The Sil river is a Spanish river that is 234 kilometers long, and it flows through the provinces of Leon, Ourense and Lugo. It is one of the largest rivers in Spain regarding water flow.
The Miño river, the most important river of Galicia, is the 9th river of Spain by length, but it is the 4th by water flow. The Miño owes this to its biggest tributary, the Sil river.
In fact, at the location where both rivers join (Os Peares), the Sil river has 80% more water flow than the Miño river. However, because the Miño river is longer, the Sil river is considered its tributary and not the other way around. This is the origin of a well-known saying that goes “The Miño river carries the fame, but the Sil river carries the water”.
10 kilometers before both rivers join in Os Peares, we can find the Santo Estevo dam. This dam, built in the 50s, it was at the time one of the biggest dams in Europe. It’s 120 meters high and its dammed water has a length of 43 kilometers.
The construction of the Santo Estevo dam was done in the steepest area of the river canyon. Its construction modified largely the landscape of the Sil Canyon, but despite its depth (97 meters in the deepest point), from the water level there are still cliffs that are almost 500 meters high.
The cliffs are so steep, that visitors frequently call them the “Galician fiords”, comparing them with the famous Norwegian Fiords. The Sil Canyon is the most famous area of the Ribeira Sacra region.
The Sil Canyon landscape is breathtaking, both from below and above. You can visit the Sil Canyon from below either doing a boat trip, or if you are the adventurous type you can kayak around.
To visit the canyon from above, there are several viewpoints on both sides of the river, being the most famous ones on the north side (province of Lugo) the viewpoints of Cividade, Boqueiriño and Cadeiras; and on the south side (province of Ourense) the viewpoints of Cabezoás, Balcones de Madrid and Vilouxe.
Once the cliffs lose some of their steepness, the landscape of the Sil Canyon changes drastically: vineyards appear everywhere, covering most of the landscape. The grapes of these vineyards are used to make the famous wines of the Ribeira Sacra D.O.