Faro de Playa Lago, Costa da Morte, Muxia, Galicia, Spain
© Carlos Fernandez/Getty Image
The Coast of Death. International Lighthouse Weekend
This solemn beacon set atop a rocky outcropping is in a country usually associated with sand and sun, making this a side of Spain many do not often see. We’re looking out at the sea on the Costa da Morte, or Coast of Death, a nasty name for an equally nasty (but beautiful!) stretch of Galician coastline in the extreme northwest of Spain. We’re featuring Costa da Morte on International Lighthouse Day because mariners are never happier to see a lighthouse than when they’re sailing this coast, known as the Bermuda Triangle of the Eastern Atlantic.
The Costa da Morte is known for its lighthouses, like this one, called Faro de Playa Lago, one of many strung along 201 kilometres of coast from Finisterre in the south to Malpica in the north. As a devourer of ships, the Costa da Morte is prolific. Since the 14th century, more than 600 shipwrecks have been documented resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. This corner of Spain lies at the southern end of the Bay of Biscay, also known for its rough waters. The rocky Costa da Morte faces the open North Atlantic and takes the brunt of big ocean swells. (The famous big-wave surf break at Nazare, Portugal, is only a few hundred kilometres to the south.) Deep waters turn to shallow waters quickly near this rocky cliff-strewn coast, known for its strong currents and hidden rocks. The fog can roll in quickly. Storms form frequently. And hurricane-force winds are not uncommon.
Adding to its reputation of dread is the fact that, long ago, when Europeans believed the world was flat, they also believed the world ended beyond the peninsula’s westernmost cape, Cape Finisterre. Cool, rainy, and rocky, the Galicia region of Spain is more ‘Lord of the Rings’ than Club Med. Hiking along this coast, you might feel like you’re in Scotland rather than Spain, and is compounded by the fact that Galicians themselves are considered a Celtic ethnic group. To visit the lighthouses of Costa da Morte, you can walk a trail appropriately called Camino dos Faros (Road of the Lighthouses). While satellite technology and electronic instruments vastly changed how safely we can now navigate the seas, lighthouses are still vital to boating and the maritime industry. Plus, they’re just darn good-looking.