Most events in Galicia are well publicised with both local flyers and information available on the internet, but here are some useful links and also some places to visit that it might not occur to you to look for.
Every local town has its fiesta and these are often surprisingly extravagant affairs, especially in concello towns that have a significant tourism industry.
To find out about fiestas in your chosen area of Galicia the best option is to search google.es for the local concello’s website and then to follow the fiesta information on there.
There are also some fiesta guides at these websites:
- Galicia digital has a list of fiestas, markets and other events.
- Turgalicia has a list of fiestas of special interest to tourists.
- This facebook page contains a current stream of fiesta information
Beaches & surf spots
On the Galician coast you will struggle to find any long stretches that don’t feature at least one great beach. The only question is what sort of beach you want.
- If you a family beach with calm, shallow, warm water, lifeguards on duty, showers provided, snack stands and restaurants nearby, etc. then it is best to look for beaches near to towns inside the more sheltered rias.
Near A Coruna the best of these beaches are the ones of the Ria de Betanzos and the Ria de A Coruna.
In the Rias Baixas the best beaches are in the Rias de Pontevedra, Vigo and Arousa.
- If you prefer something a little less mainstream and crowded then consider going north of Ferrol, up to Ribadeo and Foz, or out towards the Costa de Muerte. The water will be somewhat colder and the snack stands fewer, but some of these beaches are absolutely stunning.
- Alternatively, even near to the main tourist spots you will find small, secret beaches tucked away all over Galicia. If these don’t have parking and road signage nearby then they stay very quiet. They also have the best rock pools!
- Finally, there are the wild Atlantic beaches. These can be dangerous with currents and huge waves, and the water is also a lot colder, but if you’re a surfer that’s great because it keeps away the swimming hoardes leaving you space to ride the waves.
The most famous surf beach in Galicia is Pantin, with its major annual international competition, but any Atlantic beach can offer great waves in the right conditions.
National parks and beauty spots
Galicia has six national parks which you can find information about on Turgalicia. All of these are beautiful in their own different ways and are also practically deserted outside of the summer tourist season. Most of them offer various activites such as bike rental, kayaking and guided tours.
As well as these national parks there are a lot of areas of protected nature and some stunning beauty spots. Just a few selected ones of the many to be found are:
- The Canyon do Sil near Ourense, the deep gorge of the river Mino fringed with forests and vineyards that is one of the best places in Galicia to see autumn colours.
- The Garita de Herbeira, an ancient watch tower (to look out for marauding English!) sitting on top of Europe’s highest sea cliffs, which rise 2000ft out of the Atlantic to the north of Cedeira and where herds of wild horses and cattle graze amongst the forests.
- The waterfall at the start of the Rio Xallas estuary near Fisterra, the stunning and rare sight of a major river that tumbles over a cliff face to reach the sea.
Hiking and biking
According to legend the bones of St. James washed up in a stone boat at Noia and a giant cathedral was built on top of them and the surrounding city named after him, Santiago de Compostela.
However historically dubious this might be, the fact remains that for centuries in the middle ages the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was second only to Jerusalem as a Christian pilgrimage and routes from across Europe threaded their way across Spain to end in front of the cathedral and are known collectively as the Camino de Santiago.
More generally, for those wanting a shorter walk or a nice bike ride, Galicia is a region of stunning hills and valleys, and with most ridges served by forest tracks or roads and a mild climate year round almost anywhere in Galicia offers truly excellent biking and walking nearby.
Wine festivals and bodegas
Galician wine is increasingly becoming internationally recognised and over the last couple of decades a small enotourism industry has appeared.
Galicia has five denominaciones de origen:
- Rias Baixas – mostly white wine using albarino grape grown by the coast north of Pontevedra, and the most famous of the Galician denominaciones.
- Ribeira Sacra – mostly red wine using mencia grapes, but some whites too, grown on the hillsides around Ourense.
- Ribeiro – grown inland between Pontevedra and Ourense and mostly producing white wines, these wines used to be the budget alternative to Rias Baixas whites, but increasngly they are finding their own character.
- Valdeorras – a fairly small region on the south west border of Galicia that mostly grows the white godello grape but also some red varieties. Recently these have been winning awards and getting “discovered”, justifiably.
- Monterrei – a tiny region that makes a mix of complex whites usually based on godello and reds based on mencia. This region is also on its way up and it makes some really excellent and interesting wines.
For the proper Galician wine experience the thing to do is (book a hotel room within walking distance – this is very important!) and go to one of the local ferias de vino. These wine fairs are a mix of buyers from Madrid and Barcelona coming to sniff out the best wines to mark up by 500% and sell in top end restaurants, and local people coming to see what their local producers have turned out that year, and to offer loud advice and argument.
In Rias Baixas you can visit the annual Rias Baixas wine festival in Cambados, but as they charge by the glass you might want to leave this to the flocks of tourists from Madrid and instead go to one of the local ferias de vino of the Ribeira Sacra, where cynicism hasn’t been discovered yet. And for irony, what better than the one in a town called Sober?
Thermal baths / Spas
Around Ourense and Ribadavia there are various hot springs that have been used to make free, public thermal baths. There are also a number of high quality spa centres using the same springs that remain extremely cheap (eg. 6€ for 2 hours at the Japanese spa in Ourense) because of the free thermal baths nearby. If you live in Galicia over the winter, and especially if you’re living in and doing up an old rural property there really is no finer wet February day out than to go to Ourense and soak in natural hot water.
For the more adventurous there are also thermal pools made by local villagers tucked away in remote parts of the forests in the hills near Ourense.
In the other Galician cities there have also been significant grants to enable other spa hotels to be created in recent years and so there is now a wide choice of this kind of thing.
Ski-ing & snowboarding
For Galicia to really be the perfect place for all outdoor sports it would have to have some winter sports facilities …and it does! OK, you’re not going to see a world cup downhill race taking place here any time soon, but the friendly, low key Manzaneda ski resort offers some good beginner-intermediate ski-ing and boarding and a small beginner zone at the top of the mountain.
Not far over the north-east border into Asturias you can also find the San Isidro ski resort, which offers some slightly more technical runs and a bigger piste area.
For those wanting something a little bigger (and more expensive), one flight can take you to Barcelona or Bilbao for the ski resorts in the Spanish Pyrenees, or down to the south of Spain to Granada and the only ski resort with a view of Africa.
There are also daily, direct flights from Santiago to Geneva and Basel with Easyjet.