Las Rías Altas, the Northern coast of Galicia

Las Rías Altas, the most Northern of the three big coastal areas of Galicia. This coast stretches roughly from A Coruña in the west, to Ribadeo, on the border of Galicia with Asturias. Las Rías Altas combine the rough coast of the Costa da Morte and the inland estuaries and sandy beaches of the Rías Baixas.

Las Rías Altas is a very diverse area. In general the area is not densely populated. The area is also more quiet than the more touristic Rías Baixas. At the Rías Altas are two bigger cities. At first of course the big and vivid city of A Coruña and a bit further the port city of Ferrol, one of Spains biggest marine towns and also the starting point of the Camino Inglés to Santiago. A smaller town in this area is the medieval town of Betanzos.

At the Rias Altas you can find some of Galicia’s most impressive beaches. First of all the well-known beach of Playa de Catedrales at Ribedao, one of Galicia’s biggest tourist spots. But also surfers can find their beaches in this area. Near Ferrol are even some professional surfing events every year. And further one you will encounter some more beaches, to swim, to catch some air or simply make a walk.

What is a Ría and what means the name Rías Altas?

A ría is an estuary, or sea loch. It’s best to compare this with a fjord, but the difference is a ría is not surrounded by steep glaciers. The rías of Galicia are long coves of see coming inlands. With help of the rías Galicia has such a long coastline of more than 2.000 kilometres long. The rías are like the sea, the water is salted and have tides.

Las Rías Altas are the most Northern, or upper (altas), rias of Galicia. The estuaries are a bit smaller than at the Rias Baixas. They go les far inland. In contrast, they have more rocks and are wilder. Oh, and by the way, the Costa da Morte also has two rias.

The rías of las Rías Altas

  • Ría de La Coruña (Ría del Burgo)
  • Ría de Betanzos
  • Ría de Ares
  • Ría de Ferrol
  • Ría de Cedeira
  • Ría de Ortigueira (Tip! continu reading)
  • Ría del Barquero
  • Ría de Vivero
  • Ría de Foz
  • Ría de Ribadeo
Map of the rias of Las Rías Altas
Map of the rias of Las Rías Altas

Place to visit: Ría de Ortigueira

Grab your car or van and hit the road to the Ría de Ortigueira. It might not be the best known ria of Galicia, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Cantabrian see. Here you can enjoy a view of infinity. And as at many capes in the Galician rías you can have this view from marvellous spots.

At first, Punta da Estaca de bares, the most Northern point of Spain.
Second, the lighthouse at Cabo Ortegal. Almost as Northern. Again such a characteristic lighthouse on an impressive cape. It seems Galicia has a patent on those spots!
And last, “The best bank of the world“. A majestic viewing point at the village of San Julián de Loiba. There’s a very regular bank to set in, but someone marked it with the words ‘The best bank of the world’. It seems sarcastic, but the views are marvellous. Many tourist visit this bench to take a picture and enjoy the view of infinity.

(Source: Dani Caxete)

Other things to see in Las Rias Altas

Cities and culture

  • A city trip in the vivid city of A Coruña
  • Visit the marine city of Ferrol


  • Playa de las Catedrales, one of the most impressive beaches of Spain, and certainly one of the most beautiful beaches of Galicia. See the picture above. Very impressive to walk through those ‘catedrales’ at low tide.
  • National parc Fraga de Eume, a beautiful forestal area between Ferrol and A Coruña.
  • Serra da Capelada, on of the highest cliffs of Europe. This cape you will find at the Ria de Ortigueira
  • The footbridges of Fucino do Porco. A famous place for its wooden bridges and very popular thanks to it’s accessibility. Thanks to the wooden bridges you can enjoy an easy walk along the coast line.
Playa de las catedrales

What do you think of Las Rias Altas?
Please have a look as well at the other coastal areas of Galicia: Las Rías Baixas and the Costa da Morte.

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