The Cíes were a territory of passage for man from the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods, and a settlement was not built until the Bronze Age, when the village of As Hortas, located on the slopes of Mount Faro, was built, and was also occupied during the Roman period. The findings tell us that its inhabitants already included seafood and fish from nearby waters in their diet, and that they probably had commercial relations with the people of the coast.
The Romans called them the Islands of the Gods, and some authors maintain that Julius Caesar came to be in them persecuting the Herminian peoples who were escaping from Portugal.
Although the Swabian invasions were known in these waters, there are no remains from that time. In the 6th century, with the proliferation of religious orders from the Middle Ages, two convents were established in the Cíes: San Martiño on the South Island and San Estevo on the Middle Island, on whose ruins the current Interpretation Centre was built, where one of the anthropomorphic tombs found there can still be seen.
The religious communities that despite the Norman attacks settled on these islands maintained a feudal regime with the population, who left the archipelago in the mid-sixteenth century, due to the insecurity caused by pirate attacks by Turks, Tunisians and English. Among them was Francis Drake, who was fierce with the Ria de Vigo and devastated the Cíes.
For all these reasons, this archipelago was the object of several fortification plans in the 19th century, which resulted in an artillery warehouse in 1810 in the former monastery of San Estevo, and a Carabinieri Barracks and a prison near the beach of Nosa Señora. These facilities provided greater confidence that promoted repopulation and the installation of new activities. Around 1840 two salting factories were installed: one where the current Rhodes Restaurant is located and the other on the South Island. The Cíes Lighthouse (1852) and a tavern near the lake, which was used as a locust nursery, also date from this period.
Competition from the canneries on the nearby coast led to the decline of the salting plants and in 1900 they were reduced to warehouses. The Cíes maintained a small population, most of which originated in Cangas, which declined until the middle of the 20th century. As the depopulation progressed, the tourist interest of the wealthy classes grew, and from the 1950s onwards, mass tourism began and it became necessary to protect the natural values of this archipelago, declared a Natural Park in 1980.
With its beaches of fine white sand and transparent waters gives the impression to any visitor that is not in Galicia, but in an environment of Caribbean landscapes. Its proximity to the city of Vigo, make essential to pay a visit to these beautiful islands, which are joined by the beautiful the wonderful views of the Ría of Vigo.
A boat trip to the islands where it is common to see groups of dolphins. The best beach in the world is not on an island in the Mediterranean or in the paradisiacal Caribbean. Rodas Beach is followed by Colombian, Brazilian and Filipino beaches in the ranking.
According to the top ten of coasts elaborated by the British newspaper The Guardian, is in Galicia and its name is "The Rodas Beach", in the Cies Islands. He describes it this way: "The neighbors call it 'the Caribbean beach".
The water is an incredible turquoise blue and the sand is white enough to believe the comparison, except for the different temperatures of its waters. Surprisingly, the newspaper does not choose any Mediterranean beach but several British ones. A must for all visitors and an unforgettable experience if you are also a diver.
The marine environment represents approximately 85% of the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. The submarine zone that surrounds the Cíes Islands forms one of the richest ecosystems of the Galician coast and has an important forest of brown algae and corals.
The so-called coastal water upwelling system, which consists of a process of circulation of water entering and leaving the Galician Rias, and the mixture of fresh and salt water, favor the concentration of nutrients and microorganisms that suppose a source of food for the rest of marine species.
The seabed of the National Park consists of four well-differentiated layers: the first formed by sand, the second by gravel, the third by Maërl (a type of coralinacea, where different marine species are raised) and the fourth by rocky elements.
On the cliffs, exposed to strong waves, barnacles and mussels are raised. In its underwater part, very stony, you can find crabs, spider crabs, lobsters and octopus. On the beaches of the most protected areas there are a multitude of bivalve molluscs, as well as turbot, sole and sole. The rocky but protected areas of the interior of the islands are populated by real anemone forests and numerous sea urchins.
We can also find other species that live under the waters of the National Park such as: bream, sea bass, dorada, nudibranch, otter or starfish.
Usually the waters surrounding the Cíes are visited by dolphins, whales and sea turtles.