The Attraction of Galicia and Northern Spain

By: Stephen Morgan

Galicia in particular and Northern Spain in general have long been considered to be a hidden jewel in the entire Spanish tourist industry. The climate is much milder than in the southern Iberian Peninsula and all of the autonomous regions in Northern Spain can provide all of the necessary ingredients that can make up a successful holiday.

The Atlantic coast of northern Spain boasts extremely attractive sandy beaches whilst inland the mountain ranges are criss-crossed by numerous foot paths.

If you look at all of the autonomous regions that make up modern day Spain, Galicia has to be the most remote. Located in the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula Galicia is a green, rain swept region remarkable for the diversity of its landscape, where coastal cliffs alternate with lowlands and "rias."

Galicia is proud to be the home of one of the most visited religious pilgrimage sites in the world whilst of a more earthly nature the region is extremely famous for its excellent cuisine especially the seafood. Indeed a whole tourism industry has sprung up around Santiago de Compostela and the whole Way of St. James otherwise known as the "Camino de Santiago."

The Galicians, whose origins are Celtic, are fiercely proud of their culture and language.

Historically, always classed as the poorer cousin to some of the other richer regions Galicia had an economy that did not easily lend itself to modernisation. Because of its location and partisan traditions Galicia was always fairly inward looking having managed to survive throughout the centuries without ever really been conquered by anybody. It was only very briefly an independent monarchy in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Bordering Portugal to the south and enclosed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the west Galicia could offer its inhabitants little in the way of new land for cultivation. The end result of all this was that like Ireland in the north in Galicia, emigration became a major industry.

Thankfully slowly throughout the 20th century Galicia has begun to develop a way in which to manage the traditional lifestyles with a modern community to ensure that none of its rich history is lost.

Galicia has always maintained strong links with the sea and the port cities of Vigo and Corunna are centres of culture and industry. As befits a province that has such reliance on the sea, the seafood here is amongst the best in Spain and fishing is vital to the economy.

As well as the major ports the coastline of Galicia is dotted with tiny little fishing villages. The Galician coastline which was devastated in 2002 with the sinking of the oil tanker prestige has slowly managed to recover and in some cases is now better than ever.

The major geographical point on the Galician coastline is probably Cape Finisterre which is the westernmost part of the Spanish mainland. Inland, the hillsides which are quite often shrouded in mist conceal the remains of Celtic settlements throughout the region. Other examples of the Celtic traditions can be found in the many stone crosses found at crossroads and junctions throughout the region whilst also the continued use of the old traditional stone granaries found in many villages.

As with other Celtic regions, the love of music and the arts is very common in Galicia and as well as its own traditional language, Gallego, Galicia has its traditional musical instrument the bagpipes!

The other way the Celtic tradition is also represented in Galicia is within the various art and Cultural forms. With respect to the Galicians, there is a certain Melancholy to their traditional songs and poetry and this too they have in common with the Irish, Breton, Scottish, Welsh and other Celts. With regards to Galicia (as with County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland), as anyone who has experienced some of the fierce storms coming in from the Atlantic perhaps this is understandable.

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