Bilbao Biscay, a paradise for #NatureLovers
Over 83 % of the surface of Bilbao Biscay is covered with forests and pastures while the green of the mountains merges with the blue of the sea.
Our natural environment is full of life and offers a great variety of natural landscapes where Nature Lovers can have the most enjoyable experiences: hiking, cycling, horse riding, climbing, caving, becoming a shepherd for a day… all of it done with respect and love for our natural world
There is a special connection between people and nature in Bilbao Biscay. The countryside is part of our essence and lifestyle. Even in the largest towns and cities, you can walk among modern buildings or explore the cultural offer and, at the same time, find peace by admiring the views of the surrounding mountains. Every Biscayan municipality is just a few minutes away from its nearest mountains, and the trails across woods and fields they offer turn them into perfect places to unwind from daily stresses.
In inland Biscay, there are three spectacular nature parks –Armanón, Urkiola and Gorbeia, each with its personal character–, that will make any Nature Lover feel really at home. Armañón Natural Park has its own microclimate, which creates unusual species-rich habitats at these latitudes, and hides extraordinary pits and caverns such as Pozalagua Cave, a real underground treasure. Urkiola Natural Park, covered in woods and dotted with peaks of white rock, is a place of mystical beauty where the most impressive and varied wildlife shares its habitat with local myths and legends. As for Gorbeia Natural Park, a haven for a diverse and largely unspoilt ecosystem, it is here where the summit of the most imposing mountain in Biscay lies, at an elevation of 1,481 metres.
There are several trails that run across Gorbeia Natural Park. Some are only recommended to Nature Lovers with experience in climbing, but a great number of them are suitable for all family members. For instance, there is a trail that leads to Otzarreta Beech Forest, where beech trees are pollarded to obtain vegetable charcoal creating an enchanting scenery, especially when the leaves turn ochre in autumn. There is another trail, an easy walk with the ‘Atxas’ of Izina in the background, that takes you to the Aldabide waterfall, in Orozko, especially impressive in rainy springs. In Zeanuri, along a pleasant circular 2.1-kilometre walk, you can see the Wetland of Saldropo, a small lake created on a boggy area that has now turned into a paradise for wildlife.
The Itzina Biotope in Gorbeia, a karst formation that rises to the sky in the heart of the park, is another must visit for Nature Lovers. The trails that take us to Itzina through a mysterious passage in the rock known as Ojo de Atxular allow us to discover astounding things such as centuries-old beech trees or an impressive number of mosses. With a total of 600 hectares of protected land, Itzina is replete with spectacular settings, housing mountains whose summits are over 1,000 metres above sea level. But the experience that a true Nature Lover cannot miss is the ascent to Mount Gorbeia itself. This climb is full of symbolism for the Biscayan people, and doing it every January 1 just to watch the first sunset of the year from its top is now an established custom. You can choose between several trails across fields and oak and beech forests to get to the summit. On your way up, you will only hear the sound of sheep’s bells and the water that flows down the streams in the area. On the crest, the emblematic Gorbeia Cross will mark the end of the road and you will be rewarded with truly breathtaking views.
If you want to explore Enkarterri, the westernmost region of Biscay, there is nothing better than riding your bike around this 100% natural territory. There are plenty of road routes that pass through the most noteworthy places in Enkarterri. This is the case of the one which goes from the coast of Muskiz to the summit of Mount Argalario via the former mining town of La Arboleda, where you can still see the remnants of its iron ore mining past. It is also possible for you go from Alonsotegi to the historic town of Balmaseda, famous for its medieval bridge. If you are both a nature and adventure lover, you may be interested in taking one of the existing MTB routes between Zalla and Balmaseda, climbing mount Kolitza, following the mountain range from Karrantza to Ordunte passing through Balgerri, or getting into Armañón Natural Park while you go around Remendón, the largest oak forest in Biscay.
Following the Montes de Hierro Greenway by bike gives you the opportunity to enjoy the natural landscapes that surround it and to discover the vestiges of the mining activity that was carried out in the region for centuries. This 41.9-kilometre Greenway was once a mine railway line that connected Traslaviña, in Artzentales, with the cliffs on the coast. There the trail meets with the Itsaslur Greenway, in Muskiz. This easy bike ride allows you to see remains of ore loading docks, kilns and mines, all of them witnesses to a mining activity that brought fame not only to Enkarterri but to the whole Biscay. Plus, other areas of ecological interest are also found along the route; places like the Triano Mountains, La Arena Beach, or the Barbadún Estuary.
Durangaldea, the region where Urkiola Natural Park is situated, is an ideal destination for Nature Lovers too. Not only can you visit the noble town of Durango, but you can also become a shepherd for a day, learn how to herd a flock of ‘latxa’ sheep and make delicious Idiazabal cheese, a fun nature activity for the whole family. You can also find out all the secrets about how txakoli –our delicious fruity wine–is produced at the local wineries, or learn more about the region in the Hontza Natural History Museum in Mañaria.
The most adventurous Nature Lovers are welcome to join the guided tours through the local forests, to learn to orient themselves in the mountains on the orienteering trails, to climb vertiginous walls in Atxarte and Untzillatx, or to go caving in the Marco Cave (one of Urkiola’s jewels). To continue having a good time in such an extraordinary natural environment, you will find nothing better than a relaxing horse ride in Durangaldea –an activity suitable for experienced and novice riders alike–, where you will be surprised by the stunning scenery. Among all the routes in the area, we recommend you a circular one that goes past Betsaide –the place where the borders of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba meet– and surrounds the region crossing different woods and summits. We also recommend that you follow any of the footpaths and forest tracks that, departing from the foot of Mount Oiz, take you deep into the lush wilderness.
Orduña is another point of reference for any Nature Lover in Bilbao Bizkaia. A border town where the customs office was located, a fundamental crossroads for trade between the plateau and the sea, a fundamental town in the history of Bizkaia and the only one with the title of 'City', Orduña has an impressive artistic and cultural heritage, such as the largest medieval square in the Basque Country or the walls that protected the town, and a natural environment that never ceases to amaze. The route from Ruzabal to Maroño, with the Sierra Salvada mountain range in the background, is perfect for discovering villages that maintain a way of life linked to the environment; the changing forests and beech woods that offer all their colours in autumn; the wild Tertanga ravine and the limestone mass of Fraideburu; the peculiar flowers that grow on the paths that start at the Sanctuary of La Antigua, Txarlazo or Goldetxo... In Orduña you can breathe nature.
For an unforgettable experience, follow the route that takes you to the Nervión Viewpoint, a structure that flies over the Delika canyon to get the best views of the Nervión waterfall, the largest waterfall on the Iberian Peninsula. In the rainy season, the sight of the water rushing into the void from a height of 223 metres is breathtaking. Nature Lovers with no fear of heights can enjoy an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives in this unique enclave: paragliding along the canyon walls and approaching the Nervión waterfall among the griffon vultures that live there, swaying in the air currents of the area.
And after the route, there is nothing better than disconnecting in its Hotel - Spa, with facilities designed for rest, care and comfort.