Between A Fonsagrada and Negueira de Muñiz the road goes constantly up and down as mountains and valleys alternate. The twists and turns in the route offer a great variety of views of the Navia valley, as the river flows towards Asturias. The mountain landscape contrasts sharply with the deep valleys, where villages and farmland lie.
A Fonsagrada, at 949 metres above sea level, is one of Galicia’s highest municipal capitals, a location which would have been chosen to catch sunlight in an area of harsh winters. The town has fine views and can be discerned from many points in the mountains of Lugo.
The town centre is compact and well sheltered, despite its altitude, structured round an old chapel and the square in the Holy Fountain is located.
Historically, the Burón area was a place of transit, and the “Camino Primitivo” (Primitive Way) for pilgrims to Santiago passes through here. This branch of the Saint James’ Way is known as the Vía de Alfonso II, as it was the route followed by this Asturian monarch, the first pilgrim according to legend.
Botelo is the signature dish of A Fonsagrada’s cuisine. This pork sausage is cured and smoked in a casing made from the animal’s intestine. Very popular throughout the eastern mountains of Galicia and parts of León and Asturias, this speciality from A Fonsagrada is ideal fare for the cold days of winter.
Leaving A Fonsagrada and going towards Asturias, the route comes to the village of Paradanova, whose name recalls the old inns at which travellers would make a halt (parada) in their journey. For pilgrims it would have played the same role as today’s hostels.
The route leading to Fonfría has views of the Oscos area in the distance and a large part of the municipality of A Fonsagrada (the largest in Galicia at 400 km2). The route branches towards Liñares de Bidul, entering landscapes characterised by pine woods and scrubland with their eye-catching seasonal colours.
The road gradually drops towards the River Navia, its waters held back by the Salime dam. The Boabdil bridge is the only point for many kilometres where the river can be crossed. The route visits two designated lookout points in this rugged terrain, ideal spots for leisure and contemplation. We are now very close to Negueira de Muñiz, one of Galicia's most special places. The municipal capital is a pretty village of traditional architecture, facing the River Navia and blending perfectly with the meadows and farmland around it. Of special interest are San Salvador’s Church and the rectory house, which date from the sixteenth century.
These lands gaze down silently on the Navia river which is still crossed today using small boats which go from one side of the Salime reservoir to the other.
Negueira de Muñiz is one of the least known municipalities in Galicia, largely because of its small population: just 215, according to official figures for 2016. A mountain village of marked contrasts, its character has been shaped by its position at the eastern edge of Galicia and historical circumstances.
A local dignitary, Antonio Muñiz Álvarez, called for the village to have its own local council in 1925, separating it from A Fonsagrada (which had itself formerly been part of the now extinct Concello de Burón). Its present name, which includes the surname Muñiz, has been official since 1929.
Its recent development was marked by the construction of the Grandas de Salime or Gran Navia reservoir in the 1960s. Farmland was lost, various villages were cut off and there was an exodus of inhabitants to the “colonies” of A Terra Chá, Arneiro and Veiga de Pumar, created to rehouse the residents of Negueira.
O Foxo, one of the abandoned villages, was reoccupied in the 1970s by a group organised as a commune, who were seeking a life in contact with nature. Their experience inspired the film Vilamor (Ignacio Vilar, 2012).
The Arexo lookout point is in the village of the same name, on the Galician side of the Navia. Its position, with a drop of over 200 metres to the river and opposite a meander, offers wide views of the Navia valley and the mountains on the Asturian side (Sierra de Cuías and Sierra de Busto), including glimpses of an alvariza, a stone structure which protected beehives from the bears.
The landscape is one of marked contrasts, characterised by slate and schist outcrops, while differences in altitude result in widely varying biogeographical conditions.
The different types of vegetation and crops observable from Arexo create a surprising and varied landscape: from the crags and scrubland of peaks approaching 1,000 metres to vineyards at lower altitudes of 200 to 400 metres, with pine woods on the hillsides in between.
The presence of vines at lower levels and that of other vegetation typical of warmer climates, such as the cork oak, is a bioclimatic indicator, in contrast with the frequent snowfalls in the mountains bordering the Navia valley.
From Arexo it is possible to observe many of the features that have resulted in this county being recognised as a natural paradise, with the designation of Negueira as a Special Area of Conservation and the creation of the River Eo, Oscos and Tierras de Burón Biosphere Reserve.