Tag Archives: Natural Parks in País Vasco

Peñas de Aya Natural Park

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Gipuzkoa
  • Declared a Natural Park:
  • Park surface area: ​​6,913 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Donostia / San Sebastián, Oyarzun , Irún and (Lesaca in Aragón)

Points of interest

The Peñas de Aya Natural Park (Aiako Harria in Basque) includes part of the Bajo Bidasoa, Oiartzualdea and Donostialdea regions and In addition to the rock massif itself the protected area includes the peaks and surrounding areas of Zaria (635 m), Bunanagirre (781 m), Bianditz (797 m), Errenga (786 m), Irupagoeta (534 m), Erlaitz (498 m), Pagogaña (480 m), Urdaburu (599 m) and Aldura (537 m).

There are quite a few tracks and trails for hiking and walking in the area and the summits afford some spectacular views of theTxingudi Bay, towns of Hondarribia, Irun and Hendaye, Mount Jaizkibel and the Oiartzun valley.

Well worth a visit is the area of Aiztondo which is a ravine with a 100-metre waterfall .

Peñas de Aya Natural Park1

From Roman times, ore such as silver bearing galena and lead was extracted from the Arditurri mines making them one of the most important ancient mines in Hispania along with Las Médulas mines in Leon and those of Cartagena or Rio Tinto. The mines were abandoned by the Romans in the 5th century, but were exploited again from the Middle Ages until the 1980’s for iron ore making them among the very few in Spain that have been in use for over 2,000 years almost without interruption.

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Information/Visitors Centers

The mines of Arditurri and Peñas de Aya Natural Park Interpretation Centre (Arditurri bidea, 3 Oiartzun.)

On the ground floor there is a reception area and exhibition covering the geology of the Aiako Harria massif, climate and orography, flora and fauna, human activities in the area and mythology

On the second floor there are thematic exhibitions
  • The beginnings of mining activity: exploitation in times of Romanization
  • The Arditurri mines: virtual visit to a mining gallery
  • History through mined minerals: relation of mined minerals in different periods and their practical application
A portion of 15 km of galleries, chambers and Roman-made interior lakes are on show for visitors.

The visit to the heart of the Arditurri mines is conceived as a journey through time in which the mind, the senses and the emotions intervene. Lighting and sound play a very important role, since they allow the interior of the gallery to create a magical atmosphere, which takes the visitor to the different periods of the history of these mines. New technologies make it possible to recreate sounds and environments experienced inside the gallery throughout its more than 2,000 years of operation. From the noise that the rocks make when they come off, passing through the most absolute silence accompanied exclusively by oscillating reflections on the waters of the lakes.


  • Essential visit and “La Mina in depth”: at least 24 hours in advance by phone. For guided tours on Tuesdays, if the reservation is made by phone, it is necessary to make it 48 hours in advance, except at Easter, July and August, which can be done with 24 hours. in advance.
  • Online reservations: 48 hours in advance.
  • Visits with the Berdea Train: a minimum of one week in advance is recommended.

Tel: 943 494 521

Buy entry tickets online here: http://www.arditurri.com/arditurri/reservas/comprarOnLine.asp?nombre=2069&sesion=1

More information here: http://www.arditurri.com/Castellano.asp

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Pagoeta Natural Park

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Guipuzcoa
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1998
  • Park surface area: 2,910 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Aya, Zarauz, Cestona, Orio

Points of interest

The relatively small protected area of the Pagoeta Natural park is formed by two estates, Pagoeta and Altzola which belong to the Provincial Council of Guipúzcoa. The objective was to create a forestry experimentation area and enhance its natural value, restoring its hardwood stands and protecting its fauna and flora. It is located close to the coast and just 20 km from San Sebastián.

Situated between the coast and the inland valleys the area has a very rugged terrain varying in height covered in natural forests (Beech) and scrubland. There are also extensive pastures high up in the mountains and around the farmhouses. Extensive reforestation is also noteworthy, especially those on the left bank of the Altzolaras erreka river.

There are also important prehistoric traces in the area such as the dolmens Otagain, Olarteta and Zaingo, burial mounds Muzin and Arreta and cave sites such as Erratia and Amalda in the Alzoralas valley.

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Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes de Iturraran (Iturraran Parketxea)

The Iturrarán reception center, Botanic garden and Agorregui ironworks and mills is located at Laurgain Auzoa Barreiatua, 12 in the village of Aia

El Parketxea is a beautiful 18th century farmhouse that maintains its original wooden structure and hosts a permanent exhibition that shows the physical, natural and ethnographic environment of the Pagoeta Natural Park and the relationship between nature and human activities in the area.

But without a doubt, one of the great attractions of Iturraran is the botanical park that surrounds the center. It has an area of ​​25 hectares of which 10 hectares are stocked with native vegetation. The rest of the collection of about 5,500 taxa is mostly made up of trees and shrubs from different parts of the world.

At one end of the Garden is the Biodiversity Garden, which has a good collection of endangered plants from the Basque Country.The arboretum has a path that runs through the botanical garden along a 3.5 km footpath allowing you to see thousands of species cataloged and classified in 8 different areas of oak, maple, mimosa, Mediterranean flora, heather, conifer, elm, cherry and palm tree habitats.

The other most interesting area to visit is the Agorregi mills and the ironworks (along the Agorregi route SL-GI 4001.)

The official website for the Pagoeta Natural Park is here: https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/natural-areas/pagoeta-natural-park/aa30-12375/en/

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Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park

  • 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.

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Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park - Sanctuary of Arantzazu
Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park – Sanctuary of Arantzazu

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.

Information/Visitors Centers

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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Urkiola Natural Park

  • Region: País Vasco
  • Province: Alava and Viscaya
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1989
  • Park surface area: 5,958 hectares
  • Towns and villages: Abadiño, Amorebieta-Etxano, Atxondo, Dima, Durango, Izurtza, Mañaria and Aramaio

Points of interest

Urkiola Natural Park is located located in the southeastern corner of Biscay and Álava and within its limits lay the Aramotz, Duranguesado and Arangio mountain ranges. The landscape consists of limestone masses with steep slopes, gullies and cliffs. Karst plains support a diverse and rugged landscape consisting of different proportions of shrubs, grasses, rocks, beech and pine forests.

Historically, natural resources have been exploited here with a large livestock, forestry and mining presence, endangering (mainly due to mining) the natural integrity of what is now the protected area.

The Sanctuary of Santos Antonios Abad y Padua de Urquiola is a Catholic temple located in the Urquiola mountain pass in the municipality of Abadiano. It is one of the most revered sanctuaries in the province and also one of the oldest.

De-population and the nature of the environment here gave rise to many myths and legends Mari the fairy queen being the best-known in the region and throughout the Basque Country. Mari is the personification of the earth itself and has two sons, Atarrabi and Mikelatz, who represent good and evil respectively, and who are always arguing and fighting with each other. Mari lives in the caves of the mountains that surround Urkiola, although her favourite cave is Mariyenkobia located in the cliffs of Anboto.

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The Urkiola Natural Park landscape is covered by a thick layer of vegetation, which is only broken by the steep limestone summits. The Parque’s vegetation is made up of various plant communities, where forests account for the largest surface area. Over half of all the forested areas are natural beech, holm oak, Oak, birch and pyrenean oak. The rest is mainly made up of conifer plantations. Apart from the forests, mountain pastureland is one of the key characteristics of the Urkiola landscape.

Human presence is also reflected in the Saibi and Urkiolagirre beech forests, where centuries-old pollarded beeches that provided wood to the Urkiola charcoal burners for many years.


Mammals include wild boar, red deer, pine marten, genet, badger and fox plus smaller species such as squirrel, grey dormouse and field mouse.

The many crags of the Urkiola mountains are home to many bird species such as Alpine accentor, red-billed and alpine coughs, crow, eurasian crag martin, rock thrush, egyptian vulture, peregrine falcon and kestrel among the birds of prey. During the winter, wallcreepers from high mountain areas, such as the Pyrenees or the Picos de Europa, can even be seen in the Atxarte Ravine. There is an important variety of birds of prey with the colony of griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) standing out for its number (in Mugarra there are more than 60 pairs).

In the rivers the typicla amphibians to be found are Palmate newt (Triturus helveticus), Common salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Iberian spiny toad (Bufo spinosus), Marsh frog (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and Common frog (Rana perezi).

Information/Visitors Centers

There various access points to the Urkiola Natural Park given the large number of towns in the area, however, the easiest way to reach the centre of the park is along the BI-623 regional road that runs from Durango to Vitoria-Gasteiz.

The Urkiola mountain pass at 700 metres is the place to head for as here you will find the Santuario de los Santos Antonios and its entire religious area (paths, hermitages and fountains) as well as the interpretation center of the Urkiola Natural Park. (There are also some hotel and lodging services, recreation areas and walks from this point.)

Centro de interpretación Toki Alai – Parque Natural de Urkiola (Puerto de Urkiola)

The Toki Alai Visitors Centre is located on the eastern slope of mount Saibi, just as few metres from the Urkiola pass. To reach the centre, take the BI-623 Vitoria-Gasteiz- Durango road to the Urkiola pass and then go a further 200 metres up a concrete track from the Bizkarra restaurant car park. There are signs from the road and you can take your car right up to the centre.

Here you will find permanent exhibition on Urkiola Natural Park, its fauna, flora, history and geology along with an audiovisual film. The colony of griffon vultures can be observed through a video camera. The centre also provides information about walking routes, the major points of interest and general tourist information about the park and the surrounding areas

  • Winter opening
  • 10:30-14:30 and 15:30 – 17:30
  • Summer opening
  • 10:00-14:00 and 16:00-18:00
  • Open all year (except 25th December, 1st January and 6th January).

The official website for the Urkiola Natural Park is here: https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/natural-areas/urkiola-natural-park/aa30-12375/en/

Centro de interpretación Toki Alai - Parque Natural de Urkiola (Puerto de Urkiola)
Centro de interpretación Toki Alai – Parque Natural de Urkiola (Puerto de Urkiola)