O Courel

The Magical Mountains

Covering an area of over 21 000 hectares, the O Courel mountain range is a place of incalculable beauty located in the province of Lugo and stretching to the neighbouring province of León.  Its highest summits are Formigueiros, Montouto, and Pía Paxaro, and are ideal for hiking and enjoying nature in its wildest state.

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O Courel

"Courel dos tesos cumes que ollan de lonxe!
Eiquí síntese ben o pouco que é un home…"  Uxío Novoneyra, el poeta de O Courel.

Forming part of in the Natura 2000 as a Site of Community Importance, the O Courel mountain range includes the municipalities Folgoso, Quiroga, and Pedrafita do Cebreiro.  Its geology, which is the most comprehensive of all Galician mountain ranges, is comprised of deep valleys, alternated with Mediterranean and Atlantic forests, and peaks with altitudes of more than 1,500 metres.  It is criss-crossed by the Lor river, dotted with forests filled with chestnut, oak, yew,  beech, ash, alder, hazelnut, and holly trees, and a has huge variety of fauna, which make it one of the most beautiful and lush natural reserves in Galicia.
 
The paths which cross the mountains are beautiful roads, but are very high up, meaning that extreme precaution is required.  As they are narrow, with sharp curves and steep slopes, it is important to always be alert.  There are several lookouts where you can park your camper and take in the landscape, as well as several routes that can be completed on foot, allowing you to better appreciate the landscape, which is full of charm and nature.
 
You can start a trip through the O Courel mountain range in Quiroga or O Cebreiro.  If we set off from the latter, heading south, Quiroga offers several roads and hiking routes which allow us to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment, as well as interesting civil and religious architectural heritage. Among the most interesting monuments that stand out are the churches of Seara (17th century Baroque style), Santa María de Outeiro (late medieval), the Pazo de Hospital (16th Century) and the Montefurado tunnel (Roman period).

From Quiroga, heading towards Folgoso do Courel, our first obligatory stop is the Campodola-Leixazós geological fold.  Named a natural monument by the Xunta de Galicia in 2011, this is one of the most interesting geological spots in the mountain range.  It is a rock formation of scientific interest which has remained intact since the Upper Carboniferous (Palaeozoic era).  You can appreciate this rock formation in its entirety from Mount Cerengo, situated in the neighbouring town of Ribas de Sil, where you can find the Os Medos caravan park in the parish of A Pobra do Brollón.  If we head towards Folgoso, we find the villages of Froxán and Vilamor, joined by a road which passes through a souto, or grove, of hundred-year-old chestnut trees, before reaching the Vilar fort, which is located on a meander of the river Lor, as well as the tiny San Roque chapel.
 
If we head north, we reach Seoane, where the Caurel campsite is located.  It is the only place in the area where you can dispose of waste water. About 10km from Seoane we find the starting point for the most famous hiking route, the Devesa da Roquiera, from which we can take in the highest point in O Courel, Formigueiros peak.  Some other places of interest along the way are the Vieiros waterfall, the village of the same name, and the village of A Seara, which is one of the most well-restored in O Courel.
 
The rural architecture of O Courel in maintains characteristic traits of the past, and they form part of the heritage of this area.  The slate houses that are crammed together in Seceda or the houses with rounded corners, roofs made of slate slabs, wooden balconies in Vilamor, together with traditional buildings such as blacksmiths or the numerous flour mills scattered around the area make up its architectural heritage. There are also many segueiros, which are small constructions of stone, slate, and wood which have been used for centuries to remove humidity and preserve chestnuts, which are the star product of the area.


You can finish your visit to this mountain range in O Cebreiro.  Here, an obligatory stop is the Santa María A Real shrine, dating from the 9th century.  A visit to the Ethnographic Museum is also highly recommended.  It is located in various pallozas, which are buildings that are typical to the area and which have maintained their original structure.  This town is also the gateway to Galicia of the French Route to Santiago and is famous for its cold meats and cheeses.
 
The silence, the ancient glaciers, a clear sky filled with stars, towns that are frozen in time, the possibility of a bear sighting, the cuisine, and the people…Getting lost in this thousand-year-old mountain range in Galicia, entrenched in the past, is a magical experience.
 
Courel dos tesos cumes que ollan de lonxe!
Eiquí síntese ben o pouco que é un home…
 
(Courel of the tense summits that look from afar,
Here one feels the incognisance of man…)
 
Uxío Novoneyyra, poet from O Courel.

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