Forests, mountains, rivers and waterfalls, historical towns, ancient temples… A green Galicia, cultural heritage, and of course, the Cantabrian Sea… These elements and more conform A Mariña Lucense. However, to really understand it, one must visit A Mariña Lucense and experience it in their own flesh, even stay there for a couple of days, if possible. It’d be delightful to explore it slowly, paying close attention to all nuances, tasting every delicate flavor of its rich formula. This is why we’ll be suggesting a journey covering some of the best spots in one of Spain’s more inviting and charming regions.
Before we start, we should bear in mind that, through this journey, we’ll experience something that goes along with tourism, art and landscapes: a gastronomic journey. A Maiña Lucense has developed its own gastronomy, based on good quality ingredients, tradition and culture.
Whereas A Mariña’s coast offers a selection of typical products such as Burela’s tuna or Rinlo’s barnacles, the latter being excellent thanks to the daily fishing in the Cantabrian Sea, the inland territory provides the cherished meat of the Galician calves and the agricultural products which have helped create identity brands like Horta de Mondoñedo. This cultural menu could be sealed with A Mariña’s confectionery, starring its top ingredient: almonds. There are some culinary routes in A Mariña to help visitors fully enjoy its gastronomy. For instance, Lourenzá’s Ruta de la Faba allows us to become familiar with the artisan production of faba —or beans. Nevertheless, it’s not mandatory to join these culinary routes to taste A Mariña; in fact, there are endless ways to connect with this land. Let’s start the journey, shall we?
A Mariña Lucense is often associated with the Cantabrian Sea, which makes total sense, but once you begin to discover this land in Galicia, you immediately realize that there is so much more to it than a bunch of postcards by the sea. In the concello of A Pontenova, just where our journey begins, one finds hiking paths and beautiful landscapes in the Biosphere Reserve of the Eo River, Oscos and Terras in Burón. History there is closely connected with iron, as in the case of Mina Consuelo, a mine that opened just recently. The old rail route, which used to connect the iron mines of Vilaoudriz (in the current A Pontenova) with the loading dock of Porto Estreito, is now a green and beautiful path for everyone to enjoy. By the way, Mina Consuelo has Galicia’s largest zipline.
In Mariña Lucense we can also explore and learn about the significance of Galicia’s religious architecture. Few historical buildings can compare to Mondoñedo’s cathedral. This temple, beautiful as ever, effortlessly stands out among the surrounding buildings in a spectacular setting, as if guarding the town. Its facade exhibits an amalgam of different architectural styles, and in its nuclear warhead, the stained glass of an eighteenth-century rose window shines with a myriad of colorful sparks. It’s also a meeting place for the pilgrims of the Northern Camino de Santiago coming from Ribadeo or Trabada and heading landward. Mondoñedo is a land of granaries, nature and caves; indeed, Rei Cintolo has the largest cave one can visit in Galicia, with a depth of about four miles.
This concello, just as other nearby municipalities, is located in the outskirts of the mountains of Xistral, a landscape where a layer of fog seems to have found its permanent home. Despite the moderate altitude, its proximity to the Cantabrian Sea makes this mountain range a quite deserted and mysterious place, where one can usually see horses and cows grazing peacefully. In fall, colors dye the scenery, and the landscape exhibits an overwhelming beauty.
Coming back to the aspect of historical heritage, if it’s even possible at all to leave nature behind in A Mariña Lucense, Lourenzá’s concello has a lot of things to offer in this respect. For example, there is the monastery of San Salvador, founded in 969 and declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1974. If we walked into the monastery, we’d be able to see a museum of religious art containing the paleo-christian sarcophagus of Osorio Gutiérrez, the count who founded the building. Close to the monastery we can find the Pazo de Tovar, a castle dating back to the 12th century that illustrates the Elizabethan Gothic architecture, providing an opportunity to unveil Galicia’s oldest and most peculiar buildings.
It’s certainly not possible to leave nature behind here, so maybe we just shouldn’t try. Once the traveler enters the concello of Trebada, they should seek the fresh air of the Biosphere Reserve of Río Eo, Oscos and Terras in Burón. It’s a real pleasure to look at the intense colors of this land, which are predominantly —and this might come as a shock— green.
Surpisingly, the municipality of Trabada —formerly known as Tabulata— is mentioned in Spain’s oldest manuscript, which is kept in the archive of León’s Cathedral. One cannot leave the place without visiting the mámoas; these burial dolmens tell us many things about the land’s antiquity. The visitor should pay special attention to the menhir known as Marco de la Pena Verde, which defines the limits of this concello, Ribadeo and Barreiros. The latter might be our next destination, leading us to A Mariña Lucense’s coast.
If we want to get used to being close to the Cantabrian Sea, it would be a good idea to walk up to the lookout point in Penabor. With about 300 yards of altitude, this spot offers a fantastic view of Barreiros and the surrounding area —green and blue, land and sea. Before we climb down to the beaches, we can still pay a visit to San Estevo do Ermo, a path beginning in the eleventh-century hermitage that shares the same name, and ending in a gorgeous waterfall. If the traveler can’t wait to go to the beach, there is no need to do so; they’ll certainly find what they’re looking for in places such as Remior’s beach, which offers immense calm and beauty just in front of the sea.
Once we’ve reached the coast, our eyes immediately go to Ribadeo. Nestled in the estuary with the same name, this municipality lies on the border between Galicia and Asturias, and it has one of the most interesting historical centers of Galicia. This territory has a tradition based on those who migrated to America in the past, so we can find here buildings influenced by such tradition, like Torre dos Moreno. We can also find remarkable buildings like the Pazo de Ibáñez, the church of Santa María del Campo or the convent of Santa Clara, dating back to the 11th century. Ribadeo’s age-old harbor is caressed by a fresh sea breeze and, were we to look into the ocean, we’d meet the Pancha Island’s two beautiful lighthouses, which star in one of the most charming postcards of the Cantabrian Sea.
The gaze following the outline of the Cantabrian shore will most likely stop in the As Catedrais beach. It’s crystal clear that A Mariña Lucense, full of magic, nature and lovely villages, has many great sights to offer —however, the As Catedrais beach might be the most striking one. In fact, it’s probably one of the world’s most breathtaking natural monuments, the kind that just leaves you speechless. It’s important to visit it, but it’s even more important to take care of it.
We won’t leave the coast just yet. Instead, we’ll pass through Barreiros once more and, before we’re able to recover from the shock of admiring the striking rock formations, we’ll arrive at Foz. The former whaling port is now a paradise for anyone who’s in love with the sea. The beaches in Foz extend to almost ten miles of soft, white sand, ideal for long walks or an evening of gentle rest. A Rapadoira, Llas, Peizás… There are beaches for all tastes. The estuary of Foz is a paradise as well, especially for those who like water sports: surfing, windsurfing, kayaking or sailing are some of the activities one can enjoy there.
Only 3 miles away, we’ll find what’s considered the oldest cathedral in Spain: The Basilica of San Martiño de Mondoñedo. This church dates back to the 6th century, and it precedes the cathedral of El Castro de Fazouro, which is located next to the beach of Arealonga. The Basilica of San Martiño de Mondoñedo reminds us that we are not only in an incredibly beautiful region, but also in a major historical site.
The castle of Castrodouro, which still preserves the exterior of a majestic fortified tower, was built on a Romanized fort from the first century. Within a ten-minute walk we’ll find the fortress of A Frouxera, first mentioned in 1156, and whose ruins are considered Cultural Heritage. It’s said that the fortress belonged to a legendary figure in Galician culture: Pedro Pardo de Cela. From the heights of the archaeological remains, one can admire the beauty of the lands of Alfoz, partly framed by the Biosphere Reserve of Terras do Miño. This territory encompasses more than 1300 square miles, and the Biosphere Reserve is the largest one in Galicia and the second largest in the Iberian Peninsula.
From that same natural lookout point one might behold O Valadouro. This land is full of waterfalls, like the one called Escouridal, one of Galicia’s greatest cascades, dividing O Valadouro and Alfoz; or the one that forms Onza’s pond, with a fifty-feet fall. Back in the Xistral mountains, the traveler shall find Furna’s woodlands, a generally solitary place, and therefore considerably well preserved. Some believe that Furna’s stones could be the imprint of an old glacier.
The chapel of Santa Filomena was built in the 11th century, and it became one of the region’s most ancient buildings. Moreover, it’s a great example of the rural Romanesque architecture in Galicia. Here, in the heart of A Mariña, there is also space for culture: in the curro of Santo Tomé, an enclosed area where wild horses are tied, the first Sunday of every August it takes place the local tradition called Rapa das Bestas.
Roman and Suebi people settled in the past in Ourol’s concello, leaving trackable footprints behind. One can also observe the trace of the past in the remaining buildings that replicate American traditions, as well as the appealing cemeteries brought by those immigrants mentioned before. We cannot leave without checking out the astonishingly magical waterfall of A Xestosa, with a fall of 65 feet. Indeed, this might be the most extraordinary waterfall in A Mariña.
Our journey comes to an end in the Cantabrian Sea. The cherry on top of this paradise will be Burela, a coastal town with a fishing port that has remained operational and busy since its construction in the Middle Ages. Apart from getting to understand the connection between Burela’s citizens and the ocean, the traveler will be able to tread the Blue Path (Sendero Azul), which links a series of beaches and harbors that have been granted a seal of quality and sustainability. When it comes to Burela, this path starts at the beach of A Marosa, where one simply cannot resist staying for a while.
Rueta’s beach is midway between Burela and Cervo. The river, the sea and the stunning bridge above it paint a beautiful picture there. In Rueta’s region there are remarkable places like the fishing town called San Cibrao and its own peninsula, Península de la Paz, embellished with white sandbanks, as in the beach of Cubelas. One can also visit San Cibrao’s Sea Museum, which is focused on exploring the relationship between people and the sea, and see from far away the isles of Os Farallóns. According to legend, the mythological figure called Maruxaina, half fish and half woman, awaits in there.
Close by we have the municipality of Xove, a land well worth visiting. But there is a clear winner here: Acantilados de Papel (The Paper Cliffs). These fascinating rock formations constitute a curious natural monument in Galicia’s coast. If we travel to Roncadoira’s lighthouse, we’ll get a spectacular view that extends from the isles of Os Farallóns to the estuary of Viveiro, exactly where we’re headed to.
This estuary comprises coves, beaches and a fascinating seabed, which, apart from being home to a peculiar ecosystem of flora and fauna, keeps about thirty sunken ships, some of them belonging to a battle fought during the Spanish War of Independence. In the medieval Viveiro, we’ll come across a beautiful historical center with interesting spots like the door of the king Charles V, or the well-preserved remains of the old town walls. In Viveiro we also have the natural monument called Souto da Retorta, where the traveler will be amazed with the 600 eucalyptus trees —some of them hundreds of years old— that conform the forest, or San Roque’s lookout, with an altitude of more than a thousand feet, where we can enjoy a breathtaking view of Viveiro’s estuary, Viveiro’s and Celeiro’s harbor and the beach of Covas.
To end with, the last stop of our journey will be O Vicedo and its Fuciño do Porco, which could be translated as “pig’s snout”. The name evokes the shape this rock formation takes as seen from the sea. This historical site can be reached through a lovely path. Step by step, the view becomes increasingly beautiful. The notion of paradise can be better understood by visiting O Vicedo, its harbor, the seafront promenade and beaches like Xilloi’s, wrapped in velvet sands and turquoise-colored waters. This is, essentially, A Mariña Lucense.
This article has been promoted by the 2022-2024 Sustainability Plan of A Mariña Lucense, co-financed by the Secretary of State for Tourism, the Xunta de Galicia and the Concello Commonwealth of A Mariña Lucense.