Explore Southern Galicia

By: Stephen Stewart

Northern Spain and Galicia particularly has long been an undiscovered jewel in the whole of the Spanish tourism industry and within that undiscovered jewel in particular we are going to take a look at Southern Galicia.

Overall of all of the autonomous regions of Spain possibly Galicia is the most remote and this makes Southern Galicia even more of an undiscovered treasure.

Traditionally, Galicia was seen as a poor agricultural region, whose economy did not lend itself to modernisation and yet as far as tourism is concerned it is this constant contact with the past that gives the region its appeal and charm.

The Galicians, whose origins are Celtic, are fiercely proud of their culture and language; it is what makes them unique (they feel) within modern day Spain.

It absorbed little in the way of outside influence being fiercely resistant to all forms of outside intervention (and we mean all forms of outside intervention), was never conquered by the Moors, and in the Middle Ages fell under the control of the kingdom of Asturias.

Thankfully slowly throughout the 20th century Galicia has begun to develop a way in which to manage the traditional lifestyles with a modern community to ensure that none of its rich history is lost and this is now starting to show very real and tangible benefits as far as the local tourism economy is concerned.

If you take a look at Galicia on a geographical basis and divide it into four quadrants or two halves then the southernmost part would be that area south of a line drawn between Santiago de Compostela in the west and possibly the Reserva Nacional de os Ancares in the east which as anyone who knows the area covers quite a wide area.

Included within this area is the major city of Vigo and just north is the provincial capital of Galicia's southern province, Pontevedra. Southern Galicia also includes further to the east Ribadevia, Ourense, Monasterio de Ribas de Sil and Monforte de Lemos. Further south almost on the Portuguese border you will find the Mino River Valley.

The Mino River is actually Galicia's longest river covering approximately 190 miles from its source high up in the Sierra de Mierra in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. On its way downstream it flows through the towns of Lugo and Ourense entering the Atlantic at A Guarda. The river valley is actually a beautiful landscape of steep valleys and extremely good agricultural land and the hidden jewel in all of this is that it is here where the best wines in Galicia are grown. The area produces nice crisp white wine called Ribeiro.

There is an interesting drive through the valley for a tourist that is approximately 47 miles and there are many interesting stopping off places along the route. To the south of the route you will find Salvaterra de Mino leading next to Arbo, Crescente and finally leading up to Melon. Here you will find the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Melon which once belonged to the Cistercians. Fragments of the original buildings dating back to the 12th Century have survived and make this an interesting site to walk around.

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