In 2011, Galicia welcomed almost 9.5 million visitors, consolidating its position as one of the leading tourist destinations in Spain. Although the tourism industry took longer to flourish in Galicia than in Spain’s eastern regions, the number of visitors that travel to Galicia is growing by the year, thanks to distinguishing values such as the Way of St. James, with destination Santiago de Compostela, and the quality and authenticity of Galician cuisine.
With facilities to accommodate 123,885 travellers, Galicia has an extensive and varied offer of hotels, hostels and guesthouses, over one hundred (115) campsites (for over 34,793 travellers) and 593 Rural Tourism accommodations. This potential positions Galicia as the fourth Spanish region in terms of the number of hotel establishments, behind the Balearic Islands, Andalusia and Catalonia, and the seventh in Spain in terms of the number of rooms (behind the aforementioned autonomous communities, the Canary Islands, Valencia and Madrid). Pontevedra is the fifth Spanish province in terms of hotel establishments.
Galicia overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. Its rich 2,000-year-old history is immediately perceived during a visit to this beautiful region. A visit to these lands in north-western Spain makes for a unique adventure packed with tradition, lush scenery and beautiful cities. Galicia neutralizes the borders between land and sea, and both elements merge over 1,300 kilometres of coast, which is home to 772 beaches and their traditional estuaries, or rias, which are navigable all year round.
Travellers can suss out the secrets of the enigmatic fortified settlements, or castros, with their interesting citadels, as they learn about the Celts, the ancient inhabitants of these fascinating granitic constructions (the castros in Baroña [Porto do Son], Viladonga [Castro de Rei] and Santa Tegra [A Guarda] are particularly well-preserved). Visitors should also explore Gallaecia, Roman Galicia. Lugo’s magnificent city walls still stand proud today. This unique circular construction has a 2,200-metre perimeter that survives intact since the 3rd century. This exceptional structure was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000.
Visitors will immediately notice that there is something different about Galicia, a fertile land with a close connection to the Celts.
Galicia is also known as the land of the thousand rivers, many of which flow down from the mountain ranges of Os Ancares, O Courel and Pena Trevinca (with elevations well over 1,800 metres). Father Miño crosses Galicia from north-east to south-west placidly flowing down to the Portuguese border. The river courses are as varied as the scenery, with sights as impressive as the Sil Canyons in the Ribeira Sacra area, watered by river Miño’s main tributary, where visitors can enjoy a pleasant catamaran trip contemplating the plunging slopes and admiring the vineyards.
Galicia flows into the sea from the river estuaries. The Lower and Upper Rias melt into the landscape, creating an unparalleled site for practising Water Tourism activities. There are 17 blue-flag ports: Ribadeo Yacht Club, Ría de Ares Yacht Club, Sada Yacht Club, A Coruña Royal Yacht Club and Royal Marina, Coruña Marina, Camariñas Yachting Harbour, Portosín Yacht Club, Ribeira Yacht Club, Cabo de la Cruz-Boiro Marina; Vilanova de Arousa Yachting Harbour, Pedras Negras Port, Portonovo Yacht Club, Juan Carlos I Yachting Harbour, Baiona Yachting Harbour, Combarro Yachting Harbour, Dávila-Vigo Marina, and Monte Real Yacht Club.
The Way of St. James was –and still is– the most traditional, most popular and most celebrated route in Europe. For over one thousand years, the Way of St. James has offered millions of people from around the world a unique religious, spiritual and cultural experience.
Pilgrims have been travelling to Santiago de Compostela since the 9th century, after the discovery of the remains of the apostle St. James. Over the following eight centuries, the constant flow of pilgrims from all around Europe outlined different routes that converge in Spain as they head towards Santiago de Compostela, their final destination.
The Way of St. James creates close connections between the pilgrims that come to pay their respects from all around the world and the warm and welcoming denizens of the populations they pass through. Apart from building a positive spirituality, these interactions also provide a solid base for the dissemination of languages, customs, schools of thought and, for instance, artistic styles. The knowledge of the West and the legacy of all its cultures converge along the Way of St. James. From the Middle Ages, this universal trail has attracted pilgrims to Galicia, spreading knowledge, dialogue, innovation and cultural diversity.
The Spanish State declared the Way of St. James a historical-artistic ensemble in 1962. Among its many other international recognitions, in 1987 the Way of St. James was the first cultural route to be awarded the title of European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe, and was promoted to the category of Major European Cultural Route in July 2004. UNESCO included the Spanish and French sections of the route in the World Heritage List in 1993 and 1998, respectively.
The Way of St. James offers visitors endless attractions, and the number of pilgrims that hit the trail grows by the year. The spiritual, artistic and cultural vitality, as well as the warm and welcoming inhabitants, and the beautiful and varied landscapes, spur on the thousands of pilgrims that set off to conquer the trails on foot, by bike or on horseback.
Galicia's varied gastronomic delights all have one thing in common: the patient, loving way in which meals are prepared. Galician cuisine is traditional and the portions are generous.
One type of food can be prepared in numerous ways, and tastes differently depending on the area. Galicia’s nouvelle cuisine maintains the essence of local cuisine and incorporates large amounts of creativity, producing highly acclaimed dishes. Today, the flavour of Galicia’s cuisine and its range of wines can be found in a number of the world’s most prestigious restaurants.
Local restaurants and bars offer over 80 varieties of salt water fish, half a dozen of fresh water fish and a wide selection of shellfish (spider crabs, lobsters, crayfish, scallops, oysters, shrimps, velvet crabs, mussels, brown crabs, barnacles, razor-shells, etc.). Empanada (savoury pies), á Feira style boiled octopus, Padrón peppers, roast ham with turnip tops, cheese and delicious Galician beef, prepared in thousands of ways, constitute the best showcase for Galicia’s cuisine.
Galician cities are both monumental and welcoming. Santiago de Compostela, the administrative capital, is a medieval village with World Heritage status and is the final destination of the Christian pilgrims that travel to the resting place of the apostle St. James. A Coruña's hallmark, the Tower of Hercules, has also been featured in the World Heritage List. A Coruña is the city of light and the beauty of Modernism, whilst Ferrol, a traditional naval and military base, embodies the spirit of Neoclassicism. The two main population centres in the Lower Rias are Vigo, a city bathed by the calm waters of the Atlantic ocean and home to the best shellfish (such as oysters), and Pontevedra, a city sitting on the tip of a long tongue of sea that stretches inland and merges with the waters of River Lérez. Pontevedra has one of the most stunning historical centres in Spain. Lugo and Ourense are the two main inland cities. The former is a living testament to Galicia's Roman heritage, and both are bathed by the mighty River Miño. The course of the river is lined by autochthonous forests that are populated by century-old oaks and chestnut trees that have often inspired artists from around the world. Ourense is recognised for its Roman bridge, burgas (hot water springs) and master-sculptor Mateo's stunning "Pórtico del Paraíso," the main entrance to the Cathedral.
In GALICIA the land leads to the sea and towards Fisterra, where the Romans believed the world ended. An open door into one of Spain's most COMPREHENSIVE DESTINATIONS.