Plan your trip
- Pontevedra city: 986 86 85 85
- Vigo: 986 470 033
- Vilagarcía de Arousa: 986 511 511
- Sanxenxo: 986 720 160
How this tradition was born
The festival was born as a familiar event for the members of the Sociedad Pro-Monte Santa Tecla in 1913 to celebrate the first anniversary of the foundation of the society. Today, it is a popular event which gathers thousands of people. Sixty-seven years later, the society was dissolved but their philosophy has been preserved in this festival, organised every year by the local government of A Guarda and the festival's committee.
Held in the middle of August, the Hill Festival attracts visitors coming not only from As Rías Baixas, but also from the neighbouring country Portugal. Music and the festive atmosphere last the whole week. On Saturday, a grand traditional folk parade is held, which marches from the alameda (public garden) to the harbour, after passing through the streets of the town. At the port, the different music bands stand in an open and flat area to participate in the great treboada (downpour), which consists in a thunder of drums and bass drums in unison. It is a popular tradition in the area of O Baixo Miño, where each parish used to have a traditional band in charge of playing the drums, the bass drums and the bagpipes.
Different music bands from inside and outside the region come to A Guarda to participate in this one-hundred-year-old procession: about twenty orchestras from coastal areas, around thirty folk groups and hundreds of people wearing traditional costumes. Cabezudos (people wearing a costume with an oversized papier mâché head, common in Spanish tradition), folk groups and orchestras march in this order in a procession where the Banda Negra stands out because it was the pioneer, in 1971. The sound of the drums wafts in a town full of colourful costumes. Each of these groups, identified by their attires, occupy a different space in the Santa Tegra Hill.
There is another important tradition in A Guarda. It takes place on Sunday, when processioners, bands and families start the about four-kilometre pilgrimage towards the top of the hill. The fireworks announce lunch time and, at this moment, thousands of people gather to have a picnic. In the afternoon, it is time for the pledge, when the bands promise to return the following year, and they start the descent, leaving enough time to have a snack in the park of O Cancelón-O Montiño.
The fortress, symbol of A Guarda
Tens of people visit Santa Trega every day. This archaeological site in As Rías Baixas, one of the most important ones in Galicia, became popular in the early 20th century, when the Sociedad Pro-Monte fostered the construction of the access road. Excavations began in 1914, starting then an intensive work to promote this tourist attraction and its surrounding area. It was declared Historic-Artistic Monument and is listed as Cultural Interest Site.
Since 2015, the Deputación de Pontevedra has been carrying out different actions in the Santa Trega Hill, within the framework of the programme to promote the Galician-Roman archaeological sites of the province. These works, involving an archaeological excavation of the area, focus on the part of the hillfort known as "Mergelina neighbourhood", a space which was already studied at the beginning of the 20th century. This excavation brought about the discovery of objects and structures of great interest.
One of the major contributions made by the team from the Deputación de Pontevedra was to extend back in time the origins of the archeologic site, traditionally dated from the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD. According to the new findings, the hillfort may date back to the 4th century BC. Next year, further work will be carried out to ensure the long-term conservation of the area under excavation and to give visitors the chance to admire a big area full of new structures." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
Since 1965, the 200 workers of the factory Cedonosa, pioneer in the production of stoneware floor tiles, would organize the event and cover the expenses. Every year, hundreds of kilos of mussels and red wine from the Ulla River region were served, and this became a long-lasting tradition.
On the drakkars, more than 200 warriors hit their shields with their swords, which are raised just before stepping on dry land to find their loots
The local government, together with the Ateneo Vikingo, has organized the festival since 1991. The first drakkar, which was not even suitable for sailing, gave way to a five ship fleet since 2016: the drakkars Torres do Oeste and Frederikssund, and the galleons Illa de Cortegada, Kornaira and Úrsula, the last one property of the Ateneo Vikingo. On board, around 200 men with skirts, horned helmets, swords and shields raid Catoira right before the towers. This festival is enjoyed by thousands of people, coming not only from different towns and cities of Galicia, but also from other places of the Iberian Peninsula or even from other European countries.
An important marketing campaign was conducted to promote the festival abroad, and the event was declared Festival of International Tourist Interest in 2002. At the beginning, Catoira was twinned with the town of Frederikssund, the one with the greatest Viking tradition in Denmark, and the first drakkar was named after it. Today, it has relations with all the cities and towns with a Viking past.
Thousands of diners in a medieval feast
Apart from the landing, the event includes a large programme of cultural activities. The night before there is a medieval feast with 1,000 diners followed by a display of fireworks, enjoyed by around 7,000 people. In addition, before the landing, visitors can take part in activities such as theatre performances, concerts, workshops and talks since the beginning of the week.
The landing is the most dramatic moment of the festival. The Vikings sail towards the islets of As Lobeiras, where they plan the attack. Then, they head to the Torres do Oeste, escorted by a lot of boats gathered to enjoy the show. The drakkars make a tour before docking and the Vikings hit their shields with the swords, which are raised as a threatening signal.
When they reach the shore, the northerner pirates jump off and run to find their loots: barrels of red wine. They pour this wine in helmets or horns and this is the beginning of a big show broadcasted by Galician and international media. Be ready to have fun!" data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
The Scallop Fair was first celebrated in 2002, after the coalition of the fishermen's association Confraría de Pescadores Santo Antonio and the local government. At that time, the sector was about to disappear, as scallop harvesting had been prohibited for more than a decade due to a toxin.
The Galician scallop belongs to the species Pecten maximus, which grows in the Atlantic Ocean until 100 metres depth, in clean waters with high salinity levels. The mollusc hides under sandy seabeds and uses its powerful muscles to move its valves, jumping long distances. They reach a marketable size in four years, and the largest specimens are about 15 centimetres long.
The scallop shell, symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
The scallop shell is a symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. There are several theories about the origin of this custom. One of them, the most widely accepted, is related to the pilgrims in the Medieval Ages, who wore a characteristic attire in their way back home: a pilgrim's staff, a pumpkin, a cloak, a hat and a scallop shell. The latter was given as a prize after reaching the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Moreover, it was considered solid proof of having completed the Jacobean route, as these shells could only be sold in Santiago de Compostela. Those who sold these pieces in other towns or villages could be excommunicated.The Codex Calixtinus also registers the meaning of these shells as well the fact that pilgrims often wore a scallop shell attached to their cloaks as a sing to honour the Apostle." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
Apart from enjoying this food festival, there are other activities you can do to make the most of your visit. Some suggestions are discovering the house of O Cuadrante, a manor house where the famous writer Ramón María del Valle-Inclán was born; and visiting the churches of A Pastoriza or San Cibrán or the Encarnación Chapel.
A stop at the viewpoint in the Lobeira Hill or a walk through O Esteiro (a natural space where the mouth of the Currás River is located) in Vilanova de Arousa are also good options." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
Each midday on 16 August, the chapel of San Roque receives its saint, carried in procession from the parish church of Santa Olaia. Once the image enters the building, always with its back towards the altar and its face towards the congregation, the festivities begin.
In the beginning the City Council and the church did not agree on this event, but ended up accepting and incorporating it into the San Roque festivities. It finally became the main celebration with the highest number of attendees. After the opening speech, the streets turn into a collective shower thanks to firefighters, civil protection officers and residents who, armed with hoses and buckets, participate from their windows and balconies.
Another procession is "San Roque Pequeno" (Little San Roque) with more than 100 years of tradition behind it. Organized by the residents, it takes place on the eve of the Water Festival, in the neighbourhood of San Roque, the original site of the festivity which now is celebrated in the alameda (boulevard) and harbour. During the afternoon procession, at 8.00 p.m., the saint is moved to the parish church by carriers dressed in white with a red sash accompanied by the priest and authorities.
Like any true "fiesta" in Galicia, it also includes a gastronomical aspect, featuring in this case the Carril clam. Celebrated since 1992 more than 2.000 kilograms of "almejas a la marinera" (fisherman style clams) are savoured during the festivities.
The naval battle and the procession of floats mark the end of the festivities. The first is one of the most important pyrotechnic displays of the province of Pontevedra and the latter consists of a procession of brassbands, entertainment groups and passacaglia with traditional music. Rides, open-air dances, concerts, sports activities and gastronomical events complete these important days for Vilagarcía de Arousa in a perfect symbiosos between religion and leisure.
For those who want to get soaked during the Festa da Auga, it is advisable to wear light clothes, such as sandals and a swimsuit and, if possible, a change of clothes. In addition, you should leave all non-waterproff wearable electronic devices in a safe place." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
Over the 500 years of history of the parish of O Carril, the locals have devoted their lives to the sea, to the seafood and the shellfish, cultivated or extracted from the sea. This art has been celebrated in the Clam Festival for more than two decades, after more than four centuries of experience. The festival is officially opened by a local association, which extols the virtues of the clam, known as Orde da Ameixa (Clam Order).
Wine lovers can also pair the clams with a good wine from O Salnés region, under the Designation of Origin Rías Baixas. This is a great event to honour the oldest living animal recorded so far, since recently in Iceland it was found a 507 year-old clam specimen, which, interestingly, it is the same age as the parish of O Carril.
What to see and do
There are plenty of things to see and do in the region, but if you prefer to stay in the town of Vilagarcía de Arousa you can visit the Cortegada Island, explore the castro (Pre-Roman settlement) de Alobre or admire the petroglyph Os Ballotes.
You can also enjoy the Revenidas Festival, from Friday 17 to Sunday 19.
The firework display by the sea, known as Naval Combat, held at midnight on the beaches of the town, is one of the most popular." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
The Atlantic Ocean, the Miño River and the Cíes Islands. Good food and good albariño white wine. Galicia is a coastal region which is well-known for the seafood dishes, and especially for the shellfish.
But in Galicia there is a taste for diversity, and in inland areas you can also enjoy good food. Evidence of this is the Feria do Xamón, a food fair where you can taste xamón, the Spanish cured ham. Its secret has been based on the savoir faire of the people, but the truth is that the weather also helps. To produce a good ham it is important to rear pigs correctly and slaughtering the animal following the traditional method, which was carried out in the different villages not long ago, especially in inland areas. The climate allows the completion of the task, by curing the xamón and granting its preservation in the locals' own houses.
This process finishes with the xamón on the plate, and for this, slicing it correctly has been always essential and is certainly an art. In fact, this festival gathers professionals of the xamón slicing.
Although the xamón is a very well-known dish in Spain, this is the only Galician festival promoting this delicious food. In the past, the person in charge of raising the animal used to sell it to earn money for sustenance throughout the year.
This event, beginning on the 15th August and declared Festival of Tourist Interest in Galicia, is a perfect excuse to visit the town and taste the different dishes offered in the fair, such as cured or roasted xamón, cocido (Galician typical stew with xamón, potatoes and vegetables, usually cabbage), Spanish tortilla with xamón, and empanada (a kind of savoury pastry). In addition, your meal can be paired with the wine from the region of O Condado de Tea, under the Denomination of Origin Rías Baixas.
What to see and do
A good option after having lunch is to go for a walk along the route Camiño da Raíña and visit some of the pazos (manor houses) in the area, such as Pazo da Fraga, Pazo de Cucu-Ruxo (also known as Pazo de Ribeira e Salgado) or Pazo de Barreiro.
You can also stop ar the monastery of A Franqueira, no more than 30 minutes away by car, and discover the old refrigeration technique of the neveiros." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">
The festival where the empanada (a typical Galician pie, usually with a savoury filling) is tasted, the Festa da Empanada, held since 1974, takes place in the Silva e Valladares oak wood, in the parish of A Bandeira, in the town of Silleda, on the penultimate Sunday of August. This is the 44th anniversary of an event that pays tribute to one of the most popular dishes in As Rías Baixas. It is organised by the association Amigos de la Empanada, that also chooses the best empanadas in Galicia.
All day long restaurant owners and locals bring their dishes to be displayed on the stands of the festival. Next, an empanada contest takes place, in which a panel of judges selects the best empanadas. This is followed by a dinner, the high point of the festival, where many groups of friends and families enjoy different empanada dishes.
This festival always surprises visitors for its originality, for the innovative presentations, varied ingredients and peculiar tastes of the dishes.
The Esmorga Folk, one of the long-lasting festivals
Besides the popular cuisine, music will also take centre stage in this event, declared Festival of Galician Interest in 1999. The 29th Festival Esmorga Folk, one of the long-lasting music festivals in Galicia, with Celtic roots, features renowned artists and groups such as Carlos Núñez, Leilía, Mercedes Peón, Xosé Manuel Budiño, Quempallou, A Roda, Os Cempés, Milladoiro or The Chieftains. Although it used to be held on the same day of the festival, in the last years it takes place the night before.
The idea to organize a festival originated when a group of friends were having a picnic with empanada dishes in the oak wood during the local festivities, and this was welcomed with great enthusiasm. Over the years, locals and restaurant owners have made their contributions with interesting dishes, and the event gained in popularity.
In fact, personalities such as Camilo José Cela, Alfredo Conde, Manuel Fraga, Gerardo Fernández Albor, Xosé Cuíña, José Luis Barreiro, Fernando Ónega, María Rey, Pilar Cernuda, Pepe Domingo Castaño, José M.ª Carrascal, Luis Rial, Carlos Blanco, Luis Zaera, Mela Casal, Gloria Ferreiro or Xacobo Pérez have participated in this important event held in Bandeira.
Fervenza do Toxa, natural tourism
In A Bandeira, which lies on the Silver Route, in the region of Deza, visitors can enjoy an area rich in natural resources. One of the most popular attractions of the area is the waterfall known as Fervenza do Toxa." data-marker-category="" data-marker-icon="" data-marker-img="">