In northeastern Spain in Galicia, near the town of Ribadeo, on the shores of the Sea of Cantabria (as Spain calls the Bay of Biscay) is Praia de Augas Santas or Holy Water Beach. Tourists, however, call it something else: the Beach of the Cathedrals.
How the beach came to be
Despite such a loud name, there are no Christian churches here. It’s built by an architect of genius called Nature and is a breathtaking beauty and grandeur. As a sculptor, she stripped away everything unnecessary from the mountain massifs to leave a unique architectural masterpiece.
Under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean’s salty water and strong winds, the soft rocks were washed away and weathered over time. Eventually the rocks became so shaped that they really resembled Gothic cathedrals. They rise above the water like giant giants – to a height of over 30 meters.
However, in all its glory, this natural wonder appears to travelers only at low tide. Then the water is amazing turquoise color (like in tropical lagoons) recedes, and the astonished audience will see, like “33 heroes” from a well-known Pushkin’s tale, the astonishing monuments and towers, giant arches, mysterious caves and labyrinths.
Actually only when the water moves away from the shore, this place can be called a beach, and only then you can walk on it. Travelers with great pleasure wander on wet snow-white sand between the rocks, looking into the most secret corners, and take pictures to capture themselves on this amazing background. The rocks are so bizarre that each one of them individually would make any beach in the world unique, but in this place – for some unknown reason – they are gathered all together in a not too large area.
The most beautiful places
The most interesting part of the Cathedral Beach stretches for about 300 meters. It will be enough time to bypass it and have a good look at everything, but it’s not worth having a rest here: the tide will very soon be replaced by the tide, and so fast that you have to flee: you may not even have time to pack your things.
Those who are afraid of getting their feet wet are recommended to consider the beach from the edge of the cliff. There is a specially paved observation path, fenced with a low parapet, so tourists do not accidentally fall down. Those who happened to be on the beach of cathedrals at low tide (then you can see only peaks of arches from water) or when the sea is rough (the same parapet protects from splashes – to be wet from feet to head will be possible only with a great desire) are also invited to this path.
Certainly, it’s better to walk along the shore – between colossal columns, but if unlucky, the consolation is the view from above: it’s as fantastic as from below. The cliffs are a favorite refuge of seabirds. White seagulls against the background of dark, gloomy cliffs is also a stunning sight that will not leave anyone indifferent.
One of the most photographed places in the world
At the end of the beach, one after the other, there are three arches that make you question their natural origin: so man-made do these structures of water and wind look. Just behind the arches there are colonies of bivalves, also worthy to make it into travelers’ photo albums.
By the way, Praia de Augas Santas is very often chosen for shooting by professional photographers: the views are such that everyone who has seen their reports, feels an irresistible desire to visit this extraordinary place. Cathedrals Beach is one of the most photographed places in the world.
What to see
It is worthwhile to walk along the beach from beginning to end and be sure to look in all the caves and grottoes, even if you cannot see the exit from them: the caves are small, so you will not get lost. But in any cave and any grotto everyone will find something unusual and wonderful. You can climb to one of the not too high rocks (it is not forbidden here): from a higher point the landscape will look a little differently and you will be able to look at it from a different angle and take a few pictures.
You don’t have to go back to the stairs that you came down, unless, of course, there is a car in the parking lot. Moving all the way forward, you can come out to another beach, Reinante. Behind the natural arches and columns the area is not as impressive, but there will be an opportunity to observe the inhabitants of the sea, which are in abundance here, and swim at the end of the way. By the way, the water in the Bay of Biscay is not very warm, but swimwear is still worth bringing. In addition, there are many tide pools and grottoes on the beach of the Cathedrals, where the water is much warmer.
Tips for tourists
One of the main tips: being in this place, you need to watch the water level all the time to have time to return to the stairs or go to another beach until the water covers all the land, otherwise you can find yourself in a predicament (remember, the tide here is very fast). However, the high tide will appeal to snorkelers – scuba divers also have something to see here.
National Natural Monument
Cathedrals Beach is a National Natural Monument. Seasoned travelers have heard about it before, but now – with the development of telecommunications – it has become world famous. And the selectivity of nature amazes absolutely everyone: after a short distance from this place, you will not see anything like it.
That is why thousands of tourists come here to admire the daily spectacle: every time the sea recedes, people feel like they are in a grandiose scenery, created by nature itself, and are struck by the harmony of incredible power and beauty. According to the results of international surveys, Playa de las Catedrales is recognized as the most beautiful beach in Europe. This place is one of a kind, it is worth seeing.
When to go and how to get there
Do not forget that Galicia is the northwest of Spain, so even in summer the weather can be variable. The best time to travel is July and August. In addition, it is better to check the tide tables in advance to see this place in all its grandeur.
There are three airports in La Coruña, Vigo and Santiago de Compostela (the capital of Galicia), but there are no direct flights to this region from Moscow, so you have to change in Madrid or Barcelona. The trip from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela (480 km) will take approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, from Barcelona – 1 hour 30 minutes. Playa de las Catedrales is reached by car.
The beach can be reached from Ribadeo by bus. And the schedule is designed so that the time of arrival does not coincide with the tide. Adults will have to pay 2.5 euros for the trip, children 1.5 euros. There are approximately 25 hotels directly in the area of Cathedral Beach.
Arriving at the destination, tourists find themselves in the parking lot at the top of the cliff. Down – to the sea – leads stairs. By the way, you can go down even at high tide – at the bottom there is a piece of land, which the water does not flood (at least at normal tide). But you should keep in mind that this piece of land is very small, it is next to the stairs.
What else to see
Galicia, above all, attracts people interested in culture and ecology. The capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and the center of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world. It’s just slightly inferior to the famous Barcelona in terms of visitors: tourists from all over the world come to the walls of the Cathedral located here. The city hosts historical monuments from different eras and cultures. The cities of Lugo and Pontevedra are also well known for their historic area.