Lee este artículo en español: Rías Baixas, Guía Completa: Los Mejores Lugares a Visitar
In this article I am going to introduce you to one of the most special characteristics of Galicia, the estuaries. The aim is that, when you finish reading it, you will have a general knowledge, not only of the beaches or the cities that are in each of the estuaries, but also of their physical characteristics, natural reserves or their archaeological and cultural heritage.
We will start by talking about the estuaries, explaining what they are and how many there are. Then we will go deeper into the Rías Baixas, visiting each one of the estuaries that make up this group in depth. We will discover the most interesting corners to get you closer to this part of the Galician coast. I won’t make you wait any longer, let’s get to know the Galician estuaries!
The Galician “Rías” or The Estuaries of Galicia
In this chapter I will talk about one of the peculiarities of the Galician coast, the estuaries. Galicia has almost 1,500 km of coastline with estuaries, which are divided into high and low, depending on their geographical position, further north or south. I will show you how these estuaries, which are a very rare phenomenon in the world, are one of the reasons why Galicia has such a special landscape that makes it unique and incomparable. Stay with me to find out more about one of Galicia’s natural wonders.
What are the “Rías” or Estuaries?
Rías are a very rare geological formation in the world. Its main characteristic is that it has a series of projections of land on the coastline, between which the sea penetrates, thus creating a place with unique conditions.
A legend says that these arms of land that emerge from the Galician coast are the fingers of God, which he left marked when he rested his hand to rest. It is a beautiful description for an unusual geographical fact.
These geological formations are found in very few places in the world, such as Ireland, China or Brittany. Estuaries may bear some resemblance to another geological phenomenon, fjords. Sometimes appearances can be deceiving and this case is no exception. Both are two different phenomena and I will explain below how they differ.
Let’s start with fjords, these are characterised by being deeper and having very steep slopes that were eroded by a glacier. On the other hand, when we talk about estuaries, we are referring to a valley, which is not a glacier, of a coastal river that has been flooded by the rising sea.
As I mentioned earlier, these are land ledges that run into the sea, creating a jagged coastline that is sensitive to the movement of the tides. Now we will see how they reached this point, as it is known that there were three types of modifications that created this phenomenon. In the Rías Baixas, this occurred because there were several fractures that tore the land and allowed the sea to enter through them.
The estuaries of Ortigueira, Ribadeo, Foz and Ferrol are the lower part of ancient river valleys that are now covered with water. Some estuaries, such as Arousa, are ancient tectonic trenches. This last estuary I mention also stands out for being the largest in Spain.
An interesting fact is that the water in the estuaries is a mixture of fresh water from the rivers and salt water from the sea. This, apart from being a curiosity, also makes a big difference in the flora, as the salinity varies a lot, depending on how much salt or fresh water there is, the vegetation varies in colour.
How many estuaries does Galicia have?
As I already mentioned, the rías can be seen all along the Galician coast. There are many rías, which I will tell you more about later, which are divided in two, in relation to their distance from the city of Ferrol. The Rías Altas are those that correspond to some of the provinces of A Coruña and Lugo, both Atlantic and Cantabrian. The Rías Baixas, which are the best known, are those in the provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña.
Rías Baixas (Lower Estuaries)
Now it is time to talk about each of them. Let’s look first at the Rías Baixas, which are the ones that stretch from the Vigo estuary, which is the southernmost one, to the cape of Fisterra. This is the most extensive, as it covers a large part of the Galician Atlantic coast. These estuaries offer spectacular views, as its rugged coastline features cliffs, sandy or rocky stretches, which gives it its unique and special appearance. I show you here a map, so you can see how much it covers and which estuaries are part of the Rías Baixas.
In addition to the landscape, this geological feature also alters the climate of the area. The climate in this area is temperate almost all year round and, in autumn and winter, it is very rainy, which helps to create large green forests that turn Galicia into that magical place we love so much. In addition, it also makes these lands very productive, allowing large fields of fruit, vegetables and even vineyards.
Now we only need to know the most important thing: which are the estuaries that form part of this great group of estuaries? Let’s see which estuaries are part of it:
- “Ría” of Vigo
- “Ría” of Pontevedra
- “Ría” of Arousa
- “Ría” of Muros and Noya
- “Ría” of Corcubión
- “Ría” of Aldán
Rías Altas (Upper Estuaries)
Now it is the turn of the Rías Altas. These are in the upper part of the coast, from the cape of Fisterra, covering the coast of Lugo to the border with Asturias, in the north. This area is a little more battered by the Atlantic waters but still has the charm of its southern neighbours: although its coastline is more rugged, as it has more cliffs, you can also enjoy some magnificent beaches and sandy areas.
It is also worth mentioning that Ferrolterra is one of the best preserved areas in Galicia, with many unexplored spots. Estaca de Bares is also the most northerly point of the peninsula, from where you can have some of the most beautiful views of this landscape.
Let’s see now which estuaries are part of the Rías Altas:
- “Ría” of A Coruña
- “Ría” of Cedeira
- “Ría” of Corme y Laxe
- “Ría” of Foz
- “Ría” of Ortigueira
- “Ría” of Ribadeo
- “Ría” of Viveiro
- “Ría” of Betanzos
- “Ría” of Ares or “Ría” of Pontedeume
- “Ría” of Camariñas
- “Ría” of Ferrol
- “Ría” of Barquero
Other estuaries in Spain and Portugal
Although the best known estuaries are those of Galicia, in Spain you can also find this type of mouths. As I mentioned in the Rías Altas, they also exist in Asturias, Cantabria, Andalusia and the Basque Country. And, within the peninsula, they can also be found in our neighbour, Portugal.
I show you here some of the estuaries of Spain and Portugal.
- “Ría” of Avilés
- “Ría” of Ribadeo
- “Ría” of Ribadesella
- “Ría” of San Vicente
- “Ría” of San Martín de la Arena
- “Ría” of Carreras
- “Ría” of Huelva
- “Ría” of Bilbao
- “Ría” of Barbadún
- “Ría” of Oria
- “Ría” of Aveiro
- “Ría” of Formosa
The Rías Baixas
In this chapter you will learn more about the Rías Baixas. Here I will talk about what they are and where they are located. You will also learn about other characteristics such as the climate and the type of landscape. And, finally, we will see some of the tourist attractions of this area, as it not only has beaches and good food, but it is also a place with a lot of history, culture, art and nature that is worth knowing.
What are the Rías Baixas?
The Rías Baixas are a part of the coastal area of Galicia that is characterised by an unusual geographical phenomenon, the rías (estuaries). The name Rías Baixas refers to several estuaries that are located along the coast.
These estuaries are the only ones that extend uniformly along the Galician coast. The panorama of these estuaries is spectacular, with the green and blue colours blending together to create a unique landscape. You can also see how nature mixes with human action, crops and fishing villages, creating that magical showcase that characterises the coast.
Which are the Rías Baixas?
As I mentioned before, the Rías Baixas are the general name under which different estuaries of a part of the Galician Atlantic coast are grouped, to be exact the southern part.
The estuaries that make up the Rías Baixas are:
- “Ría” of Corcubión
- “Ría” of Muros y Noia
- “Ría” of Arousa
- “Ría” of Pontevedra
- “Ría” of Aldán
- “Ría” of Vigo
Where are they located?
The Rías Baixas are in the lower part of Galicia, hence the name. They occupy the entire coast of the province of Pontevedra and part of the Atlantic coast of the province of Coruña. The northernmost point of the rías is located in the Ría de Muros, in the province of Coruña. The southernmost point is located in Baiona, a beautiful town in the Vigo estuary.
They are the largest in Galicia and their orography makes them largely navigable. They also have a temperate climate, which lasts almost all year round, and which, in the colder months, is accompanied by a lot of rainfall. This allows the beautiful green vegetation that characterises Galicia to be maintained.
On the riverbanks you can see a mixture of trees, with crops and surrounded by urban centres that give it a picturesque character. To this we must add that there is a wide range of seafood, fish and shellfish, and land products. And we cannot forget the wine, as we have one with the Rías Baixas Denomination of Origin, especially known for its white wine. All this makes it a paradise that satisfies all the senses.
Tourism and what to visit
The Rías Baixas have many beautiful and unique places worth visiting. Here I will name some of the ones that are, without a doubt, the must-sees.
Island hopping. Galicia has several islands, which can be visited in the summer months, and which are the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing in nature.
The most famous are the Cíes Islands, in the Vigo estuary. It is a National Park, where you can enjoy a great variety of birds and nature. Next to the pier is Rodas beach, which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Other islands that leave no one indifferent are the Ons Islands. They are located in the Pontevedra estuary and form part of the Cíes National Park. Unlike the other islands, people live on these islands all year round and, although the scenery is not as spectacular, they are less touristy and you can enjoy them more.
Arousa and Areoso Islands
This island, with its fine white sandy beaches, is a paradisiacal place not to be missed. Here you can enjoy the landscape, the gastronomy and the beaches at their best. From here you can get to Areoso islet, which offers unspoilt surroundings, with spectacular beaches and crystal-clear waters. Another of its attractions is that it has a small megalithic dolmen.
A Toxa and San Simón Islands
The island of A Toxa, which belongs to O Grove, is the perfect place for a spa getaway, as you can enjoy its thermal waters in the Gran Hotel. I also recommend visiting its hermitage, which is entirely covered in shells. San Simón Island, located in the Vigo estuary, is currently uninhabited but still preserves the buildings that were used as a prison, hospital, monastery and orphanage. Guided tours are available throughout the year.
The cities of the Rías Baixas have a great artistic and cultural heritage and a lot of history in their streets.
Pontevedra is a small city that was very important in the Middle Ages, which is reflected in its buildings. The best way to get to know it is to walk around the historic centre and see: the Plaza de la Herrería and the monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza de la Verdura, the church of La Peregrina, the Basilica of Santa María, the ruins of Santo Domingo and the Alameda. Finally, I recommend a walk along the banks of the Lérez, where there is a promenade, ideal for ending a day of sightseeing.
If we talk about the Rías Baixas we cannot leave out Vigo. This is the most populated city in Galicia, which grew in just a few decades, from being just the port to the city it is today. Among the areas worth visiting are: the Casco Vello, where you will find the Calle de las Ostras and the Mercado de Abastos, the Calle Arenal, which is one of the city’s nightlife areas and one of the most beautiful, along with the Calle Príncipe.
At the beginning of Príncipe is the Puerta del Sol square with the sculpture of the Siren and, on the other side of the street, there is also the famous Dinoseto. To enjoy the sunset I give you two options: the Castillo del Castro or the port area, where there are restaurants and also a shopping centre. Either is a good choice.
In addition to the islands and the cities, the Rías Baixas have an endless number of picturesque fishing villages and towns, which are well worth a visit, although here I leave you with the one which, in my opinion, is the most beautiful.
Combarro is one of the most beautiful villages in Galicia and is only 6 km. from Pontevedra. It has many hórreos on the beachfront, designed for fishermen to store their tools in. Another curiosity is that it has a large number of cruceiros (stone crosses) along its narrow streets. It also has many nooks and crannies between houses through which you can see the sea.
“Ría” of Vigo
In this new chapter we will go into one of the estuaries that belong to the Rías Baixas: the one of Vigo. Here I will show you a bit of the history of this estuary, which are the cities and towns that stand out the most, although there are many more that are also worth visiting and what other visits are a must. We will delve a little deeper into the Cíes Islands, which is one of the great attractions of this estuary, but we will also get to know other places. With nothing more to add, let’s get started!
The Vigo estuary, which is in the south of the province of Pontevedra, is 35 km long and runs from Cabo Silleiro to Arcade, which is the deepest point. This estuary is protected to the west by the Cíes Islands and is bordered to the north by the Morrazo peninsula.
On its southern side are the bays of Vigo and Baiona. Thanks to its easy access, deep draught and calm waters, it is ideal for sailing and water sports. As a curiosity, in San Simón inlet there are dozens of sunken galleons that came from America. This is a sign that it has been a very navigable area since ancient times.
But not only does it have nautical advantages, but also, from an environmental point of view, it has a great biological variety. This is due to the fact that, in its waters, there are deeper and colder water currents from the north that provide it with a large amount of nutrients. This used to make it an ideal area for fishing and shellfishing, although this is no longer the case, mainly due to human and industrial pressure on the coast.
Having said that, special mention must be made of the beaches, as this part of the Galician coast is home to some of the best in the community. Barra beach in Cangas, Samil beach in Vigo or America beach in Nigrán are some of the examples.
Main cities and towns
In the Vigo estuary there is a large city, which is the most populated in Galicia, and several fishing villages that are essential visits on this route.
Of course we have to start with the city that gives its name to the estuary. This is the most populated city in the province of Pontevedra and all of Galicia, and it is a beautiful city that has grown a lot in just a few decades. Although Vigo does not have as many tourist attractions as other cities, such as Santiago, it does have a lot to offer. A must-see is the Castro Castle, which is in the city centre.
It is the point that offers the best panoramic views of the estuary and the Cíes Islands. It was built in 1656 at the time of independence from Portugal, as a defence. You should also visit the Old Quarter of the city. This area, recently renovated, offers one of the best places to enjoy the gastronomy. Of course, don’t forget to take a stroll along Príncipe street, visit the Puerta del Sol square and the Dinoseto and stroll around the port, one of the most important in the world.
This beautiful town is known for having been the first port in which the discovery of America was announced and that is what is celebrated in the festival of the Arribada. The most striking feature is the fortress of Monterreal, built in the 12th century. You can walk along the walls until you reach the castle, now converted into a luxurious parador. You should also take a stroll through the old quarter, declared a site of historic-artistic interest.
This town also offers everything: artistic heritage, fiestas, good food, nature and beaches. Redondela has a great industrial activity linked to the sea, such as the canning industry, which arrived in the 18th century by Catalans, or the textile industry with the Regofo factory. Under the Rande Bridge is the Meirande Interpretation Centre, dedicated to the Battle of Rande. In Redondela itself I recommend you visit: the Convent of Vilavella, from 1554, the Pazo de Petán, from the 17th century or the church of Santiago Apóstol, from the 15th century.
This town is to the north of the Vigo estuary and, despite being somewhat overshadowed by its neighbours, this area was an important place of transit and human settlement throughout history. This is corroborated by its petroglyphs and the Dolmen da Chan da Arquiña. In the late Middle Ages the population increased and there are some churches such as San Martiño and San Xoán de Tirán, two examples of Romanesque architecture from the 12th and 13th centuries respectively. Beyond this, Moaña has a beautiful promenade by the sea, with numerous beaches and places to enjoy the local gastronomy.
This small coastal town is at the beginning of the Vigo estuary and its great asset is its oysters, which have a special flavour. What’s more, it’s highly recommended to come on the day of the oyster festival, although you can find them all year round. You can take a walk from the marina along the seafront. There is the medieval bridge of Ponte Sampaio which is of Roman origin and is famous for being the site of a battle against the French invasion in 1809. It also has many green areas and beaches to spend the day and enjoy nature.
What to see in the Vigo Estuary?
In addition to the cities and towns we have just seen, which are just an example of what we can find in this area, we should also mention other places worth visiting. For example, the islands, which are a great tourist attraction.
They are one of the main attractions of the Vigo estuary and Galicia in general. They are actually an archipelago made up of three islands: Monteagudo to the north, or Faro in the middle and San Martín to the south. The first two are artificially joined, while the third is separated.
The Cíes Islands are included in the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands, to which the Ons Islands also belong. It is one of the most beautiful places in Spain with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the beach of Rodas. The Romans called them the islands of the gods. Here you can go hiking, where you can enjoy the lighthouse or the Castro de as Hortas.
Of course there are many quiet and clear beaches, with crystal clear waters that look like something out of a fairy tale. And for those who enjoy seascapes, you can also dive in these magnificent waters bathed by the Atlantic.
San Simón Island
This island, which belongs to the archipelago of the same name along with others, such as San Antón and some islets, is a must-see. It has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest since 1999, and was occupied since the Middle Ages by a monastic centre. Over the years it also became a hospital, prison and orphanage. Today you can visit these buildings, which have been reconstructed to blend in with the natural surroundings.
Beyond the islands, there are some places worth visiting for their beauty, the perfect places to end a day.
Cabo Home is in Morrazo and has privileged views of the estuary and the Cíes Islands from the Punta Subrido lighthouse.
Cabo Silleiro has one of the most spectacular lighthouses in Galicia. It is located in Baiona, was built in the 19th century and is at the entrance to the Vigo estuary.
“Ría” of Pontevedra
In this chapter we enter another estuary, that of Pontevedra. As in the previous chapter, we will see what this estuary is like, from the territory it covers to its characteristics. We will also take a tour of the cities and towns that stand out most in this estuary. I will name the islands that are found here and a beautiful cape with privileged views. Come with me to get to know the Pontevedra estuary!
The Ria de Pontevedra is one of the main sea inlets in the estuaries and one of the most touristic. It is also the most regular of them all and the third largest, with a surface area of 145 km2. It starts at Punta de Cubicastro in the north, which is west of Canelas beach, and Punta Centoleira in the south. The easternmost part can be located in the city of Pontevedra, because this is where the Lérez, the city’s river, joins the sea.
Close to the coast are the Ons Islands, which have been inhabited since ancient times. These have a less abrupt profile than the Cíes and we will see them in depth later on. This estuary also has a very rich fauna, including yellow-legged gulls, herons and sandpipers.
Main cities and towns
As in the Vigo estuary, here we can find very interesting towns and places that are certainly worth visiting. I will briefly review some of these places.
This city is the capital of the province of the same name. It is a small city that has a lot of charm and that, without a doubt, is an essential visit. The old quarter of Pontevedra, one of the best preserved in Galicia, was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, for its great heritage, among which the following stand out: the Church of La Peregrina and the parrot Ravachol, the Plaza de la Herrería, the Basilica of Santa María, the Plaza de la Verdura (the ideal place to have a drink on one of its terraces) or the Plaza de las 5 Calles, in the middle of the old quarter, where there is a house in which the writer Valle Inclán lived.
There is a bronze statue of this same writer in the Plaza Méndez Núñez, which is very popular as many visitors take the opportunity to have their photos taken with him. Towards the river Lérez you can visit the Plaza de Abastos and you can also walk along the river along the Paseo.
On this route you will find many places to rest and, as a curiosity, you can also see the archaeological remains of the medieval city uncovered. The whole city centre is pedestrianised, so it is ideal for a leisurely stroll and enjoy it.
This municipality is next to Pontevedra, just across a bridge. You can reach it on foot from the city. Among the many things it has to offer, I recommend you visit: the archaeological site of A Caeria, the Christopher Columbus House Museum, the monastery of San Xoán de Poio and the A Seca park, from where there are privileged views of the estuary.
This small fishing village looks like something out of a fairy tale. It is very close to the city of Pontevedra and is a very characteristic village known for its hórreos and cruceiros.
Lately it has become a very touristic village and rightly so, as it is the perfect place to spend a day. You can stroll through its narrow streets and see the typical fishermen’s houses, made of stone and wood. All around the centre of the village you can see the cruceiros (stone crosses) and, by the sea, the hórreos (granaries) that are used here to store the fishing tools.
This town is also close to Pontevedra and has several beaches that are its main attraction. I recommend you visit the old town, of medieval origin, where you will find beautiful fishermen’s houses, the Casa señorial das Irmáns Fontenla and the Templo Vello, a 12th century church. If you pass by Mogor beach, don’t miss its very representative cave engravings. Very close to this town you can also visit the A Subidá hill fort, dating from the 1st-4th centuries AD.
What to see in the Pontevedra Estuary?
In this section we will look at other places you can visit in the Pontevedra estuary. We will start with Sanxenxo, which deserves a special place in this chapter. We will also talk, as in the previous chapter, about the islands of this estuary and some places that are simply beautiful and worth visiting. Let’s continue!
This municipality stands out for its beaches and for being the preferred area for partying. When we talk about Sanxenxo we also include Portonovo, as it is in the same municipality and both are very touristic. Because of this influx of tourists, some call it the Benidorm of Galicia and for this reason it has a wide range of hotels, designed to disconnect and relax in this paradise. But Sanxenxo not only offers beaches, but also monuments and historical places that are worth visiting, among which the following stand out:
- Church of San Juan de Dorrón, from the 18th century.
- Monastery of Santa María de Armenteira, from the 12th century.
- The Madam of Silgar. A female sculpture on a rock at the entrance to the promenade. It is a work by Alfonso Vilar from 1995.
- Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Lanzada, which was part of the defensive fortress of La Lanzada and dates from the 12th century.
- A Granxa viewpoint, from where you can see the Rías Alta and Rías Baixas.
And as you can’t miss the beaches, I’ll make you a top 3 of the best in Sanxenxo. Silgar beach, bordered by the promenade, Montalvo beach and La Lanzada beach, the longest beach with 3 km of extension that reaches O Grove, in the Arousa estuary.
In the small fishing village of Portonovo we must highlight the Church of Santa Catalina, a Lonxa and the Mirador de a Peixeira. As for beaches, the best are Baltar, which is shaped like a half shell, and Caneliñas.
Now we will take a look at some of the most interesting islands:
These, together with the Cíes Islands, form part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. They are located in the municipality of Bueu, which is at the beginning of the Pontevedra estuary. These islands are actually an archipelago formed by the island of Ons and several islets such as Onza, Centolo and Freitosa. This island has several hiking trails, where you can see the lighthouse, the viewpoint do Castelo or the archaeological remains of the island.
It is also worth mentioning its beautiful beaches, such as Dorna, where the jetty is located, Melide, which is the largest and most nudist beach, or Pereiró, in the centre of the island.
This island is in the middle of the Pontevedra estuary. It is oval and is entirely covered by a large grove of trees. It has a lighthouse, two beaches and 3 jetties.
Lastly, I would like to mention one more place of interest, Cape Udra. It is in Bueu, in a natural area. It is located in front of the island of Ons and was declared a Special Area of Conservation. At the top of it, the remains of a fortified settlement are still preserved.
“Ría” of Arousa
Continuing with the tour of the Galician estuaries, it is the turn of the Arousa estuary. As in the previous chapters, first you will get to know the particularities of this estuary, both geographically and historically. Then I will tell you about the towns and villages that stand out the most and that abound in this estuary, as several of them are the birthplace of illustrious Galician writers. Finally, we will see some of the islands, the biggest and most touristic ones, and two places of interest for their spectacular views. Get ready to get to know the Ría de Arousa!
The Ria de Arousa is the largest of the Galician and Spanish estuaries. It is home to some of the most active ports of the Rías Baixas. It is situated between the estuary of Muros and Noia, to the north, and the Pontevedra estuary to the south. Despite being the most extensive, it is not the one with the highest barometric heights. The coastline of this estuary has a smooth profile, with large sandbanks and its waters are rich in shellfish. It also has many islands and islets, among them the island of Arousa and Toxa, which we will talk about later. The main rivers that flow into it are the Ulla and the Umia. For centuries, its great extension made it more prone to invasions.
Main cities and towns
Vilagarcía de Arousa.
This city stands out for its beaches and its long history, as witnessed by the petroglyphs, such as those of Ballotes and Meadelo, and the forts from Roman times. Strolling through its streets you can enjoy: the convent and pazo of Vista Alegre, from the 17th and 16th centuries, and the church of San Pedro de Fontecarmoa, next to the Plaza de Abastos.
3 km from the town centre is the 15th century Pazo de Rubiáns, whose gardens are outstanding. The last essential visit is the marina, located at the end of the Jardines del Centenario and Compostela Beach.
This small town is well known for its Viking festival on the first Sunday in August. In addition to the Viking remains, you can visit the West Towers, the old quarry or the promenade of the marshes. A unique experience in this town is to sail on a Viking drakkar.
I recommend that you stroll through the streets of its historic quarter and enjoy the monuments, including: the Casa das Cunchas, Casa Fariña, Casa dos Fraga, the convent of San Francisco and the pazo of Fefiñáns. If you have time, I recommend you visit the House-Museum of Ramón Cabanillas, who was an outstanding writer in the Galician language.
Vilanova de Arousa.
This beautiful seaside town, which is the birthplace of the illustrious Valle Inclán, has several places you should visit, such as the Romanesque church of Santa María de Caleiro, the Pazo de Rúa Nova, the Cálogo Towers and, of course, the ancestral home of Valle Inclán.
This beautiful place stands out for its natural beauty and the Corrubedo dune complex is an example of this. This area, with its dunes, beaches and even lagoons, is a visit not to be missed. Also worth a visit: the Axeitos Dolmen, from the Neolithic period, or the port and its fish market, one of the most important in Galicia. Take the time to stroll through its streets and enjoy this unique landscape.
Another beautiful coastal town with a lot to offer. Within what we can visit are several archaeological sites such as: the forts of Neixón, Baroña and Cidá, the dolmen of Axeitos, the petroglyph of Laxe das Cabras.
In the town visit the house of Camelias, the church of Santa Baia and the port and its fish market.
This town is the birthplace of three great Galician writers: Castelao, Rafael Dieste and Manuel Antonio. If we wander around a little we will find, in Castelao square, the chapel of Guadalupe. Further on is the church of Santa Comba and the pazo of Martelo. Visit the museum of the sea to learn more about fishing culture and discover the ruins of Castelo da Lúa.
What to see in the Arousa Estuary?
Here we will talk about some of the islands that stand out in this estuary and we will start with the island of Arousa. This island is linked to the mainland, to Vilanova, by a bridge of almost two kilometres, built in 1985. This improved communication with the island, which led to its further development and an increase in its population, which lives from fishing, shellfishing and tourism. To the north is the town centre and the Cabodeiro quay. The port of Xufre is the most important on the island. Its highest point is the viewpoint of O Con do Forno, where there is a statue of the Sacred Heart. Also worth a visit are the Punta Cabalo lighthouse and the beach of Secada, one of the most popular on the island.
Now let’s look at the island of Sálvora, which was a refuge for pirates and corsairs until the 19th century. This island began to be populated in the Middle Ages although nowadays it can only be visited. Tourist attractions include: the residential Pazo de Sálvora, which became the first fish drying and salting factory in Galicia; the old village, made up of 8 houses around a square; the chapel of Santa Catalina; the lighthouse; the sculpture of the mermaid and, of course, the beaches, including the Castelo and Almacén beaches.
The last of the islands I am going to mention is Toxa. This is perhaps one of the most famous islands in Galicia and, without doubt, the most famous in this estuary. It is linked to O Grove by a bridge and is well known for its medicinal waters. These can be enjoyed in the spa. On the island there is also a very characteristic church, as it is covered in shells, as well as hotels, shops, a casino and a port.
Lastly, there are two recommended places to visit. One is the cape of Corrubedo, in Ribeira, which has a lighthouse at the top. From there you can see the lighthouses of Fisterra and the Cíes Islands. The other point of interest is the Valle Inclán viewpoint, between Ribeira and Pobra do Caramiñal. This was the writer’s favourite spot, and rightly so, as it has privileged views of the Arousa estuary and even the Ons and Cíes islands.
“Ría” of Muros and Noya
We continue our journey towards the north, focusing now on the Ría de Muros and Noia. This estuary, unlike the previous ones, is perhaps less striking, but it is still worth a visit. First we will talk about the history of the estuary, where it is and its characteristics, then we will highlight some of its most important villages and, finally, we will mention the largest island and a natural area that is a must-see. If I have created some intrigue for you, stay and get to know the Ría de Muros and Noia.
The Ria de Muros and Noia, also called Ria da Estrela, is located between the Ria de Corcubión, to the north, and the Ria de Aorusa, to the south, being the limit in the Barbanza peninsula. It covers an area of 400 square kilometres, with the River Tambre flowing into the estuary. This confluence of the Tambre with the sea is what produces an ideal habitat for some molluscs such as bivalves, clams and cockles, which are a speciality in this area. Being in the centre of the Atlantic coast, the waves are gentle, unlike the abrupt waves found in the Costa da Morte region. All this facilitated the increase in importance of the ports of this estuary, some of them, such as Noia, being very important in the past.
Main cities and towsn
This destination is undoubtedly one of the most interesting. Like Noia, Muros is a beautiful place that was declared a Historic-Artistic Site. This great attraction, together with its beautiful beaches, make this town a very popular destination for tourists. I recommend that you walk through its streets, starting with its most important squares: the Santa Rosa square, where there is a beautiful 18th century stone cross, and the Pescadería Vieja square, where there is a beautiful fountain and taverns.
On your route through the narrow streets you will find the typical arcades of the fishing villages coexisting with some remarkable architectural works such as the Town Hall, the Plaza de Abastos, the arch of Don Diego, the sanctuary of the Virgen del Camino or the collegiate church of Santa María. For those who love archaeology, Muros also has a great heritage such as its cave engravings, among which Laxe das Rodas or Cova de Bruxa stand out. There are also remains of forts, such as Miraflores and the old Roman road.
This medieval town is another must-see, along with Muros. Both give their name to this estuary and rightly so, as their past makes them two fabulous towns to spend a day. Noia is at the mouth of the Tambre river and, in the Middle Ages, it was the most important port enclave in the Atlantic.
This town stands out for its great variety of legends that explain, among other things, the very name of Noia. It is said that the town was founded by the descendants of the biblical Noah, although this is obviously not verifiable, it does lend an air of mystery to this beautiful place. Its historic quarter, built around the Church of San Martiño, is considered a Site of Cultural Interest. In it we have to highlight its urban pazos, such as the dos Curruchaos, its old mansions and its medieval hospitals, such as San Lázaro or the Santo hospital.
I also recommend that you take a stroll around its squares, such as o Tapal, where the church of San Matiño is located, or Alameda, and that you visit its medieval bridges, Traba and Nafonso.
Porto do Son.
This town has great natural beauty and archaeological wealth. Of the latter, the Castro de Baroña stands out, the best preserved in Galicia, the petroglyphs in Braña das Pozas and Gurita, and the mámoas of Montemuíño and Iroite. As far as nature is concerned, the Fervenzas de Ribasiera and its beaches stand out, the best being that of as Furnas.
What to see in the Muros and Noia Estuary?
As in previous chapters, this section is devoted to the islands and places of interest in the Muros and Noia estuary. We begin with the island of Creba.
The island of Creba is located in the parish of Esteiro, in Muros. This, in principle, is private, as the land was bought by the businessman Emilio Penas Gerpe.
In spite of this, you can visit the island, along a circular path that runs through its two hectares, where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the estuary and its abundant pine trees. It is very small, so you can see the whole island in an hour. Many legends have arisen around this island, of Moors and princesses, created to explain the construction of the hermitage on it. It was dedicated to Santa María and was guarded by a hermit. This hermitage existed since the Middle Ages, although unfortunately nothing remains of it today.
The mountain and lagoon of Louro are the other great place not to be missed in this estuary. This is located at the entrance to the estuary, and is 241 m high. At its feet, surrounded by the sand of the beach of Área Maior, is the lagoon of As Xarfas, a dune ecosystem very rich in fauna and flora. Near this privileged natural space is the beach of Ancoradoiro, whose peculiarity is that it is surrounded by pine forests and has a lighthouse. This mountain is also a Point of Geological Interest and the whole area is considered a Special Area of Conservation due to its diversity.
“Ría” of Corcubión
In this chapter we come to the northernmost point of the Rías Baixas, which has the reputation of being “the end of the world”. This coast is more rugged but it is also beautiful and has many interesting places to visit. As in the previous chapters, we will first talk a bit about the estuary and learn about its history. Then we will take a tour of the most beautiful villages along the estuary, which are brimming with natural and historical beauty. Finally, we will talk about the islands that are in this estuary and a place with a natural and magical beauty that you will not want to miss, come and enjoy the Corcubion estuary!
The Corcubion estuary, which has the shape of an open arch, is an inlet that opens from the Fisterra cape, which closes it to the sea, to the sandy beaches of Carnota to the south. It is a very rugged coastline and has rocky outcrops that vary depending on the area. For example, on Monte Pindo there are shapes carved out of the granite, but a few kilometres further on, these rocks are staggered and become rocky projections, like peaks.
The highest point of this estuary is Moa, which is more than 600 metres high and from where you can enjoy enviable views of the estuary. The river that flows into this estuary, in the form of a waterfall, is the Xallas. Towards Cape Fisterra the granite and the shapes change and, if you continue southwards, you will see how the rock crumbles and gives way to the largest sandy area in Galicia, that of Carnota. Much of this estuary is full of legends and myths, partly created by the rugged coastal conditions that make it susceptible to shipwrecks and partly because it is “the end of the world”.
Main cities and towns
This beautiful seaside town is well known for having been called “the end of the world” by the Romans, a name it still retains today. Its cape, where the lighthouse is located, really seems to be the end of the world. Without a doubt, your first essential visit here is the lighthouse. This is very important because the rugged coastline in this area is very dangerous for boats. It is also one of the most important lighthouses in Europe.
It can be reached on foot, as many pilgrims do on the way from Santiago de Compostela to Fisterra, or by car. The views of the sea from there are spectacular and if you include a boat trip to watch the sunset from the sea you will have an unforgettable experience. Once you have enjoyed the lighthouse, I recommend a stroll around the town, starting with the harbour.
Here you will find several bars and restaurants where you can enjoy the local food and, on Fridays, there is also a street market. Finally, stroll through the narrow streets of the village and enjoy its colourful houses and the charm of a fishing village.
This small fishing village has a great natural and scenic wealth. The most abundant here are the hórreos (raised granaries), the largest in Galicia. These are the hórreos of Lira and Carnota, which date from the 18th century and are more than 30 metres long. Among the heritage you can visit there are several churches, such as San Mamede, petroglyphs, such as Pedra Escrita, and places of interest such as the Pedrafigueira waterfall and the Torre dos Mouros mountain, where you can see the remains of an ancient wall and a road. It has many paradisiacal beaches, such as the beach of Carnota which, with its 7 km of extension, is the longest in Galicia.
This beautiful town, which gives its name to this estuary, is a must-see. It has a very well-kept appearance and, in spite of having been rebuilt in the 19th century, it still conserves old buildings. Its old quarter has been declared a historic-artistic site, and this town has a lot of history. Its oldest part is further away from the coast although, from the 12th century onwards, it moved to the place where it is today. Walking through its streets you can see a cruceiro, from the 18th century, and the chapel of San Antonio, from the 17th century.
In this town the typical houses of sailors, stately homes and those of indianos are preserved, among which the following stand out: Miñones house, from the 19th century, or the pazo (country house) of the Counts of Altamira, from the 15th century. Other outstanding buildings are the Cardenal castle, 18th century, and the church of San Marcos, 14th century.
Another charming little fishing village in this beautiful estuary. You can visit the church of Santa María de Xunqueira, 15th century, which still conserves its Gothic chancel. Walking through its narrow streets you will find the Plaza de la Constitución, where you will find the Fernando Blanco museum-foundation, dedicated to the scientific and didactic material of the old institute.
Further on is the Paseo de la Alameda, where you can enjoy 19th century buildings such as the Mayán house. In the oldest part you will find stately homes such as the Cotón manor house.
What to see in Corcubión Estuary?
As in the previous chapters, here we will talk about the islands, which are always worth mentioning. In this case they are a group of small islands. Let’s go there!
This group of islands are in the middle of the Corcubión estuary, in front of the coast of Carnota, the two biggest ones are Lobeira grande and Lobeira chica. These islands, less than a square kilometre in size, are home to a lighthouse that is more than a century old. It is now automated, but it used to be guarded by a lighthouse keeper, who lived there all year round. These islands are rocky and have a granite surface. This, together with its small size, makes it impossible to use it for anything other than housing the lighthouse. But it is not uninhabited, as cormorants use it for nesting.
The name of these islands comes from the sea lions, which were believed to have inhabited it in former times. Seafaring traditions say that they used to wait in hiding for ships to crash into the island and they were right, as these islands were the site of several shipwrecks.
In addition to the Lobeiras islands, I would like to highlight a place that stands out for its natural beauty. If you take a trip along this estuary you cannot miss it.
Mount Pindo and Ézaro viewpoint.
Mount Pindo is a mountainous appendix with rounded, zoomorphic rocks overlooking the sea. It is a place that is considered mythical, as many legends have developed around it about the people who inhabited it and its magical properties. Some call it the “Celtic Olympus”, as it was a sacred mountain for this civilisation and sacrifices were even made there.
At the foot of this mountain is the Fervenza de Ézaro, which is also known as the waterfall of the river Xallas. This is the only river in Europe that flows into the river in the form of a waterfall. There are three reservoirs that retain the river water before it becomes a waterfall, the Fervenza, Castrelo and Santa Uxía.
This area has great natural beauty and abundant flora and fauna. Here it is worth mentioning the Pías or Caldeiras, which are natural cavities built by the river.
The Xallas waterfall can be seen all year round and, very close to it, there is the Ézaro viewpoint, from which there are privileged views of the estuary, the Lobeiras islands and Cape Fisterra.
“Ría” of Aldán
This is the chapter dedicated to the last estuary I have not talked about, the one of Aldán. Perhaps the layout seems strange since we have seen them from south to north, but this estuary is special and different. As in all the chapters dedicated to the estuaries, here we will also begin by talking a little about its history, what makes it different from its neighbours, the estuaries of Vigo and Pontevedra. We will also talk about its towns, the most interesting places, both for their nature and their history, and the best beaches of this estuary. Come and discover the Aldán estuary!
The Aldán estuary is one of the great unknowns. This small estuary is transversal to the others and is located between the Vigo and Pontevedra estuaries, in the Morrazo peninsula. To reach it you have to go through Cangas del Morrazo. This is not an estuary in the strict sense of the word, as the erosions it presents were not created by any river. It should be seen more as a deep inlet in the coast. As I mentioned earlier, it is at the tip of the peninsula and is bounded at its southern and northern ends by Couso Point and Cape Udra. The river that flows into the beginning of the estuary is the Orxas, which forms an inlet that encompasses the beaches of Aldán and O Hío. The endorheic complex in this area, behind the beach of Vilariño, shows that there used to be marshes that have now been replaced by a channel.
This estuary has a great advantage in that it still conserves the physiognomy and spirit of the great estuaries that surround it, since the real estate boom did not reach it. This has made it a favourite place to enjoy the beaches, one of its great attractions, which we will talk about later. In addition, its calm waters make it a perfect place for canoeing and sailing sports. A number of Olympic canoeists, such as David Cal, have come out of this estuary.
Main cities and towns
This beautiful little fishing village is the one that gives its name to this estuary. It is only 10 km from Cangas do Morrazo. I invite you to take a walk around the village, you can do it bordering the sea, in sections you will cross the beautiful beaches of this area. One of the curiosities that you will see are the hórreos (granaries) that are bordering the sea, like the ones in Combarro that I have already mentioned in the Pontevedra estuary. As it is a town linked to the sea, you can’t miss its port, one of the most important places.
This port has a constant activity and a lot of movement. From here you can see the mussel rafts, which you can enjoy right on the quay. Leaving from the port you can take a route around the beach of San Cibrán to the mouth of the river Orxas.
This village is at the end of the Morrazo peninsula, being the closest mainland to the Cíes Islands. It is completely surrounded by the sea, which makes it an area dedicated exclusively to fishing. Here you will find some of the most visited tourist sites, such as Cape Home or Mount Facho, which I will tell you about in the next section. As it is such a small place, I recommend that you walk around it. You will be able to see the Romanesque church of San Andrés and one of the most important cruceiros (stone crosses) in Galicia. It dates from 1872 and is the work of José Cerviño García. It stands out for its great artistic quality, portraying the Passion of Christ on the one hand and Genesis on the other.
What to see in Aldán Estuary?
In previous chapters, in this part I used to talk about islands and places of interest. But with this estuary, which is different from the others, we have to make an exception. Here I will tell you about the places of interest and the best beaches. This estuary may not be as striking as its neighbours, but it certainly has a special charm that is worth getting to know.
We’ll start with one of the most striking headlands, Cape Home. This is in Donón, or Hío, in the westernmost part of the Morrazo peninsula. This is also the location of Melide beach, whose attraction is the pine forest that surrounds it. From this cape begins an abrupt area on the coast known as Costa da Vela. This is where the famous Caracola viewpoint is located, which is a metal sculpture from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the sea. If you continue walking along the cape and reach the tip of the cape you will find the lighthouse. It was built in 1873 and is one of the tallest in Galicia.
Very close to Cape Home is Mount Facho. In the highest part it preserves a castrexo settlement and the sanctuary of the god Berobreo. It is believed that this settlement may have been occupied before the Castrian period, around the 10th-7th century BC. You can reach it by following a hiking route, which also offers enviable views, even better than those from the Caracola viewpoint. In addition to these remains, pieces of a Roman road, stelae (which can be seen in the museums of Pontevedra and Vigo), petroglyphs and even a military sentry box from the 18th century were also found.
Now it is the turn of Cape Udra. This is in Bueu, in a natural area opposite the islands of Ons. Due to its natural value, it has been declared a Special Area of Conservation. What this cape has to offer is a coastal landscape of cliffs and crags. At the highest point it preserves the remains of a fortified settlement and is bordered by many coves and beaches that are not to be missed.
Punta de Couso is another must-see in this estuary. This, along with Cape Udra, are the ones that delimit the Aldán estuary. It is in Hío and its landscape is also dominated by cliffs. At its end there is a lighthouse, a perfect place to watch the sunset.
Finally, I will tell you about the best beaches you will find in this estuary, divided according to their location. The most westerly beaches are in the parish of Hío and stand out: Areabrava, the longest; Castiñeiras, with a lot of charm thanks to its wild environment; San Xián, with fine sands and calm waters; Arneles, perfect for sailing and navigation and Vilariño beach, a large sandy area in the shape of a C. The beaches on the eastern side are the most touristy, as they have many services.
Highlights include: Aldán beach, which is a large sandy area; Sestadelo beach, whose crystal-clear waters make it ideal for underwater activities; Areacova beach, surrounded by a pine forest; Menduiña beach, with a blue flag and all services; and Area de Bon beach, which overlooks the Ons.
In short, here you have a fairly complete guide to the estuaries, with special emphasis on the Rías Baixas. We have seen what they are, which ones there are and we have also looked in depth at the estuaries that make up the Rías Baixas. I hope you liked the article and that you have learned a lot about the Galician coast. I would also like to thank you for coming here. Whether you have been to Galicia or not, I hope that the journey we have made has helped you to get to know this part of the Galician coast better.
Galicia is a magical land full of incredible places, it is the perfect place to rest, to do adventure or cultural tourism. Besides, you should know that what I am telling you about is just a part of the estuaries, but there is much more waiting to be visited.
Now it’s your turn to talk, tell me in the comments the places you have visited in Galicia, the ones you already had on your bucket list and the ones you have added now that you have read this article. I also encourage you to leave me your doubts about the information you read, suggestions of places that interest you or new discoveries that will become future trips.