A one-week tour of the most important areas of the five Galician designations of origin. We’ll visit stately pazos, architectural jewels, wineries, beautiful mountain spots and seafaring villages from the Rías Baixas to Santiago de Compostela and passing through inland Galicia.

This is an experience aimed at discovering the best wines with Galician designations of origin: Rías Baixas, O Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei.

Walk through vineyards at the shores of sea and river, on hillsides and in valleys, on mountains and in canyons; come and visit pazos, monasteries, churches, fortified Iron Age villages and fortresses. Savour Albariño, Treixadura, Mencía, Godello, Loureira, Caíño Branco, Brancellao... up to more than 20 varieties of native grapes, combined in just the right proportions in stately, rustic or cutting-edge wineries. Rest and allow yourself to be spoiled in buildings of great historical and artistic value, in the countryside or in the city.

More information...
- Rías Baixas Designation of Origin. www.doriasbaixas.com
- O Ribeiro Designation of Origin. www.ribeiro.es
- Ribeira Sacra Designation of Origin. www.ribeirasacra.org
- Valdeorras Designation of Origin. www.dovaldeorras.tv
- Monterrei Designation of Origin. www.domonterrei.com

Day 1

Cambados, a stately seafaring village

The O Salnés Valley, in the heart of the Rías Baixas and protected by the Designation of Origin of the same name, will be our starting point.

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SIts proximity to Galicia’s main roadway, the Atlantic Toll Motorway (AP-9), and its connection to the O Salnés Motorway (AG-41) provide it with excellent accessibility. Within the valley, and known as the “capital of Albariño”, is the town of Cambados. We recommend arriving early in the morning at this stately seafaring village, the former stronghold of a powerful Galician nobility.

Cambados offers accommodation in pazos, stately homes and country or hotel-based properties. But its flagship is the Parador do Pazo de Bazán, a stately eighteenth-century mansion, where De Gaulle himself once stayed. Its location right in the centre makes it easy for us to reach in just a few minutes the imposing Praza de Fefiñáns square, declared a Heritage Element of Cultural Interest, along with the sixteenth-century artistic complex located around it.

A visit to the Pazo de Fefiñáns winery

The impressive Pazo de Fefiñáns, whose winery we’re getting ready to visit, stands out noticeably. Our tour will not only be a meeting where technology embraces tradition in making these Albariños, but also a lesson in history, heraldry and art as we walk the rooms, corridors and halls of the pazo. We’ll be seduced by the lush nature enclosed within its walls, walking through its arbour-filled vineyards and its magnificent garden of native species and ancient boxwoods. We’ll conclude the tour with a tasting of some of their fine wines.

The area around Fefiñáns features restaurants where the famous seafood of the Arousa estuary can be accompanied with the “golden prince of wines”, as Cunqueiro called Albariño.

History and sea

In the afternoon we suggest you continue to enjoy Cambados’ beautiful palatial architecture in the aristocratic district of Fefiñáns. Passing through the streets of its Old Town, we’ll reach the San Tomé neighbourhood, which has the most seafaring atmosphere in the village. We find the remains of the San Sadurniño Tower which, at high tide, seems to rise from the estuary.

To complete the visit, we suggest you go up to the town’s highest point and discover the Museo Etnográfico e do Viño (Ethnographic and Wine Museum), at the foot of the ruins of the Church of Santa Mariña Dozo, and watch the sunset from the nearby A Pastora viewpoint, which will give you a nice view of the O Salnés Valley and the Ría de Arousa.

Day 2

From the wineries of Vilanova de Arousa to the shellfish of O Grove and Baiona

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After breakfast and a short walk along Cambados, boardwalk, we head for Tremoedo, in the adjoining town of Vilanova de Arousa.

Beginning in Cambados, we find a landscape of rolling hillsides filled with trellises and wineries. When we sample their wines in tasting rooms – which are an architectural allegory of the world of wine – we understand the importance given to wine culture here. At their tables, we may be offered some shellfish delicacy such a pie of mussels, grilled scallops or seafood minifilloas – somewhat similar to a crêpe or pancake – to accompany the Albariño wines.

Another possibility is to head over to the town of O Grove, known as the “seafood capital”. A good choice for lunch is the restaurants specialising in seafood positioned across from the harbour and along the boardwalk. After lunch, a tour of the port will put us in front of one of the world’s largest shellfish beds, where mussels, oysters and scallops are grown on shellfish rafts – platforms floating in the estuary – that can be picked out with the naked eye.

The Boardwalk in Baiona, a good place to relax and eat

In the afternoon, we’ll move south. We may travel leisurely up part of the coast of the Rías Baixas, passing through Sanxenxo, Pontevedra, Arcade, Redondela and Vigo until we reach Baiona. Or, perhaps, we’ll reach the town quickly via Atlantic Highway and then the AG-57. Once there, we’ll tour the boardwalk – ideal for watching the bay and looking at the white glassed-in galleries of the waterfront – and entertain ourselves until dinner.

On the pier, there is an exact replica of the caravel La Pinta, which brought the first news that Europe knew of the discovery of America to this town more than 500 years ago. As for accommodation, the offer is varied but the flagship property – which we can see from the port – is the state-owned hotel, halfway between a forth and a stately pazo. It’s located within the fourteenth-century walls crossing the peninsula of Monterreal and retains the three towers which the fortress used to be guarded. For dinner, we might be tempted by a seafood plate or bass in turnip top sauce from its kitchen or the menus of the restaurants along the promenade.

Day 3

From Baiona to Tui

When we finish breakfast, we can bid goodbye to Baiona walking a stretch of the Paseo Monte Boi, a path that surrounds the fort. From here, we can catch a glimpse of the Stelae and Cíes Islands, between the sea and a mountain covered with pines, willows, ash and oak.

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We continue south, leaving behind the most exclusive domain of Albariño wines, towards lands where the nobility of this grape enriches the nuances provided by the Loureiro and the oh-so-delicate Caíño Branco. This formula is used in the O Rosal valley, the southernmost part of Galicia and on the border with Portugal.

We’ll reach Couselo via a number of provincial roads. Here, we can visit a winery located in a stately 200-yearold restored pazo. We’ll walk through its vineyard; quite old, it was inherited from the Cistercian monks, who are attributed with early grape-growing efforts in these lands dating back to the twelfth century. In addition to wines, some wineries have distillation rooms, heirs to the tradition of the os poteiros of O Rosal. We’ll taste their wine, spirits and liqueurs, which are distilled and then have delicious products like Mirabelle plums macerated in them.

A Guarda, the lobster capital

Due to its proximity, we suggest you eat in the town of A Guarda, the “lobster capital.” You’ll enjoy the lively activity of its port. In the area, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious seafood; for dessert, the typical “rosco de yema” and eggy-custardfilled pastry ring.

After lunch, we suggest, firstly, a little walk along the dique dos mariñeiros (sailors’ dike) and then a climb up Mount Santa Tegra to discover one of the best-preserved Roman Iron Age fortified villages in Galicia. You can leave the car in the visitor reception area and then walk a route that lasts less than an hour through all the excavated archaeological sites. Look inside the museum for the splendid collection of swastikas found in these excavations. From the top, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of A Guarda, the outlet of the River Miño to the Atlantic and the gentle rolling hills of the vineyards, houses and orchards of the O Rosal Valley and neighbouring Portugal. And, if you fancy a snack before you leave, there is café and service available.

In Tui, lamprey and eel dishes are the stars

Later, we suggest you go follow the Miño by road to reach Tui, which was one of Galicia’s capitals. To sleep, you’ll find hotels, guesthouses and country houses. But its flagship is the state-owned hotel, one kilometre from the centre, facing the International Bridge designed by Eiffel that connects us with Portugal. At dinner time, the “Tui-style lamprey”, its signature dish, will certainly be tempting. In season, we’ll find it – along with eels – in area restaurants because they are caught in the estuary of the River Miño.

 

Day 4

From Tui to the Ribeira Sacra

We recommend you start the morning off with a good breakfast so you can climb up the promontory where the village of Tui sits.

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We feel like we’ve travelled back in time to the mediaeval age while we climb up the streets of A Canicoba, Entrefornos, Rúa do Corpo Santo and the Encerradas tunnel, a vaulted passageway under the convent of the Poor Clares, which connects the upper part with the area between the walls. The nuns make the famous “little fish”, delicious almond sweets typical of this town.

We reach the huge fortified cathedral – the only one in the province of Pontevedra – done in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its western door deserves its reputation of being one of the most beautiful of the Spanish Gothic doors. On its storied capitals, we can see very lifelike birds and felines, as well as the Virgin lying on a bed, representing the Nativity. You will soon match the images up with well-known Biblical chapters.

The Miño basin dominates these surroundings. It is displayed in all its lushness, with its riparian forests and fertile valleys filled with orchards and large vineyards. We will change this landscape once we take the A-55 and then the Rías Baixas Motorway (A-52) towards the domains of the O Ribeiro Designation of Origin in Ourense. The path becomes more rugged as we move through the Montes da Paradanta, which are covered with scrub dotted with rock formations.

In San Clodio, we’ll visit a winery and the monastery

About noon, we’ll have reached San Clodio, one of the parishes in Leiro, halfway between O Carballiño and Ribadavia. The valley of the River Avia is characterised by the gentleness of its landscape, which has historically resulted in the significant planting of vines on its slopes. We’ll be able to visit a plantation of native Treixadura grapes adjacent to a large rural manor converted into boutique accommodation. Its gallery offers an exceptional position from which to see how the vineyard climbs up a south-facing hillside. Later, we’ll walk on its sandy soil. In the Viña Meín Winery, – built at the foot of the manor and attached to a large granite bolus – we will review the production process of these wines. If we fancy, we can conclude the visit in the tasting room sampling pie and cheese to accompany this Treixadura white, to which Godello, Albariño, Torrontes or Albilla are also added in varying proportions depending on the year.

Just a kilometre away is the monastery of San Clodio, today a monument/hotel, but open to visitors. We can take advantage of our after-lunch time to visit this place where Cistercian monks began planting the first vineyards in the twelfth century.

The scenic beauty of the Ribeira Sacra, bathed by the River Sil

In the afternoon, we’ll head to one of the most fascinating landscapes in inland Galicia, shared by the provinces of Lugo and Ourense: Ribeira Sacra. Its name extends to the designation of origin that covers the wines produced here. We’ll see vineyards clinging to steep canyons on the slopes that receive more sunlight, while the occupier of those in the shade is the native forest. The high temperatures that allow this spectacular terrain favour the appearance of species native to Mediterranean forests, such as cork and the so-called “strawberry tree”.

The mighty River Sil makes its way through this harsh environment, and it seems to kneel before the churches and monasteries that bless it from above. A place of refuge for hermits since the fourth century, the Ribeira Sacra became the birthplace of Galician monasticism. Today, there are outstanding examples, such as the monastery of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, a Historic and Artistic Monument since 1923 and currently a state-owned hotel where we can even relax in its spa. We’ll arrive via the A-52, which passes through Ourense, and then the N-120 in the direction of Monforte de Lemos. At kilometre 550 (Penalba), we’ll take the turnoff to Luíntra and continue until Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil.

 

Day 5

A catamaran adventure on the River Sil and a visit to a winery

The beauty of the Ribeira Sacra, with its sloping vineyards, should be viewed from all perspectives. In the morning we’ll go to the banks of the River Sil in Lugo and observe it from the depths of the canyon during a catamaran trip that starts at and returns to the pier in Doade, in the municipality of Sober.

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For an hour and a half, we’ll be engrossed watching the vineyards arranged on terraces or “socalcos” that seem to climb right up the cliffs. When we return to Doade, we’ll be able to enjoy a traditional meal with local and seasonal products such as mushrooms and chestnuts – which are an excellent side dish for local meats –accompanied by Mencías wines with the Ribeira Sacra Designation of Origin.

In the afternoon, we’ll explore the canyon from a bird’s eye view. Before, though, we must climb the mountains over some winding tracks. We will finish the trip off in one of the cellars with that designation of origin. We’ll discover the wine production process; mainly orientated to the Mencía variety, Brancellao, Merenzao, Sousón and Caíño Tinto are also used. For whites, the Godello, Albariño and Treixadura varieties are used. Winery professionals will tell us what “heroic viticulture” – a concept that we already felt on our road here as we observed how the terraced vineyards seem to nearly fall down vertigo-inducing slopes – consists of. After the visit, we’ll return to the hotel for dinner and rest.

Day 6

From A Rúa to Monterrei

After breakfast, we’ll start off our visit to the neighbouring region of Valdeorras, in the northeastern part of the province of Ourense, following the N-120. Our destination is the town of A Rúa, where most of the wineries under the Valdeorras Designation of Origin are located. We won’t lose sight of the River Sil which – at the location of A Rúa – reaches two kilometres wide in the San Martiño reservoir, a exceptional place for the flora and birds, where more than a dozen families of different kinds of ducks have been recorded.

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From here, we head to Mount A Coroa to visit a winery located in what was once an ancient Roman settlement. The building was built with local materials only such as stone, wood, clay and slate, products on which the region’s economy turns. As in the other local wineries, this one ages its wines underground, in wine cellar/caves, a few metres from what was once a gold mine worked by the Romans.

Products made from pig slaughtering such as botelo or androlla are typical of the area

After the visit, we suggest that you look for a place where you can accompany a botelo or an androlla – products resulting from the slaughter of pigs – with Godellos or Mencías, the varieties used by wineries of that designation. For the best digestion of these dishes, we encourage you to spend the afternoon strolling the O Aguillón complex, a green walking area in the vicinity of the San Martiño dam. Out of the more urban part, there are strolling areas that enter in among the trees and extend as far as small coves. These are exceptional viewpoints for watching the birds that frequent this natural area.

We’ll continue on to the slopes and valleys of the Monterrei Designation of Origin, in the southeastern part of Ourense, near Portugal. The icon of the region is the fortress city of Monterrei. At its feet is a state-owned hotel, with an air of a pazo, a perfect choice to spend the night under the fortress’s protection. Verín and its environs complete the offer of hotel and rural accommodation.

Day 7

From Monterrei to Santiago de Compostela

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In the morning, we’ll pay a must-see visit to the citadel of Monterrei, considered by many authors as the largest acropolis in Galicia. If we’ve stayed at the state-owned hotel, it will be just a small trip heading upwards.

Going up, we notice the triple-wall structure and watch the buildings that appear as we pass. When we reach the top, we’ll enter the inner ward, around which we’ll find the Keep, the Ladies’ Tower, the Palace of the Counts and the Church of Santa María. We’ll be impressed by the scenic valley bathed by the River Támega, and its vineyards. We can go down to eat at Verín, the regional capital. The octopus á feira-style of its taverns is well-known by all.

Early in the afternoon, we can visit the wineries of the designation of origin in the neighbouring parish of Pazos. We’ll stroll through the large vineyard located on flat land next to the winery and enjoy the explanations given by its professionals. We’ll conclude the visit with a tasting of their wines: Treixaduras and Godellos in the whites and Mencía with Tempranillo in the reds.

We’ll end our day in Santiago de Compostela, which we’ll easily reach via motorway. We’ll try to not delay departure too much so that we’ll have much time to settle in our chosen hotel and dine in the capital of Galicia. The restaurant and hotel offerings in the city are extensive. The Hostal dos Reis Católicos combines history, art, tradition and luxury. It will be exciting to rest next to the Obradoiro façade of the Cathedral of Santiago.

 

Day 8

In Santiago de Compostela, from the roof of the cathedral to its cobblestone streets

We are in Santiago de Compostela. A visit to the cathedral is inescapable. But many will be surprised to find that you can start with the roof.

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And that’s how we’re going to do it this morning, guided by professionals who lead us over the churches roofs. We’ll discover the harmonious beauty of its different architectural styles, the impressive squares surrounding it and its extraordinary setting. From up high, we’ll contemplate a good part of this World Heritage city with a bird’s eye view.

Until we bid farewell, Santiago will be full of surprises that will captivate us. The emblematic Rúa do Franco and the surrounding historic streets of Compostela bring together the rich variety of Galician cuisine. In the vicinity of the cathedral, the delicate craftsmanship of jet and silver reigns. It lives in harmony with the most diverse shops and commercial establishments, from traditional to cutting-edge. And it is all dominated by stone and by green spaces of unique charm.

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