I’ve mentioned before that Galicia is one of my favorite places on the planet, and hands down one of my favorite wine regions in the world. Often overlooked for San Sebastián or Barcelona, this autonomous community in northwest Spain is lined with beaches, inundated with rivers, packed with green hills and mountains and stocked with some of the best seafood in the world. You could spend weeks here hiking, beaching and eating your weight in pulpo, but here are my personal tips (in no particular order) for experiencing one of the best vacations Spain has to offer.
Playa de Nerga-
Galicia is lined with over 1,660 kilometers of coastline including its offshore islands and islets, so finding a beach is no problem. My day on and around Playa de Nerga, however, was one of my favorite. Playa de Nerga itself is gorgeous, fairly secluded and typically sought after by locals. There’s the tiniest little bar/restaurant on the beach should you want to enjoy a delicious beer or glass of Albariño. The real treat here, though is a small restaurant on the way to the Playa in Puerto De Aldán. Here, the most wonderful man by the name of Manuel stands at a table outside the restaurant and cooks up the most delicious pulpo. Steamed, Galician style and tossed with delicious olive oil and paprika. Manuel even bakes the fresh bread served along side this delicious plate of octopus and, having lived in Texas for 5 years, his english is perfect. You are in Rías Baixas here so don’t sleep on that Albariño.
The Albariño flows like water in Cambados, located in the Rías Baixas wine region in the province of Pontevedra. And while I do have a serious relationship with the pulpo of Galicia, the cockles, clams and various other marine fixings of Cambados are like none other. Grab a table almost anywhere that doesn’t look super touristy, or hit the fish market and take home anything from eel to sardines. Do not forget to was these sea creatures down with a bottle of salty Albariño. Afterwards, hit any of a number of beaches near Cambados. Playa de Lanzada, Praia Da Braña and O Grove were all beaches I hit up at some point, but the world here is really your oyster.
The Camino de Santiago-
Okay, so I’ve never actually done this, but seeing as though it’s probably Galicia’s most well known activity, I couldn’t leave it out. The Camino de Santiago or, The Way of Saint James is one of 8 paths, each winding up at the shrine of the apostle, St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Back in the day, when Catholicism was more like a death sentence, the Camino was recommended as a pilgrimage of indulgence or, a walk you could take to make either hell or purgatory a little less painful. Today, the route is taken by some as a path to spirituality, an amazing conduit for a little exercise or a sweet way to experience the Galician countryside. Pick your own path or take a guided tour – bring rain gear, people.
The Miño River-
I have so many good memories of this river it’s hard to know where to begin. Guided tours that lead to waterfalls, kayaking or simply sitting on the grass and reading Hemingway are all excellent ways to enjoy the Miño. Head to el embarcadero de Belesar, in the town of Belesar to take a catamaran tour led by a woman named Luisa. Luisa will take you down the Miño from Belesar to A Maiorga, passing vineyards and tiny beaches before finally arriving at a small swimming hole with an insane waterfall. On the ride back, opt to stop at the river house for meats, cheeses and the quintessential bottle of local wine. For a refreshing swim and an excellent Gin Tonic, head to the little village of Os Peares in the Ribeira Sacra wine region. Bring a bottle of Mencía and a blanket and take a siesta on the grass; this cold pocket of the Miño is perfect for combatting Ribeira Sacra’s high summer temperatures.
As if we need another reason to love the Miño river- this delightful river is loaded with natural hot springs. There are plenty of spots near the town of Ourense to hop in the springs for free, but why not live like Tom and Donna and “Treat. Yo’. Self.” Chill for a couple of hours in the Termas Outariz, a super slick spa and hot springs with a Japanese vibe. I believe there’s a sushi bar, or head to Ourense after and grab yourself a tortilla and a bottle of vino. Try to go on a weekday for a lighter crowd and mucho relaxation.
So, while Galicia is pumping out some of the best wines in Spain right now, it’s a long way from the Napa Valley. Most of these cats don’t have tasting rooms, winemakers gather grapes from various vineyard sites and the majority of these folks are farmers. This can make tasting a little more challenging, but there are always plenty of options. For the best wine tour Galicia has to offer, hit up Fazenda Prádio in the Ribeira Sacra region. Xavi, the head winemaker, offers a tour of the vineyards, tells you stories about the region, and opens up the good stuff for a taste of some of the best wine coming out of Galicia. You can stay for lunch if you like (stay for lunch!!) and he has a rad hotel/guest house should you want to stay in this central area of Galicia. There are certainly wine tours in the Albariño land of Rías Baixas, and larger houses like Algueira and Guímaro in the Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra are usually able to host you with a little notice. Smaller wineries in the Ribeiro or Valdeorras take a little more digging, but you can always ask me, or any other wine maker you visit in the region and one of us will point you in the right direction.
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