Europe

Secret Beaches & Sleepy Villages In Galicia Northwest Spain

I have this thing with windows. For some the obsession lies with doors or walls but for me it’s definitely windows. I’ve been in Pontedeume (the first of many sleepy fishing villages we’ll visit along Galicia’s rugged coastline) for mere minutes and already my camera roll is full of shutters, frames and flower boxes.

Peaceful Pontedeume is named after the bridge in this image

Peaceful Pontedeume is named after the bridge in this image

I have this thing with windows and Galicia has some good ones!

I have this thing with windows and Galicia has some good ones!

It’s been more than two years since I stepped on the continent, longer since I last visited Spain, and suddenly the myriad reasons I love this region have come flooding back to me. As I admire the architecture, learn the history of the unusual indoor balconies we spy on homes throughout Galicia, and smell the scent of freshly baked bread wafting from some hidden bakery, I think this is why I am so glad to be back here.

This traditional indoor balcony is common in Galicia - it provides a place to enjoy the sunlight and spy on your neighbours whilst being protected from the wild coastal elements

This traditional indoor balcony is common in Galicia – it provides a place to enjoy the sunlight and spy on your neighbours whilst being protected from the wild coastal elements

I had no previous expectations of Galicia. Situated on the northwest coastline of Spain it takes less than 2 hours to fly to Galicia from London (we flew with Vueling from Heathrow to A Coruña) yet the lack of British tourists (or any nationality really) is noticeable. I find it very refreshing.

The city of A Coruña is less than 2 hours from London

The city of A Coruña is less than 2 hours from London

In Pontedeume the streets are filled with doddery old men, having conversations on the corner and selling various bric and brac at the weekend market. We enter the fresh food market, stopping so that our guide can explain the various seafood on offer. We take a few photos before we are waved on by the stall holder, ‘If you’re not buying,” she tells our guide in Spanish, “move on. You’re blocking my produce.” I laugh out loud at the old ladies directness. They are not used to bloggers here and she has a valid point about us being in the way!

Old men browsing the weekend market in Pontedeume

Old men browsing the weekend market in Pontedeume

From Pontedeume we take a short, still boat ride to Redes, located in the Ria of Ares. The Galician coastline is speckled with these Rias, inlets caused by centuries old valleys, where fresh water meet the ocean – an occurrence that is said to give the region its spectacular seafood.

Redes is a fishing village in the Ria (inlet) of Ares

Redes is a fishing village in the Ria (inlet) of Ares

Redes is supposed to be somewhere we pass through on route to our next stop but not one of our group wants to leave. We wander the cobbled streets that lie hidden behind the sea-front houses and start to picture how serene life must be in these sleepy, sun-reflecting villages.

Coming home to this is sure to make you smile

Coming home to this is sure to make you smile

Returning to the village square – or rather circle – that is surrounded by brightly coloured houses and a co-ordinating ocean – we find ourselves pulled towards the village bar. It’s early but we’re craving snacks and some of us are in desperate need of coffee (that would be me!). The owner, who speaks unexpectedly good English, has something already prepared that she often serves up complimentary with drinks orders. She seems unsure about whether her English guests will like it but I can’t see how we wouldn’t. Along with the coffee and beers we order (it’s never too early on holiday, right?) she brings us each a small warm pot of chorizo and potato . It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in ages.

Houses co-ordinate with the ocean in the village of Redes

Houses co-ordinate with the ocean and sky  in the village of Redes

This complimentary pot of chorizo and potato is THE BEST. This table of drinks and snacks cost less than 7 Euro. I <3 Galicia!

This complimentary pot of chorizo and potato is THE BEST. The whole bill came to just 7 Euro

More pleasant surprises are to come that afternoon when we stop at one of Galicia’s wild beaches. Backed by green hills and seemingly displaced sand dunes it takes a while to spot Playa Doniños. Following the path from the single beach cafe we head down onto the sand and find there is hardly anyone else on it. There’s a solitary beach umbrella, a few surfers in the water and some locals reading the weekend papers. I’m struck by how pure and empty the sand is; it feels like we’re in some remote region of Australia. It makes me reassess what I think I know about Europe in the summer.

A solitary beach umbrella on Playa Doniños

A solitary beach umbrella on Playa Doniños

I can't believe this is Spain!

I can’t believe this is Spain!

Another beach that sticks in my memory is Playa de las Cathedrals. It’s not so much a secret as Playa Doniños (at least not to the Spanish) but is somewhere I have not read or heard of in the travel media despite it’s overwhelming beauty. Known for its arch rock formations and craggy caves, Cathedrals Beach seems to me like a place that was made by giants. At low tide us little people follow the paths made by nature (or giants?), in and out of the golden caves and through the massive doorway the giants must have made to get to the ocean. I once travelled all the way to New Zealand to see a beach such as this – I can’t believe no one told me there was one just past the Bay Of Biscay.

A giant doorway to the ocean at Cathedrals Beach

A giant doorway to the ocean at Cathedrals Beach

The famous arches of Cathedrals Beach remind me of Cathedral Cove in New Zealand

The famous arches of Cathedrals Beach remind me of Cathedral Cove in New Zealand

It gets busier here in the summer and you require a permit to enter the beach

It gets busier here in the summer and you require a permit to enter the beach

Our trip has one last surprise for me in A Coruña. We end our weekend in Galicia visiting a World Heritage Site – the Torre de Hercules. Built by the Romans in the 1st Century, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Understandably it’s had a little work done to it, mainly during the 18th Century, but you can step inside the lighthouse to see it’s ancient foundations and climb the interior staircase that was added to replace the exterior Roman ramp.

The World Heritage Listed lighthouse - Tower Of Hercules

The World Heritage Listed lighthouse – Tower Of Hercules

I also have this thing with stairs

I also have this thing with stairs

Many climb to the top in order to see the view lighthouse managers have watched over for hundreds of years. I did the same and, looking back on the coastline we’d eaten and admired our way along, thought it was the perfect way to end a weekend of uncovering secrets in Galicia.

More Info

You can fly from London Heathrow to A Coruña with Vueling or from London Gatwick to Santiago de Compostela with Vueling and Easyjet. More details on where to stay in Galicia will be coming up shortly.

This post was written as part of the #inGalicia blog trip, created and managed by Captivate in partnership with the Spanish tourism board. All thoughts, opinions and satisfied belly remain my own. 

Click here to discover 5 of my favourite Galician dishes.

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Kassie
    June 21, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    This little town looks divine! I’m a door girl for sure. I get so camera happy in little towns like this. I’ve yet to go to Spain, but I will have to add this to my list.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      June 23, 2016 at 2:19 am

      The whole region is incredibly photogenic – especially if you like unique windows and doors 😉

  • Reply
    Kirstie
    June 23, 2016 at 10:51 am

    You’ve started something here. I have a thing about door knockers. Last year in Spanish villages of The Pyrenees I managed to fill half my phone with them. Didn’t notice my obsession till I got home. We’ll have to start a blog on doors and windows! Lovely post. I was jealous to see the pictures of Cathedral Beach. Looks awesome.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      July 8, 2016 at 12:25 am

      Cathedral Beach was stunning – such a dramatic coastal setting. And yes, these pictures are just a handful of windows I found on my camera. I’ll pay more attention to the doors in future 🙂

  • Reply
    Becky Padmore
    July 1, 2016 at 9:36 am

    It does look like a very beautiful and peaceful region, gorgeous photos!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      July 8, 2016 at 12:25 am

      Thank you, it was an absolute treat to explore it!

  • Reply
    Gary
    July 9, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Have stayed in Galicia on numerous occasions and it remains one of my favourite regions in the whole of Spain. The last mini break was to O’Grove where we ate fresh cockles straight from the beach. If you are a seafood lover this is the place for you..amazing! Your article Jane really captures the beauty of the area.

  • Reply
    Locationcars
    July 12, 2016 at 6:46 am

    I am So happy to see Cathedrals Beach on this list. Spain is simply exotic and the beaches in Spain are incredible and best enjoyable place.

  • Reply
    Sira
    July 27, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Wauw that really looks great… Beautiful pictures! When I will be in Spain, I definitely pay a visit :).

    Happy travels!
    Sira

  • Reply
    Sean
    April 11, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Looks great!!
    Is it easy enough to get around with without a car and is the sea bearable to swim in (in summer of course)?

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      April 15, 2019 at 9:30 am

      Hi Sean, I’d definitely recommend hiring a car to get around. I can’t advise on the sea temperature as we visited in June and I didn’t dare go in!

Leave a Reply

shares