I had been thinking about doing a staycation in the Pontevedra area to enjoy it calmly like any other traveler. But it wasn’t until past October when I had the chance to do it and reconnect with some of the most beautiful places in the city and the surrounding area of Terras de Pontevedra.
If you think you already know the area from your last trip to Rias Baixas and Galicia, think better.
1. Walk about one of the best places to live in the World
Pontevedra has been awarded with many international prizes for its urban development. But here urban development doesn’t mean just architecture or city design, we are talking about one of the most accessible, walkable and human-centered cities in the world.
The paved streets have been mostly pedestrianized and the buildings of the historic centre are not only beautiful, but full of life every day of the year. It was even the first city in all Galicia to have electricity (the light factory of Casa da Luz is now home to the Tourist Office).
And Pontevedra doesn’t end there, it is a city with a lot of history and secrets. Founded by Teucro (Teucer, the greek hero Τεύκρος, who fought the Trojan war and appears at the Iliad), Pontevedra has attracted many interesting people throughout the years: writers, polititians (the Spanish President Mariano Rajoy is from Pontevedra), architects…
Did you know that a pirate called Benito Soto hid his treasures here? Many people have tried to find it under Casa das Campás, but none have found it (yet.) The place is now home of the University of Vigo, which has an important campus in Pontevedra.
Another interesting inhabitant of Pontevedra was Sister Lucia, one of the kids who witnessed the Marian Apparitions in Fatima in 1917. There is a small chapel at the room she used to live at, where an apparition took place in 1925, at the Sanctuary of Apparitions right behind the Royal Basilica of Saint Mary (known as Santa María la Mayor.)
For a full list on the must-sees in Pontevedra city, check our list here on our sister site TravelTo5
2: Visit the Archaeological sites from the Rock Ages
Pontevedra area (also known as Terras de Pontevedra) as one of the biggest collections of Rock Art (as in archaeology, not music) in the World.
I had told you about it some time ago, when we visited the Tourón archaeological area and its petroglyphs at Cotobade. This time the route would be a bit bigger: we went to back to Touron, but also added the amazing park of Campo Lameiro and the stones of Mogor, A Caeira and Chan dos Areeiros.
The PAAR or archaeological park of Campo Lameiro (PAAR), is only 25 minutes away from Pontevedra by car. And is certainly a must-see when visiting Rias Baixas. It is a museum and a real archaeology excavation, so here you will mix with other visitors but also with archaeologists who take care and study every bit of it (still finding new carvings there and in their surrounding area.)
Where they hunting signs? A connection with the outer worlds? Just art? A proof of power or property? Nobody knows, but their permanent exhibit is bound to offer some theories about the Bronze Age in Galicia and all across Europe that are worth considering.
Just a tip here: plan your visit to the park by checking their activities page on the website, as they have night visits that are amazing for watching the petroglyphs and the starry nights above. Other activities include learning how to make prehistoric fire, pottery and even rock art.
Another interesting archaeological spot in Pontevedra is right at Mogor in Marín. It’s known as the Labyrinth of Mogor and is a series of petroglyphs above the beach of Mogor, just a few minutes from Pontevedra City and fairly easy to reach by public transport.
There are several carvings here, but most people come here mainly for the Labyrinth carving, which overlooks the Ria of Pontevedra.
This petroglyph was the base for the labyrinth the archaeologists at Campo Lameiro use as their signature brand and also the design for a 3D labyrinth that is set at the park exhibition. But the most interesting part is that even archaeologists don’t agree on what it is. Some say it is a mediterranean labyrinth (there are just a few in all Galicia region) and others that it is a Moura, a mythological being or woman that transforms into a snake to guard big treasures hidden under the earth and on caves.
Other interesting sites are A Caeira (right across the bridges of Pontevedra in Poio) and Chan dos Areeiros (at a very interesting hiking route next to the Saltworks of Ulló – we’ll talk about it later -). Both have some significant findings in rock art, although the first one is easier to reach if you don’t have a car.
The archaeological exhibitions at Touron, Mogor, A Caeira and Chan dos Areeiros are free (the first three also have a small building next to them where they explain the history of the excavations but they are mostly open during high season).
3. Go for beaches and the Rías
If you haven’t heard the term before, a Ría is “a long narrow inlet of the seacoast, being a former valley that was submerged by a rise in the level of the sea”. In other words, similar to a Fjord, just not frozen and smaller and in Spain.
Pontevedra is located at the Ria of Pontevedra, which belongs to the Rias Baixas (or lower Rias), just above the Ria of Vigo, and below the Ria de Arousa.
Within just few minutes of the city, one of my now favorite spots is at Vilaboa, overlooking Ria de Vigo and San Simón Island. Here, you can visit the harbor of San Adrian de Cobres, the home of many mussels’ ships and the Saltworks of Ulló.
The Saltworks of Ulló or Salinas de Ulló are an old salt factory that used the water from the Ria to produce salt and which went abandoned long time ago. It is now a protected area with a beautiful surrounding and great spots for birdwatching. There are also a couple of hiking paths that start here, one of them including traditional watermills.
Not far from Touron and Campo Lameiro is the river beach at Ponte Caldelas Praia da Calzada (the first in Galicia to be granted the blue flag). The place is a beautiful green area worth visiting to make a kit-kat on your trip and maybe take a bath on the cold waters of the river. There are also a few hiking routes that start here.
Another great option is just below the petroglyphs at Mogor: Mogor, Portocelo and Lapamán beaches at nearby town of Marin are some of the best beaches in the area and there are several hiking and biking routes that go through.
4. Go for the traditional villages
Pontevedra is not a big city, and you will find some of the most traditional icons of Galicia there:
- Cruceiros – sculptured crosses at crossing roads like the one at Praza das Cinco Calles or the one at Praza da Leña
- Pazos – small palaces from the local aristocracy like the Mugartegui one, now home of Rias Baixas Wines’ Designation of Origin.
But if you are looking for some more interesting landscapes, take a bus (or your car) to Combarro, one of the most typical and yet atypical places in Galicia.
Combarro is a small fishing village located on the opposite side of the Ria. It’s famous for its high concentrations on the other typical Galician structure: hórreos.
Only this time the traditional granaries are not inland, but lined up by the sea, as a way to keep fresh not only the food by also the fishing gears.
The place is also full of cruceiros and traditional houses with balconies. And has one of the biggest concentrations of souvenir shops in all the area (treat them just like that, you will find plenty other options to buy “real” crafts and liquors in Pontevedra city.)
5. Enjoy Galician food (and drinks)
There is no visit to Galicia if you don’t try the seafood, the meat and all the amazing things we eat. Ok, 48 hours might not be time enough to eat it all, but at least you should try some empanada – a pie with different fillings, our favorite one being with scallops (vieiras) or cod with raisins (bacalao con pasas).
In terms of seafood, you could go for clams, razor clams, necora crabs, barnacles… you name it! Try them at a restaurant from the many options in the city or visit the Fish Market, buy them fresh and get them cooked for you at the restaurants upstairs.
And don’t forget to try the two most iconic “tapas-like” dishes: Pulpo a Feira (octopus with paprika and olive oil) and Pementos de Herbón (also known as Padron peppers, they are small green peppers that can be either sweet or hot as hell, and you can never tell until you bite them – some sort of culinary russian roulette.)
If you don’t know where to go for food, read this post on our sister site Travelto5, or book a guided tour with Turiña Pontevedra, who will show you the most important places in Pontevedra while enjoying different gastro spots around the city.
And if you are thinking on taking some of these amazing tastes back home, we would recommend visiting A Tenda da Gata. It is a sustainable deli shop with amazing products from all over Galicia (yes, they have beer and wine among many other preserves and cheeses.)