Organise your visit

The cities and towns

A Coruña

According to a Galician saying Vigo works, Santiago prays and A Coruña has fun. A Coruña is the ideal place for a stroll. The city is built on an isthmus and the port is less than half a kilometer from the Riazor Beach. The Mariña(sea promenade) is known for its sun galleries – traditional glass balconies. When arriving to the ria, seamen could see from their boats the sunlight reflecting in the galleries, therefore the city is also known as the “crystal city”. A Coruña has an Aquarium, the Casa das Ciencias – Home of the Sciences – and a museum devoted to human being, called Domus. The city is surrounded by a seaside promenade from the end of the 20th century with modernist elements. The promenade includes the Castle of San Antón, the Monte de San Pedro and the Tower of Hercules.

Ferrol

It was planned according to the so-called Illustrated RationalismFerrol’s shipyards always played an important part and in the 18th century the town developed as a military centre. This is still to be seen in the geometrical plan of the Magdalena district, as well as in the Military Museum and two castles, Palma and San Felipe. Traveling northbound you will find Cape Prior and Doniños Lake, an important ecological system with dunes. In the south you can visit the village of Pontedeume with its tower of the noble family of Andrade – a second tower is located outside the centre of the village. Pontedeume is also the main entrance to the Protected Natural Park Fragas do Eume – natural woodlands – with the ruins of the former monastery of Caveiro.

Lugo

it is Galicia’s most important Roman site. It still shows the Roman City Walls, some of the hot springs close to the river Miño and many earthenware pots and mosaics in several museums. Within the walls we highly recommend to visit the medieval Cathedral and the wine streets with the traditional carved stone arcades, where you can experience Lugo’s famous snacks, the tapas. Close to the town you should visit the Castro deViladonga, that is to say the remains of an ancient Celtic-Roman settlement with a visitors center. The Roman temple devoted to the goddess Cybele called Santa Eulalia de Bóveda is also worth visiting.

Ourense

It shares with Lugo the Roman origin and the river Miño. The most remarkable bridges are the so-called Puente del Milenio – conmemmorating the year 2000 – and the medieval Ponte Vella, whose roots go back to Roman Emperor Augustus. In the centre visitors can admire the Cathedral, the Arqueological Museum and the Burgas. These are hot springs used in some areas – i.g. in the Chavasqueira – as outdoor swimming pools open to the public.

Pontevedra

 

Formerly, it was an important fishing port, a fact exemplified by the 15th-century collegiate churchSanta María, built with donations from the local fishermen. Some of the other places worth visiting are the“Museo Provincial de Pontevedra”, one of the most interesting museums in Galicia, and the church La Peregrina, which contains a sculpture of the patron saint of the province of Pontevedra. The paved Old Town is a lively place to enyoy the seafood from the Ría. You should also visit Combarro, a fishing village close to Pontevedra, built on the rocks near the sea, with its typical maritime houses, the Galician crosses cruceiros and the stone raised granaries hórreos,

Santiago de Compostela

 Capital city of Galicia and goal of the Pilgrimage to St James’ tomb. Both the Old Town and the Cathedral are listed as World heritage sites by UNESCO. The Old Town has plenty of charming streets: souvenir shops, former stables now used as coffee houses, chocolate factories, ethnographic museums, black jet museums and the Pilgrim’s Museum. For wine lovers we highly recommend to taste the ribeiro, albariño and mencía wines, as well as the famous seafood in the restaurants of Rúa de Franco Street. At the end of this street (before arriving to the Cathedral) is the ancient building of the University of Santiago – founded in 1495.

Vigo

Is Galicia’s most populated and industrial city. The frozen fish company Pescanova and Citroën factory are located in Vigo. Visitors can discover the Stone Market Mercado da Pedra with its outstanding oysters, the commercial street named Príncipe and the Monte Castro with its wonderful views over the Cíes Islands and the Rande bridge. The Ría of Vigo was scene of many shipwrecks and battles, such as the one depicted by Jules Verne in his book “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Vigo is also the ideal starting point to enjoy Galicia’s southern coast: the beaches Samil and America, as well as the charming maritime villages Baiona and A Guarda.

The Way of Saint James

The French Way

Undoubtedly, it is today’s most important pilgrim’s path, as it was in Middle Ages too. When coming from Europe the only way to reach Spain is walking through France. Therefore, formerly foreign pilgrims were all called Franks and we still find plenty of ancient Frankish settlements – Franzas, Francias, Francesillos or VilafrancasO Cebreirois the starting point of the pilgrim’s path in Galicia, with its oak and chestnut forests in the province of Lugo and the pine and eucalyptus forests in the province of Coruña.

Many small villages along the Way are kept alive by the thousands of people that each year are now going on pilgrimage to Santiago. Medieval and baroque monasteries – i.g. Samos, El Salvador, Santa María… – and churches are still to be seen, such as Portomarín’s church run by the Order of Saint John. Early in the 60es it was dismantled and rebuilt stone by stone at the top of a hill, when the former village was flooded by the dam of the river Miño.

Worth tasting are Melide’s octopus and the famous Arzúa cheese, whose milk is obtained from the Frisona and light-coloured cows that graze in the meadows along the Way.

The other Pilgrim Roads

 Nowadays, many pilgrims begin their Way in Roncesvalles, Ponferrada, O Cebreiro or in Sarria. Originally, pilgrims made their way to Santiago and were considered as such until they came back home. As a result of this, many different routes were created, so that we could probably affirm that there is an infinite number of routes and starting points. Most of the pilgrims walked to Santiago along the French Way, but some followed the coastline of the Basque Country, Cantabria to pass through Mondoñedo and Vilalba. Others travelled along the Primitive Route from Oviedo, via Lugo to Santiago.

Those arriving from the Iberian Peninsula followed either the Portuguese Routes or the Vía de la Plata – that runs north from Seville. Finally, British and other pilgrims from northern countries arriving by sea to Ferrol or A Coruña (66 km) followed the so-called English Way.

The Way to Finisterre

After their arrival in Santiago, many pilgrims continued their way to other places linked to St. James the Apostle, such as Padrón, Muxía and Finisterre. In Finisterre pilgrims used to burn their clothes to prepare for the new life and Saint James scallop shell represented their rebirth. Some researchers state that it is based on a pre-Christian route following the sun, which showed to the travellers the entrance to the Great Beyond. Pilgrims made the same journey alive as their souls would do in order to find Paradise when they died.

Routes and Itineraries

Province of Coruña

The Coast of Death (Costa de la Muerte)

this stretch of coast receives its name because there have been so many shipwrecks along its treacherous rocky shore, filled with barnacles. To the north you can visit the most famous Galician Dolmen in Dombate and the former celtic settlement Castro de Borneiro.

Worth mentioning is the traditional craftsmanship, such as Buño’s clay pottery and bobbin lace making in Camariñas.

Thousands of devotees go in September to the shrine Nosa Sra da Barca, in Muxía, to visit the so-called Pedra de Abalar – “Swinging Stone” – a huge stone slab that rocks under the weight of the devotees, and to pass under the Pedra dos Cadrís – “Kidneys Stone” -, in order to be freed from backache.

In Carnota you can see Galicia’s most popular raised granary, a 34 metres long hórreo with 22 pairs of columns. In the south of The Coast of Death you should visit the fishing village Muros, with its remarkable traditional maritime houses.

O Barbanza

The church Santa María a Nova in Noia contains Europe’s most diverse collection of engraved burial stones with guild symbols from the Middle Ages. The granite mountain range O Barbanza offers many possibilities to everyone: ancient Petroglyphsthe dolmen of Axeitos, the coastal celtic settlement Castro de Baroña, the Curota hill with splendid views over the rías of Arousa, Pontevedra and Vigo and the dunes in Corrubedo. To finish with, do not leave this area without visiting the former house of the Galician artist Castelao and the museum house of Galician writer Valle-Inclán.

As Mariñas

If we start in A da Coruña, we can first visit the Castle of Santa Cruz in Oleiros, and continue to the manor house Pazo de Meirás, where dictator Franco spent his holidays. Before arriving in Betanzos, we highly recommend to walk along the magnificient Versalles-like gardens of the manor house Pazo de Mariñán. The modernist Parque del Pasatiempo “Park of Leisure” in Betanzos already earned a mention in the Michelin Guide before Civil War in Spain (1936-1939). In the Franciscan Convent of Betanzos do not miss the surprising 14thcentury tomb of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, supported by a stone bear and a stone wild boar.

Ferrolterra and the North

From Ferrol along the mountain range A Capelada we arrive at the shrine of San Andrés de Teixido. According to an old Galician saying “anyone who does not visit San Andrés de Teixido
when he is alive must visit it after he is dead.” Do not forget the magical love herb – herba de namorar – offered by saleswomen around the chapel. You will also find the highest cliffs in mainland Europe called Vixía da Herbeira(620 m). One hundred thousand people visit every year the small village Ortigueira to be part of Spain’s most important celtic music festival. Worth seeing is Estaca de Bares, the northernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. Conventionally, it marks the separation between the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Province of Lugo

A Mariña Luguesa

This stretch of coastline extends from the noble villages of Viveiro and Ribadeo, the so-called Playa de las Catedrales – “Beach of the Cathedrals”, its name being derived from the formations of its cliffs with its natural archs and caves, which can be seen only in low tide – to the highly important tuna fishing port Burela. In Foz there is the church San Martin de Mondoñedo, former Episcopal seat until it was removed to Mondoñedo. According to some historians its origin goes back to the arrival of Breton refugees at the time of the Saxon invasions.

The mountains in Lugo

This wonderful area has become a last refuge for bears and capercaillies. The native fauna consits of wolves, wild boars, roe deer and deer. In O Cebreiro and Piornedo you can still see the pre-Roman thatched stone houses,pallozas. As they lacked a chimney, the smoke found its way out through the thatch. People lived in these houses until the 60es and nowadays they are museums about the old way of living.

A Ribeira Sacra

 It takes its name from the medieval monasteries located in the impressive canyons of the river Miño and its tributary Sil. This area located at the border between the provinces of Lugo and Ourense is well-known for its steeply terrace vineyards. Grape growing was introduced to the area by the ancient Romans two thousand years ago. You can drive via Monforte de Lemos or alternatively via Ourense to the Ribeira Sacra, if you want to visit some wine cellars and medieval monasteries or you want to enjoy one of the river canyon viewpoints.

Province of Ourense

A Ribeira Sacra

It takes its name from the medieval monasteries located in the impressive canyons of the river Miño and its tributary Sil. This area located at the border between the provinces of Lugo and Ourense is well-known for its steeply terrace vineyards. Grape growing was introduced to the area by the ancient Romans two thousand years ago. You can drive via Monforte de Lemos or alternatively via Ourense to the Ribeira Sacra, if you want to visit some wine cellars and medieval monasteries or you want to enjoy one of the river canyon viewpoints.

A tour around Allariz, Celanova and Vilanova dos Infantes

in Allariz King Alfonso X of Castile compiled the Cantigas de Santa Maria – “Canticles of Holy Mary” – and his wife, Doña Violante founded the St. Clare’s Convent there. This village was awarded several prizes for the restoration works in the Old Town, as special care was taken to retain its traditional architecture and urbanism. This has attracted people from neighbouring villages such as Ourense to live in Allariz.

Visit the tower of Vilanova dos Infantes and the remains of the old castle walls. Vilanova is reputed for its firewater aguardiente, and the church Virxe do Cristal (“Virgin of the Glass”), mentioned in a famous poem by Curros Enríquez. In Celanova you can visit the barroque monastery originally founded by San Rosendo in 936. From this period, there is still one chapel.

The lands of Ribeiro wine

 The capital of this wine region is Ribadavia. Every last Saturday of august the so-called Festa da Istoria, “History Festival”, is held in Ribadavia. It has been declared as a festival of National Tourist Interest and depicts the life of the former jewish community in Ribadavia. During the vintage, the village is crowded and you can taste many young Ribeiro wines. In Carballiño visitors can enjoy the church of Veracruz by modernist artist Antonio Palacios and the Church Igrexa dos Astures, a wonderful example of Asturian art in Galicia. In Leiro area we recommend to visit the monastery San Clodio, hidden in the valleys.

Province of Pontevedra

O Baixo Miño

in Panxón visitors should not miss the visigothic church and the Votive Temple, the latter built in the 20es by modernist artist Antonio Palacios. In 1493 Baiona was the first place in Europe to hear the news about the discovery of America. Worthvisiting are the replica of the caravel La Pinta, the former castle Monterreal, nowadays a state-run hotel Parador, and the Old Town. Driving southbound we will find in Oia Galicia’s only coastal monastery. Following the coast line we arrive at the hill Santa Tecla with spectacular views over the mouth of the river Miño and the remains of a castro, a celtic settlement, with its thatched stone houses, pallozas.

The lands of Morrazo

Very close to Pontevedra is the village of Marín, famous for its naval school. In Mogor visitors can enjoy the area’s best preserved petroglyphs. Other places to visit are: Bueu with its museum of the former fish canning factory Massó, Coiro with the legend of Galicia’s most famous witch, María Soliña, the Cruceiro de Hío, a typical Galician one piece stone cross, carved by José Pena, and Cabo do Home – “Cape of the Man” – with its splendid views over the Cíes Islands. Together with the Ons, Onceta and Sálvora islands they belong to the so-called National Park of the Atlantic Islands.

A Ría de Arousa

If you depart from Santiago, firstly you arrive to Padrón, Compostela’s first episcopal seat. According to the legend, the boat carrying St. James’ Apostle’s body arrived to this village and was moored to a stone, which is still kept in the local church of Saint James. In Padrón visitors can also see the Museum House of Rosalía de Castro, a Galician woman writer of the so-called Rexurdimento – the rebirth of Galicia’s culture and literature at the end of the 19th century – and the foundation center of the writer Camilo José Cela, Galicia’s only nobel prize winner. Every year in august the Viking Festival of Catoira is held close to the one thousand years old Torres do Oeste -“The Towers of the West”- to commemorate the defeat of the Viking invaders. 70 % of Spanish mussels is produced in this estuary, where the village Vilagarcía is located, famous for its fishing and shellfishing industries. The Albarino Wine Festival is held annually in august in Cambados, the capital of the Rías Baixas wine zone, where vines have traditionally been cultivated in pergolas. The estuary of Umia-Grove is a natural park, whose sandy beaches and pools attract many migratory birds. A Seafood Festival is held every year in october in O Grove. Crossing the bridge at the entrance of the village you arrive to the A Toxa island, well-known for its spa and its soap.

The Roads to Portugal: Tui and O Condado

In this area, the valley of the river Tea is famous for its lampreys. At the beginning of the 20th century the spa in Mondariz was considered to be on of the best spas in Europe. Tui was the capital town of one of Galicia’s ancient provinces. Its fortified romanesque Cathedral is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the river Miño and the portuguese border.