- Region: País Vasco
- Province: Álava and Guipúzcoa
- Declared a Natural Park: 2006
- Park surface area: 15,919 hectares
- Towns and villages: Aspárrena, Zalduondo, San Millán y Barrundia (Álava). Salinas de Léniz, Eskoriaza, Aretxabaleta, Oñati, Legazpia, Zerain y Zegama (Guipúzcoa)
Points of interest
At almost 16,000 hectares, the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park (Parque natural de Aizkorri-Aratz) is the second-largest protected area in the Basque Country. This is a beautiful mountain area that links (in the form of a mountain corridor) the Pyrenees to the Cantabrian Mountains and here we can find the highest peaks of País Vasco (Aitxuri at 1,551 metres and Aizkorri at 1,544 metres).
This is a limestone karstic landscape with the accompanying ridges, sinkholes and ravines. Notable formations include the basin of La Lece, the tunnel of San Adrián, Urbia’s depression and Arantzazu’s ravine. There are many caves in the area and many of them (such as Arrikrutz and Aizkirri) have prehistoric remains of lions and bears.
Oñati-Arrikrutz cave is one of the most extensive caves in Guipuzkoa and is an exceptional showcase of the karst landscape of the Basque Country. The cave, which was created by the erosion of the water on the rocks over the centuries, has been a pioneer in speleological and paleontological research. https://www.oñatiturismo.eus/en/listings/arrikrutz-onatiko-kobak/ It has been acclaimed for the paleontological discoveries made. Traces of the Woolly rhinoceros (Coleodonta antiquitatis), the Cave hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelaea) and Irish elks (Megaloceros giganteus) have been found, and the various skeletons of the Cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) are worth mentioning too. Nevertheless, the most important discovery so far has been the complete skeleton of the Eurasian Cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea). This skeleton is one of the biggest ancient big cats and the first discovery of its kind made in Spain.
Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park has a wide network of signposted paths and the San Adrián Tunnel is one of the most popular areas for hiking in the area.
Find a hotel in the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park
Legend has it that at the place where the Sanctuary of Arantzazu now stands, the virgin appeared to a shepherd called Rodrigo de Balzategi over a hawthorn. The shepherd, surprised, asked: “Arantzan zu?” (You on a hawthorn?). Over the centuries Franciscan monks have made Arantzazu a place for prayers, devotion, pilgrimage and promotion of art and culture.
In addition to the grasslands of its highest areas, the park has hillside vegetation made up of beech and oak forests (Quercus petraea) in which there are colorful specimens of high mountain flora. The Altzania beech forest stands out, one of the largest in País Vasco.
There is a large colony of griffon vulture in the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park whilst mammals include wild boar, stone marten and wild cat.
The Aizkorri-Aratz Park House (Intuxi, 48 – Zentral hidroelektrikoaren ondoan – 01250 Asparrena)
An excellent place to find out about General info such as hiking and places of interest in the area. exhibitions on the machinery used in ironworks during the 18th century and on the water as energy source and a reproduction of an ancient kitchen. The fauna and flora section focuses on the Natural Park of Aizkorri-Aratz.
Centre of Interpretation Aizkorriko Ataria (Barrio San Bartolomé, 13 – 20215 Zegama)
The town of Zegama is the entry point to the Parque Natural de Aizkorri-Aratz and is this information centre is located in a traditional country house in the hamlet of Anduetza. Here you can find out about the cultural and natural features of the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park.
Debagoiena Interpretation Centre (Arantzazu auzoa, 2 (Santuario de Arantzazu)
The Debagoiena Interpretation Centre, located at the Arantzazu Sanctuary, beside the shop, offers tourist information about the Debagoiena area of the province of Gipuzkoa.The centre also organises active tourism, guided routes to discover the area’s most emblematic places, gastronomic tours as well as arranging tours of the sanctuary.
The official website for the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park is here: https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/natural-areas/aizkorri-aratz-natural-park/aa30-12375/en/
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