Things to do in A Guarda (La Guardia)

Door to the Miño River

A Guarda is the municipality in Pontevedra that opens the doors to the mouth of the Miño River, a natural barrier that serves as the border between Spain and Portugal. It is also the southernmost point of Galicia. Discover the best things to do in A Guarda and its history in the following lines.

Planning your trip to A Guarda (La Guardia)

Panoramic view of the Miño River, the Santa Tegra Mountain and A Guarda

Panoramic view of the Miño River, the Santa Tegra Mountain and A Guarda. | Shutterstock

A Guarda is a city with enough attractions to keep you busy for a couple of days. If you do not want to meticulously plan your whole trip, you can spend your whole morning wandering around the town, ending up at the Museo Arqueológico. In the afternoon, you can hike up the nearby Santa Tegra Mountain, look for its petroglyphs, the site of the castro (ancient stone fortifications), and walk along its trails, enjoying its beautiful views and tranquility.

During the following day, you can visit the nearby Mount Aloya, where, according to legend, the Celts lived. Here, you can take in breathtaking views of the river Miño. You can also visit the beautiful villa of Tuy on the way back to the town.

You can check out our pages for eating and sleeping in A Guarda for more information on the best restaurants and the best places to stay.

Want to get to know this place?

The entire history of A Guarda is still known today, thanks to its excellent preservation of its heritage. Its story begins with the first human traces found in the area, from around 10,000 BC.

The clearest evidence from this area is that of a military culture, of which many artifacts are preserved, especially in the hillforts. These include Santa Tecla, A Forca, O Castro, and Bandeira. In fact, there is not a village in all of Galicia that has preserved the remnants of its Celtic origins as well as this one.

The culture of the castros suffered with the growing Romanization and, with the coming and diffusion of Christianity, A Guarda was filled with crucifixes. This Christian influence also affected the landscape with its hermitages.

From the 12th century, A Guarda fell under the protection of the Cistern Monks located in Oia, enjoying a prosperous commercial life.

The insecurity of the time, provoked by the incursions of the Arabs and Normans, forced the inhabitants to build fortifications and protective walls. So, it was in this period, that the urban layout of the locality was built, in the form of a triangle, with one side facing the ocean and the opposite point near the church. This layout is typical of other Galician coastal villages as well, such as Baiona or Noya. Only two sections of this medieval wall still remain standing.

A Guarda
Views of the Ribeira in 1910

The 17th century was crucial to the history of A Guarda, especially the belligerent pressures from the 30 Years War. Built during that time was the Castle of Santa Cruz, a military plaza conquered by the Portuguese in 1665. This gave Portugal the possession of this village for three years.

Atalaya is also from this time. It was a small fortress located on a small inlet at the mouth of the port, and it is also in the village’s coat of arms. The construction of the modern space led to an industrial fishing village with a melting pot of cultures that would refine its economy as well as its architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A Guarda is mainly known for its lobsters. However, if you come to visit the town, you’ll find a spectacular landscape (including marine, river, and mountains) that houses one of the most typical fishing villages in Galicia. It is also known for the Comisión Europea as a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) in recognition of its sustainable tourism proposal.

The center of the village is the Parish Church of Santa María. It was originally Roman (12th century), but it was expanded in the 16th century during the Baroque period, when its façade was built with white canvases influenced by the Portuguese. The floor plan is in the shape of a Latin cross, and it has three naves and side chapels. On the inside, it draws attention to the altarpiece dedicated to the Asunción de la Virgen María, a group of Mannerist paintings over the Rococo panel and frescos. Another example of religious architecture is the San Benito Convent, founded in 1558 for the brothers of Ozores de Sotomayor. The monks abandoned it in 1983, and, after a renovation, it was converted into a hotel and restaurant. The small and deteriorated church is still dedicated to the religious group.

There is a lot you can do in A Guarda. For example, in the old town, with teeming streets with Portuguese-style houses and what remains of the wall that defended the town against attacks, is highlighted by its Plaza de Reloj, where you’ll find the most interesting buildings: the Town Hall, the Torre del Reloj, and the Casa de los Alonsos. The tower, located at the top of the walled enclosure, protects one of the entryways to the village. The one you can see today was built in 1570. This one was build on top of a previous tower, on which you can still see the coat of arms.

As for the civil heritage, we have to mention the popular Casas Indianas, homes constructed during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th by the immigrants from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. They used the designs from buildings from their own countries and used stones or tiles to build them, which gives them their characteristic coloring. The Cultural Centre of A Guarda, a uniquely beautiful building constructed in 1921 as the hospital/asylum, is also in this group. During the remodeling in 1990, this building was converted into a cultural center, and it today houses the Biblioteca Pública Municipal, an auditorium, exposition rooms, and a tourism center.

As a result of the many invasions that A Guarda suffered, the villagers of old built many interesting buildings. The first of these is the Castle Santa Cruz, built in 1663 after the town was taken by the Portuguese. It was named after Álvaro de Bazán, the Marquis of Santa Cruz de Marcenado, Captain General of the Spanish Armada during the reign of Carlos V and his son, Felipe II, who died in 1588 while organizing the Escuadra Invencible against the English. The castle was built on top of the old, medieval walls with a trapezoidal floor plan and four irregularly shaped bastions.

It is currently abandoned, and it is impossible to see it through all the vegetation that has crept through the walls and the doors. The second intriguing ancient building, of the same age as the last, is the Atalaya, an ancient, circular fortress constructed by the Portuguese when A Guarda was in the possession of its neighboring country. It was reconstructed in 1997 next to the sea, and it currently houses the Museo del Mar, which in addition to ethnographic content, exhibits an important malacological collection (a branch of zoology that studies mollusks).

A Guarda
Chapel of Santa Tegra

From the center of the village, you can find signage pointing you up the Monte de Santa Tegra (in Castilian, Santa Tecla), the most southwestern point of Galicia. From the peak of San Francisco, at 341 meters in altitude, you’ll find magnificent views of the estuary, the mouth of the river Miño that meets the Atlantic Ocean, and the neighboring lands of Portugal on the other side of the river.

In addition to the rich, pastoral beauty, the mountain possesses a rich ethnographic, religious, and historic significance. There are many devotees who visit the Chapel of Santa Tegra, the patron saint of the village, that is commemorated in the pilgrimage of September 23rd. On the archaeological side, you can find petroglyphs dispersed throughout the mountain. One in particular is the military structure of Santa Tegra, one of the most important archeological sites of the Castreña culture, and the most emblematic and highly-visited Galician castro. The walled enclosure of the same site, extending approximately 700 meters in length and 300 meters in width, houses a series of dwellings grouped into eight-house neighborhoods. Most of these houses are circular with a vestibule, but there are other houses that are oval or square shaped, with the later surely being influenced by the Romans. You can complete your tour of the archaeological site with a visit to the Museo Arqueológica de Santa Tegra (MASAT), where you’ll find objects found during excavations. You’ll see pieces from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Ages, as well as from the Castreña culture and the Roman era.


A Guarda
Santa Tegra Hillfort
A Guarda

Practical Information


41° 54′ 0″ N, 8° 52′ 0″ W


62 km from Vigo

77 km from Pontevedra

617 km from Madrid 6


You can easily find parking on the outskirts of the village.


341 m


10,438  (as of 2013)

Procesión del Corpus (huge “carpets” made of flowers and salt)

Holy Week

Virgen del Carmen (July 16th)

Romería al Monte Santa Tegra (second week of August)

Desfile Folclórico Regional (second week of August)

Festa da Langosta (Fiesta de la Langosta, a weekend in July)

A Chalana (Naval Models)

Casa Estévez (homemade Galician sweets and other treats)

Monlixú and Nikys: Artisanal Galician Ceramics

Famous Sweet Shops: Montserrat, Rogelio y Alameda

About the author