Ribeira Sacra and Canón do Sil

Discover the incredible boat tours along the River Sil and River Miño, canyons and enter another world. Imposing locations with beautiful monasteries which, far from the madding crowd and protected by the mild climate of these lands, have for centuries devoted their time to knowledge and honouring God and men by studying the secrets of grapes.

We are talking about gods, about men, about wines... We are talking about the coming together of the shores of the Rivers Sil and Miño, of canyons measuring 500 metres in depth, of tiny vineyards on steep slopes that require a heroic effort. Something unique that can only be found here.

This is the Ribeira Sacra, the birthplace of the legendary “Amandi”, a wine that was so treasured by the Romans that they considered it the “gold of the River Sil”. A wine that centuries later the Benedictine monks produced exclusively for the wineries of the most refined popes.

Inland culture

The river erosion of the Sil gradually carved out the deep channel that directs it until it flows into the Miño on the left. Monks and hermits sought refuge on its impossible sides and with secular patience built about a dozen monasteries, most of them Romanesque and Benedictine, which date from the Middle Ages of Rivoyra Sacrata.

Although this is one of the best natural spaces, defined by its two great rivers, nobody knows exactly where the Ribeira Sacra begins and ends. It could be that its true limits are set by the presence of the vines on the sunny slopes. Here the Mandi wines are produced. They were already regarded as excellent in the times of the Roman Empire, and are backed up today by the D.O. product qualification.

Here the Mandi wines are produced. They were already regarded as excellent in the times of the Roman Empire

The monasteries were secularized and the waters were pooled in successive dams, but the strength of the land continues to be apparent in every harvest of its fruits. Admire the difficult grape harvest on the steep slopes which can only be cultivated in terraces, the best example of a slowly humanized landscape.

Wildest nature finds its place in the granite outcrops covered by thickets and chestnut and oak forests. The unusual climate conditions of the most protected areas favour the presence of Mediterranean species, such as cork and strawberry trees. The high rocky outcrops of the gorges have often been mentioned as one of the last refuges of the most threatened birds of prey.

Not to be Missed

Os Peares is the precise point where the two great northwest rivers join. According to the popular saying, the Sil has the water and the Miño the fame. Upstream, each river separately forms deep gorges which in the case of the Sil reach a depth of 500 metres at their deepest point. The service road to the hydroelectric dams that starts from Os Peares takes us to this region with a surprising feeling of adventure.

One of the most spectacular ways of getting to know the Ribeira Sacra is by water. The two courses are navigable in a  catamarán. the Sil from the Ourense jetties of Santo Estevo (Nogueira de Ramuín) and Abeleda (Castro Caldelas) and the Miño from the Lugo town of Belesar (O Saviñao). The tourist routes run through the heart of the region itself.

The monasteries closest to the river Sil are those of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil and Santa Cristina. The first, converted into a hostel, is reached from Luíntra (Nogueira de Ramuín) or, if we want to take a longer road, by way of the monastery of San Pedro de Rocas (turnoff on the OU-536 in Tarreirigo, Esgos). The Interpretation Centre of the Rocas monastery, regarded as the best in Galicia, gives the visit an added value. There is a direct road to and from Parada de Sil going to Santa Cristina. The path down to this monastery goes through thickets of centuries-old trees. From Parada de Sil, a short dirt path goes to the so-called Balcóns de Madrid. This is a breathtaking lookout point over an abyss, from where the shrine of Cadeiras (Sober) can be seen on the other bank and the Monforte plain on the horizon. There are no lack of lookout points, like the structure between Vilouxe and Caxide where the gorge reaches its greatest height.

From Castro Caldelas,  from whose castle one can look out over the countryside, a winding road makes its way through the secret places of the Ribeira Sacra.

The slopes of the Miño gorge are not so steep, but they oblige the river to bend in masterly turns leading to some spectacular changes of direction, for example, in A Cova (O Saviñao), sometimes called “Cabo do Mundo” (End of the World).

The slopes facing south are made more beautiful by vineyards in their long embrace with the river. The local road along the left bank of the river from the village of Belesar is worthy of an unhurried walk along it, especially during the grape harvest and the subsequent explosion of autumn’s colours.

In this area almost all the monasteries are located on the left bank of the river. The best routes of access are from Chantada and Monforte de Lemos. Churches such as those of  A Cova, San Miguel de Eiré, San Fiz de Cangas; and the convent of San Salvador in the municipal capital of Pantón, Santo Estevo de Ribas de Miño and San Paio de Diomondi make the Ribeira Sacra of the Miño a true Romanesque route.

Outstanding Nature

Surprising landscapes of terraces for grape growing. Climate conditions enable some typically Mediterranean species to be grown, including cork trees and strawberry trees which grow alongside the native oak and chestnut forests.

Birds of prey such as the golden eagle and the peregrine falcon also nest among the most inaccessible rocks of the gorge.

 

Useful information

Location
In its widest sense, the Ribeira Sacra covers territories in the municipalities of Castro Caldelas, Montederramo, A Teixeira, Parada de Sil, Nogueira de Ramuín and A Peroxa in the province of Ourense; and those of Chantada, Carballedo, O Saviñao, Pantón, Sober, Monforte de Lemos, A Pobra de Brollón and Ribas de Sil in the province of Lugo. The Sil gorge includes the last 25 km of the river before it flows into the Miño, in Os Peares.

Area
5,914 hectares

Acess
Several turnoffs to the Sil gorge from the south on the OU-536 A Rúa-Ourense road. Local road from Castro Caldelas to Luíntra via Parada de Sil. Access to several points of the Sil and the Miño from Os Peares, between Ourense and Monforte de Lemos. For the Miño gorge, take the turnoff from Chantada or from Monforte de Lemos connected to each other by the CRG-2.1.

Services
Accommodation: Yes / Food: Yes

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