Galicia: Spain’s Uncovered Gem
Galicia may not have a place on your list of upcoming destinations, but in a country still working through its identity crisis (Madrid wanting to be London, Barcelona just wanting to be alone), the autonomous region in North-West Spain has managed to carve out its own little niche as the land that time forgot.
Relying upon its wedding to traditions of superstition and witchcraft to attract tourists, the region is able to differentiate itself from the rest of the country and it’s only a matter of time before it starts to pay off. Here’s why the region Galicia may well be one of the most underrated destinations in Europe!
First off, let’s sort out that empty stomach!
Let’s face it; travelling on an empty stomach is not only undesirable, it may as well be impossible. Luckily, Galicia has you covered. It’s location along the Costa da Morte (coastline of death) may sound ominous, but we like to think that it is your hunger that is being killed rather than the countless shipwrecks the rocky coast is famous for… totally makes us feel more at ease when jumping into the sea.
It is here, in the most reclusive region of Spain, that you will experience the true Spanish cuisine. Restaurants such as the famous O Fogar do Santiso near Santiago serve up culinary delights such as octopus cooked in the traditional style of this maritime state. The only thing you may struggle with is saving space for desert!
Liquid courage anyone?
I mean, what kind of holiday isn’t paired with a healthy glass (or three) of a local drink? With a rich history of wine production in the Rias Baixas, Galicia has you covered. All you have to do is decide, “White or red?”
If, however, wine is not to your fancy, be sure to take a swig of the locally produced orujo; a herbal liquor usually served after lunch to get you ready for the afternoon’s activities.
The land of witchcraft and wizardry.
Hogwarts may be where they learn their craft, but Galicia is definitely where witches go to perform their spells! This superstition is perhaps best observed at the burning of the queimada, an alcoholic drink set on fire in a clay cauldron whilst a centuries’ old incantation is sung over it, calling for the drink to rid the recipients of the devil that threatens them… Think Macbeth, but with people videoing it on their camera-phones.
Interestingly, this obsession with superstition, witches and owls goes hand-in-hand with the fervent religious sentiment in the region in which every village has their own Church, Saints’ holidays and Catholic practices. It is this blend of the two that makes the Gallego culture uniquely fascinating!
With a blend of both small cities (La Coruna, Vigo) and rural villages, it is perhaps no surprise then that Galicia is perfect for a small escape from the realities of a stressful life. However, while its water-filled forest areas such as Verdes and volcanic spa pools in Ourense (we promise not all of the water is from the rain!) are perfect for taking a relaxing hike in, it is in the Camino de Santiago that the region has attracted worldwide attention.
Through the promise of good food, great wine and a true escape from reality, El Camino (the world’s third largest pilgrimage) attracts thousands of walkers every year to its romantic Cathedral where locals profess to have the remains of St. James buried. With various starting points that can make the route last anywhere from 5 to 35 days, the Camino de Santiago is the ultimate form of escapism, forcing walkers to live off the generosity of others in communal hostels and what can be attained in cafés along the way.
Bring your dancing shoes!
Great, so you’ve had your fill of nature and food for the day and just want to dance… Perfect. Forget those dingy bars and clubs that you’re used to because Galicia in the summer has an ace up its sleeve. Throughout the summer months, every village has its own little party to celebrate the passage of time, bringing in a live band or two and an open-air bar designed specifically to get both locals and visitors dancing.
Arrive around midnight to get a hang of the Latin flavour as well as a few early drinks in before jumping in. With many fiestas lasting until late morning the next day, it may be an idea to pick up some churros for breakfast before moving on!
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