Madrid — By on April 28, 2010 at 11:35 am
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‘Must see’s in Bayona/Galicia

Many visitors to Galicia, Spain’s northern province, probably head straight for Santiago de Compostela, the world famous cathedral of the Apostle and a glimpse of what the Camino de Santiago is all about. But, there is a lot more to do and to see and a trip south/west to Vigo and Bayona, close to the border with Portugal, should be included.

How to get there

If you have arrived at Santiago de Compostela, you can either catch a train to Vigo via Pontevedra or else take a coach. Trains and coaches run frequently and the trip takes about 4-5 hours.  Another option is to hire a car and follow motorway N500. From Vigo either take the scenic route or follow AP 57 to Bayona. Local buses also run from Vigo to Bayona. It’s about 1 ½ hour trip and everything is very well sign posted.

What to do in Bayona

History  fans will be delighted to discover and explore the replica of Columbus’s second biggest ship the ‘Pinta’.

Replica of the 'Pinta' in the port of Bayona

She  was a three  masted caravel able to carry 26 men and  the second largest of the three caravels which Columbus took across the Atlantic on his first crossing in 1492. Like the Nina, Pinta (the pained one) was not the ship’s real name but rather a nick name.

Captain of the ‘Pinta’ on the 1492 expedition was Martin Alonso Pinzon, an adventurer and experienced sailor. It was from board of the ‘Pinta’ that the New World was first spotted. During the return journey the ‘Pinta’  became separated from Columbus’ ship Santa Maria and was the first to arrive in Bayona/Galicia to bring the news of the discovery of the New World.

A replica of the ‘Pinta’ is anchored in the port of Bayona and can be visited. Just below the Castillo de Monte Real, where the docks spread out, the Pinta is accessible by a wooden walkway. It’s not easy to find, because there is no sign posting. She is dwarfed among the modern day yachts anchored on either side, so just watch out.

Admission is €1 and you are greeted by the wood carved figure of Captain Alonso, hunched over a table and staring grumpily ahead. A steep ladder leads into the hold, where you can find replicas of the supplies the sailors  carried with them and the treasure they brought back from the New World, Indians, gold, parrots  and exotic fruit included.

It is surprising and fascinating in what cramped and claustrophobic conditions sailors of the 15th century embarked on great adventures which changed their world forever.

After your visit to the ‘Pinta’, climb up to the massive Castillo de Monte Real which dominates the harbour. Enjoy fabulous views of the Atlantic and the Ria de Vigo. The castle is one of Spain’s best Paradores as the state sponsored luxury hotels are called, which are to be found in historically interesting places all over Spain.

View from the ramparts of Castillo Monte Real/Bayona

Enjoy a coffee, empanada or tarta de Santiago and when heading back to Vigo, stop at Santa Maria de Afuera.

Take the scenic route until you come to a  junction with a very step road up to the mountain statue of Santa Maria de Afuera, also known as La Virgen de la Roca. And rightly so, because the immense statue of the Virgin Mary is sculpted out of the rock and looms over Bayona and the Atlantic beyond, watching over sailors and blessing the ships, symbolised by a ship she holds in her hand.

Maria de Afueras/ Bayona

Again, €1 is requested as a donation and then visitors are, one at a time,  admitted to climb a steep, narrow spiral staircase with slightly slippery steps all the way up to alight at the  height of the ship. Step inside, and have a last look over Bayona and the sea and feel a little bit like Pinzon’s men.

Photographs 1 and 2 are authors own

Photograph 3 curtsey of Ricardo Romero

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  • Nellie says:

    Interesting place in northern Spain, definitely going to check it out pronto, thanks for sharing!

  • inka says:

    Thank you Nellie. I’m so glad our little ‘swap’ worked out so well. If you have the chance, go spend some time in Galicia. You will be surprised at what you see, don’t miss to go on a boat trip to the Islas de Cies from Vigo. Just magic.

  • Ana says:

    Of course you’ll be very welcome!! Galicia is a very beautiful place to visit, and Cies the most wonderful place for me! People are very friendly as well .. so don’t hesitate to come!! :D

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