorial Park. On your right, you will soon pass monuments (not pictured), created by Argentine Nobel Peace prize winner in 1980, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, as a tribute to emigration.
After passing the monuments, the Variante Espiritual comes to a small beach, the Area da Seca, shown below, and joins the small street called the Travesia Seara.
After about 100 meters on the Travesia Seara, you come to the PO-308 once again. Cross over it and onto the Rúa Casalvito and into the main part of town. The Hotel Combarro is at the left corner of this intersection, one of your many accommodation choices here.
Continue on the Rúa Casalvito for about 300 meters, and turn left at this cross, the Cruceiro de Casalvito.
Continue on this street, called the Travesia a Casalvito and after 100 meters pass the private Albergue Hostel Nuestra Señora del Camino (+34 649 05 32 36), the only albergue in town. They have both dormitory beds and private rooms.
Continue past the albergue for approximately another 300 meters until you come to the intersection again with the PO-308. Cross over it again. The beach, the Praia do Padrón is clearly in view ahead.
A few steps later, and you are on the beach, where the Variante Espiritual continues along this walkway, shown below. This photo was taken in the early morning of the beginning of day two, and you can see the extraordinary row of seaside hórreos!
And here on the beach is where I will end this day's narrative.
If you were to turn right onto the PO-308, just before the beach, the Hotel Xeito (+34 986 77 00 39) is a few steps away on your right. We stayed here and the proprietor is a very pilgrim-friendly and helpful host. He is so proud of his city! He will give you a sheet of information and a tourist map of the attractions in Combarro.
Plus there is an extraordinary view of the town and beach from the rooftop terrace. After a long, late and glorious seafood "lunch" on the waterfront we had wine on the terrace at sunset. It was fabulous.
There are many more possible accommodations in Combarro. You can click on the link to see them. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, the Hogar Del Puerto is also very economical of the remaining choices.
The town of Combarro has much to offer, if you are a lover of history. Please click on the city link for more information, if you plan to do more than just walk through this enchanting place!
At the very least, wander off the Camino route a few meters and see the seaside hórreos. They are something.
The town is full of historic fountains and crosses (see the article for more photos) and one of the crosses is also down by the waterfront. On the Praia do Padrón is the Cruceiro do Padrón, shown below, looking eastward.
Looking westward is the row of seaside hórreos, shown next. How unique these are! Wait till you see them glowing in the light at daybreak! Click through to my day two on the Variante Espiritual to see them this way!
And finally I leave you with this image from day one of the Variante Espiritual from Pontevedra to Combarro, an hórreo in all its solitary glory! And even more enchanting is that not only is it nestled by the sea, but the Angel's Trumpets! Superb!
This short and sweet day's walk, whether done by itself on a lazy saunter, or combined with additional kilometers on the Central Route, like we did, will certainly enchant you!
This section was one of my favorite days of all the Camino days I have ever done. There were no great lightening bolts for me, or Rich, just a sweet walk and a feast for the eyes.
But the eyes, when seeing through the eyes of the heart, sees the magic that lies within the reality of it!
May your own walk on the Variante Espiritual from Pontevedra to Combarro, be filled with the Enchantment that is not about escaping reality but embracing the magic that lies within it. Ultreia!
Many readers contact me, Elle, to thank me for all the time and care that I have spent creating this informative website. If you have been truly blessed by my efforts, have not purchased an eBook, yet wish to contribute, I am very grateful. Thank-you!
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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! )