Highlights Of Galicia Spain

Visit Betanzos, Pazo De Marinan and Pontedume

Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

A Quick Tour For The Highlights Of Galicia Spain

Our first stop in Spain on this trip was two days in Bilbao. The second stop was in Ferrol, Spain on our Oceania Cruises trip along Northern Europe. This port provided us with an opportunity to see some highlights of Galicia Spain.

The tour included three very different spots – Betanzos, Pazo De Marinan and Pontedume. We saw some common elements about the Galicia region as we toured the great sights along the sea coast.

Arriving In Ferrol

The sun was just coming up as we sailed into Ferrol. We watched the red sky and saw the convoy of fishing boats as they headed out. This was our first but not last sign that one of the highlights of Galicia Spain would be fresh seafood!

Ferrol Port Arrival.jpg

Ferrol Port Arrival.jpg

Galicia was called the “Green Spain”. About 60% of the region was covered with forest. There was a large amount of eucalyptus trees, brought to this region from New Zealand. We were surprised when we saw palm trees on our travels that day. They were brought back from the Americas and were considered a symbol of wealth.

Our guide said it was often damp and cloudy. So we were very lucky we had a sunny day to explore. The terrain was very mountainous. We travelled through long tunnels dug through mountains that connected this region with both Spain and Portugal.

On our route out, the bus travelled on the highway high above the coast. We saw the low tide in the morning with large stretches of mud and marsh. When we returned past the same spots in the afternoon, the tide was back in.

Low Tide.jpg

Strolling in Betanzos Was One Of The Highlights Of Galicia Spain

Our first stop was the small town of Betanzos. We took the switchbacks down to get to the water level. This used to be a major port but over the years the estuary filled with stones and sand.

The bus let us off in the Plaza Hermanos main square in town for a walking tour. We saw the statue of the two men who built the town after they returned from Argentina. There was also a water fountain (Fonte de Diana Cazadora). As was common in many European towns, this fountain had potable water. A woman filled up bottles with water.

Betanzos Plaza Hermanos - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Plaza Hermanos.jpg

Betanzos Plaza Hermanos Fonted de Diana Cazadora - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Plaza Hermanos Fonted de Diana Cazadora.jpg

Betanzos is on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim path. Our guide pointed out the sea shell sign with an arrow that showed the direction to Santiago. There were hostels in town for pilgrims. We saw modern pilgrims in town with their backpacks and walking sticks.

Betanzos Plaza Hermanos Camino Sign.jpg

Much To See In Betanzos

As we walked up and down the cobblestone streets, we were intrigued with the variety and artistry in the balconies. We saw balconies decorated in tiles like we found in the Triana neighbourhood in Seville. The glass-enclosed balconies or “galerias” allowed the balconies to be enjoyed even on windy days and in cooler weather. We saw similar balconies when we stopped in La Oratava on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Betanzos Streets and Balconies.jpg

Betanzos Streets and Balconies - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Streets and Balconies - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Streets and Balconies.jpg

Our guide stopped regularly and pointed out historic buildings and those built in traditional styles. The town of Betanzos was very similar to the other small towns in this region. It was one of the highlights of Galicia Spain we saw that day.

Betanzos Streets and Balconies - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Streets and Balconies Casa Nunez.jpg

The Medieval Side Of Betanzos

We saw several remnants of medieval architecture in Betanzos. The Iglesia de San Francisco and the Iglesia de Santa Maria do Azogue sat beside each other. They were not open but we walked around the outside. Both churches were excellent examples of Galician architecture.

The Iglesia de Santa Maria do Azogue had an interesting rose window on the front and an intricately carved doorway and carved metal door. A stone cruceiro (stone cross) stood in front of the church. We were told that the cruceiros were “pardons from heaven”, built to obtain forgiveness for a sin.

Betanzos Church of Santa Maria do Azogue - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Church of Santa Maria do Azogue - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Church of Santa Maria do Azogue.jpg

On the roof of Iglesia de San Francisco we saw the first but not last statue of a pig. We knew that the Galicia region of Spain was the main producer of pork. But we could not remember if the pigs had another special meaning. It reminded us a bit of the boats we found in the churches in the Faroe Islands. Those boats were meant to protect the important fishing industry.

Betanzos Church Iglesia de San Francisco - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Church Iglesia de San Francisco - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Church Iglesia de San Francisco.jpg

We stopped at the Santiago Church with its dual church steeples. The bell tower was an interesting piece of iron art. Similar to the Iglesia de Santa Maria do Azogue it had an interesting carved main door.

Betanzos Church Iglesia de Santiago - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Betanzos Church Iglesia de Santiago - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

The medieval history of Betanzos and this region was one of the highlights of Galicia.

A Stop At Pazo De Marinan

The next stop on our tour of the highlights of Galicia was at Pazo de Marinan. This was an 18th-century country house. We walked through a gate and saw the front of the house first. Beside the house was a small chapel. The house design with the chapel reminded us of our visit to the Mateus Palace high in the Douro River Valley in Portugal. Our guide said there was much Portuguese influence in Galicia.

Pazo De Marinan.jpg

Pazo De Marinan - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

When we walked around the back we got another view of the vast size of the palace grounds. Pazo De Marinan was known for its spectacular gardens. There was a great view of the grounds when we went up on the patio. The main structured garden by the manor house was laid out in a geometric pattern of trimmed hedges. Our guide took us for a walk through the towering walnut trees, eucalyptus trees and flowering camellias.

Pazo De Marinan Gardens - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Pazo De Marinan Gardens.jpg

The manor house was right on the river. It was low tide and we looked out over the vast stretch of mud. When we walked down to the river we saw the boat house that was used when guests arrived by water. With the tide low, we saw the whole house. When the tide came in, much of the house would be underwater.

Pazo De Marinan River View.jpg

Pazo De Marinan River View.jpg

A stop at Pazo De Marinan was another of the highlights of Galicia. It gave us a view of how nobility lived at one time in the past.

Lunch In Pontedume

Our final stop was in the small town of Pontedume. It was a traditional Galician town on the Eume River estuary.

Pontedume Bridge - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Our guide promised us a short tour before a break for lunch. She marched us up and down the main streets of Pontedume. We saw the former palace. And again we saw an ancient pig statue. Above the town we saw the old tower. There were more of the balconies that were one of the highlights of Galicia that we found.

Pontedume Palace.jpg

Pontedume Palace Statues - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

Pontedume Palace Statues.jpg

Pontedume Tower - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

The guide finally freed us for lunch. We were told that the bars in town would be open for lunch. She explained that “tapas” were small portions and “racions” were larger portions meant to share. Unfortunately, most of the bars that people tried just served drinks. We finally found a very small bar that was serving food. We had tasty racions of both calamari and octopus.

Pontedume Taberna Baked Octopus.jpg

This was my first serving of baked octopus. Fresh octopus and seafood was certainly one of the highlights of Galicia for us! We were headed back to Portugal and we knew we would find more of this lovely treat soon!

We Saw A Few Highlights Of Galacia Spain

It was early when we sailed into Ferrol and we did not see much of the transit. When we left, we chose to eat on the outside terrace and got a view as we left. There was lots to see in the narrow channel. As we sailed out past two forts that guarded the channel, we saw why this was once a major port.

Ferrol Port Depart Fort - Day Trip From Ferrol - Highlights Of Galicia Spain.jpg

It was a long day in the bus but we saw some of the highlights of Galicia Spain. We saw several small towns and the very distinctive balconies of the region. There was much to see as we strolled through the town of Betanzos. Time to stroll in the gardens at Pazo De Marinan provided a great relaxing break. Fresh local seafood was a perfect end and one of the highlights of Galicia for us.

We headed next to Porto on our cruise along the coast of Western Europe.

We visited Porto in the spring and fell in love. On this visit we planned a port tasting. We were excited to be back in Portugal for a week before we returned home.

What is on your list for the highlights of Galicia Spain?

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About TravelAtWill 634 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

53 Comments

  1. I’ve never heard of this place in Spain. That is cool that it has eucalyptus and palm trees…what a cool combo! And that manor house looks amazing.

  2. The thought of the food in Galicia makes my mouth water! I don’t think I got there when I was in Spain, but I am a sucker for small towns with great food, so I’ll have to visit

  3. Galicia certainly looks like it has a lovely, charming ambiance to it. Extremely engrossing for anyone interested in European history. I just loved the gardens and river you encountered at Pazo De Marinan, such a beautiful outlook. Would love to see this one day.

  4. Wow! I loved reading this. I travel to Spain quite a bit but have never been to such a green place. The grounds at the Manor are beautiful. I love all the detail you put into this guide and I’ve added this destination to my list! I’ve also never tried baked octopus, so I’ll have to give that a go. Thanks for a great read! 🙂

  5. What a beautiful part of Spain. We have been to the North of Spain, but not yet to Galicia Spain. The highlights that you saw are fantastic. Love that there’s so much seefood.

  6. First time I hear of Betanzos, but what a beautiful town. Especially that Iglesia San Francisco. Not seen architecture like this in a long time. That country palace and its garden look idyllic too. Well done for spotting the Portuguese influence. I know I wouldn’t have. 🙂 🙂

  7. I could easily spend an afternoon relaxing in a café in Betanzos Plaza Hermanos and the Pazo De Marinan gardens look incredible. I have never tried baked octopus but I’m now intrigued and want to

  8. What a nice guide for places in Galicia. I’ve been to Galicia and did Camino de Santiago, but honestly, I’ve never heard of Betanzos. I have to come back. And your pictures look great, especially the pulpo gallego made me hungry. You made me want to go back to Galicia :).

  9. Looks like you have discovered a true hidden gem! I love the architecture, artistic balconies, history, and old towns in Galicia. Those gardens at Pazo De Marinan look awesome – manicured with creativity. Thanks for pointing this gem in the far corner of Spain! 🙂

  10. Love reading this. Although I’ve been to Spain a couple of times, I somehow never became a big fan – in comparison to Italy and even Portugal. However, after Covid kind of forced me to visit Spain this summer, I really got the hang of it. Unfortunately, they just made it back to the high incidence list. As soon as thing get better, I’ll visit again.

    • Galacia was a nice surprise for us. We had not really travelled much on the northern coast so it was good to discover a few gems. We will definitely go back.

  11. I wonder whether the fountain in Betanzos painted green because it’s in Galicia, the Green Spain region. As always, I like the architecture and the cobblestone path trailing around town. Your octopus lunch looks delicious! And how wonderful it was to enjoy the rest of Galicia from the terrace of the ship while eating.

  12. Interesting read! I crossed Galicia on the St James pilgrimage. But I think I need to go back for the gardens in Pazo de Marinan – they look spectacular. As you had a sunny day, you probably did not notice. But the thing in Galicia that sticks out most to me is the way the locals carried umbrellas: They hooked them at the back of their collar. Oh yes and pulpo in all variations – baked or fresh!

    • We are always looking for pulpo when we travel and Galacia did not disappoint! I did not see the umbrellas but will look for them the next time we are there. A fun quirk.

  13. I love those cobblestone streets in a town. I feel they just take us back in time. Such a beautiful place Galicia is. I have never been to Spain let alone northern part. I will make sure I add this to my itinerary when I visit it. I loved those beautiful buildings and structures around the town.

  14. Green Spain – that is something new. I did not know about the place at all till this post. I liked your itinerary for the same starting with that walking tour. I quite liked the Pazo De Marinan gardens. Pulpos sound interesting to try here. Lovely post.

  15. I’d love to walk the Camino de Santiago, and now I know to plan some extra time in Betanzos. Just wandering around the streets admiring the architecture would be wonderful. Trying the seafood would be a priority as well – your octopus looks delicious!

  16. Isn’t it wonderful to explore medieval towns like Betanzos? I enjoyed your narrative and photos. I hadn’t realized this area was part of the Camino trail — something else that really intrigues me.

  17. Wow the architecture looks stunning, this is definitely a place we need to look more into. We love to visit forested or mountainous regions just as much as the coastlines (if not more so). Great post, very informative

  18. Just seeing all these churches make me feel like it’s a blessing to walk on those cobblestone pavements and be surrounded by those holy places. It’s interesting how the pig statues are a prevalent theme in the location. It’s good that the weather cooperated with your trip. Lovely snapshots!

    • We were fascinated by the pig statues we found everywhere as we visited the Galacia region. Strange to find them on a church but then we have visited other churches that put their local industries up for prayer (like boat for fishing communities).

  19. We’ve always wanted to visit Spain. Great photos of the architecture. Our love of seafood is a big draw for us to go there someday.

  20. Galicia certainly has a lovely charm about itself. Spain is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited and would love to be these small towns next time we are there. European history in addition is always so interesting. Loved the gardens and the river.

  21. I spent three weeks in Spain and missed Galicia, now I regret that. Betanzos Plaza Hermanos looks like someplace I would love and I’m always a fam of public drinking water fountains. The garden at Pazo De Marinan looks magnificent

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