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Vigo, in Northern Spain’s Galicia region, is little known, except to cruise ship passengers who usually disembark there for a shore excursion to the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostella. But there are other reasons to visit Vigo, especially for beach lovers, who may be surprised to learn that not all of Spain’s beaches are on the Mediterranean, in the Spanish Riviera.
Just off shore, and a short ferry ride away from the city, the three Cíes Islands are part of the Islas Atlánticas National Park, which protects one of Spain’s most beautiful and ecologically important natural landscapes. Surrounded by turquoise-colored waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the islands’ cliffs, white sand beaches, dunes, pine forests and crystal-clear lagoon make it easy to see why the Romans called the Cíes Islands “the islands of the Gods.” Stepping ashore into their unspoiled natural environment, 21st-century visitors agree.
Spain’s Islas Atlánticas National Park
The Islas Atlánticas National Park was designated by Spain for its rich sea beds and some of the world’s most important colonies of marine birds, with 15,000 nesting pairs. The islands are the main nesting grounds for the Yellowfoot Gull. The rare Sea Pink and other plants flower in the dunes and on the cliffs, which rise to more than 300 feet tall on the western side.
White Sand Beaches and Lagoon
The eastern shores of the three islands are protected from the Atlantic and beautiful white sand beaches have formed here, backed by dunes and forested slopes. A continuous beach more than 1,200 yards long connects Do Faro Island to its northern neighbour; Monteagudo. Behind the beach, known as Rodas, lies a lagoon that fills with each high tide, and the waters are so clear that it is easy to see the fish and other sea life, caught there between tides.
The beaches are clean and there is plenty of room, as well as peace and quiet, for the visitors who arrive each day on the ferry. Despite their beauty and closeness to the city of Vigo, there is no mass tourism here; the number of visitors is limited to 2,200 each day.
How to Get to the Cíes Islands
Take a ferry from the Maritime Termina, a new port terminal that is decorated with murals. Ferries run to the Cies Islands during the week before Easter, on weekends in May and daily through the summer. The only overnight facilities on the islands are at campgrounds, which are open Easter week and June 15 to September 15.
Camping on the Cíes Islands
To camp there, reserve in advance (+34 986438358 or +34 986687050) and on arrival in Vigo, complete registration and get a card at the Vigo Marine Resort. The card allows passengers to purchase a return boat ticket for a future return date, instead of the one-day round-trip ticket.