This post is taking us back to late July 2014, in the days after I finished my Camino and arrived in Santiago. I spent several days exploring Galicia before continuing on to Finisterre; the first post about my time in A Coruna is here, and read on to hear about how I found myself on a beautiful island.
It was when I was still on the Camino that I first heard about the Islas Cies, an archipelago off the coast of Vigo in Galicia. I’d been asking Ibai if he had any recommendations for me during my gap of time between arriving in Santiago and leaving for Finisterre. I’d been thinking about dipping down to Portugal but paused when Ibai started talking about these islands. “It is the most beautiful place, you won’t find a more beautiful beach in Spain.” The thought of hanging out on an island and resting my weary feet was very, very appealing.
So weeks later, after I’d explored the northwestern city of A Coruna, I took a train down to Vigo. When I arrived in the city my first stop was the tourism office, and the woman working behind the desk said, “If you hurry, you can catch the next ferry to the islands.” I bought a ticket and with maps and brochures in my hand I went running to dock, and before I knew it was on a large ferry heading off for the Islas Cies.
There are technically three islands in this archipelago: the south island- San Martino, the north island- Monteagudo, and the middle island-do Faro, which is linked to Monteagudo by a stretch of sand known as Rodas beach (which, in 2007, was named as the world’s most beautiful beach by The Guardian).
I was headed for the small dock at Monteagudo, and after the 45-minute ferry ride I disembarked with crowds of Galician families toting small children and giant coolers and umbrellas. It was a beautiful day and Rodas beach was already packed with sunbathers. I headed off to the right, and after consulting a large map at the information booth, picked a trail that headed up to a lookout. These two islands have four walking trails, and being fresh off of the Camino, I wasn’t too interested in spending my entire day being still.
These islands were given a National Park status in 2002, which has helped preserve the landscape and ecosystem by restricting the affects of human activity on the land. And thank goodness. After hiking for ten minutes, I was far removed from the crowds at the beach and I felt like I had the island to myself. When I arrived at my first destination- Alto do Principe- I shared the lookout with several other groups, but it was in no way crowded. I stood at the top of a flat rock and looked out over the island and couldn’t believe that I was in a place like this. Only a month before I had been crossing the mountains from France into Spain, and after walking myself across the country, I was standing on this beautiful island. It was incredible.
From this first trail I connected to another, and walked across the north island until I couldn’t walk any further. I’m not sure about exact distances, but I think I walked about 3 miles between the first trail and this second one (so it would be about 6 miles, round-trip, from the information booth). This trail was even more isolated than the first; just me and the seagulls.
As I’d been hiking I had noticed several little inlets, and on my way back towards the dock I decided to explore a bit. What I found felt like paradise: a tiny beach that I had all to myself. I kicked off my shoes and wished that that I was better prepared for a beach day. I rummaged through my Camino pack and pulled out my sleeping bag, which I stretched out over the sand. I propped my head against my pack and my Icelandair pillow (I finally got to use it!!) and stared out to the water.
I think I could have spent days exploring these islands and lounging on the beach. There is a camping option and if I ever return to this area I would definitely reserve a campsite and spend the night sleeping by the ocean (there are sites were you can pitch your own tent, or, for an extra fee, you can rent one of the tents already on the site). There’s a restaurant near the campsite, along with restrooms and showers, but other than these buildings and a small snack shop near the dock, the island is unspoiled.
My day on the Islas Cies was one of those magical travel moments: when nothing was planned but everything worked out better than I ever could have imagined. It was just what I needed after my pilgrimage on the Camino: a day of peace and quiet in a beautiful setting, with a little walking and a little relaxing. After this day, I felt ready to return to Santiago and begin my walk to Finisterre.