Mi querida Galicia, my home in España/Spain, you have gifted me with so much that it seems I am forever in your debt. Just before taking off for France and starting the #summerofAriana on the road, I decided a special trip in Galicia was long overdue. I had heard so many things about Galicia’s coast, renowned by all Spaniards, and just add the word ISLAS and you now have the attention and praise of travelers across Europe. I’m talking about As illas Cies (en Galego) / las Islas Cíes (in Spanish), the National Park off the southern Coast of Vigo (southern Galicia). I’m a lover of nature and the great outdoors, so when sunshine started becoming a normal occurrence in Lugo, I decided it was time for a camping trip to soak up all the fresh air and sun rays. My summer was already in effect (I had finished teaching), so there were no more excuses. . . I needed to seek Ocean. A friend of mine was down to camp with me somewhere in Galicia, and together we decided on las Islas Cíes. I booked 2 nights for us in the “bring your own tent” section of the campgrounds, which cost just 25 EUROS per night. I don’t remember if the first week of July is considered Low or High Season, because the price varies depending on the season, but it was affordable for all the beauty contained in these islands. If you don’t have a tent, you can pay a bit more and reserve a campsite with a tent provided.
From the city of Ourense it was a short drive to Vigo (just 2 hrs) and it’s here that you purchase a Ferry Ticket to get to the Islands. I believe a roundtrip ticket was 18 EURO, and you have to pick the date and time of your Return ticket when purchasing the ticket, not later (**SUCKS because if you change your mind for any reason and want to stay longer or come back on a later ferry, it gets complicated. We tried to change our Return ferry tickets to a later slot once on the Island and were told it was not possible). But, once you have your ticket in hand, it’s only a 1hr ride to destination Tesoro de Galicia: Las Islas Cíes/Treasure of Galicia: the Cíes Islands.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of my favorite photos from two and a half days en estas Islas Divinas.
Are you intrigued yet? Ocean views on 2 or 3 sides of the islands (as they are fairly small), on a clear summer day you can see the Coast of Galicia, the endless Atlantic Ocean and the Ría de Vigo (estuary). These are some views definitely worth seeing. The sun shined down on us while we explored and got lost wandering without hurry or worry. Every now and then we would see a marked trail and follow it to the end. We made it to the top of both islands on different days. There are many hiking trails on the two islands (Monte Agudo and O Faro which are connected by land/sands). I cannot recommend enough how much better the views get from up top. IT’S BREATH-TAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL UP THERE. The islands have forresty parts, and parts that are rocky with harsh cliffside. In general the terrain changes depending on where you are on the island. Pristine beaches are also not to be missed, although you will have to withstand the icy waters (for me anyways) if you want to take a little swim. WHY GALICIA? WHY!!! Even in July, the ocean was was so COLD! But the sun-bathing was wonderful.
Tan much? There are 9 beaches on the islands and if you want an extra bit of sun on your skin, then make sure to find Playa del Figueiras, affectionately called “The German Beach” because it’s the only official Nude Beach on the islands. We ended up here to sun and swim on our second day (not knowing it was the nude beach though) and it was quite an experience. I loved seeing so many people so free with their bodies on this beach, age not an issue. It was my first real experience on a Nude Beach and I loved it. In fact, the only complaint I had was that there were too many people on this beach that were wearing bathing suits, and many young women/teenagers that just wanted to prance around topless. They didn’t actually respect those who were in Birthday Suit Only Attire/NAKED from head to toe. I feel all these things combined gave the beach a weird and confused dynamic. Despite all this, I was inspired to soak up some sun naked running my fingers and toes through the softest sand. It felt so good, and freeing. When in Rome right?… I didn’t swim naked, but I did dare to swim briefly in those cold waters. This sunshine mermaid just had to.
While hiking along, we saw a sign that mentioned something about a bird watching area. **Note to visitors: during certain seasons when the young seagulls are learning to walk/fly, the mother Seagulls are much more protective. Don’t get too close. My friend was scared shitless by a mother Seagull who felt we were TOO CLOSE TO HER YOUNG. We escaped unharmed, and lesson learned kept a bit more distance between us and the young birds. We decided to follow the trail for more bird-watching and arrived at this area with great rock formations. My friend felt the need to climb, and shortly after, not wanting to be left out I followed. What we discovered here was the best cliffside view of one part of the island, a bird haven. The powerful winds up here, the perfect Atlantic Ocean gleaming endlessly and the Seagulls in flight made this MY FAVORITE SPOT ON THE ISLANDS!
The next day, we had it in mind to come back to this same spot in the evening to watch the Sunset. We couldn’t have chosen a better place for this magical hour. Sitting in the natural seat atop the rock as the skies were beginning to turn all shades of pinks, oranges, purples and magentas, we were witness to nearly a hundred birds in the rocky cliffside taking off in flight, criss-crossing, zooming, and gliding in a perfect disorderly order. It was comparable to some type of futuristic highway in the sky. These birds were dealing with the element of extreme winds, but somehow managed to look like they knew exactly how to catch wind at the right moment and propel further and faster to reach their landing point. Some birds had to try several times before they caught the right wind, but never giving up. Also, it was the season when many of the young seagulls begin learning how to fly. With their Seagull mommas nearby for moral support, some young seagulls nervously attempted to flap their wings and catch a bit of wind, before quickly being blown back to their starting point. Others bravely caught the wind and glided beautifully, if only for a minute or two. I had never seen a Sunset quite like this one en las Islas Cíes. I had never felt so intrigued by seagulls either, watching them from here for hours, in perfect peace. I will never forget how amazing it was to be in their world for a time.
A Sunset to die for. . .
I really do hope that if you can you will visit these islands, Galicia’s Islas Cíes, and make your own discoveries and memories here. I’m so grateful to my friend Alejandro for sharing with me these days on the islands, something I will hold in my heart and memory for years to come.
Here is the Link to book for Camping: http://www.campingislascies.com/es/reservas &
Another Resource for all things Islas Cíes: http://www.turismodevigo.org/es/islas-cies