Is­lands to trea­sure

The Guardian - Travel - - Green Hostels - PHO­TOGRAPHS: MARIA GALAN AND TONI VILCHES/ALAMY

As with all the best ad­ven­tures, we never ac­tu­ally in­tended to go to the Is­las Cíes. The beaches of north­ern Gali­cia were our des­ti­na­tion. Well, they were un­til my wife clicked her weather app and saw blan­ket rain for a week. Sud­denly we weren’t go­ing north af­ter all.

Trav­el­ling up from Por­tu­gal, we had got as far as the in­dus­trial port city of Vigo, which has a sun­nier cli­mate than north­ern Gali­cia. With­out de­lay, we hit the in­ter­net in search of a plan B. One op­tion kept pop­ping up: the Is­las Cíes (Il­las Cíes in Gali­cian) off the west coast. The images looked amaz­ing: crys­talline wa­ters, tree-lined coasts, for­est-cov­ered moun­tains and white beaches.

All the same, I wasn’t con­vinced. For one, I had never heard of them. Se­cond, was a near-un­in­hab­ited ar­chi­pel­ago in the At­lantic Ocean re­ally where we wanted to spend our hol­i­days? There were no cars, no nightlife, no ho­tels and noth­ing to stop my kids land­ing up in New­found­land should they hap­pen to get swept out by the tide.

In the end, it was the kids (we have two boys, aged 9 and 10) who de­cided for us. Leg­end has it that the fleet of Francis Drake (still called “the pi­rate Drake”

in these parts) used to hide out in the ar­chi­pel­ago’s se­cluded coves. There’s even talk of buried loot. So these are re­al­life trea­sure is­lands, ba­si­cally. Once they were aware of these salient facts, there was no ques­tion: we were go­ing.

As if to get us into the buc­ca­neer­ing spirit, an an­gry squall was blow­ing as the ferry left the Bay of Vigo – the set­ting of a chap­ter in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thou­sand Leagues Un­der The Sea. Af­ter a bumpy 40-minute ride, the is­lands came into view.

For once, it seemed the images on the in­ter­net had not been sub­ject to any em­bel­lish­ment. Even un­der that first af­ter­noon’s leaden skies, the Cíes’ nat­u­ral, un­tamed beauty was un­de­ni­able. The good weather soon re­turned and for four glo­ri­ous days we sim­ply sat back and lapped it all up: bathing in the sea, play­ing on the sand, nap­ping in the shade.

En­chant­ing as the is­lands cer­tainly are, their magic does not lie in their nat­u­ral as­sets alone. Yes, the scenery is stun­ning. Yes, it feels like a troupe of cut­lass­wield­ing pi­rates could land on the beach any minute. But what also makes the Cíes

Bay watch­ing With only 2,200 daily vis­i­tors al­lowed, even the fa­mous Ro­das beach can be quiet

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