The last region we’ll see is Galicia, Galiza in Galician, where we will follow a route closely along the entire coastline called Rías Altas, that is, from Ribadeo to Cape Finisterre.
The route is 655 km long as a whole, and in my case, it was divided into several days and stages, since I wanted to have enough time to visit the coast unhurriedly, do short stages with tourist attractions, and get some rest for a few days in interesting towns.
The climate in Rías Altas is more or less the same as in the rest of the coast along the northern Iberian Peninsula, that is, oceanic and damp, with intermittent fine rains, almost every day. It is a little colder than Asturias, but in summer it is not cold, although temperatures are a little lower than in Asturias.
Route and slopes
Galicia is a land full of ups and downs, and as regards riding a mountain bike, that is quite exhausting for the legs. On the other hand, there are not many high altitudes, or many mountains, so most part of the route will be at sea level or 200 m above sea level at most.
Many of our stages will be along secondary roads, and very often, along general roads. The reason is that not always do we find ways in good conditions or forest trails for a safe and minimally comfortable ride. To avoid busy roads, we will have to use roads in external perimeters of urban areas, sea paths, service roads, etc. In most routes by the sea, we will have to use quite lonely coastal roads, but the result is worth it.
The highest point will be Cape Ortegal, with the oldest rocks in the Iberian Peninsula, and where we will find the beginning of the GR 50 hiking route, “Rota do Medievo”, next to San Andrés de Teixido, a natural wonder where you can see the cliffs of Vixía Herbeira, with the highest point above sea level in Europe —612 m.
The most spectacular view in the forests of Galicia is As Fragas do Eume, the rainforest of the monastery of Caaveiro, the best maintained of the last European thermophilic forests. It is a place you must visit if you go near Pontedeume, a town at the beginning of the English Way of St. James.
The entire Galician coast is similar orographically, but along the 600 kilometres, we get to know completely different places, socio-cultural contrasts, and a wide gastronomic variety.
Spending the night in Galicia, and eating well, is easy and cheap. That doesn’t mean that everybody will like the offer, since between Viveiro and Muxía there are not many campsites, so those who want to live in the open air will have to consider sleeping in hostels, lodges, or hotels, or bivouacking.
The first advantage is that prices are reasonable everywhere, and there is a good accommodation offer, so you will find a hostel in every town which has minimum service facilities. At most, we will have to travel 15 km to find a town with accommodation, no matter how far from civilization we are.
Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) and recommendations
Although Galicia is the final destination of the different Ways, the relationship between our route and the Ways will be quite brief, but intense in its hot points, such as Ribadeo, Muxía, and Fisterra.
Between Ribadeo and Viveiro, we will see many yellow arrows along forest trails, but not all of them belong to the Way of St. James —some of them do not even lead anywhere, and we cannot trust them. A little part of our route happens to meet the Sea Route, so, if we want, we can get stamps on our credentials in tourist boards, coffee shops, etc., if we want evidence that we have done this section.
From Viveiro to Ferrol, there are no references to the Way in the entire coast, because the Way goes inland and down to Santiago diagonally. From Ferrol to Corunna, via Pontedeume and Miño, there are interesting sections of the English Way which will be helpful to use in order to avoid very busy general roads. In order to know whether there are public hostels, you have to ask for information at the local governments, since they are generally not very advertised, and are unnoticed, such as Pontedeume’s municipal pilgrim hostel.
Finally, in Muxía, we come into the Way again, as a final point of the pilgrimage. Only if we have got stamps on our credential from different points in our recent route, even though they are not part of the Way, can we spend the night in the official hostel, so we should get stamps from the last 200 km. We can ask for stamps in coffee shops, music pubs, hotels, parishes, and any public agency, such as local government, fire stations, etc.
In Fisterra, it will be even more complicated to spend the night in a public hostel, because they may reject people who have not gone to Santiago previously, but with a credential full of stamps from the last 200 km, it will suffice.
List of stages of the route by Galicia
- Stage 36: Ribadeo – Viveiro
- Stage 37: Viveiro – Cariño – Cabo Ortegal
- Stage 38: Cabo Ortegal – Teixido – Valdoviño
- Stage 39: Valdoviño – Pontedeume
- Stage 40: Pontedeume – Fragas do Eume – Pontedeume
- Stage 41: Pontedeume – Coruña – Arteixo
- Stage 42: Arteixo – Malpica – Ponteceso
- Stage 43: Ponteceso – Muxía
- Stage 44: Muxía – Fisterra