Gernika, Urdaibai and Busturialdea
Urdaibai biosphere reserve combined with Basque and Spanish History
The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is the area that covers the estuary of River Oka, to the east of Bilbao. The fauna and flora of the area is very rich and unique, that is the reason why UNESCO awarded the area “Biosphere Reserve” status.
There are interesting towns and spots that are worth a visit, due to their culture and natural beauty: Mundaka, the surfing paradise; internationally famous Gernika; San Juan de Gaztelugatxe; Oma forest and the Santimamiñe caves in Kortezub3; Laga and Laida Beaches; the village of Elantxobe.
Gernika is a must-see location because of its history and significance for the Basque people. The visitor should not expect to see a medieval town, as almost all the city was destroyed during the civil war, but he or she will understand a lot of the Basque culture.
All the “Señores”(lords) of the different areas of Biscay and the Lord of Biscay used to meet in Gernika, under the Oak of Gernika, which is a symbol of the Basque Country. The “fueros” (regional laws”) and other issues were treated here. Right now, the “Lehendakari” (Basque prime minister) swears hisor her post here when he or she is elected.
The “General” and “Bombed Area” guided tours, organized by the Tourism Office are very interesting. The Assembly House & The Tree of Gernika, The Peace Museum and the Basque Country Museum are the most relevant places to visit here.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. One of the most famous views of the Basque Country. It is a small chapel on an islet, connected to the mainland by a narrow path of around 130-140 steps. The view is magical, especially at sunset, with the castle on top of the islet and the waves breaking against the rocks.
Train Feve to Bermeo station and from there, bus 3524 Bermeo-Bakio. Bus stop: Gaztelu-begi.
Mundaka is especially worth visiting for people who love surfing. Its waves are considered among the best in the world. To get to Mundaka, take Bus A315 from Bilbao Abando (train station) every 30 minutes. Train leaves from Atxuri train Station or Bolueta train Station (Bolueta is also a metro station).
“El Bosque Animado de Oma” (Oma Animated Forest) and the Santimamiñe Caves are both in Kortezubi. The Oma Forest is a sample of land art by the the Bilbao artist Agustín Ibarrola. Pine trees are painted with colours and the visitor finds their own personalised work, depending on the direction of the walk. In Santimamiñe one can find beautiful caves with paintings from the paleolithic age. They are the oldest prehistoric remains in Biscay, and considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
To arrive at Kortezubi, take Bus 3513 Bilbao – Lekeitio from Bilbao Termibus (Bus Station) every 2 hours.
Torre de Madariaga – Basque Country Biodiversity Centre. This restored tower contains an exhibition that aims to explain the essence and functions of Biodiversity to the visitor. It also offers wonderful views of the estuary and the sea. In addition, there are guided tours around the marsh.