Galicia Highlights

Santiago de compostelaSantiago de Compostela
As the final destination of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James), Santiago de Compostela has long been a welcome sight for the thousands of weary pilgrims who continue complete the medieval pilgimage. This UNESCO World Heritage City was built upon the purported grave of Saint James, whose body - according to myth - miraculously made it from the Holy Land all the way to Spain after his unfortunate execution. Centuries later, the grave was supposedly "rediscovered" by a religious hermit who claimed to have been guided to the site by a star- hence "Compostela," or campus stellae (field of the star).

Today, Santiago de Compostela is one of the most magnificent and enchanting cities not only in Galicia but in the whole of Spain. Centered around what could possibly be Spain's most spectacular cathedral - a vast Romanesque temple draped in a tapestry of sumptuous Baroque decoration - is the compact and almost entirely pedestrianized old quarter. Amble along the twisting medieval streets and discover alluring squares, long stone arcades, antiquated statues and beautiful buildings- all of it constructed from the same warm golden granite.

A CoruñaLa Coruña
Almost entirely surrounded by the sea, the historic yet modern port city of La Coruña has come a long way since the ill-fated Spanish Armada set off from its shores centuries ago. From the elegant Plaza de María Pita to the Romanesque Church of Santa María del Campo, the busy port, sprawling urban beaches, and a frenetic nightlife that lasts well into the wee hours of the morning, the seamless melding of La Coruña's past and present has yielded a delightful city jam-packed with things to do and see.

The symbol of the city, the Torre de Hércules, is a 2nd century Roman lighthouse with incredible panoramic views of the thrashing Atlantic. While the original lighthouse is encased within a newer 18th-century structure, it's the only Roman lighthouse still in use today. Encircling the city is a waterfront promenade that provides not only unbeatable vistas of the sea but also of the city's signature glassed-in balconies, which have yielded La Coruña's nickname: the "City of Glass."

If you want to see traditional Galician architecture at its best, Pontevedra is a true "gallego" town of cobbled alleyways, picturesque colonnaded plazas, antiquated granite crosses and squat stone houses. Compact and with a an undeniably medieval air, Pontevedra has a intimate "lived-in" feel, where everyone seems to know each other and where time-honored traditions survive the test of time. Along with a historic port, the lively town has your typical sprinkling of churches, convents and basilicas

Along with Pontevedra, Muros is another small town in Galicia boasting the region's signature architecture. Nestled picturesquely along the Ría (Estuary) de Muros just before it hits the sea, this old granite town spreads uphill from the coastline and reaches its pinnacle at the Romanesque Church of San Pedro. The marvelous natural setting provides a colorful background to the soft grays of the town's stone streets and houses.

Atmospheric and endlessly unique, the town of Lugo got its start as a Celtic settlement; in fact, even today it maintains its name after the Celtic sun god Lug. One of the first things you'll notice is that the town is completely encircled by walls. These aren't just any walls; the formidable and incredibly conserved walls and their 85 circular towers actually date back to Roman times, making Lugo the only town in the whole of Spain to remain completely enclosed by Roman fortifications.

Once past the walls, get lost in the easy-going atmosphere and medieval vibe of Lugo. While it boasts an impressive cathedral modeled after the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, there aren't necessarily tons of things to see. Instead, Lugo's charm actually lies in the lifestyle and the atmosphere; so sip a coffee in one of Lugo's quaint plazas, wander through the ancient streets and soak it all up!

Isla de Ons
For something a bit different, hop on the ferry to the Isla de Ons, an island situated off Galicia's southern shoreline. With jaw-dropping views of the Galician coast and of the seemingly endless expanse of Atlantic Ocean, this windswept island is certainly off the beaten trail.

Traipse the walking trails, take in the vistas, relax along the beaches and then hit up the small village that thrives on the Isla de Ons. The village, home to a community of local fishermen, has a handful of restaurants if you're in the market for some top-notch seafood. For an even more thrilling experience, take your tent and camp out on the island - it's free - to see an absolutely breathtaking sunset.