GALICIA - NORTH SPANISH ATLANTIC DESTINATION
Galicia looks out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay with over two thousand years of history behind it. To explore these lands in the north-west of Spain means a chance to live the adventure of a lifetime, full of tradition, lush landscapes and unique cities. In Galicia, the frontiers between sea and land cancel each other out. Both blend together along the 1,300 kilometers of coastline, 772 beaches, and five large rias (long sea lakes that stretches inland).
A traveller arriving in Galicia soon discovers that, in this territory situated in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, over two thousand years of history have endured. Local history offers every visitor its enigmatic castros (Celtic dwellings) with their peculiar citadels; and in them, perhaps, discover the Celts, ancient occupants of an evocative granite world (the Castros at Baroña –Porto do Son–, Viladonga –Castro do Rei– or Santa Tegra –A Guarda– are the best-preserved). The traveler can also see Gallaecia, the Roman Galicia. The great Roman Wall in Lugo is still standing, a unique fortified enclosure with a circular structure and a perimeter of 2,200 meters lasting since the 3rd century. Something different is immediately noticeable here. Clear connections with the Celtic peoples are to be seen in this fertile land.
Galicia is also the land of a thousand rivers. Water runs into many of them off the mountains of Os Ancares, O Courel or Pena Trevinca (with altitudes over 1,800 meters). The father Miño crosses Galicia from north-east to south-west, to flow placidly out to sea at the Portuguese frontier. The river channels are as varied as the landscape: from the remarkable Sil Canyons (whose river is the Miño’s main tributary, and which can be comfortably travelled by catamaran) and the Ribeira Sacra, an area of uneven contours, ideal for vine growing.
The way out of Galicia by sea is through its rias. Altas (high) or Baixas (low) which nestle into the landscape making an incomparable backdrop for water tourism, with seven blue flag ports in 2007 (Real Club Náutico de A Coruña, Nauta A Coruña, Portosín, Sada, Ribadeo, Club de Yates de Baiona, Porto Deportivo de Baiona and Sanxenxo).
GALICIA – A WAY OF LIFE
Galicia has its own lifestyle: the Atlantic lifestyle, defined by a high standard of living, including such features as warm, friendly human relationships, an unhurried everyday existence, Galicians’ special relationship with water and the ever-present influence of the Atlantic, which has defined a culture and shaped a unique way of life.
THE PILGRIM WAY OF SAINT JAMES – El Camino de Santiago
Way of St. James - Camino de Santiago: The discovery of the remains of Saint James, the Apostle Santiago around 820 marked the beginning of the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, creating the Way of St. James, El Camino de Santiago. King Alfonso II, the Chaste, ordered the construction of a small church on the site of the discovery and the news spread among the community of believers and the Christian kingdoms of the western world. This was the start of the pilgrimages and the worship of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
GALICIA – DELICIOUS ATLANTIC FOOD
Any journey to Galicia is necessarily complemented by its cuisine. The main appeal of the local food and drink, Atlantic cuisine, is its variety, though with one clear aspect in common; a cooking style that is family-based and hand-made, unhurried and plentiful. A style that has given rise to the Atlantic diet, a diet typical to Galicia and based on simple, perfectly-combined ingredients. One single product can be prepared in many ways and each place has its different flavour. New Galician cuisine has not forgotten its roots, which have incorporated large doses of creativity to create dishes with widely renowned culinary value. Now, the tastes of Galician cuisine and its wines are present in the most famous restaurants in the world. Over eighty varieties of sea fish and half a dozen river fish, along with a wide range of shellfish species can be found in restaurants and bars. “Empanada” pies, octopus “á feira”, Padrón peppers, lacón (cooked ham) with grelos (a type of cabbage), cows' milk cheeses and the delicious Galician beef, prepared a thousand different ways, make up the finest display of Galician cuisine.
Cooking is one of Galicia’s main tourist resources: the quality and variety of its local products are the foundation for the diversity of dishes that are prepared, and products served. These products, from the country, from livestock and, above all, from the sea, have their own peculiarities, and although nowadays they can be found outside Galicia, local quality is still the main feature of Gallego cooking. What is more, it should not be forgotten that one of the most prestigious elements of our cuisine has been the professionalism of our chefs, who work not only in Galicia, but can be found anywhere around the world.
Exaltations of cooking arouse the interest of whoever visits them. The origin of these fiestas is in local or district celebrations to commemorate the place’s traditions, friends’ meetings, or harvest or religious festivals, such as the pilgrimages, when fulfilling the promise to the Saint was completed with a traditional meal. On gaining renown, the fiesta attracted people from other places.
Other exaltations of cooking sprang up with the tourist industry already in mind. In total, they number around 300 all over Galicia every year: on the coast, fish and shellfish are the most common; inland, the basis is meat and freshwater fish.
The Sephardic Route Ribadavia - Galicia
Ribadavia, strategically placed between Orense and Vigo, and “the mother of high-carat wine” according to the 16th-century scholar Molina, is the capital of the Ribeiro district. Over the centuries, its Jewish community - the largest and wealthiest in Galicia - had much to do with Riberio wine-growing and wine trade.
The creation of the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia in 103 by Don García, and the immediate prosperity of Ribadavia meant that, in the 11th century, many Jewish families settled in the town, and the Jewish quarter in the heart of the medieval town has now been declared a Cultural Heritage Site. The Jews of Ribadavia owned the vineyards and were fully integrated into the society of the time.
16 GOLF COURSES AND 6 PITCH & PUTT AT TOURISTS’ SERVICE
Golf and golf courses in Galicia: Visitors coming to Galicia are increasingly grateful at how easy it is to get a chance to play golf, a social sport which in the 21st century brings locals and visitors together in any part of the world. As a consequence, golf has become a strategic part of Galicia’s tourist offer, and has grown considerably over recent years.
Playing golf is facilitated in Galicia by the existing communication network between the different courses and Galicia’s three airports, the most important cities and the tourist centres. Currently, a total of 22 golf courses are operating, distributed around four Galician provinces. Of the total offer, there are 7 18- hole courses, 6 ‘pitch & putt’, and 9 9-hole courses.
FESTIVALS AND FIESTAS DECLARED OF TOURIST INTEREST IN GALICIA
Festivals and fiestas in Galicia in North Spain: Village festivals that have received the distinction of being of Tourist Interest are events that are known for their display of cultural values and attention to popular tradition, with special regard for ethnological features and are valued as a tourist attraction. Among the factors considered are the number of years the fiesta has been celebrated, its continuity over time, and the originality and diversity of its programme of activities.
LA RIBEIRA SACRA
In La Ribeira Sacra, the exceptional natural conditions have created an environment of extraordinary appeal and unusual beauty. The slopes contrast between rugged and gentle, and the narrowness of the valleys has favoured the development of a milder climate than what is typical of inland Galicia. La Ribeira Sacra benefits from less humidity, giving dry, sunny summers. It is precisely this climate that gave rise to the cultivation of grapes in the area, where exceptional wines are produced under the denomination of origin Ribeira Sacra.
THE CITIES IN GALICIA
The cities in Galicia are both monumental and welcoming. Santiago de Compostela (the administrative capital) is the medieval centre. It has been declared Cultural Heritage of Mankind, and is the finishing point of the Christian pilgrims’ roads to the tomb of the Apostle St. James. A Coruña is the city of light and modern beauty, just as Ferrol, a traditional naval and military base, represents Neo-Classicism. We have referred to the Rías Baixas, which have two main centres of population: Vigo, looking out over the placid waters of the Atlantic, offering some of the best shellfish (Such as oysters), and Pontevedra, the end point of a long tongue of sea that stretches inland and merges with the waters of the River Lérez. Pontevedra is striking for its historical quarter, one of the most interesting in the whole of Spain.
Lugo and Ourense are the two main cities to visit inland. The former, as we have mentioned, is a living testament to its Roman past. Both are crossed by the mighty Miño river which, as it passes, leaves behind autochthonous forests with centuries-old oaks and chestnuts, which have been an inspiration on countless occasions for artists all over the world. Ourense is interesting for its Roman bridge, its thermal waters –hot springs– and the entrance portico to the Cathedral, known as the Porch of El Paraíso, by the Master-Sculptor Mateo.
Galicia boasts nearly 119.334 beds among a wide variety of lodging possibilities including hotels, hostels, and pensions, over one hundred campgrounds (able to accommodate 34.000 people) y 575 Rural Tourism establishments. According to data provided by Turespaña in terms of the number of hotel establishments, Galicia ranks fourth in Spain after the Balearic Islands, Andalucia and Cataluña, and seventh in the country in terms of number of rooms (after the three autonomous communities mentioned above, in addition to the Canary Islands, Valencia and Madrid). A ranking by provinces places Pontevedra fifth in Spain in number of hotel establishments.
SMALL TOWNS WELL WORTH TO VISIT IN GALICIA
Outside the bigger and most well known cities, Galicia conserves attractive old quarters in its small towns. Some examples are Allariz, Baiona, Betanzos, Cambados, Cangas, Castro Caldelas, Celanova, Combarro-Poio, Corcubión, Mondoñedo, Monforte de Lemos, Muros, Noia, Ortigueira, Padrón, Pazos de Arenteiro-Boborás, A Pobra de Trives, A Pobra do Caramiñal, Pontedeume, Portomarín, Ribadavia, Ribadeo, Sarria, Tui, Vilagarcía de Arousa, Vilalba and Viveiro.
GALICIA SAILING AND FISHING: SAILING AND FISHING IN SPAIN
Sailing & Fishing in Galicia: In Galicia, the land leads inevitably to the sea: Sailing and Fishing. There, along its 1,300 kilometers of coast and 772 beaches, there is a whole world of leisure for enjoying nautical tourism. At present, the Community has 25 marinas perfectly equipped with over 5,000 docking points, and seven of them boast Blue Flags: Real Club Náutico de A Coruña, Nauta A Coruña, Portosín, Sada, Ribadeo, Baiona and Sanxenxo. In addition, there are almost a hundred ports to take advantage of.
RURAL TOURISM IN GALICIA
Galicia offers a wide range of possibilities for Rural Tourism – the new way to enjoy leisure time and to commune with nature, especially if the traveler is looking for nature in its unspoilt state and natural curiosities. The geographical features of Galicia make it a true paradise, where it is possible to discover alternative forms of tourism. The sheer variety and luxuriance of its interior landscapes with their infinite shades of green, countless rivers and streams, a sprawling habitat without the hustle and bustle of city life, a gently changing landscape, along with fiestas and village festivals upholding age-old customs and traditions, many of which are related to working the land, enable us to offer an extremely wide range of possibilities together with comfortable, yet unusual accommodation in country houses and manors (pazos) – the typical ancestral homes of Galicia located in a country setting.
AN EXCEPTIONAL POSSIBILITY
The rich architectural heritage in the rural areas of Galicia is precisely what makes the lodging possibilities of Rural Tourism in Galicia one of the most exceptional and attractive offers in Spain. For a reasonable price, anyone can have the chance to pass the night in a XVIIIth century building, in a lighthouse looking out onto the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, in a farmhouse where the visitor may take part in the farm work and chores typical of the area, or at a number of establishments along the different routes of the Way of St. James.
The manors and ancestral homes are an inseparable part of the landscape and the identity of Galicia. They were originally the homes of the rural gentry who left their coats-of-arms emblazoned on the facades of these houses. The farmhouses, which are also comfortable but not as luxurious, offer the visitor direct contact with the people and life on the farm, while at the other establishments, the owners may not necessarily engage in these types of chores. The Autonomous Community of Galicia already has 575 Rural Tourism establishments (december 2008) distributed all over the region. In the province of A Coruña there are 159 establishments; 151 in Lugo; 82 in Ourense; and 183 in Pontevedra.
In the area of rural Galician environments, and in the category of hotels, travelers can also access the network of country hotels (54 establishments), mountain hotels (3 establishments) and nature hotels (23 establishments).