The Romans called the Cíes Islands in Galicia, 'the islands of the Gods', and to this day they are an idyllic paradise in northern Spain where you can enjoy nature and the sea. When you see them for yourself you'll understand why their main beach was chosen as the best in the world by The Guardian newspaper. Heaven on earth? If not, then this is close.

Crystal-clear intense turquoise waters. Beaches with incredibly fine white sand. A lake whose transparent surface enables you to see the wide variety of fish that live there. The tropics? No, the Cíes Islands, in northwest Spain. There are three, and you'll find them in the Rías Baixas estuary in Galicia, opposite the coast of Vigo. This archipelago, besides being a fairy-tale setting, is also of great ecological importance. Its stunning landscapes form part of the Islas Atlánticas National Park, outstanding for its rich seabeds and some of the most important colonies of marine birds in the world. The Atlantic Ocean, sand dunes, pine forests, cliffs… Come and see for yourself –the Cíes Islands are home to incredible landscapes worthy of the gods.

How to visit

Their peace and quiet and purity are further qualities that make these islands so outstanding. To protect the environment and avoid mass tourism, access to visitors is limited to 2,200 people per day. During Easter week, at weekends in May and throughout the summer, there are regular boat services from Vigo, Baiona and Cangas de Morrazo. As well as the ferry ticket, you need to request access permission online in advance. If you want to stay the night in the Cíes, you'll find a campsite with 800 places that opens in Easter week, and on subsequent weekends until June, and then regularly between June and September, providing the weather conditions allow a regular boat service. To use its facilities you need to book in advance. You can do this online via the campsite website. Remember to bring the reservation with you as you will have to provide it when you take the ferry (if you travel from Vigo) or when you arrive at the campsite (if you travel from Cangas or Baiona).

A perfect day at the beach and more

The first thing you'll notice as you approach the Cíes Islands is the stunning sandy Rodas beach, which links the islands of Monteagudo and El Faro. But it's not the only beach you'll find along the eastern shores of the archipelago: Figueiras beach, popular among nudists, or Nosa Señora beach are some examples. What's more, you'll have access to a full range of services to ensure a perfect day at the beach: bars and restaurants, toilets, lifeguards, medical care, and more.

If you prefer sporting activities, hiking is an excellent way of exploring the Cíes Islands. There are four established itineraries that leave from the information kiosk and where you can discover the forests, Los Niños Lake, bird watching observatories, a pre-Roman settlement, and wonderful views of the cliffs in the western part of the islands from their lighthouses. The Visitor Centre is located on the site of the remains of the old San Estevo monastery, and can provide you with information on the different routes, the importance of the natural environment and the norms to be observed. What's more, guided tours are also arranged periodically. The Park’s Reservation Centre website has information on these tours and how to make a booking.

Scuba-diving and sailing are also permitted off the Cíes Islands, with authorisation. This can be obtained by applying for a permit on the National Parks reservations website. Remember that once on the islands you'll be asked a photocopy of your identity document, your scuba-diving certificate, and insurance.

Come and discover the Cíes Islands and you won't be disappointed. You'll see that words alone are insufficient to describe 'the islands of the gods'. More information: Access permission request Spanish National Parks reservations website Rías Baixas tourist office Ministry of the Environment. Islas Atlánticas National Park

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