Occupying the northwestern corner of Spain, Galicia is a unique part of the country that reflects Spain’s diverse history. Settled by Celts around 600 B.C. and Visigoths during the 5th century, Galicia is still home to the Gallego language, a remnant from its past inhabitants. The region’s four provinces comprise Spain’s emerald oasis, where copious amounts of rainfall during winter and spring swell rivers and turn the countryside green.
A major part of the verdant landscape includes vineyards, with the wine regions of Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei offering excellent touring and tasting opportunities. Add Galicia’s outstanding seafood, and the region qualifies as a top destination for adventurous wine-and-food lovers.
Where to Dine
Casa de Xantar Loaira in Pontevedra is Chef Iñaki Bretal’s popular wine and tapas bar, where plates like tuna sashimi, steamed clams and fried hake are paired with artisan Galician wines. In Santiago de Compostela, O Dezaseis is known for its octopus dishes, while in A Guarda, which sits at the mouth of the Miño River separating Spain from Portugal, Bitadorna is tops for grilled lobster. For exciting fixed-menu dinners in the new-wave Spanish style, check out Yayo Daporta in Cambados.
Where to Stay
Paradores (government-run hotels often housed in landmark edifices) are about as Spanish as lodging gets. The parador in Santiago de Compostela sits on a main square, kitty-corner to the city’s monumental cathedral. It claims to be the world’s oldest hotel. In Pontevedra, Casa del Baron is located in the old town. Further inland, Casal de Armán in the Ribeiro wine region is a charming winery-based hotel, while back in urban Vigo, Gran Hotel Nagari is first rate.
Explore the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the end point of The Way of St. James. Tour the bateas (floating platforms where shellfish are harvested) that dot the estuaries along the Galician coastline. Some of the world’s steepest vineyards are in the Ribeira Sacra wine region. Stop in the village of Doade to take a boat ride through the Sil River Canyon.
Stroll along a pristine half-moon-shaped beach. Top choices include A Lanzada, located near Pontevedra, and Rodas Beach on the Cíes Islands, which sit in the Vigo estuary.
When to Go
During the late spring and into early summer, the landscape is lush and the prior year’s white wines are being released.
Where to Taste
Albariño is the principal grape of Rías Baixas, yielding floral yet minerally wines that go well with seafood. Martín Códax, perched atop a hill in Cambados, is one of the Rías Baixas region’s more visitor-friendly wineries.
Tour options range from a basic walkthrough and tasting to full-day packages that include boating on an estuary and harvesting your own shellfish. Also in Rías Baixas is Palacio de Fefiñanes, which first bottled Albariño in the 1920s. Housed in a former 17th-century palace near the Cambados waterfront, it offers tastes of the grape in its most refined form.
Albariño is the principal grape of Rías Baixas.
The terraced vineyards of Ribeira Sacra yield sophisticated reds made from Merenzao (a k a Trousseau) and Mencía, and also fine Godello (a white variety). Adega Algueira in Ribeira Sacra is owned by Fernando González. Savor his wines over lunch at the winery’s O Castelo restaurant. In Valdeorras, the easternmost wine region in Galicia, Bodegas Valdesil is a family-owned operation that specializes in old-vine Godello. Walk through vineyards planted in 1885 that are home to vines with trunks the size of trees.