Mountains tumble down into the sea to form the steep, rugged coastline of Bizkaia, softened only by interspersed beaches and river estuaries. The oceanic climate makes for a densely wooded landscape full of Oak, Beech, Pine and Eucalyptus trees. The fertile soil is ideal for raising cattle in the rural valleys and hides Bizkaia’s most influential natural ingredient, iron ore, which has shaped its industrial development and the rise of Bizkaia’s capital Bilbao. A one-time grey, polluted industrial mass Bilbao has re-invented itself into a European city of culture.
Rugged coastline, beaches & Estuaries
Capital of Bizkaia
The Guggenheim Museum
Symbolic Basque Town
Parque de los Pueblos de Europa
Best left-hand wave in Europe
Beach Resorts at
The first fishing village to the east and holding the largest deep-sea fishing fleet on the Basque coast is Ondarroa where the houses rise haphazardly above the harbour. Slightly inland is Markina-Xemein where the San Miguel de Arretxinaga hermitage houses a beautiful altar built from three enormous rocks.
Back on the coast Lekeitio used to rival San Sebastian for royal favour with two beaches facing San Nicolás Island, walkable at low tide. Moving west you find delightful little fishing villages such as Ea with its narrow streets and bridges and Elantxobe where the houses literally hang off the steep cliffs before descending steep streets into the harbour.
The Mundaka estuary provides a bird sanctuary in amongst the marshlands at the Urdaibai Biosphere, a UNESCO Reserve. At the entrance to the estuary stands Gernika-Lumo. This highly symbolic Basque town was the meeting place for the Bizkaian Juntas Generales under the Gernika Oak tree until 1876. It is also the site of a Nazi bombing raid in 1937 which virtually razed the town to the ground, an event that Picasso famously painted. Today the town enjoys a lively market every Monday and speaks out for peace through the open air sculptures in the Parque de los Pueblos de Europa.
Returning to the coast Mundaka is a surfing Mecca, reputed to have the best left-hand wave in Europe. Slightly further up Bermeo is one of Spain’s most important fishing villages. The harbour is crammed full of brightly coloured fishing boats. Visit the Museo del Pescador (fisherman’s museum) and enjoy the smells of delicious grilled fish in the old quarter. Nearby you will also find Gaztelugatxe Rock. Surrounded by the sea but connected to land by a bridge there are steps carved out of the rock leading up to a hermitage housing an image of Saint John the Baptist and splendid panoramic views.
Continuing west discover the beach resorts of Bakio, Plentzia, Gorliz and Getxo between stretches of wild rugged coastline before reaching Bilbao and its prized possession, the Guggenheim….