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Gorgeous Galicia, Secret Gem!

September 19, 2008

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Galicia is much more than just Santiago de Compostela and it really blew our minds, as it is one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas in Europe! It is very pristine and not crowded, as few seem to be aware of how much startling beauty is here. That is what was mind-blowing, to think how many miss this gem. Our jaws were agape through much of our journey here wondering why it was so natural, un-built up and  free of tourists in late June. Shhh, perhaps we should keep quiet about this.

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Galicia evolved in relative isolation due to it's location in the northwest corner of Spain. The interior is one of the unchanged areas in Europe and hauntingly beautiful. It is culturally unique with a Celtic heritage that goes back 3000 years, when they migrated west until they could go no further and settled here. Not only are bagpipes here, but other ancient instruments are found in Galicia ( not usually associated with Spain) like the hurdy-gurdy, harp, and laud.

Where the Atlantic joins the Cantabrian Sea, it is  wild and rocky with vast, uncrowded beaches ( the finest in Spain), picturesque fishing villages that dot the landscape, and spectacular scenic overlooks. It is a large area and we could have easily spent the summer exploring paradise niches and living on the scrumptious, abundant seafood. One sees shellfish in astonishing quantities with more than forty varieties found in Galicia! The delicious big round loaves of bread alone are worth the visit.

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Perhaps we were lucky, but the weather was sunny and beautiful when we were there in late June, with spring-like temperatures. Galicia has a reputation for lots of rain ( which seems to go with the "green" label), although June though September are the least rainy months. We did have a small amount of rain, but not much and it did not last long, so it was an ideal time to bask in the glories of "green Spain". If the sunny weather was like this all year, we would be tempted to move to this unique, Celtic part of Spain.

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The roads are good enough that we could have used our RV to explore the entire area, but we decided to rent a car one day and putting one long day in from very early morning to late on a mid-summers day. It is not cheap to rent a car in this area for a day. The price was actually outrageous compared to other areas like Santorini , Croatia, or even in Andalusia. Still, we thought we could make better time in a small car and time is our constant thought this time,due to the great distance we are driving this year ( staring later than expected) with two time sensitive dates that we have to make.

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We also don't like to worry about petty thieves breaking into our RV and stealing important things, so it is safer in a campsite, than parked randomly on a road somewhere while we tour. A rental car has nothing in it, so safer in that way. Chances are that our RV would be fine parked on the road, but we have heard of people who had things stolen from them doing that ( or even while shopping in a hypermarket or parked in a highway rest point) while in Europe, so we tend to be cautious in this way. We would prefer to error on the cautious side as we have more in our camper than most holiday makers, although the fact that it is older is probably in our favor as I am sure it does not look as tempting as a brand new, spiffy one looks.

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We wanted to see as much of Galicia as we could, so after we left Santiago we headed to Coruna  and found a beautiful campsite in a nearby town with the same name as our hometown, Santa Cruz. One of the prettiest campsites around named Los Manzanos. It was not the easiest place to rent a car, but we finally worked out finding one through the nearby airport and had to take a taxi to pick it up ( usually they have delivered it to the campsite when we have rented them before).

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It would be a nice area to spend weeks camping in lots of different parts of Galicia and there are plenty of great campsites large and small with free camping spots too. We explored endless gorgeous, rocky coasts, stunning empty beaches and authentic, very rural countryside. We got up at the crack of dawn and arrived home to our camper late in the day, fully satisfied by a full day that included more than a weeks worth of delights!

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Unique to Galicia are horreos that are built off the ground and hold grain. They are curious granaries made of slitted stone, raised on stilts to keep rodents and moisture out, and topped by crosses. They add charm to the landscape and we even found one with a door open and a cat looking out amongst the corn. We saw lots of farmers, men and women, out working the fields. The most stunning sight was an older couple plowing their field with a donkey hooked to a plow! Not a sight we have seen in today's Europe... until we saw them in rural Galica.

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jamie

Oh WOW! Galicia wasn't even on my radar until I read this...now it's on my short list.

We're careful about theft too. Recently we left our rental car parked far above the Atlantic in Conil (Andalusia). We didn't feel comfortable leaving anything in the car. Especially our passports.

Then we had to swim in shifts, because we didn't feel comfortable leaving anything on the beach...

Otherwise it was paradise.

Janet

That is just absolutely breathtaking!!!! The beauty of nature is one of the things that keeps me going everyday.

I hope to take a sabbatical similar to your family's sometime soon. We just need to figure out a way to save more money and make some along the way. Your $25k budget is very reasonable, but we don't have that much in savings...so....I don't know. I'm hopeful. :)

Keep up the good work!

Janet

Marianne

My travel bucket list just keeps getting longer and longer thanks to blog posts like this one! Galacia is an enchanting "discovery" and thanks for putting it on my travel radar.

Claudia

Hi There - lovely to find this!! We are going to Northern Spain for 3 weeks and have a villa booked in Cantabria but looking for non commerical campsite in Galicia by the beach too - I don't suppose you have any information which may help at all? Thanks so much, Claduia

karen

Can you tell me where specifically you stayed or would recommend in Galicia? We have three children and would love for them to be able to interact with the local kids!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Hi Karen,

I mention the place we stayed in this article and linked to it. Here it is again:

http://www.campinglosmanzanos.com/campinglosmanzanos/curriculum2.asp

We stayed at several campsites in Galicia and I also mentioned this campsite in Santiago in Galicia:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2008/08/sanctuary-rest.html

I usually link to campsites we stay at around Europe. If you use the google search on our site, you can find it easily or read all our posts on Galicia if that is your area of interest.

Happy travels and enjoy!

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