The most irresistible sands of the Ría de Vigo adorn the three islands of the Illas Cíes, which can be reached by boat from Vigo, and (less regularly) from Baiona and Cangas. Sprawling across the entrance to the ría, battered by the open Atlantic on one side but sheltering delightful sandy beaches where they face the mainland, the islands were long used by raiders such as Sir Francis Drake as hide-outs from which to ambush Spanish shipping, but are now a nature reserve. The most southerly, Illa de San Martiño, is an off-limits bird sanctuary; the other two, Illa do Monte Ayudo and Illa do Faro, are joined by a narrow causeway of sand, which cradles a placid lagoon on its inland side.
Most visitors stay on the sands, with their sprinkling of bars and a campsite in the trees, so if you want to escape the crowds, it’s easy to find a deserted spot – particularly on the Atlantic side. From the beach, a long climb up a winding rocky path across desolate country leads to a lighthouse with a commanding ocean view. The islands’ campsite has a small shop and restaurant, but if you’re on a budget you’re better off taking your own supplies.