Located in the remote north-west corner of Spain, Galicia offers world-class beaches, fantastic cuisine, distinctive culture and some of the friendliest locals you will ever encounter. And yes, I am typing this post from London but I am from Galicia, born and bred.
Some background first. Since I got to live ‘la vida loca’ outside Spain and getting to do some extensive travelling, I have always felt as an ambassador of my roots and origins as many other expats do. I have provided countless tips to friends and colleagues about where to go and what to see/eat/do in Spain, especially when they were heading to Galicia.
So, let’s write a blogpost and share the link with future travellers? That would make my life easier… Right?
Actually, the link is always handy but the real triggers were different. Back in January, I got to see Galicia in some unexpected places:
- I was in Bangkok, killing time in a cinema, watching Arrival… and boom! In the opening scene, Amy Adams is giving a lecture about Galicia! – it gave me chills!
- Soon later, Lonely Planet published their Best in Europe guide and Galicia is ranking third in 2017.
So yes… when you come from a small place and this kind of things happen in a short period of time… first, you tell everyone about it, and second, you write a blogpost. So let’s get on with the job.
How to get there?
There are regular flights from all major cities in Spain and some major European cities such as London, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam and others.
A very popular way to get to Galicia is by foot. No, this isn’t a typo. Ever heard of ‘El Camino de Santiago’? This is a great way to travel across the north of Spain and ‘find your inner self”. I might dedicate a special post to this in the future so, at the moment… just Google it.
Top things to see and do:
Santiago de Compostela
Whether you arrive by plane or via El Camino, Santiago should be your starting point in Galicia. Double check before you book those flights or you could end up in Santiago de Chile after a long and costly flight!
Santiago is the capital of Galicia, a medium sized town which hosts one of the oldest universities in Spain as well as Galicia’s parliament. The place is full of history and striking architecture, Santiago’s old town is simply spectacular, one of the best architecture examples in the world and is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The main landmark is Santiago’s Cathedral (below).
The old town is so good that anything else in Santiago might disappoint the visitor. Spend time walking the streets surrounding the Cathedral and visit the famous El Franco street to enjoy the local wines and seafood.
Islas Cíes (Cies Islands)
You can travel by car from Santiago to an idyllic paradise in less than 2 hours. Cies Islands have been ranked as one of the top beach destinations in the world for many years now. Here an example from The Guardian, UK.
The easiest way to access the islands would be by taking a ferry from Vigo. There are about 8 ferries a day and it takes 45 minutes to get to the main beach, playa de Rodas (picture below). The Cies Islands were declared a Nature Reserve in 1980 which means, no buildings, hotels or any other crimes against nature will stand between you and paradise.
If you want to spend a night in the islands, camping is your only option. More information here.
Cañón do Sil (Sil Canyon)
Galicia’s coastline is more than 1,500 kilometres long and in my opinion, the highlight of this destination. In any case, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention Cañón do Sil and Ribeira Sacra in this post as an alternative to-do while in Galicia, especially if you like hikes and mountains.
The main canyon is about 50 Kms from the town of Ourense – see here for Google map. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific place to visit here, this is an area to explore. The guys at Rutea have put together a fantastic guide with routes and viewpoints.
Below one of my pictures taken some years ago from, I think, the Pe do Home viewpoint. This was taken with an old SLR so I couldn’t find any location metadata in the file.
And this video provides a good sense about the Ribeira Sacra / Canyon area.
Rías Baixas (Lower Rias)
This is Galicia’s most popular holiday destination and more importantly, this is where I come from.
The Rías are coastal inlets, the lower Rias would stretch from Galicia’s south-west up to Muros and Noia. There are plenty of sandy beaches, historical towns and natural scenery that the list would be endless. I am going to follow the blog’s mantra here and provide just a simple list with the very best:
Towns: Combarro, Cambados, Pontevedra, Noia
Beaches: Rodas (Cies Islands), Castro de Baroña, A Lanzada
Other: Dunas de Corrubedo, Illa da Toxa
Nearby: Fisterra or Land’s End, Ézaro, Louro, Carnota (these four places are just north of the Rias Baixas but well worth visiting) – You can see the exact locations on the interactive map at the bottom of this post.
Picture below: Surfing in Praia das Furnas (a stone’s throw from Castro de Baroña)
Rías Altas (Upper Rias)
This area stretches from Galicia’s northeast border with Asturias up to Ferrol. The harsher landscapes, agitated waters and cliffs make the Rias Altas a good destination with plenty of fishing villages and untamed beaches ripe for surfing.
Picture below: Praia das Catedrais, Ribadeo
My very best of the Rias Altas:
Beaches: Praia das Catedrais, Praia de Doniños, Praia de Covas
Other: Estaca de Bares
Nearby: A Coruña
Picture below: Torre de Hércules (A Coruña)
Interactive map with all the locations mentioned in this post:
And what about the food?
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