So you’re planning a trip to the north of Spain, but can’t decide if it’s worth your while visiting the region of Galicia? This autonomous region in northern spain is very diverse, filled with towns with an old worldly feel. Galicia is known for its rolling green hills, rugged coastline and famous Galician balconies.
Galicia is most famous for its capital, Santiago De Compostela but there is more to Galicia than that. Thermal pools, amazing cathedrals and sea arches to name just a few. The whole region feels pretty undiscovered as it is not inundated with international tourists. Sun seeking travelers tend the head to southern areas of Spain leaving the north fairly crowd free.
This post covers everything you need to know about the autonomous region of Galicia, and most importantly, lets you know if it is worth visiting.
Where Is Galicia?
The autonomous region of Galicia is located in northwest Spain. It is in fact as far west as you can go in Spain. Galicia is a very hilly region with the majority of its land at an altitude of over 1000 feet. These hills are what separates Galicia from its neighboring regions. A drive through the mountains to the east with take you to Asturias or a drive south with take you through the free border to Portugal. The north and west are surrounded by the surprisingly warm Atlantic ocean.
Historically, the western location of Galicia lead the Romans to believe that it was in fact the westernmost point on Earth. For this reason they thought that this was the point where the world ends. Cape Finisterre, at the westernmost point, literally translates from latin to “end of the earth”.
How To Get To Galicia
Although Galicia is a small, fairly remote area, it is home to 3 international airports (Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, and Vigo. Santiago is the largest of the three airports, with the most flights arriving and departing from this location. It is possible to fly direct from the UK to these airports as well as many other European destinations.
Galicia is also very well connected to the spanish capital by its high speed rail network. A trip between Santiago de Compostela and Madrid could take as little as three hours by train.
Once you have made it to Galicia, commuting around is a completely different story.
Undeniably, the best way to travel around Galicia is by car… or motorhome. The mountainous landscape does not lend itself well to public transport. Journeys by local buses and trains can be very time consuming and unreliable. The roads are very well connected, so commuting with a vehicle of your own gives you the freedom to go wherever you want at any given time without the worry of getting left stranded. One of the most amazing things about Galicia is that a large chunks of it are national parks. Take the opportunity so drive the scenic roads at your own pace and stop as many times as you like to soak in the stunning surroundings.
When To Visit Galicia
You may not like to hear that Galicia is one of the coldest regions in Spain. Unlike the south of Spain which can get unbearably hot, it is normal in northern spain to have fairly cold temperatures year round. The best weather in Galicia is certainly the summer with temperatures at a very comfortable 18°C with the lowest levels of rainfall. This weather means it is a little chilly to enjoy a swim at the many beautiful beaches in the area. It is however a great temperature for a city break.
Galicia is famously known as a rainy region, and unfortunately, this is true. The winter months have the most rain but there is still a good chance of rain even if you visit in the summer. For a month-by-month breakdown of the temperature and rainfall in Galicia click here.
Other than the weather, when choosing the best time to visit somewhere, it is important to think about how crowded it may be. Galicia, is a region many Spaniards flock to in the summer months to escape the intensely hot regions further south. For this reason July and August are significantly busier than the rest of the year in the autonomous region of Galicia. For this reason, we found that a few months either side of this peak tourist timing is the best – June or September ideally.
Best Places To Visit In Galicia
There are a lot of places you simply must visit in Galicia. Make the most of Galicia by immersing yourself in the culture, nature and outdoor activities. Explore the charming cities making sure to glance up at the traditional Galician balconies. You won’t regret it. And of course be sure to make the most of the stunning sandy beaches. This region feels undiscovered, and unspoilt. Below are a few suggestions of the best things to see in the region.
Santiago De Compostela
No trip to Galicia is complete without visiting the capital of the region, Santiago de Compostela. This is the largest city in the region of Galicia and is filled with spectacular gothic architecture. It is one of the most important historical cities in Spain. Santiago De Compostela, namely the cathedral itself, is the famed end point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Many people hike hundreds of miles to reach the burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James in the iconic cathedral.
Although many people choose to visit this city for religious reasons, we loved it for its stunning architecture and atmosphere. The cathedral is without a doubt one of the most impressive buildings ever – the sheer size of it is astounding.
Praia das Catedrais
Located on the north coast of Galicia you will find this interesting beach looking out to the Bay of Biscay. This beach is famous for its series of natural arches and caves which can be explored at low tide. The stunning arches make for a very unique photo backdrop. If you plan on visiting, be sure to check the tide times as the beach is a lot less impressive at high tide. Another thing to note is that this attraction is very popular in the summer months so access is limited to protect the area. It is possible to reserve tickets online here.
Ourense is a true hidden gem in Galicia. This city is not very well known, compared to other spanish cities which welcome large numbers of tourists yearly. With the introduction of the high speed train to this city, it won’t be long before this undiscovered gem becomes popular. There is so much to discover here, it is the perfect combination of old and new working together to make a great destination.
Check out the Millennium bridge in Ourense (pictured above). This road bridge has a unique wavy foot path for pedestrians circling around it. Climbing the numerous stairs to the top of the bridge will reward you with a stunning view over the city. The steps also take you below the bridge giving you another unique viewpoint of the workings of the suspension bridge.
One of the main draws of Ourense is the thermal pools. These man made pools are created from the hot springs nearby. Compared to other thermal pools we have tried such as Cascate Del Mulino, these pools were a lot more enjoyable. We had never dipped into pools which were so naturally hot. The different pools vary in temperature, the hottest of the pools (72 ° C) was honestly too hot for us. There are a lot of different thermal pools to choose from in the Ourense area. Many of them are free to visit and others are treated more like a spa which you have to pay to enter. We visited Muíño da Veiga which was free and brilliant.
Is Galicia Worth Visiting?
Although this post has focused on all the great things about Galicia, it is important to remember this area does have some drawbacks too. We took a road trip all around Galicia with the aim of seeing as much of it as possible. We found ourselves on long drives with absolutely nothing to see. Another negative about the area was when we arrived at some of the towns we were recommended to see, we left quite disappointed. For example, A Coruna was so congested we were unable to park remotely close to our hotel. The drab weather which plagues Galicia also can put a dampener on your trip to the area.
So the answer to the question ‘is Galicia worth Visiting?’ is quite complicated.
If you are planning a weekend trip to Either Ourense or Santiago De Compostela, the answer is Yes. These wonderful cities are packed with interesting things to discover. They are well connected to other spanish cities making them a great city break. We would definitely return to sewe those sights again.
If you are planning a road trip around Galicia, unfortunately, we would say that it is not worth visiting. Having driven 1000 km around the area we were left a bit underwhelmed. We found that the neighboring regions of Asturias and the Basque Country had a lot more to offer without having to drive hundreds of miles between each attraction.