Lighthouses in Galicia: guardians of the end of the world
Torre de Hércules
Tower of Hercules
They look out haughtily over the sea from the peaks of the mountains, lighting the way for mariners through waters once known as “the end of the world”. These are the lighthouses of Galicia, in northwestern Spain. Beautiful constructions that seem to stand watch over the coast. Come and discover them on a route taking in cliffs, beaches, islands and delightful fishing villages. Discover where the nocturnal lights of the Atlantic Ocean come from, here in the heart of Green Spain.
The coast of Galicia is outstanding for its irregular shape, with a host of capes and small islands close to the shore. It is a paradise for nature lovers. Furthermore, on your journey through this maritime region, you will find a multitude of lighthouses, simple constructions that are oases of peace, witnesses to shipwrecks, saviours of mariners and which, in many cases, continue functioning to this day. Although in Galicia different towns tend to offer independent routes to their lighthouse and historic centre, here we suggest a generic itinerary taking in some of the most important lighthouses in the region, such as those at Fisterra or the Tower of Hercules. Are you coming? The lighthouses will be our guides.
The journey could get underway in the south of Galicia, in the province of Pontevedra. Here, in the beautiful Baiona area you will find the rectangular Cabo Silleiro lighthouse, whose lamp can be seen 64 kilometres away. When you get there, take a close look because around it is a stunning viewpoint, 85 metres above sea level, from where you can see the ruins of an old naval artillery battery, across to Portugal and the Cíes Islands.
Europe’s westernmost lighthouses
The route now takes us to A Coruña, whose lighthouses, Europe’s westernmost, are located on mythical capes. To the south, in Ribeira, is the simple lighthouse at Cabo Corrubedo, where you will love the stunning views of the Arousa Estuary and you can stay in a hotel just 100 metres away. Following the coast to the north you come to the stately town of Muros with its lighthouse located at Queixal point on Monte Louro Mountain. You will be enchanted by its silhouette, approaching along a road that runs around the foot of the mountain. Once you have seen it, we would recommend a trip to the nearby beaches of Ancoradoiro and Lariño. The next stop is ideal to get a true sense of the immensity of the ocean. It is Carnota with its cylindrical lighthouse at Punta Insua. This area is home to historic “hórreos” (traditional grain stores) and Galicia’s longest beach, reaching for more than six kilometres along the coast.
The next stop is one of the most emblematic sites in the world, the lighthouse at Cabo Fisterra (meaning “end of the world”). This was the westernmost point of Europe when the Romans discovered it. At that time popular belief was that the sun set there each day, and that beyond that point lay a realm of monsters. The sea surrounds everything in this land of legend and it is particularly special for being the end of the Way of Saint James, where pilgrims burn their clothes in a final act of purification. Come and see a unique landscape from the area around this octagonal lighthouse and its beautiful natural balconies. Look out over “Centulo” (devil’s) Rock, the site of many shipwrecks. Another attraction is that there is a hotel alongside it - O Semáforo.
After this experience you are sure to be ready for more. So head north to Muxía and its lighthouse at Cabo Touriñán, also on the stunning Costa da Morte, where the force of the ocean lashing the coast and the impressive migrations of birds will take your breath away. In summer this is also an ideal spot to see the “percebeiros”, workers who risk their lives in search of barnacles. Before you get to the city of A Coruña, there are two more lighthouses not to be missed. The first is at Cabo Vilán, in Camariñas (whose name comes from the lace work traditionally produced by local women), one of the most beautiful you will find and the first lighthouse in Spain to use electric light. In addition to this, make sure you see the white lighthouse at Punta Laxe, in Laxe, as this one is also located in a privileged natural setting.
Still further north, in the city of A Coruña, known as “the Balcony of the Atlantic”, you will find the Tower of Hercules. This lighthouse dates from the 2nd century AD. Take a close look because you are seeing the very symbol of the city. It is also the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world and legend goes that it was built by Hercules himself and that he also buried a giant there. One of the best things is that a series of excavations provides access to the interior and you can climb a staircase to its stunning viewpoint, more than 60 metres up. There is also a museum at the site and a Sculpture Park close by. Come and feel the salt and the sea breeze on your face.
The journey now continues to Oleiros and its lighthouse with stone trelliswork at Punta de Mera. From here you can see the Coruña and Ares Reservoirs. The itinerary will then take you to Ferrol and its Cabo Prior lighthouse, once a passing point for whales. It is 100 metres high, with a large hexagonal tower, and there are stunning views of the cape which runs down sharply to the sea, and of the beautiful beaches of Santa Comba and Ponzos. There is a guesthouse you can stay at one kilometre away.
The next stop is located far away from the nearest civilisation. It is the lighthouse at Punta Candelaria, in Cedeira. Access requires a descent with many curves but is well worthwhile for the views of the nearby islets. The last stop in the province of A Coruña is Mañón and its 19th-century lighthouse at Cabo Estaca de Bares. Besides its ornithological observatory and the water wheels to be found nearby, this is the point where the Atlantic Ocean and Cantabrian Sea meet. Why not try staying at the rural hotel close by, the Semáforo de Bares?
Lighthouses on the Cantabrian Sea
This journey still has some pleasant surprises in store, coming next to the province of Lugo, the northernmost area of Galicia, where there are more beautiful lighthouses well worth seeing. The first is in Xove, more specifically at Punta Roncadoira. What will you find at the foot of this cylindrical tower? The intense blue of the Cantabrian Sea, the Os Farallóns and Sarón Islands and an all but untouched area from which to look out over the horizon. To the east you will come to the end of this adventure in Ribadeo, at its Illa Pancha lighthouse. Access to this island is over a bridge to the viewpoint that surrounds the lighthouse. One last piece of advice? While you are in the area, don’t miss the spectacular, magical beach at Las Catedrales.
Besides motorways, Galicia has an extensive network of secondary roads that provide access to these areas, although we would also recommend you use suitable clothing and footwear to get to each destination. For more information visit the tourist offices in each place. At the end of this trip you are sure to feel refreshed. Not only will you be able to stroll through charming fishing villages, but you will also have a privileged view of Galicia’s lighthouses, mythical locations with a very special appeal. See the sunsets, feel the roar of the waves, read a good book on a cliff top, have a relaxing swim in the sea, lose your gaze in the immensity of the ocean. Most of all, though, make sure to remember how the beam from these lighthouses opens up a passage through the darkness.