Forever proud of its strong individuality, mesmerizing landscapes, and rich Celtic heritage, Galicia lies in the far north-west corner of Spain as one of the country’s best kept secrets.
The region plays hosts to one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the world – Santiago de Compostela, and a myriad of treasures of all kinds, but none of these has managed to shatter its unspoilt charm.
Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Galicia:
1. Tour the Beaches
Soaked part in the Cantabrian Sea, part in the whirling waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the alluring shores of Galicia give rise to some of the most spectacular beaches in Spain. With 800 miles of stunning, unexplored coastline and a peculiar mix of rias (bays), golden sandy beaches, and quaint lagoons, Galicia makes for an ideal destination for lovers of nature, surfing, and wilderness.
Recently named one of the best beaches in the world, the idyllic As Catedrais (Playa de Las Catedrales) in the Rias Altas, near Ribadeo, with its soft white sand, magnificent arches, and unusual rock formations that seem to emerge from nowhere, certainly crowns the beautiful Cantabrian coastline of Galicia.
Other equally appealing features of the Galician seaside include the scenic Cies Islands just off the coast of Vigo, Playa de Doniños in Ferrol, and Playa de Carnota – arguably the region’s largest and finest strip of sand. Nevertheless, this verdant Spanish corner is brimming with spectacular little coves and beaches waiting to be discovered.
2. Indulge in Culinary Treats
In addition to the fantastic regional wines and the traditional Empanada Gallega, Galicia prides itself with the best seafood in Spain. Vigo, for instance, is a genuine paradise for foodies in search of delicious, freshly caught produce. From the atmospheric Rua de la Pescaderia in the Old Town to Plaza de Compostela, where most of the city’s trendy restaurants are located, Vigo plays host to a plethora of eateries and tapas bars, where you can indulge in all sorts of high-quality seafood, including mussels, oysters, and many varieties of fish.
Galicia is known worldwide for its long-lasting winemaking traditions, so it comes as no surprise that it is home to some of the finest white wines in Spain. Some of these include Terra de Gargalo, the wines of Ribeiro, and Albarino – a specialty of Rias Baixas and certainly the region’s most appreciated vintage.
3. Visit Santiago de Compostela
As much as you’d like to indulge in authentic Spanish food and to explore the country’s off-the-beaten-track destinations, you cannot leave Galicia without visiting its fabulous capital city. Santiago de Compostela is the last stop of the legendary Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. People from all over the world venture to complete this pilgrimage route each year, whether for spiritual reasons, or just for the sake of adventure.
In addition to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which is not only the final destination of The Way of St. James, but also a spectacular piece of architecture, the city offers a variety of attractions. Don’t miss the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea – a very interesting modern art gallery on the north side of town; the Alameda Park, with its amusing life-size statues; or the enchanting Old Town, considered by UNESCO “one of the world’s most beautiful urban areas”.
4. Connect with Nature
Galicia’s spectacular and diverse landscapes, along with the abundance of parks and protected natural areas, make for a wonderful destination to relax, rejuvenate your spirit, and connect with nature.
Some of the most interesting places include Fragas do Eume – a wonderful natural park famed for its valuable fauna and Atlantic forest, the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Nature Park in the province of Ourense, the spectacular Dunes of Corrubedo Natural Park in the province of A Coruna, and Serra de Encina de Lastra, with its marvelous scenery of limestone peaks, spectacular palas (caves), and deep green valleys inhabited by birds of prey.
In addition to Galicia’s six natural parks that delight visitors with a diversity of hiking trails, the region offers a beautiful range of lagoons, canyons, natural monuments, and gorgeous biosphere reserves able to enthrall even the most discerning explorer.
5. Explore the Cies Islands
Nestled within the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park, just off the coast of Pontevedra, the Cies Islands consist of three dazzling islands – Monteagudo, do Faro, and San Martino.
Often regarded as Spain’s untouched paradise, this nature reserve plays host to some of the most fantastic European beaches, including Praia de Rodas, voted by The Guardian “the best beach in the world” in 2007.
These stunning islands in the Rias Baixas region feature the perfect combination of white powdery sand, clear turquoise waters, and incredible landscapes, which along with the setting’s peaceful ambience make for the most outstanding beach break in Galicia.
The Cies Islands can be reached through a 40-minute boat trip from Baiona, but they can only be visited throughout the summer months. Camping is the only option available for those willing to stay a while and explore this natural paradise, as there are no hotels or other developments in the area.