Once you make it past the long days of Castilla y Leon, you finally get to the last province on the Camino de Santiago, Galicia. The terrain almost immediately begins to shift from miles and miles of golden fields and farmland to verdant rolling hills. There were times when I felt more like I was in Ireland than hiking through Spain.
Galicia is an autonomous region in the northwest coast of Spain, just above Portugal. There are almost 3 million inhabitants and the area is quite prosperous with farming and fishing as the main industries in this pastoral region. There are two official languages: Spanish and Galician (which sounds like a combination of Spanish and Portuguese).
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the area is reminiscent of Ireland. Galicia, or Galleaci, was named by the Celtics, who inhabited the area during the last millennium BC. Like most parts of Western Europe, the Romans conquered the area in 319 BC but eventually the Visigoths and local kingdoms ruled over Galicia in the over the course of the next millennium. It wasn’t until the Franco regime that Galicia successfully passed the right for self-government in the Statute of Autonomy of 1981.
The Last 100km – Sarria to Santiago de Compostela
Many pilgrims choose to begin and end their Camino in Galicia, starting their pilgrimage in a town called Sarria, which is approximately 100 km from Santiago de Compostela. This starting point is significant because it is the minimum allowable distance from Santiago to receive the coveted Compostela, certificate, of accomplishing The Way.
People wait in long lines in Santiago to pay a few euros to have their name written in Latin and sealed by the official pilgrim’s office. It may sound silly, like a child’s fascination with a scavenger hunt or passport game, but for some reason after walking all of those hundreds of miles, that piece of paper means something significant (I have it framed and hung proudly in my home!).
And once you arrive to Sarria you can feel a difference in energy than in prior regions of the Camino. There are far more pilgrims condensed on the trails than anywhere else I experienced. This is a stark contrast to Castilla y Leon, which a lot of people skip out on, and the change can feel quite disorienting. As a result of all of the people, I found that I did not run into the usual suspects as often as I did the prior days. The trails were also noisier with larger groups chitchatting on their journey. If you prefer a quieter experience you may want to leave earlier or later in the morning to avoid crowds or even pop in ear buds and zone out listening to your favorite music.
The interactions with locals began to change as well. Those associated with the Camino seem to be busier with the increased traffic than in other regions and as a result there is less time to fraternize with the pilgrims. I noticed a little more of a distant vibe from the locals as well. They were not rude at all, but just focused on their job. Prices also began to creep up as well. The menu of the day seemed to be about the same but prices at the bars, where pilgrims make pit stops, increased.
Don’t let the crowds deter you. I loved this part of the Camino. It was so beautiful and I appreciated the cooler climate. The hilly terrain was a welcome change to the flat and monotonous Castillla y Leon. But my favorite, favorite, favorite part of the Galicia experience was the PULPO!
Pulpo is the Spanish word for octopus. If you are a foodie, you probably already appreciate a grilled octopus tentacle with a fresh baguette and a glass of dry white wine. But if you have not tried this delicacy of the sea, please do yourself a favor and try it!
We have arrived! Next up a deep dive and what to expect when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela. Please use the comment space to request topics you would like covered. Also, if you liked this post and want to read more, join ‘la princesa del camino’ newsletter to make sure you do not miss a post. ¡Buen Camino!