- Region: País Vasco
- Province: Álava and Viscaya
- Declared a Natural Park: 1994
- Park surface area: 20,016 hectares
- Towns and villages: Areatza, Artea, Cigoitia, Urkabustaiz, Orozko, Zeanuri, Zeberio and Zuya
Points of interest
The largest protected area in País Vasco, Gorbeia Natural Park is formed around mount Gorbea and the altitude of this area gives it a typical mountain climate: the massif acts as a barrier that stops the humid winds that come from the bay of Biscay, which generates important differences between the north slope, more humid, and the south slope, more dry and sunny. Gorbeia has, consequently, an exceptional wealth of mountain ecosystems with a good state of conservation.
The limestone rock (formed by old coral reefs from the warm seas of 110 million years ago) eroded by water is mainly covered by beech woodland gives rise to a unique landscape, a labyrinthine of special beauty that changes with the seasons.
The Ojo de Atxular, the great central crevasse, the Axlaor sinkhole and the Supelegor cave stand out along with the 130 other cave systems such as the Urrikobasoko Lezandi chasm at 301 m. deep and the Otxabide Lezandi complex with around 14 km of galleries.
Close to the village of Gujuli, the river Jaundia cascades more than 100 metres over a spectacular limestone cliff where there is a viewpoint that provides an impressive vantage point to view the waterfall.
Culturally, the landscape around what is now the Gorbeia Natural Park has given rise to a high number of legends and mythology with characters such as the Basajaun (Basajaun or Baxajaun, the so-called “Basque Yeti”, is the Lord of the Forest or the “Wild Lord”. These are characters from Basque and Aragonese mythology of prodigious size and strength that the first settlers of those lands found living in the mountains and more remote forests. His wife is called Basandere (Lady of the Forest or “Wild Lady”).
Find a hotel close to the Gorbeia Natural Park
The Gorbeia Natural Park is home to some important deciduous forests, especially on the Alava slope (Altube area). and the tree species that occupies the largest area is beech mixed with various oaks. Also, areas of Cantabrian holm oak and strawberry trees reveal that centuries ago the climate was much more temperate. Alder, willow, ash and poplars form the riverside woodlands.
The excessive fellings that took place from the 18th century for use in the ironworks, shipbuilding and even the production of paper led the Vizcaya County Council to decree that the felled areas be repopulated, these repopulations were carried out with commercial species such as Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), Lawson’s cypress and Black pine (Pinus nigra).
Due to the humid and shady climate this is the ideal environment for amphibians such as Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian spiny toad (bufo spinosus) and the Iberian frog (Rana perezi)
Among the birds, those that have adapted to hunting in the forest, such as the goshawks and the long-eared owl stand out. Also, those that live in more open spaces such as the Eagle owl, peregrine falcon, black and red kite whilst on the river banks the dipper and kingfisher are present in good numbers.
Among the mammals look out for otter, stone marten, genet, red dee, roe deer, fox, deer and badger.
Short video of Gorbeia Natural Park
There are several fully-equipped recreational areas and two visitor centres in the Gorbeia Natural Park. The Alava visitor centre is located in Sarria (Central de Baias), the Bizkaia visitor centre is found in the village of Areatza. Both centres are equipped with Interpretive panels, multimedia projections, maps and guides for the many walking routes in the area.
La Casa del Parque is located a kilometer and a half from the town of Sarria next to the recreation area and parking.
Centro de Interpretación del Parque Natural de Gorbeia (in the Gudarien plaza, Areatza). Take the N-240 road that connects Bilbao with Vitoria-Gasteiz until the Areatza exit, the centre is located in the town square, next to the town hall.
The official website for the Gorbeia Natural Park is here: https://gorbeiaparkea.eus/es/home
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