From an environmental point of view, the Reserve has great interest derived from the great altitudinal difference represented and the existing lithological variety. In fact, its more than 1,600 m slope, the orography and the geological peculiarities have been conducive to the conservation of a significant number of deposits and forms of glacial and periglacial origin, formed throughout the different cold periods of the Quaternary. Thus, the presence of high and medium mountain geoecological systems is evident, whose dynamics have been modified by human presence.


The Os Ancares mountain treasures a unique mosaic of natural habitats. It is an Atlantic area of high and medium mountains in which the presence of important forest masses stands out (dominated by oaks, birch and chestnut, species accompanied by hazelnuts, holm oaks, rowan trees, maples, yews and hollies) that house a rich list of wooded habitats.

Shrubland areas are also widely represented, in which dry heaths and brooms stand out, playing an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. There are, in some localized points, holm oak forests of high biogeographic value, such as Aciñeiral de Cruzul, or small beech forests, such as A Pintinidoira. The cuminal areas host the westernmost representation of subalpine habitats on the European continent.

This variety of habitats existing in the Reserve is home to an abundant diversity of flora and fauna. Regarding the flora, endangered species such as Lycopodiella inundata or Zygodon conoideus stand out, as well as taxa of community interest such as Festuca elegans, F. summilusitanica, Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. nobilis or N. Asturiensis (daffodils, which can be admired in the Campa de Tres Bispos).

In the fauna groups, among the invertebrates, the presence of the crayfish (Austropotambius pallipes) stands out, and in the vertebrate community, it is worth noting species in serious danger of extinction, such as the brown bear (Ursus arctos*, considered a priority) or the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), which is one of the most endangered birds in this territory and which enjoys strict protection at European, state and regional levels.

Os Grobos Forest and Daffodils in Campa Tres Bispos

Doiras Castle and Bridge in A Proba de Navia


From the prehistoric era, the set of tumuli and megalithic chambers stands out.
They are known as mámoas or medorras, with different dialectal variations of these names, and represent a different type from those of the rest of the Peninsula. Also notable is the set of forts present in the territory, which constitute the form of settlement of the population from the Bronze Age to the end of Romanization, such as the Santa María fort in Cervantes.

Also worth highlighting are the castles that bear witness to the important medieval past of the area. Those of Doiras, Frades and Quindous stand out, in the municipality of Cervantes. The set of civil architecture is completed with the houses, tower houses and manors, such as the tower house of Donís and the manor house of Pando, in Cervantes, or the manor house of Freixís in Navia de Suarna. There are also other notable elements representative of traditional rural culture that have their own toponymy associated with them, such as granaries, watermills, fountains, etc.

On the other hand, the numerous religious architecture is represented by a series of parish churches and chapels, almost always perfectly integrated into the physical environment and distributed throughout the territory. Many of these constructions respond to a specific typology of mountain churches, with their characteristic chapters. The churches of Donís, Cancelada, Cereixido and San Pedro de Cervantes, in Cervantes, stand out.


The most notable feature of the historical and cultural heritage in the Reserve is the palloza (represented in its logo), a type of housing that materializes the survival of one of the oldest forms of habitation in the European context. These pre-Roman constructions, with the same layout as the circular houses of the forts, housed people and livestock under the same rye thatch roof until relatively recently. Some, converted into a museum, can be visited today and are the greatest exponent of the ethnographic wealth of the Ancares.

The dyeing of the pallozas is done with rye mesh, which is obtained in traditional Mallegans, in which the rye straw is beaten (in the past, with sticks, currently with machines). Subsequently, the grain is cleaned and the escolmado is carried out, which consists of separating the longest and hardest straw from the short and folded one with an ancestral technique, to make the straws, with which the teitadores repair the roof of the pallozas.

Intangible heritage is equally important, although poorly studied. It is possible to highlight the rich and little studied toponymy of the territory, the numerous legends of oral tradition, the traditional celebrations, the traditional trades of the area such as serranchíns, carpenters, spinners, weavers, fairs, tailors, millers, quartermen or blacksmiths.

Mallega in Cervantes and Pallozas in Piornedo

Robledo de Rao curtain and Cows in Piornedo


The area has an important set of traditional practices and activities that have high ethnographic interest, such as the use of semi-natural mountain meadows and chestnuts in the soutos (chestnut forests), as well as beekeeping production, which has some characteristic constructions that protect the bear’s hives (curtains or albarizas).

Although in a very simplified way, the seasonal movement of cattle is still carried out during the summer season from the villages to the summer pastures, located in the brañas.

For centuries, the extensive natural forests have been a source of wood for various uses and trades, through small-scale logging that has allowed their maintenance to this day. For their part, horticultural crops have used and maintained specific ecotypes from the mountain area, characterized by their rusticity.

For all this, it is possible to cite a series of high-quality artisanal agri-food productions, among which cheeses, meat products, or products obtained from the forest environment stand out (honey, chestnuts or blueberries, among others).

The persistence of these traditional activities and productions is vital for the maintenance of the cultural and natural heritage of the Reserve.

This work was fully financed by the Next Generation funds of the European Union through the subsidy called by the Xunta de Galicia “Aid for actions by the management bodies of the biosphere reserves of Galicia under the Recovery Plan , Transformation and Resilience, financed by the European Union-NextGenerationEU, for the years 2022 and 2023.” However, the views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the European Commission is responsible for them.

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