While living and working in Porto for the month, I've been taking advantage of my weekends to get out on day trips to explore the northern Portuguese countryside. However, for one Saturday, I planned a day trip across the border and into Spain for the first time - my 28th country!
Just off the west coast of Vigo lies a cluster of three islands - the Cíes Islands - which, in the hot summer months are a tropical escape with white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. On a drizzly October day, it was overcast but the views proved equally immensely mind-blowing.
How to Visit the Cíes Islands
As the Cíes Islands are a protected area in Spain, there is a 2000-person limit on the number of daily visitors. In the summer, as this is quite a popular destination so you need to first request an authorization to visit to ensure you get a spot, then for a window of 2 hours, you can book your ferry ticket. Book your authorization and tickets here for the peak season!
In the off season, there is no separate authorization step required and the ferry company will arrange it on your behalf. Fewer trips and fewer companies run during the off season; I traveled with Mar de Ons and it was easy and simple to book. I took a morning ferry outbound at 11am and returned on the 5:40pm crossing.
The ferry leaves from the Vigo port and after a crossing of about 45 minutes, arrives at the dock on Illa de Monteagudo.
How to Get Around the Cíes Islands
While on the islands, the main activity - and the only way to get around - is hiking! There are no roads on the island and, as a protected area, you must your two feet to get around. Ensure you stay on the marked trails so as not to damage the natural ecosystems.
There are four hiking trails, two on each island, that lead to the key points of interest. I did three of the trails - all except the one that goes to Faro da Porta on the southern island, as you look towards the same view from the Faro de Cíes which is higher up the mountain.
Check out my photos and guides to each of the spots on the island here:
1. Praia das Rodas
This is the first beach you'll see as you arrive on the Cíes Islands and is a long stretch of white sand connecting Illa de Monteagudo with Illa do Faro which, in 2007, The Guardian named as the world's most beautiful beach!
2. Praia de Figueiras
Once you leave the Embarcadero on the boardwalk, turn right to start the hiking trails on Illa de Monteagudo. You'll notice the dreamy smell of eucalyptus in the air thanks to the abundance of eucalyptus trees on the islands. The first stop you'll come to is just off to the right - a boardwalk leading down to a smaller white sandy beach - Praia de Figueiras.
3. Faro do Peito
Heading back up from the beach to the main trail, continue walking through the forest following signs for Faro de Peito. This lighthouse on the north side of the island is home to a little protected cove and a great spot for lunch.
4. Alto do Príncipe
Heading back down the trail from Faro de Peito, the second trail on the island leads up to what I think is the BEST view point in all of the Cíes Islands. This stunning spot gives panoramic views down to Praia de Rodas, across to Illa do Faro and off to Illa de San Martiño in the distance. Epic.
5. Lago dos Nenos
Heading back towards the Embarcadero to make your way to the other island, this lovely lagoon sits between the two islands, protected on one side by the Praia de Rodas and by the land bridge that connects the two islands on the other. It's a great spot for bird watching and nature spotting in the clear, calm waters below.
6. Faro de Cíes
The longest hike on the island (7km return), this one leads to a series of switchbacks on the southern tip of Illa do Faro with an incredible view of Illa de San Martiño. Well worth the trek!