Lighthouses of Spain: Melilla

A Spanish city on the north coast of Africa, Melilla is in the northeastern corner of Morocco, near the Algerian border. Melilla has been Spanish since 1497; along with the city of Ceuta, it is one of the first -- and now also one of the last -- European possessions on the African mainland.

Melilla has the status of an autonomous city within the Kingdom of Spain. In addition to the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, Spain administers as federal territories several small islands of the Mediterranean near the coast of Morocco, known collectively as the plazas menores de soberanía (lesser places of sovereignty). All these territories are claimed by Morocco.

The word for a lighthouse is faro in Spanish, but its use is generally restricted to the larger coastal light stations. Smaller lighthouses are called balizas (beacons). The navigational lights in Spain are regulated at the national level by the Comisíon de Faros, but they are operated and maintained in Melilla by the port authority, the Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. ES numbers are from the Spanish national list of lights, Libro de Faros. Admiralty numbers are from volume E of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.

General Sources
Libro de Faros y Señales de Niebla
Online edition of the official Spanish light list.
Faros Españoles en el Norte de África
Posted by the Melilla port authority, this article by Guillermo Jiménez Abellán discusses half a dozen Spanish lighthouses of North Africa, including several now in Morocco.
Lighthouses in Melilla
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Afrikanische Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Faro de Bonete
Bonete Light, Melilla, August 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Jose Cárceles

Peñón de Veléz de la Gomera Lighthouse
Peñón de Veléz de la Gomera
1899. Active; focal plane 47 m (154 ft); three white flashes every 20 s. 6 m (20 ft) gray mast mounted on a short, square tower at one end of a 1-story stone keeper's house. Pedro Garcia has a photo, another photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view. Peñón de Veléz de la Gomera is a small island (connected to the coast by a sandbar since 1934) about 40 km (25 mi) west of Al Hoceima. Spain has occupied the island since 1564. A small Spanish military garrison is based on the island; there is an aerial photo of the fortress. Located on the north side of the island. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (restricted military area). Operator: Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla. ARLHS CEU-010; ES-72660; Admiralty E6788; NGA 22816.

Melilla City Lighthouses
* Bonete (Melilla) (2)
1918 (station established 1888). Active; focal plane 40 m (131 ft); white light oculting twice every 6 s. 12 m (39 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the front of a rectangular 2-story stone keeper's house. The lighthouse is unpainted reddish stone; the lantern is silvery metallic. A photo by Jose Cárceles is at the top of the page, a fine closeup and a second closeup are available, Wikimedia has photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse is part of the historic bastion of Melilla; it is perched on a massive stone foundation rising above the north side of the harbor. Huelse also has a 1909 postcard view of the original lighthouse; it was established by the military by adding a lantern to an existing watch tower. Site closed, but the lighthouse can be viewed from nearby. Operator: Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla. ARLHS CEU-011; ES-72900; Admiralty E6758; NGA 22736.
Melilla Northeast Breakwater
1937. Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); green flash every 4 s. 30 m (98 ft) hexagonal cylindrical stone tower with six stone buttresses, lantern and gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted gray stone; lantern is weathered green. A 1-story keeper's quarters encircles the tower. The port authority's aerial photo is at right, a 2010 photo is available, Paco Mendoza has a sunset photo, Yeray Díaz Zbida has a view from the sea, and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the breakwater at the north end of the harbor of Melilla. Site and tower closed. Operator: Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla. ARLHS CEU-002; ES-72910; Admiralty E6762; NGA 22740.

Islas Chafarinas Lighthouse
Isla Isabel II (Islas Chafarinas) (2)
1899 (station established 1884). Active; focal plane 52 m (171 ft); white flash every 7 s. 18 m (59 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, rising from one side of a 1-story keeper's house. Lighthouse painted white; lantern, gallery, and watch room painted green; house painted green with white trim. An aerial photo is at right, C.W. Bash has a 2007 photo by Angel Ruiz Migens, Paco Lopez has a panoramic photo, a 2008 view from the sea is available, and Bing has a satellite view. The Islas Chafarinas are three islands located about 3 km (2 mi) off Ra's el Ma (Cap de l'Eau) at the eastern end of the Moroccan coast. There are no permanent settlements, but since 1847 there has been a Spanish military garrison on Isla Isabel II, the second largest of the islands. In fact, the original light was established by the army on one of its watchtowers; officers were impatient with the bureaucrats, who could not decide what kind of lighthouse to build. Located on the northwestern point of the island, about 48 km (30 mi) east of Melilla. Accessible only by boat; there is a distant view from the beach at Ra's el Ma. Site and tower closed (restricted military area). Operator: Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla. ARLHS CEU-001; ES-73100; Admiralty E6754; NGA 22724.

Melilla Northeast Breakwater Light
Northeast Breakwater Light, Melilla

Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla photo

Faro de la Isla Isabel II
Isla Isabel II Light
Autoridad Portuaria de Melilla photo

Information available on lost lighthouses:

  • Peñón de Alhucemas (1852-?). A historic photo is available (the lighthouse is the tower on the left). Established without authorization by the military garrison, the light was announced in 1853. It was later made official, and was still in service in the 1920s. Peñón de Alhucemas is a fortified islet a short distance off the coast about 8 km (5 mi) southeast of the port of Al Hoceima (Alhucemas). Spain has occupied the island continuously since 1673.

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Eastern Andalusia | South: Morocco Mediterranean Coast

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted August 10, 2005. Checked and revised October 26, 2013. Lighthouses: 4. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.