Galicia known as “the land of the thousand rivers”, land of mountains, land of the sea, unique, stunning, fantastic land. Galicia is part of Spain but one cannot compare it to any other part of Spain. Galicia is……………. Galicia!
Galicia has 1.600 km of coastline and not just any coastline. This coastline is formed not only by great sandy grounds, steep cliffs and spectacular rock beaches but also by its exclusive geographic estuary-like formations called Rias. There are countless beautiful sandy beaches often with the tree line all the way up to the beach but there are also many idyllic smaller beaches to discover.
Galicia is considered the great green heart of Spain, the country side is something to behold. Rolling hills, high mountains, green valleys, many lakes and rivers, all offer spectacular views. Flora and fauna is exuberant and versatile. Galicia is one of the most forested areas of Spain, there are several nature parks and it has the largest, protected coastal Atlantic forest in Europe (Fragas de Eume). Wildlife is abundant, among the big animals like foxes, roe deer, wild boar, wild horses and cows also the Cantabrian brown bear (Sierra de Courel province of Lugo on the border with Cantabria and Leon) and the Iberian wolf are present. For a small fee you can fish in one of the many rivers on, among others, trout and salmon. There is a wide variety of flowers, plants and trees and at the coastal areas also palm trees, orange and lemon trees, figs etc., you can grow almost everything, here.
Galicia is an old land, several civilizations have left their mark on this beautiful, most western part of Europe. Thousands of years before the Greek Homer declared Galicia the end of the world, this country was settled and alive. Galicia is mentioned in ancient documents by many civilisations and cultures.
The Megalithic culture was the first major culture in Galicia. This was the time of great architecture; the constructions of this culture were build out of giant rocks, reminiscing of Stone Hence in England but with its own character. Their religion was based on the cult of the dead. One can find thousands of menhirs and dolmens, a type of tomb or sepulchre, throughout Galicia.
In the Bronze Era Galicia became important because of its natural treasures such as ore. This also brought the first Celts to Galicia. A culture that flourished in Galicia till the arrival of the Romans. The Celts and the era of Castro’s. The Castro’s are circular fortified areas, each possessing concentric walls, surrounded by moats. We can find townships of the Celts dating back to 1000 B.C.
The Celtic culture brought forth great kings and warriors. King Breoghan from whose seeds sprouted the Kings that created Ireland,
Scotland, Brittany, Portugal, Cornwall and Wales. Breoghan who build the first lighthouse, on that same location where we can now find the tower of Hercules La Coruña. La Coruña itself is said to be Breoghan`s town. The seafaring techniques of the Galician Celt are legendary. One can experience these cultures, simply by touring Galicia.
In summer time, when every little village has some kind of fiesta. It will be impossible to miss the connection with the Celtic culture; it is among other things in the music. The bagpipes, flutes and drums are similar to those of the Celts in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Portugal and Brittany.
The Romans left their mark in the shape of enormous monuments, the tower of Hercules in A Coruña, build on the ruins of Breoghan’s lighthouse, is the oldest surviving Roman lighthouse in the world.
The wall around the city of Lugo, 2157 m long, 10-15 m high. A complete Roman wall, not one such a monument is left, in the entire Roman “empire“. This monument is maintained by the Xunta and a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Many rivers required many bridges. In Galicia one can find Roman bridges of any length, shape and form. One should not forget to mention the roman balnearios (spas). Many are still to be admired and working. Rome is still everywhere in Galicia.
One could say the Romans brought the Catholic religion to Galicia. However over the centuries, this religion developed its own character. One of the most prominent examples is Saint James Santiago, Xacobeo. The Camino de Santiago is one of the three most important pilgrimage destinations in the Christian world today.
Religious architecture can be found in its most impressive displays. The incredible cathedrals, monasteries, churches. Ancient religious architecture, sculptures and artefacts are everywhere. Thousands of years of civil architecture have blended perfectly with the Roman and religious architecture to make Galicia the “emerald” of Spain.
Cities, towns, villages, hamlets
Several civilisations and cultures left their footprints here; this is reflected in the architecture and its artistic and cultural heritage. Our seven big cities, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Vigo, Ferrol, Ourense, Lugo and Pontevedra will charm the visitor with its ancient buildings and city centres and make them gloat at the infrastructure, its modern buildings and the cleanliness, the lack of traffic-jams, the nonviolent atmosphere, the kindness of the people, its shopping, dining and medical facilities. In the countryside many traditional small towns and villages with their churches, shops, bars/restaurants, weekly market and own fiestas. The most common are the many hamlets spread throughout Galicia. Here, in general, the older generation still live in peace according to their old traditions. Because of the modern well maintained infrastructure, most rural places can be easily reached.
Galicia has in general a surprisingly mild climate but the weather can vary significantly between coastal and inland areas. In general; the closer to the coast, the more moderate. The further into the interior of Galicia the higher the temperature. Here the temperature can rise to 40 degrees (Ourense) in summer and falls to below freezing in winter. In the mountains on the borders of Galicia, more snow and fog.
It is possible that the temperatures are 4º warmer 20 km further on. In general; most rainfall finds place in winter, December. In the coastal areas the temperature does not reaches below 7º in winter. A micro climate can be found in some parts of the coastal areas. Inland temperatures in winter can drop to average of -3 and colder with increasing altitude, in the mountains heavy snowfalls can occur. The average temperature in summer is at the coast around 24º , inland the temperatures are average 26º .
Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia: the native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese, with which it shares Galician-Portuguese medieval literature, and the Spanish language.
Camino de Santiago/St. James Route
The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages and is still very popular, every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk one of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela were they end with a visit to the cathedral. You cannot get lost, along the way this symbol leads the pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. This symbol is sometimes engraved on poles, painted on plates, a tile in a wall or as part of street signs. Some pilgrims are walking to Finisterre (the Galician name is Fisterra) which means “end of the world”. Here they burn a small personal item as a form of spiritual completion, or of a hoped-for new beginning. Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago.
Map of the main routes of the Camino and the route to Finisterre.
Music and fiestas
There are many festivals in Galicia, each region, town and village has its own festivals and markets. Below just a few.
Yearly Roman and Celtic festival in Arde Lucus (Lugo)
The city of Lugo was known to the Romans as Lucus Augusti. This festival looks back on the past to pay homage to its origins. During the three days festival which takes place every year mid-June, people wear clothing inspired by Roman times, from gowns to Roman centurion costumes. There are many Roman and Celtic activities within the city walls.
Folklore dance groups accompanied with Galician musical instruments such as the Gaita (Galician bagpipes).
Catoira Pontevedra Viking festival every year, on the first Sunday in August, the residents of Catoira stage a spectacular festival of the invasion of the Vikings that occurred a thousand years ago. Local residents, dressed as Viking warriors, have been acting out the pirate attack on the village since 1960.
Ponteareas Pontevedra, Corpus Christi celebration. Spectacular floral carpets that are prepared for the solemn Sunday procession. All the locals help to make the delicate multi-coloured tapestries that cover the streets on the route of the religious Corpus Christi procession the following day.
Vineyards in Galicia
Wine lovers can indulge in Galicia and do not have to spend a fortune on delicious red and white wines. Below the most famous vineyards and wines of Galicia.
Rias Baixas, Albariño white wine with exotic hues, powerful and fresh. Ideal companions of fresh seafood and fish. What is Rioja in Spain for the red wine, in Galicia is Albariño for the white wine.
Ribeira Sacra, most red wine is made from the Mencía grape. young, slim, light and fruity. The grapes in Ribeira Sacra grow on slopes so steep that they have to be picked by hand and taken into the river by boats.
Monterrei, only more than 30 bodegas are active here, mainly producing white wine. In recent years, more and more emphasis has been placed on quality grapes such as Godello and Treixadura. Great wines.
Valdeorras, only has around 1500 ha of vineyards. This is where the Godello – the cluster of modern Galicia – originally came from. The winemakers can hardly handle the demand. Mencía and Garnacha are also planted and deliver excellent wines in Valdeorras.
Ribeiro, for simple white table wines. Especially from Palomino Fino, Torrontés, Treixadura and Loureiro. They are drunk young, delicious with fish.
This link leads to a useful website of the Xunta de Galicia. Here you will find more information and suggestions about what to do and to visit in Galicia, about nature, the St James Route and more.
The Galician kitchen is famous for its fish and seafood but meat lovers can also indulge high quality meat in Galicia. For example the Galician steak from animals named Galician Blond (Rubia Gallega) which belongs to the top. Why is Galician Blond Beef the best? This particular breed is specifically raised in Galicia and only used from the aged of 8 years and up to 15 years, so we are talking about a “fat old cow”. During this time, the beef gains a distinct deep flavor, because of the marbling maturation, it is worth a try.
Below some of the best known Galician dishes.
Pimenton de Padrón
Peppers from Padron. Simply fried in oil and salted with sea salt. Be careful some of them are very spicy.
The Galician tortilla is one of our most served appetizers in traditional Galician cuisine. This egg and potato dish, optionally filled with ingredients such as Pimenton de Padron, Tetillas cheese, tuna, chorizo.
Caldo galego or just caldo, literally means Galician broth, is a traditional soup dish from Galicia.
Two-crusted savory pie from Galicia, typically filled with seasonal fillings fish or meat, red or green peppers, and onion made as one big pie or several smaller ones.
Mariscos – Seafood
Pulpo a la Gallega
The no 1 dish in Galicia must be pulpo (octopus) which you can eat in many restaurants. The two main ways pulpo is served is Pulpo ‘A Feira’ This dish is prepared by first boiling the octopus in a copper kettle. Before they actually cook the tentacles of the octopus are dipped three times in and out of the boiling water, held by the head. The pulpo is served on a round wooden platter with boiled potatoes and seasoned with paprika. Pulpo ‘a la plancha’ is grilled after cooking.
Arroz con bogavante
A stew of rice cooked with lobster (served with the whole lobster still inside). The village of Rinlo (near Ribadeo in the Lugo province of Galicia) are particularly known for specialising of this dish
Vieiras a la gallega
Sea scallops served in the shell with a bread crumb topping. The scallop shell (concha de Vieira) is also the official symbol of the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago. Along the way, this symbol leads the pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. This symbol is sometimes engraved on poles, painted on plates, a tile in a wall or as part of street signs.
Mejillones al vapor
Mussels cooked without sauce in a pot, they steam in their own vapor. Galicians rarely use fancy dressings or broths, they serve them simply with fresh lemon on the side.
Razor clams you can get everywhere in Galicia. Just steam them and drizzle them with a little oil, a delicate clam slightly sweet that will melt in your mouth.
Merluza a la Gallega.
A classic simple dish of cooked hake served with boiled potatoes.
And last but not least;
Tarta de Santiago
A delicious almond cake.
I’m going to stop now I’m hungry, but there’s much more!
Sports and recreation
There is much to see and to do in Galicia. With 1600 km of coastline, many rivers and lakes, water sports are of course fully available. The active types can choose among other things from sailing, surfing, canoeing / kayaking, diving and water skiing. But there are also many more challenging activities such as white water rafting, paragliding, rock climbing and cycling. It is even possible to ski in some places in the winter.For those who enjoy quiet activities, one can choose from countless hiking trails in enchanting and versatile natural surroundings.
For golf enthusiasts there are around 16 golf clubs in Galicia. And for lovers of sport fishing, Galicia is also known as “The land of the thousand rivers” where you can fish (during the fishing season) for salmon and trout. For a small fee you can get a permit. Or if you want to spend a day fishing at sea, you can embark on a traditional fishing boat and fish with the local fishermen in an more authentic way.
Do you like horse riding? Galicia is perfect for making beautiful trips, relaxing in nature.
Also organized in groups there are many activities, day trips and excursions to book such as a food and wine tasting, boat trips, city trips etc.
By car you can make nice day trips to villages and towns to visit museums, local markets and festivities. Or visit one of the many Spas, a treat for body and soul.
And of course, relax, swim and sunbathe on one of the many beautiful sandy beaches.