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A Guide to Galicia – sparkling rías, sacred pilgrimages and sumptuous seafood

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Containing a rocky coastline preserved by secluded coves, flowing estuaries and sheltered fishing ports; Galicia’s unparalleled natural beauty bolsters its nickname as the ‘land of a thousand rivers’.  A picturesque corner of north-west Spain steeped in local history and culture, a distinct regional flavor radiates throughout the province. Inland, you’ll find lush pine woods and verdant valleys, while on the outskirts; extensive mountain ranges and rugged cliffs predominate.

Mark Auchinclos

My Destination local expert on

Galicia

Rías Altas

 

Forming part of Galicia’s craggy northern coastline, the Rías Altas (High Estuaries) are filled with character. Weather-worn hills are sprinkled with tiny tranquil villages and twisted rocky inlets. Cooler temperatures and wilder water conditions prevail, tempting surfers to test out the local swell. Speckled with ancient fishing ports and old shipwrecked harbors, this cultural district offers a window into the region’s historic past. Quaint cultural attractions such as these can be found dotted all along the coastline, in popular northern cities including A Coruña, Ourense, Lugo, and Ferrol. Each offering a varying experience for travelers, these unique areas have a distinct local charm. Wander around ancient Roman walls in Lugo, marvel at the modern port of A Coruña, or soak up the medieval streets of Lugo and Ourense.

 

Rías Baixas

 

Closer to the borders of Portugal than the Rías Altas, the Rías Baixas (Low Estuaries) located in southwest Galicia offer an alternative view of the region. One of the most developed and tourist-friendly parts of the province, calmer waters, sandy beaches and moderate temperatures are abundant, drawing in visitors over the summer months. Popular sunbaked spots include the bay of Vigo and the provincial streets of Baiona in Pontevedra, while dramatic northern landscapes resplendent with sparkling rías attract an alternative crowd.

 

Costa da Morte

 

Nestled between the Rías Altas and the Rías Baixas, and extending from the villages of Fisterra to Malpica, is the Costa da Morte. Much like the rugged north, this wild and un-manicured spot boasts beautiful coves shipwrecked shores and forested mountain backdrops. With lashings of Atlantic waves and tiny fishing villages still intact, seafood delicacies are as extensive here as the dramatic coastal scenery.

 

Santiago de Compostela

 

The capital city and pilgrimage center of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela is the cultural heart of the province. The last stop on the legendary Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, people flock from afar to complete this sacred pilgrimage and to reach the city’s striking Gothic cathedral. Tapas taverns and medieval cobblestone streets dominate the area’s historic Old Town while shopping and residential hotspots lie just to the south of the city.