The Camiño dos Faros - a walk along the coast of death

There is a lot more to walking in Galica than the Camino de Santiago
Camiño dos Faros - Europe's best coastal walk

I'm just back from a walk along the Camiño dos Faros, or ‘Lighthouse Way’, around Galicia's Costa del Morte (Coast of Death) in northwest Spain. It was a wonderful trip. The scenery was great, the walk well defined, the food fabulous and I met some really nice people. I would definitely recommend this walk although there are a few things you should be aware of.
The Camiño dos Faros is tougher than it looks.  Like many coastal paths, it combines numerous ascents and descents with a route that never takes the straightest line between two points.  The route is not based on some ancient journey and joining old fishermen paths sticks limpet like to the coastline. Tough exposed walks up and over rocky headlands contrast with strolls across wide empty beaches.

Camiños dos Faros - sticks to the coast!
The Camiño dos Faros is a relativity new creation (2012-2013) and was put together independently from the usual bodies that look after walking and mountaineering in Spain.  A group of Galician friends (Tranos) got together, walked and designed the route.  Through the wonders of social media, others soon joined them and an Association (Association dos Caminos dos Faros) was formed.  The Association is now hugely successful and Sunday walking days can attract up to 1,000 Tranos from across Galicia. The Association has developed a well defined and waymarked route, produced distinctive branding and merchandise and sustains a very informative website.
Camiños dos Faros - a walker's walk
It is a beautiful walk.  Of the eight standard stages, six are spent along exposed stretches of coast whilst two head inland to navigate around relatively tranquil river estuaries.  The six days along the coast are spent climbing headlands, walking along dramatic cliff edges and crossing small streams as they rush into the sea in tiny coves.  This is a granite landscape and the large granite tors remind the British walker of Devon and Cornwall. The views are constantly changing, but the noise from the sea and the wind is ever present.  

Camiños dos Faros - a tough coastal walk
The walk takes its coastal brief very seriously and, as my wife pointed out, the designers don’t want you to miss a thing. Although it’s not technically a difficult walk, it does take time.  We arrived after a week’s heavy rain and some of the paths and ancient green lanes were very wet, reminding us with force that granite is an impermeable rock. We walked for a day with an experienced Tranos and he assured us that we had been unlucky with the weather and that after a dry autumn, the Galician spring had been exceptionally wet.
Some wet paths
It does rain in Galicia. Although warmer than its granite cousin in Cornwall it's actually slightly wetter. It rained for two of the six days I was there and I wish I had built a little more time into schedule to take advantage of the wonderful weather that arrived as I headed home.
Camiño dos Faros - wide sandy beaches
And secluded estuaries
Beat that Cornwall!
Despite the weather, the walking was fantastic.  Particularly wonderful was the stretch from Corme to Laxe, which included all the elements that makes the Camiño dos Faros special.  The first couple of hours, in brilliant early morning sun, involved some gentle cliff walking. After crossing sandbanks and a nature reserve, we stopped for coffee and tapas at Ponteceso before heading west again along a wonderfully engineered path - a classic example of Spanish municipal extravagance. Instead of following the route inland to the Dolmen de Dombate, perhaps the most important megalithic monuments in Galicia, we took a shortcut (after more tapas at Vilaseco) and continued along a stunning stretch of coastal walking to Laxe.  As well as grassy hillsides, rugged gorse-covered clifftops and perfect sandy beaches, there were two exceptional tiny wooded valleys where waterfalls announced the arrival of streams to the sea.
An early morning seascape
On the last stretch, we joined a party of Tranos (about 400 of them) enjoying one of their Sunday Camiños dos Faros days out.  Spanish walkers in a group are colourful, noisy and gregarious and the day finished sharing beer, tapas (and Camiño dos Faros lime green merchandise) outside a bar in Laxe.
Brilliant tapas
My own preferred style of walking is to finish each day in accommodation on the route.  Generally speaking, this is feasible on the Camiño dos Faros and the hotels are excellent value and good fun (though watch out for Monday closure).  There are a couple of places where the lack of accommodation contributed to unrealistically long days and with hindsight, I should have been a bit more creative with taxis, which are not expensive or public transport.
Tough coastal walking
I had hoped to complete the eight stages in six days, always a fantastically optimistic schedule. What we actually did was miss out a chunk of walking around an estuary between Camiriñas and Muxia (generally said to the least interesting, although it looked nice as we travelled near the route in a taxi) and the last day to Fisterra. The final stage looked excellent but the weather was poor and after an earlier experience of rainy Galician cliff tops our motivation was exhausted. Instead, we got a taxi to Fisterra - walked along to the lighthouse and then got the bus to Santiago.
The lighthouse at Fisterra
The Camiño dos Faros has nothing in common with Galicia's most famous hike, the Camino de Santiago. Designed by walkers it's a much more thrilling and tougher walking experience and for me provides a more compelling reason to visit this part of the world.

For a day by day and contemporaneous account of what the walk was like please look at the diary entries below. These also provide details of where we stayed.

O Camiño Dos Faros - Day 1
O Camiño Dos Faros - Day 2
O Camiño Dos Faros - Day 3
O Camiño Dos Faros - Day 4
O Camiño Dos Faros - Day 5

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