The world’s most famous lighthouses hold a mystique that have captivated travelers for centuries.
Designed to warn seafarers navigating coastal passages—from England’s pretty Portland Bill to Florida’s storied Key West Lighthouse—beautiful lighthouses punctuate seascapes around the world.
From the oldest operating lighthouse to one of the most remote, discover 18 of the most famous lighthouses in the world below.
Tower of Hercules, La Coruña, Spain
In northwest Spain, Tower of Hercules in La Coruña has operated as a lighthouse since the first century A.D., making it the oldest operating lighthouse in the world.
This towering Spanish landmark is 180 feet tall, perched atop a rocky 187-foot ledge, giving it even greater height to alert passing vessels.
This hard-working structure is in remarkably good condition, having been reclad in the 18th century.
Visit the square-shaped lighthouse and wander around its grassy banks. Spot the lesser-known Roman structure that faces the lighthouse’s base. Iron Age carvings, a Muslim cemetery, and the Sculpture Park of the Tower of Hercule are also located here.
After, stroll to Lapas Beach, an unspoiled cove that’s overlooked by the lighthouse, and watch the waves crash onto the white sand.
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, near Halifax, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, with its chalk-white tower and red lantern room, is among the world’s most beautiful lighthouses. An hour from Halifax, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse was built in 1915, lying on a rugged Atlantic-beaten peninsula made up of large boulders.
Stick to the designated path to explore the dramatic landscape. If you stray onto the large boulders, avoid the water’s edge and the wet rock surfaces, which tend to be slippery.
Visiting the utterly charming Peggy’s Cove is one of the best things to do in Halifax. Hiking trails weave around the jagged coast and clapboard houses dot the fishing harbor.
There are a couple of art galleries, souvenir stores, and a casual restaurant, making it a wonderful place to explore on vacation.
Portland Bill Lighthouse, Dorset, England
Portland Bill is a postcard example of a traditional red-and-white-striped lighthouse. Lying on the edge of the West Dorset Heritage Coast on the Isle of Portland, it’s part of the 95-mile-long Jurassic Coast adored by fossil hunters.
While some of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses are tricky to access, travelers can easily reach Portland Bill.
Circle this magnificent coastal beacon—built in 1906 and rising 135 feet—and take in the Visitor Center. You could climb the 153 spiral steps inside and take in the sweeping views from the lantern room.
Outside of the lighthouse, marvel at Pulpit Rock, a wind-beaten coastal formation next to Portland Bill. Stop at the quaint Lobster Pot for a hearty portion of beer-battered cod and chips (fries) or an indulgent cream tea and scones.
Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, Ushuaia, Argentina
Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse in Ushuaia is spectacular. Against a backdrop of snow-draped mountains, Eclaireurs lies on the Argentinian border with Chile in the Beagle Channel.
Often referred to as the lighthouse at the end of the world—though technically this is not true—Eclaireurs Lighthouse is painted red and white and stands 36 feet tall on a rocky outcrop.
See this beautiful lighthouse on a boat tour of the channel when you visit Patagonia, spotting sea lions and colonies of cormorants as you sail the protected passage.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse, near San Francisco, California
The cliff-backed Pigeon Point is a hauntingly beautiful lighthouse that’s a world away from San Francisco’s buzzing neighborhoods to the north. Erected in 1872, Pigeon Point Lighthouse lies off the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, or State Route 1.
What makes this one of the most famous lighthouses in the world? At 115 feet, it’s the joint highest lighthouse (along with Point Arena Light) on the West Coast of the United States.
The lighthouse and headland are named after the Carrier Pigeon, a ship that was wrecked here in 1853, prompting the lighthouse’s construction.
If you’re visiting from San Francisco, gather a picnic from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market before heading south for some of the most iconic coastal views in the world.
Follow the steps down from the lighthouse to the secluded Whaler’s Cove Beach. This beautiful shoreline offers fantastic views of Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Gaze at the ocean to look for migrating humpback whales. Seals are often spotted around the shoreline, too.
Lindesnes Lighthouse, near Kristiansand, Norway
A 90-minute drive west of Kristiansand through verdant green mountains lies Lindesnes Lighthouse, on the southernmost tip of Norway.
The quaint, red-topped Lindesnes Lighthouse is the oldest in Norway, built in 1656, and is now a museum with a gallery within its cast-iron walls.
Tour this brilliant landmark to explore the region’s vast maritime heritage, with exhibitions depicting the history of these shining landmarks.
Lindesnes Lighthouse is arguably the most well-equipped in the world for visitors. There’s a cinema, café, and a museum gift store. There are also the remains of a German World War II fort that was once home to 400 men adjacent to the lighthouse.
Santa Marta Lighthouse, near Lisbon, Portugal
If you’re exploring the outstanding beaches near Lisbon, Portugal, be sure to check out Santa Marta Lighthouse in pretty Cascais. Santa Marta Lighthouse is located on the pastel-hued Portuguese Riviera, less than an hour from the city center.
Cascais is sublime, with an elegant palm tree-lined promenade, soft beaches, and stunning architecture. The lighthouse is a handsome addition to the town’s coastline, with a blue and white striped design covered in the signature tiles that Portugal is famous for.
Enjoy a seat under the shade of a tall palm at the cafe next to the lighthouse. You could also tour Santa Maria House Museum, set in a 1901-built grand villa next to the lighthouse. A short walk also leads to Cascais’ marina and a 16th-century fortress.
Portland Head Lighthouse, Portland, Maine
One of the best places to visit in New England, Portland Head Lighthouse is a star attraction on the edge of Cape Elizabeth’s leafy, 90-acre Fort William Park.
Portland Head Lighthouse is a circular, chalk-white building that has guided mariners since 1791.
Once you’ve experienced a rewarding New England hike, discover Portland Head Lighthouse’s fascinating museum within the former Keepers’ Quarter. Lenses, navigational aids, models, and photographs are on display.
Before you leave Fort William Park, stop by Cousins Maine Lobster for sweet chunks of Maine lobster—all wild-caught and sustainably-harvested—packed into a soft roll.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is a short distance from Horseshoe Bay Cove on Bermuda’s south shore, standing on a grassy hill a short distance inland.
The 1846-built cast-iron structure rises 117 feet high and is the oldest of its kind in the world. Climbing its 185 twisting steps is one of the most unique things to do in Bermuda for show-stopping views stretching from the island’s capital, Hamilton, to the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Savor lunch at the lighthouse’s restaurant—pizzas, salads, seafood, and pasta are available—before segueing to the glorious Horseshoe Bay. One of the best beaches in Bermuda, you’ll find some of the world’s softest sand and clear turquoise water here.
The Lighthouse of Genoa, Genoa
Famous lighthouses in Italy include Genoa’s soaring tower, also known as Lanterna. Piercing the sky at 249 feet tall, it’s among the tallest in the world and officially the tallest lighthouse in the Mediterranean.
In its current form, the lighthouse dates back to the 16th century, though a beacon stood on this spot centuries before.
Visitors to Genoa can access a panoramic terrace, though it’s not for the faint-hearted with 172 steps to climb. Look out for the peregrine falcons that nest at the lighthouse.
Key West Lighthouse, Florida
This beautiful lighthouse in Key West and its adjoining Keeper’s Cottage have stood among the island’s luscious palm trees and quaint single-story houses since 1848. It was built on the site of an earlier lighthouse that was swept away by a hurricane in 1846.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 but you can climb the 88 steps to explore its museum, which shines a lens on the island’s local mariners and former lighthouse keepers.
And since Key West is known for its intriguing history, don’t miss the Hemingway Home and Museum. The beloved former home of 20th-century novelist Ernest Hemingway is next to Key West Lighthouse.
California Lighthouse, Aruba
Near the rolling Arashi Dunes in Hudishibana, northern Aruba, California Lighthouse is set among one of the most dramatic landscapes in the Caribbean.
Named after the shipwrecked S.S. California, which sank off northeast Aruba in 1891, Aruba’s lofty lighthouse is a snow-white structure with brilliant ocean views.
Rise above the island as you climb to the lighthouse’s summit to look down on Arashi Beach, one of the best beaches in Aruba. If you’ve time to spare, stock up on refreshments and walk to the shore. The walk takes 15 minutes, passing prickly pears and tall cacti.
Lighthouse of Chania, Crete
In Chania, the capital of Crete, the enchanting lighthouse has provided essential guidance to seafarers since the 16th century.
Bathed in warm sunlight, the Lighthouse of Chania was built by the Venetians and later, in the 19th century, reconstructed by the Egyptians.
The lighthouse is a much-cherished symbol of the city and you’re likely to spot its image on several postcards.
Walk to the elegant lighthouse and ascend its stone steps to take in the sweeping harbor views of one of the most beautiful places in Greece. The Maritime Museum of Crete lies close by and further explores the city’s illustrious past.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, Honolulu, Hawaii
If you can tear yourself away from Oahu’s famous waves, a hike to Makapu’u Point Lighthouse in Honolulu is a gratifying experience.
Lying on the easternmost point of the volcanic Oahu, Makapu’u Lighthouse was built in 1909, resting on a 600-foot cliff above Makapuʻu Beach, an idyllic spot that’s popular with bodysurfers.
Makapuʻu Beach is one of the best in Hawaii and features soft-as-a-pillow sand surrounded by serrated green peaks.
Follow the nature-filled Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, roughly two miles from shore to lighthouse. Admire the white lighthouse from the end of the trail, noticing how it beautifully contrasts with the sapphire-blue ocean backdrop.
Faro Cabo de Palos, Cartagena, Spain
Thirty minutes from Cartagena in La Manga del Mar Menor, Faro Cabo de Palos has lit up this craggy headland since 1865, with its beam stretching up to 24 miles out to sea.
Standing in the middle of a two-story square base, the lighthouse skyrockets 177 feet into the air. Book a 30-minute guided tour to climb the winding steps inside. You can also wander around the esplanade circling the lighthouse.
Nearby, visitors can seek out quiet coves, such as Calafría Beach, and snorkel in the lucid sun-warmed water.
Gaze toward the tiny Hormiga Islands, two and a half miles offshore. If you squint or happen to be carrying binoculars, you might spot the main island’s circular-white lighthouse, built in 1870.
Cape Palliser Lighthouse, near Wellington, New Zealand
Around 20 ships were wrecked near New Zealand’s Cape Palliser during the 19th century, creating a desperate need for a lighthouse. And so the cape’s red-and-white tower debuted in 1897, clinging to the rocky cliffs.
Drive to Cape Palliser from Wellington via the North Island’s extraordinary coastal route.
Stop off at the remote village of Ngawi, sandwiched between the ocean and sawtoothed peaks, as you near the lighthouse. Once you’re there, you’ll find 250 steps to climb and sweeping views.
Another reason to visit Cape Palliser Lighthouse is to see the largest fur seal colony on the North Island. The colony’s breeding season is during summertime, which is a great time to visit New Zealand, but it’s important to keep a respectful distance.
Arnel Lighthouse, near Ponta Delgada, the Azores
One of the most beautiful lighthouses in the Atlantic is the remote Farol da Ponta do Arnel, perched on the easternmost point of São Miguel Island in the Azores.
Launched in 1876, Arnel is a small lighthouse near Ponta Delgada defined by its octagonal tower and red-domed roof. It stands at 49 feet, though its base sits at an altitude of 217 feet.
From the lighthouse, walk the snaking path down to the small fishing port (more a row of timber boats than an actual port). Look for the horsetail waterfall and admire the colorful timber houses clinging to the cliffside.
Hornby Lighthouse, Sydney, Australia
With vertical red and white stripes, Hornby Lighthouse in Sydney resembles a twisting amusement park ride, just missing a spiral slide on its exterior.
Why is Hornby Lighthouse among the most famous lighthouses in the world? It has guided sea traffic in and out of the iconic Sydney Harbor since 1858.
This lighthouse is perfectly placed to admire while on a coastal hike. Sydney Heads Heritage Trail loops around this scenic spot, passing the honey-hued Lady Bay Beach.
Look through the green bush as you skirt the coastline and you should experience a clear view of Sydney and its beautiful skyline to the southwest of the headland.
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