Galicia is a land of beautiful rocky coastline and fjord-like inlets surrounded by tree-covered hills. The jewel in its crown is the splendid city of Santiago de Compostela.
Galicia travel guide and places to visit
For a summary of the most popular sights in the region see also Galicia places to visit.
Galicia is in the north-west corner of Spain, north of Portugal and to the east of Astureas and Castile and Leon. The Regional capital is Santiago de Compostela.
Galicia has a stunning coastline and inland the land is divided into plots so small that oxen can often be seen working the land. Grain is stored in traditional granaries called horreos and the buildings are often built of the local granite. The highlight of the region is the fabulous city of Santiago de Compostela, the end point of the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim route which has been popular since medieval times and is still very popular today.
To help with your planning below we introduce you to the four provinces of Galicia offering suggestions as to the places to visit and highlights to see to get the most out of your Spain holiday.
Pontevedra - south western Galicia
Rocky inlets with sandy bays set beneath pine clad hills and water dotted with fishing boats, mussel rafts and pleasure boats.
The Rias Baixas offer wonderful fjord-like scenery and beautiful beaches, particularly popular with the locals. The most southerly of the Rias the Ria de Vigo should not be missed, the views are breathtaking.
Across the bay from Vigo are the Illas Cies. These three islands can be reached by boat from Vigo and have some of the best sandy beaches in the region. These are also a National Park.
Coastal towns to visit include Cambados, O Grove, Pontevedra, Vigo and Baiona. Another sea town, Combarro is a great place to see the famous horreos (grain silos) which line the waterfront. Pontevedra has one of the loveliest historic centres in Galicia and Baiona is one of the nicest resorts.
Padron on the Ria de Arousa is the port where the body of St James landed in Spain. The gardens of Pazo de Oca are beautiful. A-Toxa at the mouth of the Ria is a small island joined to the mainland be a bridge. This is a very stylish resort with luxury villas and a palace-hotel not to mention fabulous beaches.
Christopher Columbus landed in Baiona and this port was the first to hear the news of the New World. An exact replica of th Pinta, Christopher Columbus' ship is in the harbour. and medieval walls and a wooden promontory add to the attractions of this small port. Stay in the parador if you can. It is said to be one of the finest.
One of the main tourist destination in Galicia is Sanxenxo with its great beaches and vibrant nightlife.
Close to the estuary of the river Minho is A Guarda where the remains of a Celtic settlement can be seen.
Don't miss the city of Tui on the Portugese border, which has some lovely architecture including its 13th century hilltop cathedral.
If you are visiting in July try to visit for the 'Rapa das Bestas' festival in Sabucedo. This horse shearing festival has 'International Tourist Interest' designation.
A Coruna- north western Galicia
The rocky cliffs and sandy beaches of the Rias Altas and the Costa da Morte invite you to explore Coruna.
Most people head to the Rias Baixas to the south but the coastline of A Coruna also has much to offer. Cedeira is one of the main resorts and Ortigueira has some incredible dramatic scenery.
Muros and Viveiro and popular coastal towns. Further north and east, Corcubion, Arteixo, Muxia, Ferrol and Pontedeume are also seaside towns to see. Finisterre is a popular pilgrim destination as it is the end of the Camino de Compostella and the most westerly part of Spain.
La Coruna is the provincial capital and its old town sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Its light house, the Torre de Hercules, is one of Europes oldest working lighthouses. Near to here is Betanzos, an ancient town with narrow streets and the remnants of medieval walls. It is one of Spain's most beautiful towns.
Santiago de Compostela is one of the highlights of the whole of Spain, and one of the most visited, especially for its beautiful cathedral which is said to hold the shrine of Saint James. It was the third most important pilgrim destination after Jerusalem and Rome in the Middle Ages and the Camino de Santiago is still a very busy pilgrim route today. Santiago de Compostela is a UNESCO World Heritage city.
Don't forget to visit San Andrés de Teixido an old pilgrim site, a visit to which is said to save your soul.
Lugo - north eastern Galicia
Coastal resorts, stunning mountain scenery and sections of the famous 'pilgrim way' as well as the historic walls of Lugo await you in Lugo province.
The city of Lugo is one of the highlights of the province and its huge Roman walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
O Cebreiro is one of Spain's most beautiful villages and is also an important stop on the 'Way of Saint James' pilgrimage. A miracle is said to have taken place here where wine and bread were turned into blood and flesh. The church houses a Holy Grail and the San Giraldo de Aurillac lodging house has been open to pilgrims since the 9th century. O Cebreiro is also home to some 'pallozas', round stone huts of Celtic design. Louenza is another important pilgrim town as is Samos with its beautiful monastery.
Monforte de Lemos should be visited to see its historic old quarter.
Along the coast Ribadeo and Viveiro are both attractive towns. Slightly inland from these is Mondonedo, a charming cathedral town.
South of Lugo the small hamlet of Vilar de Donas is home to the tombs of some of the Knights of the Order of Santiago and some 15th century frescoes.
Ourense - south eastern Galicia
Ourense is an area of pretty landscapes and hot springs with various places where you can soak up the thermal waters in the open air.
The Area de Allariz which is a Biosphere Reserve and the Serra de Xures natural park and the Serra de Encina da Lastra natural park are all part of the natural highlights of the region. Perhaps the most attractive part is along the river valley of the River Mino between Ourense and the Portugese border.
The city of Ourense has a rich heritage and its arcaded main square, its cathedral and the Cloister of Saint Francis are amongst the many sights to see. Ribadavia is an important wine town and it holds a wine fair every year. It has a very well preserved Jewish quarter.
Near to Ourense is Celanova which is home of the Monasterio de San Salvador, one of the most important in Spain.
Head north to Carballino to see the wonderful Temple of Veracruz which is a mix of Byzantine, pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Allariz in the south of the province is a Historic-Artistic Site with a wealth of religious buildings. Also in the south is Verin a town with 17th century houses and the imposing Castillo de Monterrei which stands above the town.
The coastline is far less crowded than Eastern and Southern Spain and whilst the sea is cooler here the coastline is beautiful.The coast is divided into three main regions. The Rias Altas, The Costa da Morte and the Rias Baixas. All three have spectacular scenery. The Rias Altas to the North is lined by forested hills and is good for swimming. The Costa da Morte has lovely tiny fishing ports and a very traditional way of life. The best beaches are in the Rias Baixas the most southerly coastal area in Galicia and very close to Portugal.
The Rias are fjord like inlets along the coast and with their backdrop of tree covered hills are beautiful. Punctuated by little fishing villages and small resorts it is a very relaxing area for a holiday.
Viveiro, Ria de Ortigueira, Porto do Barqueiro, Porto de Vares, Betanzos, and A Coruna are some of the best villages and towns along this stretch of coast.
Costa da Morte
Called the 'Coast of Death' because of the many shipwrecks but swimmers should also beware. This stretch of coast is only suitable for very strong swimmers. However it is rugged and beautiful. Renowned for its magnificent sunsets and cluttered with tiny, traditional fishing villages.
Malpica, Laxe, Camarinas, Ezaro, O Pindo and Carnota are all worth the trip for the villages and/or the surrounding scenery.
This is the area where most of the locals go if they are looking for beaches.
Muros, Barona, Cambados, San Vincente do Mar, Pontevedra, Vigo and Baiona are some of the best villages and towns to see.
The most southerly of the Rias the Ria de Vigo should not be missed, the views are breathtaking.
Galicia tourism and sightseeing
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Galicia
Route of the Santiago de Compostela - Santiago de Compostela was proclaimed the first European Cultural itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987. This is a very popular pilgrim route from the French/Spanish border to Santiago de Compostela. 1800 buildings along the route have been deemed of great historic interest.
Old town of Santiago de Compostela
The Roman Walls of Lugo built in the 3rd century have survived intact and are the best example of late Roman fortifications in western Europe.
Museums in Galicia
Museo Diocesano, Mondonedo - with works by El Greco
Museo das Marinas, Betanzos - history of Betanzos and local fishing villages.
Museo Militar, A Coruna, - military museum
Museo de Pontevedra - one of the best museums in Potevedra with a collection of gold jewellry dating from the Bronze Age and paintings by Ribera and Zuberan and a collection of drawings and paintings by Alfonso Castelao depicting the povery and misery of the Spanish Civil War.
Museo Provincial de Lugo, Lugo - with exhibitions of Celtic gold and Roman finds
Monasterio de Oseira, Oseira - an impressive monastery with a Barogue facade.
Monasterio de Ribas de Sil, Ribas de Sil near Ourense - set on the top of a gorge
Monasterio de San Salvador, Celanova- one of the most important monasteries in Spain. Mostly Baroque in style but with a Renaissance cloister.
Monasterio Sobrado de los Monjes, Vilar de Donas - with a medieval kitchen
Paradors in Galicia
Parador de Baiona - Baiona
Parador de Ferrol - Ferrol
Parador de Montforte de Lemos - Montforte de Lemos
Parador de Santo Estevo - Santo Estevo
Parador de Pontevedra - Pontevedra
Parador de Ribadeo - Ribadeo
Parador de Cambados - Cambados
Parador de Santiago de Compostela - Santiago de Compostela
Parador de Tui - Tui
Parador de Verin - Verin
Parador de Vilalba - Vilalba
The gardens of Pazo de Marinan, Bergondo (A Coruña), these gardens with their stunning Parterre de Boj and spectacular views of the sea are well worth a visit.
The garden of Pazo de Santa Cruz de Rivadulla,(Vedra), Ortigueira(A Coruña) - Pazo de Santa Cruz de Rivadulla is home to a massive collection of camelias and there is a walk with hundred year old olive trees.
Pazo de Oca, Padron - gardens and lake in the grounds of a manor house