How many things are there to see in Galicia, one of the beautiful regions of North Spain? Lots, so many that a whole week might not be enough.
I’ll start this post this way: direct and frank because Galicia in Spain is beautiful. Its coast, its hinterland mountains, its cultural/religious aspects, and finally its food and wine, are all worthy to be enjoyed.
What do I recommend you see in Galicia?
If I were to tell you… what there is to see in Galicia, you would probably answer “Santiago de Compostela“. After all Santiago and tourism are like honey and bees. It draws so much attention that it is definitely the must-see destination for any traveler who goes to these areas. In fact, Galicia is multifaceted and colourful, Santiago is simply the icing on the cake of a beautiful region.
Thanks to the #InGreenSpain project in collaboration with the Spanish Tourist Board I had the honor to get to know it better and now I can only say that I have a great desire to go back there.
I wanted to make you a selection of the 10 things to see in the southern part of Galicia that you can also find in the 4 days ontheroad itinerary in Galicia that I suggested to you.
1 – Piazza da Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela
Of course, in first place to see in the region of Galicia is the main square of Santiago de Compostela. This is the destination of every pilgrim regardless of the route taken (French, northern, Portuguese, Plata route…).
Plaza do Obradoiro is the place where pilgrims can enjoy the view of the Cathedral of St. James.
They get there on foot, sometimes limping, or by bicycle, maybe a little less tired but still tested. The square is the place where they can cry or laugh. The path marks the spirit of the pilgrims who find or hope to find an answer to their questions and their desire to think and reflect.
So in the square da Obradoiro you can find groups of people laughing and joking by taking as many photos as possible, or see on the ground people moved with their heads in their hands.
In short, here there is a great mix of feelings that is sometimes palpable. I was very little in this square, just an hour, but it felt like tiptoeing into the intimacy of each one of those pilgrims who finished their pilgrimage that day. A square where it is nice to stop and see life flowing, and why not, to envy the courage of these pilgrims and want to feel their own feelings sooner or later.
2 – Pazo de Oca a La Estrada
They call it (and when you will see it you will understand) the Galician Versailles, the Pazo de Oca or Palacio de Oca is a noble complex built between the 17th and 18th centuries just 30 minutes drive from Santiago de Compostela. It is owned by the Duchy of Medinacieli.
Besides the palace and the small church, the Pazo de Oca is known for its beautiful and giant gardens, which are extremely well preserved. 40 hectares of greenery where you can find plants of all kinds: Camellias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas and a large pond with a stone boat. The pond is divided by a bridge, on one side by white swans, on the other side by black swans; a metaphor, a sort of contrast between good and evil.
3 – Pazo de Rubianes
Not far from the Pazo de Oca, more precisely in Vilagarcìa de Arousa, there is another magnificent noble palace, the Pazo de Rubianes. This Pazo is very different from the previous Pazo. Each Pazo was structured differently according to the interests of the family or according to the passions or architectural styles of the time.
The Pazo de Rubianes is very detailed. It’s the ideal place to discover the camellias. Here there are all kinds of camellias and the best season to come and see them is winter. Months in which the camellias put on a show.
This happens especially in the area of Pazo di Rubianes. Thanks to the acidic soil, the humid climate and the favourable temperature, the flowering period is a lot longer. The first camellias start blooming in September and the last ones in June. The best months are January, February and March.
Pazo de Rubianes grows on the hill among thousands of camellias, centuries-old trees and 25 hectares of vines with Albariño grapes (white grapes, and therefore white wine). You should know that a very fine wine called “Albariño Pazo de Rubianes” is produced here.
I advise you to spend a few hours discovering this magnificent place in Galicia, Pazo de Rubianes is really a place that makes you at peace with the world.
Here are other two photos of this natural paradise.
4 – O Grove and seafood restaurants
O Grove is a world of its own that deserves to be experienced. A small village overlooking a large mussel farm. Here you can enjoy the beauty of the ocean and that touch of life and vitality that the sea gives to those who live on the coast. If you arrive in O Grove in the morning you can see, in the distance towards the bays, people bent over to pick seafood.
In addition, I recommend a stop in O Grove also for a nice meal of fish and crustaceans. I have never tasted anything so good.
Recommended restaurant: Sal de Allo.
5 – Excursion to mussel farms
Another great experience in Galicia in Spain…you can also set off from the town of O Grove for an experience on the edge of mysticism: seeing mussels grown on tourist boats.
Okay, maybe it’s a tourist experience and I don’t get along with too touristy experiences, but in this case I recommend it openly because you’ll have fun!
How can you have fun on a ship that takes you to see the mussel farms?
The boat departs from O Grove and heads out to the bay where you can visit the various cultivation installations. As soon as you leave, they will give you a bottle of wine and some mussels bowls (spectacular). Once you get to the cultivation area, they will explain how it is done, after which you will return to the mainland. That’s when you’ll have fun; dozens of seagulls will start flying above you and they will target your mussels, in the meantime the music on the boat will get louder and people will start dancing to Latin rhythms (no wonder, thanks to the bottles of wine drunk).
You will then find yourself on a dancing boat with hungry seagulls. Hilarious!
You can also “play” with the seagulls that are very fond of mussels. Try to grab a mussel and squeeze part of it with the shell; approach the edge of the boat and only when you are ready raise your arm to the sky. One second, two seconds at max and your mussel will be snatched by a seagull.
Tickets for the excursion can be purchased at the port.
6 – Fonte Ermida da Lanzada
This is a viewpoint that you cannot miss if you are in this part of Galicia. We can call it a Mirador on the sea. A strip of land that shyly heads towards the ocean. A fantastic place to spend some time enjoying the sea, the wind and possibly the sun. Beautiful.
7 – Igrexa de Santa Cristina and the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil
The church of Santa Cristina is located in what is called the Ribeira Sacra whis will also be mentioned in points 8-9-10 of this article. The Ribeira Sacra is a mountainous area “behind” Ourense, here the two main rivers (Sil and Meno) have formed extremely fascinating and steep navigable canyons.
Several monasteries were built along the course of the river, there is talk of as many as 45. Among them the main one was the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil. It’s absolutely one of the best things to see in Galicia. The Monastery of the Church of Santa Cristina was a “secondary” monastery that today is obviously abandoned but can be visited. It is a church completely immersed in the forest, the interior of the accommodation has been partially restored. It only takes about twenty minutes to visit it and enjoy the silence of nature.
Not far away is also the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil. This is a monastery now converted to luxury hotels of the national chain “Parador”. I have had the pleasure and fortune to stay in this monastery and I must say that it is a much more mystical experience compared to the mussel cultivations.
8 – Balcones de Madrid
Imagine travelling back in time and being on the “Balcones de Madrid“. There, on the waters of the Sil, many husbands on boats heading for Madrid. The Balcones de Madrid was the place from which the wives would greet their husbands who sailed in search of fortune.
Now the Balcones de Madrid is one of the most beautiful miradors of the Ribeira Sacra where you can spend tens of minutes contemplating the gorges of the Sil that in some places reach a depth of 500 meters.
The Mirador del Balcones de Madrid. To get there you need to park about 200 meters away on foot, a simple walk will take you to this beautiful viewpoint.
9 – The village of Castro Caldelas
Castro Caldelas was not among the things to see in Galicia that I had planned but it was a beautiful discovery. I arrived there on a sunny day, on Saturday during the local market day. Folk music, people busy shopping and a lady working on cutting the freshly cooked octopus would then become the Pulpo alla Gallega.
Castro Caldelas, (castro = Celtic settlement, caldelas = denotes the presence of hot springs) is a small village with white houses visited mostly for its beautiful castle that offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
If you visit the Ribeira Sacra, I suggest you include Castro Caldelas in your Galician itinerary.
10 – Mirador de Souto Chao
Lastly, the Mirador de Souto Chao on the opposite bank of the Sil to the monasteries. This “Riba” of the river allows the cultivation of vines that are almost vertical due to the conformation of the gorge.
The Mirador de Souto Chao is the ideal place to appreciate this area of the Ribeira Sacra.