The geo-destination Ribeira Sacra contains the municipalities of de A Peroxa, A Pobra de Brollón, A Teixeira, Bóveda, Carballedo, Castro Caldelas, Chantada, Esgos, Monforte de Lemos, Montederramo, Nogueira de Ramuín, O Saviñao, Pantón, Parada de Sil, Paradela, Portomarín, Quiroga, Ribas de Sil, Sober, Taboada and Xunqueira de Espadanedo.

Making Ourense and Lugo a single kingdom, the waters of the Rivers Sil and Miño flow and then create a divine environment, the Ribeira Sacra. A place touched by Heaven. Stunning scenery such as the canyons of the River Sil – which are navigable – and landscapes that are home to one of the largest concentrations of churches and monasteries in Europe. Some are as impressive as that of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, built on a hillside and surrounded by lush forests. Or that of Montederramo, of colossal dimensions. Or that of Ferreira de Pantón, inhabited by nuns beginning in the 12th century. Or, excavated from the rock, San Pedro de Rocas, the oldest in Galicia.

And the vineyards. For in this land – fertile and with a suitable microclimate – the monasteries created a wine culture that is more alive today than ever, under the D.O.  Ribeira Sacra. We're talking of vineyards on slopes so steep that their cultivation requires a heroic effort. Thus was born the legendary Amandi, a red wine that for centuries was produced exclusively for the Pope.

Heritage

Water was the first road in the Ribeira Sacra. Natural borders that organise the space are established along the sides of the rivers that run through the valleys. The local topography invites one to meditate, reflect and discover oneself. Perhaps this was why monastic orders took shelter here with a new life arising alongside them on the banks of the Rivers Miño and Sil.

From the early Middle Ages until they were confiscated and privatised by the government, monasteries played a particularly important role in this part of Galicia. Monasteries and the culture that was generated around them are important today as well, because they imprinted this land with an aura that is unique in the world, and because they have come down to us today bearing witness to the past in the culture of the present.

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In its landscapes, the Ribeira Sacra boasts a wonderful compendium of the remains of different periods. Prehistoric inhabitants left behind burial mounds and fortified pre-Roman Iron Age villages that have come down to us as landscapes of life from another time. Outstanding examples include the As Cabanas mámoas (dolmens) in Nogueira de Ramuín and the Candaz fortified pre-Roman Iron Age village in Chantada. But the Roman presence in these lands was also instrumental in providing them with cultural tradition and a particular aesthetic. The many examples of Roman life in the Ribeira Sacra that remain include the tradition of making olive oil in Quiroga and the most spectacular remains of their brilliant engineering, the tunnel in Montefurado which diverted the bed of the River Sil so that the gold carried by the river could be taken.

The Ribeira Sacra, however, is named after the settlement of large monasteries on the banks of the river that were the cradle of culture and spirituality of a time, and that are now this land's treasures made of stone. The Convents of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil in Parada de Sil, Santa María de Ferreira in Pantón, Santa María in Montederramo, San Pedro de Rocas in Esgos, Santa María de Xunqueira de Espadanedo and Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil in Nogueira de Ramuín are all colossal examples of religious architecture.

But churches are also part of this land's spiritual and religious landscape and are wonderful examples of art. Among the many shrines and churches worth a visit are the Churches of Santo Estevo de Atán, San Miguel de Eiré and San Fiz de Cangas in Pantón, Santa María de Pesqueiras in Chantada, San Xoán de Portomarín, San Paio de Diomondi and Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño in O Saviñao, and the Churches of San Xoán da Cova and Santo Estevo de Chouzán in Carballedo.

One should not leave the Ribeira Sacra without visiting the places declared to be Heritage Elements of Cultural Interest: the Pazo de Taboada Historic/Artistic Complex and the Historic/Artistic Complex of the Bodegas de Vilachá in A Pobra de Brollón. Monforte de Lemos's historic centre shows how important this town was in the past. Noteworthy too are the Monastery of Nosa Señora da Antiga – also known as Colegio de la Compañía –, the monastery of San Vicente do Pino (now a state-owned hotel) and the keep of the old castle of the Counts of Lemos (now a museum).

Natural reserves

From the Balcón de Madrid or from the viewpoint located between Vilouxe and Caxide, we can catch a glimpse the abyss from the highest point of the Canón do Sil..There are several catamaran routes that allow one to ride the waters of the two rivers  – the Miño and the Sil –, providing an opportunity to get to know the Ribeira Sacra from a spectacular perspective. The vineyards clinging to the sunny side of the mountains and the depths to which the canyon plunges fully introduce the visitor into a feeling of adventure and the awareness of being someplace uniquely special.

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The Canón do Sil is a Site of Community Importance, as is the Bidueiral de Montederramo forest and Monte Faro, from whose summit – crowned with a hermitage and a recreation area – one can enjoy expansive views of the four Galician provinces. The course of the río Cabe is a vegetation-rich gallery populated by alders, willows and ash along with other native species.

Festivals and gastronomy

The Ribeira Sacra is also the name of the Denomination of Origin of its famous wines, whose production was begun long ago by the monastic communities that settled on the banks of the rivers. Every year, Soba hosts a festival declared to be a Galician Tourist Event – the Feira do Viño de Amandi. This event extols one of the treasures produced through the joint efforts of man and nature in the Ribeira Sacra. Two other local festivals have also been declared official Galician Tourist Events: the Folión de Carros in Chantada and the Festa das Fachas de Castelo in Taboada. These are examples of traditional local customs passed down from father to son and that come down to us as a tourist attraction as well.

In addition to growing grapes and olives for oil, other traditional occupations are still preserved in the area. Very much appreciated by visitors are the potteries of Gundivós and Niñodaguia, where the work is done with clay obtained locally and fired in artisan kilns that are, today, small relics heavy with identity.

HIGHLIGHT: San Pedro de Rocas

San Pedro de Rocas is a unique monastery, as it has been carved into rock. Rustic and extremely old – nearly primitive –, it is one of the earliest local hermitage settlements and is of great anthropological value.

It dates from A.D. 573 and, according to legend, was founded by seven men who chose this beautiful location so they could retire to a life of prayer. The 6th-century church is one of the oldest Christian churches known; discovered inside were wall paintings with images of the apostles and a map of the world.

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