Vigo’s Island Paradise
16 February, 2015
Vigo is the largest and liveliest city in the verdant Galicia region on Spain’s northwestern corner, and the unspoiled Islas Cíesislands that guard the entrance to the Vigo estuary provide the contrasting note of blissful peace and quiet, in a natural setting of fine beaches, dunes, lagoons, thick forests, and hiking trails. The three islands are the crown jewels of the Parque Nacional Marítimo Terrestre das Illas Atlánticas de Galicia, which includes theIslas de Ons archipelago to the north, and their almost pristine state is jealously protected. There are no hotels, only a campsite open in the summer months, and the number of visitors is restricted to 2,200 per day, so it’s wise to take an early morning boat. That will also give you time to relax on the beach and to explore the hilly islands which are criss-crossed by hiking trails –no cars or bicycles are allowed. You’ll see spectacular views, rich vegetation, and large colonies of both resident and migratory seabirds, such as the yellow-footed seagull, the cormorant, and many other species.
Monte do Faro and Monteagudo Islands
The ferries take you to the two northernmost islands, connected by a stone footbridge and by the Playa de Rodas itself, which is really a sandy 1.2 km-long isthmus separating the Vigo estuary from the tidal lagoon between the islands. A third island, San Martiño, can be reached only by private boat, and indeed, dozens of sailboats and a few luxury yachts can be seen lying at anchor near all three islands in the summer. There are nine beaches on the two connected islands, each with its own character, and the most famous after Rodas is that of Figueiras, a popular nudist beach with plenty of shade, on the north island, Monteagudo. Serious nature lovers can easily hike all the trails in a few hours, looking down the steep cliffs on the windward western shore, or admiring the panoramic views in all directions from the lighthouse –faro in Spanish– built in the mid 19th C. at 178 metres above sea level on Monte del Faro, also known as the Isla del Medio or “middle island”.
Playa de Rodas
The halfmoon-shaped curve of Rodas beach connecting the two islands on the leeward, eastern shore is a true gem of fine gold sand and shallow crystalline waters –you can walk 200 metres from the shore and keep your hair dry, so it’s very safe for children. The tides regularly flush it clean, also renewing the water in the lagoon behind, which is the abode of a rich variety of fish and shellfish (diving is allowed, but spearfishing is not).
Where to Eat
To restore your strength with some local fare you should try the pulpo á Illa –octopus, island-style– tender chunks of boiled octopus with onion, coarse sea salt, and both sweet and spicy paprika. But the large menu also features roasts and other specialities. The restaurant has a choice of rooms in which to enjoy your meal –public, private, with fireplace, etc. – and cellars where you can sample some of Galicia’s exquisite wines
How to Get There
From June through September there are ferries at least every hour from Vigo harbour, or the nearby towns of Baiona, Cangas, and Moaña, from 0630h until 1030h. In the off season you must hire a boat, with or without crew, which is easy to do in Vigo, but you’ll need a permit, and another permit for anchoring off the islands.
Fancy a hop to the islands? Check out our fares here!
Photos: Tour Galicia
16 February, 2015