Pablo’s Short Tour of Galícia- Pablo Vázquez
This is an itinerary designed by my good friend Pablo Vázquez. -Don
Galicia is a small area, so you can reach the farther place in less than 3 hours by car. Galícia is well connected from north to south and from the Atlantic Coast to Castilla by highways (AP-9 has toll, A-52 is free). If you like, there are thousands of forest with “green paths” to walk, for example near Silleda there is a hidden waterfall “Fervenza da Toxa”, the highest of Galícia. (Flickr album) and a 6km route that goes the Monasterio of Carboeiro.
Beginning in the North, in Lugo province, and following the coast to the south, there are many places. I will give you suggestions as I remember, so you can build a tour with the things you really are interested in.
So...here we go!
The city is old and compact with a beautiful historical center surrounded by well- preserved Roman walls. It’s a city where you can dine very well. Near the city, you can visit Playa de la Catedral, but you can only visit it with low tide.
On the northern coast, most of the little villages are beautiful traditional fishing ports. I think Viveiro and Ortigueira are the most beautiful ones. Nothing special, just nice little villages to dine, and walk some hours. In Ortigueira you can find “the most beautiful site of the world,” where the Atlantic ocean meet the Cantabrian sea.
The most traditional area of Galícia is “Os Ancares,” because some mountains and villages remain unconnected on winter. Here you can find “pallozas,” Galician pre-Romanesque houses.
The city is beautiful and comfortable for walking to the coast. I was there at the university for 5 years. There is a continuous 10km seafront from Monte San Pedro (where is an abandoned coastal artillery base reconverted to a nice garden with impressive views of the city) to the Torre de Hércules, the world’s oldest Roman lighthouse still in use. You can visit the tower and go to the top. You may prefer go in a historical tram rather than walking.
In Monte San Pedro you have a panoramic elevator over the cliff, or you can park up in the garden. There’s a good café and restaurant on the top. In the city I would suggest the Plaza of María Pita, with its “Cantóns” (galleries). A good restaurant is in the Casa do Home.
Santiago de Compostela
Of course, you already know, I love the old city. There are so many pilgrims from other countries; it is a mix between a cosmopolitan city and a medieval city. Cathedral and old town: must visit!
You can also visit Ferrol city (30 minutes north). The city its not very beautiful but the bay is, protected with two antique fortresses, which you can visit. It has important naval shipyards and a naval base. There is a museum about navigation. By Pontedeume, if you like you can spend a day walking in a Natural Park, visiting monasteries, churches, and castles, Fragas do Eume is the place.n
Going south you find the “Costa da Morte“ (Coast of Death). There are many fishing villages, cliffs, rocks, rough sea most of the time, with many people lost to the stormy sea. Already in the first five months of 2014, twenty people have died. The two Capes and lighthouses are interesting to see.
Cabo Vilán and lighthouse: just a big lighthouse over the cliffs. The lighthouse has a little museum with some old machines and lights.
Near Vilán lighthouse, there is an old British cemetery, almost in the middle of nowhere, where lay some of the young sailor who died in the HMS Serpent sinking. Still today people of the place leave flowers here.
Finisterre (Latin: finisterrae, where the Earth ends) is the real end of the Way of Santiago. If you want only to visit one place, this is the one. Near Finisterre there is a little town, Ézaro, with a big waterfall directly coming from a dam to the sea, illuminated some nights. Following the coast to the south, you will find (20 min. walking from the parking) Castro de Baroña.
Following the coast from north to south you will arrive at the province of Pontevedra, and may be you can stop for a visit.
O Grove is another fishing harbor. Like seafood? This is the place: “Feira do Marisco” (seafood’s fair) on October. The longest Galician beach is here, very windy, dangerous currents in the water, and almost natural: A Lanzada.
Very, very near there is a long hidden wooden place to take a quiet walk following the sea.
It’s a local secret, so...sssh! Some abandoned coastal artillery can be seen in a still military area. I was inside taking pics by error one, but escaped without problems.
Sanxenxo and Portonovo are two very touristic village where many people from Madrid have summer residences in order to avoid the saturated beaches of the Mediterranean . Juan beach and seafront. Nothing more.
From Sanxenxo you can take a boat and spend a day of beach and walking at Ons Island. But I recommend better the Cíes Islands. A lot more beautiful.
Combarro, with its “horreos” next to the sea, is a must visit too. I have some pics of Combarro in my Flickr album. From Combarro is only about 10min to the city of Pontevedra, which in turn is 20 min by highway from Vigo.
Vigo, My City
It’s not a very beautiful city (mostly industrial), but I will recommend some places for you to visit. If you come via the AP-9 from the north, you will cross the Puente de Rande. This is a hanging bridge over the bay, and as all the streets are steep up or down; this is why they call Vigo the “Galician San Francisco.”
Nº Sra. de A Guía – a chapel on the top of a mountain with nice views of the bay Monte do Castro. Also on top of the city is an old fortress and Samil beach. A great seashore for a day’s a walk on the beach.
Cíes Islands: a must visit: From Vigo or Baiona, take a boat and spend a whole day at the islands (natural park). Only 2,000 people allowed per day, so make a reservation first.
There’s a nice 60 min walk to the lighthouse on the top. You can spend the day walking if you like. San Simón Island. Old jail, old hospital, now museum.
Near Vigo, in Mondariz, you can spend a night in the resort and sleep in the local hotel.
You can pass the night at the beautiful Parador, that is an old fortress, and take a walk around the historical center (very little) and the surroundings. You can visit some old water mills “Muiños do Folón e do Picón”.
Near, there is a nice lighthouse, Silleiro, where I use to go to relax with my bike, and an underground abandoned military base you can go in (very very very dark and dirty, better just look this pics)
A Guardo - 30 Minutes South of Baiona
Take a walk at the harbor with the houses painted on colors, or go to the top of the Monte de Santa Tecla to see the end of the Miño river, the Insua fortress, and Portugal (amazing views). Often it it windy! In Monte Santa Tecla you will find the rests of a big “Castro”. Three thousand people lived here on the II century before Christ!
You can visit the North of Portugal too. On Saturdays Vilanova de Cerveira (30min from Vigo) has a big fair where you can everything from clothes, animals, seeds, plants...everything. Less than hour by highway is Braga, with the Bom Jesus do Monte. A very beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The center is a nice place to walk in and drink some wines. Coffee “colao” is awesome in Portugal!
Closing the circle you can go by the A-52 free highway back to Madrid, stopping in Ourense Province. In Ourense city, as always, the historical center is beautiful. You can visit the cathedral, the old streets surrounding and Burgas, natural thermal font with the water going out about 65ºC. There’s an impressive roman bridge over the Miño river in the center of the city and a long, long fluvial walk by both the riversides.
Taking the N-525 to Santiago, you will pass Cea, maybe buy some bread, and visit the Oseira monastery. Don visited last year.
Out of the city, following the N-120 road to the west you reach Os Peares, where Miño and Sil rivers converge. You are in the Ribeira Sacra. Good expensive wines are produced in the river side.
In this area you can visit Santo Estevo monastery (you can also sleep there), or take a guided visit by boat, that will explain to you all about the river and the wines. Reservation needed, only a few hours available.
Near Monforte de Lemos there is another little antique village, and going towards Madrid, Verín has a nice Parador and castle. Don already knows. Already out of Galícia, Puebla de Sanabria is interesting, too.
Hope you like and enjoy Galícia!