Sierra de O Courel Mountains, nature and medieval villages
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One of the most appealing features in Green Spain is the rural environment. On this occasion, we suggest a route through the interior of Galicia in northern Spain, where the Sierra de O Courel Mountains are located. Many paths cross these mountains, where nature reigns supreme. There are also tiny villages steeped in medieval history, just waiting to be explored.
Between the provinces of Lugo and Ourense, in Galicia, are the Sierra de O Courel Mountains. The Lor River crosses this captivating place, highly recommended for hikers. Its forests and valleys are ideal for medium-difficulty mountain routes, especially on foot. This is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy its landscapes replete with holm and other oaks, chestnut trees and beech forests. Nature is not the only thing you will find along the way: you will also discover stone churches and shrines, nearly all erected in the Middle Ages; Celtic castros, or forts; small houses with slate roofs and pallozas, traditional thatched structures that served as dwellings and, at the same time, as stables for livestock.
Don't be surprised if you meet groups of pilgrims during your journey, because the Way of Saint James, the first European cultural route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, passes through here. If you want to thoroughly explore these mountains, you should plan on three days. The complete route covers 190 kilometres and has a series of stops that are not to be missed. Would you like to discover them?
The San Julián Monastery. The itinerary can begin in the village of Samos, just 43 kilometres from Lugo. Visit the San Julián Monastery, still inhabited by monks. Did you know that it was one of Europe's most important cultural centres during medieval times, and that its cloister, 54 metres long, is one of the largest in Spain? The abbey also has guest quarters to accommodate both pilgrims and anyone seeking peace and tranquillity at this hallowed place.
O Cebreiro, village of pallozas. Time has stood still in O Cebreiro, 33 kilometres from Samos: a historic and artistic site shrouded in legend, and a veritable symbol of the Way of Saint James. Contemplate its scenery, in a palette of greens and ochres; stroll through its stone streets; visit the traditional thatched houses known as pallozas, of Celtic origin: some provide shelter for pilgrims and others make up the Ethnographic Park. This village is home to the 9th-century Santa María la Real Shrine, the oldest fully preserved monument on the pilgrimage route. Make sure to try the local cheese before you leave this picturesque village. You’ll find it delicious.
The Rogueira pasturelands. Around 43 kilometres to the south of O Cebreiro, before reaching the village of Visuña, there is a turnoff towards the Rogueira pasturelands, one of the great ecological jewels of Galicia. Rivers, pools and springs abound in this verdant forest, as do underground water caves and caverns with a prehistoric past. If you go to the O Couto hill, you will be able to see the Formigueiros formation, the highest point of Los Ancares, a nature area designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. A good way to see the pasturelands is to follow the hiking route, well marked with panels all along the path. The first stretch of the route is fairly easy and level, although it becomes more difficult when it begins to ascend. The trip is worth the effort.
These are just a few of the possibilities awaiting you in the Sierra de O Courel Mountains. If you have any questions, check with the tourist offices, where they will help you plan your getaway break.