Just off the west coast of Spain hide three islands that you might easily mistake for a paradisical archipelago in the Caribbean. This beautiful archipelago, known as the Cíes Islands, lies just off the coast of Galicia and serves up a distinctly tropical combination of fine white sand beaches, turquoise waters and luscious vegetation.
Made up of three islands, the archipelago is separated by a narrow strip of ocean from the Galician city of Vigo. It forms part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park, which also includes the archipelagoes of Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada. Monteagudo and Ihla do Medio, the two largest islands, are joined together by a small spit of sand at low tide whilst high tide separates them again. The smallest of the three, San Martiño sits a little further south.
The Cíes Islands are a paradise for beach bods and nature lovers alike. The splendid Praia de Rodas is a endless expanse of fine white sand perfect for sunbathing and also allows you to hop between the islands for a change of scenery.
Surface area : 29574.0 km2
Population : 2781000 inhabitants
A Coruña and Vigo are the real shopping Meccas within the Community, particularly if you're looking to buy clothing and accessories. You'll find in A Coruña both branded products and more modest designer clothing, making it comparable to Paris or Milan when it comes to fashion. The province of A Coruña is also home to the major Inditex empire, the group that owns Zara, Stradivarius and Berska, among others, so you can see how the region lives for fashion. As a result, a large percentage of the population either works here or in other textile factories. Having said that, Galicia has far more to offer than just fashion. The best places to buy traditional regional goods are the little markets, where you'll find traditional produce (wines, cheeses, cold cuts, etc.) and Sargadelos ceramics, a typical souvenir of the Galicia region.
The fish and seafood found in this maritime region are absolutely superb, with Galician-style octopus, mussels, barnacles, scallops, crayfish and oysters, to name but a few. The best crayfish is found in the Baiona area whilst the Ría de Vigo mussels are simply delicious. Whilst you're in Vigo, don't forget to visit La Piedra market, located on a busy tourist street very close to the centre, where the city's wonderful fishmongers will offer you a taste of the freshest oysters. The knuckle of ham served with turnip leaves (or 'lacón con grelos' in Spanish) is another classic of Galician cuisine, as are the 'queso de tetilla' cheese, the 'empanada' (a type of cake with various fillings) and the Padrón peppers. Such dishes are best accompanied by a good Ribeiro or Albariño (the latter being typical of the Rías Baixas DO). There's no doubting, though, that the best in cuisine is still the 'queimada', a strong alcoholic drink (brandy) which is traditionally drunk after delivering the exhortation which protects against evil spells and keeps evil spirits at bay.
Galicia is the ideal destination for fans of rural tourism and lush green landscapes and for those who like to explore bygone lifestyles. There are many little villages here which have managed to preserve their ancient customs and have shunned the technologies and practices of the modern day in their day-to-day lives.
Having said that, this only applies to a limited number of villages, since the region's cities boast all the modern services you would expect, along with a certain standard of living. If you'd like to explore a little further inland, your best bet is to hire a car as the regional trains stop every five minutes and the roads are not the safest for travelling by bus.
Do be aware, though, even when driving your own car, of the state of the roads (some of which are very old) and the signposting (which is often non-existent). If, by chance, you should get lost, you'll probably come across a local resident who will give you directions in the true Galician way: "It could be left...but then again it could be right...".
Be aware that a visit to the Cies Islands requires some advance planning. Since 2002, the archipelago has been a protected nature reserve and access to all three islands is by reservation only, which has spared them the effects of mass tourism. The only campsite recommends booking well in advance, limiting visitors to just 2,200 per night with a maximum stay of one week from June to September.
Despite their isolated outlook, arriving on the islands isn't difficult. From Vigo, a ferry will take you out to the archipelago in just 40 minutes. From there, cross the thin spit of sand connecting the two islands to arrive at the campsite. For those keen to lace up their hiking boots, the islands offer several fantastic hiking routes for all abilities with plenty of viewpoints to admire them from above. One of the best is from Alto de Principe, which gives an impressive panorama over all three.
Located outside the centre of La Corogne in an exclusive residential ...