Gorgeous Galicia: Why autumn is the time to visit Spain's northern star
From Albarino to A Coruña
There's a lot more to Northern Spain than the Camino, and autumn is the ideal time to visit says Arlene Harris.
Set the mood
Galicians are often referred to as 'the Irish who couldn't swim', due to the similarities linking our cultures. Several words in Gallegan have the same sound and meaning as in Gaeilge; the Galician national dish is spare ribs and cabbage, the folk music is eerily akin to our own and the landscape is green as far as the eye can see.
Now that the searing heat of summer has abated, you can really appreciate the unspoilt coastline, the autumnal colours, and in contrast to the last leg of the Camino and the touristy areas further south, it's possible to go for days without hearing any English being spoken.
This, for me, adds to the appeal. It is Spain, after all.
Galicia is renowned for Albarino, a deliciously crisp, yet fruity, white wine. There's nothing like sitting in the shade and sampling varieties from different vineyards or taking a trip to one of the many bodegas around the region.
My extensive research (ahem...) led to a firm favourite - Finca Arantei made by Bodegas La Val - which fortunately can be found at home (for €18.95 in Wine Buff stores).
Perfectly chilled, this aromatic white had notes of melon and peach and was the ideal accompaniment to our sharing dish of paella, packed to the brim with local seafood and fresh fish, and an obligatory side-order of Pimientos Padron (grilled green peppers with sea salt and lemon).
A Coruña and Santiago are beautiful cities where simple ambling to soak up the atmosphere is a great way to spend the day. A 9km coastal promenade in A Coruña takes in Torre De Hercules and Castillo de San Anton, as well as several beaches and inviting eateries.
No visit to Santiago is complete without seeing the famous cathedral (above), but this part of the city also boasts a wonderful labyrinth of cobbled streets. Getting lost within range of so many reasonably priced tapas bars is a mouth-watering experience.
If you want the 'real deal' in Galicia, get off the well-trodden path and visit one of the small seaside towns along the coast.
We chose Santa Cristina, a tiny village near A Coruña. This picturesque resort can be reached by bus from the city (every half hour) or, if you want to arrive in style, take a taxi from the airport - the hour-long trip costs €90, which for a family of five, we felt was pretty reasonable.
Galicia is a chocoholic's heaven that specialises in seriously chunky bars - both for scoffing and making hot chocolate. If you're planning on bringing a few bars back home, buy them in the city as they'll cost twice the price at the airport.
In keeping with its Irish links, Galicia has a temperate climate. It's warmer and drier than Ireland, but the verdant countryside gets more rainfall than the rest of Spain - so pack a raincoat and be prepared for the odd passing shower.
Get me there
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies direct from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela until October 31. During winter, the best route is a connecting flight from London Stansted with Ryanair (ryanair.com). In Galicia, trains from Santiago to A Coruña cost around €6 (renfe.com).
Seven days' self-catering at Sercotel Hotels (sercotel.com) starts from €700 for a two-bedroom apartment. See holidaytaxis.com for taxis, and turgalicia.es for more information on travel in Galicia.