As the great Dan Deacon once said, “Lighthouses rule. If you don’t like the lighthouse, you suck”. This statement is all the more true when you are blessed enough to have visited the Tower of Hercules, otherwise known by its Spanish name, Torre de Hércules. Perched on a rocky peninsula on the coast of Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain, the Tower of Hercules has been safeguarding ships since the late 1st century AD. Among the more magnificent structures erected by the Roman Empire, local legend has it that Hercules cut off the head of Medusa’s grandson Geryon, buried it where he stood, and built the lighthouse as a monument to his victory. In reality, researchers have conjectured that the tower was actually designed by the architect Gaius Sevius Lupus and commissioned by Emperor Trajan in his efforts to “Romanize” the area then known as Brigantium due to its prime port location.
Despite its advanced age, the Tower of Hercules is not only fully functional and operational, but it has been meticulously preserved over the millennia allowing those who see it today to experience the same wonderment and awe that struck the first mariners who saw it nearly 2,000 years ago. The oldest lighthouse in the world, this stone and masonry beacon measures close to 225 feet in height (though nearly 70 feet of this was due to a reconstruction effort in the 1700s to fortify and restore the antique marvel). Though the original core is no longer visible from the exterior the central core is completely protected allowing visitors who walk the 242 steps to the top a view not only of the work of the long dead stone masons who built it but also amazing vistas of the coastline of A Coruña city.
Today hundreds of thousands make pilgrimages to the Tower of Hercules. Some to experience the spectacle of this supremely cool building; others to check out the awesome Iron Age Monte dos Bicos rock carvings, the sculpture park, and tours of the ancient cemetery. Open throughout the year, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is quite reasonably priced at under $5.00 a person. Guided tours are highly recommended because there is so much to learn and know about this majestic lighthouse. The Tower of Hercules will have the strength to win even the strongest willed anti-lighthouse traveler.
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