The Galician Rias and Islands

We spent 5 days in A Coruña. By the time we left, we were 6 Danish sailboats in the marina. Some were sailing north and some had sailed the inshore route of the Biscay. And for some reason, we all ended up in the same marina at the same time. Our very good friends on Lucky Potato were sailing north bringing their sailboat to Denmark. We had hoped for a long time that we would cross paths and it finally happened.

When the weather was right and the fridge stocked up and the crew regained their energy it was time to move on. We wanted to experience the Galician Rias, which was said to be well worth it. Lucky for us Carpe Diem had the same wishes and we decided to go together. On the 31th of August, we sailed 50 miles to the small Ria de Camariñas. We found a good place to anchor just in front of a sandy beach.

Killer whales on our stern

The next day we continued south. We had a lovely sunny day under sail as we rounded the westernmost point of Spain. And then something spectacular happened. A pack of orcas emerged from the sea just a few hundred meters in front of us. They quickly disappeared and we held our breaths as we scouted the sea. We had almost given up seeing them again when suddenly a big blow of air and water sounded just behind us. The 3-4 tall black fins were no more than 5-10 meters from our stern. They gently swam in the opposite direction and soon they were gone. We felt very lucky and humbled to have seen these magnificent animals.

We passed the famous and massive Cabo Finisterre (229 meters high) and despite 25 knots of wind when we rounded the cape, we found shelter in Ensenada del Sardiñeiro. We were really beginning to like these rias. Good sailing conditions, beautiful scenery and always possible to find an anchorage with good protection from both wind and swell.  

Ria de Muros is the smallest and the northernmost of the four major rias – Muros, Arosa, Pontevedra and Vigo – and our next destination. Monte Louro with its 239 meters high conical hill makes an impressive and distinctive entrance. Just watch out for the acceleration zone when approaching the entrance. We arrived early in the afternoon and anchored in front of a beautiful sandy beach. The water was clear and almost turquoise and there was not a cloud to be found in the sky. June from Carpe Diem and I got out our SUP’s (Stand Up Paddleboards) and went for a long trip on our SUP’s exploring a small river.

Strong winds were forecasted in the northern part of Galicia in a couple of days. So we decided to sail 42 miles south to Ria de Vigo. We had flat calm seas and decided to take the “inshore rote” navigating through rocks and small islands – many of them part of the National Park. The scenery was stunning and reminded us of the Swedish and Norwegian archipelagos.

We anchored (the 3rd of September) in the first bay on the north coast of the Ria – Ensenada de Barra. A lovely place with a nice view of the Islas Cíes. Another Danish sailboat, Else Marie, was anchored here and we all met up for cocktails and tails of the sea on Idéfix.

Reunion on the paradise Islands

The highlight of the rias was told to be the Islas Cíes located at the entrance to Ria de Vigo. The islands have protected National Park status with restrictions on pleasure crafts, anchoring, fishing and diving. There are no cars on the islands and very few permanent inhabitants. Going there required permission and booking which days you wanted to stay there. A limited amount of pleasure crafts are allowed every day. Carpe Diem and we had booked 3 days from the 7th of September. The process was free, quick and easy and done online. 

In the meantime, we sailed to the City of Vigo and the Real Club Nautico de Vigo. The Port of Vigo is the biggest fishing port in the world and home of the world’s largest fishing company. The Marina was expensive, the facilities were old and worn and the Wi-Fi didn’t work. We had hoped to find a couple of things for the boats, but the shops had very little selection. So we only stayed one night and instead found ourselves a nice anchorage in Ensenada de Limens on the north coast of the Ria. Here we met Cap Maj – which we had met several times before. We spent a couple of days relaxing, SUP’ing and enjoying the sun and the beautiful surroundings.

On the 7th we sailed to Islas Cíes where we anchored on the south side of Isla del Faro. The mountainous green islands with bays with white sandy beaches and crystal clear water was a spectacular sight. Later that day Papaya (from Biscarien Banden), which stayed behind in A Coruña, had caught up. They were also going to stay for a couple of days, so a reunion party that evening was in order. We spent the next day’s exploring the islands by SUP’s and by land. We all agreed that we had found a little piece of paradise.

After 10 wonderful days in the Galician rias, it was time to move on. We really recommend cruising in this area. Plenty of anchorages, protected from swell and big waves, beautiful scenery. We could easily have spent more time here, but we had a deadline (Gibraltar by the 1st of October) and we also wanted to have some time in Portugal.