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I was very hesitant about my first motorbike trip. I had already been on some trips as co-rider, but they were always shorter in distance and in time. Finally, having serviced my brand new motorbike, checked the main elements (tyres, chain, lights, oil, coolant) and heard expert advice, I had to choose the route for my initiation as a rider. This was no easy decision: I wanted to enjoy my motorbike riding but also to find a place that offered something beyond roads. There is no doubt that Galicia was a good choice. Its diverse, complex landscapes allowed me to enjoy some genuine riding, with winding roads, ups and downs, and the odd straight stretches. All of this, surrounded by amazing landscapes both in the mainland and on the coast. Having reflected about all this, I had no doubt that Galicia would be my destination.

After some days of holidays, I finally set for the desired trip. I had the intention to ride through this region soaking in its heritage, landscapes, natural spaces, stories, legends and facts. Ever-changing and appealing, Galicia offered me the Cantabrian sea, the Atlantic ocean, river banks, valleys, hills and mountains. So I checked the tyre pressure, hung my denim jacket and put on my motorcycle suit, wearing my protective gear for the first time. I put away my high heels and stepped into my beautiful motorcycle boots, ready to roll on the fantastic Galician land.

I felt free and enjoyed the grip of the motorbike on the bends of Galician roads. Looking back, I was pleasantly surprised that these times I spent riding my motorbike have led to moments of high adrenaline but also reflection, making this route an unmatched experience. The good vibes and feeling of freedom were a constant throughout my journey on two wheels. I could get everywhere and anywhere. Places I had already heard about, and places that I didn’t know anything about and were completely surprising. But reality exceeds anything I can say. You must experience it. You must experience Galicia, experience the Galifornia route. I was left wanting more!

To sum up, this is an experience I heartily recommend to anyone, boys and girls, whether you are bikers or you’re thinking about it. If this is the case, here’s my advice: go ahead, prepare adequately and experience the Galifornia route, enjoying the pleasure of positive vibes.

Ruta 1

MACIZO CENTRAL – RIBEIRA SACRA

214 km

Staying in a Parador next to a beautiful fortress (one of the best-preserved strongholds in Galicia) has been the most amazing experience and the best gift I have ever received.

I woke up really early that day, since I wanted to make the most of my great biking adventure across the legendary Ribeira Sacra, starting off in Verín. I departed from the Parador, which has great views over the castle and its quiet valley and vineyards. And the best way to start my day was by visiting a traditional wine cellar, “Boo Rivero”, where I bought an excellent wine with Monterrei Designation of Origin. When I was leaving, they told me how to get to a traditional wine press I had already heard about in Verín.

Through breath-taking landscapes near the reservoirs of Portas and O Bao, I rode on a winding road, a true biker’s route, towards the mountains in Ourense.

Near the reservoir of O Bao and almost without realising, I got to a quiet corner worth admiring, a place of great natural beauty right in the narrow valley carved by the Bibei river, in O Bolo. I didn’t hesitate to stop and visit a must-see there: the majestic Sanctuary of Nosa Señora das Ermidas, crowning a high natural rock at the bottom of the Bibey river gorge. Right below it, a Medieval bridge crosses the river.

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Stationed among terraces and carved directly in the rock, this sanctuary was built to honour the statue of the Virgin found in a nearby cave. It is named after the eremites that used to seek solitude in this faraway location.

According to the legend, a group of little shepherds decided to explore the cave after realising that the cattle that grazed there was healed. Inside it they found a statue of the Virgin holding Baby Jesus in her arms, and they built a chapel to house the statue in that very spot. Centuries later, the same happened to a bishop who was ill and recovered his health immediately after seeing the icon. He ordered to build the sanctuary we can see today. Since then, the Virgin stands at the main altar and is worshipped in Ourense due to her famous miracles.

Following the Via Crucis, I got to the highest part of the village, with views over the Castle of O Bolo. This castle dating back to the 12th century used to belong to the Counts of Lemos and was later used as a school, prison and even fairground.

The road kept going up and getting closer and closer to Manzaneda ski resort (1778 m high), where Galician woods touch the sky. It’s a shame this area was not covered by snow, since that is an amazing sight, according to the locals. In my descent from Cabeza de Manzaneda, I went to the Souto de Rozabales to take a picture of this natural monument, particularly of the famous, ancient chestnut of Pumbariños, very well preserved and flanked by all his long-standing relatives. He told me about all the generations that had walked those lands; of lovers, wars and fresh air.

Having seen this masterpiece of nature and breathed in some pure air, I soon arrived in Trives, with its Roman bridge over the Bibei river.
In A Pobra de Trives, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try its famous bica, since the great fair was taking place (last Sunday of July). This sweet sponge cake is a must-try. Carnival is another big celebration in Trives, with many traditions that differ from one village to another, proving the ethnographic diversity of this region. In A Pobra, the streets are taken by the “folións” that sing and dance to the beat of the bass drums, with the most important days being “jueves de comadres” and “viernes de compadres.” Before my departure, I couldn’t help buying another bica to make my trip even sweeter and not to lose strength. The clock bells wee chiming when I left the crowds behind.

I crossed the beautiful protected landscape of Val do río Navea, with its tiny one-arch Roman bridge, Ponte Navea. On my right, below the great chestnut forest of San Xoan de Río, I saw some milestones leading me to Castro Caldelas. There, an imposing fortress built more than 600 years ago rises from atop the village, offering spectacular views over the Sil Valley and guarding the entrance to the beautiful natural landscapes of the Ribeira Sacra, which awaited me on the other side. Inside the castle, an ethnographic centre recreates life as it was back in those times.

Legend has it that this castle was inhabited by a powerful count who had three beautiful marriageable daughters. Another count, also rich and noble, asked for the hand of one of them. The father asked, “Cal delas?” (“Which one?”), and so the place became known as Castro Cal-delas.

From there, I rode down a steep, exciting slope and crossed the Sil River while seeing one of the catamarans sail away from the dock of Doade. Already in the province of Lugo, the road started steeply going up among viewpoints and renowned wineries such as Regina Viarum or Algueira. There, exhausted as I was, I made short work of a delicious meal paired with excellent wines from the Ribeira Sacra.

I was eager to get to the terraces hanging from the slopes, but Caldeiras was the first viewpoint to leave me open-mouthed. From some 600 metres above the river, I admired the river bank in the Ourense side, the great gorge, the countless vineyards and the viewpoint known as Los Balcones de Madrid.

In Rectoral de Gundivós, a pottery restored by the last potter remaining, Elías showed me his interpretation centre and his pottery pieces, the result of this thousand-year-old traditional craft. He also offered me a great food tasting. I bought the typical “cunca” to drink wine from his store, since I didn’t have room for the “queimada” implement from Gundivós in my motorcycle.

Knowing that I would go through Ferreira de Pantón, I couldn’t have missed the Cistercian Monastery of Madres Bernardas de Santa María. Curiously enough, this is the only monastery in Galicia that has always been used as a monastery since it was created, and still is. Their delicious sweets would accompany me for the rest of my journey.

Fascinated, I kept riding among vineyards, monasteries and convents until I reached the river beach of A Cova, on the banks of the Miño River, which “takes the credit but doesn’t take the water”, unlike the Sil River I left behind. I was amazed to see how this river bends, creating a spectacular meander around Cabo do Mundo.

The more I rode on, the more I wanted to see. I headed for the Monastery of Santo Estebo de Ribas de Miño, with stunning views over Belesar Reservoir.

While I said goodbye to this area, I thought of my final stop on this busy, hot day: Monforte de Lemos, the capital of the Ribeira Sacra, awaited me by the Cabe River with its art and monuments. I spent the night at the Parador, near the Castle of Monforte de Lemos, having visited the Monastery of Nosa Señora da Antiga (now a school) and the Wine Museum.

Where to stop: Cabeza de Manzaneda, Castro Caldelas, Rectoral de Gundivós and Monforte de Lemos.

What to visit: Sanctuary of Ermidas, pottery of Gundivós, Monastery of Santo Estebo de Ribas de Miño, Castle of the Counts of Lemos and Museum of Nosa Señora da Antiga.

What to see: castle and village of O Bolo, As Cadeiras viewpoint, Monastery of Santa María de Ferreira, A Cova beach and viewpoint, Belesar Reservoir.

Where to eat: A Pobra de Trives, Castro Caldelas.

Where to stay: Monforte.

Ruta 2

MONFORTE – O COUREL – ANCARES

212 km

From the Parador in Monforte, I went on a short walk around the Monumental Ensemble of San Vicente do Pino, where I found some pilgrims walking the Winter Way. I went up to the keep to take a picture of the views over the Lemos Valley and then I set course for the Pazo Museo de Tor.

This ethnographic museum is renowned for being one of the best examples of country palace architecture in the south of Lugo and one of the best preserved in Galicia. Standing on the highest part of the valley, this building tells us about the way Galician nobility used to live during the Early Modern Period. The famous writer and poet Uxío Novoneira, born in O Courel and a friend of the family, stayed in its guestroom on many occasions. He wrote, “Courel dos tesos cumes que ollan de lonxe”, or “Courel of the high peaks looking on from afar.”

That would be my destination, the mountain ranges of O Courel and Os Ancares!

I decided to drop by O Incio, entrance hall to O Courel, with its round hills, pastures and chestnut groves. The church of Hospital do Incio is unique not only in Galicia but also in most of Western Europe. The material used in its construction, local bluish marble from a nearby quarry, makes it the only Romanesque church made of marble in Spain. According to legend, this church was built by the devil in just one day. The same is said about many other buildings in Galicia whose origins are lost in time and which were also built in short periods of time, not by the devil, but by the Moors.

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Curiously enough, the word “hospital” is found in various place names around Galicia a reference to the locations of old hostelries and hospitals for pilgrims on their way to Santiago. This incredible architectural ensemble, as impressive as its natural surroundings (such as the great chestnut by the church), includes a fortress, a hostelry, a hospital and a church, since it used to welcome pilgrims.

I noticed the Maltese cross on the tympanum. This cross, symbol of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem), seems to indicate that the church was built thanks to this order.

A few kilometres away, I visited the remains of the thermal resort of Ferrería do Incio, surrounded by mountains some 800 or 900 metres high. There are plenty of iron seams in these mountains, which have been used for iron extraction for thousands of years. The plentiful trees and thick woods in this area also supplied raw materials to transform wood into charcoal, used to sieve iron shavings and to forge new tools. There used to be a great forge (“ferrería”) here, hence the name Ferrería do Incio and some other place names in the surroundings that allude to this trade.

The steep slopes of these valleys made it possible for water coming from higher regions to permeate the mountain and reach the abundant iron seams. This created the ferruginous mineral waters that have become famous and attracted attention to this area.

In 1982, the Great Thermal Resort was built. A Baroque chapel still stands in the premises. Unfortunately, this place, as many other thermal resorts in Galicia, fell into disuse and abandonment.

There is no doubt that O Courel is Galicia’s great green reserve, with such a diverse historical and artistic heritage.

Samos, with its typical slate-roofed houses, is home to one of the most important religious centres in Galicia, the Benedictine Monastery of San Xulián de Samos. I was really impressed by the strange horizontality of the church’s facade, and its staircase looked familiar, since it was inspired by that of the Cathedral of Santiago. Behind the monastery, I found a Mozarab chapel which is known as “la capilla del Ciprés” due to the 27-metre-high cypress next to it. Many pilgrims walking the French Way come to take a rest and admire one of the two cloisters of this Monastery, the biggest cloister in Spain.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste the local trouts and eels. Not feeling very hungry, I could only have a nibble in a café next to the Oribio River while I looked at the trouts in the water.

I could have stopped in any of the villages I passed by, but the one definitely worth being walked is Seceda, named a Typical Village, Ethnographic Ensemble and Tourist Attraction by the Galician government after its restoration. The cantilevers and windowsills of its houses are admirable, and some of the houses are joined by passages, almost creating corridors along the stone-paved streets. There is another ethnographic gem nearby, the Castro da Torre de Sobredo, one of the best preserved castros in the area.

The natural beauty of the landscapes invited me to wander in the forests and trekking routes such as the one named “Val das Mouras”, near Ferrería Vella, by the banks of the Lor River. This is something I will definitely do the next time I come to O Courel.

I also visited Seoane, one of the main localities in O Courel, and possibly the most dynamic one. The ethnographical museum of Ferrería de Seoane is of great interest. This smithy was restored in 1808 to forge weapons to be wielded against the French. Nature lovers must also take the Devesa de Rogueira route, famous for its “Fonte do Cervo”, very distinct because two streams of water come from it, one of them ferruginous, the other calcareous, and they never mix.

But man doesn’t live by landscapes alone, so I stopped to regain some strength in the highest part of O Cebreiro, with views over the province of León, as if I was another pilgrim. Having visited the Pre-Romanesque church of Santa María a Real de O Cebreiro, I dropped by a restaurant to try the local products, both poultry and cured meats. While I drank, I thought of the miracle that, according to legend, happened in the church: while a sceptical priest (now buried there) was preaching, the wine turned into blood and the bread turned into Christ’s flesh. They say that the Last Supper’s Chalice is here and that it was brought by one of the Knights of the Holy Grail. This is a true symbol of Galicia, appearing in the centre of the coat of arms of this autonomous region. The “Holy Grail”, the chalice and the paten, Romanesque gems, are kept in a display cabinet in the church, together with a reliquary donated by the Catholic Monarchs.

Do not leave without tasting the creamy cheese from O Cebreiro, with Designation of Origin, with some local honey.

I then entered the wild, fascinating territory of Os Ancares, which, together with O Courel, makes up the biggest natural space in Galicia. It is also a Biosphere Reserve in both Galicia and Castilla y León. In the side belonging to the province of Lugo, Os Ancares are made up of little valleys with towns and villages hanging from peaks 2000 metres high.

The route took me to an unmatched natural setting atop a hill crowned by the impregnable Castle of Doiras.

Once in Piornedo, I was surprised by the ancestral circular dwellings with straw roofs, called “pallozas.” At the Palloza Museo Casa Do Sesto, near Fonte do Marelo, I discovered that both people and domestic animals lived in them. I recommend the views over this area from the Hermitage of San Lorenzo. From this spot, a path leads to the highest peak in the Ancares in the side of Lugo, Mustallar (1935 metres high). Bear tracks have been spotted here, since brown bears go through Os Ancares, their last stronghold in Galicia.

My day ended with a flawless background: a perfect place to have dinner amid mountains, Caserío de Meiroi.

In A Proba, the capital of Navia de Suarna, I finished this stage of the route looking at the Medieval one-arch bridge crossing the Navia River, famous for its trouts.

Where to stop: Samos, Seoane do Courel, Pedrafita do Cebreiro, Navia de Suarna.

What o visit: Pazo de Tor, Seceda, Monastery of San Xulian de Samos, Ethnographic Museum of Ferrería de Seoane, Piornedo.

What so see: Church of San Pedro Fiz in Hospital do Incio, health resort in Ferrería do Incio, Church of Santa María a Real in O Cebreiro, Castle of Doiras, Palloza Museo Casa do Sesto.

Where to eat: Pedrafita do Cebreiro.

Where to stay: A Proba de Navia.

Ruta 3

ANCARES – MARIÑA LUCENSE

216 km

After having some delicious octopus in A Proba de Navia, I immediately resumed my way to discover the famous spot where the Miño River rises. I then headed north and visited the most iconic places on my way to the Cantabrian Sea.

Leaving Os Ancares and its mountains behind, I crossed thick woods and countless streams. There is no doubt that autumn is one of the best seasons to enjoy these beautiful settings.

In Fonteo, by the road and underneath an ancient chestnut, I discovered the spot where the waters of Serra do Mirador start flowing. Further on, they become the Eo River, famous salmon river which I would see again later in my journey.

From here, I could see A Marronda, an impressive ancient forest populated by local species and classed as a Special Area of Conservation. It is one of the most important beech reserves in south-western Europe, and its golden hues in the autumn were worthy of a picture.

Apart from a great variety of trees and waterfalls, the forest hides several abandoned houses and hórreos, bridges, old chestnut drying huts, and some remarkable mills whose architecture was adapted to the mountainous surroundings.

On my way, I went through Meira to visit Pedregal de Irimia. I was impressed by the 700-metre-long river of stones, which I followed up while hearing the sound of the waters rising between them. This is the source of the Miño River, the widest river in Galicia. How would this river know that he would end up flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, 350 km away from here, after crossing the provinces of Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra?

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The legend goes that, many years ago, the monks at the nearby Monastery of Santa María de Meira tried to collect some taxes from a woman named Irimia, who was said to be a witch. She refused and threw several stones at them, which started growing until they reached their current size, while she said, “Nunca probaredes as augas deste río, porque é miño.” (“You shall never drink this river’s waters, because it’s mine.”) Hence the name.

It looks as if this river of stones sprouted from the line of wind turbines, which marks the watershed. When rain falls on the south side, it flows towards the Miño and into the Atlantic, but when it falls on the other side, it flows to the Eo River and heads north to the Cantabrian Sea.

Located in a beautiful farming valley, Mondoñedo welcomed me next. This town used to be the capital of one of the seven provinces that made up Galicia until 1833.
I started my visit of its alluring historical centre at the boulevard, with the Sanctuary of Nosa Señora dos Remedios, patron saint of Mondoñedo, and the Hospital de San Pablo, built to give shelter to poor people and pilgrims.

The Basilica-Cathedral of La Asunción, together with the Co-cathedral of Ferrol, is one of the episcopal sees of the Mondoñedo-Ferrol diocese. It’s known as “the kneeling cathedral” due to its perfect proportion and short height. Inside it, it is surprising to see how the light shines with countless colours when going through the rose window on its facade.

Near this building, at the main square, I also found the Episcopal Palace, the old town council (now a library), a beautiful ensemble of traditional houses with balconies and colonnades, and a monument to Álvaro Cunqueiro. Moving on, I got to Fonte Vella and, behind the cathedral, I could see the Council Seminary of Santa Catalina.

The Barrio dos Muíños is further on, with its traditional architecture, and bearing this name due to the various mills in the area, which are not in use but have been recently restored. The most remarkable one is the beautiful fountain of Os Pelamios, with four water streams.

As it turns out, the town was getting ready for the Feria de San Lucas (18th October), one of the most renowned horse and mule shows in the area, with celebrations lasting for five days.

I then got to the Medieval Ponte do Pasatempo. When Leonor de Castro, marshal Pardo de Cela’s wife, came back from Castile with the pardon for her husband signed by the Catholic Monarchs, she was held by the bishop’s canons at this bridge. Sadly, she didn’t make in on time to stop her husband and son from being executed. Hence the name, which means “pass-time.”

A traditional dessert to try is Mondoñedo pie, the perfect bite for pilgrims walking the Northern Way, which runs through this town.

In Vilanova de Lourenzá, renowned for its beans, I visited the Monastery of San Salvador, whose facade was the practice for the Obradoiro facade at the Cathedral of Santiago.
At the Centro de Interpretación da Faba, you can learn some more about the techniques that have been used to grow this legume in the Mariña Lucense for centuries.

In Ribadeo, I entered the Mariña Lucense on the left bank of the estuary, with my feet on Galician soil but my eyes on Asturias and the Cantabrian Sea. The Eo River acts as the border between those two autonomous regions.

The Ría de Ribadeo, Oscos e Terras de Bourón Natural Reserve has a great landscape and environmental value. This is the most western estuary, linking Galicia and Asturias by means of Os Santos Bridge, with has a chapel on each side of it. This coastal area is a place of towns and villages, crop fields and meadows.

Don’t lose sight of the sea from Os Santos Bridge, going through Fuerte de San Damián and the Cargadoiro to the lighthouse of Illa Pancha, lapped by the turquoise water of the Cantabrian Sea, in contrast with the bright colours of the cliffs and coastal shrub.

I could picture this town’s splendorous past just by walking through its charming historical centre, full of beautiful buildings such as the Torre dos Moreno, a modernist house built by Galicians who made good in America and a witness of the Galician emigration to this continent.

I kept riding through the fields of these coastal plains until I arrived at the Augasantas or As Catedrais beach. The low tide allowed me to walk on the sand of this natural monument. It is amazing to see how the sea has shaped the cliffs into a whole architectural ensemble including arches, columns, vaults and caves. This protected space, a part of Natura 2000 Network, stretches for 15 km along the coast, with beaches such as Os Castros and the picturesque port of Rinlo, with its delicious seafood rice.

Having crossed the estuary of Foz, near the Basilica of San Martiño de Mondoñedo, considered as the oldest cathedral in Spain, and riding on winding roads among eucalyptus trees, I got to Chavín. There, I admired the natural monument of Souto da Retorta, or Chavín eucalyptus grove, with some of the highest and biggest eucalyptus trees in Europe. The biggest one in Galicia is known as “avó” (grandpa), with its 67 metres of height and 10.5 metres of perimeter. Walking one kilometre in this forest of giants, with more than 600 trees, is enough to admire their colossal dimensions.

These trees were planted in the 19th century to drain low areas as a protective measure against floods. A Galician priest brought the first seeds from faraway lands where he had worked as a missionary. This invading tree adjusted to our climate so well that it ended up spreading massively throughout the whole Galician territory.

There is no better way to end this day than sitting on San Roque viewpoint in Viveiro and watching the sun set over its estuary, the port of Celeiro and Covas beach. The Chapel of San Roque is a reference for seafarers, which is why the traditional song goes, “Catro vellos mariñeiros: Boga, boga mariñeiro, imos para Viveiro, xa se ve San Roque”. (Four old seafarers, “Row, row, sailor, we’re headed for Viveiro and San Roque can already be seen.”)

In the historical centre of Viveiro, of Medieval origin, you can admire the narrow streets; the Medieval gates, such as the Carlos V gate; the Puente Mayor Bridge, also called Puente de la Misericordia; Calexa das Monxas street; and the Main Square.

Where to stop: Mondoñedo, Vilanova de Lourenzá, Ribadeo, Viveiro.

What to visit: Cathedral and historical centre of Mondoñedo, Monastery of San Salvador de Lourenzá, Ribadeo, Viveiro.

What to see: Fonteo, Fraga da Marronda, Pedregal de Irimia, As Catedrais beach, Souto da Retorta.

Where to eat: Mondoñedo

Where to stay: Viveiro

Ruta 4

MARIÑA LUCENSE – ACANTILADOS DE LOIBA – COSTA ARTABRA – FRAGAS DO EUME

182 km

To resume my route, I started in Viveiro and headed west. Soon there was green all around me, but it wasn’t long before the sea made an appearance again. In the municipality of O Vicedo, I could see Arealonga beach, which gives the estuary of O Barqueiro its half-moon shape. I saw the forged iron bridge that, since 1901, replaced the ferryman service this place was named after. I could admire how the Sor River flowed into the sea, creating one of those amazing formations which are so typical and so marvelous in Galicia: estuaries.

Moving on, I had to stop at Estaca de Bares, the place where the ocean blends together with the sea. This is the northernmost point in the Peninsula, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Cantabrian Sea. The lighthouse has been rising over the cliffs of this cape since the 19th century, and Semáforo de Bares, a nearby old surveillance post that has now been turned into a hotel blending with nature, is very close.

I then retraced my steps towards O Barqueiro and set course for Ortigueira. Less than 1 km later, I took the detour to Loiba cliffs. I was intensely curious to visit that famous place that has recently appeared in so many pictures. The road got narrower and narrower, finally turning into a track. That peaceful place halfway between Estaca de Bares and Cabo Ortegal was breath-taking no matter where I looked. I wanted to capture that setting with a picture taken from the most beautiful bench in the world. I could have stayed there for hours, but had still a lot to do and see.

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I soon arrived at Ortigueira, where I was deeply surprised by the amount of people on the streets. The “Internationak Celtic World Festival” was taking place, an event bringing together different Celtic bands from all over the world. It’s held in July, as I duly noted.

Riding on, I got to Cariño, surprising name for a village, since it means “affection.” Towards the end of this municipality, a road full of bends and cliffs took me to Cabo de Ortegal. In this area of Galicia, the capes and their slim lighthouses atop dramatic cliffs shape a unique, genuine landscape. The surroundings kept surprising me, especially the rough sea and the famous “Aguillóns”, sharp rocky islets.

I decided to take a rest in Cariño, since I was starting to feel hungry. This seafarer’s town in the heart of Rías Altas is the perfect place to taste some of the local cuisine, based on fresh products from the sea.

Having eaten, I hopped on my motorbike again, not knowing that the most impressive sights were yet to come. Leaving Cariño behind, I took the detour to Santo Andrés de Teixido, starting my ascent to A serra da Capelada. At first, I was most interested in visiting the sanctuary, a place of pilgrimage where, so the saying goes, if you don’t go while you’re alive, you’ll go after you’re dead. However, the more I rode on and saw, the more impressed I was by the views. When I reached the highest point, I stopped my motorbike at the viewpoint known as Vixía de Herbeira. I parked there and walked down the path leading to the sea. From the road, the 18-century sentry box can be seen. It was restored in 1803 as a part of a maritime surveillance system.

When I reached the end of the path, I was blown away. I was 630 metres above the sea, admiring some truly impressive cliffs and seeing the ocean and the sea blend in the horizon. I felt so tiny before that magnificent sight, I can’t even describe exactly how I felt.

Captivated by these views, I still had to visit the sanctuary. From this point, the road starts to descend to a remote little village surrounded by cliffs and vegetation where wild horses graze at ease. I walked down and, right in the middle of this spectacular setting, facing the endless and powerful Atlantic Ocean, I saw the Sanctuary of Santo André de Teixido. I felt like I was in a postcard, this was such a magical place! Also, I had already been to the sanctuary, so I wouldn’t have to go after death as a soul, toad or snake. According to legend, San Andrés was sad one day, since everyone visited Santiago but no one came to his sanctuary, and God told him, “do not worry, Andrés, I promise you that no one shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven if they haven’t been to your sanctuary first. And, if they do not go when they are alive, they shall do so when they are dead.” This is how this sanctuary became a pilgrimage site. This way still exists today, and it’s marked with sardines, since San Andrés was a fisherman.

The tradition is to drink from the fountain with three pipes, drop a bread crumb and, if it floats, your wish will come true. The “herba de namorar”, or love herb, is also very popular for those who want to make their love interest love them back.
I left Teixido still amazed by all that beauty, and I arrived in Cedeira. Once in this town, I crossed the Condomiñas River and entered one of the most iconic streets in this place, full of houses with balconies. At the end of this street, I could see Magdalena beach and the estuary of Cedeira.

Leaving this place behind, the road went on along the edge of the estuary. I passed by Esteiro, where the Das Mestas River searched its way to the sea. In Valdoviño, I headed for “A Frouxeira” beach, where I saw a group of surfers. This beach is highly frequented by them, since it offers very good conditions for this sport. I rode on the road skirting it to get a better view of the beach itself and of its lake. Once more, the pavement turned into a dirt track.

Later on, already in the mainland, I arrived at the municipality of Ferrol. I entered this city and rode through the Canido quarter, home to the renowned Meninas de Canido, a great example of street art that came into existence almost accidentally when a local artist, Eduardo Hermida, wanted to give some colour to a house front. Today, this place has become an exhibition of over 300 murals with different versions of Las Meninas by Velázquez painted by different artists. I was mystified to see how they have turned this neighbourhood into an outdoor museum.

I rode on and, reaching Narón, I crossed a bridge over the estuary of Ferrol, once chosen as a strategic place for navy vessels, given its natural conditions, with a narrow entrance that gradually widens. This estuary had the perfect characteristics to create a defensive system initially made up of three 16-century castles XVI (the Castle of San Felipe being the best preserved today), and then by two more in the 18th century for added security.
I headed for the southern side of this estuary, seeing Ferrol from a different angle. I arrived in Mugardos, picturesque seafarers’ village. I stopped here and couldn’t help trying the famous octopus Mugardos style. It was delicious.

It was time to go to Pontedeume, in the estuary of Ares, where I rode into the Fragas do Eume Natural Park. Slopes and mountains flank the Eume River, making up an Atlantic deciduous forest where Galician oaks are the main species. Amid this peculiar natural space lays the Monastery of Caaveiro. I had to park my motorbike and walk to it, but I didn’t mind: the Monastery was totally worth it.

In Pontedeume, I visited the Torre dos Andrade (now the tourist office), the church of Santiago, and the historical centre. But the thing I liked the most was the amount of tapas bars in this town. Wooden boards are set under the colonnades, acting as bars, and people go enjoy dinner there, standing and chatting. I was really surprised to see such a lively atmosphere. I decided to spend the night there.

Where to stop: Estaca de Bares, Vixía de Herbeira, Santo André de Teixido, Cariño, Cedeira, Mugardos, Pontedeume.

What to visit: Semáforo de Bares, Sanctuary of Santo André de Teixido, Monastery of Caaveiro, Torre dos Andrade

What to see: Cabo Ortegal, Loiba cliffs, Serra da Capelada, Freixeira lake and beach, Meninas de Canido, Fragas do Eume.

Where to eat: In Cariño or Cedeira, depending on how hungry you are and how much time you have.

Where to sleep: in Pontedeume.

Ruta 5

FRAGAS DO EUME – COSTA DA MORTE

284 km

I started a new route into the estuary of Betanzos from the small historical town of Pontedeume. I got ready to visit the locality from up there, between the rivers Mendo and Mandeo, surrounded by grape crops that would later become Wines with a Betanzos Protected Geographical Indication. Two national monuments, located right in the square, stand out in its site of historical interest: Santa Mª do Azogue and San Francisco. What struck me inside the first Gothic church was the capital with the only agricultural calendar in Galicia, together with the high altarpiece. In San Francisco I came across the grave of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, held by a bear and a wild boar. This was among the graves of other medieval knights, since important noble families inhabited the locality in the Middle Ages. Betanzos is also known as the city of knights and the capital of Mariñas. Its large encyclopaedic park, O Pasatempo, was created by the García Naveira brothers; wealthy Galicians who had made good in America, and who promoted cultural and charitable activities in the town at the end of the 19th century. Replicas of statues, murals of well-known artworks, customs from other nations… all of it immersed in walks, caves and artificial lakes, taking advantage of natural springs and channelling its water. ‘‘The Time Zones of the World’’, ‘‘Cupid’s Fountain’’, ‘‘The Christians at the Circus,” are among some of the topics.

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I left, resolved to discover A Costa da Morte, feared by seafarers for its many shipwrecks. A wild stretch of coastline with immense beaches, cliffs, strong currents and sudden storms. Commanded by the ocean.

Right before the coast, I stopped at Buño to visit the Eco-museum Forno do Forte. I had the chance to sit before a potter’s wheel and practising with my own hands, following expert instructions, just like any traditional female potter would.

Now in Malpica de Bergantiños, I found a considerable inshore fishing fleet in its harbour, with seiners standing out. Its fish market also offers barnacles for sale. It was a whaling harbour in the 17th century, monitoring the passing of whales to the Sisargas islands before its coast. The beach of Canido is on the other side of the peninsula.

I followed my route, leaving an uneven and rough coast behind, with lighthouses and capes such as that of Roncudo, named after the raucous sound the sea makes breaking against its coast. Crossing the Anllóns River, the estuary of Corme and Laxe came into view. I decided to stop at the harbour of this latter locality to savour its well-known barnacles.

Refreshed by the appetiser, my way continued past the rocks of Pasarela and a Traba, which greeted me gracefully from their 274 metres in height. Four summits comprise this ensemble of gigantic rocks, offering stunning viewpoints around the valley of Traba. I headed to the Legacy of Man in Camelle. Manfred Gnädinger arrived on this coast in 1962. Attracted by the beauty of its forms, he decided to settle down and started to live in harmony with nature, creating different artworks. The German man in Camelle ended up living right on the coast, in his museum, defending a number of values for the incorporation of art into nature. I hear tell that he died of a broken heart short after the Prestige dyed the coast black with asphalt.

The English Cemetery witnessed the many shipwrecks that occurred on this dangerous coast. It is a reminder of the Serpent tragedy, a Royal Navy vessel that ran aground in 1890, with only three surviving seafarers. The 172 victims rest in this place, which is part of the European Route of Significant Cemeteries, a recognised European Cultural Route. To its right, you can find the greatest reserve of ‘‘camariñas’’ in Galicia. This native bush, the camariña (Corema album) is now a protected species, the Camariñas locality named after it.

I stopped at the Lighthouse of Cabo Vilán, one of the most symbolic lighthouses in Galicia. The first electric lighthouse on the Spanish coasts was inaugurated here in 1896. What caught my attention was the covered tunnel joining the keepers’ building with the lantern along one of the cliff sides.

At the seafarers’ town of Camariñas, famous for its elegant bobbin lace with filigrees, I made a pit stop for lunch — I longed to revel in the sea delicacies the place offered me.

My culinary expectations were met, and once again on my bike, I delighted myself with the estuary of Camariñas all the way to Porto Bridge. From the road, I caught sight of the Romanesque monastery of San Xián de Moraime, an old Benedictine hermitage dating back to the 12th century, and the work of Maestro Mateo’s school, a famous sculptor of the Portal of Glory on the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Now on my way through the town of Muxía, the conger eel driers caught my attention. They are the only remaining ones out of the many that there used to be in the North of the Peninsula.

What awaited me was a tremendous ocean-defying sanctuary: A Nosa Señora da Barca. It is one of the oldest places of pilgrimage in Galicia: the Jubilee Way from Santiago to Muxía-Fisterra. Legend has it that the Virgin arrived in a stone boat to encourage the Apostle Saint James. The imposing temple is surrounded by individually-named gigantic rocks: “Abalar”, “Cadrís” “Namorados” and “Temón”. Inside, small boats offered up by seafarers as a token of gratitude keep the Virgin company.

I covered this stretch straight to Fisterra thinking of the succession of seafaring pilgrimages, rituals, beliefs and legends on this coast. I went through its narrow alleys and, on the road to the lighthouse, past the church of Santa María de Fisterra and the ruins of the old pilgrims’ hospital, a growing number of pilgrims walking past to Cabo Fisterra. Before going to the lighthouse, I decided to continue along the road to Mount Facho to enjoy the view. Yet a couple of bends and I realised I was not the only one planning on looking down the landscape from up there. It was worth it. I went to the well-known lighthouse with Ara Solis on my mind. No wonder tradition has it that the Romans found a sun altar in this place, as the sunsets must be gorgeous.

After this brief pit stop, I headed towards the Fervenza do Ézaro to see the spectacular fall of the river Xallas down the hillside of Mount Pindo. It is regarded as the only river in Europe reaching the sea as a waterfall. Lovely views over the cove of Ézaro.

It was time to see two of the biggest hórreos in Galicia. That is why, in Carnota, I went to the church of Santa Comba first and then to that of Lira, to see their ensembles of hórreos and dovecotes.

I went past Lariño, rode past the lagoon and Mount of Louro, and saw the coves of San Francisco and of Seixido before I parked my bike in Muros and decided to walk around its narrow streets. Its site of historical interest has good examples of popular architecture; with fountains, seafaring dwellings and noble architecture standing out. Ground floors with arcades in pointed arch, continuous balconies with iron railings, large Baroque and Gothic houses, modernist buildings with enclosed balconies… it was a pleasure, wandering around calle Real, Peixería Vella, Mariña, the food market and the old collegiate church of Santa María do Campo. At the harbour I enjoyed a nice supper, and decided to call it a day after my route across the meandering and defying orography of the Costa da Morte. This was a well-deserved rest.

Where to stop: O Pasatempo, Legacy of Man in Camelle, Lighthouse of Cabo Vilán, A Nosa Señora da Barca, Lighthouse of Fisterra, Fervenza do Ézaro, hórreos of Carnota

What to visit: Betanzos, Buño, Muros

What to see: Rocks of Pasarela e a Traba, English Cemetery, San Xián de Moraime, conger eel driers in Muxía

Where to eat: Laxe, Camariñas

Where to stay: Muros

Ruta 6

RÍA DE MUROS E NOIA – RÍA DE AROUSA

190 km

After a nice rest at the small seafarers’ town of Muros, I started my journey to explore the estuary of Muros and Noia in the morning, and the estuary of Arousa in the afternoon.

On my way through the cove of Muros, I left one of the Galician coastal tide mills on my right. This specific mill lays claim to being one of the largest in Spain: that of Pozo do Cachón. Tradition has it that in the old days, people used to come to this place for the ‘‘Santa Rita baths’’ to cure illnesses with seaweed and seawater baths.

I enjoyed a quiet ride along the coves of Bornalle and Esteiro, and the multiple rivers and streams that flow into this coast: Rateira, Mondelo, Maior, Cernadas, Pipe, Bendimón, Outes, Entíns, Rial, Donas… no wonder Galicia is known as the land of the thousand rivers!

Upon reaching the most important river of all, the Tambre, I turned off towards Bridge Nafonso to see one of the longest medieval bridges in Galicia. With a length of 270 metres, it still has 20 out of its 27 original arches.

Noia was a must-see. I began with the church of Santa María A Nova, located in the middle of the “Quintana de Mortos” (cemetery). These place peculiar medieval tombs have the trade symbols represented on them. An anchor for the seafarer, a pick and shovel for the quarryman, scissors for the tailor, a knife for the butcher…

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the “Calvary” with a canopy (16th century) caught my eye, as these are usually open-air crosses. I later learnt that there are only two of those in the entire Galician region.

Its pleasing narrow streets led me to Square of Tapal, with its “calvary” and the church of San Martiño. Its façade surprised me, as the elderly Apocalypse figures are depicted with musical instruments, reminding me of the Portal of Glory on the cathedral of Santiago. The nickname for this locality, “the small Compostela”, immediately came to my mind.

Riding once again along the southern side of the estuary towards Baroña, in the municipality of Porto do Son, to visit its famous “castro” or Iron-Age settlement. It was time for “castro culture”, as everything that has to do with these places is called. Located in a small peninsula, the castro was inhabited until the 1st century AD. This small archaeological jewel is one of the better preserved coastal castros in Galicia, with 20 circular and oval houses surrounded by 2 walls. Picturing how they went about their life in a place like this is extraordinary… The view from up there is well worth it.

I went on with my route and turned off to make a little pit stop at the Beach of Furnas. This hidden paradise has served as the backdrop for some films (Sea Inside) and, recently, a highly successful TV programme (Fariña). Trivia apart, it is a wild beach with a heavy swell, thus also making it a surfers’ paradise.

Following the road, I came across the Dolmen de Axeitos, regarded as the Parthenon of megalithic art in Galicia. This collective tomb is situated in the middle of a “carballeira’’ (oak wood) and was known as the ‘‘Moor’s Stone’’, owing to the many stories connecting these places with secret treasures and mythological beings.

I went up a steep slope with hairpin bends up to Mount Tahume. From its summit (242 metres), I enjoyed a great view over the protected area of the Marine Coastal Natural Park of the Dunes of Corrubedo and the lagoons of Carregal and Vixán.

The park, with an extensive dune system of great scenic and natural value, houses many different types of habitats within a relatively limited area, and is one the most visited parks in Galicia. The great mobile dune is 1 km long, 250 m wide and 20 m high. The total surface area of the park is 1,000 hectares. The fresh waters of the Lagoon of Vixán, and the salt waters of the Lagoon of Carregal, together with the dune complex, make it possible for 3,000 aquatic birds to live there: teals, curlews, spoonbilled ducks, sandpipers, plovers…

The fantastically-located harbour of Corrubedo offers several restaurants to get your strength back.

After lunch, I went to the Lighthouse of Corrubedo, and from there I continued my journey towards the fishing harbours of Riveira, going past the coastline, and then on to A Pobra do Caramiñal, Escarabote, Boiro… the Mountain Range of Barbanza on my left the whole time. The Towers of Catoira caught my attention when crossing the river Ulla.

These medieval (9th century) ruins are built by the command of the bishop of Santiago to stop the Saracens and Normans from raiding the city. There is a small chapel dedicated to the apostle next to them. I crossed the bridge when the famous ‘‘Viking Festival’’ was being prepared.

On my way through Carril, I saw Cortegada, one of the islands of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park, the sole national park in Galicia. It is also known as the bay leaf island, due to its laurel forest. I was told that sometimes it is possible to see the female gatherers of shellfish working in this area of the estuary, where clams are plentiful.

Leaving Vilagaríca de Arousa behind, I headed to the Pazo of Rubiáns, where I had a guided route arranged. Walking amongst its vineyards and camellias, I progressively discover this Garden of International Excellence. What sufficed to persuade me to visit this pazo was its interior, the story of the Manor Vilagacía is named after, its 4,500 camellia specimens, and its trained vine of albariño grapes. There I learnt of its wineries and interesting history.

On my way to the Island of Arousa, I crossed the almost 2-kilometre-long bridge that connects this locality with the continent since 1985, resolved to go all over one of the newest city municipalities in Spain, created in 1997 after its split from Vilanova de Arousa.

I bordered the island as far as the “Harbour of Xufre”, where traditional fishing boats abound. The Natural Park of Carreirón is also on the island: this spot is located in a peninsula and offers multiple beaches and coves, plus tracks to walk round it.

After relaxing in the park, I went into Salnés, a wine-growing land with numerous wineries. I opted for Quinteiro da Cruz and, strangely enough, I came across much more than a winery with 3 hectares of vineyards: a pazo, an hórreo and a magnificent botanic garden. Classified as a garden of excellence by the International Camellia Society.

I then went on to visit Cambados, where the oldest wine festival in Galicia has been held since 1953: the “albariño festival”. The albariño grape is the wine cultivation queen in the Salnés peninsula. In Cambados, I had been recommended Square of Fefiñáns, and it did not disappoint me at all, with its imposing homonymous pazo, and the church of San Benito.

To conclude my day’s full route, I set course for the peninsula of O Grove, where I was expecting to find beaches, thermal springs and sea products. I went all the way to San Vicente do Grove before heading up the Vantage Point of Siradella, where I enjoyed a spectacular view over the sandbanks of the beach of Lanzada. The finishing touch was my last ride around island of A Toxa, notorious for its thermal springs. I stopped off at its white-shelled chapel, at the first facilities of the La Toja cosmetic factory, and at its Gran Hotel. When crossing the elegant modernist bridge, I saw a multitude of platforms specially dedicated to mussel cultivation. This further inclined me to have a good meal and a more than deserved rest at the village of O Grove; my first contact with the Rías Baixas over.

Where to stop: Beach of Furnas, Dolmen of Axeitos, Mount Tahume, Carreirón, Cambados, Vantage Point of Siradella.

What to visit: Noia, Baroña, Pazo of Rubianes, Winery of Quinteiro da Cruz,

What to see: tide mill of Pozo de Cachón, Bridge Nafonso, Dunes of Corrubedo, Towers of Catoira, Harbour of Xufre, A Toxa, mussel platforms.

Where to eat: harbour of Corrubedo (village) and O Grove.

Where to stay: O Grove.

Ruta 7

RÍA DE PONTEVEDRA – O MORRAZO – RÍA DE VIGO – MIÑO

211 km

I decided to get up early that morning, as the weather was gorgeous and I had to make the most of it. I left O Grove towards Sanxenxo, crossing a road that could have very well been a bridge, surrounded by water as it was. The thing is that until the 17th century O Grove was an island, hence these characteristics. I could see the dunes of A Lanzada hiding the Atlantic Ocean on my right, and the wide and rich estuary of Arousa on my left. The road I was going along was a naturally-occurring sand isthmus, giving rise to the peninsula of O Grove.

I continued along this road accompanied by some very attractive views. No land was visible on the other side of the sea then, as is usually the case in estuary locations. I was in an open-ocean area, just leaving the estuary of Arousa and before entering that of Pontevedra. I left the Hermitage of A Lanzada on my right, a Romanesque construction on a promontory, and one of those magical places that are so common in Galicia. It is linked to fertilisation rituals, with natural elements, such as rocks and the ocean, blending with the sacred. Legend has it that women who have a hard time conceiving came to this place either on Saint John’s Eve, or on the eve of the Virgin’s Feast. Right behind the church is where the ‘‘Saint’s bed’’ lies, a rock opening where couples had to have sexual intercourse. To complete the ritual, the woman had to go to the beach of A Lanzada and wet her belly with 9 waves so that it would not take her long to achieve that longed for pregnancy.

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From that very road I also had both an amazing and close view of the archipelago of Ons, part of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. A little bit further away, its older brother, the archipelago of Cíes. It was a short yet pleasant journey, with white sandbanks surrounded by rocks and vegetation, the turquoise ocean, nature sounds, the smell of saltpetre… no wonder Galician people are so protective of what is theirs.

I stopped off at beach of Baltar in Portonovo. I was already going into the estuary of Pontevedra and the municipality of Sanxenxo, known as ‘‘the Galician Marbella’’ for its many tourists.

Combarro would be my next stop. Once there, I went down to the centre, leaving my bike and walking to the historic centre. I was surprised by what I found there: a small village with a special charm. Traditional houses, cobbled streets, stairs sculpted on the very rock, calvaries at almost every crossroads, hórreos on every street corner… I was thrilled, as it seemed something straight out of a fairy tale. I stopped for a coffee in one of the many existing pubs, as it was too early to have octopus, or their deftly cooked cockle corn pie.

I learnt a bit more about the hórreos. Learning they are under heritage protection and that one of the largest ones in Galicia, which also happens to be monastery property, was nearby, I decided to go.

I visited the Monastery of San Juan de Poio, a blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Inside its 17th century church was Saint Trahamunda. Although unknown by many, it is regarded as the saint of that ‘‘homesickness’’ that so often hits Galician people. I liked its 16th and 18th century cloisters, but undoubtedly what captivated me the most was the mosaic decorating the walls of one of them. It depicts the French Way to Santiago, all the way from Paris to Santiago; its most important monuments, and the different types of pilgrims. It is 80 metres long and 2.60 high, what a beauty! On my way out I came across the famous hórreo. Unusually, this one has three rows of pillars instead of two, setting it apart from the others.

Back on track, on my way to nearby Pontevedra. In a few kilometres I went around the city of Lérez and then on towards Marín. I started to cover the southern part of the estuary of Pontevedra, getting into the region of O Morrazo.

I went through the centre of Marín, a large and industrial harbour. I also saw the Naval Military School and continued all the way to Bueu; a very traditional seafarers’ village. From there, I moved on to Beluso and then Aldán to take the road leading directly to Cabo Home. There it was, the famous seashell I have seen in so many pictures. There was no pavement here, it was a track, yet usable. I turned left, and the route was a real pleasure. I was surrounded first by pine forests and then by the ocean. I moved forward towards the lighthouse, located in an amazing spot in the heart of nature. Dominating it all, the Ocean.

Being already late and having a protesting stomach, I decided to have lunch right there. In such a place sea products were a must, so I ordered a turbot. It was delicious.

Following the restaurant staff’s advice, I resolved to go up Mount Facho, as I had been told it had the finest views. I left the castro houses behind as I was going up. Reaching the top was incredible, I could feel the wind on my face, appreciate the immensity of the ocean, and the Cíes Islands seemed within reach. They were so close to me… like a paradise. Now I understood why they were named the ‘‘Islands of the Gods’’ in another time.
After this great energy boost, I resumed my journey along the peninsula of O Morrazo. I would now go through the villages of Cangas and Moaña. I was already in the estuary of Vigo, and I could see the largest Galician city on the other side. I crossed the bridge of Rande over the estuary, and I cannot deny it made an impression on me.

I continued along the motorway to Nigrán, very close to Panxón and the beach of Patos, a surfers’ favourite. I reached Baiona following the coast. Leaving its promenade and marina behind, I rode into the Fortress of Monterreal, now a parador located in an exceptional spot, the peninsula of Boi. I made a break there to walk along its walls and enjoy the good view.

My next visit would be mount Santa Trega and I took the coastal road to get there. The landscape was different from anything that I had seen during the day. The estuaries became ocean, and the sandbanks, rocks. A different landscape, yet equally attractive. There were a lot of pilgrims, since it is on the Portuguese Coastal Way.

I arrived in A Guarda and rode up the hill. Climbing up around the mountain, I enjoyed two different views: on one side, the village, and on the other, the mouth of the river Miño, a natural border with Portugal. On my way up I could see how the the former residents of one of the most important castros in Galicia used to live. Leaving my bike at the highest point, I took the opportunity to visit the museum displaying the exhibits found during the digs. I also went into the hermitage, where the image of the virgin Santa Trega is.

I left A Guarda on my way to Tui, swapping a sea for a river landscape, the wood and the rocks for vegetable gardens and vineyards. I was in the Baixo Miño, the fertile ground of the province and the land of Albariño. I arrived in Tui, and I walked into its old quarter, dominated by the cathedral. The Cathedral of Santa María de Tui is a Romanesque-Gothic building of great grandeur. I visited the temple and its Museum, accessing the Cathedral viewpoint through the cloister. From up there, I could contemplate the fabulous views over the Miño River, the 19th century international bridge and, across it, Portugal.

After such a hectic day riding through a good part of the Rías Baixas on my bike, I decided to have dinner and rest in Tui.

Where to stop: Combarro, Poio, Cabo Home, Baiona, A Guarda.

What to visit: Monastery of Poio, Fortress of Monterreal, Hermitage and Mount Santa Trega, Cathedral of Tui.

What to see: A Lanzada Beach, Ons Islands, Sanxenxo, Estuary of Pontevedra, Estuary of Vigo, Cíes Islands, Nigrán, A Guarda and Tui.

Where to eat: Cabo Home or Cangas.

Ruta 8

TUI – ARBO – RIBADAVIA – CELANOVA – MONDARIZ BALNEARIO

310 km

Leaving Tui, I headed towards Arbo, a municipality included in the five subareas of wine production with the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin, Condado do Tea.

In Wine and Lamprey Interpretation Centre “Arabo”, I came to understand the huge historical link between wine and lamprey. I was shown the fishing gear and catches, the fisheries (fishing stone structures) and tide nets. There is a lamprey route along many viewpoints, trails, bridges and chapels, among other elements. One of the popular festivals Arbo holds at the beginning of August is the “dried lamprey’’ festival. Arbo also has a multitude of restaurants where you can taste this delicacy in a number of different ways.

Interestingly, Romans not only extracted gold, but also the prized lampreys, caught for the Caesar of Rome, who held exuberant feasts with this delicious delicacy. Legend has it that Romans also used it as a torture method: “sinners” were introduced in big water tanks with lampreys, their jagged jaws feeding on their victims.

Having covered the road that goes along the Miño, I crossed the Frieira reservoir, the last one holding its waters back before the river mouth. I arrived in the spa of Cortegada, a naturally-occurring spring. Both in Cortegada and Arnoia, not only can you enjoy their thermal springs, you also have the chance to sail on a catamaran and revel in the view of the Miño River valley.

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I continued through Prexigueiro, well-known for its open-air thermal baths. In the village of Francelos I came across a small gem of pre-Romanesque art, the church of San Xes, characterised by its facade with windows and other decorative elements from the 9th century Mozarabic art.

In the Ribeiro region I was welcomed by its capital, Ribadavia. As the name suggests, it is located on the Avia riverbank. It is the oldest wine-producing town in Galicia. Wine is also grown on the banks of the Miño, Arnoia and Barbantiño. It is hard not to drop by one of its wineries and calmly taste a cup of the famous O Ribeiro wine, as Ribadavia is on the Ribeiro Wine route.

Its vineyards are sprinkled over valleys and steep slopes, since terraces were made for ease of cultivation, the hillsides worked into plots known as “bocarribeiras” or “socalcos”.

Surprisingly, Cistercian monks from the nearby monastery of San Clodio, now a monument hotel, introduced vine cultivation to ensure their mass wine supply, while looking after the native varieties their current worldwide prestige is owed to.

Walking around the historic centre and old Jewish quarter in Ribadavia, I discovered its past through its rich monumental and cultural heritage, which includes Romanesque churches like that of San Xoán and of Santiago, the old House of the Inquisition and the Castle of the Sarmiento family.

The Franciscan monastery can be seen from the old walled enclosure. It is, just as the Dominican one, beyond the wall. I entered the church of Santo Domingo, looking for the granite-cut figure of a bag-piper.

Do not leave Ribadavia without first tasting the “richada” meat served with some D.O. wine. After the meal, nothing could exceed some Hebrew confectionary and a toasted wine or a coffee liquor. And make it coincide, as I did, with the History Festival (on the last Saturday of August) when the whole town transforms into a medieval village, with tournaments, falconry exhibitions or the acting out of a Jewish wedding.

I left the Castrelo de Miño reservoir behind and kept riding south for a long stretch, meaning to stop for lunch in Celanova. Well-known Galician authors such as Manuel Curros Enríquez and Celso Emilio Ferreiro have sung its praise on many occasions. The former was born here and a museum is dedicated to him, the House of Poets.

It is worth scanning the horizon from the castro of Castromao, a few kilometres before Castrelo de Miño. The castro has seventy frames and is on a hill that overlooks the Arnoia River.

The Praza Maior in Celanova is dominated by a fountain. It is said that drinking from its northern spout will drive you crazy. From there, I accessed the Benedictine Monastery of San Salvador and went to a small Mozarabic chapel, the Oratory of San Miguel. A unique example in the Iberian Peninsula, it is essential to understand the days of Christian repopulation. I entered it to see the horseshoe arch with alfiz from up close, and I was amazed by its limited size yet unique structure.

Following the traces of the past, I headed south to Bande to see the Roman thermal baths or Bande Baths, and the Roman site “Aquis Querquernnis”. It is made up of a military camp and a mansio viaria, which is located on on the banks of As Conchas Reservoir.

The Interpretation Centre “Aquae Querquennae – Via Nova” is in the vicinity. It recreates a Roman road and found elements such as Roman mines, bridges and milestones.

The Visigoth temple of Santa Comba is also located at this point. The nave and wall paintings of this church are a must-see. The remains of an annexed chapel can be seen outside its walls. Christenings would take place here so those who came could join the church as Christians. The baptismal font still remains.

The offices of the Interpretation Centre of the Natural Park Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés are located in the spa town of Lobios, the Caldo River inviting you to relax in its thermal waters. The woods here, which coexist with the steep granite mountain ranges dividing Spain and Portugal, have no regard for borders. Maybe that is why this is the land of Couto Mixto, a territory that never belonged to Spain nor Portugal, and whose inhabitants would choose their desired nationality on their wedding day.

Its main towns are Lobios, on the left edge, and Entrimo, on the right one. The National Park Peneda-Gerês and the Natural Park Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés (in the municipalities of Entrimo, Lobios and Muíños) join on the craggy mountain ranges. Its trans-border nature further enriches a natural area where cultural and linguistic diversity, together with its variety of woods and rivers climbing down waterfalls, and crystal-clear swimmable pools, offer a unique experience. You can get to know every single corner of this wonderful park thanks to its numerous routes and viewpoints. There is every reason to come —and stay— in O Xurés.

2,000 years ago, a road crossed it from north to south, the already partially seen road XVIII or Vía Nova, built by the Romans to link Astorga and Braga. No legions go through it now, as in years past, but the odd “cachena” cow does. This is the best place in Galicia to see specimens of this small breed with long horns, adapted to the mountain range harshness.

After going past the Limia River, I arrived in Entrimo, where a Baroque architectonic jewel, the church of Santa María a Real, stands out.

Going northeast, I entered Portuguese soil through Castro Laboreiro, a castle standing above its summit. However, I preferred the see the views from the Castle of Sobroso on my way to Mondariz.

A good way to conclude this intense journey was to go to one of the main thermal towns in Spain: Mondariz-Balneario, which preserves the full charm of its Belle Époque splendour. And as this day’s journey was about with pools and thermal springs, a very good way to end it would be with a good, relaxing, therapeutic bath, accompanied of course by a good massage.

Where to stop: Arbo, Ribadavia, Celanova, Mondariz.

What to visit: Wine and Lamprey Interpretation Centre Arbo, Ribadavia, Celanova.

What to see: Thermal springs of Cortegada, Church of San Xoán and Santiago and Jewish Information Centre in Ribadavia, Castro of Castromao, Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova, Church of Santa Comba de Bande, Roman thermal baths of Bande and Aquis Querquernnis, Lobios, Castle of Sobroso.

Where to have eat: Celanova.

Where to stay: Mondariz.

The “Galifornia Route” can be done as one, uninterrupted voyage or broken into several shorter trips over a longer period of time. The Route can be done alone or in groups, and at any time of the year.

If you want to make your trip even more memorable, we offer you our “La Ruta” Passport, in which each leg of your trip will be stamped and is valid for four years. If the passport has stamps from every leg of the route passport, we offer a 100% refund of its cost and you automatically become part of our“Friends and Ambassadors family”, which will allow you to receive significant discounts and offers at our Galifornia store, the official store for Galifornia lifestyle lovers.

The Passport can be purchased along with other “La Ruta” merchandise at our store in Puerta Príncipe (c / Príncipe, Vigo), Viajes Abramar or online at www.galiforniastore.com

All Routes are available by sections and can be followed thanks to the Wikiloc app, available for iOS and Android.

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/user.do?id=4085554

MORE INFO AND RESERVATIONS:

Rúa da Reconquista 3 – 36201 Vigo – Pontevedra – Tel 986447060
www.viajesabramar.com

The “Galifornia Route” can be done as one, uninterrupted voyage or broken into several shorter trips over a longer period of time. The Route can be done alone or in groups, and at any time of the year.

If you want to make your trip even more memorable, we offer you our “La Ruta” Passport, in which each leg of your trip will be stamped and is valid for four years. If the passport has stamps from every leg of the route passport, we offer a 100% refund of its cost and you automatically become part of our“Friends and Ambassadors family”, which will allow you to receive significant discounts and offers at our Galifornia store, the official store for Galifornia lifestyle lovers.

The Passport can be purchased along with other “La Ruta” merchandise at our store in Puerta Príncipe (c / Príncipe, Vigo), Viajes Abramar or online at www.galiforniastore.com

All Routes are available by sections and can be followed thanks to the Wikiloc app, available for iOS and Android.

https://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/user.do?id=4085554

MORE INFO AND RESERVATIONS:

Rúa da Reconquista 3 – 36201 Vigo – Pontevedra – Tel 986447060
www.viajesabramar.com

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