Only flying over Cape Fisterra can the challenging orography of A Costa da Morte, raising proudly from the depths of the Atlantic ocean, be approached.
The sailors, never losing sight of the lighthouses, are well aware of its dangers. The strength of the waves has left its testament on the smooth white beaches, one of the most enchanting landscapes of the Galician coast. This is a 200-kilometer adventure that, from Malpica to Cape Finisterre, aims to see the end of the world.
It is said that the name A Costa da Morte refers to the many maritime disasters that occurred – and still occur – along the dangerous stormy cliffs that plunge into the icy waters. On strategic points along its jagged edge, signs erected survive to this day, renovated and converted into icons of a territory branded by the harshness of the ocean. Some of them were even built recently, like the modern Punta Nariga lighthouse in Malpica de Bergantiños, which dates from 1995. This is the first stop on our route.
The journey continues towards Camariñas with two obligatory stops in Laxe. Far from the crowded beach that bathes the town are the sandy, virgin shores of Soesto and Traba. Looming in the distance stand Penedos de Traba and Pasarela. These curious stones, carved by the wind and time, were declared Protected Landscape by the Xunta de Galicia.
Vilán and the Englishmen’s Cemetery
The eastern part of the Pena Forcada mountain range extends from Traba de Laxe to Cape Vilán: our next stop. In this unrelenting scenery, ravaged by the wind, another famous A Costa da Morte lighthouse. Best known for its structure and location, it now houses the Museum of Shipwrecks. The beauty of this place contrasts with the extreme danger it contains: along this stretch of coast, over 150 ships have sunk. The best known is the HMS Serpent, an English military vessel that went down on November 10, 1890. Only three survivors, badly wounded, managed to reach the shore. The remaining 172 crew members were buried in what is known as the Englishmen’s Cemetery.
Climbing up to the old lighthouse, located with its back to the current one, built in 1896, grants you a great view of the Cape Vilán octagonal tower. The Cíclope de A Costa da Morte rises 105 meters above the sea to light the way to the ships that sail these waters. It was the first electric lighthouse on the Spanish coast.
The itinerary continues to the south to the westernmost point of peninsular Spain: Cape Touriñán. A small peninsula that enters defiantly into the sea for almost a kilometer. Let the magnificent Atlantic landscape, with its small lighthouse standing in the background, enchant you. The wind rushes along the nearly one thousand meters of the wild beach of Nemiña, and sunset casts everything in warm, breathtaking colors. Dusk invites one to climb Mount Facho to contemplate the enigmatic beauty of the Muxía peninsula.
The arrival at Fisterra awaits the next day. It was the end of the known world in ancient times. Before entering the town, following the path of thousands of pilgrims who end here their Camino, two beaches are worth visiting: O Rostro and Mar de Fóra. They open to the Atlantic and are perpetually surrounded by an apparent solitude. In the surroundings of O Rostro, the line of sand exceeds two kilometers. The place is very popular with nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. The legend of the mythical city of Dugium rests upon these sands. Founded by Nerios, it is supposed to have disappeared under a giant wave.
If you reach the Finisterra lighthouse shortly before sunset, sit on the stones that surround the promontory. You’ll witness the magnificent spectacle of the sun setting on this ancient altar, the Ara Solis of the Phoenicians. The building attached to the lighthouse is the Siren, better known as “the Cow of Fisterra,” for the shrill sounds it emits on days of dense fog up to 25 miles (46 km). The shadow of the legendary lighthouse, the roar of the Sirena, the view of the infinite and brilliant sea below, some small boat in the distance, the dangerous islet of Centolo or the stony mass of Mount Pindo on the other side of the Corcubion estuary will be our faithful companions to end this journey through a brutal sea, which speaks of death but is full of life.
Costa da Morte Parador
Just half an hour from the Cape Fisterra Lighthouse is a perfect place to rest after so much bravura: the Parador Costa da Morte. Located next to Praia de Lourido, it is a new building with contemporary architecture and spectacular sea views. The Parador exhibits several charts of shipwrecks along the Galician coast since the 18th century, including the Prestige. Its author is Pepe de Olegario, a retired sailor and expert in maritime navigation maps.