In Bizkaia, the earth beneath your feed keeps all kinds of secrets, from labyrinthine caves to rock paintings made by prehistoric men and mythological tales
In the mid-twentieth century, workers at a quarry in the Karrantza Valley found a treasure by chance under the ground. It was Pozalagua, a 125m-long hollow with a spectacular concentration of eccentric stalactites that, defying the laws of gravity, branch in different directions, creating beautiful shapes.
Another cave of great interest is Santimamiñe, in Kortezubi, where cave paintings have been found: brown bears, bison, deer… Also, the cave is geologically valuable, given its beautiful stalactite and stalagmite columns.
In Urkiola Nature Park are the caves of Baltzola, wrapped in magic and legends. Walk along their galleries, home to the lamias, the Jentil and other creatures from Basque mythology.
Nature at its best
Caves, mounts and valleys filled with magic
It was not until the early twentieth century that the Santimamiñe Cave and its Palaeolithic rock paintings were found. A few decades later, workers at a quarry discovered Pozalagua, a treasure hidden under the ground in Armañón Nature Park, in the region of Las Encartaciones.
Santimamiñe is the main prehistoric site in Bizkaia. Located in Kortezubi, it contained artefacts and paintings. These remains had been there for more than 13.000 years ago, since the Magdalenian period of the Upper Palaeolithic. The cave has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008. Inside the tunnel are black charcoal paintings that represent animals: 32 bison, 7 goats, 6 horses, a deer and a bear.
Since 2006, Santimamiñe has been closed to the public. However, you can still go on a 90-minute tour and watch a 3D film of the cave, rock paintings included, at the visitor centre, housed in the nearby shrine of San Mamés.
Open to visitors since 1991, Pozalagua is a cave located in Peñas de Ranero, in Karrantza. Named in Repsol Guide as Best Corner of 2013, this cave was found by chance in 1957 after an explosion in a nearby quarry. It is a spectacular underground treasure that had been hidden for thousands of years. Curtains, stalagmites and stalactites have grown forming peculiar and beautiful shapes. What makes Pozalagua unique is the huge concentration of eccentric stalactites that, defying the laws of gravity, branch in different directions.
The 50-min tour takes visitors on a walkway flanked by stalactites, stalagmites and curtains. You will pass through a dry lake bed to reach the Versailles chamber, where you will find a huge concentration of eccentric stalactites. The tour ends on a viewpoint affording views of the chamber at large.
This is a kid-friendly, two-hour walk to the caves of Baltzola and the Jentilzubi Bridge. The caves are in Dima, in the heart of the Arratia Valley and Urkiola Nature Park. Park your car in the small parking area in the Baltzola neighbourhood in Dima, close to the bridge and the caves, where mythological creatures live.
In a pleasant two-hour walk, you can admire the caves of Baltzola and the Jentilzubi Bridge. According to the legend, diferent mythological creatures live there
Bring a flashlight with you; you will need it to explore these amazing caves that are frequently visited by spelunkers and climbers. According to legend, the caverns were inhabited by lamias, female mythological creatures that are half human and half duck, with a fish caudal tail and claws.
They say that Sugoi, goddess Mari's husband (a genie that morphs into a snake), and their son, Mikelatz, live in the caves too. On the way, you will see Jentilzubi, a natural bridge that is said to have been built by the Jentil, extremely strong legendary creatures, to pass from mountain to mountain while hiding from Christians. Climb up the Jentilzubi Bridge to watch Abrigo de Axlor, the oldest archaeological site in Bizkaia, discovered by Joxe Migel Barandiaran. A metal fence protects the remains of humans from the Middle Palaeolithic, the oldest in Bizkaia (150,000-40,000 BC).
How To Get ThereThe caves of Baltzola are a 30 minutes’ drive from Bilbao. You can leave your car at the small parking area in the Baltzola neighbourhood, in Dima, or in Indusi. The caves are a nice short walk from either car park.
The Bizkaibus line A-3925 (Bilbao-Otxandio) stops in Indusi.
From Bilbao, take the N-240 toward Igorre. Continue on road BI-2543 in the direction of Otxandio, turning for Olabarri-Indusi.
Where to eat
The areas surrounding all three caves make perfect picnic spots. Plus, the views are stunning. Next to the Pozalagua Cave there is a picnic area and also a restaurant. On your way to Baltzola, the caves wrapped in magic and legends, you can have a break to eat.
If you prefer to sit at a restaurant, go to the towns near Baltzola, Dima or Otxandio. In Dima you can taste alubias con todos los sacramentos (beans with bacon, black pudding and chorizo). In Otxandio, steak with bell peppers from Gernika is the most popular choice.
Where to sleep
The areas around the caves offer a good chance to understand the rural lifestyles in hinterland Bizkaia, where old traditions have been kept alive. You can stay in a country home or a baserri (farmhouse) in Dima, Otxandio, Kortezubi or Karrantza: a fully Basque experience, indeed.
Maybe you prefer to stay at a hotel in an urban environment. If so, bear in mind that Bilbao is not far away. You can go out on day trips and return to the city for the night. As you can see, there is something for every taste.