Galicia is not what you would traditionally expect from Spain. This massive region has a climate which is quite different to the year round summers of the south coast, it’s more Cornwall than Costa del Sol, with brisk, rainy winters and cool, bright summers.
The coastline is some of the most spectacular in Spain; rugged and wild, with craggy, precipitous cliffs and foaming seas which shade from deep sage to flinty grey.
Galicia’s Costa da Morte (coast of death) is so named due to the number of shipwrecks its unforgiving crags have caused. Its waters are full of life-giving nutrients for the vast array of sea life that make their home here. A bounty of mariscos (seafood) are hauled daily from its lashing waves, including huge, juicy shellfish, succulent crabs, and plentiful clams and mussels. The quality of seafood here needs to be experienced to be believed. Galicia is one of the finest and most thrilling seafood destinations in the world.
Cast your eyes inland, and you’ll discover a lush and verdant landscape of patchwork fields separated by dry stone walls. It’s green, so green, in fact, that it calls to mind countries like Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. And for good reason, Galicians share ancestry with these countries, tracing their origins back to the Celts.
The region’s traditional instrument is the gaita (bagpipe), while dozens of Celtic words can be found in the modern Galician language.
Pagan festivals and traditions are alive and well here, such as the Noche de San Juan (summer solstice), while monuments such as the 6000 year old Dolmen (standing stones) of Axeitos in the northern port city of A Coruña call to mind similar Celtic megaliths scattered across Ireland and the UK.
There is a mystical quality to Galicia; it’s a place of mossy forests and folklore, of imposing Baroque cathedrals and misty mountains as merciless as they are divine. The rustic fishing villages almost feel as though they have been frozen in time.
Perhaps this is why thousands of pilgrims each year embark on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James), an epic 500 mile trek through the region culminating at a shrine in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Listen carefully while you’re here, and you may even hear the haunted echo of Galician bagpipes echoing through the city’s medieval cobbled streets.