The sierra do Courel, which is crossed by the River Lor, is an unbelievably beautiful nature site depicted like no one else by local writer Uxío Novoneyra in his poems. Its highest peaks are Formigueiros, Montouto and Pía Paxaro, which are very appropriate for trekking and to enjoy nature in its wildest, most vivid form.

The very abundant, rich plant cover of this area is full of heather and oaks and, in the highest areas, we can see stands of kermes oak and other native trees. Its valleys are surrounded by chestnut tree-covered mountains. In O Courel several devesas (native forests), such as A Rogueira, are also worthy of mention. This is one of the richest and most beautiful botanical reserves in Galicia.

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The mountain villages, small communities with slate houses, are full of charm. Several pallozas (traditional huts) can still be visited in this mountain range.

A route through O Courel is a journey through time that allows us to marvel at a Galicia that is fast disappearing.

We must not forget the importance of the chestnut tree when we speak of this natural site. It was an important ingredient in many dishes such as, for example, chestnut broth, chestnuts with bacon or milk with chestnuts. However, not just the fruit but the whole tree was used: the leaves to cover the floor of the animals' pens, the wood, and the flowers to produce honey.

Route

We propose a route of low difficulty, with the use of a vehicle as back-up and short journeys made on foot. When done by car with two short walks so that we can enjoy a nature-filled landscape that is rugged and full of charm, this route has a low level of difficulty. The time distribution we give below is an estimate, and each person can modify it in accordance with their preferences.

Access to the area...

  • We depart from the city of Lugo via the GC-2.2 and the LU-633 that leads us to Samos after passing through A Pobra de San Xiao and Sarria.
  • From the N-VI highway at Piedrafita, we turn off to the right towards O Cebreiro on the LU-634 road, which takes us from Pedrafita do Cebreiro to Samos.

Day 1

The route through the O Courel mountain range can either begin in Samos or in O Cebreiro, depending on the traveller's preference. Our advice is to leave from Samos, where we will visit the beautiful Samos Monastery, founded in the middle of the Visigothic period by Saint Martiño de Dumio and constructed in different periods with Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque structures. This temple has guest quarters, which comes in very useful to get our strength back by resting in a place filled with peace.

Ten kilometres from here, heading towards O Cebreiro by the so-called "Camino Francés" (French Route), is the hamlet of Triacastela where we can visit the Church of Santiago de Triacastela. Built in the Romanesque style, it underwent extensive renovations in the 18th century. Eleven miles from Triacastela is Fonfría, and the Parish Church of San Xoán, of special interest. Built in the 16th century, it underwent important subsequent renovations.

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Continuing our journey along the LU-633 road, we come to the O Poio hill, a place of great beauty surrounded by forests. From this viewpoint – located 1,337 metres above sea level – one can admire the O Rañadoiro mountains and the valley that lies at their feet. We can also see the monument to pilgrims on San Roque's peak at 1,270 metres above sea level.

If we continue in the same direction, we will come to the hamlet of O Cebreiro which is 23 kilometres from Triacastela. One of the must-see monuments is the Sanctuary of Santa María La Real. This temple was founded by Count Aurillacy in the 9th century, but subsequently has undergone significant renovations.

Another of the places that should be visited in the village is the Ethnographic Museum, located in several pallozas (traditional huts) that preserve their original structure. This town is famous for being the gateway to the French Route in Galicia, for its monuments and landscapes, but also for its cheeses. A fair is held each year in the mountains to celebrate this gastronomic product.

Day 2

On the second day, we head towards Seoane do Courel. We head from O Cebreiro along the LU-634 road towards Samos; in Hospital, we turn off to the left in order to enter the mountains via the LU-651 road.

On reaching Seoane do Courel, 33 from O Cebreiro, we find the sign on the left indicating Visuña and Romeor. We followed the signs and 4.8 km from the intersection, there are signs on the right indicating Visuña and Ferramulín. If we continue straight, without turning and pass through Millares, we will reach the hamlet of Romeor and the Roman tunnel/aqueduct.

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From hereon, the visit – with a medium level of difficult – must be done on foot. One must walk three kilometres along a stream with quite a large volume of water. For this reason it is advisable to take boots as well as a torch, as approximately 200 metres of the route, until we reach the other side of the mountain, are in semi-darkness.  We return to Millares, pass through Mostaz and we turn off towards Visuña - Ferramulín. On the way we find the ruins of Carbedo Castle, which is also called San Roque Castle. In this area, we can marvel at the majestic, spectacular view of the Cido mountain wall, which at some points reaches 950 metres to later gently descend.

Ten kilometres from Seoane do Courel and reaching the O Coto hill, a second path branches off to the right. This will take us to the foot of the Devesa da Rogueira. At this point in our journey, we can see the top of O Couto: the peak of Formigueiros. Continuing along the route, we come to Visuña – where, until recently, two of the mills in the area were still in use – and Ferramulín (km 20.3), where there is still a working mill. Just on the curve to the left, on the first ascent after leaving this village, there is a signpost for the descent to the Vieiros Cascade (km 22.4). Another 1,200 metres further, we reach the hamlet of Vieiros and another mile beyond, A Seara, one of the best-restored villages in O Courel.

From A Seara we go through El Soldón and come to Cruz de Outeiro (km 40). At this point, there is a turnoff to the right which crosses the mountain range through Vilarbacú and brings us back to Seoane do Courel. Due to its difficulty, this route is advisable only when done in a jeep. The proposed alternative itinerary heads towards Quiroga, passing through Bustelo de Fisteus. Once in Quiroga, 49.4 kilometres from Seoane do Courel, we head along the LU-651 road towards Folgoso do Courel. Twelve kilometres later, we arrived in Alto do Boi, which is 1,061 metres above sea level. At this point, there is a track to the right that will lead us to Pía Paxaro and a turnoff to the right which will take us to the village of Vilar. Even though this 3.2-km track is asphalted it is considered dangerous as it has a 16% gradient. The descent of vehicles with a trailer or buses is prohibited.

Once in Vilar, we will visit the village, which has a dozen attached houses, some of them with slate roofs and located in very narrow streets. We cross the hamlet and follow the Froxán and Vilamor trekking route, which will take us through a "souta" of ancient chestnut trees to the Castro of Vilar, a meander of the River Lor, and the small hermitage of San Roque. Along the way, we discover the Way of the Cross with one-metre-high wooden crosses, quite typical of the area. We can also visit "A Casa do Ferreiro" (Blacksmith's House), which has a singular exhibition of "Equipment and Utensils". From Vilar. the road continues towards Vilamor and Froxán.

Retaking the path in O Alto do Boi, along the LU-651 road, we head towards Folgoso do Courel passing through Santa Eufemia. In Folgoso do Courel, 10.3 km from O Alto do Boi, we come to a new turnoff to visit Froxán and Vilamor. We continue the path towards Seoane do Courel along the same road to start another journey the next day.
 

Day 3

On the third day of the route, we head off from Seoane do Courel to the village of Samos.

We leave Seoane do Courel via the LU-651 and 5.6 kilometres later, we arrive at Ferrería Vella. Further along and heading towards Seceda is the Celtic settlement of Castro da Torre which date from the 2nd – 4th centuries; it's located right on a curve and just a few minutes' walk away. Heading in the same direction, we'll come to Seceda, a village characterised by the fabulous restoration made possible thanks to one of the European Union's programmes which has given a breath of fresh air to this land, practically abandoned in the past.

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We come to the village of Caselas after 14.2 kilometres following the route along a winding road. The next stop will be A Ferrería (do Incio), a charming village built perched on top of rocks and that, in the past, was an important spa with medicinal baths. Unfortunately, the baths building is undergoing renovations. You can also visit the town's nearby mineral springs. 

Continuing along the route, we came to the parish of O O Hospital and the church of San Pedro Fiz, the only Romanesque marble church built in Spain. Nearly two miles later we find ourselves in A Cruz do Incio, capital of the municipality.  From here, we should turn off in the direction of the Church of Santa María de Mao, where the pilgrimage to Saint Eufrasio – a bishop from Andújar, whose remains lie in the temple – is celebrated. In order to visit, you have to ask for the keys at the Casa Campo cafeteria, since it's normally closed outside the hours of worship. The covered cemetery which surrounds this religious construction is a characteristic feature.

The route ends back in Samos.
 

Arriba