A Travel Guide to Galicia: Spain’s Celtic connection

Picture this: Lush green land. Rain. Beautiful coast dropping abruptly as it meets the sea, while waves crash with abandon against steep cliffs. Somewhere far away you hear bagpipes. What comes to the mind? You would be forgiven to think that you are somewhere in the Scottish highlands. But you need to shift your focus about 2,500 kilometres south to Spain’s north-western autonomous community: Galicia. 

Galicia is supposed to be one of the lesser known Celtic nations of the world, the more famous ones being Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Isle of Man. It is not a high priority for many foreign tourists visiting Spain- certainly not if they are visiting for the first time. Somehow, the absence of bulls, flamenco, searing heat or beach resorts with English speaking staff do not really entice your typical tourist into visiting this area. But if you do decide to venture off the usual tourist path, you will most definitely not be disappointed. 

Bagpipes, known in local language Gallego as ‘gaitas’ are an integral part of Galicia’s folk music. Pictured above is a man dressed in traditional clothing, playing music at Praia das Catedrais.

Itinerary and practical information

I based myself in Ribadeo and Santiago de Compostela, and from there I took day trips to the rest of the places.

In Santiago de Compostela, you can find a number of day tour operators who can take you on a guided tour along Rías Baixas. You can either enquire about them in Santiago’s Tourism Office, or often you can also see them giving out pamphlets in front of the cathedral in Praza do Obradoiro.

Recommended trip length and when to go

Around 1 to 1.5 weeks would be my recommendation, but that is easily modifiable depending on your circumstances.
Summer months (June, July, August) guarantee the sunniest weather and the coast is the best place to be. July and August are also peak months, so expect to splurge.
Spring (April, May) and autumn (September) are shoulder seasons, and you could explore the interior of Galicia, whilst still enjoying a good walk along the coast.
Avoid winter. The weather will be gloomy and so will you.

How to get to Galicia

  • By air: The cities of Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and A Coruña have international airports and serve as excellent bases to start your Galician adventure. They’re not the biggest airports in Spain, so you’ll need to double check if there’s a direct connection from your place of origin or not.
  • By land: Spain has an extensive public transport system, and you can get to Galicia using trains or buses from practically any part of Spain.
    • For trains, I use RENFE, but there’s also the option of FEVE trains that connect the northern coast.
    • For buses, I almost always rely on ALSA, when undertaking an inter-regional journey.
    • Use websites such as OMIO, Rome2Rio and Busbud to look at your options and book.
    • Another option is going to the bus or train station to check out the timetables and buying your ticket there. Depending on the day, you might even be able to reserve a seat for the same day.

How to move around in Galicia

The easiest way to access the best of the coast would be by using a car. Buses form another excellent alternative option. ALSA covers most routes, although there are a number of private bus companies that are especially good at connecting different villages to cities. Using Omio, Rome2Rio or Busbud should provide you with plenty of sufficient options. As mentioned before, an alternative option to buy tickets is to go physically to a bus station.

Where to stay

The top 3 websites that I use to book any accommodation anywhere are: Booking, AirBnB and Hostelworld. Keep in mind that smaller villages will not have AirBnb and hostels available, but you should be able to find hotels at very reasonable prices.

  • For my stay in Santiago de Compostela, I was able to book an AirBnb for 16 Euros per day, very close to the city centre.
  • For my stay in Ribadeo, I booked Hotel Santa Cruz through Booking.com. It’s a no-frills, basic hotel but quite clean and comfortable nevertheless. The breakfast is massive, the owner/ receptionist speaks excellent English and the staff is very helpful and always smiling! What else do you need?

Important links

Navigate the post

Page 2– Travel guide of the Galician coast
Page 3– Travel guide of Santiago de Compostela
Page 4– Travel guide of Galician food

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