Galicia Spain Travel Guide
Galicia Spain is beautiful and magical….
Come to the Celtic part of Spain
Welcome to Galicia, one of Spain’s most unique and beautiful travel destinations.
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.
Located in the northwest corner of the country, Galicia boasts an incredibly stunning coastline, rugged mountains, lush forests, and a rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway, an outdoor adventure, or a cultural immersion, Galicia has something for everyone.
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.
In this travel guide, I’ll take you on a journey through the natural wonders, vibrant cities, delicious cuisine, and sustainable tourism practices that make Galicia a must-visit destination. From the coastal gems to the historical landmarks, we’ll cover it all. So pack your bags and get ready to discover the beauty of Galicia.
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).
Discovering Galicia’s Natural Beauty
Galicia is a region known for its stunning natural landscapes and breathtaking scenery. From its rugged coastline to its lush mountains and national parks, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore.
The Rías Baixas
The Rías Baixas region is a must-visit for nature lovers. With its picturesque coastline and crystal-clear waters, it’s the perfect destination for a beach vacation or coastal hike. It’s also home to the Albariño wine region, where visitors can indulge in wine tastings and tours.
|Top Natural Attractions in Rías Baixas:||Description:|
|Cíes Islands||A stunning archipelago of islands with white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.|
|O Grove||A beautiful fishing village known for its seafood and natural landscapes.|
|Fragas do Eume||A lush and diverse forest with hiking trails and stunning views of the river.|
The Ribeira Sacra
The Ribeira Sacra region is home to the Sil River Canyon, a natural wonder that should not be missed. Visitors can take a boat tour of the canyon or explore the area on foot, enjoying the stunning views of the river and lush green landscapes.
|Top Natural Attractions in Ribeira Sacra:||Description:|
|Sil River Canyon||A breathtaking natural wonder with stunning views of the river and surrounding landscapes.|
|Monte do Faro||A mountain peak with amazing panoramic views of the surrounding area.|
|A Toxa Island||A beautiful island with hot springs and a stunning monastery.|
Galicia’s natural beauty is truly breathtaking, and there are many opportunities to explore and enjoy it. Whether hiking through national parks, exploring coastal villages, or simply relaxing on the beach, there is something for everyone in this stunning region.
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.
Exploring Galicia’s Vibrant Cities
Galicia’s cities are vibrant and full of character, each with their own unique charm and attractions. From the historical landmarks of Santiago de Compostela to the bustling coastal city of Vigo, Galicia’s cities are a must-see for any visitor to the region.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital city of Galicia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is famous for its Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, which has been attracting travellers for more than 1,000 years. Visitors can explore the stunning Old Town, home to the iconic cathedral and numerous historical buildings and landmarks. Be sure to sample some of the local delicacies, including the famous octopus dish, Pulpo a la Gallega.
Vigo is a bustling coastal city and the largest in Galicia. The city is renowned for its seafood and is home to one of Spain’s largest fishing ports. Visitors can explore the old town, take a stroll along the marina or head up to the Castro Fortress for panoramic views of the city and the Ría de Vigo estuary. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of the local seafood specialties at one of the many restaurants and bars throughout the city.
A Coruña is a historic coastal city and an important port in the region. Visitors can explore the Tower of Hercules, a Roman lighthouse and UNESCO World Heritage site, and take a stroll along the promenade overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The city is also home to the Domus museum, offering an interactive journey through the human body, as well as a variety of traditional Galician restaurants and bars.
Overall, Galicia’s cities are full of life and character, offering visitors a truly authentic experience of the region’s unique culture and history. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover or simply looking for a lively atmosphere, Galicia’s cities have something for everyone.
Indulging in Galician Cuisine – 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 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’s coastal location makes it an ideal destination for seafood lovers. The region is renowned for its fresh and flavourful seafood, which is a staple of the local cuisine. Some of the must-try dishes include:
|Pulpo a la Gallega||A dish of boiled octopus served with potatoes, paprika, and olive oil|
|Percebes||Gooseneck barnacles that are typically boiled or grilled and served with lemon and sea salt|
|Mariscada||A seafood platter that includes lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops|
Pair your seafood dishes with a crisp and refreshing Albariño wine, which is produced in the Rías Baixas wine region of Galicia.
In addition to its seafood specialties, Galicia also boasts a variety of traditional dishes that are hearty and flavourful. Some of the most popular dishes include:
- Empanadas: Savory pies that are filled with meat, fish, or vegetables and baked
- Cocido: A hearty stew made with pork, chickpeas, and vegetables
- Lacón con Grelos: A dish of cured pork shoulder served with turnip greens
For dessert, indulge in a slice of Tarta de Santiago, a traditional almond cake that is a Galician favourite.
Galicia is also home to a number of unique and unusual delicacies that are worth trying. These include:
Caldo de Pote: A hearty soup made with beans, potatoes, and pork
Zorza: A spicy pork sausage that is typically grilled or fried
Queixo de tetilla: A soft, creamy cheese that is shaped like a breast
Whether you’re a foodie or simply enjoy trying new things, Galicia’s culinary delights are sure to leave you satisfied.
Embracing Sustainable Tourism in Galicia
Galicia is a region committed to promoting sustainable tourism, with a focus on protecting the environment and supporting local communities. Whether you’re looking to explore the region’s natural beauty, indulge in its gastronomic delights, or dive into its rich cultural heritage, there are plenty of ways to experience Galicia while minimizing your impact on the environment.
Galicia offers a range of eco-friendly accommodations that are designed to minimize their carbon footprint and promote sustainable tourism. From rustic countryside retreats to chic urban hotels, these properties are committed to reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, and supporting local communities.
|Sustainable Eco-Lodges||Rural and coastal areas|
|Green Hotels||Urban areas|
|Organic Farm Stays||Rural areas|
Responsible Travel Experiences
Galicia also offers a range of responsible travel experiences that allow visitors to engage with the local community and support sustainable tourism. From volunteering with local conservation efforts to participating in community-led tours, these experiences offer a unique and authentic way to experience the region while making a positive impact.
- Volunteering with local conservation projects
- Participating in community-led tours
- Visiting locally-owned and operated businesses
Galicia is committed to protecting its natural resources, and there are a range of conservation efforts underway across the region. From sustainable fishing practices to reforestation initiatives, these efforts are designed to ensure that Galicia’s natural beauty remains intact for future generations to enjoy.
“We believe that sustainable tourism is the key to preserving our region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage for future generations.”
Whether you’re an eco-conscious traveller or simply want to experience Galicia in a responsible and sustainable way, there are plenty of options available. From eco-friendly accommodations to responsible travel experiences and conservation efforts, Galicia is a region that is committed to promoting sustainable tourism.
Coastal Gems of Galicia
Galicia boasts an impressive coastline, stretching over 1,500 kilometres along the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, the region’s coastal towns and villages have something to offer every type of traveller.
The Cíes Islands
Located off the coast of Vigo, the Cíes Islands are a must-visit destination for nature lovers and beachgoers. These protected islands are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, with crystal clear waters and soft white sand. Visitors can also enjoy hiking trails, birdwatching, and snorkelling.
Santiago de Compostela
While not technically a coastal town, Santiago de Compostela is a historic city that is definitely worth a visit. As the final destination of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, it boasts a stunning cathedral and charming old town. Visitors can also enjoy a range of cultural events and festivals throughout the year.
Cudillero is a picturesque fishing village located on the Asturian coast, just across the border from Galicia. Its colourful houses and narrow streets make it a popular destination for photographers and Instagrammers. Visitors can also enjoy seafood dishes at one of the many local restaurants.
A Guarda is a coastal town located on the border between Spain and Portugal. Its most famous attraction is the Castro de Santa Tegra, an ancient Celtic settlement that dates back over 2,000 years. Visitors can also enjoy stunning views of the ocean and the Miño River estuary.
Muxía is a small fishing village located on the Costa da Morte, or “Coast of Death”. Despite its ominous name, it is a peaceful and charming destination that offers a glimpse into traditional Galician life. Visitors can explore the town’s historic church, take a walk along the rugged coastline, or sample local seafood at one of the restaurants in the harbour.
Historical and Cultural Heritage of Galicia
Galicia’s rich history and cultural heritage are reflected in its ancient ruins, cathedrals, and traditional festivals. The region boasts numerous heritage sites that provide insights into its past and present.
The Tower of Hercules in A Coruña is one such site. This ancient Roman lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the world and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|Santiago de Compostela||The city is home to the Cathedral of Santiago, which is the final stop on the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. The cathedral’s stunning architecture and religious significance attract millions of visitors every year.|
|Cistercian Monasteries||Galicia has three well-preserved Cistercian monasteries in Oseira, Sobrado, and Monfero, which offer a glimpse into the region’s monastic history and religious culture.|
|Roman Walls of Lugo||The Roman walls of Lugo are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved Roman fortifications in the world. Visitors can walk along the walls and take in stunning views of the city.|
“Galicia’s rich history and cultural heritage are reflected in its ancient ruins, cathedrals, and traditional festivals.”
Galicia’s traditional festivals are an integral part of its cultural heritage and offer visitors a unique insight into the region’s customs and traditions. The Arde Lucus festival in Lugo, for instance, celebrates the city’s Roman heritage with historical re-enactments, markets, and concerts. The Entroido Carnival in Verín is another popular festival that showcases Galicia’s festive spirit and folklore.
Whether it’s exploring ancient ruins, visiting cathedrals, or immersing oneself in traditional festivals, Galicia’s historical and cultural heritage offers something for everyone.
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.”
Outdoor Activities in Galicia
If you’re looking for adventure and outdoor activities, Galicia has plenty to offer. From hiking to water sports, cycling to birdwatching, the region’s diverse landscapes and natural beauty provide the perfect backdrop for all kinds of outdoor fun.
Hiking and Nature Trails
Galicia boasts an extensive network of hiking trails that cater to all levels of ability, from leisurely walks to challenging mountain treks. Some of the most popular routes include the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail, the Costa da Morte coastal path, and the Picos de Europa mountain range.
If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Galicia’s protected natural areas, such as the Fragas do Eume Natural Park, the Cíes Islands, and the Serra do Courel mountain range.
Water Sports and Beaches
With its long coastline and numerous beaches, Galicia is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Some of the best spots for surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing include Pantín, Valdoviño, and Razo. For those who prefer calmer waters, the Rías Baixas estuaries and the Arousa and Muros e Noia bays are ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing.
If you’re looking for a secluded beach getaway, make sure to check out the unspoilt beaches of the Costa da Morte or the rugged coastline of the Rías Altas.
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Galicia’s rolling hills and scenic routes provide the perfect terrain for cycling and mountain biking. Whether you prefer road cycling or mountain biking, the region has a variety of trails to suit your preferences, such as the Vía Verde de la Terra Alta, the Ruta do Mar, and the Ruta Xacobea.
For those who enjoy off-road cycling, the Serra do Courel and the Serra da Groba mountain ranges offer challenging terrain and stunning views.
Birdwatching and Wildlife Observation
Galicia’s diverse landscapes and coastal areas make it an ideal destination for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The region is home to a variety of bird species, such as the European robin, the peregrine falcon, and the northern gannet.
Some of the best spots for birdwatching and wildlife observation include the As Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras del Mandeo Biosphere Reserve, the O Courel Mountains Natural Park, and the Albariño wine region.
Wine and Gastronomic Tourism in Galicia
If you’re a foodie or a wine enthusiast, Galicia is the perfect travel destination for you. The region is famous for its seafood specialties, traditional dishes, and local delicacies that are sure to tantalise your taste buds. But that’s not all, as Galicia is also home to some of the best wine regions in Spain, with Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra being the most prominent ones.
Visitors can explore these wine regions and indulge in wine tasting sessions, accompanied by gastronomic delights that perfectly complement the wines. The wines of Galicia are made from unique grape varieties, such as Albariño, Godello, and Mencía, which produce complex and aromatic wines that are a must-try for wine lovers.
Galicia also has a thriving culinary scene, with numerous restaurants and eateries that serve up delicious and innovative dishes using local ingredients. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty seafood stew, some succulent octopus, or some crispy empanadas, Galicia won’t disappoint.
If you’re keen to explore Galicia’s culinary and wine offerings, there are numerous food and wine tours on offer that will take you on a journey through the heart of the region’s food and drink culture. These tours will give you the opportunity to meet local food producers, learn about traditional cooking techniques, and sample some of the region’s finest wines and culinary delights.
Festivals and Celebrations in Galicia
Galicia is a land of tradition and culture, where festivals and celebrations play a significant role in the daily life of the locals. Throughout the year, you can experience a variety of events that showcase the region’s vibrant culture and folklore.
The Carnival of Xinzo de Limia
Considered the oldest carnival in Galicia, the Carnival of Xinzo de Limia takes place in February, bringing together thousands of locals and visitors to the town. The highlight of the carnival is the ‘Cigarróns’, dressed in colourful costumes, masks, and bells, who roam the streets to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck to the town.
The Holy Week in Ferrol
The Holy Week in Ferrol is one of the most impressive religious celebrations in Galicia, attracting visitors from all over Spain. The procession of the ‘Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno’ on Holy Thursday is a must-see, where the statue is carried on the shoulders of the faithful and paraded through the streets of the town.
The Viking Festival in Catoira
The Viking Festival in Catoira is a unique celebration that takes place in August, commemorating the historic Viking attacks on the town in the 11th century. The highlight of the festival is the re-enactment of the Viking landing, where the participants dress up in Viking costumes and storm the town on boats.
The Seafood Festival in O Grove
Galicia is renowned for its delicious seafood, and the Seafood Festival in O Grove is the perfect place to taste some of the region’s best dishes. Held in October, the festival features a variety of seafood delicacies, including octopus, mussels, and crab.
The St. James’ Day in Santiago de Compostela
The St. James’ Day in Santiago de Compostela is the most important festival in Galicia, celebrated on July 25th in honour of the Apostle James, the patron saint of Spain. The festival features a range of religious and cultural events, including parades, concerts, and fireworks.
Whether you’re a culture enthusiast or just looking for a good time, Galicia’s festivals and celebrations offer a unique and unforgettable experience. Don’t miss the chance to be part of these incredible events and immerse yourself in the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Accommodation Options in Galicia
Galicia offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget, from luxury hotels and resorts to charming guesthouses and rural retreats.
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, there are plenty of five-star hotels in Galicia, such as the Parador de Santiago de Compostela, housed in a historic building that was once a hospital, or the Hotel A Quinta da Auga, a restored 18th-century paper factory set in lush gardens.
For those who prefer a more authentic experience, there are many traditional guesthouses and casas rurales (rural houses) throughout the region, offering the chance to stay in a traditional Galician home and experience the local culture firsthand. Some popular options include Casa Rural Outeiro, a beautifully restored stone house in the heart of the Ribeira Sacra wine region, or A Casa do Lagoeiro, a 300-year-old country house surrounded by lush gardens.
If you’re traveling on a budget, there are many affordable options available, such as hostels, guesthouses, and budget hotels. The Albergue Seminario Menor in Santiago de Compostela is a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers and offers a central location and basic amenities at an affordable price.
For those who want to embrace sustainable tourism, there are many eco-friendly accommodations in Galicia, such as the Ecoresort Granja A Reiriz, a sustainable hotel nestled in the heart of Galicia’s countryside, or the Casa de Trillo, a rustic guesthouse that uses solar energy and sustainable materials.
Whatever your preference, Galicia offers a wide variety of accommodation options to suit every need and budget.
FAQ about Traveling to Galicia
Planning a trip to Galicia can be exciting, but it’s important to have all the necessary information before embarking on your journey. Here are some frequently asked questions about traveling to Galicia:
What is the best time to travel to Galicia?
The best time to visit Galicia is during the summer months of June through September when the weather is warm and sunny. However, if you prefer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, consider traveling during the off-season months of October through May.
What is the currency used in Galicia?
The currency used in Galicia is the Euro (€).
Do I need a visa to travel to Galicia?
If you are a citizen of the European Union, you do not need a visa to travel to Galicia. If you are from a non-EU country, you may need a visa, so it’s important to check with your local embassy or consulate for specific requirements.
What is the official language of Galicia?
The official language of Galicia is Galician, which is similar to Portuguese. However, most people also speak Spanish, especially in the larger cities and tourist areas.
What is the best way to get around Galicia?
The best way to get around Galicia is by car, as it allows you to explore the region at your own pace and access more remote areas. However, there are also public transportation options, such as buses and trains, that connect the major cities and towns.
What are some must-try foods in Galicia?
Galicia is known for its delicious seafood, such as octopus, mussels, and clams. Other popular dishes include Galician-style beef, empanadas, and cachelos, which are boiled potatoes. Don’t forget to try the local wine, such as Albariño or Mencía.
Is it safe to travel to Galicia?
Galicia is generally a safe and peaceful region to travel to. However, as with any destination, it’s important to take basic safety precautions, such as keeping valuables secure and being aware of your surroundings.
What are some cultural events and festivals in Galicia?
Galicia is home to many vibrant cultural events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Carnival of Cádiz, the Feast of Saint James, and the Seafood Festival of O Grove. Check the local calendar for upcoming events during your visit.
What are some eco-friendly accommodation options in Galicia?
Galicia offers a range of eco-friendly accommodation options, such as sustainable hotels, eco-lodges, and rural retreats. Many of these properties use renewable energy sources, recycle waste, and promote sustainable tourism practices.
With these FAQs, you’re now ready to plan your trip to Galicia and experience all that this beautiful region has to offer.