Off the beaten Spain: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Gaztelugatxe! It was a sunny Saturday morning and I was sitting on my balcony, scrolling Instagram for my usual weekly fix of travel daydreaming –  when I saw it.

Gaztelugatxe panoramic view from the top

Just… love at first sight!

And this wanderlusting was not for a faraway place, because the amazing piece of nature -meets – man-made is a mere 50 minutes flight away from Barcelona.

In my mind, this was a done deal right there on that balcony.

And because as my birthday was closing in, and the best gift comes in the shape of a plane ticket,  it was a real deal a few weeks later.

We set the date to June, after checking on TripAdvisor and concluding that visiting Gaztelugatxe in March is too early and you may be risking it with the weather. Turns out:  Basque moody weather is always a gamble!

Looking for Bilbao tips? Check out this Two Day Itinerary to Explore Bilbao

Basque Moody Weather

Bilbao was warm and sunny for weeks on end, yet it decided to shake its clouds for 2 full days, once we were there. Just because.

So what?! When Bilbao gives you rain, you go see kick-ass museums, eat fantastic Basque food and  #raindontcare 

So, anyway. Left with only half a day on Monday (but still a good 7 hours) we took a bus from Bilbao to Bakio then hiked the 6 km to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

The whole experience was cut a bit short, I agree. But the views .. beyond words. 

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe panoramic view
San juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe view from the stairs

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe view from the beach

Amazing stairs of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bilbao, Spain
A quirky Spanish version of Chinese Wall  –  Uniting, not separating


So what’s this Gaztelugatxe place?

A small island off the Basque coast, Gaztelugatxe holds an old, simple stone church, built in the 11th century by the Templar Knights.  

What makes Gaztelugatxe an amazing sight is its stone bridge connecting the islet to the mainland, which looks like something out of Game of Thrones – but better!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe stairway to the top

Getting There

Getting to Gaztelugatxe is pretty easy. However, since English info is scarce, here’s a helping hand:

  • Catch the A3518 bus from Plaza Moyúa square
  • The bus runs every hour at ´30,  takes about 40 minutes to reach Bakio and leaves you in the town center.
  • Then you’ll have about 5-6 km uphill to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
  • Here’s a Wikiloc map for more details

Wikiloc classifies this as an easy trek, but I’m not going to sugar coat it – it’s not easy, especially if you’re a #lazyass and treks are not your thing. Especially given the fact that the walk up to tis Spanish islet has been added to the Most Extreme Staircases In the World category. Just be warned.

For us, it was worth every drop of sweat!

ocean view while hiking towards San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

hike through the forstes on the way to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe view from afar

Up and Down &  UpsideDown

The trek will get you to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in about 1 1/2h.

Walking up and down the coast, you have the Atlantic surf to your left and lush green hills to your right – enough to satisfy any nature lover.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the atlantic ocean panoramic view
For the love of Nature !

Almost there..

sign pointing to the last part of the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe hike

Most people just drive to this point, then go down/up to the church by foot.

If you ask me, it’s way more satisfying to do the whole trek from Bakio.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe upsidedown
My lovely UpsideDown Gaztelugatxe

Gaztelugatxe scores pretty high in my top favorites right now.

And though it’s great to see the place is not swamped by tourists just yet, i couldn’t not tell you about it.

Do you have a favorite spot in the Basque Country?  Leave a message in the comment box below and let us all know!

Happy wandering!


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