We know the world is round. Science has proved this and space travel is a wonder of the modern age. Yet, even though there’s no tangible proof, people are constantly fascinated by the myths and legends of places. Whether it’s the appearance of a spooky white lady on the west coast of Ireland or the infamous vampires of Romania, people love to look beyond the ordinary. The Camino de Santiago is no exception to this, especially when considering the intriguingly named Costa da Morte (Coast of Death).
Steeped in mysticism, Costa de Morte gained a reputation as one of the most dangerous coastlines in Europe. Its treacherous waters caused numerous ships to wreck along its shores over the centuries, stealing the lives of many a sailor. With powerful waves violently crashing against the cliffs, one could be forgiven for feeling a little bit on edge here.
But there is a certain allure to this wild beauty, home to Cape Fisterra, one of the final stages of the Camino Finisterre. This remote location was once believed to be the very end of the world (back when many believed the world was flat). With uninterrupted sunset views and ocean as far as the eye can see, you can’t really blame the people of the past for their opinion.
Those who love a little bit of mystery will be glad to know the myth surrounding Finisterre (which means ‘End of the World’ in Latin). Legend says that when the sun disappeared beneath the waves, the veil between this world and the next thinned, opening the gates to the Afterlife. To counteract any potential ill will, pagan prayers and offerings would be made to appease the gods as Fisterra was also believed to be the location of Ara Solis, an altar dedicated to the sun.
Today, many pilgrims still journey to this ancient end of the world, but luckily there’s little chance of being involved in a shipwreck. Pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago to Finisterre used to burn their clothes as a sign of spiritual cleansing. However, we’d recommend taking a dip in the water instead as it’s better for the planet and you are no longer allowed to burn possessions here due to health and safety concerns.
If you continue along the Coast of Death, you will come to Muxia, home to the curious ‘Pedra de Abalar’ rock. This is just one of many large rocks in the region that some believe has been infused with special healing powers – there’s clearly something in the Galician water!
These rocking stones can apparently determine if someone is guilty or innocent of serious crimes, heal weary folk and can even create wild nightmares if the wind blows a certain way. One of the more well-known legends about this rocking stone, however, is that it was the ‘stone boat’ that carried the Virgin Mary to Galicia to visit Saint James.
Whichever power you believe this stone has (or if you land on the side of a natural formation caused by erosion), it’s still well worth a visit.
So, while Costa da Morte has an intriguing name, the allure of this coastal region extends far beyond the mystery associated with it. There’s an abundance of fresh seafood, jaw-dropping scenic views, immaculate beaches, charming fishing villages and much more.
It’s definitely worth visiting as part of your pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. Perhaps you should even extend your trip to spend more time exploring Galicia’s dramatic coastline and discovering new and exciting mysteries of the Costa da Morte.
For more information about the Camino Finisterre and to book your own trip to the end of the world, click here.