Costa da Morte: Spanish coast’s sinister name masks its calming beauty


(CNN) — Packing four bathing suits for a one-week vacation might seem like overkill. Especially when the trip involves a 50-plus-mile hike through one of Spain’s rainiest regions.

The trail snakes atop soaring, rugged cliffs that drop precipitously to the sea, and our trek would be along a portion of shoreline known as the Coast of Death (Costa da Morte), which fronts the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia, a region in the northwestern corner of Spain.

But I’m eternally optimistic about finding sun and sand, no matter how unlikely the destination might appear. The Coast of Death is aptly named, given that it’s like the eastern Atlantic’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. Since the 14th century, records have documented the sinking of more than 600 ships — some disappearing without a trace — that claimed thousands of lives.

It’s no wonder, considering the particular mix of conditions that makes sailing these waters so menacing. Cliffs pepper the coastline where the waters are laced with strong currents, with some sections very shallow and others dotted with rocks hidden not far from the surface.

The area is frequently hit with fierce storms; fog can roll in suddenly, and winds often bluster at more than 75 miles per hour. What’s more, this coast’s association with death dates to ancient times when the world was thought to be flat. Locals believed that Finisterre (which literally means End of the Earth) was nothing but darkness and doom beyond the westernmost cape.

For those who sail these treacherous waters today, a multitude of lighthouses strung along the cliffs offers some modicum of security, guiding them to a safe port. Appropriately, the hiking trail navigating the 125 miles from Malpica to Finisterre is named the Camiño dos Faros (Way of the Lighthouse).

This is the route that a friend and I take on our self-guided trek in September pre-pandemic, with fingers crossed for plenty of suns and swimmable seas. (Luckily, the tour operator — On Foot Holidays — arranges transport of our luggage with all those bathing suits to our small pension or hotel each day.)


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