Entering a cave is somewhat mysterious in itself, and even more so if we delve into all the tales of Galician caves. Will we find an enchanted princess, a treasure from the mouros (Galician mythical beings), a dragon?… What we have insured is a good dose of the natural wealth of our land.
Not all of them are freely accessible. The most dangerous ones require a guided tour, in which the necessary equipment is provided (helmet, flashlight, etc.). In these, normally only people over 11 or 12 years old can enter.
Without a doubt, the Cova do Rei Cintolo is the most famous in Galicia. In fact, it is the largest natural calcareous cave that we have, that is known, of course. It was recognized as the best cave in Galicia by the Observer, a prestigious scientific tourism agency. The entrance is on the west slope of Mount Coto Redondo, in the parish of Argomoso, 6 km from Mondoñedo. It has no less than 8 km of galleries, with three floors and an interior lake in the basement.
It has everything a good cave should have: stalactites, stalagmites, labyrinths, bats… and legend. Apparently, the king of O Val de Brea, Cintolo, had a daughter who a witch fell in love with, and of course, he did witchcraft… The castle, the king, the princess, and whatever else there was there they remained: sunk in a cave and turned into stones.
Between April and December it is open to the public (over 12 years of age, for security reasons). You can only take guided tours, which are arranged at the Mondoñedo tourist office.
Also in the province of Lugo, to the south, in the municipality of Triacastela, there is another large cave: the Cova de Eirós, on the northern slope of Mount Penedo, in the Serra de Oribio. It has the particularity of being the only one that preserves remains of cave paintings and engravings. At the mouth of the cave is the highest concentration of archaeological finds. After a few meters it narrows and leads to a room and two galleries.
Due to the difficult access and the delicate state of conservation of the paintings, visits are restricted to research staff or students. In 2019, BIC was recognized by the Xunta de Galicia. Excavation and research efforts continue to make discoveries about our past.
Another area with a lot of caves is O Courel. It seems that there are up to 33 natural caves. More and more are being discovered and explored many meters into the interior of the mountains. Of all those that are catalogued, the largest is A Buraca das Grellas, in Teixeira, 3 km long. To visit any of them you must obtain a permit from the Department of the Environment.
In A Pobra de Brollón, in Lugo, is Cova das Choias. To get there, you have to walk from the Biduedo recreational area, among chestnut trees. In this area there are remains of smithies that in their time used the iron from the cave and the coal from the forest. A little further up, we find the entrance to the Cova das Choias, which is named after the bird (the choia is the jackdaw). There are also usually horseshoe bats. But the most notable peculiarity is the moss upholstery, a very vivid green, known as luminous moss. The entrance is about 30 m high, and the galleries are more than 200 m. The natural ones are mixed with the artificial ones. Visits are restricted to preserve biodiversity.
A Cova da Serpe mountain range is between the provinces of Lugo and A Coruña. At the top of A Pena do Rego de Egua, 793 m high, there is a cave made of schist rocks. It is about 12 m long, 4 wide and 2 high. The cave is the limit between the municipalities of Guitiriz and Friol. The visit has a plus right in front of the cave: a viewpoint with views of Friol (and a wind farm).
In the Pico Sacro, in the municipality of Boqueixón, in A Coruña, there is a natural cave called O Burato dos Mouros. It has two entrances: one, through Raíña Lupa street (which is not a street as such, but a gap in the rock). Here, after a short stretch, it descends in the form of a chasm or well. The other entrance is artificial and communicates directly with the well. It is known as the Juan Antón countermine. Apparently, a certain Juan Antón had made a mine to remove the hidden treasures, and he only removed stones, the poor thing.
This is the only set of natural cavities developed in quartz that is known in Galicia. The chasm could be as deep as 120 m, but it is dwarfed by stones and objects thrown to the bottom over time. The Galician Federation of Speleology and the Boqueixón town hall organize guided tours.
By the way, on this mountain there is a lot of mythology: legends of mouros who hide treasures in caves; from Raíña Lupa, who is said to have had a castle on top of the mountain; of the transfer of the Apostle; of dragons; of snakes…
There are also caves overlooking the sea. Between Punta Ínsua and Punta do Cabalo, in the municipality of Viveiro, is the Cova da Doncela, which overlooks Abrela beach. Due to the size, you have to enter on all fours and, after about 15 m, we come to a large gap that overlooks a cliff face. On its slope towards the sea, we have the entire Viveiro estuary in front of us.
If we happen to be there on a San Juan dawn, maybe we’ll see the maiden, because that’s when she comes down from the rocks to take a bath and comb her hair, with a gold and diamond comb, of course.
Finally, in the Serra da Enciña da Lastra Natural Park, in Ourense, there are the “palas” or caves that form the largest network of underground caves in Galicia and with one of the largest colonies of bats. Highlights include the Cova da Zorra (600m) and milestones in Galician speleology such as the Xilberte, the Pombo, the Trasmonte or the Tralapala caves.