San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Basque Country's Epic Beauty
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | June 2nd, 2018
If you have yet to visit Spain's stunning Basque Country, it's time to make the trip. It's quite different than the rest of Spain. It has its own language, unique culinary delights, and attractions that will make your jaw drop. One of those attractions in particular is the magnificent San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Located in the Bay of Biscay, this incredible islet is surely an epic sight to see.
How to Get There
Located in the northeastern corner of Spain, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is less than an hour from the popular Basque Country town of Bilbao. You cannot drive right to this famous islet so be prepared to hike to it. Whether you take a taxi, bus, or drive yourself, you'll want to somehow arrive to the Eneperi Restaurant in Bakio. Parking is abundant and free. From there, follow the signs to the trailhead. The hike down to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe should take around twenty minutes. Once you arrive to this beauty, cross the surreal zigzag bridge and climb the 241 steps to the top of the island. At the top, ring the church bell three times and make a wish, a long-standing tradition.
Where to Stay
The two best places to stay near San Juan de Gaztelugatxe are Bilbao and San Sebastian. I stayed in San Sebastian and I absolutely loved it! The city is so rich in history and culture, and the views from the Mercure Monte Igueldo Hotel were breathtaking. Bilboa is indeed closer to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, only about forty five minutes away versus San Sebastian's two hour trek, but San Sebastian is one of the prettiest cities I've ever seen. You can't go wrong staying in either place but my vote definitely goes to San Sebastian.
When to Go
The weather in Basque Country doesn't vary too much throughout the year. Summers are comfortably warm, averages are around 72°F, and winters are comfortably cool, averages are around 56°F. Wind and rain are abundant throughout the year but so is sunshine. Basque Country's weather can be pretty unpredictable, one hour it can be rainy and cloudy and the next can be clear and sunny. I found that even during the rain, Basque Country still looks unbelievably beautiful. Out at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, winds and currents can be stronger due to its oceanside location. If you are planning on swimming, take extra caution.