Finisterre, Fisterra, Land’s End – whatever you want to call it, this is the place some pilgrims consider the end of their Camino, not Santiago. I’d hoped to make it my end but it didn’t work out. So while I couldn’t walk there due to a lack of time, I did do a day trip out to the coast by bus. It made for a pleasant end to my Camino Frances adventure.
Finisterre is on the westernmost point in continental Spain, so medieval pilgrims really did think that this place was where the world ended. And being about 98km from Santiago, what’s a few more days’ walk in comparison to how far you’d come? The village itself is a fishing port and apparently, it is a popular tourist destination. Objectively, I could see why: harbour, fort, restaurants, and beaches. However, the day I went, the weather couldn’t make up its mind, it was cold, and most things were closed! I’d have thought May 28 was late enough in the year to be a bit more happening, but I guess not.
Getting to Finisterre requires you to walk 3 days, rent a car, or take the bus. It was public transportation for me. The bus company is Monbus and I walked over to the Santiago bus terminal using a map obtained from the tourist office. Since it was relatively early in the year, I was able to just buy my bus ticket once I got to the station. If you decide to walk to the bus station, enter the bus hangar – to your left will be an escalator to take you up to the second floor which is where you buy tickets. The ride itself is a pleasant journey – a mix of pilgrims and locals, so the bus will sometimes stop in the middle of nowhere to let someone off. The fun part is when you arrive in Finisterre – people will be lined up for the journey back to Santiago so keep your eyes peeled for someone you may know. I saw a French lady I hadn’t seen in over 2 weeks! It was pretty neat.
If you took the first bus of the day like I did, when you arrive, restaurants along the water won’t be serving lunch just yet. However, the restaurant right across the street from where the bus drops you off was open. I had a pretty decent lunch – fish, of course! Once you’ve fueled yourself for the afternoon, the next thing you’ll want to do is head out to the lighthouse.
There are no signs (that I saw) pointing you to the lighthouse (faro, in Spanish). Basically, you will walk up the bus stop street (away from the harbour) until you hit a T-junction. Here, you turn left and walk up the main road. You will follow it for several km, actually, taking its twists and turns along the coast, higher and higher. At one point, you will pass the 12th-century Igrexa de Santa María das Areas (church) on the right and further up, you’ll pass a wind-blown pilgrim statue on your left. This will be your first good view of the faro. When walking along this road, PLEASE walk facing traffic, except when taking a tight curve (cross to the other side), and walk in single file if with others. I fully expected to see people mowed down on this road, the way they were walking! Main road, people, MAIN ROAD. If you are spending the night in Finisterre, there are several paths up the hills that look really intriguing which you could explore. I certainly wished I had the time – the views from up there must be amazing.
You’ll know when you’ve arrived by three things – giant carpark, giant lighthouse, and the km 0.0 marker. I was so sad not to have been able to walk to it but was so excited to see it anyway! And it was awesome to see other pilgrims trudging their way to it – I actually meant my “Buen Camino” again!
Lighthouse and restaurant were closed – again, apparently May 28 is too early in the season. However, there were several stalls selling things like postcards and other tourist items. You can also get your sello here. But the highlight here is walking down the rocks to get as close as possible to the sea and contemplating the horizon. I took a few minutes to find a rock where there was no one was between me and the sea, sat for a while, and toasted myself with some juice and cookies. Vino Tinto would have been lovely but glass and rock…not a good combo.
On the rocks, pilgrims tend to burn something they used along the Way to symbolize many things: giving thanks for a safe completion, a sacrifice, a purification ritual, because everyone else is doing it, or because they don’t ever want to see that particular piece of clothing again. Whatever the reason, I am entertained by the irony of completing a traditionally Catholic pilgrimage with a ritual that more than likely has pagan roots (as determined by my Captain Crunch PhD – but seriously, apparently there is evidence there was some sort of sun worshipping and fertility rites happening in this area eons ago).
When I got back to the village, I wandered the streets for a bit – typical fishing village in that the streets are narrow and windy. Ancient pirate protection! But conscious of time, I didn’t linger. The beach, or playa, is relatively easy to find because of the signs. I guess tourists find the beach more important than the lighthouse! My first look at the beach was disappointing – tide was out and the clouds were looming. However, the upside to the tide being out is that the shells were ridiculously abundant on the sand. And to my delight, they were mostly Camino scallop shells in all sorts of sizes! (Disclaimer: you’re not supposed to cross country borders with sand and shells can be iffy. Do with that information what you will.)
The bus back to Santiago is taken from the same spot it dropped you off in the morning. You can be back in the city for dinner or you could stay in Finisterre and witness the famous sunsets, something which I missed. Has anyone seen one? Is it worth staying overnight in Finisterre?