A Spanish Roadtrip, Castilla y Leon and Galicia

It’s fairly normal to select a holiday destination based on the prospect of warm, sunny weather. The effortless combination of historic cities, natural beauty, excellent food and a seamlessly endless supply of blue skies, are just some of the many reasons Spain is a favourite destination. There are occasions when less is more though. Temperatures during our visit to Spain this summer were so hot that we ended up changing our plans and visiting ‘cooler’ parts of the country.

Madrid was like a furnace. As was the lovely university town of Salamanca, where we spent our time seeking out the shade in historic streets and plazas. The heat was just as intense during a few days exploring the spellbinding landscapes and beautiful villages of the Sierra de Francia. We hoped the hills would provide respite from the heat. No such luck. In the end the long drive to the Galician coast via the Ribeira Sacra was our only option. This proved to be an inspired choice, even if not an intentional one.

Roman Bridge, Salamanca, Spain
Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Castile and León, Spain
Harbour, Muros, Galicia, Spain
St. Anthony’s pig, La Alberca, Sierra de Francia, Castilla y Leon, Spain
Praia de Carnota, Galicia
Vineyards and the River Sil, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain

Galicia is absolutely fabulous. The magnificent landscapes of the Ribeira Sacra took us completely by surprise. As did the ancient winemaking traditions and grape varieties at welcoming vineyards, which often came with the option of having a lunch of delicious local specialities. Throw in picturesque villages, interesting small towns, an occasional castle and a couple of centuries-old monasteries, and I can see us returning to Galicia with monotonous regularity.

We based ourselves in Parada de Sil. This tiny village sits above the River Sil where the reservoir of Encoro de Santo Estevo creates an expanse of water that adds extra drama to the landscape. It’s also close to the beautiful Mosteiro de Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil, a 12th century ruin peacefully set amidst thick woodland. It was the perfect place from which to explore the region, although when we woke on our first day to find mist and light rain it seemed our search for cooler weather had backfired.

The weather in Galicia can be very changeable – it didn’t get to be this green without a decent amount of rain. Luckily, when the sun reappeared it not only stayed with us for the rest of our trip, it also revealed the glorious countryside of the Ribeira Sacra at its verdant best. It would have been easy to stay where we were, but we really wanted to get to Galicia’s wild Atlantic coast for an invigorating dip in the chilly waters, and to its famed Albariño wine producing region.

We drove cross-country along minor roads, with occasional spectacular views, to reach the historic town of Cambados. From where we explored north along the coast to Carnota, one of the most spectacular beaches in the region with a backdrop of forested hills. We saw dolphins leaping as they chased fish at the Praia do Ancoradoiro, and ate pulpo a la gallega in the lovely fishing village of Muros. This Galician-style octopus, is a delicacy along this sweeping coast.

Harbour, Cambados, Galicia, Spain
Carnota, Costa da Morte, Galicia, Spain
Albariño, Pazo A Capitana, Cambados, Galicia, Spain
Salamanca, Spain
Sanctuary of the Peña de Francia, Castilla y Leon, Spain
Monastery of Santo Estevo, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain

The final days of our trip upon us, we headed south to Pontevedra, a town with a long maritime history. During the Spanish Golden Age it was a major port, and this is where Columbus’ flagship, the Santa María, was built. Today, it’s equally well known for taking the radical step of pedestrianising its entire city centre, which makes it one of the best places in Spain to explore on foot.

Maybe we’d had too much sun but, for reasons that still remain fuzzy, our chosen route back to Madrid took us first to León. We spent a couple of nights in this extraordinary place, before heading south again. It involved a couple of long drives, but the Catedral de León alone is worth making the trip to this greatly underrated city. León receives a fraction of the tourists you might expect in such a beautiful city.

8 thoughts on “A Spanish Roadtrip, Castilla y Leon and Galicia

  1. I’ve always heard that Madrid can be hot in the summer, and other places in Spain. But the up side is that you seem to have had a splendid weather.

    1. Hot doesn’t do it justice, Brian. High 30s and air as dry as the desert. Thankfully the Spanish have adopted very civilised ways of dealing with such extremes. I’m a big fan of the siesta!

      1. Lol. I am too. Ever since my African childhood. Since I had my own company and selected my offices close to home I tried to have lunch at home as often as possible then do a 15 minute siesta before returning to work. ZZZZZZ.

        1. That sounds like the perfect work-life balance, Brian. I’m envious.

        2. Not always easy, but when we arrived in Mexico, we first located the French Lycée. Then found a flat nearby. Walking distance. My workplace was 20 minutes drive. When I set up my company I looked and found offices within 15-20 minutes of the school-House. Helps to keep one’s sanity. Cheers Paul

  2. Ah… you got there ahead of us. The plans are nebulous as yet, but – Brexit permitting – we plan a road trip across northern Spain next September, getting the ferry to Bilbao or Santander and taking it from there. There will, of course, be wine involved and history…

    1. That sounds like a good road trip, and the northern coastline is also very beautiful. We met a couple of Dutch families who’s gone on the ferry via the UK to Santander before heading to Galicia in their camper vans. We loved Galicia, great food, even better wine, and they even have bagpipes!

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