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Flag of GaliciaGalicia

Galicia has four provinces:

This region, occupying the extreme north western corner of the peninsula and called Finis Terrae by the Romans who believed it to be the westermost land in the world, was widely known in the Middle Ages thanks to the Route of St. James, the principal pilgrimage route in Europe. A mountainous, wet region, its jagged coastline is especially noteworthy. It is formed by a succession of inlets, or rias, wide, rocky estuaries and is rich in seafood. Galicia has a culture all its own a rich folkloric tradition its own language, Galician.

Pontevedra Corunna (A Coruña) is the largest Galician city. Of historically remote origins, it has preserved a considerable heritage of monuments and old buildings, among which are Romanesque churches and Roman lighthouse. Its most beautiful and original feature is perhaps the characteristic façade on its houses, which are completely covered by mirador windows.

Santiago de Compostela, is the current capital of Galicia and one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. The old world famous centre of European pilgrimage, its Romanesque cathedral, with a grandiose Baroque façade, constitutes the centre of life in Santiago. The city has many other interesting buildings, such as the Old University, the Romanesque Collegiate Church of Santa Maria del Sar, the Gelmirez Palace and the magnificent Reyes Catolicos Hotel, currently a luxurious tourist hotel, or Parador.

Lugo, the capital of the province of the same name, has preserved all of its Roman walls and a beautiful Romanesque cathedral.

Orense (Ourese) located inland, also has a beautiful Romanesque cathedral.

Pontevedra, on the headland on the ria that carries its name is a serene, tranquil city with beautiful arcaded buildings.

Vigo is the second largest city in Galicia and the regions most important port. Despite spectacular growth, the city's old Quarter has maintained.

The Galician coast begins at Vegadeo or more precisely at the bridge which spans the river. The first of the Rias Altas or Upper Estuaries furnishes the traveller with a rather comprehensive idea of the scenery which awaits him from here until the Costa de la Muerte and Cabo de Finisterre, where the Rias Bajas or Lower Estuaries begin. Ribadeo is an old port city which descends sharply from its Plaza Mayor to the dock area. Just as in so many other towns along this coast, its true charm lies more in its atmosphere which continues to float through the steep streets, rather than in its monumental possessions. It would be superfluous to call the traveller's attention to the beauty of Ribadeo's surroundings.

And from here and until Viveiro, the trip transpires through eucalyptus forests, corn fields and meadows though the sea is forever present. In this section, the coast is lined with some very beautiful beaches, which are never very crowded and can be reached by any of the side roads which cut off from the main coastal highway. Viveiro at the foot of an estuary has a lovely maritime esplanade of glass-enclosed façades and an important medieval church which combines Romanesque and Gothic elements. Passing by the Covas beach and without leaving the coastline, the traveller will soon reach the Area Longa beach, sheltered from the winds and very close to Estaca de Bares. The northernmost point of the Peninsula offers a truly magnificent panorama.

Backtracking along our route to El Barqueiro, the trip continues amidst almost untouched landscape to the Ladredo estuary, a small sandy cove included in that of Santa Marta. The main town here -also in this case, protected from the ocean by the winding route of the coast- is Ortigueira, a town of great rural charm. At the mouth of the Ria and enveloped in an unmistakable seafaring atmosphere is Cariño, which also deserves a visit. It is unnecessary to call the traveller's attention to the beauty of the empty beaches of sparkling white sand, which alternate with the cliffs and reefs, forming the coastline.

In order to reach Cedeira, one must return to Mera and skirt the Sierra de la Capelada, a place of wild beauty which the traveller should not miss. Cedeira is a town of peaceful vacations and glassed-in façades. The Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar and the landscape are the most interesting aspects of this town. Before we continue South, we suggest to the traveller another turn off, in order to discover the beautiful landscape of the peninsula which is formed from the Ortegal Cape, and one of the most interesting Sanctuaries of Galicia: San Andres de Teixido. The road runs along a cornice between forests and meadows, inhabited only by wild horses, and the ever present sea. The Sanctuary is a little more than a small temple set on a pedestal of cliffs in which the ocean frequently gives signs of its mercilessness. The alms collectors, amulets and votive offerings in the event that we coincide with a pilgrimage, the ambience filled with a rural piety which appears to have come straight out of the Middle Ages, all make San Andres de Teixido a place of great charm and enchantment.

The mountainous landscape extends beyond Cedeira to the proximity's of the El Ferrol Estuary. When we reach Valdoviño, we should stop in order to admire the lagoons and sand dunes and the nearby beach of Frouxeira. Lovers of solitary and rugged landscapes should turn off at the entrance to El Ferrol in the direction of Cabo Prior and the surrounding beaches. El Ferrol is one of those orderly and austere cities which arose in the 18th century from the shadows of the spirit of the Enlightenment. Today, it is the seat of an important industrial center which extends to the shores of the estuary. From here and until La Coruña, the irregular horizons cede the way to one of the areas of greatest historical importance in Galicia: monasteries, castles and ancient cities replace isolated villages. The national highway brings the traveller promptly to Pontedeume, a village of steep streets that has known how to conserve its medieval atmosphere, which envelops the Keep of the Andrade castle. If the traveller arrives on Saturday he will be able to get to know o Feiron, a market which sells cheese, bread and freshly cooked octopus.

Miño is a summer resort area set on a broad beach. Near it, the very narrow Ria begins, with the city of Betanzos, one of Galicias most beautiful towns. A medieval gateway marks the entrance to the city centre, the heart of a city of porticoes and galleries, which has remained unchanged over the centuries.

Near the Plaza Mayor, which is called O Campo and which is the site selected for the noisy fairs, a small monumental centre of great interest is found. We should draw the traveller's attention to the Church of Santa Maria del Azogue and its valuable sculpture collection on display in its naves. We can only mention ever so briefly, because of our limited space, that this church also contains the tomb of Fernan Perez de Andrade, a personage of major importance in Galicia's history.

A good national highway runs from here to La Coruña. However, perhaps we should recommend a detour to Sada, an old fishermen's village, converted into a summer resort area, as has been the case with the major part of this sector of the coast. Very close by Sada is the Pazo de Meiras, built in the past century for the Countess of Pardo Bazan. The highway makes its entrance into La Coruña a little farther on.

It is difficult to summarise here the highly personalised charm of this old, refined port city, whose romantic influence was inherited from its seafaring past and its literary references. Between the Darsena -that maritime esplanade of lovely façades which make up the most traditional image of La Coruña - the old quarter, the Garden of San Carlos (enclosed within a fortification) and the Torre de Hercules (Tower), the city offers a very cosy ambience which attracts loyal admiration from its visitors. The traveller should be sure to pay a visit to La Coruña's historic centre in an unrushed manner and stop before some of its outstanding buildings as the Church of Santiago, the Pazo de Cornide or the Palace which houses its military headquarters. As for the Torre de Hercules, despite the legends which associate its construction with a mythical Celtic king Breogan, we should say that it is really a well-conserved Roman structure.

To the South of La Coruña is the Costa de la Muerte (Coast of Death), a section of the littoral of overwhelming beauty. Its name refers to the many storms and shipwrecks which have occurred here throughout history and also the risks involved in the capturing of the highly prized percebes of goose barnacles. The sea is feared here by the inhabitants and yet it is something which forms a very major part of their lives. Many a lovely tale or legend has been told about the existence of mermaids and other unusual sea creatures in these dark waters.

Cayon, our first stop, is a fishermen's village set on a tiny peninsula. The regional highways lead to Carballo and from there to an encounter with the sea at Malpica, another graded port city with a good beach. From here, we should head for Cabo de San Adrian, a lonely place from which one can a glimpse of the Sisargas Islands. Ponteceso is located at the foot of an estuary which assures the safety of its fishing fleet. And on the way to Laxe, we can take a short detour to visit the Dolmen of Dombate, a fine example of Galicia's rich prehistoric patrimony.

In Laxe, one should visit the 14th century parish church of Santiago and the broad beach with its lighthouse at the very tip.

Camariñas also deserves a visit. It is a seafaring village but on this occasion, we must out two outstanding features: the first would be the city landscape, quite different from the neighbouring towns because the residents use pastel colours the paint the socles of their homes. Secondly, if the weather permits, the female inhabitants, the palilleiras (lace makers), can be seen sitting outside their homes making bobbin lace in the traditional manner.

Skirting the estuary we pass by Cereixo, with its beautiful Romanesque church and a 17th century pazo (country manor). Muxia, opposite Camariñas, is also a place which requires a compulsory visit. Muxia is a small medieval burg on the sea which does not lack for fine mansions with striking coats of arms. Standing tall against the horizon and the ocean is the Church of Santa Maria, a Sanctuary of seafaring devotions, particularly when fishing trips become dangerous adventures. Before the church, is the pedra dos cadris, a rock which, according to tradition, has prophetic powers if one is able to interpret its movements, resulting from the rock's unsteady position on the ground. The next stop is Corcubion and Finisterre. Before we arrive, however, we should point out that the real Finis Terrae ("End of the World") is located at the Touriñan cape, farther north and west of the town of Finisterrre. A regional highway which starts out from the road connecting Muxia and Corcubion leads to that wild and lovely place. Corcubion is city which skirts an estuary and features an interesting medieval church. On the road to Finisterre Lighthouse, the Alangosteira beach and the small fishing port (with another 12th century church) also deserve a stop. And finally the lighthouse is one of those mythical places which is always enchanting. Beaten and lashed by the four winds, it makes up a very majestic image very much in accordance with the fact that for many centuries it was considered "The End of the World".

Returning to the open sea, after skirting the Corcubion estuary, we discover El Pindo, an unusually shaped hill where the Celts were said to have their Olympus. During the Middle Ages, it was a sacred site for pagan worship. Carnota has a broad beach and an 18th century Horreo (granary) which is thought to be the largest in all Galicia. Farther ahead, the roadway makes its way to the Estuary of Muros and Noya, the first of the Rias Bajas.

Muros conserves intact all of the beauty of its porticoed streets and its medieval traced labyrinth, presided over by a lovely Romanesque church. Continuing along the Ria, with the mountains as a backdrop, the road follows to Noya where the traveller should take the time to visit the town's valuable collection of monuments. The first stop here should be the cemetery of the Romanesque church of Santa Maria, with an interesting series of tombstones marked with the signs of the different guilds existing between the 10th and the 16th centuries. There is also a medieval cross and a small 16th century temple. The complex made up of the Church of San Francisco, the Town Council and the noble buildings which surround the Church of San Martin are Noya's main attractions.

The road to Santa Eugenia de Riveira reveals some very beautiful and solitary landscape. If we venture along the back roads, the traveller will discover magnificent beaches along the entire coast to Cabo Corrubedo, where there is a beautiful strip of sand dunes. Santa Eugenia de Riveira marks the entrance to the Arosa Estuary which is densely populated, particularly in summer by vacationing tourists. From here to Bayona, the route unfolds amidst summer resort areas, where the scenery loses it previous ruggedness. On the other hand, the traveller is compensated with a greater artistic offering, found in the feudal palaces, known here as Pazos. When we reach Puebla (or Poboa) del Caramiñal, the traveller will discover beside the roadway a beautiful 15th century pazo -that of Las Torres Xunquiras- in which martial notes combine in a unique manner with a palatial refinement. In the city centre, is another palace, the Casa Grande, dating back to the 16th and 18th centuries.

Heading towards Padron, the highway passes Rianxo on the right, an old port city with the Gothic Church of Santa Comba and a 17th century pazo. This town can also be proud of the fact that it was the birthplace of Castelao, a poet who, together with Rosalia de Castro, represented the true spirit of Galicia. Rosalia's birthplace is very close to Padron. Before we enter the city, we should know that according to a popular legend of the Middle Ages, while the Apostle St. James sailed up the Ulloa river, he preached a sermon to the salmon which escorted his ship. He told them to rejoice at their destiny: that of satiating the hunger of the Christian stomachs. In Padron's church of Santiago (St. James) a rock is kept below the altar (archaeologists consider it a Roman lapida) which according to the aforementioned legend was said to have been used to moor St. James vessel. Padron can also boast of some fine buildings and a well-conserved city centre. Santiago de Compostela is very close by and is an absolute must on any journey through Galicia. But for the moment we will continue along our route through the Rias Bajas.

Crossing a medieval bridge which spans the Ulla River, we come to Pontecesures, with some fine architecture. At this point, the traveller should leave the main highway which heads for Pontevedra and follow the local road which skirts the estuary and passes by such lovely towns as Cambados and La Toja. In Catoira, the ruins of seven Pre-Roman towers are conserved. These fortifications were built and destroyed successively by Romans, Vikings, and also be the powerful Santiago de Compostela Bishop. A little farther on is the island of Cortegada, followed by Villagarcia de Arosa. Famous author Valle Inclan was born in Villanueva de Arosa and his birthplace is still standing. The Island of Arosa has fine beaches and some very lovely scenery.

The Pazo of Fefiñanes, a magnificent 16th century building, appears on the right as we enter the city of Cambados, noted for its monumental wealth. The Church of Santa Mariña in ruins, the Pazo of Bazan (converted into a tourism Parador) and the Pazo of Santo Tome are the most outstanding places of interest in this town, which is very proud of its young, white Albariño wine. It appears that the wine stocks were brought over to Spain by the pilgrims, on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The island of La Toja - the next stop on our route - closes off a small cove of peaceful waters. It continues to display that somewhat affected elegance which was so typical of the 19th century health resorts. On the other side of the bridge and at the mouth of the estuary is O Grove, a famous fishing port, noted for its delicious seafood catches. Near here is the La Lanzada beach, whose shores were related to ancient fertility rites.

In Sangenjo, the traveller enters the Pontevedra estuary. From here and until Combarro, the summer vacation spots alternate with the fishermen's homes, the horreos, the cruceiros (typical crosses) and a peaceful rural landscape. As soon as we become familiar with Combarro, the traveller should head for the Monastery of Poyo, a medieval building with a fine Baroque church. Pontevedra is very close by and naturally deserves an unrushed visit. Its old quarter contains a lovely collection of simple monuments, with the added attraction of their location, amidst a charming and cosy setting which appears to belong to a distant and more peaceful epoch. The Church of La Peregrina (the Pilgrimess) and the Convent of San Francisco preside over the main square, which a network of narrow medieval streets extend. The loveliest corner is indeed the tiny square of La Leña. The Church of Santa Maria, that of the Convent of Santa Clara and the Plaza del Tuecro are "musts".

Once again we should reject the shortest and most direct route - in this case, the fast motorway to Vigo - in order to make our way through the Peninsula del Morrazo, passing by Bueu, with its lovely scenic view, in order to reach Cangas de Morrazo, an old fishing port located at the mouth of the Vigo estuary. Moaña has a lovely little church of Romanesque origin, though it was restored in the 18th century. From here we should continue around the Vilaboa cove and from Arcade, follow the road which leads to the Soutomaior castle, a beautiful medieval fortress which belonged the Count of Camiña, an aristocrat, with a rather turbulent past. In Vigo, the traveller should head directly for its old quarter, which is naturally found beside the port area. After we wander through the old streets which surround the Collegiate Church, we should climb up to the castle which crowns the El Castro park in order to take in its lovely view.

Upon leaving Vigo, the coast becomes a succession of beaches, which are all very crowded during the summer months. Close by, but outside of the estuary zone, is Bayona, a fishing village which has managed to maintain its ancient appearance despite the fact that it is also a popular summer resort. In addition to the old quarter and an excellent beach, Bayona has a magnificent fortress (converted into a Tourism Parador) which crowns Monte Real, enjoying a splendid view. Its history is filled with pirate episodes, wars and the fact that it was the first place to learn of the discovery of America for one of Columbus' caravels laid anchor in the tiny bay.

From here until La Guardia the highway runs along a solitary coastline, battered by the strong Atlantic winds. The trip ends with the Ascent of the Santa Tecla Hill, standing high above the Miño estuary and on the gentle rolling landscape, covered with vineyards. A well-conserved Celtic castro is found on the slopes of the hill, with a reconstructed dwelling which helps the visitor to imagine the lifestyle of that remote people whose basic characteristics helped to mould the identity of old Galicia and in general, the greater part of the North of Spain. There could certainly be no better way to end our lengthy journey along this coastline of very beautiful horizons. Here is a land which owes a great deal to its own past and which, at times, seems to have become lost, even today, in that same cloudy and primitive tranquillity which enveloped our world, before history began to leave its heavy mark on Mother Nature.

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