Tag Archives: basque

Spain: Basque Beaches (Road Trip Part 2)

Writing to you from Santiago de Compostela, with my feet up, hoping to get some rest after a long, hot day exploring the city. It’s a charming place with a rich cultural scene, history, and even though a bit inland, still has delicious seafood.

Now it’s time to finally catch up on some posts. Spain has been a bit chillier and more rainy than usual, which wouldn’t bother me at all had I been a bit more prepared. The rain coat (bright blue and bound to make several appearances in photos) and sweatshirt have been a daily wardrobe staple and my poor hiking shoes are constantly damp. The breeze is strong and the weather changes every fifteen minutes but I find it beautiful and very powerful. The two week trip across the northern coast from Santander to San Sebastian (and a quick stop in France) to Gijón and A Coruña is about 1,600 km.

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The coast a few kilometers East of Bilbao.

 

The Basque area was really beautiful with many small roads hugging the coast and frequent beaches with hiking routes. Gentle mountains to the south and the ocean to the north provided contrast and wonderful landscapes all the way. I’d heard Basque food cannot be missed and ate out as often as possible. The delicious fish, cheeses and wines, as well as Basque cakes, were all very good. Nights with a cool air coming off the of the ocean made a warm or heavy dish tolerable.

Playa de Laga

 

The next day I took a short hike beginning just outside of  Urdaibai –  Biosfera Erreserba beginning at Playa de Laga. This was such a beautful views of the coast. I’ve been using Wikiloc with mixed success for finding hikes. My main issue is not having quite good enough Spanish to understand routes or using the correct Spanish hiking jargon while searching. Almost the entire coast has a hiking path, official or not and numerous networks exist slightly inland. Northern Spain is a perfect place for  a “choose you own adventure” kind of hike. 

 

Where a river meets the ocean.

 

Weather was challenging during the section between Zauritz and Biarritz  (FR) with full clouds or rain most days. San Sebastian looked cute even in a storm but there was no time to wait for sun and take a look at the beach. The most easternly destination on the ride was Hossegor, France and the long sandy beaches that make it a surfer’s paradise. These days provided a nice opportunity for trying some local food, in particular, cheeses. Admittedly, I was delighted to score some Belgian beer in France a touch cheaper than it is other places. I enjoyed playing beach bum.

Playa de la Arnía, just West of Santander was a highlight. The day had been rainy from the start but the evening cleared up a bit for a visit to the iconic beach. The Urros that thrust out of the ocean and have been shaped by waves and wind over time are amazing. Some rock appears razor thin at some points and the features seem to defy gravity! Around this area there are so many beaches it’s almost overwhelming. I love walking along beaches with interesting geologic features and thought I might fall in love with all of Spain’s northern coast.

At Playa de la Arnía

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Spain:Gaztelugatxe (Road Trip Part 1)

One of the first stops on the tour of Spain’s coast: Gaztelugatxe, an islet in Basque country. The Basque name translates to castle rock and fits the location perfectly. It is a beautiful combination of man and nature with a man-made bridge connecting the island with its hermitage (Gaztelugatxeko Doniene/ San Juan de Gaztelugatxe), dating from around one thousand years ago. Only used as a convent for two hundred years, it has a very rich history, including use as a defense outpost and possible use during the Spanish Inquisition.

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This is one of the few places that  when I saw in a photograph thought, “I want to experience this in person.” I was extremely excited to visit and absolutely loved it.  The rocky coast surrounding it is stunning with exposed layers jutting out of the ocean in bold stripe patterns. The partially submerged rocks provide habitat for some ocean creatures which, if you’re lucky, may make an appearance.

Jagged exposed layers along the coast

A very steep one kilometer walk from a parking lot followed by 241 stairs takes you up to the hermitage with views of both the coast and wide open ocean. Although I traveled here by personal vehicle, the area connects to coastal hiking trails. Navigation was a bit challenging with road signs in Basque. It’s located about 35 km east of Bilboa and the drive is rather scenic and pleasant. I was surprised that the site was both free to access and not crowded (on a weekday). According to legend, after climbing and reaching the church you should ring the church bell three times and make a wish. This was fun to do but hearing everyone else ring the bell was a bit much after a while trying to enjoy the view and appreciate the ancient place, so go with that in mind.

The stop is a gorgeous introduction to the dramatic Basque coast which eventually mellows further East. I absolutely recommend visiting if you can.

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