A tour of the Ribeira Sacra do Sil

At the end of its path, towards its junction with the Miño at the height of Os Peares, the Sil river advances sinuously in the deep furrow that it designs between the mountains, giving rise to the famous Sil Canyon. In this final section, between the provinces of Lugo and Ourense, the slopes of the shores seem to come loaded with special powers, which produce the most precious grapes to make the best wines.

In this area of ​​the Ribeira Sacra, the dazzling landscape combines perfectly with the rich historical and artistic heritage. And we are lucky to be able to enjoy all this in many ways: walking through the woods, sailing through the canyon appreciating the heroic viticulture, visiting medieval churches and monasteries, tasting our own wines in the wineries, cycling… Before going for the first time (the first time because we will surely repeat it), it is good to have a reference of the main points of interest that we are going to find.

As for river routes, among those organized by the Lugo council and private companies, there are various possibilities from the piers of Abeleda (Castro Caldelas), Ponte do Sil (Monforte de Lemos), Os Chancís (Sober) and Santo Estevo (Nogueira de Ramuín). Taking a catamaran ride is an ideal way to get to know the most rugged areas of the canyon. Varied tours are offered, some with stops at a monastery along the way.

The beauty and natural conditions of this landscape are seen to stimulate spiritual life. Is it for this reason that there are so many churches and monasteries on this shore? For that and for the wine, of course… In Esgos, on Mount Barbeirón, stands the monastery of San Pedro de Rochas, with a lot of rock around it, hence the name. Today the medieval church remains standing, with remains of anthropomorphic tombs and a mural painting representing the apostles and a world map. The most curious thing is that the church is built on the rocks, something that can be appreciated when looking at the bell tower, which crowns a monolith of about 20 m. Next to the church is the Priory House, from the 17th century, which houses an interpretation center of the Ribeira Sacra and life in the monastery. Further on there is a 19th century cemetery and, some 200 m away, the San Bieito fountain, carved into the rock. Once there, surely we want to take a walk through the forest, right? Well, all we have to do is follow the circular Route of the Camino Real, which starts right here.

Another obligatory stop is a visit to the monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil, in Parada de Sil, in the middle of enveloping chestnut trees. The Romanesque church, from between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century, which contains wall paintings from the 16th century, has been preserved. About 20 km away is the monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, in Nogueira de Ramuín, which is also a hostel. It is a large construction that has up to three cloisters. Here it seems that the legend of the nine miraculous rings of the bishops who lived in retirement in the monastery in the 10th century came to life, since in 2020 four rings appeared. Another example of religious architecture is the monastery of Santa María de Xunqueira de Espadanedo, where we see the presence of different styles between Romanesque and Baroque. Today it is quite active in terms of exhibitions, concerts, etc… In Castro Caldelas we find the Sanctuary of Nosa Señora dos Remedios. In this town there is also a castle of interest: the castle of Castro Caldelas, which is on a hill, next to the old Roman road. It dates from the 14th century, although it was already based on a previous construction and what we see today is almost all rebuilt in the 16th century. Since 1991 it has functioned as the cultural center of the region. In it is the tourist office, the municipal library, an assembly hall and the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum. And it is not the only museum in the area, we also have the Roman Gold Mining Interpretation Center, in San Clodio, the Niñodaguia Pottery Museum, or the Teimende Chocolate House-Museum, for example, that not everything goes to be wine…

And a lot of seeing here and seeing there, but to look at what is said to look, what you have to do is go up to a viewpoint. And look what there is… There has even been a route of viewpoints designed to be done by car and stop at them. One of the most famous is Os Balcóns de Madrid/Os Torgás, from where the family said goodbye to those who emigrated to work in Madrid, most of them waffle makers, a very popular trade in Parada de Sil. Another well-known one is that of Cabezoás, in Sober, in another of the deepest points; or that of Pena Pombeira, at the highest point of Pantón, or that of As Xabriñas, A Cividade, As Penas de Matacás… In addition, there are also geological viewpoints, focused on observing geological folds, such as the one in Louxoá, and, following We even have swings, such as the Bambán do Solpor (Sunset Swing), in Nogueira de Ramuín.

Of course, the Ribeira Sacra do Sil is the ideal setting for our walks. There are plenty of approved and non-approved trails to choose from, some with a monastery included, such as the Royal Way of San Pedro de Rochas or the Sil Canyon- Santa Cristina, others through incredible forests, such as the Gabín Bidueiral, the Ruta of the magical forests or that of the Mao River Canyon.

All this is just a small sample of what awaits us in this Ribeira do Sil, to make our mouths go. Now it’s time to discover it in situ. Have a good trip!

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