The Ría de Vigo extends from south-west to north-east like a marine lance stretching out as we go inland. However, it is clearly different from the other estuaries in the south of Galicia. While those in Muros, Arousa or Pontevedra become narrow in their depths, the Vigo estuary does so in Rande and opens up again to form the cove of San Simón with the island of the same name connected to the land at low tide by a sandy strip.
At the mouth of the Ría de Vigo, like three stone ships moored in the ocean, there are the Cíes Isles, which together with the Ons Isles, the Isle of Sálvora and the Isle of Cortegada, form the National Park of the Atlantic Islands.
The Cíes have different shapes between west and east. To the west they have a rough, inaccessible coast with impressive cliffs with numerous gulleys and caves -furnas- housing a large amount of fauna. On the other hand, inside the estuary, the relief is gentler, the slopes are not as steep and this has cause the creation of beautiful beaches mixing sand with shell remains. It is precisely in this protected sector where we can see interesting signs of the Atlantic flora, and especially the camariña.
The Cíes, which can be got at from Vigo by a limited number of people, are not only outstanding due to their natural interest, but also, to a certain extent, they protect the estuary from the rough Atlantic storms, allowing many mussel beds to populate the waters.
Thanks to its privileged location, the Ría de Vigo not only holds the city that gives it its name, one of the best ports in Europe, but also other places with a long history; we must not forget that the estuary has been a commercial axis since prehistoric times.
It was said by the traveller G. Borrow that Vigo was the happy combination of a bay "without match in the world". The development of the late nineteenth century brought the creation of a large maritime industrial infrastructure -steel works, preserve factories, fishing port, etc.- which turned it into the most populated estuary in Galicia. It has splendid parks, museums (contemporary, of the sea, zoological) and beaches. It preserves the small, marine old quarter of O Berbés, currently being renovated, and the Castrelos park, which is undoubtedly the most beautiful urban park in Galicia. The area also houses the Quiñones de León Manor-Museum, which is now the municipal museum.
On the southern bank of the Ría de Vigo is the cove of Baiona, which receives the river Miñor. At either end are the ports of Panxón and Baiona, joined by the A Ramallosa and Praia América sandbanks. Baiona, today a prime tourist resort, for centuries concentrated the trade until Vigo developed spectacularly. It was a very important business centre in the Middle Ages and is still one of the best known and most used shelters for ships travelling around the coast of Galicia.
In March 1493 the caravel La Pinta dropped sail in the town under the orders of Pinzón and piloted by Sarmiento of Pontevedra. In the town there are beautiful churches, and particularly the collegiate.
On the northern side of the estuary is Cangas, a town with great business that still has the typical streets and old customs like Moaña, another beautiful marine print.
To the north-west, the estuary narrows in Rande where it is crossed by the motorway joining Vigo with the north of Galicia with a spectacular suspension bridge like a great tray, which blends harmoniously with those that cover the marine surface of its surroundings. On passing Rande, we come to Redondela, a town marked by the railway and its iron bridges.
And at the bottom of the estuary sit Ponte Sampaio, a name of liberating resonances (due to the battle that finish with French domain in 1809) and Arcade, once one of the most important oyster beds in Europe.