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Remembering Las Islas Cíes


On the Sunday beaches of the Islas Cíes our trip to Galicia found its playful rhythm. The islands' orchestration of sun, sand and sea carried us through the next few days on the mainland like a smooth, subtle bassline we couldn't shake. Our shoulders relaxed. The skin opened like a flower towards the light. And lungs sifted the salty perfume of the Atlantic.

No special feeling on the islands – the Cíes are this way — but for us, brilliantly banal. Just a deep sigh away from Vigo — a mere 45 minute ferry ride — the Cíes form part of the Atlantic Islands Nature Reserve, together with Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada archipelagos, which are spread along the Rías Baixas area of the Galician Atlantic.

The catamaran docks at the main island – Illa do Norte ou de Monteagudo – at Rodas, a surprisingly Caribbean-like white sand and turquoise water beach that is rated by some as one of the best in the world. Once there visitors can choose from a few hikes of varying difficulty and duration to experience the islands' views, flora and fauna. Accesible only during summer, camping is also an option; the everything-you'll-ever-need campgrounds boast showers, a restaurant, bar and a small store.

Having risen late that particular day, and after getting purposefully lost on our way there winding through Rías Baixas wine country, we kept it safe and simple with an afternoon on the beach. Finding an unpopulated part of the sand, we stretched out languidly in the early June sun with cigarettes and conversation, contemplating sea gulls, our good fortune and missing the last boat.

As the final ferry approached on the horizon, and with it an ominous early evening breeze, we chose to return. Unspectacular, yet charming, Vigo is the largest city in Galicia, and an important center of industry and fishing. Not much to do or see on a Sunday, but if you can, visit the fish market restaurants on Rua Pescadería, few minutes walk away from the pier to try some of the city's magnificent fresh seafood.

As we drove away from Vigo into the darkening hills of the Galician evening, and distancing ourselves from the islands, its sand clinging to our skin, I silently smiled and considered the legacy of the day, while my companion drove, humming all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

I am living a memory, I thought, lucidly. One I will remember for some time, and later, of course, forget, but who knows when, and if, that will happen. But here it is – now. How odd it is to recall the future, and forget the present.


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  • carlos

    July 23, 2008

    In the Islas CIES is the Best beach in the world (The Guardian):

  • AER

    July 19, 2008

    Diego…Estuve paseando por Galicia hace un poco mas que un mes y me gustaron tanto las islas que no pude evitar escribir algo sobre ellas! Que bello es todo Galicia…AER

  • Davipv

    July 18, 2008

    I am from Vigo. I read this great blog often and I was not expecting a post of Las islas Cíes. It makes me really excited. 😀

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