travel

Essential Spain : Galicia

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Galicia is one if the rare places where even the most everyday activity is a luxury experience. This is an area where people live very well indeed, which is one reason why the Spanish flock to its coastline in summer.

The hot-but-not-stifling climate is perfect for days spent relaxing on the beach – and Galicia has some of the best in Spain. For lunch, enjoy a shady table by the sea, with a bottle of Albariño glistening in front of you, and choose between spider crab, langoustines, oysters, scallops, octopus or mussels, or why not order the lot, since eating seafood in Galicia counts as a cultural activity.

There is a great spa tradition too, owing to the mineral-rich springs in this corner of the country. Whether you take to the waters in a historic pazo – as the grand granite mansions in Galicia are called – or have a massage using a locally-made salt scrub in sleek contemporary surroundings, the experience will be purely gallego. spain.info; turgalicia.es

Description: The hot-but-not-stifling climate is perfect for days spent relaxing on the beach – and Galicia has some of the best in Spain.

The hot-but-not-stifling climate is perfect for days spent relaxing on the beach – and Galicia has some of the best in Spain.

Islas Cíes

18km off coast of Vigo,

GPS 8o54.1263’ W, 42o13.2693’N

Not many cities can say they have some of the world’s most idyllic islands just offshore, but in Vigo you can simply hop on a boat to get to this stunning archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Since it is a national park, the three islands are a paradise for nature lovers and birdwatchers, but locals often nip over just to lie on the pristine Rodas – a crescent of fine, white sand dotted with pretty white shells and flanked by lagoon, dunes and pine trees – and swim in the crystalline sea. The coast facing inland towards the Rías Baixas is much like the Caribbean, calm, warm and breathtakingly beautiful but adventurers may prefer the wilder Atlantic side of the islands where waves crash against the dramatic cliffs. It is not exactly hard to see why the Romans called them the Islands of the Gods.

Description: Not many cities can say they have some of the world’s most idyllic islands just offshore, but in Vigo you can simply hop on a boat to get to this stunning archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Not many cities can say they have some of the world’s most idyllic islands just offshore, but in Vigo you can simply hop on a boat to get to this stunning archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Shellfish Harvesting

Playa Compostela, Carril, GPS 8o 45.5988’W, 42o 36.132’N

The Mariscadoras – the ladies who harvest shellfish in the bay bordering Cambados in the Ría de Arousa – spend at least three months learning how to scoop mussels, clams and cockles out of the sand, but are happy to share their secrets with visitors to the region who fancy having a go for themselves. Equipped with willies, a rake and a curved trowel, as soon as you start padding on the shore at low tide, you realize there is a lot of skill involved simply to spot the shellfish, let alone dig each one out, measure it and decide whether or not it is of suitable quality. Of course, the professionals do all this in seconds.

Description: The Mariscadoras – the ladies who harvest shellfish in the bay bordering Cambados in the Ría de Arousa

The Mariscadoras – the ladies who harvest shellfish in the bay bordering Cambados in the Ría de Arousa

Parador de Baiona

Baiona, GPS 8o 51.0098’W, 42o7.2669’N

On the Monterreal peninsula, almost completely surrounded by the Atlantic with views across the Ría de Vigo to the Islas Cíes, the Parador has a dramatic setting in the medieval fortress of the Conde de Gondomar. With coats of arms, suits of armour and a magnificent staircase perfect for making an entrance, this is about as romantic as it gets, particularly if you stay in the Mirador de Rompeolas room with its huge four-poster bed, spacious bathroom and breathtaking views. Baiona is packed with gothic and baroque monuments, but managers to be a pretty lively resort at the same time, with lots of resort at the same time, with lots of gorgeous beaches nearby.

Description: Parador de Baiona

Parador de Baiona

Bodegas Martín Códax

Cambados, GPS -8o47’3264’’W, 40o25’30.7194’’N

You can taste the tang of the sea spray in the crisp white Albariño wines made in the Rías Baixas. Grown on pergolas that stretch across the craggy fingers of land jutting into the Atlantic, the Albariño grape is packed with zingy flavors – the perfect match for the abundant shellfish in the inlets. Using grapes from the family-owned vineyards that carpet the gently-slopping hills around the Ría de Arousa estuary, Martín Códax – named after a 13th century Galician troubadour – makes some of the best wines in the region n its contemporary winery outside Cambados, where the Albariño festival takes place at the beginning of August.

Description: You can taste the tang of the sea spray in the crisp white Albariño wines made in the Rías Baixas.

You can taste the tang of the sea spray in the crisp white Albariño wines made in the Rías Baixas.

Gran hotel La Toja

O Grove, GPS 8o 0.9729’ W, 42o47.9228’N

Getting to the tiny island of La Toja, driving over a bridge flanked by white wrought-iron railings, sets the mood for the belle époque vibe at this glamorous spa hotel. La Toja’s spring water, claimed to have a miraculous effect on everything from insomnia to cellulite, has been attracting the great and the good to the island since the 19th century. The hotel now combines contemporary design with original art nouveau features, such as floral stained-glass decoration. Have a spa treatment using the local mineral-tich products, then gaze across the sea from a wicker chair in the terrace.

Description: Getting to the tiny island of La Toja, driving over a bridge flanked by white wrought-iron railings, sets the mood for the belle époque vibe at this glamorous spa hotel.

Getting to the tiny island of La Toja, driving over a bridge flanked by white wrought-iron railings, sets the mood for the belle époque vibe at this glamorous spa hotel.

Thalasso Spa at Hotel Bienstar

Moaña, GPS 8o44.3065’W, 42o16.6334’N

With a great location in the fishing village of Moaña on the Ria de Vigo inlet in the Rias Baixas, it is hardly surprising that the spa takes full advantage of the natural resources right on its doorstep. The thermal pool uses invigorating sea water, while treatments include nutrient-rich seaweed wraps – harvested locally, of course. And if you want to feel the sand between your toes or feel the urge to plunge into the sea, you can just walk down to the sore at A Xunqueira – or choose one of the other superb beaches along the coast.

Description: The thermal pool uses invigorating sea water, while treatments include nutrient-rich seaweed wraps – harvested locally, of course.

The thermal pool uses invigorating sea water, while treatments include nutrient-rich seaweed wraps – harvested locally, of course.

Gran hotel Nagari Boutique & Spa

Vigo, GPS 8o42.8505’ W, 42o14.343’ N

As afternoon slips into evening, the scene at the rooftop pool at the Nagari shifts from languid to lively. This is where Vigo’s cool crowd meet for drinks on balmy summer nights. With panoramic view across the city and the sea, you could easily forget to go downstairs, but then you’d miss out on the Ayurvedic, Chinese and Indonesian treatments in the spa. Step outside, and you are in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw away from some of Vigo’s best restaurants and a few minutes walk from the water. Get into the Vigo grove with a glass of Albariño and a dozen oysters from a street stall. Or blend in amongst Vigo’s well-heeled locals and enjoy a cortado at one if the hotel’s chic outdoor tables that overlook the city’s pretty gardens and park area.

Description: 7. Gran hotel Nagari Boutique & Spa

Grand hotel Nagari Boutique & Spa

 

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