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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
We were happy we got so many different stops on this tour of the Galacia region in Spain.
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
We had not visited this northern part of Spain either. So it was great to get a first taste test.
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.
This was our first visit to this part of Spain. But we too were charmed and will surely go back.
I would love to visit Galicia Spain ,that sounds so cool.
We were glad we got to visit.
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! ?
It was a great first visit to the Galacia region in Spain. We got a bit of everything on our tour day.
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.
This was our first visit to this area too. The seafood was definitely a reason to spend more time.
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. 🙂 🙂
It was great to get a first taste of the Galacia region in Spain. Enough to know we want to explore more.
Really loved reading the post on Gallicia.The medieval architecture of the buildings compliments the scenic beauty of the pastures.
It was indeed an interesting contrast in the scenery as we travelled through the Galacia region in Spain. One we want to explore more!
Thank you for sharing ?
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
There were so many great ways to enjoy the Galacia region in Spain!
Looks like a great place to visit!
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 :).
I hope you do get back to Galacia. We had just a quick visit but we know we want to go back.
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! 🙂
I am glad to introduce a new area in Spain to you. We were glad we got a quick first glimpse to tease us to return.
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.
That was an off-the-beaten-path itinerary and discovery of Galicia. Betancourt in particular on the Camino!
We were happy to visit so many new spots on this tour. Some gems for sure!
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.
It was such a nice first taste test – literally and figuratively in Galacia. Great that we saw a little of this part of Spain to draw us back.
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.
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.
We were so glad we got this taste test of the northern part of Spain. So much to explore when you finally get to Spain.
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.
Some great spots on our tour in Galacia Spain. A new part of the country for us.
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!
We were glad we got this first glimpse at Galacia Spain. The seafood is always a big draw for us!
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.
It was interesting to explore the small towns in the Galacia area. Some hidden gems to discover for sure.
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
This area of Spain was very interesting to explore. Glad to have introduced you to it.
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).
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.
Architecture and seafood are great mixes – one fuels you up and the other keeps you walking and walking!
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.
There are so many different facets to Spain. This northern region was a very different one for us to visit.
I have actually never heard of Galicia before! My family has been to Spain many times and I would love to be able to visit and see all of the beautiful architecture!
I hope you do get to visit this charming region of Galacia in the northern region the next time you visit Spain.
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
I hope you do get to visit the Galacia region in Spain. This was our first taste test and we know we want to explore more.