Up in north western Spain in the Galicia region, “Praia as Catedrais” is a stunningly beautiful beach on the Cantabric coast, but due mainly to this sheer beauty, the beach is to see restricted visits in the future. The beach is located close to Ribadeo in the province of Lugo in green and lovely Galicia and has been designated a Natural Monument by the Ministry of the Environment of the Galician local government, in order to bring it under the necessary environmental protection of the authorities.
“Praia as Catedrais,” Galician for “Beach of the Cathedrals,” is considered to be one of the most beautiful locations in Galicia, and is possibly among the most beautiful beaches in the world. With its pristine sands and stark, rocky cliffs, containing magnificent arches (which called cathedrals to mind when naming the beach) and deep caves, this beach is beautiful indeed.
The arches and caves can only be seen at low tide, as during high tide only a small portion of beach is visible. During high tide, visitors tend to congregate on the cliffs, which are being eroded by the waves and with some cracking in the rocks, are becoming in danger of collapse.
Some of the arches measure more than 30 meters in height and the caves, accessible during low tide, are several meters deep. Visitors are warned to leave the beach before the tide starts coming back in, as the cove very quickly fills with water in the process.
With many Spanish visitors wishing to visit the area annually, the beach and its rocky surrounds are being gradually degraded and now action is being taken to try and halt this degradation.
In the past, attempts had been made by authorities in Ribadeo to supply and clearly demarcate set parking areas at the site and to keep people away from restricted areas, but this hasn’t done the trick. Now what is possibly Galicia’s most beautiful beach is to see restricted visits.
In just one day this year, August 13th, “Praia as Catedrais” saw an amazing 14,000 tourists, queuing to enter the beach, climbing over the rocky outcroppings and exploring the beach and caves.
In fact, in total for the popular summer months of July to September, around 365,000 people visited the beach and its surroundings and the photo at the top of this article gives an idea of how many people traipse around the beach and cliffs each year.
Authorities are now taking more severe action to protect this lovely environment and in future there will be restrictions to the number of daily visitors of 2,000 to 5,000 people, particularly in the summer months and popular Easter vacation week and these limits will be policed by authorities on a permanent basis.
The video below gives an introduction into the sheer beauty of the area without the crazy crowds:
Another spot along the beautiful Galician coastline is also receiving restrictive measures. Just off the Pontevedra coastline, the Cíes Islands is a virtually unspoiled archipelago of islands. In this archipelago there are three islands, “Monteagudo,” (pictured below) which means “Sharp Mount,” “do Faro” or “Island of the Lighthouse” and “San Martiño” which translates in English to “Saint Martin.”
During the summer months, visitors can access Monteagudo by boat from Vigo, Baiona and Cangas. Normally this is a day trip, although there is a small camping area for which permission has to be obtained at the port in Vigo. Besides this, the only facilities are a visitor center with supermarket and café.
Again experiencing problems with too many visitors, the islands will also see a limited number of 2,200 visitors each day and authorities will be making sure that these visitors take their garbage away from the area, as presently there are no bins available on the islands.
A video included below shows the sheer beauty of these islands. It is hoped that by setting restricted numbers of visits to the “Praia as Catedrais,” possibly Galicia’s most beautiful beach, along with the stunning Cíes Islands, visitors will have the pleasure of enjoying these stunning locations for many years to come.
By Anne Sewell
El País (Spanish language)
Xunta de Galicia (Galician language)
Praia As Catedrais with crowds of visitors Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Jose Manuel
Praia As Catedrais showing arches photo creative commons attribution 2.0 Andy Roberts
Praia As Catedrais showing rocky cliffs and sand CC-by-SA Elvire
Cíes Islands – photo in the public domain by RiseRover