Day 4 – Sil River Canyon: ancient trails (19 km)

ROUTE PARADA DO SIL (Circular) (PR G-98)

TUESDAY, MAY 12

The third stage runs through the municipality of Parada de Sil. Prepare your senses to enjoy nature in its purest form, listen to the crackling of leaf litter in the carriozas, touch the green moss of its stones and have that forest smell permanently. Upon reaching the Sil, the panoramic view offered by its balconies leads us almost to meditation. In the middle, cobbled paths, abandoned villages that have been engulfed by nature or the beautiful Monastery of Santa Cristina. It’s a hard thing to tell, you have to walk it.

Dificultad ALTA
Difficulty HIGH
Dificultad ALTA
19 kilometers
Dificultad ALTA
7 hours
Dificultad ALTA
+-1098 m slope

millenary paths...
the geological monument of the Sil River ...
old hermitage shelters ...
... and replenishing food
Sil River Canyon
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We begin this stage in Parada do Sil, in the Statue of Barquilleiro, center of the area and where there are accommodations, restaurants and a small supermarket. And today’s story begins in this statue that reminds us that this beautiful land has always been a land of emigration and many of its people have had to go far to make a living. And, curiously, many barquilleiros came out of this area selling their rich wafers in the big cities, especially Madrid. Their neighbors watched them go, crossing the Sil facing Monforte and, from there, to the peninsular center, where they would be working until the time of the harvest. That is why we know these Sil lookouts as the Balcones de Madrid.

We look closely at the sign that says Start of the GR-98 and leave Parada for the first “carriozas”, wide stone paths that limited the old properties and that today make us enjoy, early in the morning, the green of its mosses, leafy oak trees and the trill of birds that accompany us on the walk. Soon, we arrive at Sardela, which we cross through its main street, to go back into another dense forest, where the chestnut trees are each time larger.

We continue down until we reach Entrambosríos, a bucolic place where houses live with these large chestnuts, so important in the feeding of people and cattle for centuries. Clear example of this respect is the Millennium Chestnut of Entrambosríos, which has reached our days and whose diameter exceeds 10 meters. Taking advantage of the strength of the Regato do Batán, we can also see the remains of two mills.

Little by little we are entering the history of this place and we can begin to imagine what life has been like here for centuries, a survival economy where the optimization of the scarce existing resources was basic. They had their chestnut forest that provided them with food and good wood. And, thanks to the mill, they prepared, from the chestnut, flour that served them as a food base throughout the year. For the construction, the omnipresent stone combined with strong beams also of chestnut, allowed them to make stable houses where to shelter.

We continue the descent and reach a detour. If we take to the right we will go along the road that takes us to Rabacallos and its river beach, already out of the way. Continuing to the left along the PR G-98 route we will begin the ascent that, through a forest with good views over the Sil River, leads us to the San Vitorio vineyards. We cross through the middle of the vines, being able to see in our walk the heroic viticulture that its inhabitants have to practice, going up these narrow and steep terraces.

The ascent to the place of Congostra continues along a path through the forest, with the permanent shade of oak and chestnut trees. At some point, the path is steep so much that the placement of stairs was necessary. We make some rest in the middle of the climb to enjoy in its fullness of the environment and the tranquility that is breathed. When someone refers to “forest baths” they must be saying exactly this.

We cross Fondodevila and we already go to one of the key points of the route, the Balconies of Madrid, spectacular viewpoint of the canyons of the Sil River, in which the neighbors sat down to see their emigrant relatives cross the river and go away land. Easy to reach by car, today it is one of the most visited points of the Ribeira Sacra. We will make a stop in them and we will have the different panoramic views that they offer and that differ greatly depending on the weather conditions and the hours of the day you visit it.

We have reached the river and now we have to walk through these ancient paths looking for the Monastery of Santa Cristina, which is 5 kilometers from here. After a part of soil, we enter a path that, from the heights, goes across the entire slope of the canyon. We pass through the viewpoints of Fental, Fontiñas and Portela before reaching the small village of Portela. There, with the mill and the small stream, they create another beautiful place on this route.

We walk in solitude, through narrow paths of carved stones over the centuries and perfectly settled in thick chestnut forests. Sometimes we find small “sequeiros”, buildings where chestnuts were dried and stored for annual consumption. We cross lonely places that captivated the ancient hermits who sought that peace and tranquility that can only be breathed here.

And there, in the middle of nowhere, among all that lush nature of a large chestnut forest, the Romanesque jewel of the Ribeira Sacra appears in front of us and one of the best exponents of the Galician rural Romanesque: the Monastery of Santa Cristina .

Its origin comes from ancient hermits who, in family clans, sought refuge in these lands of the upper Sil. The first written testimonies appear at the end of the 10th century, in donations to their abbots and monks. From the first half of the 12th century it belonged to the Benedictine order that built the primitive monastery and the church. The monks stimulated agricultural production, especially the cultivation of the vine and chestnut trees and, from that moment, the lands are transferred to the peasants in exchange for the payment of income (letters of afforestation) and the monastery receives the concession of important privileges and papal protection. During the Middle Ages it was one of the main monasteries of the Ribeira Sacra, as we can see in the vestiges of the communication roads that are preserved in the area, remains of roads and the Forcas bridge.

Its decline begins with the monastic reform of the fifteenth century and disappears as an abbey when it became priory of the Monastery of San Estevo at the beginning of the XVI, which will allow the reconstruction of the cloister and the decoration of the apses of the church with frescoes. In its only the prior and some monk will remain until the Confiscation in 1835 from which it passes into private hands and becomes a farm.

The church was built between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th. It has a Latin cross plan with 3 absides in the head facing east, where the morning lights penetrate. The central is decorated with 16th century paintings. The longitudinal nave is divided into five sections by semicircular arches that support a wooden deck and rest on wide granite walls reinforced by external buttresses. The crucero is covered with a half-barrel vault that rests on four arches raised on terraced columns with very ornate capitals.

The main facade is formed by half-point archivolts on three pairs of columns with capitals decorated with human heads and plant motifs. In the upper body the rose window illuminates the entire temple. The central apse is divided by four columns and in it we can see the different motifs that appear in the cinnamon that support the eave. The tower served to call prayer but also had a vigilance and defensive function. At its base, books of the Benedictine order were read while the monks processed through the cloister.

At a right angle to the facade is the entrance door to the monastery, with a single archivolt decorated with large cabbage leaves, several figures and the four symbols of the evangelists. There are only two spaces of the monastery that correspond to the Renaissance remodels of the 16th century. We can visit several dependencies and on some of its walls, we can see tombstones of the abbots. From the wooden balcony, you have a wide panoramic view of the Sil Canyon,

A visit to the Monastery of Santa Cristina that will help us continue composing the history of this Ribeira Sacra, a land chosen for over 1000 years and where there is one of the largest concentrations of Romanesque in the world.

We leave the Monastery and return to the road in continuous ascent until we reach Castro de Cividá. The castro is located at 638 meters high and has an irregular oval shaped main enclosure of about 2850 square meters that offers a wide visual domain over the Sil River Valley. The wall is defined by granite rocks placed without mortar, with a height greater than 2 meters and a width in some area of up to 4 meters.

In the course of archaeological works, ceramics were dated between 1061 and 418 BC, between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Stone Age. No remains of domestic structures were found, so we believe that the people who lived in this place did not inhabit permanent stone cabins, as is usual in other Iron Age castros, they inhabited small cabins with perishable materials, which is more typical of the Bronze Age settlements (2500-800 BC). Roman vestiges were also found, which shows that this privileged place was occupied at different historical moments, from prehistory to Romanization (0-IV AD).

Next to the castro, is the Pena da Cividá viewpoint and, more to the left, the private platform created by the Camping A Mirada Máxica formed by two platforms that go into the hillside, offering one of the typical photographs of the Sil.

From Castro and through more carriozas that cross oak and chestnut forests, we arrive at Parada de Sil, which we cross through its main street admiring the typical stone constructions and wooden balcony that populate its main street. The church and the former Rectoral House, which dates back to 1671 and now became a house of rural tourism, are the end of this stage in which we have walked through the deepest part of the Ribeira Sacra.

Route Planning

Km StagePointHeight (m)Km Total
0,0Parada de Sil66224,5
0,0Statue of the Barquillero66224,5
0,9Sardela65225,4
0,9Sardela water source65225,4
2,6Batan stream43727,1
2,7Entrambosríos43327,2
2,9Mills42227,4
2,9Pontón do Rego dos Fíos42027,4
3,2Batan Stream bridge38527,7
Rabacallos24,5
4,6San Vitorio Vineyard31029,1
6,3Congostra58530,8
6,8Fondo da Vila63531,3
6,8Fondo da Vila water source63531,3
7,4Picnic Area65831,9
7,6Foxo do Lobo65632,1
7,8Torgais Viewpoint65032,3
7,9Balconies of Madrid Viewpoint65432,4
9,5O Fental Viewpoint56634,0
10,1As Fontiñas Viewpoint55534,6
10,5Portela Viewpoint56935,0
11,3Portela53935,8
13,1Monastery of Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil37,6
14,7Castro da Cividá63139,2
14,7Cividá Viewpoint63139,2
14,9As Xariñas do Castro Viewpoint62639,4
15,0Camping62439,5
15,1Fountain / Laundry62539,6
16,3Caxide Stream65940,8
16,7Chamoso65341,2
19,0Parada de Sil66243,5

Images Sil River Canyon Stage