Galicia sits in the northwest corner of Spain and is said to have some of the countries best beaches. It’s January so not exactly prime time to put our swimmers on and bask in the sun but after spending a couple weeks in the mountains 15° sounded pretty warm to us. One place we really wanted to visit was Praia das Catedrais, near Ribadeo. It’s considered to be one of Spain’s best beaches thanks to the stunning rocky arches along the rugged coast. Apparently in the peak season you have to prebook a free ticket to visit the sight so they can control the numbers a bit. The beach is only accessible a couple hours either side of low tide but we were having problems trying to find the correct tide chart. Some websites said low tide was at 3pm while others said that was high tide, so we had no idea what website to believe and it quickly became evident that the one who said low tide at 3pm was very wrong. The sea was thrashing against the cliffs and the beach had all but vanished. So we stayed in the area and woke early the next morning to try again.
The sun was rising as we drove back to the beach and we noticed some bizarre clouds ahead of us. They were glowing orange from the sun but there were also rainbows smudged through the cloud and distinct lines that looked like cloudy ridge-lines. Afterwards I searched online and I think they were an optical phenomenon called iridescence clouds.
It was about an hour and a half before low tide which we thought was a perfect time to visit. When we noticed our footprints were the first ones on the sand we excitedly ran along the beach but within a few minutes we met our first obstacle. The sea was still quite high up and we had steep rocky cliffs the other side so there wasn’t a way through. The water was a couple of feet deep so we could of undressed and waded through but instead we decided to wait a bit for it to recede. It took it’s sweet time but after about 15 minutes we were able to step over some rocks and land ourselves in a rather inhospitable place. The ground was just big slabs of slippery rocks, the surface was like a sheet of ice so we had to try and pick patches of algae to step on for a little grip. We could see a sand bank starting to form near the shoreline but it wasn’t accessible quite yet so we had it continue our careful journey along the rocks. Finally we arrived at the first arch which had a channel of water running under it. It was quite deep but we needed to get through there to see the main arches. So we stood around and waited another 15 minutes until Craig finally said “right I’m taking my boots off!” I was in welly’s but the water was too deep for them and I was also wearing jeans which wouldn’t roll up past my knees so I got undressed and waded through the chilly water.
The arches were pretty cool actually, they were quite thin and we wondered how much longer they’d be around for before the waves cause them to collapse. We were standing in a strange rocky-walled complex, almost like a roofless cave with two openings, one was the route we’d waded through and the other offered the view of the arches. We wanted to walk under them and have a closer look but there was a channel of water in front of us that looked too deep. We were also concerned about the tide times, right now it was 30 minutes before low tide according to the websites we checked, but we’d had such a mix of results that we were concerned it could be coming back in at any moment. So we decided not to risk it and made our way back. The water was still over 1ft deep to walk through so I have no idea how the hundreds of visitors get here normally as it’s people of all ages visiting…unless we really did get the tide times wrong. Once we got back onto the sand we were shocked to see a huge tour group coming our way. Behind them were even more people, boy did we time it well to avoid them!!
We had a big drive ahead of us to reach the west coast and the route was unexpectedly hilly, climbing 700m into a dangerous section with thick fog before we descended right back down to sea level. We were trying to stop at a Lidl on the way and I had a look at our map 2km before our turn off which was silly but Craig started telling me there’s a turn off now should he take it? I didn’t have time to see where we were on the map so we took the turn and it was the wrong bloody road. I can’t stand these roads, if you take the wrong route you’re stuck on it for 20km. To make matters worse it led us onto a toll road! Luckily some very helpful staff helped us figure out the best route back and the toll was only 55c, although I paid €1 and Craig said it probably wouldn’t give change, the barrier went up and as we drove off I heard the chinking of our change coming out the machine. Dammit. After a long drive of about 250km we finally arrived at a beach. There was plenty of free parking above it and a great view of the surfers riding the waves. We only had a couple hours of daylight left so I had a well needed gin and tonic and did some painting. We were north facing so the sun left us quite early on but we were treated to a beautiful pink glow at sunset.
The next morning we set off to a little beach near Ponteceso. It was a beautiful area that felt far away from civilisation. The calm bay with white sand was backed with tall pine trees which was quite unusual and we parked up with the beach right outside our side door. We arrived in the morning so there was almost a thin layer of fog in the distance, slowly being burnt off by the sun. We decided to start our day with a walk along the beach and around the coastline. We were near an estuary so we got some fantastic views of the sandbanks rising out the water like little islands. The water was so clear we could see the sandy ripples on the floor.
We headed back to Helga for a lunch that matched the weather; tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh bread and a sea view. The weather reached about 17° in the afternoon so we decided to go for a swim in the crystal clear sea. It was bitterly cold in the water but after getting out we realised it wasn’t so bad and ran back in. We had a shower afterwards to get the salt water off, poured a gin and tonic and had some snacks, aka tapas. It was such a lovely day in the warm sunshine but it didn’t last long, the next morning we woke to drizzly rain. It wasn’t bad and to be honest it would be considered good weather in Ireland but in Spain where we’ve had mostly blue skies it was a grim day. The beach was so peaceful that we decided to stay put for the day, relax and bake some cookies.
We left the next morning, stopping in Laxe on our way south. Just north of the town was a beach called Praia dos Cristais which has become popular for a bizarre reason. This area of coast used to be a landfill site but over the years pieces of broken glass bottles have been smoothed and rounded by the sea. The tide has pushed these colourful crystals onto land and created a green hue to this tiny, gravelly beach. It was an interesting sight and definitely the biggest collection of sea glass we’ve ever seen but it wasn’t very fun because we weren’t allowed to collect any glass, so without the joy of searching for unique pieces it was a bit of an anticlimactic sight. I understand why, if everyone took glass home the community would be left with a boring, gravel beach. I did love reading some of the negative reviews for the beach on tripadvisor though; “The crystal stones appeared to be possibly small fragments of glass well worn down by the sea” well duh! What was this person expecting, a beach covered in rare jewels and diamonds?
We continued our drive south to a spot I’d found on google earth. It was a deep bay with multiple calm beaches protected from the waves. The first place we parked didn’t offer a view of the beach so we continued on and found the most idyllic spot. We were parked above a white sand beach with turquoise water and not a soul around. There was a house behind us but it was clearly a summer home as all the shutters were pulled down, had it of been occupied we would of had to find a different spot to stay as I think it’s rude parking by peoples houses.
We headed out for a lovely stroll along the road which gave us a great vantage point across the first two beaches and then we cut down to the final beach and walked along the sand. At the far end was a river inlet, filled with a couple of meters of crystal clear emerald water that looked very tempting for a dip, if only it was a little warmer outside.
We’ve slowly been bopping south down the western coast of Galicia, stopping at idyllic beaches along the way. The sun has been shining but the winds picked up which was a shame as the 17° felt more like 10° in the wind. The road skirted along the coastline offering us fantastic views of the sea and more beaches than we could count. It’s my kind of area actually, I really love small beaches, the idea of a long straight beach bores the shit out of me.
We were constantly stopping to photograph the dreamy beaches, walking along untouched sand banks and admiring the colourful little boats bobbing in the aqua blue water. Mountains began to rise around the coastline and I noticed a hiking possibility up Monte Pindo at around 600m elevation. As we drove along the coast road the scenery reminded us of Morocco with the swaying palms and rugged mountain backdrop. To be honest we weren’t in the mood for a long hike so we decided to go for an hour ramble up the hillside to gain a little elevation for a view across the coast. The landscape was really interesting with giant boulders and tropical beaches below us. Tumbling down the side of the mountain was a gushing waterfall that we followed a boardwalk to witness up close. It was a really pretty area and very different to the rest of the Galicia coast.
We had planned on camping beside a little beach but there was another camper there – shock horror! So we headed south to a popular beach as it had a large parking area in the sunshine. It was a unique beach due to a river inlet spilling across the white sand and creating magical pools and channels of water. The beach was called Praia Boca do Rio and there were quite a few locals enjoying the final couple hours of sunshine. We enjoyed a little walk around the clear pools and took advantage of Helga heating up in the sun to brave a cold shower. Everyone ended up heading off at sunset and we had the tranquil spot all to ourselves. It was a little shady and cold to appreciate the following morning due to the low sun so we decided to continue our journey south, passing more idyllic beaches on the way.