There are some long weekends and holidays on the calendar this autumn, which are a perfect excuse to enjoy a splendid experience. As Rías Baixas boasts a great variety of landscapes, both inland and on the coast, a great artistic and historic heritage and the best food and wines. Therefore, it is a perfect destination for a getaway.
It is recommended a three-day route to get the most of this wonderful destination. You will visit fortresses, Galician manor houses - popularly known as pazos - and nature resources with amazing views. You will also get to know the literary world of writers and enjoy the silence of some spiritual retreats. And, don’t miss the chance to taste delicious dishes paired with the best local wines.
Pack your suitcase and join us on this three-day tour!
Day 1: A Roman bridge, watchtowers, and a visit to a palace
You can start your journey around the province of Pontevedra in Pontecesures, a town lying by the Portuguese Coastal Way. There, you can take a pleasant stroll along the Ulla River, and cross a Roman bridge from the 1st century. Nearby, it is worth visiting the salt warehouse known as Alfolí de Carlos IV, built in the 18th-century Baroque style, which preserves a coat of arms of the House of Borbon. This building also served as a tobacco factory.
Following the course of the Ulla River down to its mouth, where it flows into the coastal inlet Ría de Arousa, we reach Catoira. The main attraction of this town, surrounded by a natural landscape with leafy forests, marshes or fluvial beaches, is the Towers of Oeste that used to be part of a former fortress of Pre-Roman origins. This construction, which was built in the 12th century to defend the town against the attacks of Viking, Norman and Saracen pirates and to prevent them from sailing up the river to Santiago de Compostela, following the so-called Route of the Sea of Arousa.
The complex consisting of the remains of the two towers and the chapel is listed as a Historic and Artistic Monument. In fact, these are the only elements preserved from the former fortress. Every year, this monument is the setting of the Romaría Viquinga de Catoira , a re-enactment of the landing of the Vikings in the town and a Festival of International Tourist Interest.
In Catoira, you can also visit one of the few windmills in Galicia: the Molinos de Abalo (in the province of Pontevedra most of them are watermills), which are provided with the only two-sail system in Europe.
If you are hungry, you can head to Vilagarcía de Arousa and enjoy some delicacies of the area, such as clams from O Carril or mussels from As Rías Baixas, which can be paired with a good wine of the Designation of Origin Rías Baixas.
After the meal, you can stroll around the gardens of manor houses like Pazo do Rial, Pazo de Rubianes or Pazo de Vista Alegre . The latter is a building complex, which also includes the Convent of Vista Alegre.
We can end up our day by visiting the English Cemetery, where you will travel back in time and learn about the mark left by the English Army in the province of Pontevedra.
Day 2: Literature, a nature reserve and a visit to the cradle of Albariño wine
On the second day, our first stop will be the town of Vilanova de Arousa. There, you can visit the house museum of the famous Galician writer Ramón María del Valle-Inclán. On the ground floor, you can visit an exhibition with pieces linked to the life and works of the writer, including bibliographic documentation and other valuable and interesting collections, among which some first editions and manuscripts stand out. And the first floor displays a collection of pieces of furniture to recreate his house. The building is surrounded by a beautiful garden with leafy trees and beautiful camellias sheltered by a large magnolia tree.
Our next stop will be the only island municipality in the province, A Illa de Arousa, which can be reached by crossing a 2-km bridge offering stunning views over the ría. This island has a nature resource, situated in the very heart of the ría, and boasts an 11-km coastline with beautiful beaches, such as O Bao or Area da Secada .
Other must-visits are the Areoso Islet, the lighthouse of Punta Cabalo or the park of O Carreirón , a protected area where both children and adults can admire the flight of birds, a heron catching a fish or the flight of a dock of ducks.
Nearby, another must stop is the town of Cambados, popularly known as the cradle of Albariño wine, and famous for its Albariño Wine Festival, started in 1953, and declared this year Festival of International Tourist Interest. Here, you can visit one of its many wineries, where you can taste this popular white wine.
Besides the large number of fine restaurants of this town, it is worth visiting the Michelin starred-restaurant run by the renowned chef Yayo Daporta. At dusk, you can stroll around the old town and visit places like the square Plaza de Fefiñáns, and the manor houses Pazo de Fefiñáns or Pazo Bazán. On the top of A Pastora Hill, it is recommended to admire the cemetery of Santa Mariña Dozo, one of the most picturesque in Galicia.
At the bottom of this hill, other must-see visit is the baroque Pazo de Montersacro, which offers stunning views over the ocean. If you head to the seaside quarter of San Tomé, in San Sadurño Island, which was formerly known as A Figueira, you will find a medieval fortress dating from the 10th century, the Tower of San Sadurniño, listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC).
Day 3: the Monastery of A Armenteira and O Grove’s cuisine
On our last day of the tour of the province, you will get to know an almost unspoiled natural environment. Set in a beautiful valley and surrounded by nature, you can visit the Monastery of Santa María da Armenteira, in the municipality of Meis, near Castrove Hill. Today, the monastery is the residence of Cirstercian nuns and also works as an inn. Its sober architecture is evidenced by the rose window on the façade, the 16th-century cloister, and the 12th century church.
There is a legend on the origins of this majestic building which says that the knight Ero of the court of King Alphonse VII decided to erect the monastery after he had had a dream in which the Virgin asked him to build it in order to redeem himself for not being able to have children with his wife.
Our next stop will be the coast of O Grove. In this peninsula, the Intertidal Complex Umia, which extends from the estuary of the Umia River to Cambados, is well worth a visit. This protected area is also a bird reserve, perfect to observe the migration of birds at this time of the year. From the viewpoint of A Siradella Hill you can get a panorama of this natural spot.
If we plan to travel in the first two weeks of October, you can enjoy the Seafood Festival in O Grove, declared Festival of National Tourist Interest, and an unmissable food event. Here, you can taste some of the delicacies of the traditional Galician cuisine, such as barnacles, shrimp, Galician king crab, octopus or empanada (typical Galician pie with a savoury filling), among other typical dishes. The programme of the event also includes music and other activities intended for all ages.
And if you want to taste the Galician nouveau cuisine, in the town of O Grove you can visit the Michelin-starred restaurant Culler de Pau. In fact, the province of Pontevedra boasts five restaurants with a Michelin star. Besides the aforementioned restaurants, the other ones bearing this distinction are Maruja Limón, in the city of Vigo, and Casa Solla and Pepe Vieira, both in the town of Poio.
You can round off your tour of As Rías Baixas, by visiting the island Illa da Toxa, also in the town of O Grove, which is connected to the mainland by a beautiful bridge. This island has many attractions; one example is the Chapel of San Caralampio, covered in scallop shells. You can also walk along the seaside promenade surrounding the island.