San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – The Basque Country coast

Gaztelugatxe is an island which is located very close to Bermeo, in the Basque Country (Spain). This island is connected to the mainland by a two-arch bridge and a 231-steps staircase. There is a chapel, dedicated to Saint John Baptist, on the top of this small island: The Hermitage of Saint John Baptist of Gaztelugatxe.

FACT: The name “Gaztelugatxe” in Basque can mean both “castle rock” (gaztelu-aitz), or “difficult castle” (gaztelu-gache).

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How to get there?
  • By car

If you have your own car, this is the fastest and cheapest way to go. To get there, take the road BI – 3101 between Bermeo and Bakio. About halfway you have to take another short road to reach Gaztelugatxe. Once you are there you can leave the car in the Eneperi Restaurant’s free car park. (http://www.eneperi.com/). Some time ago you could park the car at the beginning of the long stairs, but now it is forbidden due to soil instability. So you must leave the car in the restaurant’s car park, and start walking from there for 15 minutes along a dirt path.

Coordinate for the GPS: 43º 26’ 51.0’’N / 2º 47’ 05.3’’O

Googlemaps location: Unnamed Rd, 48130 San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Bizkaia, España

  • Bizkaibus

Bilbao – Bakio (A3518 Line). The bus leaves from Moyua Square and the final destination is 3km from Gaztelugatze. The price is 2.5 €. Route.

Bilbao – Bermeo (A3515 Line). The bus leaves from Abando station. The price is 2,5€. Route.

Bilbao – Bermeo (A3527 Line). This is a shorter route. The bus leaves from Moyua Square. The price is 2,5€. Route.

Bakio – Bermeo (A3524 Line). The bus stop to go to Gaztelugatxe is “Gaztelu Begi”. There is an 8-people taxi that takes this route and the price is 1,3€. This line is out of service on Saturdays and during holidays. ATTENTION: This route is currently not available. The schedule will change the 11th of June 2016. So you better check its website (you can change the language into English).

Route Bermeo – Bakio                         Route Bakio – Bermeo

The route to the Hermitage of Saint John Baptist of Gaztelugatxe

To reach the chapel and look at the views from up there, first you have to ride down on a dirt road that is quite crowded if the weather is good. This path ends at the beginning of a zig-zag staircase that leads you to the top of the island.

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To reach Gaztelugatxe you’re supposed to spend about half an hour. I say “supposed” because the views are too nice to not stop every two seconds to take pictures. I must admit that we needed more than half an hour, not just for the pictures but because my physical shape wasn’t as good as it should be.

At the left side 10 minutes from the restaurant there is a viewpoint, where you can see the chapel from afar. Although the views are very nice from there, you can also enjoy them all the way leading to the chapel.

Because of the good weather, the path was full of people and the views couldn’t be better.

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Just before the long stairs, there are other metal stairs on the right side. They lead you down to the sea level, where you can see the two arches of the bridge. The sea view on either side of the bridge are wonderful.

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231 steps later and one lung less, we reached the top. There you can find the chapel, a shelter and public toilets. Once we were upstairs we decided that we weren’t going to go back down: the views from there were really amazing. On one side we could see the bridge and the stairs that we had just climbed. Because of its zig-zag shape, the landscape was very curious and nice. On the other side, we could enjoy a truly relaxing landscape thanks to the Cantabrian Sea. And on each side of the island we could see a part of the Basque coast, with its high cliffs and beautiful beaches. It was impossible not to be amazed by those views. The journey up there was worth it.

I’ll show you some of the pictures that we took, to let you see how amazing the views from there were.

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According to the legend, if you reach the top of the island where the chapel is, you have to ring the bell three times and make a wish. Then you wish will come true and you’ll drive away evil spirits. Whether or not this is true, don’t forget to ring the bell, just in case.

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San Juan de Gaztelugatxe was one of the stops we did in the day-route through the Basque Country. To find out which ones were the other places where we stopped, don’t miss the following posts.

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Have you ever been there? Tell us about your experience at the comments!

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