There is no doubt the word Ribeira sounds a lot Galician. And since we are around the banks of the Sil and Miño Rivers which are full of monasteries, Ribeira Sacra meaning Sacred Riverbank sounds right, doesn’t it?
However, it seems that the origin of the name of these impressive lands is not what we all think. It is said that it all comes from a mistranslation of an expression that, in reality, meant Robledal Sagrado, Sacred Oak Grove. Which it also fits like a glove, because Celtic people exercised the worship to oaks, something that nowadays could be discussed for a while, because, let’s see, what seems more sacred, the thick forest that covers the area, the thousands of monasteries or the great wine that comes from the vineyards?
A difficult answer. The wine was already in demand from the emperors and brought to Roma for a couple of thousand years, and it was precisely the Romans who figured the layout of the vines in terraces to be able to cultivate in these steep slopes. But of course, in the first half of the Middle Ages, monks and mystics began to arrive in this lands and over the centuries would build hermitages, Romanic convents and wonders like Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil, Santo Estevo or the ancient and magical San Pedro de Rosas.
Therefore, you have no choice but to visit the sacred buildings, to try the wine of the Caesars and to walk around the lush vegetation. Only after, you can make your own judgements.
And we really mean the thing about going walking. You should know that the Ribeira Sacra is considered one of the most spectacular places for hiking in Spain. So even if you feel like taking a catamaran ride through the canyons of the River Sil, which is a great plan, don’t forget to save a few hours to exercise your legs and discover at your own pace the beautiful places that you will find.
All we have left to tell you is how this surprising place was formed, a long, long time ago. But we are not going to talk about geology, but about legends. What happened was that Jupiter fell in love with the beauty of the Galicia lands, and his wife Juno during a rage of jealousy decided to mark the face of her competitor with a deep wound, whose scars today are the canyons and gorges that you can see in abundance here.
However, geologists don’t seem to agree with this version … What do you think?