The magnificent natural spaces of the province of Pontevedra contrast with the perfectly manicured gardens of pazos (Galician manor houses) and castles. All together make up a landscape where woods, meadows and parks harmonize with the sea, rivers, wetlands, lakes, cascades and pools.
The estuary of the Miño River and the Cíes Islands are two examples of rich landscapes of extraordinary beauty. The archipelago, located at the bottom of the Ría de Vigo and being the heart of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands, is among the key natural spaces in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, and aspires to be included in the World Heritage Sites list.
Thanks to their geostrategic location, the islands have been inhabited since the Iron Age. The Romans used to call them Illas dos Deuses (Islands of the Gods) and the well-known pirate Francis Drake used them as a base of operations for his incursions in the Ría de Vigo. In the islands, the beautiful Rodas Beach stands out. It consists of a stretch of sand which joins the islands of Monteagudo and Faro, creating a beautiful salt lake in the middle.
The estuary of the Miño River, the largest in Galicia, is a natural border between Spain and Portugal which has an important ecological value: it is part of the network Natura 2000 and is listed as a Special Protection Area (SPA). Up to 200 species of birds can be seen in its vast territory. It is, as the Cíes Islands, a perfect setting for birdwatching.
The Cíes Islands, the estuary of the Miño River, the Intertidal Complex Umia-O Grove, and the hill Serra do Candán are perfect places for birding.
The Serra do Candán, an inland mountain range in the province of Pontevedra, is another natural treasure of Rías Baixas. Its centenarian woods, the rich vegetation growing on the banks of the rivers Deza and Lérez and the scrubland dominated by indigenous species make up this rich area. O Candán, also perfect for birding, is the habitat of some endangered bird species as the Eurasian eagle owl, the golden eagle, or some common ones as the goshawk.
The Intertidal Complex Umia-O Grove is another paradise for birdwatchers in the region of O Salnés. It is an area classified as Wetland of International Importance where the Umia River meets the Ría de Arousa, creating a unique ecosystem. Up to 18,000 birds can be seen in this natural space in their migration between Europe and Africa. The viewpoint A Siradella, A Bodeira Lagoon or A Lanzada Beach, on the other shore of the isthmus, are the perfect settings to admire this place.
The majestic Soutomaior Castle is one of the gems of the historic heritage in As Rías Baixas. It has a beautiful garden, the first one in Spain listed as International Camellia Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society. The collection of about 500 specimens of this beautiful flower from the East is one its major attractions. The visitors of the fortress can also wander its natural paths and admire the beautiful landscape.
The Pazo de Castrelos, in the city of Vigo, boasts a magnificent French garden and a beautiful English garden, known as Pradera del Té. There are other important manor houses in As Rías Baixas, as the Pazo de Oca, referred to as the the Galician Versailles. There, visitors can admire some of the oldest camellia specimens in Europe, a beautiful path of lime trees, see specimens of singular trees and two ponds, which make this place a perfect oasis of peace.
The Soutomaior Castle has amazing gardens and paths, whereas the Pazo de Oca, in the town of A Estrada, is known as the Galician Versailles.
The Pazo de Rubianes, in the town of Vilagarcía de Arousa, is also part of the Camellia Route in the province, as well as the Soutomaior Castle, the Pazo the Castrelos, the Pazo de Oca and other five pazos and parks. Their gardens are of great tourist, historic and artistic interest. The botanical garden and the carballeira (oak wood) in the town of Caldas de Reis, by the Umia River, make up another beautiful and amazing park. The pazos of Lourizán, Quinteiro da Cruz, A Saleta and Gandarón, and the park O Castro in Vigo round off the Camellia Route.