Life in a palace: Galician country mansions
Pazo de Oca Manor House
- Autonome regio: Galicia
Legends of nature
Rural tourism opportunities in Spain have increased significantly in the last few years, making it an ideal type of accommodation not only because it offers travelers tranquility, nature and culinary riches. It also allows them to delve into the historical and cultural roots of a village with deep seated traditions. Today, many areas of Spain offer rural accommodation for tourists. Among them, Galicia is noteworthy for having one of the most remarkable constructions in the history of Spanish civil architecture: the pazo or Galician country mansion.
The tie between the Galician country mansion and popular culture is undeniable. This is evidenced by the countless legends, stories and poems that throughout history have converted it into the protagonist of the rural environments where they are built, in which they generally play the same role as the rural villas of European architecture.
These jewels of Galician culture have their origin in medieval castles and fortresses, and their subsequent transformation into civil buildings at the beginning of the Modern Age. They are the homes of noblemen and women built in the country, whose size and shape were larger and more sumptuous than the area’s typical house. They also feature heraldic signs and very characteristic external architectural elements such as the large doors, courtyard, raised granaries, dovecots, gardens and walls.
Thus the pazo’s spatial dimensions and that peculiar feature that lets nature penetrate the entire mansion make it the ideal tourist destination, bringing the visitor into natural surroundings where water is a prominent feature: aqueducts, ponds, washing houses and watering areas are commonly found and help to create the melancholy, somber air so often associated with the rural landscapes of Galicia.
Pazos are found throughout Galicia. However, there are four valleys which are noteworthy for their high number of these mansions: the historic Mariñas Valley in A Coruña and the Betanzo Valley; the fertile and pleasant Salnés Valley; the Ulla Valley, near Santiago de Compostela; and the Fragoso Valley in southern Galicia. A few more can also be found in the small valleys of the Ourense region.
Life in a Galician country mansion
Inquisitive travellers and tourists wishing to gain a deeper insight into the historical traditions of the Galician people should consider staying at one of the many pazos or country manors to be found throughout the region. Offering both elegance and indisputable cultural merits, there are currently 65 pazos to choose from, although the number is constantly rising thanks to the particular promotion of this type of establishment by the Galician regional government.
Pilgrims who travel the Road to St. James, nature lovers or those who opt for an alternative kind of tourism without sacrificing comfort, and who seek a balance between quality and price in service, will find in these 17th and 18th c. establishments their ideal destination.