- 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.
Find a hotel close to the Urkiola Natural Park
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).
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/