Galicia and Rias Baixas

Galicia is the far northwest corner of Spain, above Portugal. It is full of small fishing villages, rugged and beautiful coastlines and not a lot of tourists. This part of Spain is also home to the Rias Baixas wine region where the Albarino grape is grown. Galicia is quite large, you could easily spend a week or two exploring this area. There are lots of great options for where to base yourself. We decided on Pontevedra as a home base since it is near the coast and fairly centrally located. The one complaint we had was the tolls around Pontevedra are pretty brutal. We have also heard great things about A Coruna which is in the northern corner of Galicia although we didn’t make it there.

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Pontevedra is a very nice little town situated along the river. We stayed right in the center of town in a lovely apartment we found on Air B and B. It was pretty overcast every day we were here and we did have one very rainy day but don’t let that deter you, the city is still beautiful! It is full of cobblestone streets and a lot of old architecture. We spent most of our time in the old part of the city just wandering around. There is no driving in the old part of the town, so you have to park then walk in. There was free parking available here:

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We would recommend these two restaurants in Pontevedra specifically:

King Omar Doner Kebab: This place is super small, they have take out or you can eat there. The kebabs are absolutely amazing! By this point in our trip we were looking for different types of food and we just wanted a quick and inexpensive dinner. This place was perfect!

IceWolf: This restaurant has international food. They have dishes from all over the world prepared with fresh ingredients from the area. We really enjoyed the scallops and the pad thai.

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The rest of our time here we ate mostly pintxos or grocery shopped and cooked in our Air B and B apartment but there are plenty of other great restaurants in the city.

We had read about and really wanted to go to the Cies Islands off the coast. There are two companies that run ferries to and from the islands. You do need to get authorization to visit the islands. They only let so many people visit each day. The dates that we were in Galicia at the end of September they were not allowing visitors so we were unable to go. If you do get a chance these islands look amazing! To obtain authorization, you need to visit this website.

Since we couldn’t visit the islands we decided to drive to the peninsula just south of Pontevedra and see what we could find. It looked like there were several beaches there so we just went for it. We ended up spending most of the afternoon out there. We happened to find a few look out points with great views of the islands called Faro de Punta Robaleira. We then kept driving and found a hiking trail. We followed that down and found a lighthouse as well as a few small, secluded beaches. We got great views of the islands and the coastline from up by the lighthouse.  From there we drove to Praia de Vino. This was one of three beaches all in a row, separated by large boulders along the coast. Every beach in this area that we stopped at we either had it to ourselves or there were only a couple other people there. Be aware, nudism seemed to be common on these beaches. If that offends you, you may want to go to the first of the three beaches (Praia de Nerga) which is closer to the town. We would recommend packing a lunch and planning to give yourself plenty of time to explore if you do head to this area!

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The next day was pretty rainy. We decided to drive to Isla de Arosa, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge. There is a park on the south side of the island with hiking trails that follow the coast. As you walk you will come upon lots of small, secluded beaches. It was extremely rainy and windy while we were there but the hike was still beautiful. On a Sunny day this would be a great place to hang out on one of the beaches. After our hike we drove around the island and found a little café to stop in for lunch. We ended up having some of the best octopus we had during our entire Spain trip in this small restaurant. We also had razor clams which were delicious.

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While we were in Galicia we of course had to do some wine tasting. We have done a lot of wine tours in the past so we stuck with just two wineries this time. We chose to do the tour and tasting at Pazo Senorans. They have a traditional manor house on the property which they host weddings and other events at. We got a full tour of the house and the surrounding grounds before heading into the winery for our tasting. We really enjoyed this tour, the house is beautiful and full of history. We learned a lot about Galician traditions that we wouldn’t have learned at a more standard winery tour. We tasted their standard albarino and an aged albarino wine. They do not blend their wines with any other grapes or age their wine on oak. They focus on showing off what the albarino grape can be on it’s own using different methods during the wine making process.

We also learned here that most wineries in Galicia also make a distilled spirit called Orujo. This is distilled from the wine pomace (fermented grape skins and seeds). At Pazo Senorans we got to taste the standard spirit and one that is flavored with a blend of herbs and spices. We really enjoyed both. This is something that is unique to Galicia and definitely worth a try while you are here.

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The second winery we visited was Mar de Frades. This winery is close to the sea. You can actually see the ocean from their vineyards. Here we did your standard vineyard and winery tour which ended with a tasting. The thing that was different here was that we got to try the juice of the grapes since they had just recently finished the harvest. We also got to taste the juice about halfway through fermentation to see how it changed. We ended with a tasting out on the patio next to the vineyard. Here we tasted their standard albarino, an oaked albarino and a sparkling albarino. Our tasting was accompanied by a light snack of sardines and crackers to pair with the wine. We also were given extra wine and then given time to finish our snack and our wine out on the patio.

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Galicia has so much to offer! We only saw a small portion of it but that just gives us an excuse to go back and explore some more!

-TFWYs

 

 

 

Cathedral Beach: Everything you need to know before you visit

Somewhere along the way during our research into Northern Spain we saw a picture of Cathedral beach and decided we had to go! We added it to our list of places to see and left it at that. As our trip grew closer we happened to read somewhere that you need tickets to visit the beach since Galicia, Spain does monitor and limit the number of people who can visit each day. This led to much more research to make sure we had everything figured out before we left. This post will outline what you need to know to make sure you make the most of your visit to this amazing beach!
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First of all it is worth it! The beach really is incredible and if you are in the area we would highly recommend a visit. Plan to spend at least an hour down on the beach itself. It is much larger with more rock formations, arches and caves to explore than we realized.
Booking Tickets: 
During the spring through fall months you need to have tickets to visit the beach. You cannot book your tickets until 15 days prior to your visit. You will need to enter names and passport information for each person visiting. Then you will get an email with a barcode which they will scan when you enter the beach (so make sure to print it or save it on your phone).
Use this website to book your tickets:
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When to visit the beach:
Cathedral beach is different than most beaches in that the time of day and time of month really matter for your visit. The beach is only accessible at low tide. At high tide the water is too high to walk around the rocks. Low tide happens twice a day. The tides will be predicted on tide tables about two weeks ahead of time on the website listed below.
It’s good to know a little bit about the tides when you’re visiting this area. The tides have different heights based on the lunar phase. The best time to visit the beach is at the full moon or the week after. This is the time of the month when the difference between high and low tide is the greatest. Generally speaking that means low tide is lower and high tide is higher. That means there will be more beach to walk on during low tide at this time of the month. The week before the full moon is the worst time to visit the beach as this week the difference between high and low tide is at it’s lowest. During this week you won’t be able to walk on the beach without getting wet, even at low tide.
The tide table on this website is in Spanish. The bajamar column is low tide and the pleamar column is high tide. The altura or height column shows the height the sea will reach. It varys each day based on the lunar phase. The closer that number is to zero, the lower the tide/the better the day is to visit.

Use this website for tide tables and general info: http://ascatedrais.gal/ascatedrais/portada.php?idioma=en

 

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During your Visit:

Once you scan your ticket and head down to the beach you won’t be allowed to go back down a second time, so take your time! Even though the number of visitors is limited each day it will be crowded. The beach is large with lots to explore but do be aware it can be difficult to get a picture of the rock formations without anybody in them. Most of the large arches you will have seen pictures of before you go are to the right of the stairs down to the beach. But trust us walking the entire length of the beach in both directions is worth it. We recommend wearing shorts or pants that can easily be rolled up and wear shoes you can easily kick off. We visited the week after the full moon at low tide (the best week to visit) and while the beach was mostly dry there are rock formations closer to the water so if you want to see it all you may have to walk through some shallow water.

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There is a restaurant at the top of the stairs to the beach if you want lunch after you explore. We didn’t eat there so cannot recommend it. There are also picnic tables with better views of the beach so we would recommend taking a picnic lunch or some snacks to enjoy there before or after your beach walk. There are bathrooms you can use while your there but do be prepared, you will have to pay a small amount so do bring some small change.

We hope this helps! Go and explore this incredibly beautiful beach!

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-TFWYs