Ria of Muros and Noia
Last summer my father came to visit me. He wanted to explore the only one of the Rias Baixas he hadn’t visited…so far. And there we went, to the Ría da Estrela. A bit remote, far away from the main galician cities, the area is a paradise, sprinkled with old fisher towns, paths and viewpoints, traces of an important industrial past, and nature: sea and mountain. Shall we?
A complete tour around the ria should include:
- Muros and Noia, the most important villages
- the exceptional Baroña hillfort
- viewpoints, paths
- industrial tourism
- The delicious local cuisine smells like sea, and I promise, you will need to taste it.
How many days do I need to know the area? Consider 4, but at least 2.
One of the most spectacular hillforts in Galicia, perfectly located on an isthmus where silence and waves roaring will contribute to take a step back in time.
You’ll listen/read the word Castro (hillfort) many times when travelling to Galicia. It’s a good idea to visit the Interpretation Centre in Porto do Son to learn about them before coming. Once in the hillfort, try to imagine how life used to be there. You just need to close your eyes, or not, and travel in time.
Sunset is the perfect moment to visit the castro, bringing a magic light to take the best pictures. The terrain is uneven, that is to say take care when leaving the place if its dark. With no doubt, one of the visits that will provide you stunning memories.
Later, a visit to the museum dedicated to fisherman memories (Museo da memoria mariñeira) is recommended, followed by the church. These two in Porto do Son.
Noia town is linked to biblical legends. However, it's the religious and architectural patrimony of the "small Compostela" the one that will surprise you.
Noia is a small and friendly city. Locals love their place and want to share it, letting you know where to go with even no asking. The legend gives Noah’s granddaughter the honour of founding the village.
The visit should be organised around two areas: Felipe Castro gardens and the Old Town.
Santa María a Nova is the surprise of the day. A former church, currently a gravestones museum showing the different labour union members buried in the pastoral graveyard. I`m afraid no description honours the place. It is said that it soil was brought from Jerusalen.
Walking the cobbled streets, you will find among the medieval and traditional buildings, the Hospital de Espíritu Santo (1476) and San Martiño church. Its gothic, fantastic! facade is opened to the smart Plaza de Tapal . Unluckily, the legend says the second tower, unfinished, is cursed.
Stroll the park during the afternoon, so you can finish in one of the cafes, after admiring the City Hall, the Casino and San Francisco Church.
Ponte Maceira or Ponte Nafonso
One is a 60 people village named as one of the Most Beautiful Towns in Spain. Easy to understand when you get there. The other one links two small towns, Mirou and Toxeira, in a peaceful, protected environment.
Both of them cross Tambre river.
The medieval Ponte Nafonso preserves its 22 pointed arches of the original 27. However you can only count up to 20. King Alfonso II, who is considered the first Camino de Santiago pilgrim, could ordered to built the bridge.
Stroll 10 km starting from Mirou. Follow a circular route crossing the Tambre marshes, part of Natura 2000 net, and continue along an eucaliptus forest. After that, you will arrive to Central Hidroeléctrica del Tambre, a hydroelectric plant, an architectural gem (more details below).
Ahead from Ponte Nafonso you will find Ponte Maceira, surrounded by a pastoral landscape. In Ponte Maceira the bridge crosses a dam, offering a typical Galician ensemble of a pazo (galician palace), water mills, San Brais church, traditional houses and the bridge, crossed all day long by Camino pilgrims.
The authentic and lively village will give you an approach to fisherman's world, and of course, to its flavours.
Muros faces the sea. The village has the classic old town floor plan around the port, heart of the village. A morning walk on a working day will show you the fisher town in its height.
Medieval streets climbing the hills, old houses with arches and streets decorated with handmade colourful deco make up a lovely mix. The nicest ones? Rua Real and Pescadería (Royal and Fish market streets). At top you can visit San Pedro (St. Peter) church, where the city Council, sailors and navigators used to meet.
In the port area and Plaza de Galicia you will find restaurants and taverns. During the summer, it’s usual to eat sardines out there.
In the forest, among moss and stone, you will find a hydroelectric plant, cellulose plants, a former tannery, salting plants, carpenter's workshops and wolfram mines. These abandoned places are mute witnesses of a flourishing past
Firstly, find Central del Tambre (hydroelectric plant) following a pedestrian track to the suspension bridge. The building is considered “the cathedral of hydroelectric plants” because of its architecture. The floor plan is similar to a cathedral one, with buttresses and semicircular arches.
Secondly, you can visit the ruins of Cadarso tannery, in Noia. A complex of house and main storehouse, and secondary buildings for dyeing, storage and grooving. More than 30 shoemakers lived and worked in the area.
In Lousame it’s possible to follow an abandoned cellulose plants route. The area, favoured by abundant forests and clean waters, were crucial for celluloses established during XIX and XX centuries. Today, its ruins remain hidden among ash trees, alder, oaks, chestnuts and hazelnuts. After crossing some bridges and falls, you will arrive to a mine. It was firstly extracted tin, and during World War II, wolfram as well. San Finx mines are today a museum.
Beaches and viewpoints
There are many, uncountable, unforgetable and spectacular ones. The ria (bay) with its irregular shape creates a fantastic shore. You just need to stare at one or other side, and take pleasure on it.
Among the fabulous beaches in the ría we can find a movie one. As Furnas beach was the stage for Mar Adentro Unforgettable scenes were filmed in this unspoilt beach, receiving the Academy Award Best Foreign Language film in 2005.
Maybe the best beach in the ria is Area Maior. Louro lagoon, protected by dunes and reeds, gives place to a fresh water pool. Beyond, Lariño beach, guarded by a lighthouse, was a witness of Spanish destroyer Ariete shipwrecked. At one side, you can enjoy the 2 km length beach; at the other side, coves between rocks. Which one would you prefer?
At Enxa Mount you can observe the coastline from Fisterra to Ribeira (if it’s a clear day ). San Lois viewpoint has a bench facing the open sea, and do Castelo viewpoint offers privileged sights over the estuary and the ria (bay), a good reward to the ones climbing up there.
Sea flavours are in charge,. But even next to the seaside, Galicia has always a place for inland preparations.
Seafood is the jewel in Ría da Estrela. To start with some D.O mussels, it`s a must in the area. Common cockles are well appreciated as well. Try them steamed. You can continue with fresh fish, octopus Galician style (A feira), or a seafood risotto.
Galician fishing ports provide fresh fish to local restaurants. A good signal is to be offered something off the menu. Hakes, sea-basses, gild-head breams are usually in the menu. During June and July you will have to opportunity to taste grilled sardines. In a seafood tray (mariscada) you will be given a variety of seafood. Ask in advance what kind of.
Meat lovers will have excellent choices: veal or pork, they never disappoint demanding palates. Above all, you will notice years of culinary traditions offered with love, but no ambition in your table. Enjoy.