angle-left The green, rugged heart of Bizkaia

The Gorbeia massif has a deep meaning for Vizcaínos. It is part of the Basque Mountains and is closely linked to Bizkaia’s history, as it is one of the five montes bocineros (horn mountains), from which the General Meetings of Bizkaia were summoned using bonfires and horns.

In Gorbeia, you will find many different landscapes: rugged mountains, rolling greeneries dotted with magical oak and holm oak forests, and a karst scenery that accommodates nearly 500 caves and caverns. The landscape is crossed by crystal-clear rivers and springs whose sounds speak of legends and mythological characters. The sources of the rivers Bayas and Zubialde are to be found amidst the woods. Shepherds and their sheep have used this pastureland for centuries. The Latxa sheep, whose milk is used to make Idiazabal cheese, graze on the Gorbeia land, covered with young tender grass.

The Itxina Protected Biotope and the Gujuli waterfall (100m high) are the top attractions. A maze of potholes and caves cut through the Itxina massif, in Orozko. The landscape is particularly magnificent in autumn, when the beech trees’ leaves turn red.
The main entrance to the Itxina massif is Ojo de Atxular, a fabulous geological formation at an elevation of 1100m in the karst land. Of the numerous caves, Supelegor stands out. The goddess Mari lives inside the cave. Lamias and basajaun (mythological chimeras and hominids, respectively) were said to dwell in these hollows in the earth, while sorgiñas (witches) held meetings sitting around a bonfire at the entrance of the cave.

Established as a nature park by the Basque Government in 1994, Gorbeia includes the Gorbeia Mountain and the nearby peaks (Gorbeiagane, Aldamin, Oketa and Berretin). It covers the towns of Areatza, Artea, Orozko, Zeanuri and Zeberio, in Bizkaia, and Zigoitia, Zuia and Urkabustaiz, in Álava.

As to the park’s fauna, it consists of deer, wild boars, minks, badgers, wild cats and birds of prey. On the road you will see grazing cattle and sheep as well.

Routes

The Park offers numerous routes, the best-known being the hiking route in the Gorbeia Mountain from the Pagomakurre recreational area. Vizcaínos gather at the foothill to climb up the Gorbeia on 1 January every year, a tradition that has been kept alive over time. The Gorbeia Mountain can be reached from Areatza, a 30 minutes’ drive from Bilbao, on road N-240. At the centre of town, take a detour on the asphalt track that leads to the recreational area of Pagomakurre. Park your car there. The 12km hiking trail is easy and clearly signposted. For a two-way hike, allow 4 hours.

To climb to the top of the mythical Gorbeia, take the usual route departing from Pagomakurre, in Areatza

In Pagomakurre, take the broad path that leads to Arraba. Make your way through the pass of Arrabakoate. Walk across the pastureland and past the shelter of Elorria (Basque Mountaineering Society).

Continue along the path beneath the crag of Gatzarrieta on your search for the pass of Aldape, which opens to the basin of Egiriñao, at the foot of the mountain. Soon after, you will come across the shelter of Egiriñao and the tiny chapel of Virgen de las Nieves.

The path goes through the hill of Aldamiñoste, which sits between Gorbeia (1482m) and Aldamin (1378m). Walk past the spring of Lekuotz and start climbing the thoughest -and the final- uphill stretch. At the summit, you will find the emblematic Gorbeia Cross and a bronze statue of Our Lady of Begoña.

The first cross was set up in 1899 and has been replaced more than once since then. The third one, 17m high, resembles the Eiffel Tower. Actually, you will be standing at the highest peak in Bizkaia. Take a selfie by the cross and enjoy the spectacular views of Udalaitz, Mount Anboto, the Aizkorri massif and the town of Orduña.

How to get there

Situated in Álava and Bizkaia, Gorbeia Nature Park can be accessed by way of any of the roads that link Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz. Road N-240 borders the park on the east, while road A-624 (up to Ziorraga), regional road BI-2522 (from Ziorraga to Llodio) and highway A-68 do so on the west. Road N-622 reaches the park from the south. Local road BI-3513 (from Orozko to Artea) is the perfect way to get to the park if you are coming from the north.
 

  • Bus

    From Bilbao (Abando station), take Bizkaibus bus lines A-3917 (Bilbao-Lemoa-Zeanuri) or A-3927 (Bilbao-Lemoa-Zeanuri by highway). Buses depart every hour from Termibus and Plaza Zabalburu. Get off at Areatza, the starting point of your tour.

  • Car

    From Bilbao, take road N-240. The capital of Bizkaia is 30km from Areatza, the starting point of your tour of the park.

Gastronomy

Where to eat

The park has a lot of picnic areas in unrivalled natural settings. Bring a bottle of water and something to eat to regain strength during the walk.

If you prefer to sit at a restaurant, get back to your car after walking around the park and drive to one of the nearby towns. There, you will find restaurants, cider houses, baserris (farmhouses) and grill houses where they serve the best of our traditional dishes. Our recommendations: charcoal-grilled meat with Gernika peppers, txuletas al kilo (steak by the kilo), alubias con todos los sacramentos (bean and chorizo stew), and Idiazabal cheese with quince cheese.

Accommodation

Where to sleep

You can spend the night in the park, where there are shelters. Make your booking in advance.

For more formal accommodation, go to any of the nearby villages: Zeanuri, Orozko or Zeberio, where you will find lodges and country houses to stay. If you stay in the area, you can follow other routes on the following day.

  • Gorbeia Nature Park is dotted with recreational areas and has two visitor centres giving information on this extraordinary nature reserve – in Sarria, Álava, and the Casa del Parque or Parketxe in Areatza, Bizkaia.

    Areatza Visitor Centre
    Gudarien Plaza, 1. Areatza, Bizkaia
    Phone number: +34 946 739 279
    Email address: gorbeia.parke.naturala@bizkaia.eus

    • Timetable

      Open daily 10:00am-2:00pm and 4:00-6:00pm

    • Location

      Gorbeia Natural Park

  • Bring comfortable hiking footwear and clothes, a backpack, a bottle of water and something to eat. Stay on the trails and follow the signs. Bring your camera to capture the stunning natural landscapes. On the Internet, you will find downloadable maps that will help you plan your hikes across the park on your mobile phone.