Ribeira Sacra, land of monasteries
Welcome to the Ribeira Sacra, an area of inland Galicia which is home to spectacular natural wonders such as the canyon of the river Sil, a symbol of the region, and valuable artistic heritage. Here you'll find a dozen monasteries, mostly medieval, which attest to this region's importance in the Middle Ages. A genuine journey back through history.
The Sil River forms a natural boundary between the provinces of Ourense and Lugo, in the heart of the region of Galicia in northern Spain. You'll marvel at its rugged landscapes, dominated by vineyards, mountains and the waters of the Sil River where it joins the Miño. This section of the river—about 200 kilometres long—is home to the Ribeira Sacra, an area of churches and shrines, mostly in the Romanesque style, as well as palaces and monasteries. We recommend leaving around four days to explore the region. Did you know that some of Spain's oldest Christian parishes are here? 1,500 years ago, congregations of monks and hermits settled here, and for centuries devoted themselves to meditation and reflection. This peace and harmony lives on to this day in the region's villages and medieval monasteries. Some are now abandoned, but are well worth visiting as their walls have been witnesses to the passing of time. The damp, moss and vegetation impart an air of mystery.
They can be reached along forest tracks and country roads running through lush forests. The most notable of these is Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, located to the north of the town of Nogueira de Ramuín. In addition to being the largest in the Ribeira Sacra, now it is a luxury Parador hotel. In the same village you'll find the monastery of Santa Cristina. When you stroll around its cloister and surroundings you will feel the magical atmosphere. Get your camera ready because very close by are some of the region's most famous viewpoints: the Balcones de Madrid. From this natural terrace you can see the immensity of the Sil River canyon, with gorges up to 500 metres deep. The views are spectacular.
Your journey in the Ribeira Sacra might continue with a visit to Montederramo and the monastery of Santa María, looking over the Plaza de O Mosteiro. It’s an example of the Herrerian style in Galicia. You can also visit Tarreirigo, where you'll find San Pedro de Rocas, a church carved out of the living rock, and considered the oldest monastery in Galicia. Another option is to go to Ferreira, home to the Monastery of Las Madres Bernardas, the only one in Galicia occupied by nuns from its foundation until the present day. Or you could experience the charm of San Paio de Abelada, now in ruins, or Xunqueira de Espadañedo, with a Romanesque church and Renaissance cloister. To complete the route, go to Monforte de Lemos, an interesting medieval town, home to the Monastery of San Vicente de Pino.Once you are in Ribeira Sacra, we advise you to take a short trip on a catamaran. You can explore the canyon by sailing along the Sil river, which has quays in Santo Estevo (Nogueira de Ramuín), Abeleda (A Teixeira), Doade (Sober) and Os Chancís (Sober).If you prefer the Riberas del Mino, you can go to the quay of Belesar in Chantada or Os Peares in Carballedo.You can also take a hot air balloon ride or visit some of the famous wineries in this region.
These are just a few of the possibilities on offer in the region. Be sure to try the delicious local cuisine, and if you have time, take a relaxing bath at one of the spa resorts to be found in the provinces of Ourense and Lugo. The tourist offices will be happy to help you plan your stay. This is the Ribeira Sacra region, the setting for stories and legends.
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