From Elgeta you may do excursions to the most emblematic and spectacular iplaces n the Basque Country. Its strategic location places it in the heart of Euskadi, so that all targets are almost equidistant. We offer a small list of Natural Parks, biotypes and natural areas near Elgeta: all less than an hour.
Urkiola Natural Park (Bizkaia)
30,4 km, 38 min
The Urkiola Natural Park (5,955 ha) covers the highest terrain of the Aramotz Mountain Range, constituting a limestone barrier among the Bizkaia’s regions of Arratia and Duranguesado, and the Alava’s Aramaio Valley, separating at the same time the basins of the Cantabrian and Mediterranean rivers. The geographical position and the physiography of these mountains form an abrupt landscape dominated by rocky soils and highland pastures. The lower slopes and the bottom of these mountains accommodate pine tree, holm oak and pollarded beech tree groves.
The Natural Park takes its name from the pass running through it from north to south, and from the sanctuary built in honour of San Antonio Abad and San Antonio de Padua. It is a place of pilgrimage located in the heart of the natural area. Etymologically speaking, Urkiola comes from “urkia”, the Basque word for birch tree, which can be easily found in the park.
Mountaineering, climbing and prehistoric sites
The Urkiola Natural Park basically comprises a series of massifs and enormous white limestone rocks and deep gullies and valleys between each one. The Urkiola mountaintops have promoted a great love for climbing and hiking. Anboto (1,330 m) is the park’s highest summit and it is frequently visited, but just the most daring approach the cave of Mari (a Basque mythological figure) on its northern slope. More caves attracting lovers of potholing are Askondo, Baltzola, A-1, Abaro-Jentilzubi and Larrano o Urrekazulo caves.
The steep walls of Astxiki, Urrestei and Alluitz are an appropriate scenario for a rock climbing and have been the cradle of great Basque mountain climbers. Nowadays Atxarte owns one of the most important rock-climbing schools of the Basque Country with over 400 easy and difficult climbing routes.
The area accommodates prehistoric sites, such as Axlor and Bolinkoba, which have provided animal and human remains (cave bear, reindeer, horse, remains of teeth of human forebears from the Middle Paleolithic period in Axlor), as well as the tools used by our ancestors.
The parkland offers numerous routes that are recommended throughout the area, including many picnic areas. Besides, there are two lodges in the sanctuary where visitors can stay overnight, since camping in the park is not allowed.
In the vicinity of the Urkiola Pass stands the Interpretation Centre of Toki Alai, which accommodates a permanent exhibition of the natural and cultural characteristics of the park. We strongly recommend to visit this centre in order to get a better understanding of the landscape. Besides, it is accessible to disabled people.
There is a rock climbing school in the park.
The area offers varied activities, such as rock-climbing, abseiling, hiking, mountaineering, potholing, biking, guided tours…
Natural Park Gorbeia (Bizkaia)
59,9 km – 56 min
Gorbeia stands on the Midwestern stretch of the Cantabrian-Mediterranean watershed, and on one of its main massifs. It is an enormous mountainous area shared by Alava and Bizkaia that covers 20,016 hectares. Its highest point, the summit of Mount Gorbeia (1,480 m), marks the boundary between the two provinces.
Gorbeia is a traditional point of reference for the Basque mountaineering. This mountain range is one of the most visited due to the charm of summits such as Gorbeiagane, Aldamin, Oketa or Berretin, the quality and spectacular beauty of the landscapes, and the strategic location of the massif regarding the neighbouring urban areas. The park offers hikers, bikers and riders a network of marked paths and tracks, as well as long and short distance (GR and PR) footpaths designed by Mountain Federations.
Within the natural area or on its border, there are many recreational areas. Pagomakurre is the main of its kind in Bizkaia, while the recreational area known as Central del Baias is the most important in Alava. It accommodates the park’s welcome area or park house (Parketxe).
Different types of scenery
In Gorbeia, two types of geological substrata give rise to two widely different sorts of scenery. The siliceous substratum create a smooth landscape of dark tones where the vegetation coats the ground; the best example of which is the rounded summit of Gorbeia, home to an enormous cross. With a height of 18 metres, the cross that crowns the summit since 1899 has become the symbol of the Natural Park.
On the other hand, the pale reef-like limestone is characterised by crags (Aldamin, Lekanda) and rocky surfaces with never-ending cavities, cracks, chasms and depressions. This area in fact contains a complete collection of samples of Karstic phenomena, with almost 500 listed cavities on the massif. Mairulegorreta Cave, with over 12 km of galleries literally blanketed with stalactites, is one of the most renowned caves, together with the “Itxina Karst”. It is a landscape shaped by erosive action of water, which has dissolved the rock throughout centuries. Among the geomorphologic expressions we also have to mention the Goiuria Cascade, an impressive waterfall of over 100 metres high carved out of the rock by the River Oyardo.
Ask at the Gorbeia Interpretation Centre about the best routes to follow and the most interesting sites to visit:
The park offers the opportunity to practise varied activities, such as hiking, mountaineering, biking, abseiling, rock climbing, archery, potholing, multi-adventure, hiking, horse riding, and so on.
The wetland of Saldropo (Barazar Pass) has a cycle lane that is accessible to disabled people.
Overnight camping allowed only in certain areas and with permission.
Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve (Bizkaia)
55,9 km -1h 0 min
A peaceful backwater in the Bay of Biscay, the Urdabai Biosphere Reserve (23,000 ha) is located in Bizkaia’s Busturialdea region. Its cliffs, beaches and inland woods and rivers, including the marshes and river meadows, accommodate probably the most diverse scenery and environment in the Basque Autonomous Region.The Mundaka Estuary, heart of the ReserveThe Mundaka Estuary stands at the centre of this exceptional area that was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1984. The estuary consists of twelve kilometres sand banks where salt and fresh water merge, forming the most important wetland of the Basque Autonomous Region. The setting is of great international significance since many strange migratory bird species take a rest or spend the winter there, such as the grey heron, the cormorant, the tern, the spoonbill and a great number of waders, which live on animals that can be found buried or semi-buried in the mud and sand.
To be precise, we find ourselves in the valley of Oka River. Gernika is the main town in the area dotted with numerous smaller country villages that compose delightful landscapes. The estuary itself is the heart of the reserve. We recommend that you visit it at different times of the day in order to enjoy the scenery at both high and low tides. The two roads leaving from Gernika, one towards Bermeo and the other towards Laga-Elantxobe, run along opposite banks of the estuary, allowing us to admire virtually all the area. The views from either bank are lovely.
On the coast, to the east of the estuary, we encounter Cape Ogoño, an impressive limestone bulk that provides shelter for the shag and the peregrine falcon. Laga Beach stretches at its foot, which, despite being visited by numerous swimmers, still preserves valuable specimens of the extremely special psammophyte flora (typical of sandy areas and dunes). An outstanding element on the landscape such as Izaro Island stands solitarily in front of the estuary. It is home to an important nesting colony of yellow-legged gulls, in addition to the recently installed colony of common egret.
Low tide uncovers enormous stretches of beach near the mouth, including that of Laida, which are later covered as the tide comes in. Upstream and from the same road, particularly from Gautegiz-Arteaga to Kanala, there is a fairly good view of the marshlands.
Santimamiñe Caves and the Oma Forest
Within the Urdaibia Biosphere Reserve, there are two inland places we must visit: Santimamiñe Caves (no public access) and Oma Forest. The caves created in the surrounding area by the dissolution of the limestone were home to prehistoric hunters. One of these caves is Santimamiñe, located in Kortezubi, a magnificent example of cave painting that depicts the animals those prehistoric men hunted. Other caves contain material (bones, tools) left behind by their inhabitants.
The Oma Forest is located in the surroundings of the same town. This enchanted forest establishes a new relationship between nature and art. On painting hundreds of pine trees with colour and life, artist Augustín Ibarrola has created an enormous canvas that visitors can rearrange at will, just by playing with the different perspectives while walking through the trees.
Fishing is allowed just in certain areas when respecting the rules established for this activity.
The mountainous area in Urdaibai is not accessible to disabled people.
WATERFOWL GUIDE IN URDAIBAI (Basque Government)
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