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


28 comments:

  1. Hello John,
    Travelling from the UK, how do you get to the start at Malpica? Thanks.

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    1. Hi there

      The two international airports closest to the route are Santiago de Compostela (from London, Gatwick and Stansted) and A Coruña (Heathrow).

      A Coruña is closest to the start of the route and Santiago de Compostela closest to its finish.

      To get to the start, Malpica, there is a good bus service from the A Coruña bus-station and a frequent service from the airport to the bus-station. From Santiago de Compostela the simplest way to get to the start is to get the train to A Coruña and then take the bus. There is a bus option all the way from Santiago de Compostela but it’s more complicated, involves a change, and the service is not that frequent.

      Hope that helps

      John

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  2. Thanks John, I appreciate you taking the time to answer! Good luck with the guide book!

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  3. Hi John, how would you rank the difficulty level of Camino Dos Garos walk on a 1-5 star scale with 5 star being extremely difficult?

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    1. I would say 3, it's a coastal walk mainly a path but with the occasional rocky stretch. Possibly 2.

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  4. What's the best time of the year to do this walk?

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    1. You can walk it all year round but it's a wet part of Spain and stretches of the path will be waterlogged in the winter. Best time is May or June when the light is at its clearest.

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    2. September could be a very good month. in the second half the tourist season is over all the beaches are for you and the weather can be fairly good, with ocasional showers from the fist winter storm, days are shorter but that anyway storms (that don´t last too much usually) can bring fantastic views of the ocean and beautiful sunsets. Anyway the weather is coastal Galicia is very changeable and not extreme, so you could have a week of good weather any time. Avoid November, the rainiest month with severe gales sometimes. March and April use to be rainy, but in late April the landscape is full of flowers. February is a crazy month but usually sunny, but cold, even in this mild coastal areas Northeast wind , very typical os this coast can be very unconfortable (in summer keeps the temperature fairly good for walking)

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  5. Also, is there vegetarian food available on this walk?

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    1. You probably won't find a standard vegetarian option on menus and I think vegan is hard but they do eat a lot of fresh vegetables, pulses and eggs.

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    2. In countryside parts of Galicia, as this area, the vegan option is very difficult actually in menus. It´s easy to get a salad or a tortilla if you eat eggs, but Galician to diet is very proteic, pork meat or any kind of fish is ever present. In the main villages you could find more options (pasta, more complex salads) if you ask for them, but all this is a complicated matter

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  6. Hi John. We're wondering if doing 4 or 5 days of this trek would be do-able with kids aged 7 and 9? Good walkers both but I'm not masssively keen on exposed paths. If so which sections would you recommend? Cheers, Kate

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    1. Hi Kate

      In terms of 7 to 9 year olds my main concern would be the length of the days. If you go to the Camino dos Faros website there is a useful estimate of how long each day takes and it's worth having a look at that. When my guide comes out next year it's going to describe some shortcuts enabling you to vary the days. The only exposed stretch is on the last day and it's easily avoided.

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    2. From Muxía to Fisterra the Saint James walk could be an alternative option maybe. It´well marked and don´t follow the cliffs. This a a walk between the Virgen de la Barca sanctuary in Muxía and Fisterra

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  7. Hi John,
    Thanks for your informative article,
    I'm interested in doing this trail as I love coastal backpacking,
    Do you know how camping friendly this route is?
    Are there campsites, what is the Spanish attitude to wild camping?
    Regards
    Ian

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    1. Hi Ian

      The Spanish attitude to wild camping, as with most things, is relaxed. It's best to be discreet through and avoid camping in places where a tent would be intrusive.

      Not sure about campsites to be honest, can't remember seeing any.

      John

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    2. Hi Johan,
      Could you please provide information about accommodation options at the end of each stage.
      Regards
      Gennady

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    3. Hi there

      At the end of stage 1 you need to cut back across the peninsula to a hotel you pass earlier in the day. There are places at the end of stage 2 and 3. At the end of stage 4 you have to taxi back to the end of stage 3 although this situation may change. There is accommodation at the end of stage 5, 6 and 7.

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    4. Thank you John,
      regards
      Gennady

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    5. Hi John, great inspiration! I am now planning the route as I should walk it in less than two weeks. Greatest mistery to me remains where to sleep after stage 1. I did not find the place you mentioned, any details and recommendations you coud share? Thx s lot!

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  8. Hi there

    At the end of Stage 1 - at the Priaia de Niñons- you have to go back to As Garvas - passed earlier in the walk. There are 2 hotels there next to each other, the second one is the Michelin star restaurant. To get back you can either get a taxi or walk. Walking takes about 90 mins if you take the most direct route across country. Once you've decided which of the 2 hotels you're going to stay in you should drop your stuff off to lighten your load as you pass it for the 2nd part of the route. You will then need to get a taxi back to the beach in the morning. Stage 2 is a big day so I wouldn't try walking to the beach. The web link to the Michelin star hotel is here http://www.asgarzas.com/

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  9. John, most helpful. I will be walking with a foot injury so not intending to walk all days , probably several half days. Do you have to pre book taxis or are they easily called en route ?

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    1. You can call them en route but reception isn't perfect. There are lots of options for short-cuts, chopping off a headland etc, that's the other approach

      John

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  10. Hi John,
    Looking at doing this walk - how would you rate it against the Fisherman's trail in Portugal (which I did the in 2017)?
    Thanks

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  11. It's a lot more interesting, a much better walk. There is a lot more to see than the Fisherman's Trail, more variety and a little bit more challenging. The only downside is that the weather is not as reliable.

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  12. Camping in Spain: if there isn´t a local law (Municipalities are responsible for rules about camping) in Spain it´s allowed, as far I know , to camp for a day in in wild. But usually in coastal areas is forbidden because local laws. Even in this situation, in you camp away from the shore, you should´t have any problem with authorities (in winter mainly you can feel very relaxed). The main point is to choose the right place. Avoid areas with any type of use. Galician peasants are friendy are nice, except when they see an inexpected invasion of property! Take also two things in mind, in some parte there are free cattle, and hungry wild boar roaming. So don´t panic if you hear animal noises by night. In summer alse there is a risk of bush fires. Best times could be spring or automn. I would´t camp in summer near a beach. You can be very happy, but you also have a change of a local police visit. It´s very uncommon to have fines if you are a foreigner and you only camp for a day, but not be in a very visible position is a reasonable attitude. Do not light any king of fire. This is a different matter. Because of big fires in the past this is not very well seen by local authorities and you could have a fine for sure

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  13. Hello John. Which part of the trail would you recommend for a family who are reasonably fit but who would like to go for 7 days/nights in March or April. What aged children would it suit? What other advice would you give? What kind of accommodation would suit families? Many thanks

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    1. Hi there

      To be honest that's a difficult question, every family is different. From a safety point of view, providing your sensible with the weather, this is not a dangerous walk. It really depends on how experienced you are at taking your children on long day walks. Would I have thought that with the distances involved they would need to be teenager. I have to admit I had 4 children and I would not have attempted something like this, just couldn't keep them entertained for long enough. The accommodation in small hotels is fairly cheap so that would probably work.

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