Ourense’s surroundings: medieval villages, rivers and thermal baths
Ourense’s surroundings boast a wide range of attractions, giving those who visit the city an excuse to extend their trip by a couple of days. In less than a half-hour drive, you can find charming villages and unique natural spaces which are sure to amaze you. This article will give you a run-down of the things to do outside of Ourense.
The most famous attraction outside of Ourense is unquestionably the Ribeira Sacra D.O., where vines are planted on the slopes of the River Sil canyon. If you drive along the course of the River Miño for half an hour, you will end up arriving in the village of Os Peares: the meeting point of the Miño and the Sil, and the origin of the increasingly popular Ribeira Sacra. This is the most popular excursion outside the city of Ourense. While it’s possible to do it in a single day, we recommend spending two or more days exploring this magical location at your own pace.
You probably already know that Ourense is located on the banks of the River Miño and above multiple thermal springs. Outside the city, we recommend finding the time to appreciate the wonderful landscapes on the banks of Galicia’s main river. If you have more space in your schedule, we also recommend visiting more spas such as those in Laias, Arnoia, Carballiño or Baños de Molgas, or experiencing the open-air thermal baths in Outariz, As Quintas, Barbantes or Prexigueiro.
Not far from Ourense, there are also several medieval towns and villages which we recommend exploring during your trip. At the confluence of the rivers Miño and Avia you will find the town of Ribadavia. One of Spain’s Jewish villages, Ribadavia has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument and is famous for its beautiful historic centre, its medieval festival and for being the capital of the Ribeiro D.O. (Designation of Origin), a region renowned for producing one of Galicia’s most famous wines.
Allariz is the other must-visit town in the province of Ourense. Alfonso X of Castile (also known as Alfonso the Wise) once lived in this medieval town. Its historic centre, which has also been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, is an outstanding example of recovery and conservation: work for which it won the European Urban and Regional Planning Award in 1994. Allariz is also home to multiple other attractions, such as its well-attended International Garden Festival or selection of small museums such as its toy museum, leather museum and fashion museum.
From Ourense you can also visit other towns such as O Carballiño, where Galicia’s most famous octopus festival is held; Cea, known for its delicious bread; and Celanova, the land of poets and the impressive Monasterio de San Salvador.
There are also other locations of great historical value such as the Castro de San Cibrao de Lás archaeological site, which is one of the largest in Galicia, and the Monasterio de San Pedro de Rocas, excavated in the same natural rock. This quaint monastery is striking for its sheer antiquity. It dates back to the 6th century, and there are anthropomorphic tombs built into its floor.
As you’ve seen in this article, Ourense’s surroundings offer a wide range of cultural, natural and thermal attractions: three aspects that characterise Galicia’s only inland province.