When you hear the word “Vikings”, you immediately think about fiords and the cold lands of the North, but did you know you can be a Viking for one weekend in Spain too? Every year, a Viking Festival takes place in a small town in Pontevedra (Galicia, Spain) called Catoira: the Romería Vikinga.
Drakkar recreation – Photo taken from Catoira’s official website
What does Catoira have to do with Vikings?
Every town in Spain has its own festivity, usually in Summer, but why does Catoira have a Viking festival as their tradition? This small village was a strategic point since the Early Middle Ages, because of its location near the mouth of the river Ulla, which leads to the famous city of Santiago de Compostela.
To protect the sacred city from the attacks, two defensive towers where built (Torres de Oeste or West Towers) and later in the XI century, the king Alfonso III ordered the reconstruction of the Castellum Honesti, one of the most important in Europe at that time, but sadly only the towers stand the test of time.
Torres de Oeste – Photo taken by Ana Castillo
These attacks were led by Saracen pirates and… yes! The Vikings. In their raids, they looted and burnt many villages on the coast, but these were just a distraction from their main target: they came seduced by all the treasures that were held in Santiago’s Cathedral.
Because of their sailing skills, they planned to attack in their Drakkars, entering by sea through Ulla river and all the way to Santiago de Compostela. But Galician people were prepared and thanks to their defensive towers, the Vikings were successfully expelled.
What’s the Romería all about?
The Viking festival in Catoira was created in 1960 by a group of people interested in the history of the village and since then, it got more and more famous each year, causing the town twinning with Frederikssund (the village with the biggest Viking tradition in Denmark) and the Romería to become of International Tourist Interest. The main event happens on the first Sunday of August, although the party now lasts all weekend.
On Saturday, you can visit the Medieval Market, see different performances and the most fun of all: the Viking Dinner! For only 20€, you can enjoy copious amounts of the local food (octopus, mussels and churrasco – grilled beef) and drink as much wine and beer as you can handle, just under one condition: everybody must dress up as a Viking.
Be prepared to eat with your hands and get soaking wet with wine, once someone starts throwing it, the wine war begins! So, if you decide to come, you’ve been warned, don’t bring your best attire!
Viking Dinner – Photo taken from Catoira’s official website
On Sunday, those who survived the party from the night before (or are still partying!) either go to the Drakkars that were built by the people from the village, or to the riverside. Once the Drakkar lands, the two sides recreate the fight between the Vikings and Galician people, replacing the blood with… you guessed it! More wine! But this isn’t the end of it, the party continues until Sunday evening and you can enjoy free steamed mussels and drinks until they last.
Not only the party and the incredible local food make this experience unforgettable, but also the friendly atmosphere and to top it all off: there’s free camping space! So even if you don’t get the chance to go to the Viking Dinner, you can still stay there and enjoy the rest of the festival.
Drakkar ready to raid the village – Photo taken from Catoira’s official website
This sounds like a plan! What do I have to do to attend?
The festival is free of charge, but if you want to go to the Viking Dinner, you can book your seat at the beginning of July by writing an email to the Public Library of Catoira . Don’t think about it too much though, seats are limited!
The best way to go to Catoira village is by flying to Santiago de Compostela’s Airport, then go by bus to the city and take the regional train to Catoira. There’s also the option of flying to Vigo and taking the regional train to Catoira or renting a car or a van and driving there (this is the best option if you plan to go to the camping space)
Lastly, there aren’t many hotels in the town and they fill up pretty fast (people start booking their rooms for next year right after the festival finishes), so the camping option is the most popular. You can find other camping areas and hotels in the towns nearby, but you’ll need to drive to get there, so be careful with the wine!
Find accommodation near Catoira
Learn More about the History of the Vikings
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