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Ribeira Sacra e Canón do Sil

Route of the Reservoirs

Route of the Reservoirs on Catamaran

The narrow rugged passages that are typical of the Miño and Sil Rivers throughout the Ribeira Sacra favoured the building of reservoirs and hydroelectricity stations along many of the sections of those rivers. During the nineteen fifties and sixties the four great reservoirs of the area were built: Belesar and Os Peares in the River Miño, and San Pedro and Santo Estevo in the Sil.

The steep slopes and drops in the terrain, the presence of large masses of local vegetation, and an intense human interaction of the area, with the tiered terraces, are highly appealing elements of the mentioned river valleys. These are the so-called "inland seas of Galicia". The reservoirs of Belesar, Os Peares and Santo Estevo form pools with the waters of the Rivers Miño and Sil, thus enabling visitors to sail on the famous "catamarans". Aboard these modern ships one can appreciate the unique vistas of the canyons, thus turning the experience into a pleasure for the senses.

Four catamaran services operate in the area, one in the River Miño and three in the Sil. The first departs from the town of Belesar and descends along the valley of the River Miño, circles around the river island of Sermade and finally returns to Belesar. The River Miño flows along deep narrow passages in the areas of Chantada, O Saviñao, Carballedo and Pantón. Here, vineyards abound on the sunny hillsides, while the woods of oaks, thickets and a variety of tree species grow on the shadier areas.

The Canyon of the River Sil is narrower than that of the River Miño; its vertical walls are often spectacular. A catamaran departs from the pier of Santo Estevo, on the reservoir of the same name. This catamaran travels upstream to San Fiz, to return later. Two services operate downstream, traveling in the opposite direction. One of them departs from the pier of Doade (in the province of Lugo), and travels downstream to Santo Estevo to return afterwards to the starting point.

These excursions on the reservoir of Santo Estevo allow visitors to appreciate all of the spectacular segments of the River Sil gradually excavated along the towns of Nogueira de Ramuín, Parada de Sil, A Teixeira (the three of which are located in the province of Ourense) and Sober (Lugo). In addition, visitors can enjoy the vistas of the rugged steep rocks and the luxuriant vegetation that are often typical of a Mediterranean climate, as evidenced by the presence of holm oaks, so unusual in Galicia.

The last catamaran service operates from the easternmost section of the Sil, between Doade and Augas Mestas (Quiroga), along a less rugged land, and provides round trip services.

In any case, travellers are reminded that the hours of operation change depending on the month. It is therefore recommended to make inquiries and to book the tickets before taking the trip.

 

Route of the Reservoirs by Car

It is definitely possible to travel the reservoirs by car. The roads offer excellent panoramic views over the valleys of the Miño and the Sil. There is an excellent excursion departing from and returning to Monforte de Lemos.

We need to take the Corredor Rápido CGR-2.1 Monforte-Lalín in Monforte de Lemos. Further to crossing the River Miño, with the reservoir of Belesar to the right, we need to look for a detour on the left; this will lead us along a steep downward road to the village of Belesar; on the way, we will drive past prim tiered terraces of vineyards. The fall is an especially appealing time, as the wide range of colours of the leaves offers visitors a genuinely beautiful sight, against the backdrop of the silvery river.

To continue along the valley of the Miño, we need to travel toward Chantada along a steep ascending road with many curves. After driving pas the parish of Líncora, we will take the road on the left that borders the right shore of the River Miño up to Os Peares, close to Chantada and Carballedo. During most of the trip, there are pretty vistas over the valley of the Miño, particularly near the bend that the river forms in the area bordering Chantada and O Saviñao, in a spot known as “Cabo do Mundo”.

In Os Peares, three rivers meet: the Miño, Sil and Búbal; from this point, we continue travelling along these awe-inspiring canyons of inland Galicia, following the course of the River Sil. We will take the service road from the dams that we mentioned earlier. After driving for a few kilometres, we will reach the junction of the River Cabe –which also flows along narrow passages- and we will see the first facilities of the hydroelectric power plant of the reservoir of Santo Estevo. Further down the road, we will soon reach the mouth of the reservoir, after which we will continue until we reach the junction with the road from Nogueira de Ramuín to A Teixeira.

Along this road there are wonderful vistas over the steepest sections of the River Sil. We will have the chance to visit the monasteries of  Santo Estevo and Santa Cristina, and to enjoy the vistas from vantage points as Balcóns de Madrid. In addition, the parishes of Sacardebois or Cristosende have preserved a traditional country house that enhances the spectacular vistas. The narrow and steep valley of the River Mao and the tiered terraces with vineyards offer a pleasant setting that will guide travellers to A Teixeira, a small town; its town offers excellent vistas over the valley of the River Sil.

We will now travel to the Castro Caldelas, the best vantage point in the area. The village, with its castle, sits atop a strategically situated hill over the narrowest section of the Sil. Whether we go to the Castro de Caldelas or not, we need to take the regional road that will lead us to Monforte de Lemos and cross over the Sil at Abeleda. On the hillside facing south, in the province of Lugo, we will find the largest extensions of vineyards with the Denominación de Origen Ribeira Sacra, and wine cellars that welcome visitors. We will conclude this excursion filled with appeals in Monforte.

 

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