The Cíes Islands: A Secret Tropical Paradise in Northwest Spain

This unspoiled spot is revered by Spanish and Portuguese beachgoers

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The northwest coast of Spain may not attract as many tourists as the south or the Mediterranean coast — its colder climate is partly to blame. But let us tell you a secret: This region of Spain is full of amazing beaches, and in summertime, notwithstanding a few rainy days, high temperatures ensure sunny days at the beach.

Though locals have long been in the know, visitors from other parts of the country, plus an increasing number of foreign tourists, are beginning to discover what makes Spain's northwest coast special.

Discovering Spain's Cíes Islands

Cies Islands Photo: Alicia Montalvo Pulgar

The Cíes Islands are located just west of Vigo, the largest city in Galicia. The Romans called them "the islands of the Gods" for being an unspoiled natural paradise with crystalline waters, white sand and unique wildlife.

The archipelago is composed of three islands: Monteagudo, do Faro and San Martiño, all part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. Rodas, the best known beach in Cíes, was chosen as the best in the world by the UK Guardian in 2007.

The archipelago is home of many unique bird species and is one of the best marine bird observatories in the world. It also has an outstanding seabed and both scuba-diving and sailing are permitted with authorization. If you like hiking, there are various beginner-level hiking trails that offer spectacular views. For beachside relaxation, many tourists head to Rodas beach, but Figueiras and Nosa Señora are also excellent choices.

Although the islands are a bit remote, there are bars, restaurants, bathrooms, lifeguards, medical care and all the required services for ensuring a blissful beach day. But don't forget this is the Atlantic Ocean, so unless it's August, the water may be quite cold.

Getting There

Cies Islands Photo: Alicia Montalvo Pulgar

So how do you get to this natural paradise? Start in Vigo, and from there, take a boat trip or rent a yacht to the Cíes Islands. You can also take a boat to and from Baiona and Cangas de Morrazo, but Vigo's airport, bus and train stations ensure that you're well-connected to other regions in Spain.

For overnight stays, book a spot on the campsite next to Rodas Beach. Galicians want to preserve their magnificent treasure, so to avoid overcrowding, there is a limit of 2,200 visitors per day. The campsite offers 800 spots and visitors can stay a maximum of 15 days.

Boat service begins and campsites are available on weekends only starting on Easter and through the month of May, and then every day from June to September.

And here's a bonus: Galician cuisine has an impeccable reputation, with a strong focus on fresh seafood. One of its specialities is octopus a feira, perfect with a glass of Albariño, the amazing locally made white wine. Vigo has many highly rated restaurants, so take your time in the city to enjoy these delicacies.

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