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Woods of Galicia

Ribeira Sacra

It is easy to see why hundreds of monks and hermits chose the woods of the Ribeira Sacra to erect their monasteries: the solitude, the calm, the silence… Nature, green and ochre, vineyards, peaceful waters…

It seems the ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world, to relax, find yourself and be at one with nature. The monks knew about this area and now we invite you to discover it too.

To this end, we propose three walking routes that will allow you to enjoy the natural and cultural heritage of the Ribeira Sacra in three of its most highly prized woods: the bosque benedictino de Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil (Parada de Sil), bosque de Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil (Nogueira de Ramuín) and Bidueiral de Montederramo (Montederramo), which is home to one of the best preserved birch groves in Galicia.

The woods of the Ribeira Sacra will lead you to follow the canyon of the River Sil along its final kilometres before it runs into the longest river in Galicia, the Miño. It will surprise you with its landscape of terraces dedicated to viticulture – remember that you are in the land of the Ribeira Sacra, a wine boasting Designation of Origen!

And you’ll discover that in this area oak and chestnut trees live alongside cork oak and strawberry trees, both of which are very unusual here in Galicia. One last piece of advice! If you come to the Ribeira Sacra region to visit these woods, don’t forget to discover its Patrimonio Oculto, or Hidden Heritage by means of the experience “Ribeira Sacra: entre viñedos y monasterios” (Ribeira Sacra: Among Vineyards and Monasteries”).

Sto. Estevo de Ribas de Sil

The praying woods

The River Sil cuts through a deep valley sheltered by riverbank woodlands in which Mediterranean vegetation lives alongside the natural progeny of the Galician fragas (mixed woodland). Above the valley, the remains of the Chapel of San Xoán offer an enclave with expansive views. And higher up again there is the monastery, which we can pick out among the oak and chestnut trees. The building that was once the Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil today houses a Parador de Turismo (Spanish state-owned luxury hotel).

Lovingly restored, the rooms are the former cells where the monks resided.  Sheltered by the thick woodlands, the monastery whispers its secrets to the Chapel of San Xoán. The chapel listens in a silence that occasionally gives way to words and prayers.

  • Canyon in the Sil

  • Canyon in the Sil

  • Bridge in Os Peares

  • River Sil near Os Peares

  • Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil

  • Route profile

  • Map profile

San Estevo de Ribas de Sil Route
Starting pointRoute typeKmEstimated time requiredTerrain difficultyOrientation difficulty
Os Peares (A Peroxa)Circular73 h.MediumMedium
PROFILE: Occasional walkers

The route we propose is circular, which means that you can start and finish it at any point. Our recommendation is that you start on the main road that runs between Os Peares to the hydraulic power station of San Pedro to then ascend the River Sil. You will begin by car on a 6 km route that will take you to a small parking area with information panels describing the route.

Woodland and history: two great reasons to take this unique, enchanting route.

Our route begins next to the river, but don’t be put off by the steep slope that welcomes you on your journey! The path ascends steeply, but you should take it easy: it is a brief stretch that will reward your efforts shortly. To catch your breath, look for the ruins of the Chapel of San Xoán, and enjoy the beautiful views of the landscape to your left.

Leave the chapel behind to pass through the breathtaking woods on a simple but beautifully winding road that combines stunning views with a great variety of trees and vegetation.

The Monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil suddenly rises up before you when you least expect it.  At first, your walk will be watched over by the evocative woodlands. As you get nearer, the Monastery reveals its impressive lines. When you reach the parador, don’t be shy and stay by the door! Come inside and take some refreshments in the comfort of these historical and artistic surroundings.

Once you have taken a well-deserved break and discovered all the hidden corners of Santo Estevo, you can continue on your path above the Monastery thanks to the steps that you can find opposite the main entrance. Near here there is a detour off the main route that allows you to get to know how the sequieros work, the traditional drying houses used to dry chestnuts for their storage. It is a short and pleasant detour, well worth taking.

Once you are in the woods again, keep descending towards the river where you will find a truly charming waterfall, diminutive and gentle. Woods and history live side by side on this route in the chestnut trees worked by humans over the course of centuries, the crumbling drying houses and cabins, the ruins of the Chapel of San Xoán, and – of course – the Monastery of Santo Estevo.

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