It is unbelievable how many unique and magnificent spots lie in the territory of Galicia. It is mostly know for Santiago de Compostella but you would never believe how many natural wonders are there to discover, like one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Playa de las Catedrales. Spain is unbelievably diverse country, each region has to offer different ladscape, traditions and amazing cuisine, which along the Galician coast is based on fish and seafood. Spanish people are usually very polite, Madrid differs a bit but Galicia will welcome you with open arms. Gentle nature of people, who deeply treasure regional culture, makes you feel comfortable and friendly. I decided to travel through Galicia, mostly by train, as the train network is really well developed in Spain. Besides you need to remember the distances are bigger that in most European countries. I flew to Lisbon and traveled north to Vigo:
My route in Galicia: Vigo – Santiago de Compostella – Cies Islands – A Coruna – Ribadeo – Playa de Las Catedrales – Bilbao. This path showed me the real scenery of Galician people slow lifestyle. I had no idea how many amaizing things are there to see and that the Cies Islands region is called the last remaining paradise in Europe. I enjoyed every single part of the trip! I traveled by train and walked long distances on foot. You feel incredibly safe, people are lovely, warm and helpful. Almost nobody speaks English but hey – sometimes it’s even more fun and integrating to communicate without words. One of the best things in Galicia are small cafererias, where you’ll get to drink a wonderfuly strong coffee and eat delicious local tapas for breakfast /usually tortilla ;)/.
Cies Islands – Europe’s paradise!
I really need to start with Cies Islands. It’s absolutely extraordinary that such virgin piece of land remains in Europe. If you are looking to put yourself in a middle of biodiversity, wildlife along with stunning white sandy beaches this is your destination. To keep this piece of Spain unspoiled the number of visitors per day is limited to 2000. Spain did a great job here protecting the area and developing eco-toursm. What’s more you need to get a permission to get to the islands, which you will require while booking a ferry ticket. The Archipelago is made up of 3 big islands: Monteagudo, O Faro and San Martino. The first two are linked with a tine piece of sand which is called Rhodes Beach – the most spectacular beach and crystal water in Europe. This is where the harbour is. Here are few daily ferries to Cies Islands departing from Vigo, Cangas and Baiona and they all arrive at Monteagudo (the Northern one). When you get off from the boat you’ll see the area map with all hiking routes. Take a photo of it to enjoy different trails. The longest trail leads to a lighthouse located on the hill on the west end of the island (3.5km one way). It’s a light treking. You can check all routs’ lenght on the photo below. The ocean view from the top is just breathtaking. Boats schedule (2019) and trekking trails below. Very important: The boats will not operate in case of a bad weather! Also – if you want to take an earlier or a later ferry it’s not possible to change a ticket on the island but you go straight to the captain to ask, they will take you if the boat is not sull. During high season the islands are crowded but I was there in June and there was no problem with getting to the ferry. I spent full day on the island and it was enough for me but I guess spending a night in Cies Islands definitely must be spectacular.
Now, you need to obtain an authorisation to travel to Cies islands from here: https://autorizacionillasatlanticas.xunta.gal/illasr/inicio?lang=en . You will need an authorisation code to travel to Cies Islands. Camping (the only available accommodation on the island) might require an authorisation from you as well.
From the moment you have requested an authorisation you have 2 hours to book a ferry ticket with one of the official ferry companies. This is to avoid issuing authorisations that will not be used. If you did not make to book your ferry ticket no reason to worry you can apply again for an authorisation. You can cancell your ticket to Cies Islands in advance by going to the authorisation website and cancelling your authorisation first, after receiving a confirmation for this you can contact a ferry company to cancell the ticket too. NOT all ferry companies allow cancellations! I guess Piartes ferries (www.piratasdenabia.com) does not accept any cancellations. I traveled with Mar de Ons and can recommend this ferry company.
Sleeping in Cies Islands.
The only place where you can stay overnight in Cies Islands is a Camping. You can hire a tent or a tent space if you carry one. You need to book it in advance. If you haven’t booked an overnight place you will need to go back the same day. It’s not allowed to stay overnight anywhere else in the islands. The camping is well maintained and offers all the facilities you need: laundry service, showers, cafeteria. There is a nice bar in the harbour too/at the Playa de Rodas but I would advise to take your own food, snacks and plenty of water! You will also need to bring all your trash back to the mainland. Don’t forget to bring sunlotion! And watch out for birds they can fancy your food as well 😉
Roads to Santiago de Compostella.
El Camino de Santiago – on of the most popular trails taken by thousands of pilgrims every year from all Europe /Camino was an ancient pilgrimage route/. Thereare number of trekking trails leading to Santiago and majority of them start in Portugal. The oldest is the Norther Way which beagins in Porto Cathedral and leads through amazing historic spots – Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valencia. Central Portuguese Way starts in Lisbon Cathedral and follows via Alverca, Vila Franca de Xira, Santarem, Golega, Tomar, Coimbra (visit Monastery of Santa Clara), Rabacal, Mealhade, Albergaie a Vella, Grijo, Porto and Santiago de Compostella. If you are short with time it is also easily accessible from Vigo by train. No matter how you reach this destination it is a rewarding trip, it’s an experience that combines adventure and spirituality. The town offers many plesant restaurants and taverns with delicious local cuisine and magnificent Catherdal de Santiago, situated on the Plaza del Obradoiro. Don’t miss The Casa do Cabildo, Baroque architecture house and Hostal de los Reyes Católicos.
Vigo – it’s an old big port. It takes an hour to get from Vigo to Santiago de Compostella by train. You can easily do it in one day and trust me it gives you enough time to visit most of the museums in Santiago. The main Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella.
After this exciting place I took a train to A Coruna to spend a night there and leave in the morning to reach Ribadeo for one of the most amazing beaches in the world – Playa de Cathedrales! As it was lashing in A Coruna I have stayed in the old town to hit one of the bars, brilliant atmosphere and whisky. 😉 Next morning I went straight to Coruna Estacion (bus station) to find a bus to Ribadeo. This seemed to be pretty straighforward, as I even got a schedule to find out my bus will leave in an hour. Although the bus was dispalyed on a screen on the beginning it all began to change over next hour. After 2 hours I had to quickly come up with a plan B, as my bus was never there and now I had to take one to Lugo to swap for another one to Robadeo. What I’m trying to say here is that as far as trains network is well developed, the buses seem to run whenever they want and how they want. Arriva was the name of the transportation company. For all * Solo DOMINGO (Sunday). Local mini buses operate on route Viveiro – Foz – Berreiros – Ribadeo. ALSA and AVIVA are big coaches that operate on long distances: A Coruna – Lugo – Santander – Bilbao. Note times differ from MOn-Friday & weekends/holidays.
My Casa Brais was located in Barreiros – 5 km from Playa de las Catedrales. The house, the owners were amazing!! This place will be always reccomended by me to anyone. Nice and quiet surrounding eith a lovely back garden.
Playa de las Catedrales – the Beach of Holy Waters.
Always check the tide before you go to Playa de Cathedrales and be aware it might change during the day. The beach disappears completely when the water returns. There’s a tourist information near the beach where you can get some maps. There’s going to be hunderds of people, especially during weekend. But have good news too – walk further through the water where almost nobody walks, the coast offers stunning cliffs, natural arches and sea caves. Playa de las catedrales offers one of the most unusual geological rock formations. It is officialy called Praia se Augas Santas – Beach of Holy Waters. I took a 5km walk to the beach, to stop at the small caffees to try some tapas among local people, who gather in the place since early morning. I ordered coffee and got tortilla for free, leaving a good tip, as the whole bill was… 1 Euro!!
Ribadeo town and Galicia cuisine!
Ribadeo is a lovely town, located in Spanish province of Lugo in Galicia with a population of only 10k people. Take a walk to the harbour to find cosy restaurants with a great sea view. Always ask for plato del dia /dish of the day/. It’s very popular in whole Spain and available almost in every restaurant. Fresh, chef’s speciality. Things you need to try from a local cuisine: Pimientos del Padron – fried salted green small peppers – delicious!! Empanada Casera – homemade patty. Pulpo – octopus is very popular in Galicia.
More to read about Spain: https://freestyletraveling.com/around-barcelona/