Right on the coast in gorgeous and green Galicia is a small town by the name of Catoira. However, this small town was once an impregnable fortress on the northern Spain coast.

Located around 37kms from the city of Santiago de Compostela, right at the mouth of the River Ulla, the town is very scenic and attractive to visit. However, its main claim to historic fame is an impressive ruin of what was once the Torres del Oeste, or the Towers of the West. The towers were built back in the ninth century as part of the defensive system on that coastline, which was battered pretty consistently by Saracen pirates and Norman armies over several centuries.

The brutal and bloody Vikings also used to attack the town on a regular basis and as they did somehow survive the experience, Catoira decided back in 1960 to celebrate that fact every year on the first Sunday of August.  Arriving on a pretty convincing Viking ship, wearing costumes made up of animal skins, with typical horned helmets and (hopefully) plastic swords, the Vikings brutally attack the gathered locals and visitors to the town.

While the "Vikings" and other parties end up looking pretty blood soaked, it turns out that red substance is merely some good red wine. Reportedly there is more to the festival than just sailing up and attacking, however, as there is a fun medieval market and lot of musical entertainment by folk groups, along with traditional dancing and food, all set in the famous towers themselves.

As for the town itself, with its traditional cuisine and local taverns, Catoira makes for a very pleasant visit, as a day out from a stay in Santiago de Compostela. The area has forests, marshlands and even river beaches to enjoy and with its great location, the temperatures are pretty mild and pleasant all year around. However, the town is obviously a lot more fun during the Viking festival!

Viking Festival in Catoira

An annual Viking attack event

Viking festival in Catoira, Spain
Credit: Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri/CC BY-SA 2.0

Catoira Viking festival, Spain