The Mar de Arousa and Río Ulla Route

The Mar de Arousa and Río Ulla Route is a special maritime and river itinerary which commemorates the arrival by sea of the body of the Apostle Santiago in Galicia after his martyrdom in Jerusalem approximately in the year 44.

The mar de Arousa and río Ulla route:

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Boats on the beach

The harbours of Ribeira and O Grove mark the entrance to the Ría (sea inlet) of Arousa whose waters were navigated by the boat bringing the body of the Apostle the last few miles.The Mar de Arousa and Río Ulla route is a special maritime and river itinerary which commemorates the arrival by sea of the body of the Apostle Santiago in Galicia after his martyrdom in Jerusalem approximately in the year 44. Ancient Christian traditions and several medieval texts — the most important being Book III of the Codex Calixtinus — assures us that Santiago was transferred from the Port of Jaffa — in Palestine—, across all the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of Iberia to the limits of the Western World, where he had preached the Gospels. This is known as the Translatio.

The body of Santiago — accompanied by his disciples Teodoro and Atanasio — was brought into the Ría de Arousa and travelled up the River Ulla until it docked in Padrón, the river harbour of the Roman city of Iria Flavia. It arrived on board a Stone Boat, probably a reference to the boats which, at that time, transported minerals from Galicia to other places in the Roman Empire.

Mar de Arousa and rio Ulla route map

It is a territory of grand landscapes and beaches, with a rich history and ethnography. It has gentle slopes where grape growing has created wines of international renown such as albariño. The ría is dotted with genuine islands — Ons, Sálvora, A Toxa, Arousa and Cortegada — which emerge among the impressive bateas (rafts) where the mussels, oysters and scallops grow.

The Mar de Arousa and River Ulla maritime-river route commemorates this event each year. It does this following the final stages of the last journey of the Apostle. The harbours of Ribeira and O Grove mark the entrance of the Ría de Arousa. Then, straight ahead there are forty nautical miles to the ancient Iria Flavia and then about 25 kilometres on foot to Santiago de Compostela.

Every summer a colourful maritime-river procession takes place with several adorned vessels and much public participation from different harbours of the Ría de Arousa. The destinations are Pontecesures and Padrón. The first voyage El primer sail upriver was held in 1965 due to the dynamism and dedication of José Luis Sánchez-Agustino (1930-2010) and the creation of the Fundación Ruta Xacobea do Mar de Arousa e Ulla. This Foundation together with the collaborating Council areas confer the Traslatio Xacobea accrediting diploma to all the vessels which complete this itinerary.

At that time in 1965, several Calvaries began to be placed in strategic places on the banks and small islands of the sea inlet. Today there are 17 stone works of art marking the route and forming the only maritime Way of the Cross in the world.

A total of 22 municipalities belonging to the provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña compose the sponsoring body of the Fundación Ruta Xacobea do Mar de Arousa e Ulla. All of these live under the protection of this miniature ocean which we call the Ría de Arousa.

It is a territory of grand landscapes and beaches, with a rich history and ethnography, which was the cradle or place of residence of Valle-Inclán, Camilo José Cela, Rosalía de Castro, Alfonso Daniel Rodríguez Castelao, Manuel Antonio and the Camba brothers. It has gentle slopes where grape growing has created wines of international renown such as albariño. The ría is dotted with genuine islands — Ons, Sálvora, A Toxa, Arousa and Cortegada — which emerge among the impressive bateas (rafts) where the mussels, oysters and scallops grow.

We now describe the 22 municipalities which make up the Fundación Ruta Xacobea do Mar de Arousa. In the first place, those belonging to the southern part of the Ría de Arousa (Sanxenxo, Meaño, O Grove, Cambados, Meis, Ribadumia, Vilagarcía de Arousa, Illa de Arousa, Vilanova de Arousa, Catoira, Valga, Pontecesures); then those of the northern part of the Ría (Ribeira, A Pobra do Caramiñal, Boiro, Rianxo, Dodro) and, finally, the stage from Padrón to Santiago de Compostela, now on foot, which coincides with the last stage of the Portuguese Camino, which we will also comment on separately, council area by council area (Padrón, Rois, Brión, Ames and Santiago de Compostela).