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Tired of so many days of quarantine? We do too, but it’s time to stay home and dream of nearby paradises to enjoy when we return to normal. If you are one of us, you surely fantasize about paradise islands where you can find Caribbean beaches, lush forests and why not? A little history. Well, they are very close, in Galicia, and they are authentic natural treasures to get lost after these weeks of confinement
Cíes, the islands of the gods
Without a doubt, the Cíes Island is the heavyweight of the Illas Atlánticas National Park and one of the natural emblems of Galicia, so it is mandatory that they appear on this list. Julius Caesar himself put his foot on them and was impressed by their rugged beauty and the Latin geographer Pliny the Elder called them “Islands of the Gods”, including in this name the islands of Ons and Onza.
Las Cíes have always been very appealing to Galicians as a day trip or as a perfect weekend camping plan, but when in 2007 the prestigious British newspaper The Guardian named Rhodes as “the best beach in the world” a tourist boom that made the islands the most coveted place for national and foreign tourists, who came in droves to visit one of the most beautiful sandy areas in the world. This situation changed in 2017, when it was decided to protect the natural heritage of the Cíes and visits were limited by means of a special authorization that must be requested to reach the islands.
Whoever reaches Cíes will find three magnificent islands (San Martiño, Faro and Monteagudo, the last two linked by the Arenas de Rodas), no more than half a dozen magnificent white sand beaches and turquoise waters and a series of routes hiking that take us to viewpoints such as the North Lighthouse, the Faro do Peito or the Mirador do Alto do Príncipe with its Silla de la Reina, from which we can see a good panoramic view of the islands from above, including the islets of Ons. No more no less.
You will also find icy waters, only suitable for the brave, which allow their seabed to be one of the best and richest in marine life in Europe.
Ons Island, guardian of the Ría de Pontevedra
As the Cíes are, the nearby island of Ons is an ornithological reserve where not only seagulls live, but also curious animal species such as the Ocellated Lizard, the largest in Europe. Here we can also find a lighthouse, a camping site and, being an inhabited island, even some population centers, the main one being a small village , O Curro , where accommodation is scarce and prices skyrocket in summer.
A series of unpaved tracks cross the island in all directions and allow us to reach five almost virgin paradisiacal beaches such as the nudist Melide, Dornas or Area dos Cans. On the Canexol sand we find the cemetery and the fort, a clear indicator that this island was already populated hundreds of years ago.
Sálvora Island, a small diamond in the Ría de Arousa
Another of the islands that make up the Marítimo-Terrestre das Illas Atlánticas National Park, Sálvora is located in the middle of the Ría de Arousa and is part of the parish of Aguiño (Ribeira). It is an island with a long history, inhabited by settlers until the 1970s (from which the island inherited a pazo) and acquired by the Xunta de Galicia in 2008, when the island’s protection measures began as a space natural.
In Sálvora there is a lighthouse , used by the Navy as an observatory during World War II, and several protected animal species , such as the “sapiño pintoxo”, the salamander and the harmless water lizard, which you will be able to observe if you follow the brief hiking trails marked on the island: the Ruta do Faro and the Ruta da Aldea.
To get to Sálvora there is no public transport, which is why many private companies have chosen to include the island in their day trips along the Ría de Arousa. In addition, only 125 visitors are allowed per day on the island, which is small and lacks tourist services, which makes visiting the island a somewhat more exclusive experience than that of its older sisters, Cíes and Ons.
Cortegada, the hospital island
On the way to Vilagarcía de Arousa from Padrón, it is compulsory to pass through Carril and, when doing so, we will see the island of Cortegada on our right . It is an island of considerable size that measures just over 2 and a half kilometers in perimeter and that can be covered in a couple of hours. That is precisely where its charm lies: in strolling it up and down and enjoying its groves.
Cortegada was also one of the islands that the Romans came to and the historian Pliny made reference to it. On the island there was a hospital, the Hospital de Carril, built near a sanctuary, but today we can only find its remains dating from 1652.
Arousa Island, a privileged natural environment
We continue in the province of Pontevedra and this time we visit the Isla de Arousa , with its seven kilometers in length from end to end and a varied landscape that is made up of both mountains and plains.
The Island of Arousa is known as A Illa , although at the end of the 20th century a long bridge that connected it with land made it lose part of its island character and since then, to get to the island, you no longer have to resort to the boat who did the regular transportation service.
La Illa lost its insularity, but not its charm, and despite the fact that its main nucleus will never win an urban prize, the south of the former island has been protected from the flood of vacationers and tourists and vehicles are not allowed to pass. All a privileged natural environment.
Sisargas Islands, seagulls paradise
In the middle of the Costa da Morte, with the fishing village of Malpica and its Cabo de San Adrián in front, three rugged islands that do not need an introduction appear before our astonished eyes , as they are loaded with history and legends . The names of the islets are Grande, Chica and Malante and they are a true paradise for lovers of zoology and ecology . Seagulls abound, becoming the most numerous inhabitants of the islands, of which we find several types that are scarce in the rest of the peninsula.
Legends speak of Romans populating the Sisargas , building stone walkways, necropolis and plows, but the only thing that can be verified is that there is a lighthouse from 1883 built next to the original ruins.
To get to the islands we can hire a private boat in the port of Malpica, since there is no public transport. This makes the Sisargas islands very little accessible but it also turns your visit into an adventure.
San Simón Island, cult of historical memory
There are still many Galicians who have not heard of San Simón, although with Cíes, Ons, Sálvora and As Sisargas it is one of the most famous islands in the northwest of the peninsula . They are located in the Ría de Vigo, specifically in front of the Cesantes beach (Redondela), from which it is easy to reach the island by swimming at low tide.
San Simón welcomed religious communities and also functioned as a leper colony. The Franco regime converted it into a concentration camp for prisoners of war and today it houses a center for the study of Marine Sciences. In addition, Saint Simon has among its walls pirate legends such as that of Francis Drake, a memorable “Paseo de buxos” and a sculpture park tribute to the victims of Francoism .
If you like recent history , this is your island, which you can get to on an excursion from Vigo or hire a boat on the beach in Cesantes.
Tambo Island, a garden in the middle of an estuary
With our hearts in hand, we would define Tambo as a garden in the middle of the Pontevedra estuary , but it is a military island with equally military facilities and restricted access due precisely to that military character.
Tambo is a small island that in the Middle Ages welcomed a religious community and that also served as a refuge for nobles and priests in times of epidemics. Nowadays it can only be visited on rare occasions, with the authorization of the Marín Military Naval School and by the Irmandade Illa de Tambo association, which makes several annual excursions to the island.
Source: El Espanol