Once home to cave-dwelling Neanderthals, the autonomous region of Galicia, Spain, entices visitors with man-made structures that satisfy the eye as much as they captivate the imagination. From haunting prehistoric megaliths to gigantic Roman ruins, Galicia offers treasures that few other regions can match.
Make a Pilgrimage
Famous for its breathtaking architecture, Santiago de Compostela is Galicia's capital city and the location of one of Europe's most celebrated cathedrals. Each year, thousands of hardy pilgrims flock to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to embrace the likeness of the saint who, according to tradition, converted the ancient Galicians from paganism to Christianity. While postcards frequently depict its Baroque western facade, for many, the cathedral's Romanesque interior remains the real attraction.
For those bent on secular pursuits, a trip to Galicia's windswept north coast offers picture-perfect views of the Atlantic Ocean and a chance to tour the world's oldest lighthouse.
The Torre de Hercules
Prior to 137 B.C., the inhabitants of Galicia lived in fortified huts and possessed few luxuries. Once it became a Roman province, Galicia underwent a transformation of which many delightful traces still exist. One of Spain's most complete examples of Roman architecture is Galicia's 2,000-year-old lighthouse, the Torre de Hercules.
Originally 112 feet tall, the Torre de Hercules was designed to guide ships as they made the difficult crossing from Roman Britain to Roman Galicia. In the 18th century, a Neoclassical facade as well as a fourth storey were added to the tower, which now tops out at a dizzying 180 feet. While the climb is somewhat steep, the panoramic views the lighthouse affords are nothing short of spectacular. If Hercules was the lighthouse's true builder, then he chose the perfect site.
Like many coastal regions, Galicia receives a tremendous amount of rainfall. Because the summer tourist season provides the best conditions for viewing Galicia's monuments, skipping it to save money or avoid crowds may not be the best idea. While lines are longer and travel is more expensive during summer, rainfall is heaviest between September and June. Informed travelers should always check the regional forecast before visiting.