Galicia’s spiritual and cultural centre is Santiago de Compostela, the medieval city that is journey’s end for walkers on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. But Galicia is more than its capital – it is a unique province with a wild coastline and emerald green interior, its own language and a distinctive culture and cuisine.
Locals say the arcaded streets of Santiago de Compostela are at their most beautiful in the rain, when the city glistens. But most would agree that it's hard to catch the Galician capital in a bad pose (santiago-compostela.net).
The town of A Coruña is something of an art hub. You'll find a fine collection of works by masters such as Goya, Rubens and Sorolla at the Museo de Bellas Artes gallery (00 34 981 22 37 23; Calle de Zalaeta; 10am-8pm Tue-Fri, 10am-2pm & 4.30pm-8pm Sat, 10am-2pm Sun; £2).
The mountainous northwestern coast of Galicia, or Rías Altas, provides the region's most dramatic scenery. Drive the coastal road for views of forests opening up to sheer cliffs. The most awesome stretch, the Serra da Capelada, begins above Cedeira. Finish your trip at Cabo Ortegal, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the Bay of Biscay.
A beautiful bird sanctuary and home to Galicia's most unspoilt beaches, the Illas Cíes are a 45-minute ferry ride from the town of Vigo. Naviera Mar de Ons runs boats daily (00 34 986 22 52 72; mardeons.com; weekends Easter-May, Jun-Sep; £16).
Cambados is a pretty seaside village and the capital of the Albariño wine country. Visit a handful of wineries in town and enjoy the annual wine festival in July. To sample local vintages, try Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinañes (fefinanes.com; 10am-2pm & 4pm- 8pm Mon-Sat; tasting tour £4).
Eat and drink
Martín Códax is the bestknown Galician winery, offering hourly tours that include free wine tasting (00 34 986 52 60 40; martincodax.com; Rúa Burgáns 91, Vilariño; 11am-1pm & 5pm-7pm Mon-Fri, 11am-1pm Sat).
Located in Pontevedra in the Rías Baixas, Casa Verdún is a superior tapas and raciones (larger tapas plates) spot with an interior patio and a busy bar area. Options range from monkfish brochette to entrecôte steak in Valdeón cheese (Rúa Real 46; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; raciones £5-£10).
Restaurante Ó Dezaseis is a popular rustic cellar tavern. Wood-beamed ceilings and stone walls set the tone for traditional specialities such as caldeirada de rape y rodaballo, monkfish and turbot casserole, and lacón con grelos, ham with greens (00 34 981 56 48 80; dezaseis.com; Rúa de San Pedro 16, Santiago de Compostela; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; mains £5-£12).
The exterior of A Coruña's Adega O Bebedeiro is drab but the inside is filled with Galician bric-a-brac and the food is hearty. Try the oxtail with fried potatoes (00 34 981 21 06 09; Calle de Ángel Rebollo; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat, lunch Sun; mains £6-£12).
With flower-decked balconies, A Curtidoría is a favourite lunch spot, which specialises in simple fish, meat and rice dishes such as crab-stuffed peppers (00 34 981 55 43 42; acurtidoria.com; Rúa da Conga 2-3, Santiago de Compostela; lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; mains £12-£15).
Just before you reach the Rías Altas, you'll spot the charming stone facade of Hospedería Cordobelas. A conversion of four, century-old houses, the rooms have terracotta tiled floors, exposed timber ceilings and country-style furnishings. The beautiful gardens have been cultivated with pride (00 34 981 48 06 07; cordobelas.com; Rúa Cordobelas 29, Cedeira; from £60; closed mid-Dec to mid-Jan).
Despite A Coruña's medieval charm, many hotels cater to business travellers, of which the Hotel Zenit Coruña is the best. Although rooms are unimaginative, its location is great - close to Orzán beach (00 34 981 21 84 84; zenithoteles. com; Calle Comandante Fontanes 19; from £80).
As Artes' honey-coloured stone walled rooms exude a romantic air. Elegant period-style furniture, bright soft furnishings and wooden floorboards add to its charm (00 34 981 55 52 54; asartes.com; Travesía de Dos Puertas 2, Santiago de Compostela; from £85).
Parador de Santo Estevo is a monastery sitting above a canyon. Rooms have great views and character derived from the varied Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles of the complex (00 34 988 01 01 10; parador.es; Nogueira de Ramuín; from £140).
Parador Hostal dos Reis Católicos opened in 1499 as a royal hospital, giving shelter to weary pilgrims in rooms around its four historic cloisters. Now it is Santiago's top hotel, with regal accommodation: four-poster beds, cathedral-view balconies and dark, baroque furnishings (00 34 981 58 22 00; parador.es; Praza do Obradoiro 1, Santiago de Compostela; from £190).
Find your way
Getting to the coastal towns is easy using the train network that links Santiago with Vigo (£6), Pontevedra (£5) and A Coruña (£4). For further afield, hire a car. You can find major car hire companies at the airport (from £21 per day; europcar.com).
How to go
Ryanair flies direct to Santiago's Lavacolla airport from Stansted (from £60; ryanair.com). From March to November Brittany ferries runs services from Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander (from £500 for two adults with a car; 24 hours; brittany-ferries.co.uk).
The article 'Mini Guide to Galicia, Spain' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.