Islands to treasure
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