• Mercedes-Benz Tourismo: front view.

    Dream routes: Galicia.

    With the Tourismo through the gorge of vines.

A challenge for driver and vehicle.

Ribeira Sacra – Holy Bank – is the name of a small region in Galicia. The Miño and Sil rivers have cut ravines of up to 500 metres deep into the mountains here – a challenge for driver and vehicle.

Dark clouds brew, wafts of mist rise above the steep inclines of the ravine and give a touch of drama to the already breathtaking impression that travellers get when they first see the Sil canyon in the far northwest of the Iberian peninsula. Rock faces rise almost vertically to the left and right of the river valley. It is precisely these steep hillsides that are among the oldest wine-growing regions in Spain. “Sil gold” is what the Romans called the vines that they planted here on tiny, painstakingly created terraces. To this day, the Galician winemakers have grown the popular “Amandi” here – thereby attracting more and more visitors to this otherwise barren landscape.

Mercedes-Benz Dream Tour Galicia: Ribeira Sacra – Holy Bank – as seen from above.
  • Mercedes-Benz dream routes Galicia. A boat gliding on the river Sil.

Full attention required.

The coach company, Autos Rico, from A Coruña around 150 kilometres to the north, regularly brings visitors to the Ribeira Sacra, as the Galicians call the region around the Miño and Sil rivers. A day’s excursion from the coast with spectacular landscape, breathtaking views and a relaxed boat trip through narrow gorges – and a particularly taxing job for the coach driver. The drive to the small town of Monforte de Lemos is just as relaxed for Angel, our driver at the wheel of the few-months-old Mercedes-Benz Tourismo, as it is for his passengers.

Yet shortly after this, the narrow country roads require his full attention. The route goes through fields and meadows, past small farmsteads, whose main income is rearing cattle. It is just as well that there is so little traffic here, as oncoming vehicles often force the coach to drive slowly and move to the right-hand edge of the road.

Mercedes-Benz dream routes Galicia. A Mercedes-Benz Tourismo drives along a steep slope.

Up to nine per cent gradient.

The real challenge for coach and driver, however, follows on the last seven kilometres up to the Sil riverbank, where the passengers climb onto a catamaran at the jetty to enjoy the view of the steep hillsides of the Sil gorge and the 2,000-year-old terraced vineyards from the water.

The landscape becomes increasingly steep and full of bends. The LU-903 snakes through the vineyards descending more than 400 metres in altitude. A road sign warns: up to nine per cent gradient. Only a knee-high wall separates the coach from the abyss to the right of the road. The countless bends are tight and offer no view ahead. The dark clouds and wisps of damp mist, which rise from the terraced vineyards today, reinforce the drama of this bizarre landscape, whilst our coach rolls further down the gorge bend after bend. Chauffeur Angel has driven this route many times already. “You have to know the road precisely,” he says. On the narrow roads and on the bends, which barely leave room for the 12.30-metre-long coach, it is a matter of trusting the driver’s skills as well as the coach’s brake and chassis technology.

The ultimate in safety.

“The Tourismo is made for this route,” says Alfonso Rico, owner of Autos Rico, who is with us on board today. “Thanks to the new assistance systems and the outstanding chassis, the Tourismo 15 RHD offers the ultimate in safety and driving comfort. Furthermore, the new cockpit means that the handling has become even easier for the driver. And with 335 kW (456 PS) the OM 470 engine provides more than enough power to majestically master the steep sections from the riverbank up to the heights of the Ribeira Sacra.”

Steeply rising vineyards on one side, an almost vertical drop on the other. The driver cannot afford to look at the fascinating scenery. All his concentration is focused on the road. Yet down by the river, the breathtaking view through the picturesque gorge is a reward for the challenges of the route covered – knowing full well that the return leg through the steep vineyards with extreme inclines and tight bends will be no less demanding than the way down to the valley.

A Mercedes-Benz Tourismo driving on a bridge.
Mercedes-Benz dream routes Galicia. A map of the Ribeira Sacra region.

The route through the Ribeira Sacra.

• 21.4 kilometres long

• Up to nine per cent gradient
• 403 metres of altitude over 6.8 kilometres