CIES ISLAND, VIGO, GALICIA, SPAIN
Article published by the Telegraph newspaper on June 3th 2014.
What makes it special? Locals call the Cíes Islands the “Galician Caribbean” or the “Galician Seychelles”
“Standing on the breakwater that links two of the three islands which make up the Cíes archipelago in Galicia, I watched the navy-blue waves of the Atlantic crashing against granite cliffs, sending spray high into the air. But when I turned around and looked east, my view was totally different. Framed by pine trees, a beach of white sand stretched out before me, tiny particles of quartz sparkling in the sunlight. That same sea was now a dense shade of jade and totally calm. A schooner was moored in the bay.
Locals call the Cíes Islands the “Galician Caribbean” or the “Galician Seychelles” and I could see why. A group of boys were running towards the shore, shrieking as they plunged into the water. The scene may have looked tropical, but the sea was obviously pretty refreshing, shall we say, reminding me that I was indeed in north-west Spain.
Stretching for some 1,300 yards (1,200m) between Monteagudo and Faro islands, Rodas is the longest beach on the Cíes archipelago and by far the nicest. The boats that bring visitors from the Rías Baixas in summer dock at a jetty at one end of it, and some people just flop onto the soft, powdery sand and don’t move all day.
Frankly, I was tempted to do the same, but after an invigorating swim I set off to explore. There are several walking routes and the islands are popular with hikers and birdwatchers, particularly in the autumn. Since 2002, the Cíes have been part of the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, which means that the land and the surrounding sea are highly protected – 86 per cent of the park is underwater. Visitors are limited to 2,200 a day; there are no hotels – only a campsite – and just a couple of basic restaurants. There are no bikes, let alone cars.
Although no one lives there now, there are vestiges of a Bronze Age settlement and over the centuries the islands were inhabited by Celts, Romans and several orders of monks, not to mention the pirates who took refuge here.
The path curved uphill, flanked by sycamore, holly and scented acacia. I breathed in the delicate smell of honeysuckle and resisted the urge to twist a peach off its branch. As this is a national park, you are not allowed to pick anything or even take shells from the beach.
The Vigo estuary
After another swim it was time to get the boat back to Vigo, about nine miles (15km) away. We sailed into the Ría de Vigo, one of the deep inlets that characterise this part of the Galician coast, passing a string of equally tempting beaches and hundreds of mussel rafts – the mix of salt and fresh water creates a rich ecosystem that is particularly good for cultivating mussels and oysters.
City of Vigo.
Back in Vigo, I wandered from the port into the lanes of the old town, which are lined with little bars offering some of the best seafood you’ll ever taste. As darkness fell, I ordered a glass of albariño, the locally made white wine, and devoured a plate of the freshest octopus. Later on, the sweet sound of a violin led me to a regueifa, a bar hidden away in a tiny square, where I discovered to my amazement that the violinist Begoña Riobó was playing in the corner with her group, one of the top Galician folk bands.
While the beach might have fooled me into believing that I was in the Caribbean, listening to that music, another glass of albariño in my hand, there was no doubt in mind that I was in Galicia, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”Ask for your authorization and buy your ticket here
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