Mountain surroundings, valleys, rivers and a great variety of flora and fauna will accompany us on our journey all the way to the city of Compostela. This is the route with most historic content. The adventure in a 4x4 sets off in Ribadeo.

The wading of the rivers, watercourses and other landforms will test the skill of the drivers and will offer experiences that are both exciting and educational.

What could beat spending five thrilling days on a 4x4? We will still be in the surroundings of the Northern Route towards Santiago de Compostela and will visit the landmarks that can be found along this route, which begins in the first Galician village of the Bay of Biscay: Ribadeo. Mountain landscapes and a Biosphere Reserve offer scenery and flora and fauna with tremendous environmental value.

More information...
- State-owned hotel Parador Torre dos Andrade (Vilalba). Teléfono: 982 510 011. www.parador.es/es/parador-de-vilalba
- Museo Vivente do Mel (Live Honey Museum) (Arzúa). Teléfono: 981 508 072 www.abelleiro.com
- Cathedral of Santiago. www.catedraldesantiago.es
- Santiago Fresh Produce Market. www.mercadodeabastosdesantiago.com

Day 1

The adventure starts in Ribadeo
 

Ribadeo Ribadeo is a town in the province of Lugo and a strategic and tourist locality on the Galician Bay of Biscay, separated from Asturias by the narrow and sheltered estuary, or ría of Ribadeo. We recommend arriving at the town the day before and lodge at any of the hotels, lodging houses, rural houses or apartments from the wide range of accommodation offered in the town, that can be accessed from the Autovía del Cantábrico motorway (A-8), the N-634 and N-640 roads. 

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The town lies on the mouth of the river Eo by the sea and its port is important for the Way of Saint James. If you are an early riser, in the park of O Cargadeiro, to the north of the bridge of Os Santos, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the town with the lighthouse of in the background.

The town is a historic-artistic ensemble and its emblem is the 18th-20th century civil architecture . The centre of the town boasts the best examples, such as the neoclassical stone palace Pazo de Ibáñez, which today houses the Town Hall. And, across from it, the Torre of Os Moreno, a modernist style building, and one of Ribadeo’s most representative ones. Two blocks away we can also see the Colonial style houses that line the street Rúa de San Roque.

The mudflats will test the driver’s skills

If you have booked a package holiday, at mid-morning you will be met by your guide and 4x4 driver. From Ribadeo we will pass the villages of Vilaosende, As Anzas, O Valín, Covelas, Ferreiras, Curros and O Castro. The route runs along tracks that are suitable for this type of vehicle.
The route begins among landscapes of large green meadows, pastures and farming fields with plenty of cattle and sheep. But little by little the trail becomes steeper, while we drive parallel to the coast, with fantastic views of the Bay of Biscay and the sandy beaches of Reinante.

As we move away from the coast, the meadows give way to forest areas and the domestic fauna is replaced by the wild. In this part, the mudflats will test the skill of the driver at the wheel if the vehicle gets stuck. This circumstance will gives us the opportunity to learn and practice the self-rescue techniques mastered by the experts who accompany us. After the exciting experience we continue our journey until we find the ideal place where to stop and savour our picnic lunch in typical countryside surroundings.
We should keep in mind that we are in the territory of the Biosphere Reserve of the River Eo, Oscos and Terras de Burón, with an important environmental and landscape value, that in Galicia is focused around the river basins of the Eo and Miño.

Towards the historic city of Mondoñedo

After a rest we set off for Mondoñedo, a historic city on the Northern Route and one of the seven former capitals of Galicia. We should try to get there early in the afternoon to discover its architectural and artistic wealth, that is very well preserved.

The cathedral-basilica of A Asunción, a National Monument, is the emblem of its historical past as an Episcopal city. Inside, it is surprising the way the light is tinted by an array of colours as it passes through the stained-glass ogive arch windows that decorate its 14th century façade. During our tour we will discover other valuable buildings such as the seminar of Santa Catarina; the hospital of San Paulo or the Sanctuary of Os Remedios, among others.

In Vilalba we taste its typical smoked cheese

After the visit we climb back into the 4x4 to go travel other unpaved tracks with very interesting landscapes. The itinerary is as follows: from Mondoñedo we return to Curros and then head towards Miravales and, in A Valiña, drive up to Monte Maior. After Suarriba we go down to Penas and pass through Fabás, O Areal and A Moura. From here we head towards Vilalba, capital of A Terra Chá, where we will arrive at dinner time.
We recommend you to eat tapas at the inns, taverns and bars in the old quarter and that you taste their excellent products, such as the fantastic smoked cheese with Denomination of Origin San Simon da Costa. And do not let the Tower of Os Andrade, out of your sight, as it is the symbol of the villa, now a Parador (state-owned hotel), which is part of the city’s offer of quality hotels.

Day 2

De Vilalba a Arzúa
 

After breakfast, we leave Vilalba early to head towards Bustelo along road LU-6517 and cross the river Labrada in Ponte de Meire. If the frequent flooding of the river, especially during the rainy season, has cut off the usual way, we may have to vary our route. The snow or the rivers formed due to the thawing will be our travel companions, depending on the time of the year.

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From here to Xestoselo, we cross the LU-170 to O Vilariño and continue to Saa. The mountains that we cross are more than 800 meters high, granting us splendid views of the valleys. We start to go down and, after passing a wind farm, we can stop in the leisure area of San Xoán and its reservoir.

Later, we continue descending until we cross the A-6 motorway, the N-VI road and the railroad tracks, using the old and deteriorated asphalt road from the early N-VI, and we enter the mountain range of Cova da Serpe. Wild boars, foxes and wolves live in this mountain range, but it’s not easy to see them. We will probably be able to spot rabbits, partridges, squirrels and other small animals such as shrews, field mice and snakes. It is also common to catch sight of ravens and falcons. As we continue going down toward Teixeiro the pine forests give way to pastures and their natural inhabitants; cows, for this is an area of high milk production.

In the mountain range of Cova da Serpe
we can see rabbits, squirrels,
shrews and even falcons

We stop for lunch in Teixeiro: stew or baked cod

We continue to approach the A-6 motorway, but first we pass through O Sanguiñedo, and in Pardiñas we cross the A-6 and ride parallel to it until we reach the N-634. We immediately leave it and circle Teixeiro through A Pedreira, crossing the AC-231 in the village of Foxado and, passing A Baiúca, end up in Teixeiro. We stop in this town to eat a nice stew or baked cod for lunch, with delicious feixós (pancakes or crepes) for dessert, both specialties that can be enjoyed at the local restaurants.

From Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzúa

The afternoon’s route is quieter but not exempt of emotions, because we will have to wade through a river to get to our destination. The first stop is Sobrado dos Monxes, at mid-afternoon, where we can visit the Monastery of Santa María de Sobrado, a National Monument founded over a thousand years ago. A short walk from here is the lagoon of Sobrado, surrounded by meadows and the occasional alder and pine in mountain and farm land environment of great beauty.

At the end of the visit, back in the 4x4, you get to Arzúa. At the end of the visit, back in the 4x4, you get to Arzúa. We can stay at any of its hotels, lodging houses, or the nearby country guesthouses and dine at the accommodation or at any other establishment in the town.

Day 3

From Arzúa to Santiago de Compostela
 

A 32-meter high waterfall and a honey museum

In the morning, when you’re ready, we suggest visiting a natural resource of great beauty, very close to the village of Dombodán. The Fervenza das Hortas is a waterfall from the river Saimes, just before it meets the Ulla with a 32-meter double-drop.

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Portodemouros is also nearby, where the Museo Vivente do Mel (Live Honey Museum), is located. This is a lovely visit for lovers of beekeeping or of honey products, or if we are interested in ethnography. Here we can see how our ancestors produced honey. Outside is a model of an alvariza (hive) containing the parts of the hive: cortizos, trobos and covos and a traditional larder. In contrast we will see a modern apiary, and inside we can follow the extraction process, decanting and packaging of honey. In the shop there are all types of products related to bees: honey, pollen, royal jelly and even cosmetics.

 

We eat rooster in O Pino

On the stage of The Way Arzúa-O Pedrouzo and from here to Santiago it is possible to travel the route in 4x4 along wide and accessible trails that run close to the old route. We will stop for lunch at O Pedrouzo, in the municipality of O Pino; where the specialty is Galo Piñeiro, a breed of indigenous rooster which can be prepared either baked or stewed. The town’s culinary festival is held early in August.

We reach Santiago de Compostela

In the afternoon we hop back into the 4x4 to begin an itinerary that passes through the environs of A Lavacolla and brings us closer to Monte do Gozo, una pequeña elevación desde la que los peregrinos ven por primera vez las torres de la cathedral. a low hill from where the pilgrims get their first glimpse of the towers of the cathedral. Since Holy Year 1993 it has turned into an area equipped with all kinds of services for pilgrims: shelters, a hotel, restaurant and cafés. If we want to feel the atmosphere of the pilgrimages before reaching Santiago, this is the ideal place.

“Along the Way of Saint James,
pilgrims have been raising
clouds of heroic dust
for many centuries”
.
Camilo José Cela

We reach Santiago de Compostela in the evening, therefore we need to postpone the visit to the cathedral for the following day. But we can enjoy a tour of the lively streets of the old quarter mingling with pilgrims, university students, tourists and local inhabitants. For dinner, we suggest going tapas dining in the streets of the old town, where you will find the typical helpings of Galician empanada, octopus á feira, meat stew ao caldeiro, cockles, mussels, thinly sliced meat (raxo), sausage filling (zorza), Padrón green peppers, small sardines (xoubas) or even pig’s ear, among other delights. They can be accompanied by wines from the different Galician denominations of origin, not forgetting the typical Santiago almond cake for dessert.

As for accommodation Santiago has a wide range of hotels to suit all tastes and needs.

Day 4

We discover the hidden treasures of the Cathedral of Santiago
 

Visit the rooftop

After breakfast we propose you discover the cathedral from a different perspective, by going up to its rooftop. There is a guided tour that includes two consecutive itineraries.

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First, the Pazo de Xelmírez, one of the main civil construction buildings of Spanish Romanesque architecture and centre of feudal power exercised by the church in Santiago. You’ll be amazed by the great 32-metre long vault in the Synodal Hall, whose corbels are decorated with scenes from a lively banquet.

We then climb up the narrow stairs of the Palace tower to tour the full length of the temple’s tiered rooftop, which will give us a much better understanding of the different ages of the cathedral and their respective styles. The towers, domes and spires of the cathedral are just an arm’s reach away, and we can see rooftops of Santiago all the way across to the surrounding hills.

The remains of the Apostle
are kept in a silver urn,
in the cathedral’s crypt

We enter the cathedral from the square known as Praza do Obradoiro, with the impressive baroque façade presided over by the Apostle Saint James portrayed as a pilgrim with cape and staff. We climb the double staircase of the temple and inside we are greeted by the magnificent view of the Pórtico da Gloria,masterpiece of Spanish Romanesque sculpture. Again the Apostle Saint James can be found in the mullion, where halfway up we can also see the handprints of previous pilgrims sunk into the marble. Many are the treasures that are kept inside the cathedral, as many are the rites, including embracing the Apostle when we climb up to the shrine of the main altar or stopping before his relics, kept inside a silver urn inside the crypt.

We have lunch in the old quarter and explore the gardens

At lunchtime, we suggest trying the fish, excellent in stew or Galician style (with olive oil and paprika), and the seafood from the Galician rias, steamed, grilled or accompanied by different sauces. You can find these delicacies at the restaurants along the streets Rúa do Franco, A Raíña and others in the old quarter.

In the afternoon we encourage you to discover the parks and gardens of the old quarter. The most popular is the Alameda, the city’s lung. The tree-lined boulevard known as Paseo dos Leóns offers the best front views of the cathedral, especially under the light of the setting sun. Century-old camellia trees, ancient oaks, giant eucalypti, fountains and even one or two churches will grab our attention along the way.

Another splendid lookout point is the Park of San Domingos de Bonaval, located on the western slope of Monte da Almáciga. It offers singular areas of great beauty, such as a desecrated cemetery, which because of its special acoustics is used as a venue for musical performances.

For dinner we propose trying any of the dishes created by the Galician nouvelle cuisine chefs in the city’s signature restaurants.

 

Day 5

We say farewell to Santiago at the Fresh Produce Market
  

To say farewell to the city, a visit to the Fresh Produce Market is an enriching experience.

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It is a lively place visited by many locals and that offers all that Galicia’s sea and soil products. Fresh fish and seafood from the ria, excellent meats, homemade cheeses, honey, flowers… and even farmhouse poultry or other products from the nearby vegetable gardens are sold in this market.

 

Within its premises some of its restaurants offer to prepare the products we have purchased in the market for a reasonable price.

Arriba