Hiking in Urdaibai
A walk through marshland, along the estuary, amidst the mountains…
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Urdaibai is to walk along the trails on offer in this Biosphere Reserve, the only one of its kind in the Basque Country.
Most of the trails are circular and easy to follow, and information panels have been set up at the starting points. Hikers can download leaflets with details of the different tracks.
Nip into any of the nearby tourist offices to pick up a copy of the Urdaibai hiking brochure or download the maps of the tracks here.
Routes on foot from Gernika
The PR-BI-181 circular path
Starting out from the town centre, we will climb up the old road towards Kosnoaga, whose peak was once graced by an Iron Age hillfort.
The path leads us towards the Armotxerri neighbourhood, where the hermitage of San Cristobal and the Urdaibai Tower stand, before continuing on to Forua.
After it runs through the Roman settlement of Forua, the path leads down to the footbridges over the upper estuary and the reed beds that grow on the banks of the river Oka.
Using the bridge to cross the river, we then head towards the Barrutia neighbourhood.
Winding its way through pastureland and farmhouses, the route crosses through Barrutiabaso until it reaches the Barrutia neighbourhood, which is where we head back to Gernika, following the right bank of the Oka.
Km: 12,5 ( loop)
Duration: 3 1/2 hours
A route that follows the estuary to the Bird Centre
At the Rentería bridge in Gernika, which is where our journey begins, you will see a wooden panel pointing the way to Kortezubi (3.7 km). This path, which runs parallel to the river Oka, will take you to the church of Kortezubi, but if you prefer, you can walk a little further to the Urdaibai Bird Centre. On your way back, cross over the wooden footbridge that joins the two banks of the river Oka and return to Gernika along the riverbank walkway.
Km: 10 (go and return)
Duration:2 1/2 hours
GR 38 Wine and Fish route: Gernika-Bermeo stage
Starting in Gernika, this route follows the old royal road that leads to the San Cristobal de Forua neighbourhood, where the hermitage of the same name and the Urdaibai tower stand. We walk down towards the quarry where we take the path that climbs upwards, running parallel to the river Upeta and skirting the Axbiribil mountain on the left. When the path brings us to the Karabizurieta neighbourhood road, we cross it to take the old road that connected Forua to Altamira in days gone by. On our way down, we will enjoy spectacular views of the estuary, somewhat different perhaps from what we have become used to. Busturia in particular stands out, with its neighbourhoods, marshes and the Axpe crag.
The route continues its descent to Altamira, where, after crossing the neighbourhood, it continues along the banks of the river Mape before beginning the ascent towards the Goierri area of Busturia. On the way, we can visit the Sorbituaga menhir, a magnificent relic from the megalithic era. From Urkiobe the GR 38 climbs up along the megalithic route to Mount Katillotxu before it descends to Bermeo, passing through the rural neighbourhood of Demiku.
Km: 19,2 (one way)
Duration:5 1/2 hours
El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James): Gernika- Bilbao stage
This route starts out from the Town Hall Square and passes the Church of Andra Maria. Here we head towards the Assembly House and the Tree of Guernica, the symbol of Basque freedoms. We leave the town centre behind, passing by the hermitage of Santa Lucía and climbing up Mount Bilikario. We then wend our way between a number of farmhouses until, after passing under a road (there’s a proper underpass) and crossing another, we reach the top of Gerekiz.
Embedded in the walls of the hermitage of San Esteban are several quite remarkable Roman funerary stelae which are well worth a look. On our way down towards Goikoelexalde, we follow the signs along country roads and forest tracks punctuated by a number of farmhouses.
Km: 29.8 (one way)
Gradient: 897 m
Duration: 8 hours
After a well-deserved refreshment break beside the church of San Emeterio and San Celedonio, we follow the pavement towards the medieval village of Larrabetzu.
Here, we turn right at the town square, leaving the town centre. We continue on our way, initially along the pavement and then, taking all due care, along the narrow shoulder of the road to Lezama where we cut through the town centre before continuing straight ahead. On our left we’ll see the church of Santa María and then, before we reach Zamudio, we’ll pass by the Santo Cristo hermitage.
Leaving the town centre behind, we turn left in front of the church of San Martín and after crossing a small industrial area and passing over the motorway, we continue uphill until we reach a road that we cross with caution. Afterwards, if we look carefully, we’ll see a few traces of an old road that can still be seen under our boots.
At the top, there’s a panoramic view of Bilbao that is well worth enjoying. Moving on, we cross the Iturritxualde recreational area and then, at the car park, we turn left to continue our descent towards the Basilica of the Virgin of Begoña, the patron saint of Bilbao and Vizcaya. The streets of the Mallona neighbourhood will lead us to the Cathedral of Santiago in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Quarter.