Medes Islands

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Illes Medes
Illes Medes seen from L'Estartit beach. Meda gran is in the forefront, taking over most of the silhouette
Illes Medes seen from L'Estartit beach. Meda gran is in the forefront, taking over most of the silhouette
Illes Medes is located in Spain
Illes Medes
Illes Medes
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 42°03′00″N 03°13′15″E / 42.05000°N 3.22083°E / 42.05000; 3.22083
Country  Spain
Autonomous community  Catalonia
Comarca Baix Empordà
 • Total 0.215 km2 (0.083 sq mi)
Highest elevation 75 m (246 ft)
Population (2009)
 • Total no permanent population
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)

The Illes Medes (in Catalan) or Islas Medas (in Spanish) is a small and craggy group of seven islets in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. They are located close to the shore, east of the coastal town of L'Estartit.

Meda Gran, the largest one, has an area of 1.8 km2 (0.7 sq mi) and is the only island of a considerable size. It has some Mediterranean vegetation and a 19th-century lighthouse on it. The second largest island, Meda Xica is only 0.24 km2 (0.09 sq mi). Carall (or Cavall) Bernat, Tascons Grossos, Medellot, Tascons Petits and Ferrenelles are mere steep rocky outcrops jutting out from the sea.

From left to right: the Tascons Grossos, the Tascons Petits and Carall Bernat


In 1866 a lighthouse was built on La Meda Gran; it had a resident lighthouse keeper until 1932 when an automatic light was installed. Currently the island has a solar-powered automatic lighthouse.


The Catalan Autonomous Government declared the islands a protected area in 1983. They are now becoming an important marine reserve in the Western Mediterranean.

Despite the ravages caused by industrial pollution and mass-tourism in the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, there is still a significant amount of marine biodiversity in the waters off the islands, like large submarine meadows of Posidonia oceanica and underwater caves where groupers breed.


Administratively the Medes Archipelago belongs to the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia.


In the 15th century the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem built a fortress on Meda Gran. They eventually left and pirate attacks in the 16th century damaged the fortress. The fortress became a prison during the 18th century and at the time of the Napoleonic Wars was again fortified.

On 29 August 1811 General Joaquín Ibáñez Cuevas y de Valonga, Baron de Eroles, at the behest of Luis Roberto de Lacy and with the assistance of HMS Cambrian, a Colonel Green, and British troops, landed, captured, and destroyed the fort the French had built on Meda Gran. Green then ordered the fort abandoned. Several weeks later, on 11 September, de Lacy landed on the island. He rebuilt, garrisoned and fortified the fort, and symbolically renamed the islands the Isles of the Restoration. The last military garrison left in 1890.

The Medes Islands seen from the Montgrí Massif. This image has annotations with names and heights of the islands, click here.