The Portuguese Way began to develop in the Middle Ages, taking advantage of the river, sea and land routes traced by the Romans and Muslims. Its origin may be, according to some historians, in a political path of reconquest and expansion of the kingdom of León. But the truth is that when Portugal emerged as an independent kingdom of Castile and Leon there were already two consolidated routes linking the cities of Coimbra and Santiago, one by land and the other by sea.
The river and maritime routes were the most used, since they allowed to move faster. But sometimes these routes could not be used due to big storms, so land routes began to take hold. Undoubtedly, the great event that consolidated the overland itinerary of the Portuguese route was the pilgrimage of Isabel of Portugal, known as Rainha Santa, in the 14th century. In her will, the queen earmarked a large sum for the maintenance and development of pilgrims’ hospitals in the Kingdom of Portugal, which meant a great improvement in the pilgrimage routes and their infrastructures.
Another aspect that helped to consolidate the Portuguese Way of St. James was the presence of the Order of the Knights of St. James in Portugal. This order defended the border of Extremadura and offered protection to the pilgrims, making the Camino much safer.
The pilgrims who made this journey were mostly Portuguese, but there were also a large number of European pilgrims from different nations.
Finally, we can speak of a period of decline of the Portuguese itinerary and a subsequent resurgence. This new boom took place at the end of the 20th century, practically parallel to that of the French Way. Thanks to the efforts of public institutions and associations of pilgrims from Galicia and northern Portugal began to signalize, recovering the route known as the Central Way. Soon after, other itineraries were added, such as the Portuguese Way along the Coast and the Inland Way, as well as other alternative routes. The success of this revitalization was such that the Portuguese route has become the second most frequented itinerary of the Camino de Santiago, after the French Way.