THE north-western region of Galicia is not always what people think of when envisaging Spain, especially visitors whose travels have been limited to the Costas and islands. However, many regard this area as the “real Spain” with some of the best places to eat, visit and explore, from city breaks to the countryside. One of the reasons why it is less well known is the weather, with its proximity to the Atlantic making it seem closer to northern Europe than southern Spain at times. This is somewhat harsh, as the average winter temperature is close to 10 degrees centigrade and the summer average of 20 degrees is preferred by many to the baking Costas.
The capital is Santiago de Compostela, famous for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, its cathedral and some of the best restaurants in Spain. Vigo is the largest city here and well worth a visit as are La Coruña, Lugo, Pontevedra and Orense among others too numerous to mention. The area is rightly proud of its gastronomy, with fish and shellfish, often in hearty soups and stews, featuring on the coast. Inland, game and vegetables are more likely to feature on the table while there is a good selection of local wines across the region.
Many people travel here for the outdoor life, with natural parks, mountains, rivers, forests and the quiet beaches giving something for everyone. Galicia is in fact 70% forested, making it probably the greenest region in Spain and with a wide array of flora and fauna, from native oaks to wild horses and over 150 varieties of native birds. So, if you want a taste of the real Spain why not visit Galicia? It is a fair old drive from Alicante, at least eight hours (although Madrid is a handy half-way stopping point) but is well serviced by trains and air.