Finisterre, or Fisterra in Galician, is a captivating town located in the province of A Coruña, in the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain. Nestled on the rocky Costa da Morte (Coast of Death), Finisterre is a place of wild beauty, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes against rugged cliffs and sandy beaches.
The town’s name, derived from the Latin ‘Finis Terrae’, translates to ‘End of the Earth’. This name was given by the Romans, who, upon reaching this point, believed they had arrived at the edge of the known world. Today, Finisterre is known as the final destination for many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, who continue their journey from Santiago de Compostela to reach the westernmost point of mainland Spain.
My Visit to Finisterre
Twice I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Finisterre and walking out to Cape Finisterre to watch the sunset into the sea. Each time was at the end of the Camino de Santiago after walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. I have only walked part of the Camino Finisterre route from Santiago.
In Finisterre, I met up with other pilgrims that I had first met along the way. There was a calmness about the town and the pilgrims. After so much time away from home, after their big adventure away from their lives, people appeared to be contemplating the return to it “all” – me also. What was next, go home and everything would be the same as it was before. Nothing is ever the same as it was before, I knew this, but I also felt that there had been some bigger shift in me, and I had no idea how this would fit into my daily life.
I am not a religious person, though, I do not ignore things only because they are said or written by religious people. (Religious people can also be spiritual!) I read a small booklet that I had picked up in an Albergue written by an American priest. One of the questions he aimed to answer was, “How do I take the Camino now into my life?”
Myths & Historical Significance of Finisterre
It is said that there are three things to do when you get the Finisterre.
- Bath in the sea – it’s not that cold. I swam naked.
- Burn something at the lighthouse. There are steel bowls set up for this.
- Watch the sunset from the rocks beside the lighthouse. This is an incredible experience. I am not a person that is easily moved or thinks much about spiritual experiences – however, this moved me.
The Romans believed the town to be the ‘Finis Terrae’, the end of the known world, which is how the town got its name. This belief was reinforced by the sight of the sun setting into the seemingly endless ocean, a spectacle that continues to captivate visitors today.
The town also played a crucial role during the Age of Exploration. Its lighthouse, built in the 19th century on the remnants of an ancient Roman beacon, guided countless ships navigating the treacherous waters of the Costa da Morte, or ‘Coast of Death’, named for the many shipwrecks along its rocky shores.
What to Do in Finisterre
Here are some things to see and do in Finisterre:
- Watch the Sunset at Cape Finisterre: Cape Finisterre is the westernmost point of mainland Spain and is renowned for its stunning sunsets. You can watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean from the lighthouse or the nearby beach.
- Walk the Camino de Santiago: The Camino de Santiago is a famous pilgrimage route that ends in Finisterre. Even if you don’t complete the entire journey, you can walk a part of the route and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Visit the Finisterre Lighthouse: The Finisterre Lighthouse is located on the Cape Finisterre and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. It’s one of the most important lighthouses in Spain.
- Explore the Port of Finisterre: The Port of Finisterre is a picturesque fishing port with colorful boats and charming restaurants serving fresh seafood.
- Visit the Virxe da Barca Sanctuary: The Virxe da Barca Sanctuary is a beautiful church located in the heart of Finisterre. It’s believed to be one of the most sacred places on the Camino de Santiago.
- Relax on the Beaches: Finisterre has several beautiful beaches, including Langosteira, Mar de Fora, and Corbeiro Beach. These beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the stunning coastal scenery.
- Try the Local Cuisine: Galician cuisine is famous for its fresh seafood and delicious wines. In Finisterre, you can try the local dishes such as octopus, mussels, and scallops, as well as the famous Galician Albariño wine.
How to get to Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela
Getting to Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela is relatively straightforward, and there are several options available:
- By Bus: The most common way to travel from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre is by bus. The company Monbus operates several services daily from Santiago’s bus station to Finisterre. The journey takes approximately 3 hours. It’s advisable to check the current timetable and prices on the Monbus website.
- By Car: If you prefer to drive, the journey to Finisterre from Santiago de Compostela takes about 1.5 to 2 hours via the AC-543 road. This route offers beautiful views of the Galician countryside. Remember to check local regulations if you’re planning to rent a car.
- By Taxi or Private Transfer: You can hire a taxi or a private transfer for a more comfortable and faster journey. This is a more expensive option, but it can be convenient, especially if you’re traveling in a group or have a lot of luggage.
- On Foot: For those who want to extend their Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, walking to Finisterre from Santiago is possible. This route, known as the Camino Finisterre, is approximately 90 kilometers long and usually takes 3-4 days to complete. It’s a beautiful but challenging walk, so ensure you’re adequately prepared.
For the first three options above check with the tourist office in Santiago de Compostela as the cost and times change depending on the time of year.
The Local Cuisine in Finisterre
Finisterre, like much of Galicia, is renowned for its exceptional seafood, owing to its location on the Atlantic coast. Here are some of the local delicacies you should try and where to enjoy them:
- Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician-style Octopus): This is a traditional Galician dish where the octopus is boiled and served with olive oil, paprika, and potatoes. You can enjoy this at many local restaurants, but the restaurant “O Centolo” is a popular choice.
- Empanada Gallega (Galician Pie): These pies are filled with various ingredients, often tuna, cod, or pork, combined with peppers and onions. Try them at the bakery ‘Panadería Catro Camiños’ for a delicious homemade version.
- Percebes (Goose Barnacles) is a local delicacy and a must-try for seafood lovers. They’re often served boiled with sea salt. “O Pirata” is a well-known restaurant for percebes.
- Almejas a la Marinera (Clams Sailor Style): Clams cooked in a sauce of onion, garlic, parsley, and white wine. ‘A Casa do Peixe’ restaurant is famous for this dish.
- Caldo Gallego (Galician Broth): A hearty soup made with beans, potatoes, and usually chorizo or pork. It’s a staple in most local restaurants.
- Tarta de Santiago (St. James’ cake): A traditional almond cake topped with powdered sugar and the cross of Saint James. ‘Panadería Catro Camiños’ is a great place to try this dessert.
Remember, the local wine, Albariño, is a perfect accompaniment to these dishes. For a truly local experience, try to visit during one of the gastronomic festivals that take place throughout the year, where you can sample a variety of dishes and local products. Always check the opening hours and availability of restaurants, as these can vary, especially outside the summer season.
Cape Finisterre, or Cabo Fisterra in Galician, is a rugged, rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, marking the most westerly point of mainland Spain. It’s a place of stunning natural beauty and immense historical and cultural significance. It is about 4 km from the town.
Dominating the landscape of Cape Finisterre is its iconic lighthouse, standing at a height of 138 meters above sea level. The lighthouse was built in 1853 and serves as a beacon for ships navigating the perilous waters of the Costa da Morte, or ‘Coast of Death’. It’s one of the most important lighthouses in the region and a symbol of Finisterre’s maritime heritage.
Visitors to the lighthouse are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. To the east, you can see the picturesque town of Finisterre and its surrounding countryside. To the west, the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretches out as far as the eye can see, a sight that has captivated travelers for centuries. On clear days, you can witness spectacular sunsets as the sun appears to sink into the ocean.
Near the lighthouse, you’ll find a bronze boot sculpture, a symbol of the pilgrims who journey here as the final stage of the Camino de Santiago. Many pilgrims burn their clothes or boots here, a ritual symbolizing the end of their journey and their spiritual rebirth.
Whether you’re drawn by the historical significance, the spiritual connection, or simply the stunning views, a visit to Cape Finisterre and its lighthouse is a highlight of any trip to this part of Spain.
What is the Best time to visit Finisterre
Summer (June to August): This is the peak tourist season in Finisterre, with the warmest weather and longest days. The average temperature ranges from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). It’s an excellent time for beach activities and exploring the town. However, it’s also the busiest time, so expect larger crowds, especially in August.
Spring (April to June) and Autumn (September to October): These seasons offer milder weather and fewer crowds, making them a great time to visit if you prefer a quieter experience. The temperatures during these months typically range from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F). These are also beautiful times of the year to walk the Camino de Santiago to Finisterre, as the countryside is either in bloom in spring or changing colors in autumn.
Winter (November to March): Winters in Finisterre are mild compared to much of Europe, with temperatures usually between 10°C and 15°C (50°F to 59°F). However, it’s also the rainiest season, which could limit outdoor activities. On the plus side, you’ll have the town mostly to yourself, and accommodation can be cheaper. Many pilgrims still walk the Camino de Santiago in winter, but it takes proper preparation.
Remember, the weather can be unpredictable in Galicia, so it’s a good idea to pack layers and waterproof clothing no matter when you visit. Always check the local weather forecast and any local events or festivals that might influence when you want to go.
Accommodation Options in Finisterre: Budget to Luxury
Finisterre offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are some options:
- Budget Accommodations:
- Albergue do Sol e da Lua: This is a popular hostel for pilgrims and budget travelers. It offers dormitory-style rooms and a communal kitchen.
- Hotel Rustico Prado da Viña: A budget-friendly hotel offering comfortable rooms and a tranquil setting.
- Mid-range Accommodations:
- Hotel Ancora: A well-rated hotel located close to the beach. It offers comfortable rooms, some with sea views.
- Hotel Rústico Spa Finisterrae: This hotel offers a blend of comfort and rustic charm, with the added benefit of a spa for relaxation.
- Luxury Accommodations:
- Hotel O Semaforo: Located within the lighthouse complex, this hotel offers luxurious rooms with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a unique place to stay, full of history and charm.
- Hotel As Hortensias: This beachfront hotel offers upscale rooms, a restaurant, and easy access to the beach.
- Alternative Accommodations:
- Vacation Rentals: Numerous vacation rentals, including apartments and houses, are available in and around Finisterre. These can be found on platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com and offer the comfort of home.
- Camping: For those who prefer to be close to nature, Camping Finisterre offers pitches for tents, caravans, and bungalows for rent.
Remember to book in advance, especially during the peak summer season, to secure the best accommodation for your needs. Always check the latest reviews and the location to ensure it suits your itinerary.
Overall, Finisterre is a beautiful and historic town with plenty to see and do. It’s a perfect destination for nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and foodies alike.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.