How to visit the island of Sálvora; an island full of history and legends
When the holiday period approaches, many people wonder how to visit the island of Sálvora, as it is the least known of the islands that make up the National Maritime-Terrestrial Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. However, its flora and fauna, historical heritage and legends, mean that it has nothing to envy to its companions in the national park: the Cíes islands, the island of Cortegada and Ons.
Will you join us to know this jewel of the Rías Gallegas?
- How to visit the island of Sálvora; an island full of history and legends
- Brief history of the island of Sálvora
- Visit Sálvora Island: How to get there?
- Hidden treasures of Galicia What to see in Sálvora Island?
- Fish Drying and Salting Factory or Residential Pazo de Sálvora
- The ancient village of Sálvora
- Chapel of Santa Catalina
- Sálvora Lighthouse
- Beaches in Sálvora
- The Siren of Sálvora
- Fountain of Santa Catalina
- Sálvora Island: fauna and flora
- Stone formations
- Xacobean Route in Sálvora
- Trip to Sálvora Island: some final recommendations
- How to visit Sálvora Island: your next adventure
- Quizás te interesa…
- ¿Tienes alguna duda?
Brief history of the island of Sálvora
The island of Sálvora, a refuge for pirates and corsairs until the 19th century, is the only visitable island of the Sálvora archipelago (composed of the island of the same name and several islets: Vionta, Noro, Herbosa, Sagres, etc.).
Located in the Rías Baixas, in front of the mouth of the Arousa estuary, and separated from the mainland by a distance of only 3 km. distance, the island of Sálvora, the island of belongs to the municipality of Ribeira, in the province of La Coruña.Galicia (being the only island of the National Park that belongs to this province, since the others are located in Pontevedra).
With only 1 km. long and 200-300 m. wide, there are no records of this paradise dating back to before the Middle Ages.Therefore, the existence of settlements on the island prior to this date cannot be assured. Thus, at the end of the Middle Ages (after being part of the Galician-Asturian cornona) Alfonso II donated it to the Church of Santiago. It is also known for its strategic use as a maritime military base for Vikings and Saracens (in the late Middle Ages) and for pirates and privateers (in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries).
In the middle of the 16th century, the island remained in private hands but passed from the hands of the Church to those of the nobility, who managed it under a feudal regime until the beginning of the 17th century. The settlers would work the land in the area, handing over part of the crops and livestock to the Mariño family, who in 1820 married into the Otero family, the new owners of the island until 1904.
Finally, the island of Sálvora, as we have seen, privately owned since the Middle Ages, became part of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia in 2001, and in 2008, it was acquired by the Xunta de Galicia for public management. Finally, it became available to the public in 2010.
Visit Sálvora Island: How to get there?
If you want to visit the island of Sálvora you should know that, being such a special excursion within a protected environment, only 125 people can disembark daily on the island.
As is the case with the rest of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, departures to the island can be made by private boat (for which it is necessary to obtain a navigation permit) or by renting a boat.The boat trips to this island are made periodically by one of the shipping companies.
If you want more information about our services and upcoming island cruise excursions, stay tuned to our website and social networks (Facebook and Twitter). During your trip you will be able to enjoy from the port of origin a wonderful route along the Ría de Arousa among the numerous mussel rafts.
Hidden treasures of Galicia What to see in Sálvora Island?
The island of Sálvora offers several walks and tourist routes to discover the most magical corners of its history. One of the issues to be taken into account before visiting the island is that the island itself lack basic services (health care, toilets, drinking water, etc.) as well as litter garbage cansIt is therefore important to bring back to the mainland any waste we generate during our visit.
Upon landing on the island, We are greeted by an information and signage panel of the National Park. Here you can consult a map of the archipelago with points of interest and itineraries. as well as some aspects related to the regulations of the park and its visits. During the summer season, a guide from the national park is usually present to give guided tours of the old village of Sálvora. The two routes, starting from the disembarkation point, will take us to the lighthouse and to the old village. There is also a self-guided itinerary with interpretative panels on the route to the lighthouse; it is entitled “A walk of legend through Sálvora”.
Do you want to know the most interesting places on the island of Sálvora? Read on and find out about all the mandatory stops of our lesser known island in the national park:
Fish Drying and Salting Factory or Residential Pazo de Sálvora
In 1770, the Otero Goyanes family built on the island the first Fish Drying and Salting Factory in Galicia, the so-called O’ Almacén, which later, in 1958, would become the residential Pazo of the island of Sálvora. Provided with towers and battlementsThe current image is a far cry from what must have been the original.
Thanks to the work of the factory, the island’s population reached 70 people who settled permanently in the village of Sálvora.
The ancient village of Sálvora
One of the biggest attractions in 2019 when visiting the most unknown island of the Atlantic Islands National Park is to pay a visit to the abandoned village of Sálvora. A trip that, although it can only be done with an authorized guide, is one of our favorite and most recommended routes within this protected natural area.
The walk or the Village Route will guide us to the old settlement, a U-shaped village composed of 8 houses around a square and 2 drinking fountains. Each of the houses in this area consisted of 2 rooms, formerly kitchen and bedroom, and up to 12 people could live in them. In 1972 the last permanent inhabitant left the village, due to lack of work, after the closing of the factory.
The wreck of the Vapor Santa Isabel
We would like to include in this guide a special tribute to the victims and heroes of the tragedy of the Santa Isabe steamship (which occurred in 1921 off the coast of the island of Sálvora). Known as the ‘Galician Titanic’ or ‘Titanic of Sálvora’, this shipwreck is considered the greatest maritime tragedy in the history of Galicia, with 213 people dead out of the 268 who were on board.
In the event of a power outage (caused by the accident), the Santa Isabel only received help from the island’s neighbors, alerted by the lighthouse keeper of Sálvora who had heard the screams off the coast. The residents of Sálvora acted as true heroes by sending 3 dornas or small boats to rescue the passengers. 15 to 20 people were rescued thanks to this assistance of the sunken steamer.
As an additional curiosity, In 2019, Spanish film director Paula Cons is currently shooting her latest film (‘El Santa Isabel’), which will feature a film inspired by the incident. In it, we will be able to live closely the story of 3 of the heroines. who participated in the rescue work and who earned the respect and admiration of the entire Galician and Spanish territory for their bravery: Cipriana Orujo, Josefa Parada and María Fernández.
Chapel of Santa Catalina
Another mandatory stop on our trip to the island of Sálvora is the Chapel of Santa Catalina. Former tavern of sailors, fishermen of the island and foreigners who fished, in 1960 it was transformed into a religious building taking the name of the patron saint of the island.
As mentioned above, The Faro Route and the Village Route are the two main routes on the island of Sálvora. The route of Faro is a route that, as its name suggests, leads us for 1.2 KM. to the Lighthouse of Sálvora.
Built in 1921, the Sálvora Lighthouse replaced a previous lighthouse built in 1852 and located at a less elevated point.
Beaches in Sálvora
While most of Salvora’s perimeter is rocky, the island also offers several deserted beaches to choose from, where you can swim and enjoy the crystal clear waters and the sun: “do Castelo” or “do Almacén” beach, Os Lagos beach, Zafra beach and Area dos Bois beach.
The Siren of Sálvora
One of the most representative figures of the place is the sculpture of the Siren of Sálvora, ‘Mariña’. Joaquín Otero Goyanes, Marquis of Revilla (descendant and heir of the first owners of the island), ordered its construction in 1956 in honor of one of the most important legends of the area.
The legend of the Siren of Sálvora tells that a Roman knight, called Don Froilaz, after being shipwrecked and arriving at the island, found, walking along a beach, a mermaid, who was mute, and with whom he fell in love. The two were married and had a son named Mariño (name of the lineage of the Mariño family, in whose hands, as we have already mentioned, the ownership of the island resided). Although there are several versions, the story continues when Froilaz, concerned about the inability of the mermaid to speak, decides to jump with his son over the bonfire on the night of St. John, on the advice of the abbot of the island, to scare her. They say that the mermaid, thinking for a moment that her son was going to fall into the flames, spat a piece of fish out of her mouth and exclaimed – ‘Son!’, thus regaining her speech . Other stories tell that when the mermaid gave birth to her son, he had deep blue eyes. After the death of her husband in the battle of Roncesvalles, the mermaid returned to the sea but with a warning: each generation of her son’s offspring was to give her one of their children.
Currently, those descendants who still keep the surname Mariño feel connected to the history of their supposed ancestor, the mermaid of Sálvora. Likewise, the Atlantic geography shows many other legends that link noble houses and coats of arms with the sea and its inhabitants (the Miranda Galaico-Asturians, the Picoña, the Padín, etc.).
Fountain of Santa Catalina
On the way to the village, we find the Fountain of Santa Catalina or Fonte de Telleira, whose waters, according to the legends of the island, have given health and strength to those who come to it since the time of Normans and Vikings. On its stone is engraved: ‘Fountain of virtuous water that gives health and strength’.
Although it is not under sanitary control, visitors continue to drink its water and trust in its miraculous benefits.
Sálvora Island: fauna and flora
The fauna that we can find in Sálvora Island is very varied, partly due to the interest of the former owner of the island, the Marquis of Revilla, to transform the island into a hunting territory. Thus, among the terrestrial fauna, we can find specimens of the following species Galician horses, deer, wild boar, rabbits, frogs, seagulls, cormorants, herons, birds of prey… For its part, the variety of the marine fauna is also very rich on the island, delighting snorkelers with all kinds of fish, pinfish, dead man’s hands, sea worms, ceriantos, gorgonians, starfish, ascidians, bryozoans, sea urchins, crustaceans… As for the flora of the island of Sálvora, we can highlight its great variety of algae of all kinds, which cover the marine system of the island.
It is also interesting to note that on the island of Sálvora the rocks and islets of the archipelago also have their own traditions or fables. For example, O Home de Sagres reports that when the island was inhabited by the Estrimios (occupants of the Galician territory before the Roman Empire), they had the power to petrify their adversaries with their eyes. (explaining the numerous islets that surround the island).
In our tour we can also observe other stony formations with history, such as the granite boulders of Alto de Gralleiros, closely linked to the Santa Compaña, or the stones sculpted by the sea and the wind popularly called “El Elefante de Sálvora” (The Elephant of Sálvora).
Xacobean Route in Sálvora
The maritime route of the Way of St. James runs through the Arousa estuary and the Ulla River commemorating the arrival of the apostle St. James to Galicia by sea, around the year 44 AD. This fluvial xacobea route crosses some islands such as Ons, Sálvora, A Toxa and Illa de Arousa.
Trip to Sálvora Island: some final recommendations
After the previous tour through the most important points of the geography of the island of Sálvora, you may have some doubts about the activities you can do there. Take note of our recommendations and final tips to make your trip unforgettable:
- As mentioned above, there are no waste garbage cans on the island, so it is important to bring back to the port of origin all waste generated on our If we have forgotten to bring a bag, remember that we can ask for one at the Information Desk.
- Carry water and drink plenty of it. Don’t forget sunglasses, hats and sunscreen to protect you from prolonged exposure to the sun, summer temperatures and wind, which can cause dehydration.
- Wear sports shoes and comfortable clothes; don’t forget to bring a warm coat and waterproof clothing.
- The richness of flora and fauna on the island has been preserved due to the scarce influence of man. Respect wildlife; do not touch, catch or disturb them. Do not feed seagulls and fish (they do not need food). Do not introduce non-native animal or plant species. It is also forbidden to uproot, cut or damage the vegetation.
- It is not a bad idea to bring binoculars and insect repellent. Keep in mind that, due to the existence of livestock, you may encounter the presence of ticks or horseflies at any time of the year.
- To snorkel without weights you do not need authorization but it is highly recommended to get information beforehand at the information booth about the best areas, as well as the most dangerous or not allowed. It is also advisable to wear diving goggles and a wetsuit if you are going to practice this sport.
- It is also not allowed to take with you any natural element of the island, be it shells, stones or others. Remember that the photos you can take on your trip are a great souvenir and, in addition, do not alter the natural habitat of the island of Sálvora.
- On any route of the island, as it is located in a natural and protected area, it is not allowed to light any kind of fire, fishing, sport fishing, diving or nautical tourism.
- Drive only on authorized roads, and take into account the signage and markings.
- Likewise, domestic animals (except guide dogs) and motor vehicles (except wheelchairs) are not allowed to disembark.
- Attends and follows at all times the staff’s indications about the National Park’s regulations during guided tours.
How to visit Sálvora Island: your next adventure
As we have seen, visiting the island of Sálvora is a great adventure for the whole family where history, legend, nature and magic of an unknown island await us.
Are you looking forward to planning your trip?
If you want more information about how to travel to the island of Sálvora, follow us on our social networks or write us through our website or our email address. At Piratas de Nabia we work every day to bring you closer to the destination of your dreams; we take care of everything.
We look forward to seeing you on your next adventure!