Galicia is the region of Spain famous for its many spiritual paths, the most famous of which is the “Way of St. James“. Santiago de Compostela is therefore one of its main cities and is bordered by La Coruña, Vigo, Ourense, Pontevedra and Lugo.
Discover Galicia, this beautiful region of North Spain
Discovering Galicia means knowing a very different Spain from the one to which we are ‘accustomed’. Galicia does not match Spanish clichés.
Galicia is a region of its own, it has its own official language, Galician. This is one of the 4 official languages of Spanish territory. It is a very green and rainy region because it is influenced by the Atlantic climate. The sky is often dull and to have an idea of it all you need to do is scroll through the photographs of Santiago de Compostela that you can find online. Finding one with the sun is almost impossible.
To read -> What to see in Galicia
The rough climate and verdant nature are reminiscent of countries like Scotland and Ireland. Galicia shares other aspects in common with these states: bagpipes. It is easy to find musicians playing bagpipes near Santiago Cathedral.
You may wonder what bagpipes have to do with Spain… where did the castanets and flamenco shows go?
Galicia has its own soul that is derived from the particular origins of its people. Galicia is one of the seven Celtic regions and all this is reflected in its customs, traditions and way of life. That’s the reason behind the bagpipes.
4-day ontheroad itinerary in Galicia
It is a rather vast region of Spain. We could say that this area is almost half the size of Portugal. It is huge and there are so many things to see in Galicia.
In this post I would like to present you a short ontheroad itinerary, which can also be enjoyed over a long weekend, that will lead you to the discovery of fantastic places scattered in the middle of nature, without forgetting also the cultural and religious aspects that are very important in Galicia.
The complete itinerary in Galicia
There are several low cost companies operating in Galicia. The problem is that they do not fly every day of the week but only some of them do. If from one point of view this could be a problem, from the other it could be seen as a good news. By putting together dates and times well it is possible to land in one location and take the flight back in another.
In the case of this itinerary in Galicia, we fly over the beautiful Santiago de Compostela and depart from Vigo, a few hundred kilometres further south. This is an ontheroad itinerary, so you will need to rent the car, in this case I want to recommend 3 other items that could be handy to rent a car.
- How to rent a car: tips and tricks
- Online car rental? 8 main tips
- Travelling on the road: tips for a perfect road trip!
Day 1 – Santiago de Compostela
You can’ t start this itinerary in Galicia if not from its most famous city: Santiago de Compostela. From an aesthetic point of view it is very reminiscent of the cities of Great Britain; houses built in granite that contribute to create a special atmosphere, sometimes a little melancholic.
Santiago is the final stage of many religious/spiritual paths.
Here pilgrims arrive at Praza do Obradoiro after miles and miles on foot. They arrive exhausted, tested but happy and less “burdened” than when they left. Each of them takes part in a spiritual journey for a definite reason.
Along the way they make decisions, consciously made, they get rid of the burdens and conjectures that have led them to achieve such an arduous task. In the square some cry, others laugh, others stay silent in front of what for many days has been the much awaited goal.
Actually this is not their final destination because many continue to Finisterre, the real last stage of the journey to Santiago.
In Santiago you must spend at least one day because it is a city that is well worth visiting and also understood. Despite being a place that lives “overwhelmed” by the popularity of the spiritual journey. Santiago, in my opinion, has managed to cut out its own identity regardless of religious tourism. Its market is wonderful, and the inner streets and gardens of Santo Domingos de Bonaval are also magnificent. In these gardens you can feel the Celtic soul and the strong connection and respect for nature.
In terms of characteristic environments, I can only recommend that you stay at the Hotel A Quinta da Auga. It is a 4 star hotel, so not really cheap, but allows you to immerse yourself in a particular dimension. A relais & chateaux obtained from an old paper mill. One meter thick walls made of granite boulders, this place will provide you with a special tranquility. It is not in the centre, it is only a few kilometres from Santiago, but in my opinion, if your budget allows it, you cannot help but take it into consideration.
Day 2 – Pazo de Oca -> Pazo de Rubianes -> Pontevedra
On the second day you leave Santiago de Compostela and in about 40 minutes by car you will get to Pazo de Oca.
In short, what is a Pazo? A pazo is an aristocratic mansion consisting of the manor house, a chapel, the employees’ lodgings and fantastic, well-kept gardens.
The Pazo de Oca is so interesting that it is called the Galician Versailles. On the inside the two ponds is amazing, composed of a part where there are white swans, and the other where there are black swans. A sort of contrast between good and evil divided by the bridge and supervised by the church of the Pazo.
The next stop is another Pazo, the Pazo de Rubianes. Also in this case the gardens are enormous and well-kept. The Pazo de Rubianes is very different from the Pazo de Oca because each noble family had its own prerogatives and interests.
This Pazo spreads out largely on the hill behind the aristocratic palace and is characterized by two great features:
- the presence of more than 200 varieties of camellias and trees more than 200 years old.
- the production of a wine made from Albariño grapes, with a unique and particular taste as the grape is considered one of the best grapes in the world.
Lastly, you will end your day in Pontevedra, another very nice town whose streets are very lively in the evening. There are many small squares and streets ready to welcome people. In Pontevedra you can also see the traces of the Portuguese path that passes through this very city.
Here is the map of the day.
Day 3 – O Grove -> Fonte Ermida de Lanzada -> Ourense -> Monastero de Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil
The third day of this ontheroad starts from O Grove, a small town that faces the Atlantic Ocean. O Grove is the ideal place to discover the mussel farms. Shellfish and seafood are in fact the most consumed products in Galicia. Cuisine is tied to both land and seafood dishes, but it definitely excels in seafood.
The bays in this area of Galicia are perfect for mussel cultivation. The fresh water from the rivers “collides” with the sea water creating a suitable habitat.
A word of advice on where to eat something in O Grove? Here you are… try the huge fish courses at the Sal de Allo Restaurant.
From O Grove you can head to a wonderful place offering a view of the ocean, I am talking about the Fonte Ermida de Lanzada. It is only a few kilometres from O Grove and is worth all the time you can spend there. It was once said that the world would end on the jagged coastline of Galicia’s extraordinary beauty. The ocean, with its strength, contributes to making the coasts of Galicia even more mystical. This time you don’t need words, just a picture.
The itinerary in Galicia that I am suggesting continues first towards Ourense and ends on the third day at the Monastery de Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil. Its name says it all but it is an exceptional place. It is an old monastery now used as a luxury hotel of the national chain “Parador”. It is set in the mountains of Ourense in the Ribeira Sacra and was once the main monastery.
Staying at the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil is a suggestive experience. You can spend the night in what were once the monks’ rooms (now used as normal rooms) and walk around the cloisters without any living soul around.
That said, it can be scary (and indeed it is) but you will feel as if you are part of a movie. Worth a try!
Map of the third day of the itinerary in Galicia:
Day 4 – La Ribeira Sacra: Monastero Igrexa de Santa Cristina -> Balcones de Madrid -> Castro Caldelas -> Mirador de Souto Chao -> Vigo
The last day is arguably the most beautiful of these 4 days in Galicia. By spending the night at the Monastery of Santo Estevo, you will wake up in the middle of Ribeira Sacra, that area of Galicia where the rivers Sil and Miño form canyons and gorges in the mountains.
The Ribeira Sacra is known not only for its natural beauty but also for religious reasons. There were many friaries built along the banks of the Sil and the Monastery of Santo Estevo was the most important one to which everyone referred. One of these convents is that of the Igrexa de Santa Cristina, not far from the monastery.
The Ribeira Sacra is also dotted with beautiful miradors. Once you have visited Santa Cristina, you can head for the Balcones de Madrid, a panoramic viewpoint called this way because, a long time ago, the wives who wanted to say goodbye to their husbands leaving on ships on the Sil used to go up to the “balcony”. They were seeking their fortune in Madrid, which is the reason for this particular name.
From the Balcones of Madrid I advise you to visit Castro Caldelas, a small town that has been a pleasant discovery. Apart from the presence of one of the few castles that remained preserved after the various popular uprisings, the country does not offer much. Perhaps that’s the beauty of it, the tranquility of a small village lost in the mountains of the Ribeira Sacra.
From Castro Caldelas you can then cross the river over a bridge and reach the opposite bank of the Sil. The “riba” north of the Sil is marked by terracings and vineyards, it is crazy how many of them are almost overhanging the river.
To appreciate the area at its best, I suggest you stop at the Mirador de Souto Chao which offers a spectacular view.
The fourth and final day in Galicia ends with the arrival in Vigo.
One more tip: if you’re hungry, stop in Ourense to eat an Octopus alla Gallega at the fantastic Pulpo à Feira restaurant.
Final tips for expanding this itinerary in Galicia
Both inland and along the coast, Galicia is wonderful. In this tour that I have proposed, I have not considered the northern part but only the area from Santiago de Compostela to Portugal. If you wish to spend more time here, I suggest you to spend a few days to visit La Coruña (which according to many people is beautiful) and the jagged coastline of the northwest.