Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park

The Atlantic Islands are made up of an archipelago of islands located off the south west coast of Galicia and is the only National Park in the region. Picturesque and tranquil, the islands were declared a national park on the 1st of July 2002 and since have been carefully controlled so as to protect the delicate ecosystem that exists within its borders. As a result of the need to protect this environment, access to the islands is restricted and is even prohibited in a number of cases. The park covers a total of 8,480ha of which only 1,194ha is land the remainder being the waters which surround the islands. The archipelago is made up of islands Cortegada, Sálvara, Ons and Cíes, although only Ons and Cíes can be accessed by visitors.

Flora and Fauna

The ecosystems that exist on and around the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park are of particular importance, especially in terms of ecology and diversity. As a result of this, the national park strictly controls access to certain areas of the islands and all marine activities are regulated so as to protect the fragile habitats that exist there. Over 200 species of algae thrive in the sea-beds surrounding the islands representing an extremely important ecosystem which acts as the perfect breeding ground for fish and molluscs. The waters surrounding the islands therefore represent an underwater community comprising of reefs, lagoons and sandbanks which provide an environment in which many species can thrive, making it a unique environment that must be protected.

Marine birds also form a major part of the wildlife population of the islands and there are many spots where bird watchers can catch a glimpse of the parks residents in their natural habitats. Seagulls tend to dominate the area due to the sea’s proximity, however there are also hundreds of other species which either live on the islands permanently or just during the summer months.

If you’re lucky, it’s also possible to catch a glimpse of dolphins, porpoise, seals and even whales off the coast of the islands.

Reaching the islands

Due to protection laws, access is prohibited to all of the Atlantic Islands except for Cíes and Ons. Access to these islands is also monitored and no more than 2,000 people are allowed onto the islands per day so if you’re planning a day of exploring its probably better to arrive early to ensure you will definitely get on (and also to make sure that you get as many hours as possible to make the most of your visit) or even book your ferry in advance.

No cars are allowed access to the islands so make sure you wear a comfortable pair of shoes because there will definitely be quite a lot of walking involved if you want to see the whole island!

For more detailed information concerning transport to and from the island visit:

What to do while you’re there

Admiring the scenery and exploring the landscape will probably take up most of your day at the Islas Atlánticas National Park, especially if you take a break for an ice cream (or two). The village at Ons is the base for most walks around the island and is the best place to begin your day. There are four main walks on Cíes covering the main scenic routes including the large forests and hottest bird-watching spots, allowing you to pick the sights that attract you most. The beach along the coast of Cíes is also definitely worth a few hours, especially during those perfect sunbathing months. Due to restrictions concerning the number of people allowed onto the island at a time, overcrowding is never an issue and you’re guaranteed to find the perfect spot. If you’re after something a little more adventurous, there are plenty of other activities on and around the islands to keep you entertained. Sailing, scuba diving and camping are all available from Cíes Island but restrictions do apply and it’s important to read up on how to apply for permissions before you travel. To apply fill out the forms on the official website.

If you’re thinking of staying on the islands overnight, there is a perfect camping spot on Cíes Island. Reservations are not necessary at certain times of the year and you can book a pitch on the day you arrive at the campsite reception, for more information on opening times and facilities visit:

Visitor Centres

If you are interested in finding out more about the park its history and what activities are available the best starting point is the Monasterio de Santo Estevo located on the Isle of Cíes where you can discover more about the importance of conservation and the protection of flora and fauna.

There is also an information point on the Isle of Ons where you can pick up a map of the area and plan your route.

For more tips on how to get the most out of your trip to the Islands click here.