In Galicia, there are a few islands that can be visited, and each offers a unique adventure: exotic, wildlife or romantic.
For example in this <- article, I have presented Illa/Isla de Ons (the Ons Island): it turns out that this island is the natural/protected habitat of the Yellow-legged gull so there are many to be seen (and many to protect your food from). 😒🌮
Also, there are lots of butterflies and other small/big insects so every lover of Macro photography will feel just like home on this island.🍄🦋🐝
Then there are also lots of lizards,🦎 but since this is the “wilderness”, they were all hidden or get around so fast that you cannot focus your camera on them. But at least you see them…
The second Island that can be visited is San Simon -> a place for romantic people and a place for sunsets. (more about that on a later article).
Now I will be presenting one of the most visited islands: Illas Cies – Islas Cies.
Why Cies is more famous than Ons?
Must be the proximity to Vigo and Baiona (both towns highly visited by foreign tourists in the summer) or the great number of beaches or the fact that there are big forests to protect from the summer’s sun (not like on Ons, where you are mostly in the open).
I will come back to this question, towards the ending of this article, but for now, let me tell you how you can get here:
Well, as you can see on the map, there are a few routes: Cangas/Moana, Vigo and Baiona and all routes are owned by several companies. The biggest boats are from Mar de Ons and they leave from Vigo (but not only). There are other companies like CRUCEROS RÍAS BAIXAS & NAVIERA NABIA but they have smaller boats and on big waves, you will feel that difference. (but maybe not so much, as the route is not really out in the open sea like when going to Isla de Ons, from Vigo…)
It is better to buy your ticket a few days in advance since, on Cies Islands, there is a maximum of 2200 people that can stay on the island. And for that reason, you will buy also the return trip (unlike Ons, where you buy the return when you feel like going home).
You can also come with a private boat, but I don’t have to many details on that, except that you have to register your visit, so that you have a pass.
The journey to the islands is short (from Vigo, or Baiona), around 45-60 minutes.
The water is normally calm but not so calm that you could have a martini on the deck…
You arrive at a “port” where is also the first cantina to eat (take breakfast) and if you wait 20 – 30 minutes or so, you can also use the toilet (normally the majority of the people left the cantina by now). Is better to wait, as you will see soon enough.
From this point, you have a few choices: go to see the beautiful lighthouse, (orange route or Isla del Faro) or the beautiful view over lighthouse (blue route) or go north to … another small lighthouse (red route).
In the image below we can see the south side of Median Island -> the place where most tourists go to (and so do we).
I would not stay at the first beach since all the boats leave that “good” pollution right next to you (as you probably took notice on the image with the boat). But is very convenient here, because you are close to the cantina/toilets.
So I followed the Orange route, to get to see the beautiful lighthouse.
The route is well paved (a portion), as it is the only road to the camping site. So you can do part of the trip in sandals or even barefoot. ☺️
The first interesting area is (as you can see in the image below) the road that links the Median Island to the North Island. On one side you have powerful waves and on the other side, you have mostly underwater vegetation and small fish. You can see the road in the image below, in the centre (as wells as the beach that also links the islands)
Here you can also spot (on low tide) small crabs, that match very well the surrounding environment, so pay attention to the rocks.
Again, is better, as you arrive, to wait for all the tourists to leave, give them a head start. Fewer people means more chances that wildlife gets out from the hiding and more opportunities for your Instagram feed.
Now, if you forgot to buy water, or food or whatever, next to the camping site, there is another cantina, and please, this time don’t forget to buy liquids. There is just climbing left, and no stores on the path ahead.
So let’s continue the adventure, heading towards the iconic lighthouse. And since we are close to the sea level, here is another beach -> the water is shallow, crystal clear but frozen cold 😩. Ideal for a hot summer and for beach volleyball.
Not far from this site, you can have your first beautiful view over the Ocean and Nigran/Vigo/Baiona area:
As probably noticed, the island is much taller than Ons, and you climb a lot, descend a lot and so on. But that is the fun part!
And wherever you see rocks, a bit far from the path, and the sun shining on them, expect lizards to come. In fact, on this island, I saw a whole lot more than on Ons Island. (most of them are pretty small so be sure to pack a zoom lens and/or macro, but not so afraid of tourists)
Even rocks, in general, come in funny shapes. Take the following for instance:
Doesn’t it look like the flying dog from the 1984s The NeverEndingStory?
Anyway, the best sight has to be the main lighthouse – Faro Cies:
It was built in the 1851/53, and it sits at 170m from sea level.
Up here, you have an overview of all the surroundings, including the Ocean, the orange rocky Westside of the Islands, the green Eastside and the continental shore.
You cannot get out of the trail, because that would perturb the protected fauna. But even from the path, lots of curious animals may come close.
Again, the secret is to be quiet, blend in (if that is possible) and do not be part of a huge group of people. Perhaps stay a night in the camping area, change your clothes to camouflage, and visit the places, again, but towards the sunset.
Now let’s descend and go to Pedra da Campa -> an interesting rock formation, that eroded in the shape of a frame -> a perfect to get the sunset, the ocean and yourself, framed by nature itself.
Now on the Red Route, you will be primarily walking in the forest, on a rocky path. (for this route, beach slippers are not great). The climbing is very light and is very silent too.
Unlike the Orange route, the red one has no real great views. In a sense, all that was wow and unique was already seen. For this reason, not too many people come here. They see the lighthouse and then get to the beach.
The only notable sight is over the Vigo Bay, where the main character from Jules Verne`s 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, pays a visit to see the wrecks of the battle of Vigo Bay and the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable.
To commemorate, you will find a bench suited for those who wish to read the Chapter 8 of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne.(http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2488)
Here is a picture with the not so interesting, small lighthouse, on the end of the red route. The northes point you can go on foot.
After seeing this review, and you decide not to do more than the Orange Route, well, you should go at least to the Blue Route.
A bit of climbing, but you get a killer view + some interesting rock erosion.
So let’s sum it up, by comparing to Ons:
- Islas Cies need planning or reservation in time. Even more so, you need to know when you want to come back to the continent. Why that? Well if you are spontaneous and convince your friends/family to stay the night -> you ticket will expire, so how you go back? Also if you feel sick because of the sun, and decide you cannot wait for 07 PM (19:30) and wish to go at 03 PM (15:00), again you are out of luck. But don’t say no to Cies over Ons, not just yet; 👎
- There are not so many wildlife shots to be taken, or maybe yes, but if you stay for longer. Please look at my other article on Ons Island, here ; 🤫
- Cies has lots of forests, so is a better place to visit, no matter the temperature (the islands are opened in the summer/early autumn for tourists). And because of all the forest, you don’t need sunscreen 👍;
- Cies has many more beaches with beautiful clear water. The beach is long and you can play games, without disturbing others 🤽♀️🏖;
- Cies has more camping places than Ons and you can come with your own or rent one from there ⛺️;
- Cies has more toilets, cantinas, and better prices, than Ons. But the one on Ons, looks better, since is more new…
- Cies has almost no residents so no houses, no churches, just wild forests;
- On Cies there are no public fountains (there were once, but now they are closed);
- On Cies Island, there are fewer Gulls, so is quieter. I even saw an eagle 😍;
- On Cies you get more memorable shots/memories, and you feel more on an island than on Ons (at least on my opinion)
If I had to choose between Cies or Ons, I would also go with the first one, like the majority.
I love wildlife, and I enjoyed catching butterflies (on my camera) and gulls and watching out for huge lizards (big like small cats) on the Ons Island, but let’s be honest: steep mountains, huge beaches, all forest, great routes, and the sound of the ocean smashing the shore…
You have to come to Cies to understand 😉.