The river erosion of the Sil gradually carved out the deep channel...
Top ten: ten unrivalled destinations
The first stop on the route taking us to the “10 unrivalled destinations in Galicia” is the Ribeira Sacra, home to the largest concentration of Romanesque churches and monasteries in Europe.
The Ribeira Sacra is a district marked by the River Miño and River Sil, which have shaped its spectacular landscape as they wind their way through the mountains. When this is combined with the faith and spirituality that can still be felt in the numerous monasteries dotted throughout the area, it means that this corner of Galicia cannot fail to appeal to all our senses.
Immerse yourselves in this magical atmosphere and discover a place as unique as Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil, a former monastery, now totally restored and part of the state-owned Paradores hotel chain. Another monastery not to be missed is San Pedro de Rochas, where the church has been hewn out of the living rock. When you go in, the feeling is just like entering a Stone Age cave. Surrounding the church you will find a series of anthropomorphic or body-shaped tombs, which the combination of stone, rainwater and lichen has endowed with a supernatural varnish. These are but two of the examples of the wealth of architectural heritage to be found in the Ribeira Sacra; many more such places await your visit along the banks of the Miño and Sil, such as the churches of San Paio de Diomondi and San Miguel de Eiré, or the Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil and Montederramo monasteries.
Its splendid architecture is not the only attraction the Ribeira Sacra has to offer: its countryside, heavily wooded with native species of trees, is the ideal place for nature lovers to follow its many trails. But don’t forget to stop off to admire the magnificent work of nature that is the canyon of the River Mao, with its spectacular waterfalls. And if you just like enjoying the view, then make your way to Parada de Sil, where you can contemplate the steepest and most untamed hillsides of all the valleys in the area. The best-known look-out point is the so-called ”balcóns de Madrid” , from which you can admire the stunning landscapes of the canyons, with nothing but a sheer drop beneath you (provided, of course, you have a good head for heights!).
To mention the Ribeira Sacra is of course to mention wine, something that becomes obvious as soon as you set foot in the district: one of the most characteristic features of its landscape is its famous “socalcos”,, the steeply terraced vineyards that run down the hillsides. And whilst you’re here, don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the fantastic local wines, the product of one of the five Denomination of Origin wine-growing areas in Galicia, to which the district gives its name.
We hope you will leave the Ribeira Sacra with your soul at peace after travelling through its magical mountains and hillsides, where untamed nature and faith live side by side in perfect harmony. Whether you follow the banks of the River Miño or take a water-borne journey through the canyons of the River Sil, you’ll come across places that are impossible to reach from land, where veritable treasures from the Middle Ages are just waiting to be discovered amongst the terraced vineyards; the Ribeira Sacra is the closest you can get to Paradise on this earth.