Since the beginning of our stay in Galicia, we had already noticed the Ribeira Sacra region and we were patiently waiting for the moment when we could visit it! This region is notably known for its impressive canyons on the Sil and Miño rivers as well as for its terraced vineyards and its wines (you now understand why we were looking forward to discover this area #TeamHikeAndWine 😉 ).
But with the VERY wet weather of this winter and the strict Covid restrictions of January-February, this little road trip in the Ribeira Sacra was long overdue. However, everything comes to those who wait and we were well rewarded for our patience! At the first good weather window, we loaded our van Dahu, heading to the province of Ourense in the countryside for a 4 days road trip which smelled good vino tinto and hiking 🙂
- Ribeira Sacra: where is it, what is it?
- Road trip in the Ribeira Sacra: our ideas of things to see and do
- Mirador Balcones de Madrid and Parada de Sil
- Panoramic hike to the monastery of Santa Cristina (PR-G 98)
- Hiking above the Sil canyon and the Mao river (PR-G 177)
- Mirador de Souto Chao and Bodega Regina Viarum
- Hike between the O Boqueiriño and A Cividade miradors
- Santo Estevo monastery
- the Miño river and the Augacaida waterfall
- Cabo do Mundo and Abadia da cova bodega
- Our map of Ribeira Sacra
- Useful information to prepare a trip to the Ribeira Sacra
Ribeira Sacra: where is it, what is it?
Well, to help you situate all this, the Ribeira Sacra is a region that is located in the southeast of Galicia, hidden in the lands, between the provinces of Ourense and Lugo. It takes about 2 hours by car from Anceu Coliving or the cities of Santiago and Lugo to get there. But believe us when we tell you that this place is worth a little detour!
The Canyons of the Sil and Miño Rivers
The Ribeira Sacra is in fact at the junction of 2 rivers: the rio Sil and the rio Miño which have shaped spectacular landscapes over time. On one side the Sil canyon and its steep slopes is really worth seeing with its miradors all more beautiful than the others (a small paradise for the hikers that we are). On the other hand, the Miño canyon is less steep and more green, which does not make it less interesting!
The wines and terraced vineyards of the Ribeira Sacra
But if Ribeira Sacra is known for its landscapes, it is not less for its wines and terraced vineyards. Ribeira Sacra also refers to a protected designation of origin (DOP) in the family of Spanish wines.
Most of the vineyards are located on the southern slopes of the Sil and Miño canyons… on steep slopes that require the creation of terraces in order to plant vines. It must be quite a challenge to make wine in the Ribeira Sacra because in the steepest vineyards, it is certainly not possible to use machines and the work must be mainly manual. We appreciate all the more the wine after having seen these terraced vineyards with our own eyes 😉 (and having sweated while walking through the vineyards lol)
For your information, there are mainly 3 varieties of grapes: the Mencia for the red wine and for the white wine the Godello and the Albariño which is very famous in Galicia.
The monasteries of Ribeira Sacra
There is actually a very long tradition of wine production in the region and it was the Romans who first cultivated vines in the Ribeira Sacra. However, it was in the early Middle Ages that many monks settled in the area (certainly because Santiago de Compostela was one of the most important pilgrimage destinations… or simply for the tranquility and beauty of the landscape 😉 ). They are the ones who gave a second life to the viticulture by planting vines and by shaping the terraces of the vineyards that we can still admire today.
As you will see below, there are quite a few monasteries dating from that time that can still be seen today and are clearly worth a visit.
Road trip in the Ribeira Sacra: our ideas of things to see and do
Well that’s the end of the culture minute 😉 . Let’s move on to our road trip in the Ribeira Sacra and to all our highlights during this wonderful trip. We stayed 4 days in the area and we really loved it! Honestly, we could have stayed 1-2 days longer because there are so many things to see around here. So if you are not in a hurry, you can easily plan 1 week to visit all the corners of the Ribeira Sacra.
Note: You will find at the end of this post our map of the Ribeira Sacra region with all the places we have seen geolocated on a google map.
Mirador Balcones de Madrid and Parada de Sil
I can’t tell you exactly how many viewpoints there are around the Canyon del Sil, but the most famous of them all is certainly the Balcones de Madrid. It is located right next to the village of Parada de Sil and is easily accessible by car thanks to a large parking lot right next to the village soccer field.
As you can imagine, the name of the viewpoint is not because it offers a beautiful view of the Spanish capital. In fact, the name is linked to the fact that in the middle of the 20th century, people from the village of Parada de Sil emigrated to Madrid to work as barquilleros (cookie sellers). To do this, they had to cross the Canyon del Sil and then take the train from Monforte de Lemos. The families of these people watched them during the crossing from this viewpoint to make sure that they arrived safely on the other side.
Anyway the view from this famous viewpoint is not bad 😉
Panoramic hike to the monastery of Santa Cristina (PR-G 98)
Not far from the Balcones de Madrid viewpoint is also one of the most beautiful monasteries of the region: the monastery of Santa Cristina. As you can imagine, instead of going there with our van, we preferred to make a small hike along the canyon to take our time and to enjoy the beautiful views on the Sil canyon.
That’ s fortunate, from the parking of the mirador, there is a path PR-G 98 which makes a beautiful loop of 12kms until the monastery of Santa Cristina passing by several beautiful viewpoints. We begin the hike on canyon side by following a very well indicated path (for once 😉 )… We pass notably the miradors of O Fental and As Fontiñas then under the small village of Portela. With the spring settling, the landscapes are simply breathtaking and we really enjoy ourselves!
After about 6 kms of happiness for the eyes, we arrive at the monastery of Santa Cristina. This building which dates nevertheless from the 10th century was extremely well restored. We spend time to appreciate the atmosphere and the magnificent colors at the end of the day in the middle of this chestnut forest.
We then climb up the path until the village of Castro. We pass next to a camping (closed when we passed) which has a private mirador with a view that must probably be rather nice for the sunset (if you try it you will be able to tell us 😉 ). We finish finally this beautiful walk by following the path through fields and forests to return at the parking lot of the soccer field.
- Distance: 11.8 kms
- Denivelation: +- 450m
- Difficulty: easy – average
- Duration: 3-4h
- Departure: parking of the mirador Balcones de Madrid next to the soccer field of Parada de Sil
Hiking above the Sil canyon and the Mao river (PR-G 177)
The next day we stay on the same side of the Sil river but a little bit more east of the canyon at the intersection between the rio Sil and the rio Mao. We had spotted a hike on Wikiloc (the PR-G 177) which turned out to be one of the most beautiful hikes we have done in Galicia so far!
The hike begins next to “la fabrica de luz”, one of the first hydroelectric plants in Galicia that has now been converted into a hostel/bar. We follow impressive wooden footbridges that allow us to reach the mouth of the Mao river in the Sil very easily.
It is only then that the serious things begin because we tackle a good big climb through the vineyards until the small village of San Lourenzo de Barxacova. Let’s say that after this ascent we appreciate all the more the work of the wine makers of the region who have to walk quite a lot of denivelation during the year in their vineyards. Once you reach the top of the village, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Sil Canyon below.
The path still keeps on going up a little after the village until arriving on a plateau (finally 😉 ). We pass through fields and small villages during some kilometers to then go down again towards the gorges of the Rio Mao. Once at the level of the river, we make a short round trip to go check the pretty medieval bridge of Concelinas which only enriches the diversity of this beautiful hike.
After the bridge, we first go along the recent canal of the new hydroelectric plant and then we fall back on the old canal which overlooks the Mao river gorges. To note that there is sometimes a good void on gorges side and that it is better in some places to walk inside the canal rather than on the small wall (Winchy obviously preferred to walk on the small wall 😉 ). But well, the view is definitely not bad from there!
After a little more than 4kms along the canal, we arrive at the medieval necropolis of San Vitor de Barxacova where we can observe more than a dozen ancient tombs (it seems that the deceased of of the San Lourenzo village were buried there). The path then returns to the other side of San Lourenzo with a beautiful view of the village and then goes down to the Fabrica de Luz where we started the hike.
- Distance: 16.2 kms
- Denivelation: +- 800m
- Difficulty: medium – hard (it is nevertheless a rather long hike with a little bit of elevation gain)
- Duration: 5-6h
- Start: parking of the “la Fabrica de Luz” Hostel
Mirador de Souto Chao and Bodega Regina Viarum
After this magnificent hiking day, we carry on our way with Dahu along the road 903 to cross on the other side of the Canyon. As it begins to be a little late, we look for a nice spot for the night that we find not far from the Suto Chao mirador.
To be quite honest, we don’t arrive there by chance… in fact, just above the mirador is the Bodega Regina Viarum which is famous in the region (and which has above all a bar and tasting area with a breathtaking view on the Sil canyon). Unfortunately we made a big beginner’s mistake and we had not seen the bar was closed on Monday and Tuesday! In short, all we can say is that the terrace of the tasting area looks incredible… but on our side we finally had to “satisfy” ourselves with a beer at sunset from the mirador next to Dahu #toughLife
Ahhh and we will admit that the sunrise was not bad either with the sea of clouds coming in in the Canyon. I guess that Winchy had worse spot for his small morning walk 😉
Hike between the O Boqueiriño and A Cividade miradors
We continue our quest of the most beautiful Miradors on the Canyon del Sil of the Ribeira Sacra by staying on the same side of the canyon. We follow a very small road that brings us to the parking of the O Boqueriño mirador. From there, it is possible to make a nice little loop (8 kms, which takes 2 hours) that goes along the edge of the canyon until the A Cividade mirador and then returns through the forest.
As the spot is rather nice, we decide to stay there for the night (the beauty of vanlife). It is still just incredible to be able to enjoy this kind of place at sunset/sunrise (or even under the starry sky) and to sleep comfortably in our van… the ultimate luxury for us! (you’ll notice the coffee mug on one of the sunrise pictures… the vanlife is a luxury 😉 )
- Distance: 8.6 kms
- Denivelation: +- 2-300m
- Difficulty: easy
- Duration: 2-3h
- Departure: parking of the O Boqueriño mirador
Santo Estevo monastery
The Santo Estevo monastery is certainly the most famous in the Ribeira Sacra but also one of the most important in Galicia. So to go there from the north bank of the Canyon we opened Google map and saw that there was a bridge crossing the Canyon just below the dam… what we had not seen is that the road (No 4103 on gmap) was really narrow and sinuous. But it’s part of the fun and it also allowed us to see the dam from close 😉
Once on the other side of the canyon we quickly reach the monastery which was unfortunately under renovation (so we could not enter the church for example). You have to know that today a part of the monastery has been converted into a Parador Hotel (a public company which aims to promote and maintain the Spanish historical heritage)… So if you want to treat yourself in an exceptional setting, don’t hesitate to book (there are regular offers around 100€ per night).
On our side, to enjoy the monastery, we decided to climb up to the mirador Do Castro from where we have a wonderful view on Santo Estevo and the Canyon del Sil (information to go to the mirador below)
- Distance: 4.1 kms
- Denivelation: +- 180m
- Difficulty: easy
- Duration: 1h
- Start: Parking lot in front of the Santo Estevo monastery
the Miño river and the Augacaida waterfall
You may remember that at the beginning of this post I explained that the Ribeira Sacra is located at the junction of the Sil and Miño rivers… however, until now we have only shown you the surroundings of the Sil canyon, which is certainly the most famous of the two. This does not mean that the canyon of the Miño river, although a little less steep, is not interesting!
The first place that we decide to explore on the Miño river’s side is the Augacaida waterfall (that we had spotted on the web). Once again we take a very small road (it becomes a habit in Galicia) which takes us to the departure of the hiking trail for the waterfall (you will see there an information panel indicating the path). After 1 km along the path, we can either go down to the left towards the waterfall or continue straight on towards the Castro de Marce viewpoint.
As you can imagine, we decide to explore both 😉 ! The mirador is clearly worth the visit because it offers a great view on the canyon of the Rio Miño. The waterfall is not bad either… judge for yourself!
- Distance: 4.1 kms
- Denivelation: +- 200m
- Difficulty: easy
- Duration: 1.5h
- Start: Parking lot at the beginning of the waterfall path
Cabo do Mundo and Abadia da cova bodega
Since our arrival in Galicia, there was already a bodega in the Ribeira Sacra that was no longer unfamiliar to us, thanks to the many evenings spent drinking Mencia or coffee liqueur at Anceu Coliving: the Abadia da Cova bodega. It just so happens that it is located not far from there, on the banks of the Miño River. It is without hesitation that we decide to go there to have a better idea of where Anceu coliving’s favorite bodega’s wine is produced 😉
The least we can say is that we were not disappointed! The bodega is located just above a narrow bend in the Miño river (called Cabo do Mundo)… the view is literally breathtaking and it feels a bit like being at the horseshoe bend of Galicia! Honestly, when you see the location of the vineyards, you feel that it must be a pure joy to make wine in such a setting. Besides, if you are a bit luckier than us (the bodega was closed to visits when we were there… maybe because of the Covid), it must be great to visit the bodega and taste their wines from the terrace with this view:
Our map of Ribeira Sacra
To help you easily find the different lookouts and points of interest mentioned in this post, here is our map of the Ribeira Sacra. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for a future road trip in the region!
and if you want to see more, you can also take a look at the interactive map of Ribeira Sacra’s tourist board which will certainly keep you busy for 6 months in the region.
Useful information to prepare a trip to the Ribeira Sacra
As more or less everywhere in Galicia, it is impossible to visit the Ribeira Sacra without having your own vehicle. As always, if you want to rent a car for your stay, we recommend the rentalcars comparison website, which will allow you to find a cheap vehicle for your trip.
During our road trip we travelled with Dahu, our van that we presented here. If you are interested in the Vanlife in Galicia, you should know that it is easy to rent one for a given period. On Yescapa you can find for example vans rented between individuals (with all the required insurances) from 60€ per day.
To find accommodation in Ribeira Sacra, you can use the interactive map below which combines several booking platforms in one place for simplicity.
Here it is already the end of our Ribeira Sacra road trip. Frankly this region is for the moment our big favorite in Galicia. We really enjoyed hiking through the vineyards and the canyons, driving along the roads with Dahu in search of the best viewpoint and tasting the local vino tinto in the evening at sunset. It was just magical!
We hope that you liked this blog post and that it will inspire you to come and discover this region. And if you have already passed by the Ribeira Sacra, do not hesitate to leave us your personal favorites in the comments below.
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