Cíes Islands–Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park
Cíes Islands–Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park is part of the Tentative list of Spain in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park covers the land and sea area of four Galician archipelagos located on the Atlantic coast in northwest Spain. The ecosystem offers a variety of habitats: sea caves, coastal lagoons, tidal flats, dunes, sandbanks and cliffs. The maritime areas are characterised by a high variety of seaweed, molluscs and shellfish, as well as the presence of several dolphin species.
Map of Cíes Islands–Atlantic Islands of Galicia National ParkLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
Visiting the national park of Galician Atlantic Islands requires a little bit of anticipation. It is made of four groups of islands ashore the Rias of Galicia, but only two of them can be easily accessed: the ones of Cies and Ons. There are different companies operating boats from different Galician cities to the islands, from Easter until autumn on weekends, and daily during summer. The number of visitors every day is limited, so you must first obtain a permit from the National Park website: you request it online (one per person) and receive a code (by e-mail) which you must then indicate when booking the boat trip. You cannot book without the code and the code is valid for a few hours only, so it is better to look at the boats offers and timetables first and be ready to book as soon as you get the code. Finally, codes can be requested maximum 45 days before the wished date, and you cannot change your date afterwards. This said, we had no difficulties to go through this process and had our tickets ready for a day trip last August, from Cangas to Cies islands. We chose Cangas as a most family friendly alternative to the big city of Vigo, and the sailing was only 30 minutes each way.
For being in the Atlantic Ocean, Cies Islands and Galicia are in general quite exposed to bad weather, even during summer, but luckily the clouds were gone by the time we reached the islands and we enjoyed a mostly sunny day, although the water temperature remained cold (16C!). There are no cars on the islands, but you can find a restaurant at the pier and a campsite nearby, which also sells some foods and basic items. We walked the path till the lighthouse at the top of the main island (a few kilometres one way, and a +180 m altitude difference), which offered the opportunity to enjoy various views to the Galician coast then to the wide wild ocean, the southern island, and appreciate different kind of vegetation. On the way down, we made a small detour to stop at an observation point for birds, but there were not so many on that day. Still the views were great. We then enjoyed some rest at the nice and quiet playa de Figueiras before sailing back at the end of the afternoon.
This national park was created to protect these islands from potential uncontrolled human development, but also and mainly to protect the rich underwater fauna and flora, and there is opportunity for non-diver visitors to get a glimpse of them. Two of the Cies islands are linked together by a white sandy beach (playa de Rodas, voted a few years ago as “the most beautiful beach is the world” by The Guardian) and by a causeway, with the area in the middle of these four elements (the two islands, the beach and the causeway) being a kind of “lagoon”. The water still runs freely under the causeway from the ocean to the lagoon, and so the lagoon level varies along the day with the tide. Standing on the causeway, we could spot several types of fishes, including one moray which may live underneath, and two giant crabs. We walked the causeway on our way to the lighthouse, then on the way back; the tide level was different and the types of fishes as well.
This was a great day out for our family, a good combination of different activities on a nice island. Despite the limitation of daily visitors, do not expect to feel alone, but there is enough place for everyone to enjoy. For sure the views are good. If the marine and seaside fauna and flora are unique or outstanding is a more difficult assessment for me, but it is also for sure that natural components are extremely under represented on the list and this ecosystem is different from Wadden sea, Donana park or Saint Kilda – so thumb up !
2018 Added to Tentative List
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