Visiting the Vigo Area of Galicia – 6 Stops & Must-Have Experiences
When I think back to my stay in the Vigo area of Galicia I can’t help but think of what people long ago felt about the area – it seemed to be the end of the world. Today we of course know that’s not the case but as you stand on Galicia’s west coast and look out into the sparkling blue vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, there is still a mystical feeling in the air.
As the far north-western region of Spain, Galicia is renowned for its lush, verdant terrain, its dramatic coastlines, rich history and culture, and wonderful food. A great way to indulge in those treasures and explore this part of Spain, is to enjoy these six stops and must-have experiences in the Vigo area of Galicia.
Some Tips for Visiting the Vigo Area of Galicia
The Vigo area of Galicia is also a municipality, or the equivalent of a county in the US. I visited in the beginning of June which was a great time since it was still not as busy as July and August. At that time of year, it could get quite warm in the sun but cool in the shade and especially at night, so make sure to wear layers. Make sure to also pack an umbrella and raincoat since the area is known for getting quite a bit of rain.
Do you want to swim in those gorgeous waters? They’re beautiful! But they’re also quite frigid. Keep that in mind when you’re planning what time of year you want to visit and bring along a wet suit if you plan to be in the water a lot.
Stop #1 – Playa Patos for Beach Bathing & Surfing in the Vigo Area of Galicia
This great beach spot is in the small town of Nigrán, just south of the city Vigo. Its wide bay features sandy beaches and some good surfing, complete with a local surf school. One of the most beautiful features is the view of the Cies Islands (which I’ll talk about more further below).
There are various restaurants and bars along the beach here. It’s an ideal spot for enjoying the sunset.
I found that this town also feels quite local and retains that sense of a hidden gem. The visitors who come in the summer are mainly Spaniards from other parts of Spain. Otherwise, foreign tourists seem to frequent the more popular nearby beach towns, like Baiona.
Stop #2 – Monteferro for Hiking in the Vigo Area of Galicia
At the southern end of the Playa Patos is the Monteferro, a natural park full of fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees, dark green ferns and bright wildflowers. Several trails weave their way up and over this small mountain that curves out in the ocean. The rocky cliff sides reach to some nice heights, creating that dramatic coastline scenery that affords breathtaking views all along the way. Overall the trails here are quite easy although with some incline.
Just when you think it can’t feel any more magical, you will hopefully come across one of the two swings that the locals have put in the trees. One of the spots has one swing with an amazing view of the Cies Islands. Further down the trail is another location with two swings and a view south towards Baiona.
One of the unusual sites are the old military base and cannons left there from the 1940’s. It was built after the Spanish Civil War to defend this part of the Vigo area of Galicia from attacks by the allied forces who opposed Germany and Italy in the Second World War. I’m not sure that any attacks ever took place though.
Near here is also a lovely picnic area with great views. This is where you can also find the rose compass and the ‘hidden lighthouse’, which is a miniature lighthouse built out of stone and ceramic and painted. It’s quite small and tucked away underneath some rocks on a steep incline, so it can be hard to find.
Another great site to enjoy is the small lighthouse called Faro de Punta Lameda. There are some engravings on the rocks there, but they are not that old and are said to have been done by a hermit in the area.
Then at the very top of the Monteferro is the impressive Monument of the Universal Navy. Made of granite and towering up to 25 meters high, it is also known as the Monument to the Martyrs of the Sea. Built in 1903 by the Vigo sculpture Manuel Gómez Román, it features the Virgen del Carmen, who is the patron saint of sailors.
Stop #3 – Cies Islands for Enjoying Nature in the Vigo Area of Galicia
The Cies Islands are a fantastic experience to have in the Vigo area of Galicia, especially if you’re a nature lover. Located in the Vigo estuary, the archipelago is a part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park. It is made up of three islands: the southern one is San Martiño, then in the middle is do Faro, and the northern one is Monteagudo.
The islands of do Faro and Monteagudo are linked by the Rodas beach, which in 2007 was named by The Guardian as “The Best Beach in the World”. And I could see why – the gorgeous soft sand and pristine, turquoise water are a paradise. Pine trees and other vegetation flourish along the mountainous outcroppings that form dramatic vistas and rocky cliffs. Throughout both of these islands are wide walking trails that are paved.
Aside from hiking and visiting the three lighthouses, one can relax and swim on the beaches (that is in the summer), and even camp in the designated campground. The Cies Islands can be visited only by Ferry or private boat, both of which require advanced tickets and authorization.
READ MORE: Visiting the Cies Islands in Galicia, Spain
Stop #4 – Road PO-552 for Cruising the Coast of the Vigo Area of Galicia
The highway PO-552 reminded me of California’s famous State Route 1. Its most scenic stretch starts at Baiona and continues south to the municipality of Guarda which is on the border with Portugal. The simple two-laned road is well paved and hugs the coast for quite some time. Looking west is the impressively vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
A clear reminder of history follows you along this road in the bright yellow path that marks the Portuguese Coastal Way of the Camino de Santiago. Every so often a trail marker appears with the well known symbol of the Camino shell.
There are quite a few pull over areas where you can easily park to enjoy the wonderful views. At some stops there are trails down to the water where massive slabs of rock are home to tidal pools that have been worn into the stone over the centuries.
Stop #5 – Explore the Castle of Monterreal in Baiona
I love this castle! And I haven’t even seen the inside of it (yet). The Castle of Monterreal is the epitome of a fortressed castle. It sits on the top of a small peninsula that juts out from the charming old world town of Baiona. Its construction started in the 12th century and was not completed until the 16th century.
At either side of the neck of the peninsula are sandy beaches that look ideal for enjoying a summer’s day. The one on the east side is by the Nautical Club and the entrance to the castle grounds which are located higher up. In this area is also a small park called Parque de Palma with a playground. But the highlight here is the impressively large sculpture called Encontro Entre dous Mundos, the meeting of the two worlds. Sculpted by Magin Picallo, it commemorates the first Native American who came back on the ship the Carabela la Punta in 1493 and was later buried nearby.
From here, you can walk the nicely paved walking path, known as the Paseo del Monte Boi, that goes completely around the peninsula. If you have a dog with you, or just love dogs in general, make sure to stop at the dog park Parque Canino Frades that is about halfway down the west side of the trail.
All along the path are breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Cies Islands, and the extending mainland. On the east side of the trail is a monument to sailors, the Monumento Mariñeiro, that is built into the rocky side. A little further down and in the middle of the path are beautiful ruins of a small pavilion that look romantically magical.
From what I’ve seen online about general admission to see the castle, it costs 1€ to walk around the castle grounds and ramparts.
One of the main buildings of the castle itself is a Parador hotel that you can stay at. It also has a spa and restaurant. Can you imagine staying in such a beautifully historic setting?
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Stop #6 – Enjoy the Historic Sites of the City of Vigo
At the heart of the Vigo area of Galicia is the beautiful city of Vigo, rich with history, natural beauty and resources. Located on an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ria de Vigo (Vigo Estuary), it is a major port and economic hub for the region of Galicia and Europe. Aside from being a leader in the fishing sector, it is also a major industrial leader for car and ship manufacturing in Galicia. While these are beneficial aspects of the city, it is the historical old town that is amazing to visit. Spending time here, one can understand why all throughout the centuries Vigo has experienced attacks and conquests.
A must-see is the Castro Castle, a romantically old fortress that sits on a large hilltop overlooking the sea and old town. The castle itself was built in the Middle Ages and today the entire hill is a verdant botanical garden featuring native and foreign plants. You can drive or walk to the top and various different walking and running trails wound their way through the pines, cedars, and flower gardens.
From practically every turn you can enjoy wonderful views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. Within the fortress structure itself is the Parque Monte do Castro, featuring a tranquil pond, statues, and a monument dedicated to the stonemasons.
At the bottom of the mount of O Castro, and to the north, is the Fortress of San Sebastian. It is actually connected to the Castro Castle and the city by tunnels. Today, the town hall and Plaza del Rey are housed there.
Continue walking north towards the water and you can find some great places to enjoy the traditional cuisine amidst charming old world buildings and plazas, like the Plaza de la Constitución. The Neoclassical church of Basilica de Santa Maria de Vigo is worth peeking your head into for the barrel-vaulted ceiling and frescoes. It’s located in the quaint Plaza de la Colegiata. Go right next door to Taperia Stefany to savor the iconic local dish of Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician Octopus).
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Written by Amalia Maloney Del Riego
Fora Travel Advisor & Content Creator
I love living in Denia, Spain and traveling worldwide. My idea of a great time is ‘eating and drinking’ my way around a new place and meeting the people. As a Fora Travel Advisor, I specialize in custom travel planning for trips throughout Europe, as well as scouting trips for moving to Spain. Here on MoveToTraveling.com you can enjoy our Europe travel resources to experience Europe and live in Spain.