One day in the Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela
Portugal Green Walks gives you the opportunity to experience a day in the mythical Way of Saint James, an alternative for parallel programs of congresses or events taking place in Portugal.
For hundreds of years, pilgrims have travelled through the various routes leading to Santiago de Compostela, following the footsteps of the apostle Santiago Maior, whose tomb is in the Cathedral of the Galician city (Spain). The pilgrimage was one of the most crowded in the Middle Ages, then fell into oblivion, and since the 1980s gained renewed popularity. In 2016, the Pilgrims' Office received 278,224 pilgrims, 55% aged between 30 and 60 years, with 91% walking the Route. The rest did it by bike, horseback and wheelchair.
Paulo Lopes, director of Portugal Green Walks, tells us that the motivations to walk the Route are most varied and this is precisely "its richness". "Those who walk the Route to Santiago have a more universal spirit", he says. There are those who take the journey from a cultural and tourist perspective, but also those who do it "for a personal, introspective purpose. For someone who wants to change their lives, or change jobs, the Way can be a stopping and reflection point.” There are those who consider it a challenge to overcome, and of course, there are the religious motivations, very much present in pilgrims from Latin America and the United States. "There are others who do not enter our segment so much, who want to have the true pilgrim experience: take the backpack, stay in the hostels, and feel all that environment. Our client wants a little more comfort", explains Paulo Lopes.
Portugal Green Walks' product
The Route to Santiago product by Portugal Green Walks is mainly sought after by European markets, although the American market is extremely strong. In Europe, the German, Dutch and Belgian markets stand out. Mostly, we are talking about retired people, or in their 50's, people who like to walk. This is an activity that has peaks. "It is seasonal because of the weather, for example from November on, days are very small, it gets very cold and rainy. And in winter, if it rains the trails can get flooded. Between November and March there are few who venture into this." The peak is during the months of May, June, September and October.
Portugal Green Walks, in addition to all the logistical support, provides a roadbook, with a set of previous information, which can be very useful to the pilgrim: what to pack, type of footwear, physical preparation, etc. "Foreign clients prepare this several months in advance," says Paulo Lopes. He does not hide that "this is a complex product, since it requires knowing the territory very well. It's not just about selling the route, we have to be always available to offer assistance to the pilgrim." The logistics is also heavy and admits no flaws.
One day experiencing the route
Portugal Green Walks has a program where you can experience a day on a stretch of the Way Saint James. This passage is one of the most interesting, according to Paulo Lopes. "It is the one that goes from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães (in Portugal), it has a series of symbologies, it is a rural area, with the route passing through the middle of vineyards and villages." But do not think that because it takes only one day, it is not demanding. "Some physical preparation is necessary because there is Serra da Labruja in the middle, which is just the most complicated part of the whole road between Porto and Santiago." But the program is flexible. "When we understand that the group can not do this, we take a shorter trail, or stay in the foothill and do not climb the mountain. Or we start in Vitorino Piães and walk to Ponte de Lima," explains the leader of Portugal Green Walks.
"It seems to me that there is room to work groups on the Way," says Paulo Lopes. "There is an ideal time to absorb the message, reflecting and sharing. Walking for several days, this mixture of physical effort and mental detachment, makes people more receptive." In this case, Portugal Green Walks can provide all the logistics, "but the groups organisation will have to be in charge of a specialist."