Cies Islands Sand Beach

Image Source: Teresa Cantero

We already know that Spain is filled with superlatives: it’s home to the best restaurant in the world, the best parties – check out San Fermines or Las Fallas – and possibly the best word of all, siesta. But what we might not know is that this southern European country also hosts a small piece of heaven: the Cíes Islands.

In the northwest region of Galicia, a land of Celtic heritage and incredible seafood, await the Islas Cíes, or Cíes Islands, a stunning archipelago only reachable by boat and home to one of the biggest seagull colonies in Europe. Composed of crystalline waters and white sand, in 2007 The Guardian deemed Rodas Beach – which connects Cíes’ two largest islands – the best beach in the world.

What’s behind Cíes Islands’ national – and increasingly international – recognition? We explore that question and provide some answers below:

They are visually stunning

Three islands, none larger than 3km in length (about the width of Manhattan at its widest), and a few small islets overlook the bay of Vigo and the Atlantic Ocean, with deep cliffs, stunning sunsets and incomparable beaches. The longest beach, Playa de Rodas, connects the two biggest islands – Faro and Monteagudo – via a sandy isthmus.

Cies Islands Stunning Spot

Image Source: Teresa Cantero

Their sand beaches are to die for

On the eastern side of the islands you can find two stunning sand beaches: Figueras and Rodas, with very clear – and very cold – water, white sand, and all the warmth of the sun. Besides those two, there are seven other sand beaches all over the islands and islets, even a nudist one. The longest beach, Rodas, has a length of 1,200 meters, or around three quarters of a mile, making it prime beach walking territory.

Cies Islands Rodas Beach

Rodas Beach. Image Source: Teresa Cantero

Added benefit: it almost never rains here.

They feature generous hiking routes

Cies Islands Between Islands

Image Source: Teresa Cantero

The Cíes Islands have four different hiking routes. Three of them take visitors to a lighthouse – yes, that’s right, there are three beautiful lighthouses in Cíes – and the other leads travelers to a sensational spot for sunset watching, Alto do Príncipe. Better yet, these one to two mile-long hiking trails offer several bird observatories along the way, which are perfect for getting to know the islands’ avian denizens.

Teresa Cantero
Teresa Cantero
Teresa is a freelance journalist and former Fulbright scholar now based in Spain. She has an M.S. in Global Affairs from New York University and a Bachelors in Journalism from the Universidad de Navarra.
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