Travelling immersing yourself in the landscape and feeling part of it, getting to know the most local, which in the end is always the most universal, trying not to leave too much of a footprint and favouring the sustainable development of the area. This is what ecotourism is all about.
In Galicia it is easy to find destinations where we can integrate ourselves in this way. For example, by visiting one of the natural parks, those areas that, due to their biological, ecological and aesthetic richness, are preserved in a special way. At the moment, we have six of them: As Fragas do Eume, a famous Atlantic forest in the province of A Coruña; the Corrubedo Dune Complex and the Carregal and Vixán lagoons, with a great mobile dune, in A Coruña; Baixa Limia – Serra do Xurés, with one part in Ourense and the other in Portugal; O Invernadeiro, in the Macizo Central of Ourense; the Serra da Enciña de Lastra, with its peculiar limestone style, and the national maritime-terrestrial park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, the only national and insular one. Not bad, we have parks on the seashore, in a river canyon, in the high mountains, between valleys and peaks, in the middle of the ocean? In all of them we can practise sustainable tourism that respects the environment, and all of them have information points or interpretation centres, sports activities, a network of trails to explore…
Hiking is a fundamental ecotourism activity. No matter what time of the year it is, we just have to protect ourselves from the cold, the sun or the rain and start walking. For long trails, we have the Camino de Santiago, with its variants and stretches, but, apart from that, in Galicia we have many approved trails, of varying degrees of difficulty and length. There are also routes articulated by a thematic thread, such as the Water routes, which have to do with rivers, mills, waterfalls, fountains… like the one in Zas, for example, or the one in Guitiriz; or the route of the lighthouses of the Costa da Morte; or the route of the cetareas of A Guarda… And, to do exercise, there is nothing better than the mountain trails, such as those that go through the lagoons of A Serpe and Ocelo, in the Pena Trevinca mountain range. Winter hiking is promoted in this area, with local mountain guides, who even organise routes through the snowy mountain with snowshoes on their feet. To find approved trails on the map, you can always use the Sendegal app.
There are those who prefer to pedal their way around. Well, they are in luck, because there are so many cycle touring routes that it is difficult to choose. Fortunately, in addition to those recommended by cycling clubs, tourist companies, or Wikilok, we have a very helpful tool: “The landscape of Galicia from the bike”, a viewer with all the information you need for the perfect ride. Here we can choose the type of landscape we want to cycle through, the level of difficulty, etc. On the other hand, the mountain bike centres facilitate the practice of mountain cycling, offering information on all the routes, bike rental services, washing points, etc. There are centres in O Salnés, in Portas de Galicia, in the Serra do Xurés, in the Ribeira Sacra and in Allariz-Vilar de Santos. If we are looking for less demanding routes, there are many walks that can be done on foot or by bike, such as the thermal path of Ourense, for example.
On these walks in the middle of the mountains, or along paths through the forests, or along the banks of a river… you are sure to hear birdsong, and perhaps you will identify one of them. In Galicia, a type of tourism that was previously only practised by experts in ornithology is becoming popular: bird watching, also known as birding. In winter there are resident birds, which are native to the area, such as the black-headed stilt or cormorant, and wintering birds, which come with the season, such as the black-faced goose or the black-faced duck, for example. The best areas for birdwatching are Terra Chá, the counties of Lugo and Sarria and A Limia, the entire coastline, and inland wetlands and areas of fertile plains. There are places such as the cove of O Bao, in the Arousa estuary, where birds from Scandinavia, Russia and Iceland spend their winter holidays. Many foreign waterbirds also come to A Seca, in Poio. The Galicia Birding app is a very useful resource to know what birds we are going to find, where and on what dates.
And, looking up at the sky in search of birds, we become aware of the interferences that prevent us from clearly perceiving what we have up there. There are places where the contemplation of the sky is taken seriously, places far from light pollution that have resources for stargazing and the dissemination of astronomical knowledge. These are places that have been certified as Starlight Destinations. There are currently eight in Galicia: in the Os Ancares Lucenses and Montes de Cervantes, Navia and Becerreá Biosphere Reserve, in Muras, in Trevinca, in the Illas Atlánticas National Park, on the Costa da Morte and in the Mariñas coruñesas. Guided visits with accredited astronomy monitors are organised at all these points. There are night and daytime visits and, in winter, the activities continue and, depending on the weather, the plan is varied (if the weather is bad, for example, the planetarium is used).