The Os Ancares mountain range is one of the places in Galicia whose beauty most surprises us. It is located in the east of the province of Lugo, on the border with the neighbouring autonomous communities of Castilla-León and the Principality of Asturias.

Throughout the length and breadth of its more than 50,000 hectares, an infinite network of paths crosses deep valleys and rises up to 2,000-metre-high peaks. In winter this area is covered with snow. When spring comes, the water from the thaw flows down the peaks to the low areas, creating many streams and small waterfalls. The mountain attains full splendour until the end of summer. In autumn the plant covering takes on reddish hues.

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Because of its landscape and biodiversity, Os Ancares is an area of incalculable value for nature lovers.

In times past, the remote mountains of Os Ancares served as habitat for the last community of bears in Galicia. The implementation of a complex programme to recover the species has meant that the first specimens are beginning to be seen in this area. Other species we can find on our trip through the mountain range are boar, deer, rabbits, owls, foxes, wildcats and squirrels.
 

Route

The estimated length of this route that we propose – which has a low level of difficulty – is three days. The itinerary is suitable for everyone and is ideal to do as a family.

It's necessary to take a vehicle and also do some short walks on foot. The time distribution should be taken just as an example, as it can be varied according to individual preference.

We advise starting out on the trip as shown on the map – though anyone who wishes to may do the route in the opposite direction to the one we propose and visit the hamlets of Suárbol and Balouta in León – as the descent of the latter's river is breathtakingly beautiful and is best seen if we follow the path in the direction recommended. In this area, the views of Murias de Rao and Rao from high up are also particularly spectacular.

Access to the area...

Day 1

We start our route through Os Ancares in the village of Becerreá.We take the provincial road LU-722, located to the left of the N-VI in the direction of Madrid (to the right in the direction of A Coruña).

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Driving along the LU-723 road, the first towns we come to are A Borquería and As Pontes de Gatín. When we reach the village of Liber, we come to signs indicating "Os Ancares por Doiras a 30 km'' (Os Ancares via Doiras 30 km away). At this point we turn off to the right.

From here, the first hamlet we come to is Lama de Rei. Successively, we pass through O Mosteiro, O Fabal, Vilanova and – after travelling the announced 30 km – we come to the village of Doiras. During the winter months, at this point we must pay attention to the signs as they will indicate to us if the Piornedo or O Portelo Passes are open or closed due to snow.

In the hamlet of Doiras we find the castle of the same name, a 16th-century fortification. It is private property and cannot be visited. Another monument of interest is the Roman bridge over the River Cervantes.

Un quilómetro e medio máis adiante encontramos un cruzamento. Viramos cara á esquerda en dirección  Degrada, poboación que se encontra a 11,2 km de Doiras, a medio camiño entre Castelo de Frades e Cela. Ao chegar á Degrada e A Campa da Braña, localidade coñecida polas Brañas de Brego e o Club de montaña Os Ancares, encontrámonos á dereita a encrucillada que nos leva cara a aula da natureza do Parque Natural dos Ancares.

One-and-a half km further on, we come to a crossroads. We turn left in the direction of Degrada, a town which is 11.2 km from Doiras, midway between Castelo de Frades and Cela. When we come to Degrada and A Campa de Braña – a town famous for the Brañas de Brego and the Os Ancares Mountaineering Club – we find the crossroads to the right which will take us to the Nature Learning Centre at the Os Ancares Park.

One of the itineraries we can follow from A Degrada is the ascent to Os Tres Bispos (The Three Bishops) peak, so called because it seems to have been the place where the bishops of the three neighbouring dioceses met. This area contains forests of hollies, which are spectacularly beautiful trees. Due to the fact that this species of flora is in danger of extinction, its pruning and gathering in the wild is currently sanctioned.

Continuing straight ahead we go to Piornedo, to end our first day.

Day 2

Our second day starts in Piornedo, where we will visit the "pallozas" (traditional huts), the ethnographic complex and the Chapel of San Lourenzo. A fountain is located right at the entrance to the village. It was constructed with contributions from the inhabitants, and contains the following inscription: "Hízose en 1787. Viva Piornedo". (Made in 1787. Long live Piornedo). "Done in 1787. Long live Piornedo". After the visit, we turn off at the point where we find the aforementioned fountain. One-and-a-half km away, we enter the province of León. We can enjoy amazing views from the top of the mountain over the villages of Suárbol and Balouta.

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Suárbol, rodeado de bosques e montaña, encóntrase a catro quilómetros de Piornedo e é "o pobo dos sons". Está bordeado por dous regatos que o envolven nunha evocadora melodía. A isto hai que engadir o escintileo das chocas das vacas, que a primeira hora da mañá e á tardiña van e volven dos seus pastos. Entre os monumentos máis destacables desta localidade, están a Casa das Cadeas e a igrexa de Suárbol.

Suarbol, surrounded by forests and mountains, is four km from Piornedo and is "el pueblo de los sonidos" (the village of sounds). It is surrounded by two brooks which enfold it in an evocative melody. To this we should add the tinkling of cowbells, from the cows which come and go from the pastures in the early morning and at dusk. Among the most outstanding monuments of this town are the Casa das Cadeas and Suárbol's church.

If we continue on this road we will come upon a crossroads with a sign pointing to Ponferrada (49 km). Continuing straight ahead we will come to Balouta. Before this, however, it is advisable to turn off from the route to visit Brañas de Pan do Zarco, and the O Pico Surcio (Surcio Peak), just opposite.

Upon returning, we continue in the direction of Balouta, where we can visit a "palloza" or two. The "pallozas", genuine examples of traditional architecture, are the legacy of a way of life which is not that remote, characterised by its toughness and isolation, in continuous battle with the elements.

After travelling the first stretch of the gorge of the river Rao (called Balouta in Leon) we come to Murias de Rao and Rao, where we conclude the second day of our route through Os Ancares.

Day 3

The starting point of our third and last day in Os Ancares is the village of Rao. It is a place of great ethnographic importance. There we will find traditional houses, blacksmith's shops and mills. One of this village's most significant constructions is the parish church of Santa María. Inside, it has two highly valuable altarpieces.

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"Cortíns" are frequently found in this village. They are apiaries closed by a wall that is usually circular, made of stone and slate and designed to withstand attacks from animals, specifically from brown bears. Nowadays, since this species has all but disappeared, their reason for being has been lost.

We continue our route to A Proba de Navia. There we will visit its castle, a construction of mediaeval origin. During the Revolt of the Irmandiños (Brotherhoods) it was attacked and destroyed. It was later rebuilt.

In the same village we will also take time to discover its bridge. It crosses the river Navia with a single arch, which makes it one of the most interesting bridges in Galicia.

A few kilometres further on, following the LU-722 road, we turn off to the left to visit the Castro (Celtic settlement) of Santa María de Cervantes. It is a historical site of great value bears witness that fairly stable villages have existed in this area since very distant times.

We finally head towards Becerreá. There, at the same point at which we began our route three days before, we end our route through Os Ancares.

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