Beauty is subjective of course, but it’s often said that the Cíes Islands, off the coast of Vigo in northern Spain, is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I tend to agree.
In 2007 the Guardian named Rodas Beach, a crescent of soft white sand linking Monte Agudo with O Faro, as one of the finest beaches in the world. Despite that claim to fame, however, the islands are still relatively unknown, and as a maximum of 2200 people are allowed to visit every day, they’re likely to stay off the beaten track for a while yet.
How to visit the Cíes Islands
The boat journey from Vigo to the Cíes Islands takes around 45 minutes. Several ferry companies operate regularly from the easily accessible port area, but it’s a good idea to book at least a few weeks in advance during peak season. Prices start at around £34 per passenger, return.
Find ferry timetables and prices for the Cíes Islands. Remember there is a 2200 people limit per day.
Vigo itself is a pleasant coastal city and worth spending a day or two exploring. Next to the port there is a shopping centre and cafes where you can buy sandwiches, drinks and suntan lotion before departure. There are only a couple of basic restaurants on the islands and they get very busy, so make sure you take plenty of snacks and water.
Another way to visit, and to not be bound by the ferry schedule, is by hiring a private boat, and this is the only way you can reach the third island in the group, San Martiño. Here is a list of boat companies you can get a quote from, on a site with plenty more useful information on the Cíes Islands.
Camping on Cies islands
There is a campsite on O Faro with 800 spaces. You can bring your own tent or use one of theirs. Prices start from around 9 euros per adult per night in high season. A reservation is essential and as this is one of the most popular campsites in the region, you’ll need to book well in advance for peak dates. Find out more information on camping on the Cies islands.
What to do on the Cies islands
The big attraction for many visitors to the Cies islands is diving and snorkelling in the crystal-clear Atlantic waters. The islands form part of the Atlantic Islands National Park and are incredibly rich in marine life. You could be swimming alongside octopus, lobster, sea urchin and anemone, and the visibility is incredible. The water is cold though – you’ll want a wetsuit if you plan to stay out for a while.
What to pack to go to Cies Islands
Other than that, based on our own experiences, we suggest getting there early with a packed lunch (and plenty of water) and staying fairly late to make the most of it (don’t overdo it though as there are few shaded spots, and the combination of heat plus white sandy beaches make it exhausting).
If you get one of the first ferries out then you can usually stake out a good spot and sunbathe on the idyllic beaches. (Tip: don’t settle in the harbour area, as the water can get quite oily from the boats; walk for 20 minutes or so to find a much more scenic spot).
Rodas Beach is the most famous, the most beautiful and therefore the busiest beach on the Cies islands but there are many more lovely stretches of sand all around the islands – find out which beach to go in Cies islands. Follow the hiking trails and see if you can find a secluded spot to yourselves.
I hope you enjoy your time on the Cies islands – we always enjoy our visit every time we drive down to Lisbon through Spain. They really are unbelievably beautiful – the Islands of the Gods indeed!