The Ría de Muros y Noia is a stunning coastline guarding well hidden delights along its old roads - traditional Galician market and fishing towns go about their everyday business as they have for generations. Exploring the Ría is best done by car and instinct; a simple turn off could lead you upwards to a mirador with amazing views or down to yet another stunningly private beach that you feel like you own for the day - here are our top tips...
Make a note that Thursdays and Sundays are the days for the morning market in Noia - well worth a visit - it is a great snapshot of rural life in the region -locals ply their trade selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, home made cheeses, chorizos and liquors to clothing and antiques. The town itself was the main port for Santiago and still harbours some charming old streets and the fantastic old Church of San Martín in its old square. It's a popular evening hangout and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and nightlife to enjoy.
If you enjoy your seafood then the quaint old fishing town of Muros is definitely worth a visit. The fishing boats set anchor in the early evening so the restaurants enjoy the freshest catch of the day - alternatively; you can buy your own at the market stalls and have the freshest fish imaginable smoking away on your BBQ for your evening meal. The town itself is the definition of quaint; lots of hidden alleyways, cobbled streets and a lovely little buzz for those warmer summer nights and Galician festivals.
Hike around Mount Louro - a personal favourite - Mount Louro is a nature reserve just 10 minutes beyond Muros. It's breathtaking from every angle. If you drive up to the lighthouse at the end of the road that leads to the mountain - you can then follow tracks all the way around the mountain (30minutes) - it allows you 360 panoramic views of the Ría and if you're lucky you may even catch sight of dolphins in the bay at Playa de Louro - mesmerising!
Ponte Nafonso - Is a lovely little spot just 5kms from Noia - it´s a great place for biking and hiking as you admire the 2km stretch of arched medieval bridge that crosses the ancient waters of the River Tambre. Pick your trail and head to the peaks for spectacular views of the Ría and descend for gentle refreshments in the sporadic bars of the old town. A lovely day out.
Keep an eye out for the sign-posted Miradores - these "viewpoints" will lead you to tops of mountains with spectacular views. If you enjoy sunrise and sunset hunting then they provide the perfect scenery. Miradores of particular note are; Mount Tremuzo (just beyond Port o Freixo) for sunrises, Mount Lois (just beyond Noia) for sunsets and the mountain road to Carnota - with a stunning downward drive has numerous Miradores professing their love for the beach at Carnota!
On the South side of the Ría heading towards Corrubedo - a stop off at Castro de Baroña is an unusual treat - logged as an Iron Age "Celtic" settlement - the rounded old ruins can be seen from distance - a short hike to its peninsular allows 360 views of the Ría. You can leave your own mark there by following the quirky ritual of stacking rounded beach stones into a tower on the beach - your own little monument to those great Celts!
Tucked away in the valleys and mountains is a lovely spot called Pesquería del Tambre - A church-like hydro-electrical building stands proudly beside the great river. It has countless treks to enjoy up and into the mountains or along the lake and river. It has a small eatery and hotel and is a great spot to enjoy some lunch or al fresco dinner with plenty of space for the kids to run around.
Find your own beach for the day. With more than 70 beaches lining the coastline from Finisterre to Corrubedo - there is plenty of fine white sand for everyone. Of course, there are popular beaches closer to the mouth of the Ría but if you explore a little further and simply take a chance on a signpost labelled "Praia" - you'll likely find your own slice of paradise for the day - empty beaches even in the summer months - fabulous!
Take a trip to Corrubedo - the small harbour town at the end of the southside of the Ría. It's a 30 minute gorgeous coastal drive from Noia, the further you drive the more wild the beaches get - take a picnic, stop off, choose your own beach for the afternoon and then head into Corrubedo for the evening via the sunset stop-off point at the lighthouse. A very enjoyable away day.
That famous end to the pilgrim's walk is at Finisterre - the most westerly point in Europe - where many a weary pilgrim burn their boots. It has a lighthouse marking the occasion and a littering of souvenir stalls leading you there. It's a little busy in the summer but the nearby Playa da Langosteira is ample reward for those that have made the journey.
Of worthy mention outside of the Ría de Muros y Noia is a day trip to the incredible Islas Cies. Simply stunning - these "Islands of the gods" as named by the Romans are made up of three islands and accessed by two ferry ports in the Vigo area; from the main port in Vigo and from the other side of the Vigo estuary at Cangas. A 30 minute boat ride will deliver you to this National Park for the day (no overnight stays). Rodas Beach on the main island was voted a Top Ten world beach by the Guardian Travel section - inspired by the finest white sand and crystalline waters - it makes for a fabulous day out. If you've got the time - make the time!