Pontevedra-Combarro-Sanxenxo-Portonovo-A Lanzada-O Grove-A Toxa-Cambados
The trip follows the contour of the Salnés peninsula, between the Rías Baixas of Arousa and Pontevedra, protected inlets, very productive, sprinkled with bateas where the best mussels in the world are farmed, as well as with islands large and small: Ons, in the ría of Pontevedra, and Arousa, Sálvora, Cortegada and A Toxa in that of Arousa. On the banks of the Salnés, art and history merge. There was the site chosen for the foundation of beautiful cities such as Pontevedra, small fishing towns –Combarro, O Grove, Cambados-, tourist and residential centers -Sanxenxo, Portonovo, San Vicente do Mar-, monasteries –Poio, Armenteira-, and a multitude of country palaces and noble houses, which bear witness to the riches of a land which is also one of the most important wine-producing regions of Galicia, from where Albariño and Barrantes wines come from.
A small world in itself, constantly visited by both Galicians and people from elsewhere during the summertime: for the mildness of its weather, its magnificent beaches, its tasty fish and seafood and the quantity and quality of its tourist-oriented services.
The itinerary begins in monumental Pontevedra, at the head of the ría of the same name, and continues through Combarro, offering a most typical view of cruceiros and hórreos almost seeming to spring from the sea. After having passed the beaches of Sanxenxo, Portonovo and Montalvo, we reach the immense sandbanks of A Lanzada, followed by the O Grove peninsula and the alluring and sophisticated island of A Toxa. The itinerary finishes in monumental Cambados.
At the head of the ría of the same name, and on the banks of the river Lérez, the old town of Pontevedra, founded in medieval times, stands out for its good state of preservation. Although it may appear to be a small town, wandering through it usually takes longer than expected, for its charms are many. The Provincial Museum, the church of A Peregrina (18th century), baroque and in the shape of a scallop, Santa María la Mayor (16th century), the secluded Plaza de la Leña, the arcades of la Herrería, or San Telmo street, are only a few of the points of interest in this city which is also the capital of the province bearing the same name.
Combarro is like the vision of a seafaring Galicia that one expected to find. Its houses and hórreos almost in the sea itself have been immortalized through thousands of pictures and posters, contributing to the most widespread perception of the Galician rías area. The town in its entirety has been declared of historical and artistic interest.
Sanxenxo and Portonovo
Although little more than twenty years ago Sanxenxo and Portonovo were no more than a pair of fishing villages, nowadays they are the capitals of beach tourism in Galicia. Their beaches and nightlife still act as a magnet for Galicians in particular, the Spanish in general and also for the neighboring Portuguese.
A Lanzada is an immense stretch of white sand looking to the ocean, thanks to the fact that the O Grove peninsula remains connected to the mainland. It is also, for its relation to rites of fertility, a beach closely connected to the mysticism commonly attributed to Galicians: tradition has it that taking a bath of nine waves on a full moon night is a guaranteed cure for infertility. On its southern flank, looking towards the sea and the sunset, there is a beautiful Romanesque hermitage (13th century) that stands oblivious to the world around it next to the remains of a medieval tower from the 10th century.
The O Grove peninsula, only tenuously linked to the mainland, actually has an island character. Most visited throughout the summer, it is known best for the high quality of its seafood, which make of it the capital of marine gastronomy. But it is also known for places like Monte Siradela, with its 167 m over the sea level the highest point in the area, and therefore its best view point. In the center of town there are a great number of bars, taverns and restaurants where the most excellent fish and seafood can be found.
From the port of O Grove leaves the cruiser that sails around the Ría de Arousa and takes us inland towards the mouth of the river Ulla. Its route, according to legend, is the same as that followed by the boat transporting the remains of the Apostle Saint James to Padrón. It sails among the bateas where the celebrated Galician mussels grow. Galicia is the world’s first producer of mussels.
Isla de A Toxa
A luxury island, famous for the properties of its waters, which lent their name to a brand of cosmetics of international reknown. In La Toja (its Spanish name) the atmosphere is exclusive, and the tourist services -hotels, spa, casino- of the highest quality and supported by a long-standing tradition, in some cases as old as the beginning of the 20th century. It also has a smart little chapel, peculiar for its being covered with scallop shells, which many have used as visiting cards to remind the world of their presence on the island by writing or drawing upon them.
Cambados holds the title Muy Noble Villa (Most Noble Town). That nobility is appreciated in the centenary stones of the plaza de Fefiñáns (17th century), with its aristocratic quietness and the Romanesque church of San Bieito (16th century) on one of its sides. Cambados is the indisputable capital of Albariño wine, the festivities of which are celebrated on the first weekend of August.