In the south is Vigo and in the north are La Coruña and the naval base of El Ferrol.
The 1,500km coastline is indented by a series of rías (coastal inlets), which carve fjord-like into the land to create sandy beaches, while their shallow waters provide a harvest of shellfish.
Between the two, lie the rugged cliffs, isolated fishing villages and treacherous waters of the Costa da Morte – the Coast of Death.
Particularly wild and dramatic is the cape of Fisterra, “the end of the land” as it was named by the Roman occupiers, who thought, mistakenly, that this was the westernmost point in Europe.
On a misty morning among the green hills and valleys, beside one of the characteristic granite roadside crosses, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d strayed into Ireland.
Yet this is where you’ll find some of Spain’s sandiest beaches, freshest seafood and most attractive small cities.
Landmarks old and new Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral is not to be missed.
The roof-top tour gives unequalled city views (00 34 902 557 812; catedraldesantiago.es; €12).An early autumn visit offers the advantage of uncrowded beaches while temperatures, particularly south of Santiago, are still reasonable.There’s also the chance to enjoy the spectacle of the changing colours within the wooded interior.Rainfall, particularly during winter in the northern provinces of La Coruña and Lugo, is legendary: a philologist from Santiago university has discovered 100 local words to describe different kinds of rain.Galicia is not a package-holiday destination, but is well worth a break at any time of the year.Much less known, outside Spain, is the small inland city of Lugo – which has the most complete set of Roman walls in the world – and Galicia’s authentic “hidden gem”, Pontevedra, whose remarkably preserved historic centre is blessedly closed to traffic.