From Santiago de Compostela to Cambados, we’ll stroll through their pazos’ most amazing gardens. We’ll discover the different species they shelter and all the curiosities hidden in these magical spaces.

Here, the camellia is known as the “winter flower” or “flower of Galicia”.
Although the species is originally from China and Japan – where it is considered the most beautiful flower in the world – 300 years ago it settled quite comfortably into the aristocratic gardens of Galicia’s pazos. Our proposed route takes you on a tour of these spectacular settings, where the camellia dresses up stone and where, together, they create captivating spaces.

More information...
- Hostal dos Reis Católicos. Teléfono 981 582 200
- Pazo de San Lourenzo. www.pazodesanlorenzo.com
- Pazo de Santa Cruz de Ribadulla. Teléfono 981 512 011
- Pazo de Oca. Teléfono 986 587 435
- Pazo de Rubiáns. www.pazoderubianes.com 
- A Saleta estate. Teléfono: 986 872 323
- Pazo de Bazán State-Owned Hotel. Tel_ 986 542 250
- Palacio de Fefiñanes Winery. www.fefinanes.com

 

Day 1

Hostal dos Reis Católicos was a hospital for pilgrims

This proposed route begins in Santiago de Compostela, where we suggest that you arrive in the afternoon and enjoy a relaxed stroll through its Old Town, a World Heritage Site since 1985. The city offers a wide range of accommodation, but its most emblematic is the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, an old pilgrims’ hospital which has been a state-owned hotel since 1954.

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The hostel’s privileged location in the Praza do Obradoiro, square, next to the cathedral, is admired by visitors. Right before its door – finely decorated in the plateresco style – we can identify the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, enclosed in both medallions; the nude figures of Adam and Eve, and the twelve apostles lined up on its frieze. Above these latter are the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. John the Evangelist and the Apostle James with scallop shell and walking stick. Looking further above, we’ll see the cornice decorated with grotesque and obscene gargoyles.

You may visit the inside of the building without being a guest if accompanied by a tour guide. This allows us to explore its four interior courtyards and a beautiful Gothic chapel, declared a Historic Artistic Monument in 1912. 

From the cathedral to tapas at Rúa do Franco and A Raíña

You’ll be impressed by the wealth of art treasures in the cathedral such as the Pórtico da Gloria, a Romanesque masterpiece. We suggest you spend the rest of your afternoon exploring the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, mingling with the mass of pilgrims, university students, visitors and Compostela’s locals that reflect the genuine character of this city. You’ll find plenty of monuments and churches to visit, as well as numerous museums and galleries.

And when it’s time for a drink or dinner, there are all kinds of places suited to the most varied tastes: restaurants, seafood restaurants, tapas bars, wine bars, ham restaurants, traditional eating spots and grills, bars and taverns. A very Compostelan custom is to enjoy tapas and sharing-sized portions, especially when strolling the picturesque Rúa do Franco and A Raíña.

Day 2

The Alameda in Santiago and pazo gardens close to the city

The Alameda has an important botanical significance

Green has always characterised the landscape of Santiago. This is equally true of the Old Town, where its historic gardens are often-visited iconic areas. Preferred by Compostelans for strolling and recreation is the Alameda, which we can visit after breakfast. It is divided into four areas: Campo da Estrela, Paseo da Ferrradura, Paseo da Alameda and Carballeira de Santa Susana.

"Chove en Santiago
meu doce amor.
Camelia branca do ar
brila entrebecida ô sol
."
"It’s raining in Santiago
my sweet love.
The wind-whipped white camellia
shines sombrely at the sun”
.
 Federico García Lorca

Their flower beds, benches, statues, sculptures, fountains, ponds, bandstand, pigeon loft and churches help recreate nineteenth-century, modernist and up-to-date airs. Also significant is its value as a botanical garden due to its great variety of species, many of which are exotic.

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Camellia japonica, more than a century of looking towards the cathedral

The silvery linden trees of the Campo da Estrela welcome us when we enter via Porta Faxeira. Walking under the wooded dome of the Paseo da Ferradura, we’ll find some of the 66 specimens of Camellia japonica that have been contemplating one of the most beautiful views of the city and its cathedral and monuments for over a century.
The same is true of the giant Eucaliptus globulus just round the corner. Don’t miss the opportunity to sit for a moment on the wooden bench encircling it, breathing in its fresh and decongesting perfume while at the same time admiring the Obradoiro façade of the Cathedral cathedral.

The Santa Susana Oak Wood has trees that are more than 300 years old

Next, you’ll see the “Perona”, an Abies nordmanniana specimen planted in 1947 to commemorate Eva Perón’s visit to the city. And, further up, surrounding Mount Santa Susana, is its imposing oak wood, with trees that are more than three hundred years old.

The Pazo de San Lourenzo has camellia specimens dating from the nineteenth century

From the Alameda we quickly reach another centuries-old oak wood – the Carballeira de San Lourenzo, – by crossing the Avenida das Burgas. If you look closely, it won’t be difficult to spot a squirrel peeking out from a hollow log.

A large trimmed boxwood hedge – dating back four centuries – is one of the most significant parts of Spanish geometrical landscaping.

Behind this oak wood, the gardens and forest of the Pazo de San Lourenzo, rise up, protected by a high stone wall. Private tours can be arranged. It’s a great opportunity to see more than a hundred plant species, including camellias, the oldest of which date back to the nineteenth century. 
But it is in the cloister garden where the jewel of the manor is hidden away: a large trimmed boxwood hedge, one of the most important parts of Spanish geometric landscaping due to both its size as well as its four hundred years’ of life.

The morning has flown by during these strolls through the gardens. We suggest you return to the Old Town along San Lourenzo, Poza de Bar and Hortas Streets. The latter is a long, cobble stone climb up to Praza do Obradoiro. Close by there are spots with set menus at affordable prices, along with others that are representative of the cutting edge of Galician cuisine.

In Vedra, we’ll visit what was Jovellanos’ temporary residence

In the afternoon, we can carry on with our garden strolls. There are shining examples near the city of Santiago, following the N-525 towards Ourense. At the neighbouring municipality of Vedra, we’ll find a turnoff to the Pazo de Ortigueira, also known as the Pazo de Santa Cruz de Ribadulla, which was temporary residence of the politician and writer Jovellanos.

Its gardens are open to visitors, and are considered by many experts to be the most fascinating ornamental botanical space in Galicia. The gardens house many varieties of Camellia japonica that join together to form beautiful walks, like the one called "Carreira das Noivas". There are giant specimens not only of camellias – which here are grown for sale – but also of magnolia trees.

During the tour there are plenty of spaces to wander among, but don’t leave without seeing the Coca or Waterfall baroque fountain. And, of course, the Carreira das Oliveiras, a long walkway with centuries-old olive trees, whose thick, gnarled roots emerge from the soil, capable of carrying us away in our imagination to the landscapes of a Tolkien book.

The Pazo de Oca, considered the “Galician Versailles”

After our visit, we’ll rejoin the N-525 in the direction of Ourense. We’re headed to the Pazo de Oca, which many call the “Galician Versailles” precisely because of the beauty of its gardens, which can be visited. We’ll find the turnoff to the right signposted on the road in the municipality of A Estrada.

After a short ride, we’ll arrive at a large outdoor plaza, dominated by the pazo’s main façade –dating from the 18th century – which is surmounted by a mediaeval tower. In the back, at right angle with the pazo, is a baroque chapel that is connected to it by a lovely arched corridor.

In one of the pazo’s gardens there is a boxwood maze inspired by a design on the pavement of Canterbury Cathedral

Its gardens, surrounded by a high stone wall, are also historical and recreate a number of ambiences. The French garden contains an admirable large boxwood maze inspired by a design on the floor of Canterbury Cathedral. In the most landscaped garden, we’ll walk on paths enveloped in a halo of magic and mystery. And in the horticultural garden, our spirits will be lifted by the growing flowers and trellises. This garden is diagonally crossed by the ensemble’s most admired item: its great pond.

A pond with a bridge, pier and mill

At the halfway point of the stroll, an arched bridge crosses the pond. Underneath it is a pier and a mill that is still functional. One half of the pond divided by the bridge represents “peace” in the figure of a stone fisherman. The other symbolises evil and war, with guns and beasts of stone. From the centre of the pond arises a large perpendicular avenue of linden trees where – if we let our imaginations fly – it is easy to evoke scenes of thrilling horse race among nobles.

A 12-metre camellia and a giant sequoia

These gardens are of great botanical value. They feature a specimen of Camellia reticulata “Captain Rawes”, which is twelve metres high and a centuries-old Cryptomeria japonica, both of which are listed in the Catalogue of Monumental Trees in Galicia, along with a giant sequoia. Crossing nearly the entire west wing of the garden is a very long row of “Mont Blanc” camellias, splashing it with white in its flowering season.

We recommend that you take your time strolling round this dominion of nature, water and stone, for many elements will capture your attention. For example, the eye-catching Fountain of the Monkey or the Fountain of the Trout.

In Vedra, pig ear and wines and spirits from Ulla are local specialities

After the tour, dinnertime will be approaching. We suggest you make a stop in Vedra on your way back to Santiago. Note that the town’s delicious cuisine has led to the celebrations of the orella (pig’s ear) festivals and of the wines and spirits of Ulla.

 

Day 3

Pazos and camellias in O Salnés

After breakfast, we head out to the region of O Salnés, located in the heart of the Rías Baixas, where the camellia feels right at home due to its mild and damp climate. The symbiosis between pazos and camellias surprises us as well here with specimens of extraordinary beauty.

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The first camellias were planted in the Pazo de Rubiáns in the nineteenth century

Our first destination is the Pazo de Rubiáns, in the municipality of Vilagarcía de Arousa. The main road connecting it with Santiago is the AP-9. Here, a stately five-century-old perfectly preserved pazo, a large garden, an orchard and a landscaped forest, an Albariño vineyard and a mountain of cork oak trees all come together. Altogether, they cover 65 hectares.

Over a hundred species of flowers decorate the garden, but the camellia has been its emblem since the first ones – a gift of the Duke of Caminha – were planted in the early nineteenth century. Undoubtedly, another element that will catch your attention are the eucalyptus, brought to the farm by the Bishop of Tui about 1820. Today, they are among the largest in Europe, exceeding fourteen metres of perimeter.

If requested in advance, the pazo’s staff will serve as guides for us. In addition to orientating us in this natural treasure devised in 1870 by the French landscaper Martin Dorgambide, they’ll explain to us the process of making essential oils from the camellias. The Estación Fitopatolóxica do Areeiro (Areeiro Plant Pathologies Station) distills it from seeds harvested on this farm, and it is then used by the nuns of the convent in Armenteira to manufacture soaps, which we can also take away with us as a fragrant memento.

In Vilagarcía, we enjoy mussels, scallops and oysters with Albariño wine

After the visit, we suggest visiting the town of Vilagarcía de Arousa for lunch. Its estuary is the domain of excellent seafood, such as mussels, scallops and oysters, grown on shellfish rafts. And its vineyards are the realm of the Denomination of Origin Rías Baixas albariño wine.

The A Saleta estate in Meis has an extensive English-style garden

In the afternoon, the last camellia garden awaits us on the A Saleta estate, in the municipality of Meis, where we’ll arrive via the PO-531. The exact location is known as “San Vicente de Meis”. Here, we’ll find a five-hectare English-style garden designed by landscape architect Brenda Colvin, that can be visited by appointment.
At the entrance is a large farmhouse, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of A Saleta – inside of which is an altarpiece and a polychrome vault – and a large granary. Later we’ll also see an octagonal dovecote surrounded by a forest of oaks, eucalyptus and cork oaks.
The garden has many plants of exotic origin: rhododendrons, azaleas, members of the Australian sugarbush and myrtle families and South American heathers, along with many varieties of camellias with white, pink, red, purple, mottled and reticulated petals that fill the garden with colour to the beginning of spring. We’ll find everything perfectly identified and labelled, thanks to the tremendous work of the Gimson couple of the UK, which has been recognised with major awards and citations.

Cambados, a good place to dine and sleep

The entire district of O Salnés offers quality establishments where you can sleep, such as hotels, and delightful country hotels and bed and breakfasts. But the most symbolic one is the Pazo de Bazán state-run hotel, in Cambados. The town also boasts exquisite dining options. There are a great number of restaurants on offer in the town’s aristocratic Fefiñáns neighbourhood, where the signature dish is seafood and fish from the estuary accompanied by a glass of Albariño wine with the Rías Baixas Denomination of Origin.

Day 4º

Tour of the Pazo de Fefiñáns wineries, vineyards and forest

After breakfast, we can take advantage of being in what is known as the “capital of Albariño wine”, the “golden prince of wines” for Álvaro Cunqueiro, and arrange a tour of the wineries at Fefiñáns. They are housed in an impressive pazo integrated into a sixteenth-century artistic complex, declared a Heritage Element of Cultural Interest, which includes the Church of San Benito, a watchtower/lookout and a beautiful stately baroque arch-bridge.

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In addition to the wineries, the interior of the Pazo de Fefiñáns holds a hectare of vineyard with centuries-old Albariño vines and a forest of native species and ancient boxwoods among which we can stroll.

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