Things to Do in the Islas Cíes (Cíes Islands)

Natural Paradise

The Cíes Islands are three beautiful islands at the mouth of the Vigo river. The island called Monteagudo or “del Norte” is the largest and tallest island. The island of Faro, or “de Medio,” has a lighthouse that can be reached by a zigzagging path. These islands are naturally connected by a sandy strip and a cove, but they are also connected by a man-made dike. The island of San Martiño or “del Sur” is the island that gets the least traffic. Click here to go to the webpage with its islands hours and other information.

Planning Your Trip to the Cíes Isalnds

During the summer months, when the campsites are open, you can spend the night on the island. During the rest of the year, however, excursions are limited to the daylight hours. To get to the islands, you can take a boat that departs from Vigo. To learn more about the best lodgings and restaurants, check out our pages about where to eat and stay in the Cíes Islands.

Want to Get to Know this Place?

On the Cíes Islands (nicknamed by Ptolemy “the Islands of the Gods”, by Pliny as “Las Siccae” (the arid ones), and identified by many as the mythical Casitérides of Herodotus), you can find archeological remains that place the presence of humans on these islands all the way back to 3500 BC. However, the first real record of human settlement is found with the castros (fortifications associated with the Celts) that date back to the Iron Age. These can be found on the island de Medio in the Poblado de As Hortas.

The Romans also passed through here, leaving various clues to their presence, including a gold ring, an amphora, ceramics, and various tools that are currently displayed in the Museo de Pontevedra. It is believed that Julius Cesar even made an appearance on these islands in the year 60 BC, chasing the people of the Herminios, who had fled to the islands from the south. Cesar landed on the Playa de Rodas, where he defeated his enemies.

In the Middle Ages, the Cíes Islands were inhabited by monks of various orders: the Benedictines (who abandoned it and moved elsewhere), the Franciscans, and also the Orden de Cluny. The successive occupations put both the Monastery of San Estevo and the salt mill to the test. The monastery can be found on the island of Faro, and the salt mill used to on the island of San Martiño, but you can now eat at a restaurant build upon its ruins. The inconsistency of the monks’ stewardship of the island is due to the many attacks that the archipelago suffered. This situation stretched on until the 18th century, and it ultimately ended with the abandonment of the archipelago.

Qué ver en Islas Cíes

For centuries, the island was invaded by numerous bands of pirates, who sacked the monasteries. The most well-known attack was carried out by Francis Drake in 1585. In the middle of the 19th century, the first lighthouse was built on the island of Faro (which is why it is called Isla de Faro (Island of he Lighthouse)). At that time, the island was repopulated by a few families who fished and raised livestock, but the island was again abandoned during the 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, people started to come to the archipelago to enjoy the beaches, the sun, and the natural beauty.

Declared a National Park in 1980 and included in the National Parks of the Atlantc Islands of Galicia in 2002 (formed by the group of archipelagos, islands, and islets of Cíes, Ons, Sálvora, Noro, Vioneta, Cortegada, and Malveiras), the Cíes Islands are one of the most important tourist destinations in Galicia. In February of 2007, the British newspaper The Guardian even named the Playa de Rodas as the best in the world. It is a real natural paradise and a place where you can spend a beautiful summer’s day. Some of its many attractions are its natural beauty, its walking and hiking trails, its spectacular views, its beaches, and the ability to relax that it offers.

The boats to the islands depart daily from Baiona, Cangas de Morrazo, and Vigo; and you can reserve your tickets at the websites Cruceiros Rías Baixas and Mar de Ons. You can visit the island from the end of June until the end of September (but there are other possible visiting times at the websites mentioned above). No more than 2200 people can visit the island in a day, and the most popular times are during Semana Santa and the summer. Since this island is technically uninhabited and protected, you can only camp here for a maximum of 15 days. But that is still a pretty long time, and the island offered 800 places to camp.

When visiting the Cíes, it is best to take one of the roundtrip tours that leaves from the information booth on the island of Monteagudo. The Ruta del Monte Faro (7.4 km; 2 and a half hours) is the longest and most comprehensive of them all. During the tour to the Faro, you can see the Playa de Rodas, the children’s lake, the beach and the picnic area of Nuestra Señora, the Isla Sur, the remains of the Castro das Hortas, and the zigzagging path up to the lighthouse. The Ruta del Faro da Porta (5.2 km, an hour and 45 minutes) is easier and shorter than the previous one, with which part of its tour overlaps. Instead of going up to the lighthouse, you veer off and go to the Faro de Portas, one that is much lower. The Ruta del Alto do Príncipe (3 km, an hour and 15 minutes) is the shortest, but it is still beautiful. It takes you to the Alto del Príncipe, where you have a great view to admire the landscape. Lastly, the Ruta de Monteagudo (5.6 km, an hour and 45 minutes) adds on to the previous one with a trip to the area of A Valgada, bringing you to the Faro do Peito and the point at which you can do some birdwatching. Here, you can enjoy amazing views of the Ría de Vigo and the Costa da Vela.

Acantilados

In the flora and fauna of this paradise, you’ll find the most spectacular marine bird colony of the Spanish coast. The most abundant birds here are the seagulls (this area is actually the largest refuge in the world for these birds). Its aquatic depths, which offer a huge display of biological diversity, also deserve mention. You can also enjoy its three magnificent beaches, which are concentrated on the Isla de Monteagudo. These include the Playa de Rodas, the arc-shaped and most well-known beach; the Playa de Nuestra Señora, the smallest but the most comfortable; and the Playa de Figueras, a nudist beach also known as the Playa de los Alemanes because it used to be only Germans who would make use of this beach. Lastly, we recommend you visit the ruins of the Monasterio de San Estevo, where an information center has been installed. Here, you can watch videos and examine models that inform you of the most interesting aspects of the National Park.

Essentials

Dónde dormir en Islas Cíes
Faro
Dónde dormir en Islas Cíes
Playa de Rodas

Practical Information

Coordinates

42° 13′ 24″ N, 8° 54′ 14″ W

Distances

18 km from Vigo

35 km from Pontevedra

110 km from Ourense

607 km from Madrid

Parking

You get to the islands by boat from Baiona, Cangas, and Vigo (from June 20th to the end of September), and you should not have any trouble parking in those places.

Altitude

Isla del Sur (Monte Pereira, 172 m)

Isla del Medio (Monte Faro, 173 m)

Isla del Norte (Monte Agudo, 176 m and Alto Cíes, 193 m)

Population

3 (Park caretakers)

Hiking Trails

Nearby Destinations


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