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Day trips from Bilbao: Castro Urdiales & San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Day trips from Bilbao: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Today I would like to share with you two wonderful places that are close to Bilbao and you can reach easily by car: Castro Urdiales and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Yes, Bilbao is a very beautiful city and there are many places to visit and many things to do, so you are unlikely to get bored. However, I think two days in Bilbao is good enough, and perhaps you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city? So, if you want to see what life is like in the north, outside of the big cities, and if you want to go for a walk in nature and take in the wonderful fresh air, this blog post is for you! :) So, let's have a look at our Castro Urdiales & San Juan de Gaztelugatxe travel guide...

Castro Urdiales

Day trips from Bilbao: Castro Urdiales
Castro Urdiales, always reminding me a little bit of Innsmouth (but in a good way!)

• A small town by the sea in the north

• 30 minutes by car from Bilbao

• Half a day is enough for sightseeing

When you go to Castro Urdiales, you don't actually leave Bilbao, you leave the Basque region altogether because this is in the Cantabria region :) But you don't have to worry about it because there are many regions in Northern Spain and they are all close to each other.

This is not a very touristic city, but we visited it twice (in 2018 & 2021) because we loved it. The two times we visited this town, it was in July, but the weather was completely different each time. The first time we went on a nice and sunny day, but the second time, there was a lot of rain and wind (I recorded that day in our vlog on YouTube :) Perhaps it's strange, but I liked the rainy version of this place even more.

We had breakfast at Kraken, a small, cute, quiet café that we always visit to have a nice breakfast. Here you can find tiny sandwiches and different tortillas (the classic one or with tuna, jamon, etc). They also have set breakfast menus (see the photo below). My favorite activity while having breakfast is watching the locals happily have breakfast and chat with their friends or walk by. (By the way, maybe because we were sitting in a café called "Kraken", or maybe because it was a gray and rainy day, this place reminded me of the town that Lovecraft described in "The Shadow over Innsmouth" :) Not to mention that the local people are fishing...)

castro urdiales breakfast cafe menu
Typical Spanish breakfast menus

castro urdiales northern spain travel guide
Café Kraken

After breakfast, you can walk a little by the sea and climb on the Roman stone bridge (Puente Romano Medieval). You can watch the waves beating the rocks and the gulls flying over the bridge. Then, when you continue towards the top of the hill, you will see a chateau (Castillo de Santa Ana) and a lighthouse on your right (there were restoration works when we last went in 2021), and a historical, gothic church (Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion) on your left. . We didn't visit the castle and the lighthouse both times, but we entered the church (entrance is free). In fact, when we first went, we came across a marriage ceremony there.

castro urdiales northern spain travel guide
The Roman bridge of Castro Urdiales

castro urdiales northern spain travel guide
Saint Mary's church

After visiting these places, it's up to you. You can walk the streets and look at the shops. If you want, you can buy their local anchovies, queasada (a dessert like cheesecake) and sobao (plain butter cake) here. (Quesada and Sobao are also very famous in a quaint village called Santillana del Mar. You can get it there too).

You can see Castro Urdiales in the vlog on our YouTube channel as well!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe travel tips
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

• A tiny church built on top of a mountain in the middle of the sea

• It is pronounced as “Gastelugache”

• 45 minutes by car from Bilbao

• Half a day is enough for sightseeing

• Free entry! But you need to make a reservation online and buy tickets in advance.

• Drone shooting is prohibited :(

If you have looked at the photos of this place and wondered why it looks so familiar, it is probably because you are a Game of Thrones fan! This is where the Dragonstone scenes in Game of Thrones were shot! And it certainly has a very impressive aura even without Daenerys and her dragons. So whether you're a fan of the series or not, I suggest you go and take it all in.

First, park your car in the designated area and enter the natural park. Start walking on the lush path through the forest and then, go up the narrow bridge that takes you to the tiny church on the tiny island, as if perched on top of a mountain. Cross this thin stone bridge and climb 241 steps to reach the church. Don't give up thinking that it is too tiring or it is okay to just see it from afar because it is believed that ringing the bell of this church three times brings good luck!

So, did we cross the thin stone bridge and climb the 241 steps and ring the church bell 3 times? NO. Not because of laziness, but because they closed the bridge… Since the stone bridge was damaged after the storm and there was no other way to go to the church, we could only wave at the church from a distance We still took pictures, took a walk on the mountain and got plenty of oxygen. Next time, hopefully we will be in luck and the bridge will be intact!

If you visit any of these places, we would love for you to share your impressions with us! You can reach us on our Instagram account and tag us in your photos.

Our next stop in northern Spain is the charming village of Santillana del Mar, which seems to have come out of a fairy tale! Click here to read the blog post!



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We are a Spanish & Turkish couple who is currently based in Turkey, but we call Spain our second home. We met in 2013, and since then, I have had the chance to travel to numerous destinations in Spain, enjoy the wonderful cuisine and experience the culture with my dear husband. In 2020, ...

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