Lighthouses of Galicia: guardians at the end of the world
Torre de Hercules tower
Lighthouse on Cabo Vilán
They look proudly out to sea from the hilltops while their lights guide sailors in the seas once known as “the end of the world”. They are the lighthouses of Galicia, in north-west Spain. Handsome constructions that watch over the coast, inviting us to discover its cliffs, beaches, islands and beautiful fishing villages. Discover the origins of the lights in the night over the Atlantic Ocean, in the purest Green Spain.
The coast of Galicia is uniquely rugged, full of headlands and dotted with small islands. A paradise that will charm nature lovers. On your journey through this maritime region, you will find a multitude of lighthouses, simple constructions that are oases of peace, witnesses to shipwrecks and saviours of mariners, many of which are still in use. Although in Galicia every town has its own routes, lighthouses and historic centre, here we suggest a general itinerary taking in some of the most important lighthouses in the region, including Fisterra and the Tower of Hercules. Are you coming along? The lighthouses will be our guides.
You could start 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, where Europe’s westernmost lighthouses stand on legendary headlands. To the south, in Ribeira, is the simple lighthouse at Cabo Corrubedo, with stunning views of the Arousa Estuary. Here 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 on Punta Queixal del Monte Louro. Its silhouette is stunning when first seen from the road around the foot of the hill. Once you have seen it, we recommend a trip to the nearby beaches of Ancoradoiro and Lariño. The next stop, Carnota, with its cylindrical lighthouse on Punta Insua, lets you really feel the immensity of the ocean. This area is home to historic “hórreos” (traditional grain stores) and Galicia’s longest beach, stretching more than six kilometres.
The next stop is a unique location, the lighthouse at Cabo Fisterra (meaning “end of the world”), known as the westernmost point of Europe since the time of the Romans, when people believed that the sun was extinguished there every night, and beyond it 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. And the other is the white lighthouse on Punta Laxe, by the village of Laxe, 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. According to legend, it was built by Hercules himself and he buried a giant there. You can reach the interior through an area of archaeological excavations and climb a staircase to its stunning viewpoint, more than 60 metres up. There is also a museum in the lighthouse 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 inlets. 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 rugged cape running down to the sea, and 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 from civilisation: the lighthouse on Punta Candelaria, in Cedeira. The road to the point is steep, with hairpin bends, but worth taking 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. Try the rural hotel close by, the Semáforo de Bares.
Lighthouses on the Cantabrian Sea
This journey still has some pleasant surprises in store, as we now come to the province of Lugo, the northernmost area of Galicia, where there are two 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 islands of Os Farallóns and Sarón, and an unspoilt landscape where you can gaze at the horizon. To the east you will come to the end of this adventure in Ribadeo, and the lighthouse on Illa Pancha. This is an island, reached by a bridge, with a viewpoint around the lighthouse. One last piece of advice: While you are in the area, don’t miss the spectacular, magical beach ofLas 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 for walking at each destination. For more information visit the tourist offices in each place. At the end of this trip you are sure to feel refreshed. As well as a tour of Galicia’s charming fishing villages, you will have had a privileged view of its lighthouses, iconic locations with a very special appeal. See the sunsets, hear the roar of the waves, read a good book on a cliff top, have a relaxing swim, gaze at the immensity of the ocean, but most of all, let the light from these lighthouses shine on in your memories.
Lighthouses route on Google Maps
O Camiño dos Faros is a 200-kilometre hiking route along the coast between Malpica and Fisterra, passing all the most important lighthouses of the Costa da Morte. You can find more information on this route on this website, and get a virtual view on Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/streetview/#o-camino-dos-faros-spain.