Galicia in north-west Spain is arguably one of the best regions in the country. Largely off the beaten track as sun seekers flock to the county’s southern beach areas, visiting Galicia is like taking a step back in time to the Middle Ages. The region is filled with tiny Medieval villages, lush green sunflower fields and mystical, ancient forests. It’s the land where Spanish and Celtic culture meets. Here are our top reasons why you should visit Galicia:
1. Catedrais Beach
Known for its epic rock formations, Catedrais beach is one of the region’s ‘must sees’. The beach is home to large rock arches and caves that have been shaped by mother nature to look like Cathedral domes, earning the beach its name. You can walk through the large domes and explore the caves when the tied is out.
2. Cies Islands
Who needs the Caribbean when you can visit the sugar-white sand beaches of the Cies Islands? The islands, which are an archipelago just off Spain’s northwestern coast, are known as the jewel in the crown in Galicia — they were even named ‘Beach of the Gods’ during Roman times. The scenery is truly stunning, with bright white sand and turquoise water. It’s a great place to go camping and wake up to unspoiled beaches.
3. Eat Pulpo
Of all the delicious Galician cuisine, pulpo, or octopus, is the region’s finest. Freshly plucked from the Atlantic sea, Pulpo a la Gallega is a dish of sliced octopus prepared with olive oil and paprika, served on a bed of potatoes. Be sure to pair it with one of the region’s fine red wines. Locals order large plates of the dish and spend hours picking away at the pulpo while chatting with friends.
4. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
The towering Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the end point for those walking the famous Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim route that runs across northern Spain. Millions have walked the trail, passing through the lush, green countryside, and for those ending the trail, the sight of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral signals the end of a long trip (and time to celebrate its completion). The Roman Cathedral has been a pilgrimage spot since the early Middle Ages, and over the years, Baroque and Gothic detailing has been added to the Cathedral. Grab an ice cream and sit outside watching as pilgrims arrive at the end of their journey.
5. The Celtic Village of Monte de Santa Trega
No trip to Galicia would be complete without exploring its ancient villages, where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the past. Of the village to visit, Monte de Santa Trega will give you a nice taste of the region’s history, as it has well-preserved Celtic ruins. Galicia is an area known for its Celtic history and the town of Monte de Santa Trega was once a Celtic fort, with the majority of its buildings in an oval in shape — many of these bases being well-preserved. Its inhabitants were economically self-sufficient and known for their pottery and jewelry, some of which can be seen on display in the town’s archeological museum.
6. Walk Lugo’s Roman Walls
The city of Lugo is home to over 1.2-miles of largely intact Roman walls. The walls, which were constructed in the 3rd century, stand at 49 feet tall and surround the historic town center. You can walk the loop around the Old Town and explore some of its stout towers. After you’ve explored the walls, visit the Lugo’s impressive Cathedral and the Lugo Museum to find out more about the area’s history.
7. Explore the Rias Baixas
The Rias Baixas region is home to some of the country’s best wine. The region produces the Albariño grape, which is an indigenous variety that makes some of the world’s most delicious white wines. Take a trip to one of the area’s many wineries to taste it for yourself — the best spots being in the towns of Cambados and Pontevedra. The Rias Baixas area is also known for its great beaches, greenery, and seafood, and is well worth a stop on your Galicia trip. It’s best explored by car.
8. Visit Galicia’s Mystical Forests
Galicia is known for its ancient, enchanting forests and no trip to the region would be complete without exploring them. Its dense forest such as Cortegada, known as biggest bay leaf forest in Europe, and the Ribeira Sacra, where you’ll come across old-world monasteries and churches along your walk, are our top picks.