Las Islas Cíes, Galicia. Foto en blanco y negro

Cíes Islands: The Complete Guide for a Perfect Visit [2022]

Lee este artículo en español: Islas Cíes: La Guía Completa para una Visita Perfecta

Leia este artigo em português: Ilhas Cíes: O Guia Completo para uma Visita Perfeita

There is no doubt about it. The Cíes Islands are a natural paradise in its purest state. And if you are looking for a beach, you are in the right place. Some are long, ideal for walking and enjoying with the family. Others are more secluded, small and intimate. There is even a small nudist beach.

An enviable view of the Rías Baixas area and a wide variety of activities to enjoy the Cíes Islands accompany an appetizing gastronomic offer. Undoubtedly the Cíes Islands is something you can not miss.

To visit the Cíes there are some prerequisites. The entrance to the islands is subject to a limitation of daily visits. It is necessary to request a special permit from the Xunta de Galicia through its website. Afterwards you have to buy the boat ticket that will take you to the Cíes. This usually causes a lot of confusion to first time tourists and unfortunately some are left without being able to visit the Cíes.

But don’t worry. To make your experience rewarding and to make the most of it, we have prepared this complete guide to the Cíes Islands. In it you will find all the detailed information you may need. We will talk about the Cíes Islands in general, how to get to them and the different leisure, gastronomy and tourism options they offer and their candidacy to become a World Heritage Site. Finally we will share some practical tips.

Chapter 1

What are and where are the Cíes Islands

The first thing you should know about the Cíes Islands is where they are located, what you can find there and the different ways to enjoy them. We will briefly talk about the history of the Cíes and collect all the basic information you will need to get the most out of it and make it a great experience.

The Cíes Islands

I would never have imagined that beautiful Galicia could boast of having its own small Caribbean called the Cíes Islands, whose entrails are made of granite and are as old as the Tertiary Era, when the sinking of part of the coast exposed several peaks. To situate ourselves a little, the islands are in a strategic point, where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Ría de Vigo mix. It is a beautiful place that you can reach by ferry from the city of Vigo in about 45 minutes. The three islands that form this archipelago are Monteagudo (to the north), Do Faro (in the center) and San Martiño, (to the south) occupy about 433 hectares that will take your breath away with its beaches with dunes, high cliffs, mountain slopes and beautiful forests.

What are the Cíes Islands?

The Cíes Islands are a natural paradise that attracts tourists from all over the world. One of the main attractions of Galicia and the Rias Baixas. The beaches, the food, the views and the tranquility that the islands provide are, for many, the biggest attraction that can be found when visiting the city of Vigo and surroundings. We couldn’t agree more, and that’s why we’re going to tell you everything we know about the Cíes Islands.

A bit of history

Reading its more recent history it is worth mentioning that in 1980, this geological formation of the Vigo estuary and exceptional beauty was declared Natural Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, not only because of its importance as a natural habitat with a characteristic fauna and flora, but also because of the accelerated deterioration it was suffering due to human activity and mass tourism. Something had to be done urgently to protect such a valuable natural treasure. Since 1984, the Cíes Islands have been owned by the Junta de Galicia and since 2013 it has been postulating to be declared a World Heritage Site, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day these impressive islands were recognized by Unesco.

Suppose you travel to even more remote times, between Prehistory and the Mesolithic. In that case, the few remains found in the Cies Islands (such as objects for fishing and shellfishing), make you think that there were no serious settlements, but mere fishing activities developed casually. The origin of the name Cíes dates back to antiquity, as they were called by the Romans Siccae (siccum, from Latin, dry or arid), then they were called Cicae. About 3500 years BC, there were already remains of human settlements in Do Faro, and the Romans who arrived there called it Island of the Gods, and left a Roman gold ring dated from the second century AD adorned with a blue stone, known as nicolus (agate), with the figure of a wild boar and the inscription HEAPRAV. In addition, its traces are present in the form of utensils, amphorae and ceramics that you can enjoy if you go to the Museum of Pontevedra.

Vistas de las Islas Cíes, Galicia. Mar, montaña y playas.

Suppose you want to delve deeper into the history of the Cíes Islands. In that case, we highly recommend visiting the Museo do Mar de Galicia in Vigo or the Museo Provincial de Pontevedra.

It is said that in the 6th century, already in the Middle Ages, San Martiño was inhabited by hermits and later the monks colonized the islands and even defended themselves from Viking and Norman attacks. Between Benedictine and Franciscan colonizations, the islands were always the object of desire of one and the other. For a long time, little is known about the human presence on the island. It is known that it was rather used as a place of passage, or at most as a strategic settlement to spot ships and pirates. The convents of San Esteban and San Martin are part of the history of the islands, since their presence attracted populations and pilgrimages, and gave rise to later settlements. During this period, the feudal monastic control of the islands and their population was maintained until the end of the 16th century, when the English pirate Francis Drake burst into the islands, who, being in the service of the Queen of England, used the Cies as a base of emplacement, repair and provisioning of his ships, to fight against the Spanish squadron. This was the moment in history that was the center of the struggles between the English and the Spanish.

In the 18th century the island was completely uninhabited, but was used as a prison in the war against Napoleon. Moving forward in time, I arrive at 1852, the year in which the lighthouse was built, which gives its name to the central island and from where the adjacent Rías (rivers, Ría de Vigo and Ría de Pontevedra) and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen. At that time there were already families settled on the islands who lived from fishing and raising sheep and goats. In 1840, two factories were built to desalinate the islands, one on the southern island and the other on Rhodes Beach. According to other sources, the monks had already operated desalination plants here. But other preservation methods led to a decline in desalination plants.

Did you know the name of the Island of the Gods was given by Julius Caesar?

Las Islas Cíes, Galicia. Foto en blanco y negro
Photo: Alejandro Piñeiro (Unsplash)

In every island wrapped in romanticism and beauty there is no lack of tragic history, such as sad events and tragedies that the sea, guardian of the islands, has caused over the years. There are numerous shipwrecks, sinkings and disappearances in its waters, to mention just a few, the Aralar, the Monteferro, the Conde Barbate and Ave del Mar, the François Vieljeux, the Pirata, the Mar de Marín, etc. They are just a sample of the dangerous waters that guard the small paradise that is the Cíes Islands.

Many things happened in the Cíes Islands and that is why you can soak up their history when you visit them.


If you are looking for nature, the islands will not disappoint you. The largest colony of seagulls in Europe is found in the Cíes. With more than 200 species of algae, varied flora with many endangered species, virgin sandy beaches, unique fish and crustaceans… A paradise.

The Cíes Islands are always a good resource to enjoy whatever the occasion. Children will enjoy its beaches, friends will have a great time at the campsite, couples will fall in love under the stars and those who travel alone will find calm and peace walking the different routes.

World Heritage Site (UNESCO)

Not many people know that the Cíes Islands have been a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site for several years. Not without some controversy, their candidacy is stronger than ever. A very important part of the natural park of the Atlantic Islands, our islands deserve a place among the most beautiful natural sites. Do you agree?

The awards

  • In 2007 the British newspaper The Guardian chose Rhodes beach as one of the best beaches in the world.
  • The Entre Faros path belongs to the Blue Trail Network, an award given by the Association for Environmental and Consumer Education (ADEAC).
  • The beaches of Rodas and Figueiras are certified with the Blue Flag, an environmental quality seal (FEE).
  • The Cíes Islands have been declared a Starlight Tourist Destination.
  • The Europarc Federation has registered the Cíes Islands within the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism.
  • The Cíes are distinguished with the Top 100 Quality Coast Award.
  • In 2017, the Illas Atlánticas National Park became the first National Park with the Observer Seal.

The Cíes candidacy

The Cíes have been considered a natural park since 1980 and have belonged to the Illas Atlánticas Natural Park (together with the islands of Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada) since 2002.

In November 2013, the process to declare the Cíes Islands a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO began.

You can read all about the current candidacy, sign the petition and support in various ways from the official website that the city council of Vigo has made available to all interested citizens.

Where are the Cíes Islands?

The Cíes Islands are located at the entrance of the Vigo estuary, in the Rías Baixas, and belong to the municipality of Vigo. They are a group of three larger islands (Faro, Monteagudo and San Martiño) and several smaller islets such as Penelas dos Viños, Ruzo, Grabelos and Agoeiro.

With coordinates 40º15′ north latitude and 8º54′ west longitude they can only be reached by private boat for which you must obtain an anchoring permit or, most commonly, through shipping companies that offer regular trips depending on the time of year.

If you decide to visit the Cíes using any of the shipping companies and buying a boat ticket, keep in mind that you can leave from Vigo, Cangas, Baiona or Portonovo. But don’t worry. We will talk in more detail about how to get to the Cíes Islands in the next chapter.

Mapa de las Islas Cíes Completo
Map: Susana Freixeiro (Wikipedia)
License: GNU y CC BY-SA

What is there in the Cíes Islands?

The offer that the Cíes Islands can offer is very wide. The ideal, and our personal recommendation, is to organize this experience with a travel agency, the tourist office or ask for help from the staff of the hotel where you are staying those days.

These are just some of the activities you can do while visiting the Cíes Islands:

  • Hiking
  • Beaches
  • Enjoying the unspoiled sandy beaches
  • Restaurants and gastronomic offer
  • Organized sailing trips
  • Snorkeling and diving
  • Kayaking
  • Starlight
  • Camping
  • Organized private excursions

In chapter three we will go into more detail about activities and the different leisure options you can find in the Cíes.


But first, we will explain how to get there.

Chapter 2

How to go to the Cíes Islands and everything you need to know

After knowing a little more about the Cíes Islands and seeing what they can offer you, it is time to introduce you to the different options to get there. We will also talk about the necessary requirements to enter the islands, how to park the car before taking the boat and everything you need to know so as not to leave any loose ends.

How to get to the Cíes Islands?

To enjoy an unforgettable experience without any problems, it is necessary to know a few things before organizing your trip. Something very simple but necessary to take into account. We will tell you about it. The Cíes Islands can only be reached by sea, as is obvious. In high season we can go to the islands by ferry, organized by the shipping companies in the area, so you can go directly to the islands Faro or Monte Agudo.

If you are wondering how to get to the Cíes Islands, we inform you that we have basically two options to get there:

Private boat

There are different companies that offer complete packs to enjoy a tailor-made trip according to the personal tastes of each one. They can go from a meal on a boat, disembark on the most remote beaches, enjoy the stars at night with dinner of your choice, circuit along the coast of the different islands and much more. Undoubtedly it is a very good option to go to the Cíes and enjoy a different experience.

In case you want to approach and anchor in the Cíes Islands, it is necessary to request a special permit (anchoring permit for the Cíes Islands). Normally if the trip is contracted, it is the company itself that processes this permit so you will not have to worry about this issue when going to the islands.

Shipping company to Cíes Islands

Next we will talk about the different companies that are dedicated to transport tourists and travelers to the Cíes Islands in their boats in a comfortable and safe way. In general, it is the best way to enjoy the islands as it is more economical and comfortable.

Ticket prices range, depending on the date and season, between 15 € and 20 € for adults, between 5 € and 10 € for children. In general, children under three years of age travel free of charge.

If you are thinking of booking a ticket to the Cíes Islands you can go directly to the websites of the various shipping companies, here are some of them:

Authorization to visit the Cíes Islands

The first thing you should know before going to the Cíes Islands is that you need a special permit issued by the Xunta de Galcia to be able to enter the Islands. Therefore, what you should do, once you have decided the day you are going to visit the Cíes Islands is to apply for the permit through the Xunta’s website.

The procedure can be done up to 45 days in advance but there is something to keep in mind: we must buy the ticket within two hours, otherwise the permit will be cancelled.

Página de la Xunta de Galicia. Autorización Islas Cíes
Source: Xunta de Galicia

In four simple steps we explain how to carry out this procedure:

How to request the authorization for the Cíes Islands?

  • Visit the Xunta de Galicia website to request the authorization.
  • Select the necessary data for your application: date of travel and number of places.
  • Fill in the personal information form for travelers
  • Save the pre-booking code provided on the website. You will need it to purchase your boat tickets.
  • You are now ready to buy your tickets on any of the ferry companies, remember that the code expires in two hours!
  • Arrive in plenty of time at the shipping company to pick up your tickets. You may be asked for the pre-booking code again.

If your plan is to camp at the Cíes Islands campsite, we recommend that you consult this procedure directly with the campsite staff as the process is different.

To cancel the reservation we can go again to the website of the Xunta with a maximum of 15 days in advance. This does not cancel the tickets you may have purchased with the shipping companies, go to their staff to request any kind of refund or cancellation.

Chapter 3

What to do and what to see in the Cíes Islands

If you have come this far, you already know what the Cíes Islands are and where they are located. You will also know how to get there. Now it’s time to get into everything the islands have to offer. This way you will be able to make the most of it and make it an unforgettable experience. It’s impossible to do it all in one day, you’ll want to come back!

Hiking Routes in the Cíes Islands

There are several hiking trails that we can easily do in the Cíes Islands. Undoubtedly one of the attractions we are most often asked about. You can choose to do any of the four routes highlighted or even join them together to enjoy a larger route.

Faro en las Islas Cíes
Photo: Eduardo Casajús Gorostiaga (Unsplash)

Cíes Lighthouse or Monte Faro Route

It is the most popular and popular route of the islands. On the Lighthouse Route we can visit the Pedra da Campá, the bird observatory or the Castro das Hortas. The goal is worth it for the breathtaking views of the Baixo Miño.

Undoubtedly, here you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Vigo estuary.

  • Distance: 7km
  • Course duration: 2:30h
  • Difficulty: Medium

More information about the Monte Faro route

Lighthouse A Porta Route

This route starts from the same point as the Cíes Lighthouse route but it is shorter and without so much elevation gain. Ideal for beginners. Here you can enjoy the Freu da Porta Rocks and the viewpoint of San Martiño.

A natural route, much less busy and quiet.

  • Distance: 5km
  • Length of the route: 1:30h
  • Difficulty: Low

More information about the Route of the Lighthouse of A Porta

Alto do Príncipe Route

The shortest and easiest route you can find in the Cíes Islands if you want to admire the dunes and the protected flora of this natural park. Here you can observe the Silla de la Reina with its impressive views and cliffs.

A route that climbs naturally to the top of Monte Agudo. It is our recommendation for beginners. As an observation it is worth mentioning that from here you can access the nudist beach of Figueiras.

  • Distance: 3km
  • Course duration: 1h
  • Difficulty: Low

More information about the Alto del Príncipe Route

Monte Agudo and Faro do Peito Route

The highlights of this route are the bird observatory and the impressive cliffs of the Costa de la Vela. You will be able to walk among the forests of the Cíes Islands. A short route and a very pleasant walk.

From this route you can also reach the nudist beach of Figueiras.

More information about the Monte Agudo Route.

Where to eat in the Cíes Islands

Where to eat if you go to the Cíes Islands?

We have two options: either we carry in the backpack the food and drink we need, or we can resort to one of the four places to eat:

  • Cíes Islands Camping Restaurant: with table service or self-service. The views of the beach of Rodas are worth it. The ideal is to make a reservation in advance. Dinner service is also available.
  • Rodas Restaurant: only open at noon. Self-service. Interesting since it was an old salting factory.
  • Bar Serafín: only opens at noon. Its menu consists mainly of rations. Our recommendation is undoubtedly the fresh fish.
  • Bocatería Begoña: it is the fastest option.

The Beaches

The Cíes Islands have more beaches than people think. More or less small, more or less accessible. Here we will talk about the three most important ones:

  • Rodas Beach: located on the island of Faro. It has a blue flag and all the services you may need (lifeguard, Red Cross, toilets, access walkways …). A total of 1300 meters of fine white sand, calm waters and a little windy. For many, one of the best beaches in the world.
  • Figueiras or Alemanes Beach: located on the island of Monteagudo, which can be reached on foot from the beach of Rodas. We can also reach this beach by private boat, with our corresponding permit.
  • San Martiño Beach: located on the island of San Martiño. A more isolated and virgin environment. It is a privately owned beach and can only be accessed by boat and with prior reservation.
Playas en las Islas Cies
Photo: Diogo Palhais (Unsplash)

We can also visit the beaches of Bolos, Nosa Señora, Areiña, Cantareira or Margaridas.

Camping: where to sleep in the Cies Islands?

If we want to spend the night on the island, we can do it in the campsite located on the island of Faro, on the very beach of Rodas. It is about 40,000 square meters with capacity for 800 people. We have the possibility to bring our own tent or book one of your own with bed included, we would only need to bring a sleeping bag.

The minimum stay at the campsite is two days, up to a maximum of 15 days. It has showers, restaurant, supermarket, telephone and social lounge. In the campsite it is necessary to take into account that there is no light, so carrying a flashlight is essential. However we can charge our electronic devices in the plugs located in the bathrooms, restaurant and social lounge.

To book a night at the Cíes Islands campsite you can follow the instructions on their official website. Remember that in this case it is not necessary to process the special permit on the website of the Xunta, as this issue is handled by the staff of the campsite.

Once we have the booking confirmation in our possession we can buy the boat tickets.

Chapter 4

Tips and practical guide to visit the Cíes

No less important is this chapter where we will give you all the tips you need to make your experience in the Cíes Islands unforgettable. On the one hand we will talk about the equipment you should bring to the islands and on the other hand, we will give some tips to buy tickets and get the licenses without any problem or difficulty.

How to book the ticket to the Cíes Islands

Booking the boat tickets for the Cíes Islands, together with requesting the necessary authorization, is usually the step that causes the most problems for first-time tourists. Our recommendation is that you always call one of the shipping companies, the hotel where you will be staying or the tourist office. Remember to ask for information and organize your trip well in advance.

The boats to the Cíes Islands do not make trips all year round. They usually operate only in summer, Easter and when the weather permits. You can check all the information and dates of operation directly on the websites of the shipping companies.

During the high season, especially the months of July and August, booking tickets can be problematic due to the very high demand. Tickets and authorization to visit the Cíes Islands can be requested up to 45 days in advance. We recommend planning your trip in advance to avoid being stranded.

Remember that it is necessary to apply for the corresponding permit on the Xunta’s website before buying the tickets. When we request the permission from the Xunta, they will provide us with an authorization code that will be necessary to buy the ticket at the shipping company. We have two hours to do this second step since after that time the authorization code expires and we will have to request a new one.

To organize a perfect trip, the ideal is to start with transportation and accommodation. Once you have the dates to come to Vigo and a place to sleep, you can see if there is availability to go to the Islands. Keep in mind that any hotel in the city will be able to help you with these arrangements before, during and after your reservation. The hotels in Vigo are used to advise tourists all year round and know perfectly all the shipping companies and different ways to enjoy the Cíes. Asking at your hotel is always a good option.

Be careful with the hours of the boat tickets. They must be respected if we do not want to pay a fine. Organize your trip well and look at the clock from time to time. We recommend to be at the pier at least 10 minutes before the departure of the boat. Both to go to the Islands and to return to port.

The boats going to Cíes are usually quite calm and in summer the sea does not cause too many problems. However, if you get seasick remember to take something to drink before the trip, it is very difficult to enjoy the Cíes Islands if you spend the whole day with seasickness!

What to bring to the Cíes Islands

There are several important issues to consider before embarking to the Cíes Islands.

If your idea is to walk and walk any of the available routes, it is essential to wear comfortable shoes. Take into account the hours of heat, the unevenness of the terrain and the uneven terrain. Study well the routes you want to walk and be prepared.

In the islands it will be difficult to stock up on drinking water, so if you do not want to depend on food establishments or supermarkets it is always a good idea to carry some water with you. The same goes for food. Although the capacity on the islands is limited, in high season you may have to wait a long time to eat. And in low season not all establishments are open. Consider the option of bringing your own food with you.

Watch out for seagulls. They are usually very friendly to other people’s things, especially if they are edible.

Gaviotas en Islas Cies
Photo: Eduardo Casajús Gorostiaga (Unsplash)

In Cies the sun hits in a particular way. Do not be confident. Always carry sunscreen with you. On the other hand, the breeze in the shade and at a certain altitude can be treacherous even in the middle of August. A light warm garment does not get in the way. On the ship’s deck you may also need it.

Remember that it is forbidden to bring bicycles and the like to the Cíes Islands. Pets are not allowed either, except for guide dogs. Check with your shipping company or tourist office for all restrictions before traveling to the islands to avoid problems when boarding.

What to bring to the Cíes Islands?

Here is our list of things to bring to the Cíes Islands:

  • Comfortable shoes and clothes
  • Water and food
  • Garbage bag
  • Sun protection
  • Sunglasses and diving goggles
  • Light warm clothing
  • Hat or cap
  • Towel if you go to the beach
  • Lots of energy
Mochila en el monte con una puesta de sol
Photo: Josiah Weiss (Unsplash)

Important:

There are no litter garbage cans in the Cíes Islands. As part of our commitment to keep our Natural Park clean, we are obliged to take back all the garbage we bring into the Island. Our practical advice in this regard is simple. Take a small garbage bag with you and try to take as little garbage as possible. At the end of your trip remember to take the bag with you on the boat and you can throw it away once you leave the islands. Together we manage to keep the paradise free of waste and garbage. Thank you!

Where to park in the Cíes Islands?

Obviously you cannot take your car to the Cíes Islands. The only option is to park before taking the boat. Parking on the street in the Port of Vigo area is not easy. The easiest way is to go directly to a public parking as close to the port.

The closest parking lots are the A Laxe shopping center, which is just a few meters from the port, the Berbés parking lot or the Plaza de la Estrella parking lot (both about 10 minutes from the port). A little further away we have the Policarpo Sanz parking that can also be a good option.

Remember to organize yourself with time to avoid missing the boat. Your hotel will also be able to advise you on where to leave your car or how to get to the port of Vigo without a car.

The weather

In the Rias Baixas we have a kind of microclimate that allows us to enjoy hot summers and very pleasant and mild springs. However, you are in Galicia, land of water and rain.

We recommend you to check the weather frequently to avoid an undesirable downpour or a windy day, so you can prepare yourself in advance.

A jacket in your backpack or an extra bottle of water can be the difference between a great day and a not so good one. Preparation is key.

Help us take care of the Islands

The Cíes Islands belong to everyone and are for everyone’s enjoyment. We sincerely hope you enjoy this paradise as much as we do but it is everyone’s duty to maintain and care for it so that it does not spoil over time.

The Cíes Islands have a very fragile ecosystem that must be cared for and treated with delicacy. Keep the islands clean and free of waste, respect the rules and do not alter the natural habitat of the species of animals and plants that you find on your way. Do not take any “souvenirs” you may find. If every visitor to the islands took a stone home, there would be no more islands!

Illas Cíes de Vigo: Obxectivo Patrimonio da Humanidade
Concello de Vigo

We are in the process of getting UNESCO to recognize the Cíes Islands as a World Heritage Site and we are working hard together so that future generations can continue to enjoy this paradise. With your help it will be so. With your help it will be so. Thank you!

Chapter 5

Biodiversity in the Cíes Islands

From a biological point of view, we can divide the Cíes Islands into six ecosystems: forest, cliffs, marshes, dunes, beaches and seabed. In each one we find a great diversity of flora and fauna. Let’s see which ones have made this archipelago their temporary or permanent home and how you can contribute to the efforts to care for nature.

The Cíes Islands present a great variety of ecosystems that allow us to observe about 200 kinds of algae, as well as different crustaceans and fish of different species. This can be especially appreciated if we go to the lake that separates the islands of Faro and Monteagudo. Also remember that you can practice scuba diving for an unforgettable experience.

In the protected dunes, which are not accessible, there are many different species, including the famous Armeria (Empreñadeira, Namoradeira or herba de namorar), known for symbolizing love, for being a remedy for sentimental problems or even recommended for those who are looking for a partner.

The shag is another endangered species that can be found in the Cíes. This bird inhabits the islands along with the world’s largest colony of yellow-legged gulls, also protected.

Flora

The vegetation corresponds to native varieties that have adapted to the harsh climatic conditions and the harassment of birds. These include holly, angelica (Angelica pachycarpa), marine marigold (Calendula suffruticosa), broom (Cytisus striatus), asparagus, sea fennel, rockrose, black jaguar, large cantil daisy (Leucanthemum merinoi), parietaria (Parietaria judaica), butcher’s broom, gorse (Latebracteatus), gorse and broom.

And although the salinity of the environment does not favor the growth of a great variety of trees, in this area we can find a forest made up of eucalyptus, laurel, pine, oak and carballo oaks, and willows.

In the area of cliffs and beaches, you will find the barron, the carraspique, the caramiña (Corema album), the sea carnation (Armeria pungens), the colleja de playas (Silene littorea), the correhuela rosa, the linaria arenaria, the maritime grass, the thyme bravo and the violet of dunes (Viola kitaibeliana). And the underwater nature includes more than three hundred kinds of red, brown, green algae and many more.

Unique flora in the Cíes Islands

Of the plant species mentioned above, we can find some that are unique to the Cíes Islands or to a limited region of the planet that includes this island territory. Those with a more limited distribution are considered endangered. The following is a compilation of the main endemic species.

Sea carnation (Armeria pungens)Spain, Portugal, and the islands of Sardinia (Italy) and Corsica (France)
Caramignan (Corema album)Southern Galicia
Marine marigold (Calendula suffruticosa)Southern Galicia
Parietaria (Parietaria judaica)Southern Galicia
Gorse (Latebracteatus)Coastal Galicia and Portugal
Angélica (Angelica pachycarpa)Coastal Galicia and northern Portugal
Margarita grande de cantil (Leucanthemum merinoi)Coastal Galicia and northern Portugal
Dune violet (Viola kitaibeliana)Iberian Peninsula
Beach sundew (Silene littorea)Iberian Peninsula
Linaria (Linaria arenaria)National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia, Arosa Island and France

Fauna

On the land surface of the Cíes Islands, there is also a great diversity of animals. Yellow-legged gulls are by far the dominant bird species. Other seabirds such as the shag and the black-headed gull also have their habitat here.

For their part, the forests and cliffs are home to goshawks, buzzards, chickadees, kestrels, nightjars, red-billed choughs, warblers, peregrine falcons, goldfinches, blackbirds, blackbirds, wood pigeons, woodpeckers, robins, finches, king martins, turtle doves and greenfinches. And around the Lago dos Nenos and the tide pools of the islands you can see curlews, stonechats, egrets, herons and sandpipers.

Turismo ornitológico en el Parque Nacional de las Islas Atlánticas
Turismo Rías Baixas

The nature of the Atlantic Islands National Park of Galicia is also composed of migratory birds that have made this area their summer or winter residence. Such is the case of the European gannet, the black-footed tern and the Balearic shearwater.

On the other hand, mammals are well represented by European hedgehogs, wild cats, gray shrews, bats (common, horned and big horseshoe bats), field mice and American mink; and reptiles by the Iberian skink (Chalcides bedriagai), the ocellated lizard, the common lizard and the Iberian lizard.

In the case of insects, there are spiders, beetles (Ernobius vinolasi, Stenosis oteroi and Tetramelus parvus), and butterflies (harlequin and macaon). And despite the lack of freshwater streams and low soil humidity, there are amphibians such as the common salamander, the Iberian painted toad and the Iberian newt.

Underwater life deserves a special mention, as abundant as terrestrial life. The waters of the interior of the islands are home to a large number of anemones and sea urchins, as well as maragottas, mojarras and mullets. And where the cliffs are washed by the waves, mussels and barnacles can be seen.

However, the sea surrounding the beaches and cliffs abounds in cockles, bivalves, crabs, crabs, pout sole, razor clams, dogfish, polychaetes, octopus, mosaic rays, turbot, cuttlefish and plaice. And a few meters away there are numerous schools of mackerel, sandeels and sea bass. Some of the largest marine animals on the planet also live or pass by, namely: whales, sperm whales, dolphins (pilot whales, common, gray, striped and bottlenose dolphins), porpoises, fin whales and turtles.

Unique fauna in the Cíes Islands

In the same way, we can find the following species of the animal kingdom.

Beetle (Ernobius vinolasi)Pine forests of the Cíes Islands
Iberian skink (Chalcides bedriagai)Iberian Peninsula
Iberian red-crested toad (Discoglossus galganoi)Western half of Spain and Portugal
Iberian newt (Lissotriton boscai)Western half of the Iberian Peninsula

Protecting Endangered Nature

In the Cíes Islands, and the Spanish National Park to which they belong, measures have been taken to care for endangered flora and fauna. The main initiatives are:

Designation as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). It is endorsed by the Habitats Directive, which makes it easier to receive support for the restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA). Since 1998, it has been responsible for the preservation of avian fauna, both permanently resident and migratory.

Application of the Convention (OSPAR). It focuses on the conservation of the species that inhabit the dunes, beaches and seabed. To this end, it establishes rules regarding the release of hazardous and radioactive substances into the seas, eutrophication, and the offshore oil and gas industry.

Starlight Destination Certification. The Starlight Foundation granted this title to the park in recognition of its suitability as an observation point for the sky. This ensures little human interference in the environment.

Help us protect the biodiversity of the islands.

In this destination, you will find different routes, both free and guided, for hiking. On the islands of Monteagudo and Faro you will find viewpoints that offer a privileged view of nature. On the other hand, there are ideal sites for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Remember to always respect any form of life and enjoy this beautiful treasure of nature interfering as little as possible with the ecosystem.

In addition, it is forbidden:

  • Light any kind of fire.
  • To stay or transit with domestic animals (except guide dogs).
  • To throw or deposit any kind of garbage.
  • Use any sound that may disturb the tranquility of the place.
  • Tearing, cutting or mistreating vegetation.
  • Accessing the reserves.

How can we improve?

You have reached the end of our guide. We will try to keep this page updated and we will complete it with more information. Your collaboration is very important. If you think we have left something out, do not hesitate to comment.

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If you have an original photo that shows the true beauty of the islands and you want to share it with us please contact us and the photo could be selected to appear in our next Cíes Islands photo gallery.

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