Extending above Portugal in the northwest corner of Spain, Galicia is a rain-swept land of grass and granite, much of its coastline gouged by fjordlike inlets. It is a land steeped in Celtic tradition -- in many areas its citizens, called Gallegos, speak their own language (not a dialect of Spanish but a separate language, Gallego). Galicia consists of four provinces: A Coruña (including Santiago de Compostela), Pontevedra, Lugo, and Orense.

The Romans made quite an impression on the region. The walls around the city of Lugo and the Tower of Hercules at A Coruña are part of that legacy. The Moors came, too, and did a lot of damage along the way. But finding the natives none too friendly and other battlefields more promising, they moved on.

Nothing did more to put Galicia on the tourist map than Camino de Santiago, the route of religious pilgrims. It is the oldest, most traveled, and most famous route on the old Continent. To guarantee a place in heaven, pilgrims journeyed to the supposed tomb of Santiago (St. James), patron saint of Spain. They trekked across the Pyrenees by the thousands, risking their lives in transit. The Camino de Santiago contributed to the development and spread of Romanesque art and architecture across Spain. Pilgrimages to the shrine lessened as medieval culture began its decline.