Ria is the Galician word for a coastal estuary, or long narrow tidal inlet and is generally translated more simply to bay. The rias in Galicia are split into the rias altas and rias baixas, corresponding to the upper and lower bays and the region is famous, not just for these rias, but for the seafood they produce and harvest.
The larger rias in Galicia include those of Vigo, Pontevedra, Arousa, Muros y Noia, Corcubion, Lires, Camarinas, Ares y Betanzos, Cedeira and Ortigueira and it is this proliferation of bays that no doubt led to Galicia’s sea based economy.
The reason for Galicia’s seafood notariety, particularly in respect of shelfish, is the unique flavour that results from the outflowing rivers that create these rias and it is claimed that their cockles, mussels, octapus and squid have a taste that is unrivaled anywhere else in the world. The prices of shellfish, harvested in Galicia, are almost double those of the rest of Spain.
Aside from the fish producing qualities of the rias, they also result in Galicia’s mantle as Spain’s most beach friendly region with more miles of coastline and square yards of sand than any of the other Spainish principalities.
Galicia has many large and well catered for beaches, but it is the smaller, quieter and frequently hidden spots that really show off Galicia and the area commonly known as green Spain. Another feature of the rias is the sheltered nature that some of these beaches possess, many having more in common with an enclosed lagoon than the typical sea facing beaches most are familiar with.
Although there is no important distinction between the rias baixas and the rias altas, it is the upper bays, and particularly those around the big cities of la Coruna, Pontevedra and Vigo that are the most heavily populated and see the greatest number of tourists. The lower bays close to the border with Portugal are less inhabited and less visited, but do enjoy a slightly warmer climate, a result of their more southerly location.
Sea temperatures off Galicia are cool, its one major drawback, and it is the Atlantic rather than the Mediterranean ocean that engulfs the region.
The best beaches
La Coruna, Pontevedra and Lugo all share the Galician coastline and all have numerous beaches, but it is perhaps the provinces of la Coruna and Pontevedra that enjoy, not just the greatest number of beaches, but also the best.
The areas around and south of la Coruna are particularly good and the beaches in the locality of Pontevedra and Vigo city are also popular. The beaches close to Portugals border enjoy some of the best weather, but are more remote and in Galicia’s less inhabited areas.