After two failed attempts, yesterday was the day that I finally made it to las Islas Cíes, a gem off the coast of Galicia and home of the world’s best beach, according to this article in The Guardian.
I had a friend from school visiting for the weekend and, seeing as one day is more than enough time to see the whole of Santiago, going for a day trip (with somebody else!!!!!!) seemed like a very good idea. Having been told by several people that las Cíes are nothing less than paradisiacal and also being aware that, with only two proper weekends left until leaving, it was probably now or never, I booked the tickets last week.
The Cíes are made up of three islands: Monteagudo (“Sharp Mount” or North Island), do Faro (“Lighthouse Island”, or Isla do Medio, “Middle Island”) and San Martiño (“Saint Martin” or South Island). The islands are a nature reserve and also part of Galicia’s national park; rules aiming to protect the islands’ nature are strict and, judging by how untouched they are, seem to work. Additionally, the number of visitors is capped at 2,200 per day. Ferries run to and from Vigo, a city in mainland Galicia, several times a day, and tickets are a bargain, costing as little as €10 for a return.
In short, the islands were a dream. The weather could not have been better – the evidence being my quite badly sunburnt ear and, bizarrely, foot – and the seascapes offered by the various viewpoints on the islands were second-to-none. There are several hiking routes of which we did two, both of which led to lighthouses.
Playa de Rodas, the one specified by The Guardian, connects two of the islands and is a vast stretch of almost white sand bordering crystal clear water. After the first of our hikes, a lot of which was uphill, we spent a good couple of hours reposing at our leisure on aforementioned sand. There are nine beaches in total across the three islands. We visited one other, but the tide was so far in that we couldn’t actually venture onto the sand. Playa de Rodas was more than enough. I am hardly a seasoned beachgoer; the only other beach that I’ve visited that comes close to las Islas Cíes is Zlatni Rat on the island of Bol, in Croatia. The latter’s downfall is the number of tourists it attracts. When I went last summer, we struggled to find a spot on the sand; yesterday, the choice was almost too much.
Before getting the ferry back to Vigo, we had a drink in one of the beaches only bars. I’d been warned that it was expensive, and €2 for a bottle of agua con gas did sting a bit. From Vigo, we took the train back to Santiago, and arrived feeling very relaxed and, in my case, very happy not to have missed it during my time in Galicia.
I’m now asking myself why this hidden gem is quite as hidden as it is. I’d never even heard of it before coming to Galicia, and I’ve got no idea whether or not the islands are well-known outside of the region. I’m inclined to think that they’re not, and I feel like the whole of Spain is missing out on something great. Equally, an influx of tourists would inevitably lead to the steady decline and ultimate destruction of the islands, which would be a tragedy. These beautiful little islands are a real Spanish treasure, and, although I’m judging from my somewhat limited experience of the world’s beaches, I very much agree with The Guardian’s assessment of Playa de Rodas.