Stage 4. Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis
It is time to get back on the path. Once in Pontevedra the route goes through the old town, one of the most beautiful and best preserved in Galicia, with remarkable public squares (prazas), among which A Ferrería, the heart of the town, is one of the most popular.
The Convent of San Francisco and the Sanctuary of A Peregrina ("the Pilgrim Virgin"), the patron saint of the province of Pontevedra, are two points of reference. The Chapel of A Peregrina, built in 1778, featuring a Baroque-style façade with Neoclassical elements, is one of the representative buildings of the town. At the top, you can see images of Santiago, San Roque and A Peregrina protecting the believers on their way to Santiago de Compostela via the Portuguese Route. The Convent of San Francisco, built almost entirely in the 14th century, was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1896.
The Ruins of San Domingos (14th-15th centuries) feature on the list of must-know spots in this Boa Vila (Galician for "good town"). As far as the squares are concerned, Ourense and A Estrela, surrounding A Ferrería, are iconic, and others, such as O Teucro, A Verdura, As Cinco Rúas, Méndez Núñez and Mugartegui (or A Pedreira) are also worth mentioning.
The Basilica of Santa María, whose construction began in the 16th century at the initiative of the Guild of Fishermen, was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931, and it is a religious symbol of great significance in Pontevedra. Its style is a combination of late Gothic and Renaissance. An example of the latter is the main façade, considered one of the highlights of Plateresque in Galicia.
An ideal spot for walking and taking a break is the alameda park, an area designed by the architect Alejandro Sesmero, including the garden of Eduardo Vicenti and the boulevard of As Palmeiras. In this space, very close to the Ruins of San Domingos, we can see the monument to the heroes of Ponte Sampaio.
The lively atmosphere in the old town is an invitation to try the local cuisine in one of its many restaurants and tapas places. The major festivities in Pontevedra include the Carnival, the Feira Franca and the Peregrina, which takes place on the second Sunday of August.
We will leave the capital across the O Burgo Bridge, over the River Lérez, and, a bit further on, we will pass by the observatory of A Xunqueira de Alba, a 70-hectare wetland classified as a Natural Space of Local Interest, with hundreds of plant species, over 120 bird species and approximately 40 butterfly species.
We are now in Santa María de Alba, where we will find the parochial church that was originally built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century, consecrated by the famous archbishop Diego Xelmírez, and entirely rebuilt in the 18th century. Its bell tower is typical of rural Galician temples. We will then visit the Chapel of San Caetano (18th century) and we will enter the parish of Cerponzóns through the dense woods of Reirís and Lombo da Maceira. Here, we will follow a trail enclosed by a wall of stones covered in moss and ivy, and we will then set foot in Barro, another municipality on the Way.
In Ponte Valbón, we will pass by the cruceiro (a stone cross) of Amonisa, with a carving of Santiago el Peregrino ("the Pilgrim") on the shaft pointing the way to Compostela. We are now only 50 kilometres (approximately 31 miles) away from our destination, as it is shown on the milepost by the path. One of the major points of interest in this section of the way is the Church of San Martín de Agudelo, built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style, where the influence of Master Mateo's atelier can be appreciated.
In Barro, we will get to know the River Barosa Natural Park, with a beautiful scenery of waterfalls and backwaters. A prominent feature of this landscape is the Barosa Waterfall, with an altitude of 30 metres (approximately 99 feet), and a series of 14 restored watermills, where cereal used to be milled. The park is a beautiful natural setting where we can take a well-deserved and reinvigorating break.
On our walk we will cross the River Agra and we will enter the municipality of Portas, reaching Barosa and Briallos, where we will visit the Chapel of Santa Lucía.
We are now close to our final stop of the day in Caldas de Reis, a town washed by the rivers Umia and Bermaña, and characterised by its strategic position within the province, its rich landscapes and its thermal waters. On our arrival, we will pass by the Church of Santa María, built in the Romanesque style, with additions from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The park-garden and the oak wood of the River Umia form a magnificent natural space that has been declared a Picturesque Spot and a Historic Garden, boasting over a hundred different species from all the continents, some of which are rare in Galicia.