Student Life

Figueras: the tourist-free part of Spain

Paradise on earth,or something very close to it, is located in the north of Spain, where the provinces of Galicia and Asturias meet at their northern-most points. Three cities, Ribadeo, Figueras, and Castropol, surround an estuary giving off a spectacular view from nearly every angle.

This part of Spain is known as La Costa Verde, or the Green Coast, because of all of the rainfall it receives, creating lush green landscapes that cover the countryside. Well-preserved old houses and farms add to the region’s charm. Due to the lack of sunlight, many travelers stay clear of this part of Spain, leaving you with a truly authentic Spanish experience free of traditional tourist attractions. After only a couple of days, I was snapping my head around any time I heard people speaking anything other than Spanish.

In the fisherman’s town of Figueras, everything revolves around the sea: the traditions, the economy, the nightlife and, most importantly, the food. Octopus, squid, mussels, crab-everything to the seafood-lover’s delight can be found here, cooked to perfection.

This is one of the few places on Earth that you will be able to find octopus or calamares en su tinta (squid in its ink).

The best time of year to go to Figueras is in early August, when the small town pays tribute to a saint and a virgin, and all 700 inhabitants participate in festive celebrations.

A number of processions are held during this time. Of particular importance is one where a statue of the virgin is brought from the church to the docks where hundreds of boats are waiting to take it around the estuary, passing by Ribadeo and Castropol before making their way back to the port of Figueras where a mass is held. The following day, locals cover the streets in flowers shortly after sunrise.

Since life revolves around the sea in Figueras, going to the beach, snorkeling, and boating are the most popular leisure activities. Because of the nature of small towns, everyone knows everyone, and going to the beach is a social event. You’ll find many more topless beach-goers than you will in North America, and that’s not to say the ratio of men to women is higher.

Figueras is also one of the best places to vacation because of the inherently easy-going and laid back nature of Spanish culture. There is no pressure to do much of anything, be it waking up before noon, or getting a job before your twenties. This is perhaps a contributing factor to the country having one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, but nevertheless makes for a great vacationing place.

Figueras is a very small town that hosts only a few restaurants and no hostels. When visiting, your best chance of booking something is in Ribadeo, Galicia, only a 5 minute drive down the road.

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