Pairing of gastronomy plans in Santiago
Gastronomy tourism never goes out of fashion, and much less in a place like Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) which likes to boast - and rightly so - about the rich variety and quality of its shellfish, fish and meat dishes. The gastronomy festivals, traditional markets and food markets are ample justification for a pilgrimage to the capital of Galicia.more info
Vigo’s Island Paradise
Vigo is the largest and liveliest city in the verdant Galicia region on Spain’s northwestern corner, and the unspoiled Islas Cíesislands that guard the entrance to the Vigo estuary provide the contrasting note of blissful peace and quiet, in a natural setting of fine beaches, dunes, lagoons, thick forests, and hiking trails. The three islands are the crown jewels of the Parque Nacional Marítimo Terrestre das Illas Atlánticas de Galicia, which includes theIslas de Ons archipelago to the north, and their almost pristine state is jealously protected. There are no hotels, only a campsite open in the summer months, and the number of visitors is restricted to 2,200 per day, so it’s wise to take an early morning boat. That will also give you time to relax on the beach and to explore the hilly islands which are criss-crossed by hiking trails –no cars or bicycles are allowed. You’ll see spectacular views, rich vegetation, and large colonies of both resident and migratory seabirds, such as the yellow-footed seagull, the cormorant, and many other species.
Monte do Faro and Monteagudo Islands
The ferries take you to the two northernmost islands, connected by a stone footbridge and by the Playa de Rodas itself, which is really a sandy 1.2 km-long isthmus separating the Vigo estuary from the tidal lagoon between the islands. A third island, San Martiño, can be reached only by private boat, and indeed, dozens of sailboats and a few luxury yachts can be seen lying at anchor near all three islands in the summer. There are nine beaches on the two connected islands, each with its own character, and the most famous after Rodas is that of Figueiras, a popular nudist beach with plenty of shade, on the north island, Monteagudo. Serious nature lovers can easily hike all the trails in a few hours, looking down the steep cliffs on the windward western shore, or admiring the panoramic views in all directions from the lighthouse –faro in Spanish– built in the mid 19th C. at 178 metres above sea level on Monte del Faro, also known as the Isla del Medio or “middle island”.
Playa de Rodas
The halfmoon-shaped curve of Rodas beach connecting the two islands on the leeward, eastern shore is a true gem of fine gold sand and shallow crystalline waters –you can walk 200 metres from the shore and keep your hair dry, so it’s very safe for children. The tides regularly flush it clean, also renewing the water in the lagoon behind, which is the abode of a rich variety of fish and shellfish (diving is allowed, but spearfishing is not).
Where to Eat
To restore your strength with some local fare you should try the pulpo á Illa –octopus, island-style– tender chunks of boiled octopus with onion, coarse sea salt, and both sweet and spicy paprika. But the large menu also features roasts and other specialities. The restaurant has a choice of rooms in which to enjoy your meal –public, private, with fireplace, etc. – and cellars where you can sample some of Galicia’s exquisite wines
How to Get There
From June through September there are ferries at least every hour from Vigo harbour, or the nearby towns of Baiona, Cangas, and Moaña, from 0630h until 1030h. In the off season you must hire a boat, with or without crew, which is easy to do in Vigo, but you’ll need a permit, and another permit for anchoring off the islands.
Fancy a hop to the islands? Check out our fares here!
Photos: Tour Galiciamore info
The Most Refreshing Road to Santiago
The river-and-sea route along the Arousa estuary and the river Ulla commemorates the sea landing in Galicia of the mortal remains of the Apostle, James the Elder, after his martyrdom in Jerusalem in the year AD 44. James was a fisherman of Galilee, an apostle of Christ, and a preacher of the Gospel in the West. Herod ordered his assassination in the year AD 44.
This is undoubtedly one of the less trodden pilgrim’s routes to Santiago. No ordinary route, it is negotiated mainly by boat, against the magnificent backdrop of the Arousa estuary. The subsequent stretch negotiated on foot is only 26 km long, the distance separating Pontecesures from the holy point of arrival in Santiago de Compostela.
The Sea Route
The route starts in the O Grove fishing village. It has pleasure boats that make most of the journey, with stopovers at mussel rafts, tastings included. But, if you’re hankering after a more genuine adventure, the best approach is to make friends with a local fisherman to negotiate the stretch on a small boat. This is the best way to hear the scores of tales about a route celebrated the world over. And, the shallow draught of the vessel means that reaching the picturesque village of Pontecesures does not involve any major difficulty. It is safest to sail up the river during high tide.
The first few paces of the journey are incredible, sailing right past the shellfish harvesters rummaging between the rocks for clams and velvet crabs on the riverbank. You then wend your way among the mussel rafts, a veritable tangle of floating platforms beneath which you can make out sizeable loads of delicious mussels. From Cortegada Island on, a number of pilgrim’s crosses set on islets and on the shores of the Ulla estuary show the way, traversing the mythical Western Towers of Catoira and the nature reserve of Brañas de Laíño, until you reach Padrón and then on to Compostela.
Feet! You’re Now Required!
The half-ruined towers of the Catoira fortification mark the end of the most maritime estuary. From here on, the two riverbanks start moving together, as if to form a river. The stretch up to Padrón is no longer navigable after the river Sar channelling works were undertaken, but you can reach Pontecesures along the river Ulla. This is the landing point. According to ancient Christian traditions, reworked in medieval texts, after his martyrdom, some of St James’ disciples recovered his decapitated body and took it across the Mediterranean and up the Atlantic coast of Iberia as far as Iria Flavia, in the vicinity of present-day Padrón. They made the voyage in a celebrated “stone boat”, which might have been one of the vessels used for transporting minerals between Galicia and other areas of the Roman Empire. The stone or “Pedrón” is housed in the Church of Santiago de Padrón. Tradition has it that the Apostle’s boat was moored to the stone after its long voyage.
Padrón is a modern town. The boat was moored to a stone or pedrón, which is actually an altar stone that can now be seen under the altar at the Church of Santiago. Padrón, the former Iria Flavia, was one of the great Roman metropoli in Galicia. There are also vestiges of St James at the Fuente de Santiago (Fountain of St James) and in Santiaguiño do Monte, where a shrine and megalithic complexes recollect the Apostle’s early preachings. This maritime route was also plied by the Portuguese, who also celebrate it as the route taken by disciples who brought St James’ relics with them.
Don’t miss out on this maritime route reaching Santiago de Compostela after sailing up the Arousa estuary. Check out our flights here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación