We would like to present a route through the Cíes Islands, which form part of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, and where, according to the English newspaper The Guardian, lies one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: the beach fo Rodas.

Take to sea on this adventure and prepare your eyes for the marvellous Atlantic landscape.

The archipelago of the Cíes is made up of the North Island or Monteagudo, the Middle Island or Faro and the South Island or San Martiño.
Turkish, Tunisian and English pirates all attacked the Cíes. One of the corsairs who came here was the famous Sir Francis Drake.



In 1997, the British newspaper The Guardian published the “Top Ten beaches in the world”. Among them was Rodas, on the Cíes Islands. The fame of this paradise at the entrance of the estuary of Vigo was already known to locals and visitors, but since then it has become a benchmark for tourists from all over the world.

Surrounded by native trees, this shell-shaped beach is 1.3 km long, the sand is fine and white and the waters are turquoise, making it the perfect scene for feeling freedom, the sea and nature.

Vigo, Cangas and Baiona are the three ports from which, in the high season, the catamarans sail for the archipelago. It is, of course, well worth making this trip of under an hour. During this time you will be accompanied by the swaying boat from a privileged seat on one of the upper decks, while the fresh breeze surrounds you in this fantastic viewpoint in the Atlantic Ocean. During the crossing you can make the most of the time to discover the largest villages on the coastline of Pontevedra and the unmistakable profile of Vigo.

The Cíes are only 14 km from the city. Not even the best photograph of the three islands – the North Island or Monteagudo, the Middle Island or Faro and the South Island or San Martiño – can do justice to the natural beauty you come into as the catamaran approaches its destination, on the jetty right next to Rodas beach. This could be seen as the nerve centre for exploring this paradise. Ptolemy called the archipelago the “Islands of the Gods”.

Despite their apparent solitude in the estuary of Vigo, which is like a great breakwater, once you are here you will see that the Cíes hold an important place in history. They were populated in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods. “As Hortas” hill fort, located on the side of Monte Faro, dates back to the Bronze Age. It was also occupied in Roman times. Some writers even state that Julius Caesar came here. There are no remains of the invasion of the Suevi, although two monasteries were built here in the sixth century: San Martiño on the South Island and Santo Estevo on the Middle Island. The present Interpretation Centre was built over the ruins of the latter – next to it you can still see an anthropomorphic tomb.

Sir Francis Drake...

Turkish, Tunisian and English pirates all attacked the estuary of Vigo and the Cíes Islands, which were devastated by the famous English corsair Sir Francis Drake. These attacks led to subsequent plans for defence, the building of an artillery store in 1810 in the old monastery of Santo Estevo, a police station and a prison near Nosa Señora beach. With the passing of the years, the increase in the canned food industry on the coast led to the building of two salting factories here in 1840, among other constructions. Production fell, however, due to competition, and the factories eventually closed. The same happened with the ever-changing local population, most of them from Cangas, in the mid-twentieth century, as tourist interest in the area grew.

Do not give in to the temptation to stay on any of these beaches, which thanks to their natural characteristics seem almost tropical, just like others in Galicia – the longest beach, Rodas, Nosa Señora, the nudist beach of As Figueiras, Cantareira cove – but rather make the most of the time to explore the North and Middle Islands, joined by a small breakwater which gave rise to a little salt water lagoon, and by the Rodas beach.

The route to Monte Faro is without doubt the most popular because of the spectacular hill: a steep slope zigzags up to 175 metres above sea level. The Cíes lighthouse is located at the top, dating from 1852. From here you will have a magnificent view over the archipelago, compensating the effort and your lack of breath. This walk enables you to explore a good part of the Middle Island with all its natural and cultural values: the Nature Interpretation Centre, Nosa Señora beach, the Pedra da Campá, a rock perforated by the force of the salt-laden Atlantic winds, and the ornithology observatory. You will see sea crows, but above all yellow-legged seagulls. The largest colony of this species in the whole Iberian Peninsula is here and they are the most numerous inhabitants of the Cíes. This route will also take you to Porta lighthouse, which overlooks the straits of the same name and from where you can see the island of San Martiño in all its solitude – it is only accessible by boat – and Bicos lighthouse.

Northwards, almost at the tip of Monteagudo Island, you will find the fourth lighthouse in the enclave, known as O Peito. Even though it is located close to the highest point on the archipelago, the Alto das Cíes at 193 metres above sea level, the path is not difficult. You will see the ruins of an ancient settlement and another bird observatory, and also feel closer to land. This is because you are only 2.5 km from the coast of Vela and Cape Home. To the north you can make out the profile of Ons Island, protecting the estuary of Pontevedra.

Back to the starting point, make the most of the chance to go up the Alto do Príncipe, 111 metres above sea level. Lean on the whimsical shapes of the rock known as the Cadeira da Raíña. Just as if the rock were a natural balcony, look out over the Atlantic Ocean and see the contrast between the two sides of the islands: almost vertical cliffs to the west and gentle dunes and beaches to the east.

Walking through this part of the Cíes, you will recall Camariñas and the Pobra do Caramiñal, because heather grows here with white berries – a protected species in danger of extinction – and its name in Galician (“camariña”) is evident in the above place names.

At the end of the day, say farewell to this haven of peace and life while the sea around the Cíes blends in with the red skies, and only the wake of your boat joins you to this paradise on earth.