This experience combines a visit to some of the most beautiful palatial and stately gardens in Galicia with a tour of the vineyards and wineries featuring a Designation of Origin.
On this trip, the wine will be paired with the excellent fish and shellfish of Galicia’s estuaries.

We suggest that you take part in a wine tourism experience combined with a visit to the finest stately and palatial gardens in Galicia.

In these spaces, the camellia blossoms shine with their own light, accompanied by other species – both native and exotic – of great botanical and aesthetic value, tended with loving dedication. During our journey, we’ll also be surrounded by gardens, orchards and vineyards, from whose grapes the excellent DO wines of Galicia are made.

More information...
- Pazo de Bazán. Teléfono: 986 542 250
- Etnographic and Wine Museum. Teléfono 986 526 119
- Adegas do Palacio de Fefiñanes. www.fefinanes.com
- Pazo de Rubiáns. www.pazoderubianes.com
- Pazo Quinteiro da Cruz. www.pazoquinteirodacruz.es
- A Saleta estate. Teléfono: 986 872 323
- Castle of Soutomaior. www.hotelpousadadelcastillo.com 

Day 1º

Cambados, the cradle of Albariño wine

Cambados, a stately fishing town, is located in the region of O Salnés in Pontevedra, in the Rías Baixas. It is an excellent starting point for this adventure which marries vineyard and garden. Getting here will be very easy thanks to the proximity of the Atlantic Motorway (AP-9) and other major roads.

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We recommend arriving in the early afternoon, in time to get settled in at the hotel and begin to discover the area’s many delights. Accommodation on offer includes pazos, country and manor houses, as well as wineries that also offer accommodation. The flagship is the Pazo de Bazán, a seventeenth-century building, now converted into a stateowned hotel where General Charles De Gaulle once stayed. 

The pazo is centrally located opposite the Alameda da Calzada, where poplars and cottonwoods provide shade to the visitors during the “Festa do Viño Albariño”, held the first week of August and declared a National Tourist Event.
If your visit coincides with this event, you’ll see the place become a mass of people given over to good food, drink and talk in the stands installed by the winemakers. This is when they offer – at highly affordable prices – their best Albariños, which can be accompanied with excellent seafood right from the estuary.

The secrets of O Salnés wines

We suggest starting the afternoon off in the Museo Etnográfico e do Viño (Etnographic and Wine Museum), one of the first wine-focused museums founded in Spain.
From the Alameda da Calzada, we’ll follow a stretch of Avenida de Vilariño to its junction with the Rúa de San Francisco, and we’ll continue on this to where it intersects with Avenida da Pastora, which we’ll take to reach the museum. It is housed in a former sixteenth-century rectory called “Casa de Ricoy” and we’ll identify it by the big sign on its façade. Inside, we’ll discover the secrets of O Salnés wine and of the O Salnés wine and of the.

The ruins of Santa Mariña Dozo

A few steps away are the ruins of Santa Mariña Dozo, – declared a National Monument – where there is a cemetery described by Álvaro Cunqueiro as “the most melancholy cemetery”. As soon as you pass the gate that leads to what remains of this church, which is representative of the “maritime” Gothic style, you’ll understand why your visit is a must. The remains preserved of the stone walls still support arches which confront the sky uncovered, but are richly decorated with ball-shaped ornaments. The floor space is covered by many tombstones with crosses, sculptures and flowers decorating them, alongside rebellious shrubs that have taken strong root among the stones.

The hypotheses that speak of the partial destruction of the church in the nineteenth century mention an accidental or deliberately set fire due to clashes or the ongoing unrest of the time. The feelings of melancholy and romanticism that this place may inspire are stronger on cloudy days or, if sunny, when the sun moves lower across the Atlantic from the Monte da Pastora. When this happens, this setting becomes filled with beautiful plays of light between the arches, so it will be a great opportunity to take some lovely photos.

Wine in the Fefiñáns district

Once the visit is over, it’s a sure bet that it will be a good time for tasting some O Salnés Albariño wines. We suggest you return to the centre of Cambados and delve into the aristocratic neighbourhood of Fefiñáns until you reach the square of the same name. This formidable stone plaza is surrounded by an artistic ensemble built in the sixteenth century and declared a Heritage Element of Cultural Interest. It comprises the Church of San Benito, a watchtower/lookout called the Torre da Homenaxe (Keep), a beautiful baroque-style arch bridge, and the portentous Pazo de Fefiñáns, flanked by two circular balconies reminiscent of pulpits.

A visit to the Fefiñáns wine cellars

Since 1904, the oldest winery in the locality has been housed inside the Pazo de Fefiñáns Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes produces three different types of Albariño wine and pomace brandies. If we schedule it in advance, we can explore its various rooms used for fermentation, ageing and bottling, as well as see the production process in situ, together with winery staff, who will guide us and explain step-by-step how they make their wines, which we’ll have the opportunity to taste. In these history-steeped facilities, we’ll see how modern production technologies coexist in harmony with ageing wine in oak barrels and stored in an environment dominated by stone and wood.

The vineyard, the garden and the “magic” forest of the Pazo de Fefiñáns

Another attraction inside the walls of the pazo is its historical vineyard, the tour of which is organised by the Gil Armada Winery. It is possible to walk around the plantation guided by a winemaking expert, who will explain the particular qualities of this grape, how it is grown, its climate and its soil. She’ll then stay with us during the final tasting to help us identify aromas reminiscent of lemon, wet grass, wild rose or tropical fruits. A whole symphony of smells and tastes that can emanate from our wineglass.
At the end of the gardens – where these ancient vineyards are preserved – is the “magic” forest. The nickname is welldeserved, as it appears by surprise after passing through a corridor of trellised vines. As if by magic, we are within an impressive boxwood vault, surrounded by native species such as ancient chestnut and oak trees. We’ll also pay a visit to the garden, which – depending on the season – is invaded by different colours and scents, thanks to roses, peonies, lilacs, heliotropes, mock-oranges and lilies of the valley, to mention just a few.

Inside the pazo

The same winery also arranges tours of the rooms in the pazo, whose decor reflects the exquisite taste of nobility in towns and cities, removed from the peasant cultural universe. You will surely be amazed by items such as the lovely orientalmotif-inspired wallpaper in one of the lounges. It was an exotic indulgence brought back by the first Marquis of Figueroa from Russia, where he served as ambassador in the early nineteenth century.

Fish, seafood and Albariño wine

When we bid farewell to the wineries and their various spaces, it will be time for dinner. Fish and shellfish from the estuary, grilled or prepared with more or less sophisticated sauces and garnishes – even Albariño-wine-based – reign on the menus of local restaurants and tapas bars in the streets surrounding the Praza de Fefiñáns.
 

Day 2º

Camellias and vineyards in the pazos in Vilagarcía de Arousa and Ribadumia

The Pazo de Rubiáns, a majestic winter garden

After a leisurely breakfast in Cambados, we suggest you start the morning off with a visit of great botanical, historical, artistic and wine-related value. We’re talking about the Pazo de Rubiáns, very close to the town of Vilagarcía de Arousa, which we will reach in just twenty minutes by car from the VRG-43.

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When we are facing the gate entrance to the estate, we notice the historical inscription made by García de Caamaño y Mendoza, Lord of the House of Rubiáns. The two-hour tour will be guided by estate staff and will turn out to be a highly informative stroll through gardens, park, forest and vineyard, ending up inside the Case de Rubiáns which was, since its refurbishment in the eighteenth century, converted into a pazo.

Here, the camellia has been the leading lady among over a hundred species of flowers ever since the Duke of Caminha gave them as a gift to the lords and ladies of this estate in the early nineteenth century. Their age and stance have converted them into striking formations. Today, there are more than 35 species and 800 different varieties, making Rubiáns a majestic winter garden.

One of the mythical places along the walk is the The Pond of the Frogs, with its pergola and trellised arbour surrounded by bananas and boxwoods. Behind it, we’ll enter a forest of landscaped wood of lush deciduous trees. If the day is sunny, take a look at how the light reveals all the vegetation of the underbrush.

We take can part in the grape harvest, if the time is right

From this spot we go up a slope where mainly Albariño vines are grown and from which we’ll enjoy magnificent views of the estuary and of Vilagarcía de Arousa. The vineyard covers 25 hectares and is done using both arbours and trellises. We may be able to watch the vineyard workers at their job. If we want, we can also take part in the harvest, in season and when scheduled in advance.

Beyond the vineyard, we’ll discover the newest part of the garden, 25,000 square metres, of alternating areas of rocky slope and a beautiful waterfall. The philosophy that drives the works – some still in their initial stages – is to recover an area that was affected during the 2006 wave of fires in Galicia.

The peculiar smell of camphor

Our hosts will not allow us to miss any details of the ensemble of elegant cedars, palms, the evergreen magnolias at the entrance, incense cedars, enormous cork oaks and camphor trees, inviting us to tear a leaf from the latter to check out the typical odour of camphor. We will surely also be amazed at the magnitude of the giant specimens of Eucalyptus globulus planted in 1820, among which is the largest specimen in Europe, measuring 14 metres in diameter. The surprises seem endless in Rubiáns.

Tours of the interior of the pazo, its bakery and wine cellar

After touring the outside, it’s time to go inside the pazo, with rooms decorated in the eighteenth-century style. We’ll also visit the family chapel, a sixteenth-century building dedicated to Saint Joseph, where we can observe a rarity in religious symbolism: the betrothal of the Virgin. We’ll also find the representation known as “San Xosé Milagreiro” – a holy image of the young saint with a baby Jesus in his arms – to be highly unusual.

We’ll finish off with a tour of various buildings dating back to the fifteenth century, such as the bakery, winery and stables, which have been restored and now provide service to visitors and the shop. In the shop, we’ll find handmade products related to the plant life in the pazo, such as camphor candles, camellia oil soaps, handmade jewellery, plus the wine produced in its cellars.

The clams of Carril

When lunchtime rolls around, we suggest you take a little drive to Vilagarcía de Arousa – one of the main towns in Galicia – where the restaurants serve excellent seafood. Another option is to drive ten minutes north to the town of Carril, famous for its clams, honoured with their own food festival in August. We recommend a menu with this exquisite bivalve, together with other local seafood, accompanied of course by Albariño wines from the O Salnés subzone with the Rías Baixas Denomination of Origin.

The “Gold Camellia” in the Pazo Quinteiro da Cruz

After the post-lunch table conversation, we encourage you to visit one of the most outstanding examples of palatial gardens in Galicia, the Pazo Quinteiro da Cruz, in the parish of Lois in the municipality of Ribadumia. This area is of great botanical and ornamental value, and the camellia is the star of the garden, not only because more than a thousand varieties are grown here, but because it is done with so much care and wisdom. As a result, on several occasions it has received the “Gold Camellia” award at the International Camellia Exhibition/Competition.
Walking through this seven-hectare estate, you’ll see how the environment seems to distil the essence of much of the Galician symbolism for the elements that compose it: the manor house; a beautiful eighteenth-century building; two spectacular traditional barns, one measuring 15 metres long and the other similar to a laundry-pond; two stone crosses; ornamental fountains; the dovecote, and the chapel. You’ll notice how they are all wrapped in the simple beauty of Galician granite, marinated for decades in the dampness of moss and lichen.

The estate includes a porch with porticos where important ethnographic elements as an ancient lareira, winery instruments and farm implements, part of the catalogued on the European Historical Wine Heritage List as well as that of the Historical-Artistic Cultural Heritage of Galicia.

A family-run winery

The garden is surrounded by Albariño vineyards, which we will also tour. A limited – but exquisite – production is extracted from them and used to make their highly appreciated whites in the family winery, housed in an old stone building on the estate. Inside, you can admire all the equipment needed for the cold maceration of the must and the subsequent fermentation and monitoring process done at a low temperature in stainless steel tanks. The end of the tour will be a good time to sample their wines.

We dine in O Grove and spend the night on the island of A Toxa

After the tour we suggest you go southwest toward O Grove, known worldwide as the “seafood capital” and enjoy a short walk along the promenade watching the intense activity of the marina, before dinner. When hunger strikes, any of area seafood restaurants will surely fit the bill. Top-quality overnight accommodation can be found on the beautiful nearby island of A Toxa, as it boasts two hot-springs hotels along with a thalassotherapy hotel that are icons of luxury and hot-spring spa tourism.

Day 3º

Seafood, gardens and micromedicinal waters

A journey through the Arousa estuary

After enjoying a good breakfast with spectacular views of the sea and the Arousa estuary from A Toxa, we’ll embark on a water-based tour through the estuary to discover its delightful scenery and wealth of shellfish. Don’t forget that Galicia’s Rías Baixas are considered to be one of the planet’s largest reserves of phytoplankton, according to the FAO, which is why the different shellfish raised here on shellfish rafts (wooden platforms on the sea) attain an exceptional size and flavour.

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To begin the adventure, we’ll need to go again to the marina in O Grove, just five minutes away by car. This is the departure point of the sailboats, catamarans and transparentbottomed boats offering these estuary trips. Many of them are now offering food on board, featuring a typically Galician menu that usually includes sampling seafood served fresh, in Galician-style pies and other typical dishes, served with DO Rías Baixas Albariño wine, so we highly suggest you take advantage of this option.

Work on the shellfish rafts

During the excursion, the boat is docked alongside authentic forests of algae, which are easy to observe from the glass at the bottom of the boat. We’ll also stop in front of the shellfish rafts to see just how hard the bateeiros toil. With mechanical help they uncoil the ropes – which can weigh up to 300 kilograms – that hold the shellfish, and they clean the ropes of algae and parasites so that they don’t affect the growth of the mussels, oysters or scallops grown on the raft. The boat’s transparent bottom allows us to see how these ropes hang towards the sea bottom, and also discover banks of fish of different species, like white seabream, boga and triggerfish.

When we disembark in the port of O Grove, we can restore our strength after the trip with a refreshment while seated at one of the nearby outdoor cafés and then set off to the locality of Meis, where we will arrive after a quick half-hour via the AG-41.

The A Saleta estate, a reference in botany

This is where the A Saleta estate, – a reference in botany in the registries of “Gardens of Spain” of the Spanish Society of the Camellia – of great significance with regard to the cultivation of this flower. Two hundred camellia specimens are grown here, in a prairie that seems to be splashed with white, pink, red, violet and mottled hues during its flowering season (between November and March).

We’ll also come across rhododendrons, azaleas, members of the Australian sugarbush and myrtle families and South American heathers, all tagged and identified; a corridor with different varieties of vining plants and spots where the shrubs have turned into trees. The estate is surrounded by five hectares of oaks, eucalyptuses and cork oaks, among which an octagonal dovecote is hidden. In short, we’re going to see a garden reigned over by a perfectly ordered chaos designed by landscape architect Brenda Colvin.
Next to the farmhouse, we’ll found a granary and a chapel that still conserves an altarpiece and a polychrome vault where the locals gather to celebrate the day of "Virxe da Saleta".

A hot-springs treatment on A Toxa

When the tour is over, we suggest that you return to A Toxa Island and indulge yourself in an afternoon of relaxation and take advantage of the healthy effects of the sea- or hot-spring water. You can also receive beauty, relaxation or health treatment. Some are tempting, like those combining thalassotherapy with the beneficial properties of the Albariña grape. This way, we won’t miss another of the aspects that the O Salnés grape growing industry exports to sectors such as those related to therapies and cosmetics.

After the hot-springs treatment, it’s always appropriate – and even desirable – to finish relaxing with a small siesta. When we wake up, we’ll feel completely rested and ready to take a walk round the island, an excellent pre-dinner activity that will open our appetite. The island’s shores offer spectacular views of the estuary whether we walk on the sand or on the white-balustrated boardwalk. Inland, there are also rows of palm trees and pine-filled park for breathing pristine air.

 

 

Day 4º

From A Toxa to Combarro, Pontevedra and Soutomaior

A Toxa’s soapmaking tradition

After breakfast, we can’t leave the island without touring the one-of-a-kind Chapel of the Shells, right in the centre. The inner conserves a certain seafaring air, but the true attraction is its outside, completely covered with scallop shells offering us a perfect setting to immortalise our visit with a photo.

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If we want to do our final shopping or gift-buying, we can visit the “La Toja” museum/shop, which produces one of Spain’s most traditional soaps in addition to other cosmetic and personal hygiene products. Inside, we can follow its history via some explanatory panels, and we’ll find salts, soaps and creams made with water from the thermal springs for sale. When we leave the island, we’ll inevitably run into people selling shell necklaces who station themselves next to the road, bidding visitors hello and goodbye.

We invite to you to follow the route via the PO-316 and the PO-308, a coastal road that crosses the northern outline of the Pontevedra estuary. As we travel, we’ll find small fishing villages and large tourist towns, like Sanxenxo and Portonovo.

Combarro’s charm

Shortly before arriving at Pontevedra we’ll see signs for the town of Combarro, which is amazing due to its unique fishing village style. We suggest you to make a small stop and visit its historical district until you reach the San Roque square, strolling its steeply sloped streets that descend towards the estuary. From this point, we’ll feel like we’re standing on a huge mass of granite, where the houses have been sculpted with their porches and balustrades made of iron, stone or wood.

During our walk, we’ll find a great number of cruceiros, the majority with the images of the Virgin and Jesus, joined backto- back. If we look in the direction that the image of Christ does, we will be looking at land, and if we do the same thing with the Virgin, we’ll be facing the sea. This is the peculiarity of the cruceiros in Combarro.

Later, continue on towards the beach in Padrón, which shows us the most amazing panoramic view of Combarro, formed by thirty granaries lined up at the edge of the sea. Decorated with plants, even with the chipped paint and small islets of grass in their tile roofs, their appearance is captivating. Traditionally, sailors used them as fish dryers and storage facilities for maize, potatoes and other products brought by boat from the other side of the estuary, where they owned farmland, due to this land being mountainous and less suitable for crops.

The lively squares in Pontevedra’s Old Town

When we leave Combarro, following the same direction towards the interior of the estuary, we’ll immediately arrive in Pontevedra, where we suggest you enjoy lunch in one of the taverns, bars or restaurants in its Old Town, which the locals are proud of as it is one of the best-preserved in all of Galicia. Reserve your after-lunch coffee for an outdoor café in one of the city’s lovely squares, like A Verdura, A Ferrería and A Leña. These public areas are always very lively as they are enjoyed with a special intensity.

Nor can you leave Pontevedra without visiting the Chapel of the Pilgrim, one of the city’s most symbolic constructions, as it is the shrine of its patron saint. Its ground plan is practically round – in the shape of a scallop shell – and its convex façade is preceded by a atrium with a stairway decorated with a pinnacled balustrade. Look at the upper section, where you can see the images of Saint James, Saint Roque and the Pilgrim, all dressed as Xacobean pilgrims like protectors of the faithful who went to Santiago via the Portuguese Way.

Curiosities in the garden of Soutomaior Castle

And to put the finishing touch to the last day among vineyards and gardens, we encourage you to visit the only garden in Spain declared “International Camellia Garden of Excellence”, a title granted by the International Camellia Society. This is the botanical park at Soutomaior Castle, located in the minicipality of the same name in the region of Redondela.

It takes us about 25 minutes via the N-550. We shouldn’t delay the visit too much, because this destination is filled with surprises, like an extensive collection that includes more than 500 specimens of 25 different species of camellias. The star of the garden is the oldest specimen, at whose base there are 18 trunks growing, which makes it the one with the largest canopy in Galicia. Although by age, the dean of the place is an 800-year-old chestnut in a forest with native trees. We’ll also find palms, sequoias, plantations of fruit trees and a spectacular panoramic view of one of the vineyards arranged on terraces on the hill.

Access to the outside is unrestricted and free, but the interior is subject to morning and afternoon schedules. If you have the opportunity to visit, don’t miss the chance to discover the restored rooms inside this fort, where Pedro Madruga – a key figure in Galician mediaeval history – had his fiefdom.

 

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