Mondariz – Balneario, a flagship hot springs in Europe since the late nineteenth century, offers us the ideal plan for diving into its therapeutic waters. We’ll delight in the rich natural and historical heritage surrounding it, which will also take us to Ponteareas, Soutomaior and Tui.

The “Very Hospitable Town” of Mondariz-Balneario is an excellent destination for enjoying a hot-springs relaxation experience.

The “Very Hospitable Town” of Mondariz-Balneario is an excellent destination for enjoying a hot-springs relaxation experience. This tiny municipality – just 2.4 km2, the smallest in Spain – has a plethora of economic, historical and natural wonders, and a rich collection of anecdotes about hot springs-related culture. Here, we’ll relive echoes of the Belle Époque and the golden years of hot spring therapy of the late neteenth and early twentieth centuries,when Mondariz was a de rigueur model of luxury and grandeur.

More information...
- Mondariz Spa. www.balneariodemondariz.es
- Sobroso Castle (Centre for the Recovery of Popular Culture). Teléfono: 986 654 305
- Soutomaior Castle. www.hotelpousadadelcastillo.com

Day 1

A stroll through the surroundings of Mondariz Hot Springs Spa

Mondariz is nestled in the peaceful River Tea Valley, located in the district of O Condado in the province of Pontevedra, just 30 km from Vigo and very well connected due to the proximity of major road arteries such as the AP-9 and the A-52 or the N-120 and the N-550.

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We recommend that you arrive early in the afternoon and get settled in Mondariz Spa Hotel. Once you’ve dropped your luggage, it will be time to start soaking up this setting featuring medicinal mineral waters housed in spectacular buildings, monuments, statues, gardens and riverside promenades.

We propose a just-over-two-hour stroll that will help you get to know the surroundings as you are led by an audio guide you can download free from the town council’s website. This way, we’ll discover the most outstanding things in Mondariz- Balneario and enjoy pleasant and entertaining historical explanations and some interesting anecdotes.

A curious dolmen
From the door of the Spa Hotel, the virtual voice will lead you to the vicinity of the San Pedro Recreational Area  to see the Dolmen das Tres Cruces, curious megalithic remains that were Christianised in the Middle Ages when three tilted crosses were driven into their stones.

Depending on when your visit takes place, you may run into pilgrims who have stopped to pray on their pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virxe da Franqueira, This festival in honour of the Virgin is celebrated on Whit Monday and on the eighth of September in the neighbouring municipality of A Cañiza. Next on our tour is the Chapel of San Pedro. On the way – if the day is clear – you’ll even get a glimpse of Sobroso Castle, which we’ll reserve for tomorrow.

The ruins of the old Grand Hotel, a model for hot springs spas in Europe beginning in late nineteenth century.
The next stretch runs from the chapel to the fence of the old Grand Hotel, from where we’ll be able to have a look at the spa’s gardens. You’ll be amazed by the ruins of the buildings and the old bathing facilities coexisting with plants and trees.

Following the signposted path, we’ll end up back at the heart of Mondariz-Balneario in front of the granite monument to Enrique Peinador Vela. This doctor – a “favourite son” of the town – was the person who devised the colossal project for Mondariz-Balneario, elevating it to a reference point for hot springs in Europe beginning the late nineteenth century. When he learned of the dramatic rise of people coming to the town for hot springs treatments, he set out to build an imposing hotel, which opened in 1898..

The Grand Hotel played host to
distinguished personages such as
Rockefeller, Primo de Rivera and
the Infanta Isabel de Borbón

The Grand Hotel – designed by architect Genaro de la Fuente – and known for its luxury and grandeur, became worldfamous and attracted renowned guests like the magnate Rockefeller himself. Other guests included Primo de Rivera, the Infanta Isabel de Borbón, Luis Peral, Emilio Castelar and Ramón Cabanillas who also climbed the stunning imperial staircase leading to one of its 250 rooms. The hotel even came to mint its own currency, have its own programme of operas and publish a newsletter. These are but a few of the many examples that will help you to imagine the magnitude and significance of the complex.

In April 1973 a fire ravaged the spectacular building, leaving standing only the stones that allowed a faithful reconstruction of the original façade to be built. Today, a high-rise buildingç of flats stands behind it. Sitting in the music stand, near the monument to Dr Enrique Peinador, we can take a moment to admire the reconstruction of the original façade.

The healing properties of the Gándara Spring
You’ll see the “Baranda” and “Antonio Palacios” Buildings on adjacent streets. The former housed a theatre; today it is the site of the spa, part of the hotel rooms and a shop for products from the hot springs centre. We can distinguish the latter by its tower, which is the location of the hotel’s “Mirador Suite” and conference centre.

Make sure you don’t miss the Gándara Spring, housed in an exquisite Classical-style temple designed by architect Antonio Palacios. We suggest that you enter inside the cupola and take advantage of some the benches at the entrance to have a rest..

The curious shape of the spring will surely catch your eye. Walk down to it and you‘ll see the water’s ferruginous tinge. There’s always a glass next to it for tasting: don’t let its smell discourage you; it tastes like any sparkling water. Its ferruginous composition containing carbonated gas and calcium bicarbonate is suitable for metabolic, locomotive, respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular illnesses, among others. If you take a look at the plaque on the left wall, you’ll be amazed how many ailments it is good for.

The origin of the Mondariz-Balneario’s micro-medicinal waters
And after one mineral spring, we’ll head off to another known as Fuente de Troncoso. The route runs parallel to the bed of the River Tea, nd is ideal for enjoying the sound of water and the colour and coolness of the vegetation. On the way, you’ll run into a bridge. Cross it, if you fancy visiting the Mondariz- Balneario’s riparian beach of fine white sand. Dipping your feet in the river’s clear water will certainly feel nice.

After this refreshing break, you’ll have to go back over the bridge and then straight on to the spring, which you’ll be able to identify due to its wrought iron structure and bluish corrugated roof. This is the source of the first micro-medicinal waters discovered… and from this discovery came the origin of a history of glory and a landmark for hot spring therapy in Galicia. If we’re in the mood, we can continue along the promenade to the resort’s 18-hold golf course.

A thermal circuit in the Water Palace
Another appealing option is to finish the walk back at its starting point, at the door of the Mondariz Spa Hotel and enjoy a thermal circuit in the Water Palace so you feel like new. The space holds about 3,000 square metres dedicated to leisure and relaxation, but also to specific play areas for children where their enjoyment and care are ensured.

The large (300 square metres) central swimming pool – under a huge glass dome that floods the room with natural light – is the star of the show. There are also panoramic mini-pools upstairs, saunas with different temperatures and humidities and a large number of resources that complete the circuit. By the time we’ve finished, it will almost be dinnertime. We recommend staying at the hotel and enjoying something from the menus of its restaurants.

Day 2

A trip through history in castles and fortified pre-Roman Iron Age villages

After a hearty breakfast, we suggest that you explore the area’s rich heritage by following a route that allows us to stop off at two different times in history: two thousand years ago, in the fortified  Fortified pre-Roman Iron Age village of Troña; and in the Middle Ages, with a visit to Castle Sobroso.

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Life in a pre-Roman village
From the hot springs resort we take Ramón Peinador Street – which is the PO-254 – in the direction of Ponteareas. Four well-signposted kilometres separate us from the Fortified pre-Roman Iron Age village of Troña, located at 225 metres of altitude on Mount Doce Nome de Xesús.

After leaving the car, we’ll stop in front of the information panels located at the entrance to the fort and began to climb to the middle of the ramp, then take a path on the left. We’ll follow the panels – which make a circular path – at all times in order to see the fort better and avoid a disorganised tour.

As we climb, we’ll notice right away the architectural solutions such as ramps and stairs its ancient inhabitants used to cope with the uneven terrain. We’ll first find the excavations of dwellings on the hillside, circular structures that are all similar to each other. You’ll also be able to pick out storage buildings, stairs, retaining walls and tiled floors that will give you an idea of what life was like in pre-Roman villages.

Following along, we come to another steep incline descending to the forest, where you will find a cruceiro wrapped in legends about snakes stealing cattle from the locals. And, on top of the mountain, we’ll find the beautiful baroque Doce Nome de Xesús Chapel, It can be visited inside only on the days of the festival in honour of Jesus (the third Sunday of January and the sixth of August), when the grounds fill with people and the faithful leave their offerings in the mantle of Jesus’s image, which they carry in a procession around the exterior of the church.

Sobroso Castle
After this trip, we’ll resume driving and head to Sobroso Castle. Three kilometres after crossing A Ermida in the municipality of Ponteareas, we’ll find the main access with the castle’s name. From there, we’ll enter a forest-filled park that spans 30 hectares of mountains covered by up to 40 different species of trees and wildlife living in semi-freedom.

In 1117, Queen Urraca fled to
Santiago de Compostela after
being besieged in Sobroso Castle by
the supporters of her son, Alfonso VII

We’ll continue on with our vehicle along the track that runs through the park; we can stop whenever we see something that catches our attention, such as a granary surrounded by chestnut trees or recreational areas. We suggest that you park near the intersection that indicates the way to and from the castle and walk the circular path until you reach the fortress, whose outline will be gradually revealed to us, and from where the roads connecting the inland and the city of Tui were watched over in mediaeval times.

There is evidence of the existence of the castle from 1117, when Queen Urraca was surrounded here by supporters of her son, Alfonso VII. The legend tells of her escape through a passage (today the “Paseo de Troncoso” in Mondariz- Balneario) in the direction of Compostela as she sought protection from Archbishop Xelmírez.

During our ascent, we can take note of its architectural structure. The outer wall is 140 metres in circumference and characterised by irregular walls. When you cross the threshold of the wall we see the Keep – its stones bear the marks of the stonemasons who shaped them – and the castle’s residential area, converted into a centre for the recovery of popular culture. Awaiting us inside are four exhibition halls dedicated to clothing, to the preparation of flax, the traditional craftsof the district and the reproduction of rooms in a typical Galician home with all its elements.

The oysters of Arcade
Take your time to enjoy this interesting museum. When you’ve finished, we suggest that you head to the coastal town of Arcade, famous for its oysters, which – accompanied by an Albariño wine with the D.O. Rías Baixas – make the perfect match for our meal. And, after lunch, there’s nothing better than a walk along the dock of the port and O Peirao beach to catch a glimpse of the interior of Vigo’s estuary.

A botanical expedition through the gardens of Soutomaior Castle
In addition to its culinary and scenic attractions, we chose this place for its proximity to Soutomaior Castle and its gardens, We recommend that you pay your visit in the afternoon as they are just ten minutes away by car. The botanical part is located outside the castle walls, and boasts the title of “International Camellia Garden of Excellence” awarded by the International Camellia Society.

The gardens at Soutomaior Castle
have more than 500 specimens of camellia,
from 25 different species,,
including the largest in Galicia

The garden has a highly pampered collection of more than 500 specimens from 25 different species of camelia, known as the “winter flower”. These include the oldest camellia tree, with 18 trunks growing from its base, making it the largest in Galicia.

Palms and sequoias, a native forest with an 800-year-old chestnut tree, a plantation of fruit trees and the panoramicview of the Albariño vineyards terraced on the hill turn this stroll into a delicious botanical expedition. At the entrance, you’ll find brochures to guide your tour, which is open and free-of-charge to the public.

To access the walled complex, we’ll cross a drawbridge, on whose gate we’ll see the coat of arms of the Marquises of Mos. This fortress was the fief of Pedro Madruga – a key figure of fifteenth-century Galicia, both in terms of revolts by peasants and revolts against the Catholic Monarchs. The main parts are the Keep and the Palace, with its fully renovated rooms. The entrance inside to see the Salón doTapiz (Tapestry Hall), the Salón of Batalla (Battle Hall) or the Galería de Damas (Ladies’ Gallery) is subject to morning and evening opening hours, except Monday, when it is closed.

A therapeutic and relaxing session in the spa
After having immersed ourselves in culture and nature, we suggest that you return to the Mondariz Spa Hotel to try out one or more of the health, relaxation or beauty treatments or one of the wide range of massages, both therapeutic and relaxing. A short siesta is the perfect way to conclude your hot springs experience before dinnertime.

Day 3

From Mondariz-Balneario to Tui

When we return, it will be time to pick up our luggage and bid farewell to Mondariz-Balneario. If we have time to do something in the morning and early afternoon before returning home, we suggest heading over to the town of Tui, which is located just over a half-hour’s drive away and is accessible from the A-55.

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After breakfast, we encourage you to enjoy one last swim in the Palacio da Auga Water Palace. However, if you fancy stretching your legs, you can take a short walk over to Cernadela riparian beach, at the point where the River Tea is crossed by the bridge – an excellent Romanesqueconstruction with five gothic arches and a middle, semicircular arch – of the same name.

Tui Cathedral, the River Miño and its eels
Tui was one of the seven capital of Galicia until 1833 and has a fortress/cathedral, – the only one in the province of Pontevedra – which crowns the rise on which the town is located. You’ll enjoy a jewel of the Spanish gothic style, plus a great view of the riparian landscape of the River Miño, tinged with the green of the forest on its river bank and that of the other side, Portugal.

When lunchtime rolls around, remember that Tui is known as the “capital of the meixón” (eel), though it is also famous for other river delicacies, such as lamprey and shad, which pair perfectly with O Rosal wines with the Rías Baixas Designation of Origin.

Monte Aloia Nature Park
If the day is suitable, another option is to order a picnic and enjoy it in the nearby Monte Aloia Nature Park, which we can access via the local PO-340 road. We can enjoy our repast there, protected by the shade of a century-old forest of native and exotic species while contemplating waterfalls and brooks. The “Casa do Enxeñeiro Areses” Visitors’ Centre – a picturesque stone and wooden building located at the park entrance – can help to organise our visit so that we can make the most of our time.

Arriba