General Information

The Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park is a natural area with special biological and landscape features. The surroundings were given special protection status in 1993, under the Law 4/1989 on the conservation of natural areas and wildlife.

Furthermore, the UNESCO declared the Xurés Park as Biosphere Reserve in 2009.

This park of 20,920 hectares stretches along the south of the province of Ourense and along the frontier with Portugal, in symmetry with the Peneda-Gêres Portuguese National Park. Among the characteristics of the National Park its varied ecosystems can be highlighted: alluvial valleys, deciduous forests, marshes, low forest and mountain meadows, among others. Likewise, there are a large number of endemic species in their habitats. In addition to its renowned natural and scenic value, the area has an interesting history, art, ethnography, gastronomy and in general, human influences that increases the value of the region.
Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park information centres network is designed to enhance the value of the region through six thematic interpretation centres. These centres welcome visitors by providing information and new perspectives on natural and human issues within the region such as ethnography, geology, hydrology, history and flora.
The centres are located in the six municipalities that serve as entrances to the Park: Bande, Calvos de Randín, Entrimo, Lobios, Lobeira and Muíños.

The park

The Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park is a privileged environment that can be enjoyed in several ways. The most common way is maybe itineraries on foot, horseback or bicycle which allow us, in a calm and respectful manner for the environment, to enjoy the scenery, flora and fauna of the Park and its surroundings. Regarding the landscape, the park offers a great variety of types: mountains and valleys, autochthonous deciduous forests, anthropic perennial forest, low forest, meadows, glacial lakes, moraines, etc.
In terms of fauna, we can make special mention of the abundant native protected species such as the golden eagle, wolf, otter, Iberian wall lizard and the viperine snake. The flora of the park includes remarkable endemic species amongst which the lorón or Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica), a vestigial plant of another climatic period, deserves special mention.

A good way to start your visit to the park is by visiting one or more of its information centres. In the Lobios centre, the headquarters of the Natural Park is located. Please however remember during your visit, to follow the instructions given by park staff and do not forget to enjoy the surroundings with respect and without changing anything.

Geomorphology

The rocks, structures and forms of the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park are the result of a long succession of geological events that have been occurring over hundreds of millions of years. This process shows the slow but relentless throb of our planet.
The metamorphic, plutonic and subvolcanic rocks of the Galicia-Tras-Os-Montes zone of the Hespérico Massif are the crystal materials that make up the substratum of the Park. These rocks were formed during the Hercynian Orogeny as a consequence of the enormous pressures and temperatures that were liberated during this phase. The Hercynian Orogeny began at the end of the Devonian but its algid movements took place during the Carboniferous. All these rocks that were formed at great depths lie nowadays on the surface because of the intense erosion that the mountain range suffered when the old Paleothetys Ocean emerged in the Cenozoic. This situation culminated in the formation of a major razing surface covered by powerful but discontinuous alteration mantles.
This landscape also suffered another important erosion phase which continues up to the present time. The process began when massive blocks were elevated by alpine faults and as a result they lost the alteration mantles. Because of this all the fragments of the old razing surfaces from the peaks were transformed into “etched surfaces”.

For more information visit the centre dedicated to geology, located in Entrimo.

The flora

The flora of the Natural Park and its surroundings has about 850 species of vascular plants. This number represents approximately 1/3 of the flora of Galicia. In the Baixa Limia it is impossible to find species linked to coastal ecosystems and those species that live exclusively on rare substrates, such as limestone and serpentine. However, almost all of Galician biodiversity is represented in this location.
The flora of the park is mainly located on acid, granite and quartzite substrates. This wide variety of homogeneous or slightly changing substrates is due in large measure to the biogeographic location of this territory, straddling the Mediterranean region, dominant in most of the Iberian Peninsula, and the Euro-siberian region, which stretches along much of temperate and humid Europe.
The variety of environments in the Natural Park contributes to the recognition of more than 100 plant communities, which no doubt contributes to the enrichment of the flora.
Hightlights: Oak, Pyrenean oak , Cork oak, ash, alder, birch, strawberry tree, brooms, common heather, gorse, prunus lusitanica, dianthus (Dianthus langeanus), Coxín de frade (Echinospartum ibericum), narcisus (Narcisus rupicola), Armeria humilis subsp. humilis, Galium belizianum, Armeria humilis subsp. Odorata, Xiphion boissieri, Klasea legionensis, Sedum pruinatum, Silene acutifolia, Silene marizii.

For more information visit the Lobios centre, dedicated to the autochthonous flora.

Water systems

Water plays a leading role in the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park. It is the lifeblood that sustains and renews the Park at every step and every moment. Without water the Park would become an impassable wasteland. Life and man would disappear from the vertiginous succession of its valleys and slopes and with them, the sharp contrasts between the desolate peaks and the low lying landscapes, much more inviting and fertile. Without water there would be no slopes, banks and streams. We would not perceive the deep beat of the Earth in the Lobios hot springs neither the murmur, always so close, of the countless waterfalls and cascades. The lack of snow, fog, rains and storms would prevent us from enjoying the changing play of shadows and colours projected on the hills. With water, the Park becomes a continuous whisper of friendly silences. Without it, there would be a horizon of solitudes. For this reason the water is the deity of the Park. It is after all, that which provides this landscape with its constant resurrection.
Its rivers and streams are divided into three major basins: the Barxa river, the Deva river and the Lima river, this being the principal one. These three basins are configured by large rivers and an endless number of small streams with an abundance of waterfalls, typical of high mountain streams.
There are also three reservoirs: the Lindoso, the Salas and the Olelas. But the most interesting peculiarities of the waters of the Park are its hot springs. We can find them in the municipality of Lobios where we can enjoy their spa and in the village of Bande in its thermal pools, sited on the banks of As Conchas reservoir (near the Roman camp Aquis Querquennis).

For more information visit the information centre dedicated to water, located in Muiños (water mills in Spanish), next to the complex of O Corgo.

History

The environment of the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park is also a privileged area from the historic point of view.
Throughout the region we find traces of ancient settlements. Some of them are megaliths and dolmens, large megalith shaped structures whose function is lost in the beginnings of time but of course, they are an essential testament to the skills of its ancient inhabitants. No less interesting are the relics of the Celtic culture, as evidenced by the abundance of forts in the area.

Perhaps the most impressive archaeological remains were left by the Romans, who subdued the previous inhabitants and settled in the area. Some of the evidence of their presence are the Via Nova road, the Aquis Querquennis military camp and the Aquis Originis mansio.
In the same way, other peoples also left their mark on their way through the area. This is the case of the Swabian and Visigoth civilizations. From this turbulent period is the Visigothic church of Santa Comba de Bande, a masterpiece of religious architecture from the Middle Ages in this part of the region.
The modern era was a period of greater stability and enrichment of the region, especially of the small landowner nobility. Witness to this are the numerous country houses erected in the surrounding counties, built during this period. However, there were also conflicts like the war with Portugal. From this period is the structure known as A Trincheira (this means trenches) located in the south of Lobios and which was used to defend the area from possible Portuguese incursions.
References from the nineteenth century are related to episodes experienced in the region during the War of Independence against the Napoleonic troops. The most famous incident occurred when the troops of Marshal Soult which were leaving Portugal pursued by the British-Portuguese alliance, crossed the Couto Mixto destroying many historic documents and causing havoc.

The beginning of the nineteenth century marks the final moments of the old regime of Galicia which took place at the Carlist resistance points. José Benito Brandón y Elices, who was originally from Calvos de Randín, was one of its protagonists.

Ethnography

The region of the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés is rich in traditions and culture. This is due to several factors: its frontier character, lifestyle straddling the valleys and over rugged mountains, and the presence of singularities such as the Couto Mixto. Its ancient and all but disappeared trades, its varied and original traditional architecture, local gastronomy and ancient folklore are just some of the attractions of this ethnographic region.

This enormous cultural wealth was studied by one of the most famous residents of the region in his later years, Xocas. His works can be found in the Lobeira centre, this being the village where he spent his last years.

Couto Mixto

Couto Mixto is a noteworthy entity which, despite having lost its legal characteristics, still retains many of its traditions. Its origins seem obscure but can be traced to the Middle Ages. Theories are varied and none have been confirmed. However, Couto Mixto was configured as an independent geopolitical entity from the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. In practice this meant that they were governed by themselves, that they did not contribute taxes to any other kingdom and that neither the justices of Portugal nor Spain had authority over the area.
Couto Mixto was composed of three villages: Meaus, Rubiás and Santiago. In this area the inhabitants were governed independently. Their authority was the Judge of Couto, a temporary elected post which was assisted by other lesser charges such as the vigairo (ecclesiastical judge). There was also a road, the Privileged Road, which allowed trade without paying taxes to any of the neighbouring kingdoms.
In the nineteenth century, Couto Mixto was integrated into Spain and its privileges disappeared. Still, its inhabitants symbolically retain many of its features and characteristics.

You can learn more of this history at the Couto Mixto centre in the village of Santiago.

Tourism

Tourist resources of the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park area are very varied. In addition to the park itself, with its flora, fauna, geology and spectacular scenery, there are also other attractive places for visitors. The itineraries on foot, by bicycle or on horseback for enjoying the history and nature, the recreation areas and natural pools, the archeological sites such as Aquis Querquennis and Aquis Originis, the picturesque villages, original gastronomy, architecture and festivals are the main points of interest of this enclave.
Special mention can be made of the water-related activities in the area. Various parts of the region are set up to enjoy water sports like canoeing or sailing, especially in the complex of O corgo, in Muiños. It also has areas for swimming in its spectacular river pools.
No less important, given the significant presence of hot springs, is hydrotherapy. In these specially prepared thermal baths, visitors can enjoy a closed circuit and even an outdoor spa of highly mineralized hot springs.

The most important thermal baths of the area are in Lobios and Os Baños (Muíños).
All these attractive places are enhanced by the people who, because of being part of a border enclave, show warm hospitality to visitors.

Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park

Network de "Portas do Xurés"

Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park information centres network consists of six interpretive centres, called gates (Portas), that welcome visitors and offer information on different aspects of the Park: nature, geology, history, ethnography, etc.

In this section you will find information about the Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés Natural Park as well as about the centres which compose its information centres network.

Web das Portas Gerês-Xurés
Web do Parque Natural Baixa Limia-Serra do Xurés

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THE GERÊS-XURÉS DINÁMICO IS A UP TO 75% CO-FINANCED PROJECT BY THE EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND (ERDF) VIA THE INTERREG V A PROGRAMME SPAIN - PORTUGAL (POCTEP) 2014-2020

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