Camping on the Islas Ciès of Galicia

Julie and I had set out from Coruña after a two-day search for a tent. I have to admit that I’m much more of a luxury Spanish villa type of girl, but the prospect of camping on what has been called the Most Beautiful Beach in the World had me willing to sleep on the hard ground in the cold on the middle of an island in the Atlantic.

Oh, I’m also a mountain girl, for the record.

When my pulpo-guzzling, beach-loving friend mentioned the Islas Ciès, a small archipelago whose only residents are seagulls, I wasn’t immediately keen. Her father’s house on the port of nearby La Coruna was as close as I needed to get to the water because I am a chicken (tuna?) when it comes to getting my hair wet and swimming in the ocean.

The following week, we were on a ferry from Vigo, Spain to Cangas across the river mouth and onto Playa de Rodas with little more than our swimsuits, a towel and some snacks.

The boat docked in front of a small bar and restaurant 40 minutes later. The archipelago is comprised of three mountainous islands, the two northernmost joined together by a sandy bar and jagged rocks. Playa de Rodas, which the Guardian UK called “The Most Beautiful Beach in the World” the year earlier, was nestled between the two, idyllic and blocked from the harsh atlantic waters on the other side of the islands.

Not three minutes after we’d waded from the boat onto dry land, we’d already stripped off all of our clothes. Out came the towels and reading material, the plastic bottles of tinto de verano and all of my qualms about having gone to the beach in the first place.

We spent the rest of the day exploring smaller, beaches tucked away in small, rocky coves and paths that lead up the crags and to clandestine lighthouses. The crescent of white sand was dotted with colorful umbrellas and beach babies, while the bay was full of small yachts bobbing gently against the tide. The squalls off the Atlantic are broken up over the craggy rocks, meaning we had a day of glittering sunshine and occasional breezes.

My phone rang. The campsite had been calling me all day, but our lack of a tent meant we were going to have to slip in after the sunset and find a bar spot of land in between the packed-in tents and call it a night. While we watched the sun sink down behind the ocean, I hatched a plan.

We walked over to the bar on the island, ordered two beers and a plate of fried squid legs and I asked to speak to the owner. I explained that we had been robbed when we fell asleep on the train, and that our tent has been stolen. He told us there were no physical structures on the island, save the bar/supermarket, the lighthouses and the park warden’s cabin. He promised to try and find a few blankets.

Julie and I huddled together for warmth, splitting the last few sips of wine as we sat on a park bench, the lights from Vigo shimmering on the water. A voice came from behind us.

“Are you the girls who had their tent stolen?”

Turns out, the owner of the bar mentioned to the owners of the camping that we were the delinquents who hadn’t checked into the camping that afternoon. They sent their son to hunt us down. I figured we’d be facing some sort of fine, but the boy whose name but not sculpted biceps has long been forgotten invited us to his tent. Sunburnt and with sore muscles, Biceps had a tent with two rooms and a queen-sized bed for the two of us.

The following morning, we woke up with Biceps, who was off to man the camping himself. We unzipped the screen, letting the light breeze in as our bare feet dangled over the end of the mattress. The rest of our day was filled with hiking, random rendezvous with other sevillanos and a shaky ride back to the mainland, leaving behind the gorgeous stretch of beach.

If you go: The Islas Cies can only be reached by boat from Vigo, Cangas or Baiona. Prices and hours will vary, so confirm online. There’s just one place to stay overnight, the Camping Islas Cies (7,90 adults, 8,50 per tent). Reservations should be made before reaching the island through telephone or the website, and the campsite is open from March 1. There are basic facilities for washing up, a small supermarket and a restaurant, but anything you take onto the island must also be carried off.

This is my entry to the March 2013 Carnival of Europe hosted by DJ Yabis of  Dream Euro Trip with the theme “Beaches.”

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. We agree, it is a beautiful part of Spain. However, it’s a pity the weather is so unreliable and it is sooooo busy in the Summer months.
    Head down to Cadiz, plenty of room on the beaches there in peak season, more months of sunshine & our dog can come to some of the beaches with us too :)
    Lovely pics too x
    Lisa recently posted..Education in Spain : DivisionMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Hi Lisa! We got extremely lucky that summer (I spent five weeks in Galicia) – very little rain and even heat!Our two days in the Cies were stunning.

      I’m a big Cadiz fan, and we often get to Los Canos and Zahara, our two favorites. Any others you’re keen on? Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Love Cies. It’s a happy place for me for sure in Spain!
    Reg of The Spain Scoop recently posted..Being Canny With Cons in SevilleMy Profile

  3. Lovely post, Cat. I was fretting about finding accommodation when visiting La Graciosa off Lanzarote a few years ago. In the end, the two pensions were fully booked. I took a sleeping bag and had one of the best night’s sleep ever.
    Matthew Hirtes recently posted..BandamaMy Profile

  4. I’ve been to Galicia three times now, and always seem to coincide with poor weather and colder temps. I’ve never dared attempt a trip in summer (usually flight deals are slim to now), but after hearing lately of these precious islas….looks like it’s about time.
    Lauren H. of Sobremesa In Spain recently posted..Spanish Hump Day Round-UpMy Profile

  5. Absolutely beautiful! I have yet to make it to any of the Spanish islands and would love to visit someday!
    Alex @ ifs ands & butts recently in düsseldorf.My Profile

  6. These pictures are gorgeous!!!! I couldn’t do the camping though haha.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Casa RosadaMy Profile

  7. So. Beautiful. What I would give for a tinto-fueled beach day right now.
    Galicia (and its pulpo) are at the top of my to-explore list, and I’ll definitely be adding this beauty of an island to my itinerary! I, like you, am much more of a villa girl, but I think I could “rough it” in a seaside tent for a night or two. Maybe you can even refer me to Biceps 😉 Great post, Cat!
    Julia of Nowhere to Go but Everywhere recently love affair with a man named lorca {why i chose to study in granada}My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Hey lady! Galicia is a must – if I weren’t so sevillana at heart, I would be corunensa! I spend my summers up there and could subside on Albarino and pulpo a feira if forced (or even not).

  8. What a surprise – somebody who has visited the Cies.
    I took the ferry out of Vigo in early June a few years ago.
    The astillero workers were holding a protest march and we risked crossing the main street to the estacion maritima.
    Weather was perfect and the Isla was not crowded at all.

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Risk aside, I’m sure the reward was worth it! My friend now lives in Coruna, so we’ve been eyeing this summer as a good time to return. Maybe with a tent, this time!

  9. It does look beautiful – the closest we’ve been is Vigo. Maybe next time.
    robin recently posted..Las MemoriasMy Profile

  10. Very nice! Beach camping is definitely something I want more of in my future (although I sort of like 1 night camping and then a nice apartment/hotel).
    Kate recently posted..6 Long Term Travel Tips for Vegan TravelersMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Yep, one night was all we needed! You can go for just the day, too, but watching the sunrise and sunset were added bonuses. Thanks, Biceps!

  11. I’m not a camping person either but this beach looks divine!
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Travel Hacking New Zealand: Transportation on the CheapMy Profile

  12. This looks so fun! Never thought much about this region, but now I am…
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..Are the Best Sights of India in Old Delhi? Look Here.My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Galicia is definitely underrated, but one of my top picks in Spain. I’m lucky enough to have spent the last five July there and escaping the extreme heat in the South!

  13. Beach camping is definitely fun. There is nothing quite like hearing the sound of the waves all night long. Reviewing campsites for I don’t get much chance to sleep on the beach of the ocean but have spent plenty of nights lakeside, and even better, riverside.

  14. what a beautiful place!

  15. Cat, I love these pictures. Everything looks so beautiful. I’m very jealous, especially with it having just snowed 8 inches here in Wisconsin a few days ago. I’m looking forward to being in Spain next year though!
    Mike recently posted..Granada: A Dirty Sevilla?My Profile

  16. Well you came out pretty well on this one. No tent to a 2 bedroom with a bed? Nice:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The New and Improved Picture of the WeekMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      I mean, it’s nothing compared to where you stay, but apparently machoism is alive and well in Spain!

  17. If I can laze about on the sand reading in the sun or searching the pebbles and shells for exotic finds and sea glass, I need never go in the water, except maybe to wet my feet. This place looks like a spot I’d enjoy. Your time on the Islas Cies was definitely memorable 😉 And, the photos are amazing. Love the ones of the bird on the rock and the bird taking flight. Beautiful!

  18. Hey I’m looking into doing this trip since Vigo has an important connection to my life as a Spanish speaker…..long story, but when I looked up camping it said I had to stay 2 nights and then it came out to like 46 euros?! Maybe I did something wrong but maybe you could let me know how you booked exactly via email if that’s cool
    emma recently posted..Underrated hotties: BudapestMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Will respond both ways, but I can’t remember exactly what we did, and we only stayed one night in early August. This was three years ago, so it’s possible that rates have changed.

      I do remember we had to pay for a tent, along with our fee. There’s also the possibility of just going for the day and paying for the ferry. Departures change all the time, so don’t quote me on it!

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