A beautiful view of the three islands of Islas Cíes from O Alto do Principe at 111 meters high.

Hiking & Camping on the Cies Islands


We were basking in the sun on the white sands of Playa Rondas at Islas Cíes when Andrea received a message from her friend Ali. Inside the message was a forwarded Instagram post by user orgullo.galego, which in turn contained a one-star Tripadvisor review of the islands we were at. The writer warned the following:

GAVIOTAS ASESINAS

Fuimos a pasar el día a un lugar tan idílico y nos lo amargaron la invasión de gaviotas que hay en las islas. Se abalanzan sobre ti a robarte la comida que tengas en las manos. Poniendo en peligro la integridad de las personas. Están al acecho constantemente desde las rocas, los árboles, la arena…
Resumiendo un HORROR. No creo q vuelva.

[English Translation]
KILLER SEAGULLS

We went to spend the day at a place so idyllic and we were embittered by the invasion of seagulls that are on the islands. They ambush you to steal the food you have in your hands. Endangering the integrity of people. They are constantly lurking from the rocks, the trees, the sand…
Summarizing a HORROR. I don’t think I’ll come back.

-Tripadvisor member alyolubru on August 17, 2016

I then looked up and saw this white bird:

Snorkeling kids emerging from the sea behind a seagull on the beach.
Snorkeling kids emerging from the sea behind a seagull on the beach.

Laughing, I remarked, “I guess these seagulls aren’t as innocent as they look.”

Moments later, we swiveled our heads and glanced behind us. There were five birds encircling a woman eating a sandwich. Killer seagulls indeed!

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this 2.5-day trip to these Galician islands with Andrea. For starters, they weren’t even that far away. We drove 40 minutes from Pontevedra to Cangas, 10 of which were looking for parking. A nice man who was leaving told us to take his parking spot, and then we walked over to the harbor to catch the Mars de Ons ferry. The ferry ride was another hour, including a short stop in Vigo. Then we were at Rodas Beach, also known as “the best beach in the world.”

That is what The Guardian had called it in February 2007. The publication justified its choice by saying that “Galegos come here to spend long, lazy summer days on the Praia das Rodas, a perfect crescent of soft, pale sand backed by small dunes sheltering a calm lagoon of crystal-clear sea.” 

The lagoon was certainly one attraction:

Felix in front of the lagoon that fills up with water at high tide.
Photo by Andrea
Felix in front of the lagoon that fills up with water at high tide.

Another was a cement path joining the north and middle islands. It was the perfect place for viewing a sunset.

A beautiful sunset viewed from the bridge linking the north and middle islands of Islas Cies.
A beautiful sunset viewed from the bridge linking the north and middle islands of Islas Cies.

There were also lighthouses, bird observatories, and even Roman ruins to hike to. Hiking is something we did a lot of–about 35 kilometers during the first two days.

Andrea on a dirt trail from the Faro da Porta lighthouse.
Andrea on a dirt trail from the Faro da Porta lighthouse.

Andrea had been here with friends 12 years ago, but her experience was more rustic. Nowadays, there are tents with beds available for rent:

This was the tent we stayed in for two nights.
This was the tent we stayed in for two nights.

There are even showers with hot water, although I stuck with my usual cold showers. Moreover, there are three restaurants. One on the middle island offered a wonderful place to drink afternoon cañas (half-pints of beer):

Felix with olives and a caña of Estrella Galicia in the evening, with a lagoon in the background.
Photo by Andrea
Felix with olives and a caña of Estrella Galicia in the evening, with a lagoon in the background.

Restaurante Rodas on the north island by the harbor had delicious food to enjoy by a full moon.

Felix and Andrea eating a dinner of fried peppers, fish, french fries, bread, and Estrella Galicia at Restaurante Rodas, with a full moon and the Atlantic Ocean behind.
Felix and Andrea eating a dinner of fried peppers, fish, french fries, bread, and Estrella Galicia at Restaurante Rodas, with a full moon and the Atlantic Ocean behind.

The island still isn’t posh enough to classify what we did as glamping (“glamorous camping”). It doesn’t even reach Motel 6 levels of accommodation. Yet, it allows its visitors to clean up and enjoy life’s little luxuries (like cold beer) after spending a whole day in the Great Outdoors without having to haul a boatload of equipment.

Despite the angry birds, I would give the island a five-star rating, not one. Besides, I think the seagulls are kind of cute. Don’t you?

The view of Rodas Beach from the Mar de Ons ferry.
The view of Rodas Beach from the Mar de Ons ferry.
Tents for rent on Islas Cies.
Tents for rent on Islas Cies.
Felix and Andrea with a lagoon and Rodas Beach in the background.
Photo by Andrea
Felix and Andrea with a lagoon and Rodas Beach in the background.
The clear waters and clean sand of Rodas Beach.
The clear waters and clean sand of Rodas Beach.
Felix and Andrea on Rodas Beach.
Photo by Andrea
Felix and Andrea on Rodas Beach.
Felix and Andrea on a trail going to the south end of the middle island.
Photo by Andrea
Felix and Andrea on a trail going to the south end of the middle island.
A young couple taking photos on the Praia de Nosa Señora.
A young couple taking photos on the Praia de Nosa Señora.
A tractor towing a trailer on a stone dock on the south side of the middle island.
A tractor towing a trailer on a stone dock on the south side of the middle island.
Two pink wildflowers (armeria alliacea) on the middle island of Islas Cies.
Two pink wildflowers (armeria alliacea) on the middle island of Islas Cies.
The Faro da Porta lighthouse.
The Faro da Porta lighthouse.
Andrea and Felix at sunset on the bridge linking the north and middle islands of Islas Cies.
Photo by Andrea
Andrea and Felix at sunset on the bridge linking the north and middle islands of Islas Cies.
A green lizard on a cement path on Cies Islas.
A green lizard on a cement path on Cies Islas.
Someone rowing a small boat off the shore of Playa de Figueiras.
Someone rowing a small boat off the shore of Playa de Figueiras.
Felix and Andrea on top of O Alto do Principe (altitude: 111 meters).
Photo by Andrea
Felix and Andrea on top of O Alto do Principe (altitude: 111 meters).
A beautiful view of the three islands of Islas Cíes from O Alto do Principe at 111 meters high.
A beautiful view of the three islands of Islas Cíes from O Alto do Principe at 111 meters high.
A dirt trail with tall, leafy trees by it on Islas Cies.
A dirt trail with tall, leafy trees by it on Islas Cies.
Felix with his hand on the leaning Observatorio de Aves (Bird Observatory) on the north end of Islas Cíes.
Photo by Andrea
Felix with his hand on the leaning Observatorio de Aves (Bird Observatory) on the north end of Islas Cíes.
A German woman climbing up the Pedra da Campá (Bell Rock) at Islas Cíes.
A German woman climbing up the Pedra da Campá (Bell Rock) at Islas Cíes.
A seagull on a ledge by the Faro de Cíes (not shown).
A seagull on a ledge by the Faro de Cíes (not shown).
The cliffs on the west side of Islas Cíes.
The cliffs on the west side of Islas Cíes.
Andrea looking out of the tent towards Rodas Beach and the Atlantic Ocean on a cloudy morning.
Andrea looking out of the tent towards Rodas Beach and the Atlantic Ocean on a cloudy morning.