Terra Cha is special for many reasons: because of the particular topography and landscape that give it its name, because it is the source of Galicia's largest river, the River Miño, and because of other signs of human life that settled in over time.

In this region, we find traditions and cuisine linked to the fruits of its land and water. And, speaking of water, this route does not end here, but rather is taken from inland out to the coast of Lugo, a perfect end to this journey.

“The one who said clearly, River Miño,
born in Fonmiñá,
When you get there
you're a half-grown child"
"River Miño, River Miño,
pass by slowly
wake not 
my child”.
Popular folk song

“In Gaioso, looking towards Chá,
There are two upright rocks.
They really seem to be
such well-made curves.”.
Manuel María, A Terra Chá

Other information of interest...
- Fortress-Museum of San Paio Narla: 982 375 156. Closed Mondays.

Day 1

Taking advantage of the fact that our trip starts at the province's capital, we set aside the first part of the day to visit the Muralla de Lugo (Wall of Lugo), which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000, and is an ongoing reminder left by the city's founders. Enter the walled area of Lucus Augusti – the name given to this settlement by the Romans – and go up to the parapet walk, then stroll the nearly 2.3 kilometres of this wide two-thousand-year-old walkway.

Walking along this Roman construction will take you back into the past, but most certainly the people walking, talking or doing sport will make you realise that the wall is more alive than ever, as it seems to be just another street in this small, charming city. If you come here at midsummer or in early October, you can mingle among the hubbub of the thousands of visitors who come to the Arde Lucus – a celebration evoking the city's Roman past – and the festivities of San Froilán, respectively.

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In Lugo, you will also find the River Miño, the largest of Galicia's rivers. Later on, we'll visit its source, but first we'll discover other treasures on the outskirts of the capital of the province, where Terra Cha begins. We'll start out by going to the town of Guntín to visit the monastery of Ferreira de Pallares. With the cooling sound of the River Ferreira accompanying you, take an easy stroll to the  Puente Cabalar (Cabalar Bridge). From here, walk on to the monastery, where you'll be able to appreciate the value of this complex founded in 909 by Count Ero and Countess Laura. Pay a visit the cloister and the Taboadas' mausoleum and, outside the church, be sure to drink from the water falling onto an anthropomorphic gravestone that, by chance, has become a holy fount. Who knows…it might even have magical properties...

Also very close to the capital city of Lugo – just 14 kilometres away – we'll now find another curiosity left to us by the architecture of the past: the church of Santalla de Bóveda. This Christianised church dates from Roman times and, right in the centre of its rectangular shape, it has a small pool. This structure – unique in Western Europe – has led to different interpretations regarding its origin: a place where baths were located, a nymphaeum, or a monumental complex constructed according to the Roman rite honouring Cybele, worshipped in the Empire's capital as the great mother of the gods.

We now head north; if the weather permits, feast your eyes on the beauty of the outside of the  late-twelfth-century Romanesque church in Bacurín, and then we continue on to the Museo-fortaleza de Friol (Friol Fortress-Museum). Everyone knows that no matter how many times we visit a place, we can always see it differently and discover new secrets. You can put this huge capacity to be amazed into practice when you get inside this fourteenth-century castle, largely rebuilt a century later and turned into a museum. Most of the farm implements, armour, coaches and kitchen tools are from the sixteenth century. You will probably get tired just counting the weapons on display, and you'll be able to imagine the distress and anguish of the prisoners who were thrown through the small entrance of the pit. Just as if you were at a friend's house, don't be shy when you visit the main rooms, the kitchen with its granite oven and lareira (hearth). To finish up, when you are exhausted, climb up the tower to see some delightful views of the surroundings.

Water has made Terra Cha a very productive area and, since ancient times, communities have settled in these fertile valleys. To give thanks to the Earth goddess and the Sun god, there's no doubt that these ancestors came to the Penas de Rodas, in the municipality of Outeiro de Rei. These two large granite rocks were a prehistoric place of worship and, perhaps, also an astronomical station used to set a timetable in these fertile farming lands of the River Miño. You'll arrive at the penas after hiking the first few kilometres of an official trail. If you're still feeling energetic, you can continue on to the Miradoiro da Terra Cha viewpoint, where you will enjoy stunning views.

Since you're in Outeiro de Rei, try their delicious fried eels and take advantage of your opportunity to visit Bonxe and take away a keepsake of one of the most important ceramics factories in Galicia, along with those in Buño (A Coruña), Gundivós and Niñodaguia (Ourense). Another characteristic handicraft of this region are the birchwood clogs and, when it comes to food, one of the staples of the Galician diet: the potato. Summer is a great time to see these vast farmlands.

Day 2

We start off the second day of heading a bit more to the north of the province. In the town of Castro de Rei, we once again meet up with the past. Over the millennia, the inhabitants of these lands ceased their nomadic lifestyle and settled in fortified villages, like the one in Viladonga. Go into the museum and find the keys to understanding the life that once existed in these ruins of dwellings and streets.

Very near here, we move forward along the timeline through this part of Lugo, visiting the monastery of Santa María de Meira. The complex, with its sober and austere presence, is a stony witness to the settlement of the Cistercian religious order in Spain. The peaceful landscape and fertile land were an invitation for this community to settle in this area and its members certainly found the source of the Rio Miño in Pedregal de Irimia, in the Serra de Meira, to be another advantage to pursuing its main premise: Ora et labora. Only the section of a door leading to the cloister of the processions, part of the Renaissance cloister and the church is all that's left of the old monastery. Take a look at the Romanesque metalwork of the door of the façade, from the twelfth century. It is one of the few of its kind that can be seen today in Spain. Be sure to turn around to see the peculiar three-belled belfry atop the wall.

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Taking another leap in time and space, the evolution of society is also seen in civil engineering works. The increase in population meant that the ways of grinding grain were improved. Hand mills – consisting of two stones used with the hands – gave way to mills powered by water. You'll find an example along the Castroverde watermill route. Visiting the enclave is a good option for enjoying the mid-mountain landscape in all its beauty and perhaps seeing a skittish roe deer... Divide the path into two halves to better explore the place. Right at the beginning of the second half is the Muíño de Lamela (Lamela Mill), one of the few in Galicia with an outside waterwheel.

Following the water and its multiple ways of appearing in nature, our next stop is the lagoon of Cospeito where you can enjoy its variety of natural treasures. Take the opportunity to relax, discover some of the many species of birds that nest here and another animal or two hidden in this amazing habitat. Find yourself a spot, kick off your shoes and feel how freedom and freshness rise up through your unfettered feet, while the image of the pasture and your mind begin to associate ideas…could it be true that under these waters lies a submerged village?

 

Day 3

In this third and last day of our journey, we'll follow the water as far as one of the former capitals of the province of Lugo, Mondoñedo.

The characteristic sound of the mills no longer accompanies the River Valiñares as it flows through the  barrio dos Muíños (neighbourhood of the Mills), but take the opportunity to stroll the roads that connect the houses right at the river's edge and the framework of bridges and corridors that cause the area to be known as "Venice" by the townsfolk.

Since you're in Mondoñedo, don't miss strolling through its charming Old Town and taking away a delicious memento: Mondoñedo's famous pie/cake with its puff pastry base, sponge, almonds, candied fruit and angel hair filling.

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Another religious building, the monastery of San Salvador, is what will motivate our visit to the fertile valley of Lourenzá, famous for its broad beans and whose festival is celebrated on the first Sunday in October. The monastery houses the the tomb of its founder, Count Osorio Gutiérrez, better known as the Conde Santo (Count Saint). Legend has it that he (or she) who, inserting a finger in the hole in the bottom of the urn, manages to touch the bones, will have a wish fulfilled. On the day of the main festival – the last Saturday of August – there is a long line of people who want to find out how true the story is, despite the uncertainty of not knowing what's inside the hole. What about you: will you take the dare?

We finish up our trip in the area of the Mariña, specifically in the town of Foz. First, a visit to the basilica of San Martiño de Mondoñedo. With traces remaining from the sixth century, and with a final structure dating from the twelfth, it is considered to be the oldest cathedral in Spain. Take a walk around and touch the impressive buttresses holding impassive walls; dip your hands with devotion in the fountain of the Zapata. According to legend, Bishop San Gonzalo threw a shoe right where the spring is now, and miracle-producing water sprang forth

Our steps will end at the edge of the sea, in the town of Foz, where we will take a surprised and amazed look at the fortified pre-Roman Iron Village of Fazouro. This is the only primitive settlement excavated and preserved as a museum on the Cantabrian coast of Galicia. Take the bridge over the River Ouro to get to the peninsula of Punta do Castro. Erosion by the sea has had its effect on part of the area, but with the experience gained in Viladonga, you can find similar elements that will help you to understand what you see

If time, weather and your own desires so permit, you'll find a salty swim from Arealonga beach  to be a refreshing experience. It will also be the perfect excuse for a quiet bedtime, where you can tie together and recall all the secrets discovered in these three intense days.

Arriba