Top 10 Reasons to Visit Spain’s Best Kept Secret: Galicia
By: Ali Berlinski
- It’s a foodie’s paradise- unless you’re allergic to seafood, in which case, stay far-far away for the Galicia diet consists of almost 100% mercury. Clams Casino? Try Scallops Casino. Are you drooling yet? You should be.
While San Sebastian is Spain’s prized food capital every Spaniard will tell you that the best food in Spain is found in Galicia. Here you’ll find food fit to please just about anyone including: kings, adventurous travelers, or even your picky grandma. Just to give you an idea of what the Galicia diet includes:
King crabs, prawns, razor clams, cockles, fried peppers from Padrón, raxo (meat marinated in garlic and white wine), empanada, and of course octopus.
Pulpo a Feria, or Party Octopus, is one of Spain’s national dishes and is a Galician specialty. I can assure you, it’s truly a party in your mouth.
Another interesting yet delicious regional food is queso de tetilla, or tit cheese, appropriately named since it looks like a boob.
Oh and did I mention they’re also famous for their liquor? After dinner it’s customary to have a round of shots such as liquor de café and crema de orujo, an alcohol similar to Kahlua.
- Here you will find everlasting youth-
It’s true, the fountain of youth exists and it’s here in Galicia. The thermal baths in Galicia are well known in Spain. According to Galicians, their mineral waters are famous for their healing powers and can treat anything from indigestion to the dreaded kidney stone.
Even more exciting, some of the thermal baths in Galicia are public, meaning free. However, for a small nominal fee you also can opt for a private bathhouse or balneario, where you can spend up to 3 hours soaking in as much of the magic water as you like.
Last time I only paid 5 euros. I had so much money left over that I decided to get a massage. However, it being Carnival, my masseuse was dressed as a bumble-bee.
- You’ll meet beautiful people such as this man-Mario Casas:
You’re drooling again aren’t you? Yes, he’s from Galicia and there’s more where he came from. Hey, some eye candy never hurt anyone, right? Joking aside, Galician culture is filled with interesting people.
Ever see the film The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) starring Javier Bardem? It won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The film is based on the life of Galician writer Ramon Sampedro, who became a quadriplegic at the age of 25 when he suffered from a freak diving accident near his hometown. After writing his book, Letters From Hell, Sampedro became famous for his work as a euthanasia activist.
Galicia is also where Amancio Ortega is from, you know, the 5th richest man in the world and owner of Indetex or Zara, as we know it in the U.S. That’s right. Similar to Starbucks in New York City, Indetex stores can be found peppered all over Galicia. Oh yeah, Adolfo Domínguez is also from Galicia. So if you like fashion or shopping, Galicia is definitely the place to come.
Las Marias are another staple in Galician culture. Before being immortalized as statues in Santigao de Compostela, The Marias were two sisters who loved to getting dressed up in bright colors, wearing heavy makeup, and parading around town. This was during the Franco era, when women were encouraged to be modest and wear black. Some say they were prostitutes, others say they were just crazy, and then there are those who maintain the Marias were just two feisty women, trying to raise moral. Either way, expect to meet a character or two on your trip here. However, beware, Galicia is also the birthplace of several dictators such as Franco and Castro.
- You’ll be able to say that you’ve traveled to the end of the world. Literally.
Back in the 1500’s Finisterre was believed to be the end of the world. Hence it’s name Finisterre, which in Latin literally means end of the earth. The small town is located along the beautiful Coasta da Morte (Death Coast), a landscape that screams Polaroid moment. Thus it’s perfect for photographers or even camera-happy parents looking for their next family’s vacation. Just make sure you don’t swim in its waters as they are littered with shipwrecks. Hey, they don’t call it Death Coast for nothing.
- You can say you’ve been to the world’s most beautiful beach.
Islas Cies and Islas Ons, two small islands off the coast of Galicia, were dubbed Spain’s most beautiful beaches by USA Today http://traveltips.usatoday.com/beautiful-beach-location-spain-107427.html
and the most beautiful beach in the world by The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007/feb/16/beach.top10
Why go to overpriced, overrated, and touristy Ibiza? Cies and Ons are the perfect getaway. I met my current boyfriend of 2 years while on a camping trip to Islas Cies. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for romance, I don’t know what is? Just be careful not to disturb the seagulls if you go toward the end of May. It’s their nesting period and they’re really protective of their eggs. Otherwise, it offers lots of secluded beaches and nature activities.
- You can walk here, making your mode of transportation not only cheap but spiritual.
For those of you who haven’t seen Martin Sheen’s film The Way, allow me to fill you in on the reason 90% of tourists come to Galicia, to make a pilgrimage. Every Spring people start showing up from all over the world and bringing with them, really ugly feet. It’s not their fault; they’ve been walking for days on end and for over hundreds of kilometers, just to get to Galicia. Traditionally, the pilgrimage was a spiritual journey for Catholics, a way to make penance. However, these days, people of all faiths have been known to make the journey. While there are many ways to do the pilgrimage, most choose to end their journey at the St James Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
I know what you’re wondering- why on Earth would people walk for days just to get to Galicia? Like I said, it’s just that amazing.
- Calling all history buffs! Galicia’s your playground.
Here are just a few of the historical things Galicia offers:
- Megalithic Sites- The Menhir of Ribeiro dates way back, and is surrounded by other interesting sites such as medieval churches, monasteries, and wineries.
- Hercules Tower –Located in Coruña, it’s the oldest functioning lighthouse in history.
- Wall of Lugo- See the only complete, standing Roman wall in the world. The wall surrounds the quaint city of Lugo and measures 2km.
- Castro de Baroña- Ruins from an old Celtic settlement placed on a cliff top. Though be warned, a hike is involved to see these beautiful Celtic circles.
- Galicians know how to party-
A party is never a party in Spain without fire. Around the end of June, Galicians celebrate the festival of San Juan. At night, people light the bon fires all along the beach and the air fills with the smell of grilled sardines from local vendors. To be sure, it’s an experience we Westerners could ever get back home. Only in Spain would it be considered a good idea to put drunk people on a beach and encourage them to jump over a large fire three times, for good luck. FYI, there is no public bathroom, just the open sea.
And if that weren’t enough, at the beginning of August you have the Albariño Festival, where you tie a cup around your neck and drink delicious white Albariño wine all weekend. Then in mid-August there’s the Water Festival in Pontevedra, which is essentially a giant water fight. When it comes to this water fight, everybody wins!
- You can be a country mouse and a city mouse at the same time.
When you’re here, you can enjoy both the city and the outdoors. Come surf at our world renown beaches. Go hiking or biking in our green foothills and mountains. Sail through the River Sil or Miño and discover Galicia’s wine country. Visit beautiful natural landscapes like Praias da Catedrales, giant rocks which have been eroded by the sea for thousands of years forming what appears to be cathedral made of rocks. Then go to a tavern in town, have tapas, drink, dance and mingle with the locals. Just don’t expect them to speak English.
- See sights not tourists
Much like my beloved Brooklyn, Galicia is the next big thing. Right now, Galicia is not a popular tourist destination, making accomodations easy to get and affordable. Plus, if you come here you won’t have to deal with hoards of pesky tourists or worse, tourists traps.
So if you’re still unsure whether you want to come, I say, don’t. I rather enjoy that it‘s Spain’s best kept secret. It allows Galicia to remain unspoiled and authentic, ensuring that I can enjoy it just as it is, for years to come. Just don’t say I didn’t tell you so!
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Contest Comments » There are 5 comments
I live in Galicia, I love Galicia... and I can speak a little English, like much people in "big" cities... but our English is pretty bad. Galicia have more and more things that most people can't believe in a small place. Yes, i thing you are pretty right with the first 10, but I can say that there are a lot of beaches, river beaches, very kindly people, home food in almost every small restaurant, (hundred of restaurants), you don't have to pay 4 € for a good coffee. In Coruña you can go shopping too, to the third bigger commercial center of Europe (Ikea, elcorteingles, worten, karting, inditex ... lots of shops, 3000 cars parking) All the coast is beautiful and is not plenty of people, you can go over the coast from beach to beach, even nudist beaches (less, but some). And... one thing... we are very much technological ... in Spain we used to have better phones than EU in the past, 8 years ago, because the kind of protocol we used. Now it's the same, I think, so you can use yours, but some EU people think that we are in the stone age... and when the came... they think.. OH... that’s like my country... ... ... but better... :-) We had a "supercomputer" that was the second of the world... 8 years ago, so you haven’t to expect only a rural world here, it's so much. You'll never know if you don't come. :-)
Great list! I think I have checked them all off except for meeting Mario Casas. Oh well, I have a couple more months!
which is better and cheaper San Sebastian or Galacia..please help..
As galician I only can say thanks, thanks a lot for this article.