The Costa del Sol has the sun, the Costa de la Luz, the light, and Costa da Morte (de la Muerte in Spanish), has…death!? In a way, it’s true. The craggy cliffs and jagged rocks of this coastline have been mercilessly pounded by the icy cold Atlantic for aeons. For just as long, ship after ship has been claimed by these impetuous seas. Whitewashed crosses all along the coast honour the dead. Yet hovering in death’s mystical wake is a beauty unmatched by the other coasts: misted skies, emerald hills, churning silver and white waves, heart-stopping cliffs, pristine beaches and coves, and hundreds of hórreos – weathered stone granaries topped by crosses. You could spend weeks exploring this area, though if you have only a weekend, the following three villages offer the best of the Coast of Death.
Starting in La Coruña, head south on A-55 and then veer off to Malpica (de Bergatiños), a tiny slip of a port town. More rustic than charming, Malpica makes its living off fishing rather than tourism. At the port, colourful boats drag in nets bursting with silvery sardines which are later served up at cafés on the boardwalk running along Praia de Area Maior, the town’s bustling main beach. For more seclusion, head to nearby Seaia or Seiruga beaches, two stunning crescents of white sand tucked into green hills. Four kilometres out of town, visit the San Adrián do Mar, a tiny hermitage located high above the cape of the same name. The expansive view takes in the infinite vastness of the pounding Atlantic and looks over a clutch of three molten green islands, the Islas Sisargas.
Continuing Southwest, set your GPS for Corme Porto, a tiny fishing village consisting of a hilltop strip of pastel buildings overlooking a port that bobs with crayon-bright boats. The town sits on the northern edge of the Ría Corme e Laxe, a lovely estuary lined with cozy beaches and fishing ports. A seaside road leads northwest past a vast swath of deep green farmland known as Corme Aldea. The road ends at Cape O Roncudo. The rocks below this area are home to some of Spain’s most sought-after percebes (gooseneck barnacles). These pricey delicacies are collected by death-defying, wet-suited percebeiros who cling to the undersides of the cliffs, hacking the barnacles loose while merciless waves try to drag them out to sea. Many of the crosses along here are in memory of percebeiros who lost the struggle.
The sunset at Roncudo is famed for its melding of sky and sea, rocks and clouds into a shimmering palette of violet, orange, and silver.
On the southern bank of the Ría de Camariñas, the fishing village of Muxía sits on a thin strip of land jutting into the Atlantic. It houses a tiny medieval core of cobbled streets lined with weathered buildings with white-framed galerías (enclosed porches). Walking towards the Punta da Barca lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula, you’ll pass wooden frames strung with thick, yellowing ‘nets.’ These are actually feels being dried in a process dating to the 17th century. Mid-way to the lighthouse stands a monument commemorating the 2002 Prestige disaster, a solemn reminder that the Costa da Morte was hit hard by the oil spill leaked by the ill-fated tanker. Santuario da Virxe da Barca, an 18th century shrine honoring the Virgen of the Boat that attracts thousands of pilgrims from the Camino de Santiago each year, sits at the tip of the peninsula. Around the perimeter of the church stretching to the ocean on all sides are massive rocks. Several are pedras de abalar (oscillating stones) which rock in the wind and are considered holy. There are dozens of beaches in the area but one of the loveliest is Praia Do Lago which is backed by verdant hills book-ended by rocky outcroppings.
The bounties of the sea are on offer throughout the Costa da Morte and even the most cutre bar will have excellent, ultra-fresh seafood on offer, often grilled, steamed, or simmered in a fragrant stew. Percebes, if you can get past their resemblance to reptilian toes, are a delicacy widely available. In Malpica, Café del Mar on the beachfront offers inexpensive seafood in a casual atmosphere. Go upscale with stunning views over the ocean at As Garzas, located 8 kilometers away in Barizo.
In Corme, have the catch-o-the-day at locals’ favorite O Biscoiteiro. In Muxía, there are loads of casual seafood places along the Do Lago beach and in town around the port. For an atmospheric meal, head just out of town to Tira de Barca, a converted stone mansion complete with its own hórreo that offers a set seafood menu for 20 euros.
In Malpica, get hotel comfort with casa rural charm at the seaside Fonte do Fraile (80€/double). As Garzas (see above) also offers five cosy but elegant rooms; be sure to upgrade to a room with a terrace (54 euros/double). In Corme, there is little by way of lodging. In Muxía, the fisherman’s house turned hotel, Hostal Playa de Lago, is located right on the beach and offers simple, cheap rooms (42€/double). Hotel Rústico Muxía is a lovely stone inn located behind the harbor (70€/double) which also boasts a lively wine bar.
The quickest way to get to Costa da Morte is to fly into either La Coruña or Santiago and then rent a car. A car is the best, most convenient way to tour the area, however if you prefer public transport, the bus company Arriva serves the area.
Malpica Tourism, tel: 98 172 0001, www.concellomalpica.com
Muxia Tourism, tel: 98 174 2563, www.concellomuxia.com
Cafe del Mar, Praia 1, Malpica, tel: 981 721 119
As Garzas, Porto de Barizo 40, Malpica, tel: 98 172 1765, www.asgarzas.com
O Biscoiteiro, Remedios 14, Corme, tel: 98 173 8376 Tira da Barca, Baiuca-Moraime (San Xulián), Muxía, tel: 98 174 2323, www.tiradocordel.com
Fonte do Fraile, Playa de Canido s/n, Malpica,tel. 98 172 0732, www.fontedofraile.com
Hostal Playa de Lago, Praia de Lago, s/n, Muxía, tel: 98 175 0793, www.hostalplayadelago.com
Hotel Rustico Muxia, Virxe da Barca 3 to 7, tel. 98 174 2441, www.hotelrusticomuxia.com
Arriva, tel. 90 227 7482, www.arriva.es