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Spain Travel Guide

Catoira and the annual attack of the Vikings - Galicia, Spain

Rural & Charming Hotels & Bed & Breakfasts in Galicia - The Paradores of Galicia

Viking Festival Catoira in Galicia, Spain
Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri/CC BY-SA 2.0

For centuries, Catoira was one of Galicia’s most impregnable fortresses. Located in northern Spain, the city is situated 37 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela on the mouth of the Ulla River, where it meets the Arousa Estuary. 

While the city is in a very scenic and attractive location, its main claim to fame is the emblematic “Torres del Oeste” (Towers of the West) which stand guard over the area.

Construction began on this fortified structure back in the ninth century, as part of Santiago de Compostela’s defensive system. This was necessary to resist attacks from the Norman armies and Saracen pirates, which apparently went on for centuries.

Viking Festival Catoira in Galicia, Spain
Photo by Miguel/CC BY-2.0
Viking Festival Catoira in Galicia, Spain Among these attackers were the Vikings, and this is what makes the town so interesting. Every year on the first Sunday of August, Catoira reenacts the attack of the Vikings with people from all over Europe participating, and it is loads of fun.

The latest festival was held recently. Dressed in animal skins, scary helmets and brandishing plastic swords, these fearsome warriors arrive on a replica Viking ship, with the aim of capturing the “Torres Del Oeste” all over again, just as they did back in the days of Norway’s King Olaf.

There is plenty of blood spilled during the festival, but this gruesome spectacle is not quite what it seems. As “blood” is poured over one of the participants, his tongue may come out and lick, to enjoy the taste of good red wine. It does look pretty realistic however.

Photo by Alfonso Legido/CC BY-2.0
This annual event, which was declared a Festival of International Interest, has been held every year since 1960. Not only does it feature the “bloody” and fearsome attack of the Vikings, it also includes musical entertainment by folk groups, traditional dancing and a medieval market is held up in the towers themselves. 

Of further interest is the fact that King Olaf II Haraldsson, to give his full title, while initially a Viking, was eventually made a saint after converting to Christianity. 

Of the famous towers, there is a shrine located between them, dedicated to the apostle Santiago, as legend tells that his body was taken through the towers on its way to Santiago de Compostela back in the day.

Viking Festival Catoira in Galicia, Spain
Photo by Maximo Coejo/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The town itself is surrounded by thick forests and marshlands, and boasts river beaches. Several windmills, of the three traditional types in the area, can be seen dotted around in the green and lush surroundings.

The privileged location of Catoira in Spain’s green Galicia ensures mild temperatures virtually all year around, making it a worthwhile visit any time of the year, but visiting in early August is probably a great idea because of the festival fun.

Viking Festival Catoira in Galicia, Spain
Photo by luscofusco/CC BY-NC 2.0


Rural & Charming Hotels & Bed & Breakfasts in Galicia - The Paradores of Galicia


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