Location – Off the southern coast of Galicia. They are made up of four archipelagos, Cortegada and Sálvora in the Ría de Arousa, Ons, facing the Ría de Pontevedra and the Cíes, closing the Ría de Vigo.
Area – 8,332.80 hectares (1,194.80 hectares of land and 7,138 hectares of sea). Specifically: Cíes (2,658 hectares of sea and 433 hectares of land), Ons (2,171 hectares of sea and 470 hectares of land), Sálvora (2,309 hectares of sea and 248 hectares of land) and Cortegada (43.8 hectares of land).
Access – Regular passenger transport service by sea to the Cíes from the port of Vigo, Baiona and Cangas during the high season. There is the same service to Ons from Portonovo, Sanxenxo, Bueu and Marín. Services of a guide to Cortegada from Carril (Vilagarcía de Arousa). Sálvora has no transport service by sea, and access to it is restricted.
Services – Accommodation: only on the Cíes and Ons. Food: only the Cíes and Ons have a restaurant service.
More information – National Park headquarters: c/ Eduardo Cabello s/n, Edif. CETMAR, Bouzas (Vigo). Tel: +34 986246550.
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Sailing west is one of the great adventures of the Galician coast. Here can be found the Galician islands, the Cíes, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada. An archipelago whose waters are turquoise enough and whose sands are white enough to conjure up Caribbean beaches… “until you dip your finger into the water”. This was stated as a point in its favour by The Guardian daily newspaper, which considered the Rodas sands of the Cíes to be the best in the world. Cold waters with the best ocean properties for marine life, and odd stories of sunken ships.
From a boat on the Ría de Vigo one can discern the outline of the three islands that play at being two. They are known as the Cíes because we continue to call them by their Roman nickname of Siccas, the dry islands, although, on their own, each has its own name. That in the north, the Monteagudo, and that in the middle, the Faro (Lighthouse), are joined by the narrow sands of Rodas and a lake which completes this heavenly picture. The island to the south, San Martiño, is separated from the others by a canal called Puerta del mar (Door to The Sea). The archipelago also includes a series of small islands that are united beneath the sea in an area of enormous and fragile biodiversity, ranging from the microscopic beauty of the fields of algae to the grandeur of the cetaceans that are frequently to be seen.
Ons and her sister isle, the Onza or Onceta, and the small island of Las Freitosas, close the Ría de Pontevedra, with a coastline rounded off by sandy beaches. On the other hand, the part which cannot be seen from land is extremely wild and favourable for the formation of undersea caves (furnas) and reefs. The underwater scenery of this part of the ocean is made up of vertical walls, teeming with life thanks to the outcrop of deep water which is rich in nutrients. This is well-known to the people of this island, the only one in the National Park to be inhabited now, who work as fishermen, especially of octopus.
Sálvora, in the extreme west of the Ría de Arousa, with its whole constellation of islands full of legends and sea stories, such as Noro, Vionta and Sagres, is a most complete reserve, both in terms of sea bottom and surface. As with the Cíes and Ons, man has left his mark with buildings for religious (chapels, altars or churches), civil (lighthouses), military (forts) and industrial use. In Sálvora the salting factory was turned into a two-towered pazo (country house) and there is also a fine, traditional- looking village with eight hórreos (raised granaries) and a chapel.
Cortegada and neighbouring Malveiras enjoy the proverbial biological richness of the Ría de Arousa. To observe production activity, the quay and the promenade of Carril with their clams and cockles breeding grounds provide a remarkable insight into shell fishing. The tides are the only borders of the Isla de Cortegada, which looks as if it could be conquered on foot. Sometimes guided visits are organized, which, as well as covering the island’s history, also show the island’s plant treasure, represented by the laurel forest with trees up to twelve metres high, located behind a thick pine grove.