Galicia Spain Travel Guide

Galicia Spain travel guide horse riding on beach

Galicia Spain is beautiful and magical....

Come to the Celtic part of Spain

A beautiful part of Spain, that often gets overlooked because of its less stable weather, Galicia has a stunning coastline, fabulous food and a mystical Celtic heritage.

Galicia is almost greener than Ireland itself, and it definitely has more in common with my home country, than it does with Andalucia, down in the south of Spain. Discover more in our Galicia Spain Travel Guide.
Galicia Spain travel guide

Spectacular & so friendly

My first trip to Galicia Spain was spectacular, if a little too short. The Celtic feel and friendliness felt like coming home for me, and the scenery is extremely special – as was our experience in the Casa Grande do Bachao, a little outside Santiago de Compostela.

A must for foodies

Galicia is ideal for foodies, culture vultures and of course pilgrims. It’s a wonderful option for families who would prefer not to spend their precious annual family holiday in a built up resort. Galicia boasts beautiful long golden beaches, as well as its magical Rias Baixas and Rias Altas, dolmens, stunning natural areas …and yes, I’ll take the risk of boring you, by mentioning its fabulous food again!

Galicia Spain nature waterfall rainbow

Discover authentic Galicia

Galicia offers an authentic holiday experience in Spain. It has outstanding countryside, lovely coastal towns, enchanting rivers and estuaries, and stunning mountains. It’s predominantly unspoilt, making it ideal for those who wish to experience a more peaceful part of Spain. Galicia offers an alternative travel experience. For now it remains largely untouched by the types of tourists who like to go the Costa del Sol and Barcelona.

Galicia Spain – a strong Celtic connection

In some ways Galicia seems a little removed from the rest of Spain. Just like the wild west coast of Ireland, it has a deep relationship with the Atlantic, which has given its coast a rugged beauty, characterised by white sandy beaches and hidden coves.

As an Irish person, I loved that I could feel how strong the Celtic connection in Galicia still is today. Galicia descended from one of the original tribes of Celtic heritage in Europe and today Galicians still regard themselves as having a Celtic background and identity, rather than a Hispanic/Latin one. Galicians are passionate about the survival of their language: Gallego (Galician).

magical Galicia Spain La Coruña

Land of witches, nature, culture & food

While in Ireland we have a plethora of mystical and mythical beings, such as our banshees and leprechauns, Galicia is known as the Land of Witches (Terra de Meigas).

“Eu non creo nas meigas, pero habelas hainas” – is a local saying about witches, which translates into:

“I don’t believe in witches, but they exist.”

This saying seems to encapsulate the balance that we also have in Ireland, that it seems is also true of the Galician character – which is this balancing act between practicality, mysticism and incredulity.

And for me some of the similarities continue to be found in other elements of the Galician lifestyle and culture. There is a deep devotion to the land, its produce and its culture. This then continues in their approach to their food and wine, which is almost religious*. Galicians also have a culture of literary and music festivals. Did you know that the Galicians play the bagpipes?

Also like us Irish, the Galegos emigrated all over the world. Around 2 million left from 1836 to 1960, which would have been around half the population, for much the same reason as many people left Ireland. The land and economy could not sustain the growing population. Around half of these Galician emigrants went to Argentina.

*A little comment regarding the food and wine – I’m not suggesting this is true for Ireland, although our food and wine culture has really developed over the last few decades. However a thought that comes to mind, in the case of Ireland, is that we did have the Great Potato Famine and no doubt this affected our “food culture.”

Galicia Spain nature forest

Galicia for foodies

Galicia is renowned for its excellent food; it quite possibly has the best seafood in Europe. Galician freshly caught seafood, especially its shellfish, is definitely regarded as the best in Spain. It is commonly served as tapas and portions (larger tapas or raciones) which makes it a more affordable option than in other countries.

Apart from seafood, the tapas and the meat dishes are delicious. Watch out for the local speciality product of the land, the famous – pimiento de Padron. This is a small green pepper grown in the town of Padrón. They are really tasty, and mostly not spicy, but sometimes they can catch you out this way!

The churrasqueria, which is a grill house. made its way back from Argentina. If you love your meat, you need to find the local grill house in Galicia.

Another culinary tradition is that there are a number of dishes in Galicia which are cooked in copper pots, giving the meal a special, tasty flavour. Some specialities are empanada – Galician pie, normally of fish or meat, even octopus, pulpo á feira -which is boiled octopus with garlic and paprika, or vieiras á galega – which are breaded scallops.

Accompany your freshly caught fish with a bottle of crisp, fruity Albariño. This is the white wine from the local Rías Baixas.

Galicia food

Rías Baixas Galicia

Visit the beautiful Rías Baixas, from June to September. During July and August you can be more confident of warm, sunny days, but June and September can also be pleasant.

The five Rías Baixas are:

South
Ría de Vigo, Ría de Pontevedra, Ría de Arousa

North
Ría de Muros e Noia and Ría de Corcubión

The southern Rías Baixas are more accessible and therefore busier, whereas the northern ones have bumpier access, but also more dramatic landscapes. I loved the Rías Baixas in general, but here are a few highlights:

Ría de Arousa

Illa de A Toxa is an island which is famous because of its thermal waters. Some of its tourism, spas and luxury hotels can be traced back to the 19th century. The island has 110 acres of land and only 50 official residents.

The famous Spanish doctor, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who is considered by many to be the Father of Modern Neuroscience, said of the island:

“Art and science, working in harmony, have made the island into a work of nature.”

Rias Baixas Galicia Spain Arousa

Rías Baixas Galicia

Between Ría de Muros e Noia & Ría de Arousa

Dunas de Corrubedo is a beautiful, sandy paradise, a natural park which features a huge, mobile dune, that you’ll see children rolling down to get to the 1200 metre beach Playa do Vilar. It’s a fine sandy beach, that also has a nudist area.

Between Pontevedra & Ría de Arousa

Sanxenxo is the most upmarket area, which also has the highest number of blue flag beaches in Spain.

Ría de Muros e Noia

Castro de Baroña has to be accessed by a footpath that is over a kilometre in length, but the views make it worth the trip. It is actually an excavated Celtic settlement, so between its historic sights and quaint villages nearby, this one is worth the effort. The top villages worth visiting are Porto do Son, Ribeira and Pobra do Caramiñal.

Off the coast of Vigo

Illas Cíes is an unspoilt, idyllic group of islands, which are part of a natural bird reserve. This is a place to enjoy nature and scuba diving. You won’t find hotels on the islands, only a restaurant and a campsite. The British Telegraph featured the islands in 2014, known locally as the Galician Caribbean.

The islands are vehicle-free. To go there you have to take a ferry from Baiona, Vigo or Cangas. At the time of writing return ferry tickets were £15.50 for adults and £5.00 for younger children. During the high season, it’s best to book your tickets.

Finisterre

Finisterre was once believed to be the most western point in Europe. The name is derived from the Latin, meaning the end of the earth. This is a spectacular place with breathtaking views over the Atlantic, and Europe’s only waterfall that falls into the ocean – Cascada do Ézaro. As the name suggests, it isn’t easy to get to, but it is worth the effort.

Galicia Spain Rias Baixas

Beaches Galicia

Here are a small selection of beaches in Galicia.

Playa de la Lanzada

Between the Arousa and Pontevedra Rías, there’s a spectacular, almost 2 km arc of dune-backed beach. Apart from its beauty, it’s a great spot for body boarding.

Area Grande and O Carreiro

These beaches are like something from a magical film set, with golden sand strips which are punctuated by great, grey granite boulders. These beaches face the Ria de Arousa.

Cíes Islands

As you reach these islands that we featured previously, you will love the view of the main beach, Rodas, right by the ferry dock. A long crescent of white sand stretches out in front of you, which backs onto a lagoon. There are also some gorgeous walks along paths overlooking the Atlantic, where the aroma of the eucalyptus and pine trees will entrance you.

Playa de Barra

Driving around 10 minutes west of Cangas, you’ll find the Playa de Barra on the Peninsula de Morrazo. Although the beach is nudist, it is also family-friendly.

Galicia Spain Praia de Aguieira

Galicia Spain Sustainable Tourism

As a visitor considering coming to Galicia, it may interest you to know that this area of Spain is pro-active when it comes to sustainable tourism and ecotourism.

Spain ranks in the second position in the world for tourism, in terms of tourist numbers and average tourist spend. Spain is where the launch celebrations take place for the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism and Development at FITUR in Madrid, in January 2017.

Currently the typical tourist image of Spain is sun, beach, bullfighting and flamenco, even though the reality is that this image only relates to a certain percentage of the country, as it is so truly diverse. Certainly the majority of these ingredients don’t relate to Galicia’s rich heritage.

Galicia does have some spectacular beaches, but there’s so much more to the area than this and this is a strong theme in the tourism of Galicia in general, but also in the area’s drive towards sustainable tourism.

A huge sustainable tourism achievement for Galicia is the fact that The National Park of the Atlantic Islands Galicia currently ranks in the top 100 sustainable tourist destinations.

In Galicia there are a number of organisations and initiatives for sustainable tourism and sustainability in general. Organisations such as Treasures of Galicia are doing important work in this area. A member of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism, Treasures of Galicia focus on Galician gastronomy, culture, heritage and nature.

Galicia Plus focuses on developing and promoting tourism which is competitive and dynamic, that respects the resources and values of Galicia. These are just a few of the organisations in Galicia who are working to shape a bright future for their natural and cultural heritage, and of course for future generations.

Galicia Ruin of tower of San Saturniño

Galicia National Park

Galicia Atlantic Islands National Park

As mentioned in the section on sustainable tourism, this National Park is in the top 100 sustainable destinations to visit. It consists of a number archipelagos, but it is the Cíes Islands which are considered to be the stars. These islands Faro, Monteagudo and San Martiño lie opposite Vigo.

The visitor numbers are kept down in order to protect the environment, but the islands should be visited, of course with the utmost respect for nature. You can get to the islands from Vigo, Baiona and Cangas. If you want to camp it is best to book as the space is limited and from June to September it becomes very busy. The campsite is on Faro.

Costs: Ferry return trip €16.00 pp

Camping de las Islas Cíes: €7 adults, children €5.50, tents €7.50

Galicia Cies Islands National Park Atlantic Islands

Galicia Cities

Santiago de Compostela is the jewel of Galicia, with its magnificent Cathedral, wonderful labyrinth of alleyways and ancient arcades, medieval heart, delicious food and extra friendly people.

Discover Santiago de Compostela

 

A Coruña is not only a port city but it is also a beach place, with a fine foodie scene, good shopping and a UNESCO site to see.

Discover A Coruña

 

Please bookmark this page, and re-visit, as very soon we’ll be adding more cities and towns in Galicia

Galicia Spain Magical Places

Galicia blends its Megalithic culture with the all-important influence of its Celtic civilisation, with a land that is rich in fertility, beauty and mysticism. The Megalithic period is famous for the magical monuments, that were built on sacred sites. The sites chosen have also been shown to have a connection between these monuments, leylines and crop circles. Magic and the worship of sacred sites and nature is also inherent in the ancient Celtic culture.

An abundance of beautiful natural spaces

Galicia has an abundance of beautiful natural spaces, many of which are protected under various schemes. In Galicia we are talking about a land and culture where the inhabitants sensed the magic and healing of the land.

Magical sanctuaries

Galicia has magical sanctuaries, megalithic monuments, miraculous waters and so much more that is magical. Young Galician girls would enter the sea, to be washed by the waves in order to become more fertile.

I would like to introduce some of these special places and legends of Galicia. These recommendations are not definitive, but I hope they will at least inspire you a little to explore this magical essence of Galicia.

Playa de las Catedrales, Ribadeo Galicia

The Playa de las Catedrales (Cathedrals Beach) in Galicia is believed to be a division between the two worlds. Apart from its obvious natural beauty, this is a place to feel a special connection between the earth and higher realms. Listen to the lapping waves and feel the peace and the magic.

It is said that at the Playa de las Catedrales, when the tide is at its lowest, just as the sun begins to descend to blend with the horizon, that this is a very special time. Legend says that you can ask for your special wish at this time.

Playa de las Catedrales, Ribadeo Galiica

Finisterre, La Coruña Galicia

The name Finisterre means the end of the world in Latin. An evocative place with an evocative name, Cape Finisterre is where the Camino de Santiago pilgrims would head after they had visited the tomb of St. James.

Since the earliest times, the area around the Finisterre headland has been considered magical. The Phoenicians set up Ara Solis, an altar there, to worship the sun. When visiting look for the San Guillermo hermitage ruins. Amongst these ruins is a stone that has the shape of a sarcophagus that legend says made infertile couples fertile. All you need to do, apparently, is to lie in it.

Cape Finisterre Galicia magical places

Galicia Weather

Galicia has four defined seasons, and gets plenty of rain, which is why it is so verdantly green. However if you want almost guaranteed sun, head there in July and August, when the temperatures reach to 80-90s fahrenheit.

May and June are especially picturesque after the spring period and before the real heat of the summer months has kicked in. However the weather is more variable at this time of the year.

Galicia Spain Arousa nature seagulls beach
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