Santa Catalina, the light that guides seafarers
Located in Lekeitio, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting, it is the one and only lighthouse you can come inside in Euskadi.
Lekeitio has been linked to the sea since the dawn of time. Our ancestors, deep-sea fishermen, would set sail and head off across the Cantabrian Sea. Fishing seasons lasted long, even several months. Lighthouses were very important: they guided arrantzales (Basque word for fishermen) with their light of hope on the way back home.
The Santa Catalina lighthouse offers spectacular views. In addition, the Visitor Centre inside provides information on the magical world of lighthouses and the legends they are wrapped in. Also, you will learn about navigation techniques and embark on a virtual voyage from Lekeitio to Elantxobe.
Seaside of Bizkaia
A 150-kilometre coastline and lots of things to do
The Santa Catalina lighthouse stands to the north of the seaside town of Lekeitio, on Cape Antzoriz. Since it is less than two kilometres from the centre of town, it takes only 20 minutes to get there on foot, bordering the cliffs.
Nowadays, there are four lighthouses along the coast of Bizkaia: Punta Galea, in Getxo; Gorliz; Matxitxako, in Bermeo; and Santa Catalina, in Lekeitio. Santa Catalina is the only one you can visit in Euskadi. It is 13m tall and stands 46m above sea level, overlooking Cape Antzoriz. On windy days, when the sea is rougher than usual, you can watch the waves crashing against the lighthouse.
Santa Catalina was first used in 1862. Back then, it worked with an oil lamp that later on was replaced by lamp that burned petroleum. With full automation of the lighthouse, its keepers – the men responsible for tending and caring for it – were no longer necessary. At present, it is monitored from a remote control centre.
A while after the last keeper and his family left, the place opened its doors to the public. A Visitor Centre was set up where visitors can get information on the changing navigation techniques throughout history. You can learn about signalling, lighting, orientation at sea, star gazing, whale watching, etc.
In addition, you can get in the shoes of arrantzales and whale hunters at sea. The Visitor Centre features technological devices that display interesting content to quench your thirst for nautical knowledge.
The walk from the Old Town in Lekeitio to the Santa Catalina lighthouse and the tour inside the tower are great for families travelling with kids. The Visitor Centre is actually an educational environment for all ages. The lightroom is not open to visitors, because it is still used as an aid to coastal navigation, guiding sailors on their voyage home.
After getting deep into navigation techniques, you will have the chance to put your newly acquired knowledge to the test in a virtual voyage on a txalupa boat from Lekeitio to the nearby village of Elantxobe. Upon completion of your tour, take some time to walk around the area and even climb atop the Otoio hill to watch the sun go down. The views will stay in your memory forever.
How to get there
Lekeitio, a seaside town on the Gulf of Bizkaia, is a top travel destination. It is set in an awe-inspiring environment nearby San Nicolás island, which you can reach on foot at a low tide. Lekeitio can be easily reached by car or by bus from any other town in Bizkaia or from the big capitals of Euskadi.
Bizkaibus has several bus lines that will ride you to Lekeitio from nearby towns. Line A3512 runs from Bilbao directly to Lekeitio, with departures every hour. Lines A3513 and A3523 have stops on the road, so they take longer. Lurraldebus offers services from Donostia-San Sebastián to Lekeitio.
Lekeitio is 58km away from Bilbao, or about a one hour’s drive. The fastest way to get from Bilbao to Lekeitio is taking highway A-8 in the direction of Donostia-San Sebastián. Get off at exit 18 (Amorebieta-Etxano) and take road BI-635 towards Gernika-Lumo. At Gernika, take road BI-638 to Lekeitio. From Vitoria-Gasteiz, take highway N-240 in the direction of Bilbao/Durango/Bergara. At Legutio take road A-623 to Durango, and then drive onto road N-634 towards Markina-Xemein. At Markina, take road BI-2405 to your final destination, Lekeitio.
Where to eat
Lekeitio is a coastal town that proudly exhibits its close links to the sea. The colourful streets around the port are ideal for bar-hopping, drinking a chato (small glass) of wine – a good chance to try our refreshing txakoli white wine – or a zurito (small glass of beer). Do not leave without trying our delightful pintxos. Being a fishing port, Lekeitio offers a wide array of fresh fish from the sea.
Instead of standing at a bar tasting pintxos, you can grab a table at a restaurant in the port area or the Old Town. All the restaurants in the area use premium ingredients to make the dishes on their extensive menus. Vegetables come in from nearby market gardens, meat from local baserris (traditional farmhouses), and fish are caught by the merluceras (fishing boats found on the Basque coast).
Where to sleep
Bizkaia has a lot to do and see, but Lekeitio deserves a night’s stay. Spanning 2km, this lovely seaside town is bright during the day and magical by night, illuminated as it is by dim streetlights and the light from the lighthouse.
You can spend the night at a lodge, hostel or hotel in Lekeitio or in other towns in the area. Lekeitio is very popular with tourists, who come by the busload, especially in the summer. This is why you should book your room well in advance.