Day 6 of Camino Portugués Central: Padrón – Santiago de Compostela (25 km)

Santiago de Compostela

Distance: 25/15.5 mi

The route

I can’t believe it was already the last day of our hike. It felt like we’d been doing this forever and had settled into the rhythm of waking up, packing, and starting our walk. The last day was also the most challenging distance-wise. We were already pretty tired, and this day was the longest—5 km more than our usual distance. While 5 km might not seem much on a normal day, when you’re exhausted, it feels like 50 km! And it seemed our luck finally ran out, as the bad, angry clouds caught up with us, making rain our companion for the entire day.

The route led us through villages and forests, and more and more pilgrims joined us. You could see that many of them were limping—the journey had taken its toll on a lot of us.

Padrón - Santiago de Compostela
Padrón - Santiago de Compostela

It’s hard to describe my happiness and disbelief when I saw the 9.65 km marker to Santiago. It felt so close, yet somehow, those last 10 km felt like the longest of all. I also made the mistake of not stopping at one of the bars along the way, thinking another would appear soon enough. But we kept walking and walking, with no bars or restaurants in sight, until we reached O Milladoiro—I was starving and extremely tired, running on the last fumes of sanity.

Padrón - Santiago de Compostela

After grabbing some food and mustering the last bits of our energy, we continued walking toward the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela. And then all hell broke loose. In the last 3 km, all the rain we had managed to avoid the entire week decided to pour down at once, accompanied by a vicious wind. In no time, we were soaked to the bone, underwear included!

When we reached the old part of town, we somehow missed the yellow arrow, and the rain was so heavy I couldn’t see anything on the map on my phone. We ended up taking a wrong turn and reached the cathedral from a different street, not the main pilgrim route. But there we were, standing in front of the cathedral—wet, tired, and in total disbelief that we had actually made it!

Santiago de Compostela

We decided to find our hotel first before exploring the town. Thankfully, I had reserved a place right across from the cathedral, knowing I wouldn’t have the strength to walk more than necessary. Our suitcases arrived at the same time as us—talk about perfect timing! After changing clothes, we set out to pick up our Compostelas, which meant finding the pilgrim office.

As we wandered around in search, we realized we had approached the cathedral from the side—thanks to our unexpected detour—which explained why there weren’t many tourists around us. Now we could marvel at the size of the building from the front in all its glory and hear pilgrims singing and celebrating their arrival. Everyone was huddling under the roof of a nearby building, snapping pictures to mark the end of their journey. We asked a fellow pilgrim to take a few photos of us, then continued our search. Eventually, we located the 0-km marker, and opposite it stood the pilgrim office.

After a short wait, we got our stamps inspected and received our Compostelas and distance certificates. Lucky for us, we had bought a waterproof sleeve the day before, so we tucked all the documents in, hid them under our shirts, jackets, and raincoats, and ran back to the hotel. Thankfully, they stayed dry.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Next, we decided to check out the cathedral. The remains of St. James the Great, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, are reputed to be buried here. The cathedral, built in the early 12th century in the Romanesque style, showcases a mixture of different architectural styles added over the centuries.

Since we had some time before the evening mass, we explored the cathedral. You aren’t allowed to enter with a backpack, so it was good we left everything at the hotel. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is breathtaking and one of the most gold-adorned churches I have ever seen.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Here are some highlights of the Cathedral:

  • The Pórtico da Gloria: The original Romanesque porch entrance by Mestre Mateo is considered one of the grandest medieval works of art. You must buy an entrance ticket or join an organized tour to view it.
  • The Botafumeiro: This giant thurible weighs over 56kg when empty and over 66kg when full. It requires six people to swing it. It’s not always in action, so check the cathedral’s calendar or hope someone has booked it, which happens frequently during the season.
  • Rooftop Tour: If you’re not afraid of heights, take a guided tour of the cathedral’s rooftop for fantastic panoramic views of Santiago.
  • Sepulcro y Abrazo del Apóstol Santiago: The rite of embracing the Apostle Saint James, a tradition dating back to the 13th century. It involves hugging the statue of the Apostle from behind. The dressing room of the Apostle Santiago is a special place within the cathedral where the faithful can perform this rite. You’re not allowed to take photos here. The pilgrim must enter through the Azabachería door, visit the Apostle’s Tomb, then go up to the dressing room to hug the Apostle. The exit is through the Abades Gate at the top of the Plaza de la Quintana.
  • The Tomb of the Apostle St. James: Located in a crypt beneath the Main Altar, where the remains of St. James and his disciples, Saint Athanasius and Saint Theodore, are kept in a silver urn. The legend goes that his body was discovered in a field near Iria Flavia (modern-day Padrón) during the 9th century by a local shepherd. Not long after this, King Alfonso II the Chaste walked the first-ever Camino route from Oviedo to verify the relics, thus creating the Camino Primitivo.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

While entrance to the cathedral is free, extra activities require tickets, which you can purchase at Catedral de Santiago ticket site. We skipped the extras as we were too tired, wet, and cold to join a guided tour, so we explored on our own.

Confession is available throughout the day at the cathedral. If no priests are present in the confessionals or if you need confession in your language, inquire in the sacristy.

There are also several pilgrim masses throughout the day. Initially, we intended to go to the evening mass at 7 pm but were too wet and cold to attend. Instead, we woke up early the next day and joined the pilgrim mass at 7:30 am, just before catching our bus to Porto.

The main altar can be quite crowded, so if you want to pray, you might want to visit the side chapels. They are equally beautiful and offer silence and solace. Tourists are not allowed to take pictures there, and these chapels are designated for worship—my mom preferred them over the main area, as it was too noisy for her to pray in peace.

Cathedral of Santiago de CompostelaWhere to eat

A lot of guides online pointed out the fantastic tapas scene on Rúa do Franco. We headed there, picked a random restaurant, grabbed some food and wine, and celebrated the end of our journey.

Many bars and restaurants were offering the local delicacy—octopus. Though neither of us felt like trying it, everywhere I googled, people were encouraging to give it a go.

Old town

We tried to wander around the old town and its narrow streets, but the constant downpour quickly made it less enjoyable. We eventually abandoned the idea. It’s a shame because the city looked lovely, and we would have loved to explore more. Maybe next time!

After buying a few souvenirs to remind us of the trip, we headed back to the hotel for the night.

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